A bottling question

Alright, I’m about to start my first batch of hard cider.

While it’s doing it’s thing, I was wondering if I could save my empties from my case of Woodchuck and wash, strip, and sterilize them for re-use?

They are twist off, if that matters at all.

(I know I would still need to buy caps and a capper. I intend to. I was just wondering if I could save a few bucks by recycling.)

You would have no problem doing that, if it weren’t for the bottles being twist-offs. Twist off bottles aren’t going to work with traditional caps and cappers you would purchase from a homebrew shop.

As a veteran cider-brewer, let me say: drink some beer that comes in non-twist-off bottles. A small sacrifice to make! Then buy a $10 capper and a $2.50 bag of bottlecaps from any homebrew supplier.

Better still: Find some local microbrews that come in those 22-oz bottles. Much better for the home user, in my experience. Fewer things to fill/clean/cap/open.

Some folks like Grolsch-lid bottles; I find the seals (even when replaced often) tend to fail too easily.

They work fine.

The literature will tell you that using twist off bottles that are not designed for recycling is unwise, mostly because they are of a more lightweight construction. I think the concern is they may explode or crack under pressure.

It is nonetheless something I have done numerous times without a single problem (and using traditional caps and cappers).

Interesting. Thank you all for the input.

The problem with doing the whole “get non-twist off beer” is that I don’t drink beer. What I may do is see if I can get my father in law to hook me up with some bottles from the bar he runs.

But, it sounds like the Woodchuck bottles would work in a pinch.


Some folks will re-use 2 and 3 liter plastic soda (They must be the type that once held a carbonated beverage) bottles for their homebrew (Cleaned and sanitized, caps too) The advantages claimed are that they are cheap, and very strong. Cider isn’t carbonated, but this might work? No guarantees on garden-hose flavors, but these should be an option…

New bottles are cheap at most homebrew stores if you can’t get your capper to work with twist-offs. We get the 22 oz bottles when we brew.

It is in MY house! No flat cider here, thanks. You just need to prime the cider with more sugar just before bottling, then the residual yeast will wake up enough to give you carbonation.

Oh no, this should be a lightly carbonated when I’m done. Not enough to foam, but enough to five it a tingle on the tounge and a little “pshht” when opening a bottle.

I’m going to pass on plastic bottles, due to the fact that I’m hoping to ship a few six backs to friends back in Cali, and because, well, a case of bottles just looks cooler. Hehehe…

Thanks again everyone for the input.

Many champagne bottles can be capped as well. They’re generally made of thicker glass than beer bottles and are handy at parties when you’re dispensing your beverage for several people. I have to take the plastic inserts out of my two-handed capper to get it around the wider bottlenecks, but the big one-handed models should work just fine.

As far as beer bottles go, you could see if any local bars would be willing to give you their empties. Just make sure to wash them thoroughly. I like to soak mine in hot soapy water, scrub them out with a bottle brush, hold them up to the light to check for anything clinging to the sides, then run them all through the dishwasher on its hottest setting with no soap. It’s not an autoclave but it’s good enough for homebrew.

I used to use champagne bottles a lot when I was making my own cider.

Aside from the possibility of breaking due to pressure, twist-off bottle threads may chip off and leave shards of glass on the bottle neck or in your cider. Not desireable.

See if there’s a local liquor store that stocks beer in returnable bottles and, if so, if they sell returned cases for cheap. A local store here in St. Paul sells used bottles of $2.50 a case, which is what they get from the brewery. I have to go through and pick the ones that haven’t been used as ashtrays, though. Cigarette-butt beer is not as tasty as you’d think, as it turns out.

The big message I’ve picked up over the years is that everything works for somebody: I’ve heard of people using plastic soda bottles and screwing the caps back on with a pair of pliers, and they swear they’ve never had any problems. Other people bottle into gallon cider jugs and just leave the caps on loose. I don’t recommend either of those techniques.

I also admire your optimism that you’ll only get a small amount of carbonation. Important safety tip: for your first batch, put your aging cases of bottles inside a large rubbermaid container with the lid on. Just in case.

Indeed… I’ve read some horror stories! I’ll be keeping my bottles in my basement sink, with a piece of plywood over it to keep shrapnel from spreading in the even of an explosion. I’ll be talkign to the barkeeping father in law about getting some used bottles, and hitting up the local beer wholesalers to find out if they have empties.

Thanks all, and I’ll post down in Cafe Society upon bottling with recipe and results, when the time comes.

I’ve had trouble with leakage and/or bad seals on twist-off bottles. When I switched to only using non-twistoff, the problems went away.

That’s one of the supposed advantages of using plastic soda or beer containers, they are capable of withstanding pressures far in excess of glass. No “bottle bombs” for homebrewers.