first off, I’m sure most, if not all, overcarbed visitors know about the SOPA/PIPA issue – if not, please read up a little and formulate your own opinion.
I always cringe a little when I cruise past the thousands of empty bottles packaged and stacked for sale at my local homebrew store – not only are they expensive, but I feel they go against the DIY lifestyle that homebrewing embodies.
- don’t get me wrong, clean, ready-to-go bottles can be a huge time saver when bottling a large amount of brew, and I occasionally purchase a box or two of bombers for purposes of uniformity when I forgo kegging to bottle a portion of my specialty beers, but with used bottles available in great supply and at low cost (read: free), it seems a shame not to engage in eco-friendly bottle reuse.
- when saving bottles, I like to rinse the bottle immediately after it has been emptied, and maybe shake some hot water in the bottle to release any caked-on dregs. no beer bottle in my household touches human lips, but I do get bottle donations from neighbors and friends (CB and others have also had good luck talking to bottle shop owners for cases of empties). in that scenario, after rinsing I hold the base of the bottles up to a light and peer through the mouth to look for any mold/bacteria growth. if any is present, I toss the bottle into the recycle bin, as in my experience it’s not worth the time and effort to clean an infected bottle.
- after the bottles have been rinsed and inspected, they are sent to the basement soaking station, where one by one they are soaked in a plastic pitcher overnight. individual soaking avoids the monotony of a group soak/clean as well as the use of a large soaking bucket. some people add cleaners like PBW and oxyclean to their soaking water, but I have found that plain water works fine and is cheaper in the long run.
- after the overnight soak, I peel the label off with my fingernails and rub any leftover residue off with a scrubber sponge. in the case of hard to remove, multi-layered plastic-type labels (such as those from lost abbey and russian river), I stick a single bottle in the microwave for sixty seconds and peel the label off with my fingers or a razor blade while holding the neck with an oven mitt. any annoying leftover residue can be removed with a little olive oil and a paper towel.
- after a quick final internal and external rinse, the bottle is ready to be toweled off and stored. I store my bottles on their side on a rack, but if you store yours upright I recommend placing a piece of paper, foil, or saran wrap over the tops of the bottles to avoid dust settling inside over the long term.
- with traditional bombers running over a buck each and belgian bottles trading hands for over three dollars a piece, and with bottle shipping being prohibitively expensive, reusing bottles can save you significant cash while offering a solution much greener than even recycling.
on a completely different note, in a fortuitous turn of events, yours truly won a contest over at port/lost abbey. go figure. well, technically I got second place, but my idea is going to be turned into a commercial and there is a high likelihood that I will be able to participate in/be part of the filming some time in february, so I’ll be sure to post updates as they come. stoked!