Bottling, Head vs Heart




Recently I was at a homebrewer's meet and a long time friend and homebrewer gave me a wicked smile and said "Dude, can't believe you still use these plastic bottles". My reply - "Catch !!!", I rolled a bottle of my homebrew towards him. I know nothing will happen to my plastic bottle.


Glass bottles vs PET plastic bottles is a very old debate between Indian homebrewers with ardent supporters on both sides. Its almost a heart vs head type of a debate. Like beauty vs brains, elegance vs practicality.
Having used both types of packaging, I am going to make a fair comparison ( read : try to make my point ) here.









Ease of handling -
Plastic bottles are easier of handle due to less weight, and inherent durability of the plastic. Knock down a glass bottle during bottling and you will have a mess to clean.
Plastic bottles are also easier to lug around, no worries putting them on buses, planes, in a backpack on my bike and so on. Sharing homebrew is easier.




Elegance - 

Every time you crack open that perfectly carbonated glass bottle, its a celebration of homebrewing !! All of us felt it some time of the other.
That lovely popping sound with some white mist coming out of the bottle is a homebrewer's wet dream.
This reason alone is enough to go though the pain of using glass bottles.

No need to say how poor the plastic bottles look.
The homebrewer who uses plastic bottles looks like a loser, a person without good taste, probably homebrews because he can't afford kingfisher.
So next time please don't publicly ridicule and make fun of that guy with beer in plastic bottles.

Some special beers will always go into glass bottles. Period.
Winner - Glass, Glass, Glass all the way


Carbonation -
Yeast, temperature, priming sugar, alcohol percentage, and many other factors affect the carbonation times.
So how do you know if the beer is carbonated ? Just press the plastic bottle to feel the pressure, and you will know.

With a glass bottle, you have to open a bottle and check. Enjoy a flat sweet beer.
Some people say plastic bottles will lose carbonation over time. I have not seen that happening at-least over a few months. Also think about it. Does the soft drink that comes in the plastic bottle lose carbonation over time ?
Winner - Plastic



Over Carbonation - 


This is where it gets worse. Glass bottles can become bottle bombs when over carbonated.
Indian beer bottles withstand more pressure, since they are meant to be be reused, but the caps will pop off leaving a stinky smelly puddle to clean. Same problem if you freeze the glass bottle by mistake.
Plastic bottles will just have a slight bulge in the cap in case of over carbonation. And its easier to diffuse some carbonation from plastic bottles by slightly opening and the cap, and closing it before the beer reaches the top.

Another problem with glass bottles is capping. Some handheld cappers are not that great at capping and poorly capped bottles can leak CO2. The screw-on caps on plastic bottles are a perfect fit everytime.
Winner - Plastic


Light and oxygen permeability -
Most plastic bottles are transparent, and let in light, dark glass bottles have lesser light getting in.
But which foolish homebrewer keeps his beers in a lit area !! This point is not relevant.

Another common argument is that plastic bottles let in oxygen. I have not experienced this when bottles are stored upto six months. Thats a long time to store homebrew. Another thing I don't understand - The beer inside the bottle is under high pressure. How is gas going to get in ? Common sense says gas should come out.
Winner - None


Durability and reuse -


Durability - PET bottles are very sturdy and can never break.
Reuse - I have used re-used plastic bottles as many as 4-5 times. Just make sure that you rinse the bottle with tap water on the same day. Don't use any soap. And then let them drip dry.

Glass bottles can be left dirty and can be chemically cleaned. Glass bottles can also be cleaned with hot water. But trust me, it's a pain dealing with chemicals and/or hot water.

Another problem is inspecting cleanliness of bottles. If you are lazy like me, you want to only clean the dirty bottles. Glass bottles are hard to inspect due to the dark color. Plastic is super easy, if there is any residue, just dump it.

Winner - I say plastic, but will call it a tie to be fair


Conclusion - 

No matter what I say, some people will always consider using PET bottles a sin. So they can stop reading and start commenting below. I still love you guys.
I have used PET plastic bottles for a long time, and had no problems.

Should I totally give up bottling and start kegging now ?


Plastic bottling tips -
  1. Only use bottles that were originally filled with carbonated drinks. Soft drink and soda bottles are fine. Never use water or juice bottles.
  2. Use 600 or 750 ml bottles. These work well. I feel bigger bottles are too big to store, and consume.
  3. Try to use soda bottles. Kinley and Dukes bottles work very well. They don't have any smell from the original beverage that was packaged in the bottle. Find a friend who drinks a lot cheap whisky or lime soda.
  4. Never clean the bottles with soap, hot water, or any other chemicals. If an opened plastic bottle was left open with homebrew in it, overnight, just discard. Closed bottles are okay.
  5. Always smell the bottles when reusing them. Used bottles will smell a little bit of beer, but it will go away, once you sanitize the bottle. If a bottle smells of infection, dump it.

Note : Some images are shamelessly stolen from the Internet.

4 comments:

  1. It's like that iPhone v android discussion. People know the versatility and customisation of an android, but will still go for an iPhone because of whatever. I have used both plastic and glass for my braggots and I bottle a part of the brew in plastic which I am sharing with friends, but if I want to impress, it's glass ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Couldn't agree more, use glass to impress.

      Delete
  2. There is no doubt Plastic is easy, durable unbreakable etc etc, but it is easily scratched, glass does not get scratched, but why does a scratch matter so much?!? It matters because one scratch inside a PET bottle is like a condominium for microorganisms to grow, and can be the source of contamination for your precious home brew. I clean glass inside out with steel wool (satisfaction of scrubbing dirt away) if I do the same to a PET bottle it will get shredded from inside, you may argue that there are disinfectants so why bother, but I feel we don't know much about the hardy nature of tropical microorganisms who can thrive in the nooks and crannies of the scratched up insides.
    I am All for glass, inherently fragile, difficult to use but very versatile and not at all an ecological hazard!
    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cleaning -

      I agree you can never scrub clean a plastic bottle. But in most cases it isn't needed. A simple wash with some tap water immediately after drinking does the job. Sanitizer will take case of the rest before bottling. Ofcourse you have any visible growth inside the bottle, it gets trashed.

      Environment -

      Yes plastic is bad. And we should never buy new plastic bottles just for bottling homebrew.
      I gather used bottles from friends and family who would have trashed them anyways. They get a few back filled with homebrew. Makes me feel less guilty for using plastic :)

      Delete

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