Unless you utilize a keg, you’re likely going to be bottle conditioning your beer.
Proper sanitizing processes are crucial to ensuring your beer doesn’t pick up any infections. Fail to sanitize properly and you’ll end up with a disappointing product.
You see where I’m going with this, right?
If you haven’t already guessed it, you’ll need to sanitize your beer bottles before a drop of beer touches them.
Sanitize Beer Bottles the Easy Way
In my beginner brew days, I would fill up a bucket of sanitizing solution, dip my bottles into it, let them soak for a minute, and then remove the bottles to let them dry.
While this worked fine, it was horribly inefficient. I found myself wasting a lot of sanitizer too.
That’s when I started doing things the easier way.
If you’re looking for a quick, painless, and simple way to sanitize beer bottles, I’ve got the perfect process.
It will save you time AND money (considering you won’t waste as much sanitizer as you would with other methods).
It’s nothing groundbreaking and is something that many homebrewers already do.
If you’re NOT doing this, I suggest you give the following steps below a try on bottling day:
Step 1 – Ensure any label glue is completely removed
One of the most cost-effective ways to obtain bottles for your homebrew is to use what you already have on hand. Previously purchased commercial beer bottles can be saved and reused numerous times (pry-off top only – no twist tops).
Pro tip: You can also ask your friends for pry-off bottles that they don’t need. You’ll soon find yourself with a healthy collection in no time!
Before you’re ready to sanitize beer bottles and package your beer, you first need to prep them properly.
That starts with removing the label and any glue that is left over afterwards.
By removing labels and cleaning off the glue, you will be left with a reusable glass bottle that will last you hundreds of batches. Think of it like a blank canvas – your bottles will look nicer, cleaner, and will be easier to brand as your own (with custom labels, of course).
Trust me – removing labels and glue to clean up bottles is worth the time. Nothing is worse than dealing with the grime and grit that glue leaves stuck behind!
Feeling intimidated? Don’t be! To get a more in-depth look at how to get labels off of beer bottles quickly and easily, check out this post.
Step 2 – Rinse bottles completely and clean with a bottle brush to remove any grime
If your bottles have sat around for some time, dirt, grime, and other contaminants may have found their way inside and out. That’s the last thing we want.
Fortunately, a good rinse and scrub is all you need to get them in tip-top shape!
Here is the process that I follow:
- Once the label and glue has been removed (as mentioned in Step 1 above), give the bottle a good rinse with warm water inside and out.
- With the bottle being wet, use a bottle brush and scrub inside and outside the bottle. This will get rid of any dirt, grime, and even some pesky leftover glue residue.
- Bottles go directly into the dishwasher on a high-heat cycle with heat dry. No detergent – just hot water.
- Once the cycle is complete, the bottles are dry and ready to move on to the next step!
If you do not have a dishwasher, you can do this all by hand (although it will take considerably longer). If you’re dealing with a lot of dirt and grime, I recommend using some regular dish soap along with the bottle brush and hot water to help break things up.
Make sure you rinse well and let the bottles air dry before moving on to the next step.
Step 3 – Pour 1/2 tsp of StarSan into a spray bottle with water
As you might already be aware, StarSan is one of the most widely used (and most effective) sanitizers on the market.
I can’t get enough of the stuff! It lasts forever and does a stand-up job. What more could you ask for?
Here’s the thing – you can get even more mileage from StarSan by utilizing a spray bottle.
When I need to sanitize beer bottles, a mixture of water and StarSan in a spray bottle is the perfect storm. It’s quick, simple, and downright effective!
Once bottles are cleaned and completely dry, I do the following:
- Measure out 1/2 tsp of StarSan and place into 32-ounce plastic spray bottle (grab one from the local dollar store).
- Fill up spray bottle with water and give it a gentle shake.
And just like that, you’re ready to get moving. Your solution is ready to sanitize on contact, making it easy to sanitize your bottles in the next step.
Quick note: If you use distilled water (as opposed to tap water), your mixture will last quite a few weeks in the spray bottle. Doing this will save you both time AND money. Still, I have found that using tap water has been suitable to get me through a few batches without issue.
Step 4 – Spray the inside of each bottle enough to coat it with StarSan
Ready for the fun to start? Good. I thought you would be.
Do the following:
- Gather up your bottles and arrange them on your countertop.
- Using the spray bottle with your sanitizer solution, pick up a bottle and place the nozzle of the spray bottle right near the bottle’s opening.
- Spray about 2 to 3 times. This should be enough to coat the inside of the bottle.
- Give the bottle a bit of a shake-n-swirl for additional coverage.
- Place the bottle down and move onto the next one, repeating the same process above.
Once all of your bottles have been sprayed with sanitizer, let them sit for a few minutes. During this time, you can get your bottling bucket ready for your priming sugar and beer.
I’ve always done it this way during bottling day and it always helps things flow smoothly. You could sanitize these in advance, however, you will have to worry about covering the tops with foil to keep them truly sterile. In my opinion, this takes more time than follow the method I laid out here.
Step 5 – Dump out any excess and bottle your beer
At this point, your beer and priming sugar are in the bottling bucket, mixed and ready to go, and your bottles sprayed with sanitizer are sitting close by.
You know what that means, right? The time has finally come to bottle up your beer! This is where the rubber meets the road.
Before you start filling up, grab a beer bottle, turn it upside down and give it a little shake to dump out any excess sanitizer. Having a little bit in there won’t hurt by any means, but I always prefer to eliminate any excess.
Once any leftover sanitizer has been dumped out, you’re good to start filling up and capping your bottles!
Bottle Beer Like a Boss
Now that you know how easy it is to sanitize beer bottles, you’ll be more efficient and have a better flow on bottling day.
Besides that, you’ll know that your beer is safe and you aren’t wasting sanitizer solution like you would with other methods.
If you have any other quick and simple sanitizing solutions, feel free to leave any comments below. We’d love to hear your take on how you do it!