Can I use my old water bottles to bottle my beer? Like Dasani or Aquafina type water bottles.
I would strongly recommend brown glass bottles for bottling (hey why not ditch bottles and switch to kegging!). As mentioned there are many potential issues with reusing plastic bottles.
- Water Bottles are not designed to hold pressure. I keep my kegs around 11PSI. Homebrewers always recommend to be careful with naturally carbed bottles as they might become bottle bombs. Glass Beer Bottles are designed for pressure and they don't explode, I just don't see plastic handling it.
- Screw Top vs Pry Off. Screw tops are awfully convienient, but look in your craft beer section at the grocery and see what's being used professionally: Pry-Offs. This is because they hold pressure better and tend to have fewer issues with oxidation
- Light. Why spend tons of time making great beer and let it get all skunky from light exposure. Protect your beer, it's your baby. Put it in brown glass. Stainless is even better but I understand not everyone wants to keg.
- Sanitation (part 1): As mentioned by baka plastic tends to scratch. this is a concern because it gives the nasty funky bugs a place to hide from your sanitization efforts. Glass doesn't scratch readily so it provides a better nonporous surface to sanitize.
- Sanitation (part 2): Is your sanitizer safe to use on the plastic employed in the water bottles? I don't know either.
In the strictest sense, yes. You just need a container that will hold pressure.
However, plastic scratches more easily than glass, which means they could be harboring wild yeast or bacteria that are very difficult to remove. Also, most beer bottles are brown glass because that particular color blocks most of the wavelengths of light that cause the beer to "skunk".
So, if you cycle out old bottles regularly and keep the full ones from being exposed to light, you can probably get away with it without any problems with the beer.
Water bottles should be alright. My only concern is that they are not intended to hold pressure. Water bottles tend to be a thinner plastic than their carbonated soda bottle counterpart. I suspect that the pressure created by the beer is not enough to burst even the thinnest plastic bottle (assuming there are no weak spots), so it should work.
I have used soda bottles (of all sizes) before when I needed some more bottles in a pinch; they worked fine. Two liters are perfect for filling off my keg and bringing to parties!
If you use heavy plastic soda bottles, use the smaller (20 oz) root beer bottles as they tend to be colored brown. But, you will need to wash them thoroughly, or you'll end up with clove overtones in the beer (something that can be desirable if that suits your taste). Boiling them in water with baking soda added to it helps remove the residual root beer flavor. Follow with a good sanitizer soak and you will be good to go. These are similar to the bottles that come with the Mr Beer kits, BTW.
I just don't know why you would chance it. IMHO, this is not a shortcut to take. You risk light damage, loss of carbonation, and a host of sanitization issues.
See if a local craft beer bar would hook you up with spent bottles. If there's a homebrew club in yor area, see if any members would be willing to hook you up. I was short on bottles once, and actually went around my neighborhood and grabbed a few extras out of people's recycling bins when taking my dog for a walk. It was early enough in the morning that the only strange looks I received were from my dog. A run through the dishwasher, soak in pcb and starsan (which you need to do anyway) and they were ready to rock.
Homebrewing is about finding ways to minimize potential problems, because many can arise. Could you conduct your fermentation in a rubbermaid storage bin? Maybe. Could you attempt to 'sanitize' by using Fantastik instead of Starsan? Maybe. However, using an Ale Pail and Starsan are inexpensive methods to 'close the gap' on the variability of making drinkable beer with an imperfect setup, which most homebrewers have.
Or you could just plow through a few cases of commecial craft brew and use those bottles.
I use pop bottles for bottling. They're made of thick, food-grade plastic, the caps have very good liners for sealing, they don't break, and they're light to carry or move around. I use a variety of sizes per batch (2l, 1l, 710 ml, 500ml) to fit my thirst any given day, and you can eventually even return them to a depot for a refund! Just make sure they're clean, as with everytihng in brewing.
I find most types of water bottles are too thin and flimsy --- made for one use only. Glass bottles are nice, they even add a bit of elegance to things, but for simple, informal drinking, a Coke bottle is too practical to beat.
I'm not sure how many times you can reuse the plastic bottles -- not sure how well they handle multiple sanitation/pressure/squeezing etc. I've used American Champagne bottles -- they use the same standard bottle cap and they hold 26oz. I agree that the brown glass bottles are best. if you need bottles, join s Sunday softball league. Plenty of bottles there!