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I realise there is a tonne of information about cleaning on the net already, but I am just about to bottle my first batch of glass bottles and wanted to put my process out there to make sure I haven't made any mistakes.

  1. Rinse bottles with hot water after drinking and let drain (if possible)
  2. Few days before bottling, fill a sink with hot water and 1 cap of unscented Napisan (sodium percarbonate - diluted I believe)
  3. Fill each bottle from the sink, give a shake and let sit and soak for a while
  4. Any bottles that have noticeable dirt in them, use bottle brush
  5. Allow to soak for 15 minutes (other people tend to say overnight but I was impatient and unsure how much difference it makes)
  6. Rinse suds from each bottle in a sink of hot water
  7. Pour a bit of boiling water into each bottle for final rinse, then leave upside down to drain
  8. On brew day, pour a tiny bit of star san no-rinse sanitiser into one bottle with some hot water. Pour from bottle to bottle, topping up with hot tap water as needed until all bottles are soapy.
  9. Empty them all, cursory rinse, but leaving some suds
  10. Bottle!

Does this sound like overkill? Not enough? Should I soak longer? Are any of my methods inefficient?

Finally, I was thinking of storing the bottles in an esky (cooler) in case there are any explosions I won't come home to find the dog licking up beer and broken glass. Is this more of a risk to the other bottles in the esky? Any precautions I should take when handling the bottles for the first time? I've heard some horror stories about bottle bombs.

Thanks in advance for any advice. This site has saved me from ruining both of my previous brews :)

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Move step #4 to #2. – uSlackr Jul 8 '13 at 17:00
up vote 4 down vote accepted

On the whole this the kind of process you need if you're starting with fairly dirty bottles that have been left to dry with residue in them.

Naturally, once you've used the bottles and then you rinse them immediately, then they will be much cleaner after second use, and you don't need the sodium percarbonate soak - a rinse (for dust etc.) and then soak in StarSan is enough.

Regarding the StarSan, it is better to mix up starsan outside of any bottles (say, in a bucket) and transfer the mixture then to each bottle. It's very inaccurate to measure out small quantities of starsan. Or better still, half fill a bucket with starsan and just dunk all bottles in that until full. Leave for a couple of minutes then empty and drain. You don't need to rinse, just shake out some of the suds. Also, you don't need hot water. Kept in a sealed bucket, starsan can last for months. Test with a pH strip or pH meter - if the pH is less than pH 3.5 then it's still ok.

Regarding bottle bombs, if you take a specific gravity reading before bottling, and ensure this at the expected FG, plus you also rack the beer into a bottling bucket, then add boiled priming sugar in a little water after 20% of the beer is added so that the remainder of the beer mixes the sugar in and gently mix it, then there is little risk of bottle bombs. Alternatively use plastic soda bottles - not only are they larger in size, so less of a pain to fill, but they don't explode like glass.

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FWIW, a 30 second contact time with StarSan is all that's required. And you don't need full immersion necessarily, although that's often the easiest thing to do. All you need to do is wet the surfaces and wait 30 seconds. – Denny Conn Jul 3 '13 at 16:26
thanks for the detailed response! this is exactly the sort of feedback I was hoping for. – captainclam Jul 3 '13 at 23:04
MDMA, I just bottled yesterday and cooled my boiled water+priming sugar in the fridge (wrapped in tinfoil) before adding it to the bottling bucket because I assumed that warm/hot water would be bad. Does it matter either way-- is one better? – Matthew Moisen Jul 6 '13 at 23:29
Assuming it was sanitary then there's no harm cooling it, but equally no real harm adding it warm to a small amount of beer that's already in the bottling bucket. – mdma Jul 7 '13 at 7:09

I've bottled my beer doing simply

  1. A quick rinse after drinking
  2. A quick rinse before sanitizing
  3. A quick rinse with star san, simply getting already diluted and prepared star san from a sealed vessel and soaking the bottles for 30 seconds to a minute and then draining them.

This has worked out well for me. If you can, I would highly recommend getting one of these http://www.torontobrewing.ca/servlet/the-329/Bottle-Rinser--dsh--Avvinatore/Detail. They make sanitizing bottles a quick one two pump. I also like having a bottle rack to hang my bottles on.

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