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I've read the answers on how to sanitize bottles while bottling [here] but my question is this...

Should you cap a bottle right after filling it, or can you fill say 6 bottles, cap them, then put them in a six-pack holder and put away, and continue? I guess my real question is what is the best rhythm when having to bottle about 50 from a 5 gallon batch?

Not that 50ish bottles will get tiresome, I'm just wondering what systems others have discovered in their time.

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7 Answers

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I use what would probably be called the "batch sanitize" method.

  1. Fill your bottling bucket with five or six gallons of sanitizer solution.
  2. Drain the bucket using both your auto siphon and bottling wand for at least the minimum time dictated by your sanitizing agent into a 4-6 gallon Rubbermaid. I can usually fit 10-12 12-oz or 7 bombers in one 4-gallon Rubbermaid, so there's your first batch of bottles. This bucket is your "sanitization station", and will continually be refilled by unsanitized bottles.
  3. Fill each bottle about ⅓ with sanitizer solution. Put your thumb over the top and shake vigorously until you're confident the solution has made contact with the entirety of the bottle. Dump the solution back into the Rubbermaid, then dip the top of the bottle to the neck in the solution.
  4. Fill each bottle, rest a cap on top. Clamp the caps when you finish each "batch".

As regards sanitation, don't let absolute perfection be the enemy of good enough.

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This is the method I fell into. This was mainly due to lack of space where I was bottling. I would bring 2 empty 6 packs out of storage, sanitize, fill, cap, and return to storage. –  CDspace Jan 15 at 21:32
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I now keg and only bottle about a dozen with each batch, but when I used to bottle the whole batch; 50+ bottles, I would fill the bottles first, then cap them and cellar them. It never occurred to me that there was some lag time without the cap. I would expect, unless you are filling the bottles with CO2 prior to bottling, it's not going to make much difference. The beer is pushing out air as you fill anyway. Ideally, you don't want to introduce much air (carbonation is anaerobic), but some is inevitable. As long as everything is sanitized and you are careful not to splash or otherwise inject any more air than necessary, you should be fine.

In the end, bottling the whole batch gets a bit tedious and I would imagine most home-brewers evolve to kegging, while some still bottle a few away for competition or for cellaring.

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I try to bottle with my neighbor, if possible. Here is the bottling day routine that we are still working on (when bottling from a bottling bucket):

Set the bucket on the counter. Use a white towel as a background, so you can see the level inside the bottles, and it is available to mop up disasters. Turn on all the lights for the same reason. Use a bottling wand, and cut your tubing very short, so the wand hangs down in mid-air. Before filling, have a fastrack of empty bottles and a tupperware container of bottle caps in star-san to one side, and one the others side have space to put filled bottles. To fill: grab an empty, lift it to the bottling wand to fill (when you lower a bottle to stop filling, you don't need a hand on the bottling wand, tubing, clamp, etc.) Place a crown on each filled bottle and set to the side. When you have a bunch of filled bottles, move them to the counter, and crimp the crowns with a butterfly-style capper. Return to filling. When finished filling and capping, rinse spilled beer off of any bottles (keep fruit flies down and nasties down), dry them, and seal in case box(es). Label the box(es) with batch #, beer style, bottling date, and the date that is three weeks. Condition for two weeks in the spare shower, and then move to cellar.

At least, that is the theory. In practice, there are always a few kinks. I think we need to add a tarp, because it feels like I end up spot-mopping stickiness from the floor for days after bottling day. Also, per a suggestion in this forum, we need to start marking the first few, the last few, and any bottles with process abnormalities, to help us sleuth beer problems - maybe keep a few pieces of pre-cut, colored tape on hand?

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I think what you wanted to know is "Do you have to capp the bottle right away?" if you are bottling from a freshly racked bucket, it really doesnt matter of you cap and fill one at a time, or if you fill 50 then cap them all.

In the long run, the Model T taught us that if you do a repetitious task it will go faster than retooling. So, filling all the bottles first, then capping them would be the most efficient use of time. However, it can get tedious and if you have limited space, like in an apartment, it may not be pracitcal.

Usually, I put out about 12 bottles (spacxe issue) fill'em, then cap'em. Then put out 12 more. I have also done a full batch when I had better quarters. I've see no difference in the beer using either method. Essentially, the beer is exposed in the bottles while you are filling the rest, or exposed in the bucket while you are capping.

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Mainly I was just wondering about how people avoid the tedium. What I did was fill a bucket with sanitizer, line the bottom with bottles, then fill and cap those. Repeat until done. –  CDspace Jan 15 at 21:15
    
My daughter helps me. She fills the bottles and I cap and store them. She also helps sanitize (I have a vinator and drying rack that I expanded so it holds a full batch worth of bottles). It goes pretty quickly. Do you have any interested friends or family members you could recruit to set up an assembly line? –  TMN Jan 17 at 20:35
    
My daughters used to help me too until they got "too old" LOL {Teenagers! Sheesh!} I can get the girlfriend to help if she isnt working during bottling day but when it comes to bottling dividing the work by 2 cuts the time to 1/3... Great point TMN –  Ugly Dude Jan 17 at 22:45
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  1. Place all of your bottles in the dishwasher for a sanitizer cycle. Leave the dishwasher closed until bottling time to preserve sanitation.
  2. If you don't have a sanitizer cycle, spray the inside of the dishwasher with starsan and drain your bottles from your sanitizing reservoir in the racks of the dishwasher.
  3. Place the bottling bucket on the counter above the dishwasher.
  4. Flip over as many bottles as will fit on the opened-flat door of your dishwasher and fill them all.
  5. As each is filled, move the previously filled bottle to the counter place a sanitized cap on it and put an empty in it's place.

This way you can keep an assembly-line rhythm but minimize exposure.

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I use swing top bottles that I can close with one hand while filling the next one. Sometimes I have too much foam in the bottle and let it sit open for a few minutes and then top it off. In my experience that does not hurt. If you're paranoid about oxygen damaging your new beer, you should probably cap quickly.

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I use my dishwasher as the filling area. With my bottling bucket on the counter above it. That way when I spill it'll drain into the dishwasher. It means less cleanup and less sticky floors.

When I sanitize my bottles, I fill up my bottling bucket with star-san and use the spout to fill bottles with the star san, swirl it around, pour it back into the bottling bucket, and hang it to dry on my bottle tree. This way I can be pouring the star san back out while filling another bottle.

(I would not rely on the dishwasher's sanitize cycle alone, i don't think it does a very good job of spraying water into each of the bottles)

I usually fill batches of bottle on the dishwasher door (laid down flat) and once i've done 20 or so will move them to the counter for capping. If my wife is home I'll enlist her to do the capping while I fill the next batch.

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