Bottling Without Tears!

- Using the right equipment takes the hard work out of bottling wines and beers.

Bottling itself is quite pleasurable and most people have the kit they need to put wine, beer or lager into bottles.   It is the preparation of the bottles: cleaning, sterilizing, rinsing, drying that can be awkward and take a lot of time, turing it into a chore most people find hard to handle and do not like.   It does not need to be like this.   A few pieces of equipment and the right sterilizer make the job easy and quick.

Washing


Whatever the state of your bottles it is safest to go through a rinsing and cleaning process.   The way I do this is to partly fill the bottle with warm water and to use a spiral brush as shown. As can bee seen, this brush has stainless steel bristles and has a mechanism which makes it spin as you plunge it up and down.

One of the other clever things about this brush is that the bristles disappear into the handle which has a brass collar for easy insertion into the mouth of the bottle.   You need to be careful with some continental lager bottles as they are sometimes a tight fit and their tops can shatter.

This shown in in the pictures below.   Use the brush until any remaining dirt is washed out of the bottle and then give it is rinse with clean water.





Sterilizing and Drying

image of bottle rinser/sterilizer which works by a pumpo actionimage of bottle dryer
This is a useful piece of equipment (shown in the picture on the left) which saves having to use funnels to fill bottles with sterilizer etc. all you need to do is to put about 1 litre of water for rinsing, or sterilizer for sterilizing into the reservoir then hold the bottle up side down withthe mouth of the bottle over then jet and then pump the bottle up and down.   As you pump the bottle the liquid in the reservoir will be sprayed into the bottle.

The sterilizer you need to use is Chempro Oxy as it works by using nascent oxygen and not chlorine or sulphite so it does not require to be rinsed out.

After sterilizing the bottles you hang them up on the bottle dryer shown in the right hand picture.   It has a drip tray at the bottom which catches any liquid that comes out of the bottles.

Bottling

When you transfer your wine, beer or lager into bottles you need to make sure it is a clear as it can be. I find that for wine it is essential to use campden tablets (or powder) and fermentation stopper, degas well and then use finings - I also filter white and rose wines.   For beer and lager I siphon it into a 25 litre wine fermenter, fit an air lock and leave it in a cool place for a couple of weeks (up to a couple of months for lager).   Then I siphon it into a sterilized container where I prime it ready for bottling.

When bottling it is best to do it in a way which does not allow for frothiing in the bottle, as would happen if the bottle was filled from the top using a funnel.   It is feasible to put a length of tube onto a small funnel and fill the bottle using this but even this requires filling jugs and then slowly pouring the wine, beer or lager slowly through the funnel and tube.

A much easier way is to use a siphon tupe with a stiff tube fixed to the vessel containing the liquid to be bottled by a siphon clip and bottling stick fitted to the other end.   The bottling stick is a stiff plastic tube with a valve fitted to the bottom.   When the valve touches the bottom of the bottle it allows the liquid to flow.   When it is lifted from the bottom of the bottle the valve closes and liquid flow is stopped.   This method is quick and relatively clean as there are few drips etc. and you lose hardly any of the liquid you are bottling.   Then all you have to do is to cork or cap the bottle, for wine fit a shrink cap, and finally label it.

Wine bottles should not be laid on their sides for a couple of days after corking in order to allow the cork to expand fully and form a good seal.   Beer and lager should be kept upright and should be kept in a warm place for a couple of days then in a cool place for one to two months.