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I want to start collecting bottles to use when I brew. Recycled bottles come in many types. I would naturally steer away from the twist off bottles, bottles that seem thinner or more fragile, or plastics..

Though I am going to keep recycling the glass bottles, what determines how they can be recapped and what is the basic thing to look at when finding the bottles that will work with your average caps sold in the supply store?

Hopefully this is not a duplicate question, but I did not find this from my searches.

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It depends on your capper.

  • Hand-held cappers will not work with twist-off glass bottles.
  • Table top cappers will work with pretty much all glass bottles.

The rule would be that if the bottle was capped once, it can be capped again. Try to cap it when it is empty or with water, it's only going to cost you a cap and you will know for sure.

In some countries, some bottles are returnable and sometimes thicker than those that are not. Be careful using bottles that look fragile, they may break, I have seen many comments about hand held cappers disasters.

Some additional information: BYO article about reusing twist cap bottle

EDIT: Just found this other post related to this: Reusing twist-off bottles

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Just about any glass bottle that isn't a twist-off will work. Even though the bottles may look different, the lip which accepts the crimp cap is standardized, and will accept any cap sold in homebrewing stores.

I'll also mention that the thickness of the glass is not that important; even the thinnest bottle glass (assuming it's not chipped or cracked) will be able to reliably withstand the forces of recapping. Some say that certain bottles (e.g. Woodchuck shorty bottles) are too flimsy to reuse, but I've never had a problem with those using either a wing capper or a bench capper.

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Caps/bottles are not universal and certain beers have special sized openings/caps. Which means that the easiest way is to take a clean bottle, pour colored carbonated water into it, cap it, shake the bottle and hold it upside down. Leaks should immediately be visible.

Look for the "default" bottle that most breweries use. Where I stay almost all the breweries use the same three type of bottles, and they are all made by the same company and can easily be recapped.

I only use these "defaults" or occasionally I will just buy a case or two of these from the manufacturer. It also makes your beer look more professional if all your bottles are similar.

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First, just get one unused cap and test if it fits. There is one common size so it's usually easy to just see, but testing is the best way anyway.

As for safety, most bottles are made to be recycled. Look them for any chipping glass, any dents, scratches etc. Don't use bottles with any defects like that.

If you see anything like mold, don't keep this bottle. Or at least think twice. It's easy enough to remove during industrial cleaning process, but hard at home. Pretty much the same thing with trash like cigarette butts, it's hard to be sure you washed them good enough, and it may stink.

And last, see for defects like air bubbles in glass, or uneven surface. These bottles probably shouldn't leave factory in the first place. Trow them away for your own good.

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  • And avoid the ones with cigarette butts in them! Only because it stinks a lot when you clean them. – Atron Seige Oct 9 '15 at 6:20
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    @AtronSeige I only use ones I drank personally, or delivered by friends, but well, they all are advised to only use chipped bottles for butts ;) – Mołot Oct 9 '15 at 7:20
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I can tell you what has worked for me and my hand-held capper. All are from the perspective of being produced in or imported to the Northeast USA (NYC):

  • Tecate and Carta Blanca "quart bottles" - I really love these things, and now do virtually all my bottling in these. I'm giving away all my other bottles! The downside is you have to dispose of the urine the bottles come with.

  • Sierra Nevada 12oz short bottles

  • various brown 24oz and 32oz craft brewery bottles (probably seen with Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn Brewery, and others)

  • These breweries: Sam Adams bottles (they tend to have the company logo imprinted on them, but work fine), Arrogant Bastard, Brooklyn Lager, Samuel Smith; virtually all American craft breweries seem to use very standard brown bottle heads, regardless of size or imprints

  • clear Corona bottles cap nicely

I think if visually inspect the top of the bottle you can usually tell, or at least will be able to teach yourself to tell after a few tries. Most of my bad experiences have been with green bottles. Many green bottles do work. I have a bunch that I'm not even sure I remember the origin of, but I remember specifically having a problem with Heineken bottles.

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