How To Choose Bottles When Home Brewing

Every heard of skunky beer? It happens… even though beer is not supposed to be skunky, except maybe for coronas, some people will want that little bit of skunkyness in their beer and you’re about to find out how to get that…

So a question I often get is what type of bottles should I use for my home brew?

Dark brown, clear, green…

Should they be glass or plastic? What about size… do they have to be the regular 12 oz you get from commercially available beers, or can I buy some 40 ouncers, have a party and bottle?

Oh and I almost forgot about Growlers?

Well, the most common type of bottle home brewers use is the dark brown 12 oz bottles with reusable caps. Twist-off cap bottles will not work for home brewers.

Some of the best dark bottles I’ve found are Sam Adams bottles, usually their boston lager since it’s an easier beer to drink. However, if you are up for the challenge you can opt for Fat Tire and other styles of beer as long as they have reusable caps.

Dark bottles keeps light out of the beer which keeps the beer from developing that skunky flavor you don’t want…

Some people ask if there’s anything wrong with 40 oz bottles and the answer is that you have to drink more beer when you open the bottle!

Other than that… No! there is nothing wrong with using bigger bottles.

In fact some people even use growlers or flip top beer bottles which are nice because you don’t have to use a capper, but it is a bit expensive to get a collection of these bottles.

In fact, it’s cheaper to get a keg instead.

The second best option is to use dark brown plastic bottles, which some kits come with. Also, some local home brew supply stores will have them.

These are relatively cheap and can be reused. The downside is that plastic tends to absorb odors unlike glass bottles.

Now, if you are planning on adding a slight skunky smell and flavor to your beer, then you’ll want to use clear bottles (corona bottles) or green bottles (heineken bottles) and let the beer in a lighted room although not in direct sunlight.

When the beer is left exposed to blue green light (400 to 520 nanometer wavelength), which is basically daylight, the hops humulones start to break down. When the hops break down, they mix with hydrogen sulfide in the wort and it turns into mercaptan.

Now that all makes me sound like a scientist wearing a white lab coat, but I’m chemistry dumb myself so let me translate… Mercaptan is the same stuff you smell coming out of skunks, hence skunky beer…

Brown bottles absorb this light and prevent your beer from getting that nasty smell & flavor…

Which brings me to the next point…

If you are using a glass carboy to ferment, you want to make sure you keep this carboy away from light as well. Most brewers simply get a box and cover the carboy with it if they are to leave it in a lighted room. Granted the smell in not as noticeable when the beer is fermenting, but why risk it.

Also, they sell dark carboys for this same reason, but from what most people have said they don’t keep light out as well since they are just slightly tinted and not dark like bottles… and because they are more expensive, it is just not worth getting them.

When it comes to bottling your beer, there is one more aspect you have to watch out for, the caps. Not much thought goes into caps and often times people will go out and try and buy the cheapest caps they can find.

Understandable…

But, some of these cheap caps are uncoated metal caps which can give your beer a slight metallic taste…. so trying to save a few cents (or a dollar) is just not worth it when the risk of messing up your beer is probable…

3 Comments

  • Maybe you can use mixture of 40 ounce and 12 ounce bottles so that you’ll have for party events and for solo drinking. I’ve learned lot new here.

    • Jorge

      Reply Reply September 10, 2010

      Some times I use different bottles just to distinguish between those bottled first and those bottled towards the end…

  • Ryan

    Reply Reply August 3, 2011

    Interesting about the green bottles. I thought they were fine for keeping out the light. Looks like I need to find a heap more brown bottles.

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