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What are the pros and cons of each bottle sanitizing method? Let's look at time, equipment, quality of sanitation, and other factors.

Post one answer for each method. Edit the answers if you have things to say about that method. (Community Wiki)

Example would be:

Boiling

Process

How you boil bottles

Equipment

What's needed for this method

Effectiveness

How effective is this method

Other Pros

Other Cons

{brewpoll}

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FYI, you can all edit each answer, so feel free to add your own information, edit others', etc. –  hookedonwinter Jan 14 '10 at 19:35
2  
Should there be an accepted answer on a community wiki? –  a_hardin Apr 23 at 16:36

7 Answers 7

up vote 10 down vote accepted

PBW + Sanitizer

Process

Cleaning

  1. Fill your bucket up with PBW
  2. Soak bottles 2-5 minutes
  3. Inspect bottles for cleanliness, using elbow grease to remove sediment
  4. Rinse & dry
  5. Go back to step 2 until all your bottles are clean

This method is smoother if you put a dirty bottle in every time you take a clean one out. Gotta be able to keep track of your rotation. I ring the bucket with a queue of bottles.

Sanitizing

  1. Fill your bucket with sanitizer like Star-SanTM or idophor
  2. Soak bottles 30-120 seconds
  3. Remove a bottle, drip drain
  4. Fill & cap
  5. Return to step 2 until all bottles are done

Again, the rotating queue works well here. Drain a bottle with one hand while submerging another.

Equipment

5-gallon bucket

Effectiveness

Anecdotally: 100% (I've never had a bottle infection) Citation needed

Other Pros

  • Cheap
  • Scales well: you can throw more buckets and people at it if you have a big job.

Other Cons

  • Time consuming
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San here, best method. I rinse out my bottles as I open them. Use a bottle tree. Star San really only needs a 30 sec contact time, but time everything dipped and put on the tree they are all sanitized. Never had an infection. –  Tim Weber Jan 14 '10 at 17:19
    
Tim, do you sanitize the bottle tree? If yes, do you just wipe it with some of the Star San/iodophor solution? –  WhatsBillDoing Jan 15 '10 at 12:50
    
Yup, I sanitize the bottle tree, and the caps. I dip the whole tree upside down in the bucket of San star for 30 seconds. Watch out for liquid getting in the vent holes, it'll make a mess. Never rinse off san star, that will undo your sanitation. –  Tim Weber Jan 15 '10 at 18:45
    
Wow I can't believe never thought about needing to sanitize the bottle tree. That seems like something quite important that I was overlooking. –  Jordan Jan 15 '10 at 23:03

Dishwasher

Process

  • Put bottles in dishwasher
  • Do not add dishwashing soap or rinse agents (reference)
  • Choose "sanitize" cycle and heated dry

Equipment

  • Dishwasher with sanitize cycle

Effectiveness

  • Anecdotally it works for some people
  • Dishwasher needs to reach sanitizing temperatures

Other Pros

  • Extremely easy
  • No chemicals needed

Other Cons

  • Not all dishwashers have a "sanitize" cycle
  • Those that do may not get hot enough to sanitize
  • If your dishwasher has or recently had rinse agents, they could affect your beer.(reference)
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Never had problems with dish washing soap. –  Robert Apr 25 at 17:42
    
Rinsing bottles right after use (or on the same night at least) helps a lot. –  Robert Apr 25 at 17:43

Rinsing after use & Star San

Process

Strictly speaking this is cleaning but the sanitizing is simple this way. Religiously rinse out empties at with a hot running tap. Two to three goes is all it takes, then a no-rinse sanitizer like Star-San for a few minutes immediately before bottling.

Trying to get dried crud out of bottles later is too much hard work.

Equipment

No special equipment needed

Effectiveness

So far, so good.

Other Pros

I'm always concerned that not rinsing could impact head retention but I have no data to support this.

Other Cons

Not always pouring close to the sink where a quick rinse becomes a simple habit.

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Every bottle in our house goes to the sink for hot rinse and a soak for a day. After that, they are rinsed and put in a box to wait. On bottling day a soak in stars an or iodine solution works well. –  uSlackr May 3 at 17:51

Bleach Solution

Process

Make a 10% (or so) bleach solution and submerge/soak bottles. I have heard that you only need to do a 10 minute soak to sanitize bottles in this sort of solution but I don't think I've ever done a soak that short.

After soaking I drain the bottles and let them dry on a bottle tree. I generally don't rinse them after wards but that doesn't mean you can't. I can't tell any difference in the beer taste between the times I have rinsed the bottles vs simply letting them dry, YMMV.

Equipment

Bleach

Some sort of large bucket/tub/cooler to soak bottles in

Effectiveness

It has worked well for me so far.

Other Pros

Bleach is cheap

You can throw the bottles in there and forget about them until it's convenient to remember them (though don't wait months, see cons).

Works decently well for taking labels off of scavenged bottles

Other Cons

Generally I keep a cooler full of solution and it usually has bottles soaking in it. However bleach does lose it's potency over time and once I opened the cooler to find a lot of nasty slime growing in the water, that was not a fun afternoon.

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2  
10% is an extremely strong bleach solution. That equates to a cup and a half of bleach in a gallon of water. The label on the Clorox bottle recommends 1 Tbsp per gallon (approx. 10 ml per liter) for sanitizing with a two minute exposure and air dry (with no rinse). –  Dennis Williamson Jan 17 '12 at 21:27
    
There are studies (Charles Papazian says something similar) that recommends 10ml diluted in about 20L of water and keep the objects immersed (bottles) for about 30min, or 15ml in 20L if immersed for about 15min. Anyway, after dried the bottles are ready to use (without rinse), chlorine evaporates easily and finish before the water evaporates. –  Luciano Jun 20 at 19:52

Boiling

Process

  • Fill your kettle with water, and put bottles in, making sure each is filled.
  • Boil for a few minutes.
  • Take bottles out, pour water back into kettle, place bottles on counter.
  • Once they've cooled enough, I like to cover them with plastic wrap.
  • Fill with beer, cap, etc.

Equipment

  • Kettle
  • Something to help force bottles into the water. I sometimes use a bent coat hanger.
  • Plastic wrap, tin foil, whatever works to cover the bottles and prevent things from settling

Effectiveness

  • Never had a contamination problem using it

Other Pros

  • Very few supplies required

Other Cons

  • Extremely time intensive. You can only boil a few bottles at a time.
  • First bottles boiled are sitting out for a while, unless you have enough people to bottle while boiling.
  • Sticking your hand in boiling water.
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I'd think another con for this method would be the likelihood of burning yourself with boiling water or hot bottles. –  Mattress Jan 14 '10 at 19:22
    
Oh yes, I've definitely stuck my hand in a kettle of boiling water before. –  hookedonwinter Jan 14 '10 at 19:34

Baking

Process

  1. Place clean bottles on baking pan (2 regular sized cookie pans hold 48 bottles)
  2. Tear off small squares of tin foil and cover the openings of the bottles (this will keep the bottles sterilized until they're ready for bottling)
  3. Place bottles in the oven
  4. Turn oven to 340°F and let the bottles gradually heat up while the over pre-heats (this prevents breakage from extreme changes in temperature)
  5. Once the oven is heated, bake the bottles for 60 minutes
  6. Let cool, and store with the tin foil on until it's time to bottle

Equipment

  1. Clean bottles
  2. Baking sheet/pan
  3. Tin foil
  4. Oven

Effectiveness

Doesn't just sanitize, it sterilizes, and keeps your bottle sterile until you need them.

Other Pros

  1. Easy
  2. Kills 100% of microorganisms
  3. Bottles are ready when you are
  4. Prepare anytime ahead of bottling day

Other Cons

  1. I don't see any
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Is this where I leave my recipe for bottle angel food cake, PJ? –  WhatsBillDoing Jan 15 '10 at 12:51
    
Oh my. Yes, please. –  hookedonwinter Jan 15 '10 at 17:16
    
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the heating and cooling cycle, especially when repeated, weakens the glass. If true, this makes the risk of glass breakage and resultant injuries another "con" of the baking method. –  Chino Brews Sep 29 at 15:00

Hey I got a great video here on Sanitizing/sterilizing bottles: http://youtu.be/uoEvAruBayw

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