Bottles for home-made ginger beer
October 7, 2009 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Are there any good alternatives to 2L soda bottles for fermenting and storing home-brewed ginger beer?

I've tried making my own ginger beer (with baker's yeast, if it matters) which I bottle-ferment in 2L soda bottles. It works fine---but I never buy any 2L soda bottles, and I worry about them getting flimsier as I reuse them. They also let most of the carbonation out the first time you open them.

Are there any good reusable bottles that I could buy that will handle the pressure of my ginger beer without exploding? Should I be considering glass bottles of any kind, or is it too dangerous to build up pressure in glass?

My ideal would be some kind of siphon bottle, so I wouldn't have to let the CO2 out by opening the bottle. But most of the seltzer bottles I can find online seem to have a CO2 canister in the nozzle, so they don't actually store any carbonated beverages inside. Any suggestions?

Thanks!
posted by goingonit to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not just 2L bottles, but smaller plastic soda bottles are definitely the best thing I've found for this. While I don't doubt that some glass bottles will withstand pressure [like champagne bottles] most are not nearly as safe as plastic. Especially if you re-use them.

I never had a problem with a lack of pressure, and I think that was because I was a poor directions-follower and probably put too much sugar in at the end. Maybe you can add a tiny bit extra when you bottle and see if that changes things to your liking. I can't say whether it's the baker's yeast that is the problem, but if anything I'd expect it to cause more carbonation than anything else.

You can buy reusable plastic bottles at a brewing store or a winemaking store. I don't know if they're stronger than normal bottles, though. Normal bottles are really tough. I never worried about using them a million times, and never had a problem.
posted by Acari at 9:15 AM on October 7, 2009


There was a neat profile in the NYTimes about one of the last seltzer men in the city and it stated he uses antique siphon bottles.

When me and the SO brew beer, we sometimes r(e)use ceramic capped bottles (such as Grolsch bottles) which are sold to home-brewers under the name of EZ Cap.
posted by jamaro at 9:19 AM on October 7, 2009


I would look for a Growler. I've made non-fermented ginger beer and stored it in this, even though that's obviously a different (not a) process. It's a little less than 2L (1.8), but they're glass (nonreactive), reusable, resealable, and all those things you probably want in a bottle. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find one at a homebrew supply store, or better yet, a local microbrewery.
posted by CharlesV42 at 9:23 AM on October 7, 2009


I recommend you not use glass. I used half-gallon glass growler jugs for soda quite a while and never had a bottle bomb incident. However, it happened to a friend of mine; fortunately she wasn't hurt, but she had a big mess of grape soda and pulverized glass to clean up in her fridge.

This may not be the answer you want, but I'd recommend sticking with plastic 2L bottles. Just buy some cheap, gross store brand soda, pour it out and there you go. I've had pretty good luck the past few years with them. They're surprisingly sturdy (they probably do wear out eventually, but I haven't had one wear out yet), re-usable and recyclable, and if they explode you won't have to worry about shards of glass embedded in your armor child or fridge. Also, it's easier to gauge the carbonation level in them, because they firm up.

RE: the CO2 issue, you can buy special lids that will allow you to inject CO2 into a 2L soda bottle to keep it pressurized.
posted by cog_nate at 9:23 AM on October 7, 2009


I don't brew things, but I do make a lot of liqueurs -- the half-gallon size glass mason jars are ideal for this sort of thing, and probably also a bit safer (I'm wondering what the brewing does to the plastic in a soda bottle?). You can get the jars lots of places, and you can even get extra lids sold separately.

If you're brewing, though, you may want to lay a small piece of plastic wrap over the mouth of the jar before you screw on the lid, so the metal doesn't impart an icky taste. This has always worked for me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:24 AM on October 7, 2009


I also don't think it's a bad idea to ferment in the bottle, as there are lots and lots of things that do that. IANAB (i am not a brewer), but it seems like you just have to take into account some room for gas buildup. The good news is, if anything your top would blow off, the bottle wouldn't shatter.
posted by CharlesV42 at 9:26 AM on October 7, 2009


Looks like I'm wrong, thanks cog_nate
posted by CharlesV42 at 9:26 AM on October 7, 2009


I brew beer, which builds up plenty of carbonation. Co2 levels definitely vary between beers, and I'm sure they vary between ginger beer and regular beer, but regular capped bottles are fine for holding beer carbonation. Granted, you can over-carb them and get bottle bombs, but it's rare.

I know plenty of people who bottle soda and carbonated cider (including myself, for the latter) in 2L soda bottles, and they work fine. They're made to be food-safe and contain high levels of carbonation. Of course, the problem is that when you open one, it's best if you finish it off that night. That's why, when I do cider, I usually do a couple of 2L bottles for parties, and the rest in 12 or 22 oz soda bottles.

Also, you may want to consider using a beer or wine yeast instead of baker's yeast; I would guess you'll get a lot cleaner flavor profile.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:34 AM on October 7, 2009


2nd the growler. Most brewer supply houses have growlers and extra caps in stock. They will certainly hold up to carbonation unless you go all Three Stooges with the yeast.
posted by Gungho at 9:37 AM on October 7, 2009


Also seconding craven_morhead re: using beer or wine yeast.
posted by cog_nate at 9:49 AM on October 7, 2009


Co2 levels definitely vary between beers, and I'm sure they vary between ginger beer and regular beer, but regular capped bottles are fine for holding beer carbonation.

The difference is that soda is much sweeter than beer. When you make beer, you ferment out all the sugar, and then prime it with a little bit of extra sugar right before bottling. It's that extra sugar that carbonates the bottles — but you only add a pinch, and unless you way overdo it, there's no way to blow up a bottle.

But you put soda into the bottle sticky sweet. Usually, you either drink it fast or put it in the fridge after a few days to slow down fermentation. But there's enough food in there to sustain some serious quick fermentation and blow the bottle right up if you wait too long to drink/refrigerate it. And predicting how quickly yeast will work is very tricky, so it's much easier to make mistakes here than it is when you're deciding how much priming sugar to add.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:58 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've used plastic 500ml bottles for homebrewed beer. I find them a nice size and sturdy enough to be re-used.
posted by exogenous at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I home brewed, my favorite bottles were Fischer beer and French Lemonade. You have to make sure that when you get bottles that they are food grade and can handle carbonated (pressurized) beverages. Both of these meet that criteria.

They will still let out all the fizz when you open them. The only way to prevent that is to recarbonate or use a constant pressure system: a keg.
posted by chairface at 10:23 AM on October 7, 2009


Home (beer) brewer here too.

You can buy 1L bottles of seltzer at the store for ridiculously cheap. $1 or so each.

If you have a CO2 tank, or an adapter for small CO2 canisters, you could use a carbonator cap on your 2L bottles.

Additionally, I believe that soda is under much greater pressure than beer, so glass beer bottles wouldn't be good for you. Though I have seen companies selling ginger ales in glass bottles, but I'd be afraid to try it. Champagne bottles are built to handle greater pressure than beer bottles though.

A growler is a good idea, but you'll lose carbonation when you open it, just like with a soda bottle.

Maybe something like this tap-a-draft system? You'd only dispense what you want to drink and it will replace the space with CO2 gas. You're not carbonating with CO2 from the tank, just raplcing space.

And come to think of it, your seltzer bottles that you mentioned are probably similar. You can still naturally carbonate your soda, but when you dispense you'll use CO2 from a canister to fill in the space that the soda used to take up so your soda stays carbonated. Not doing that forces CO2 out of solution and you get flat, and maybe spoiled, soda.
posted by bDiddy at 10:25 AM on October 7, 2009


Thanks all! I think I'll be sticking with the soda bottles, maybe with one of these on the top so I don't have to let out all the carbonation by opening the bottle.

I don't really want to go down the carbonator/tap-a-draft route because force-carbonated soft drinks really do taste different (none of those little velvety bubbles you get from carbonation). If I'm brewing my own in the first place, I might as well make it as different from store-bought as possible. I know tap-a-draft isn't supposed to force-carbonate but I'm dubious.
posted by goingonit at 10:44 AM on October 7, 2009


They also let most of the carbonation out the first time you open them.

I make ginger beer exactly like you (with bakers yeast, ferment in 2L soda bottles), but I don't understand this comment.

I ferment for 2-3 days usually and refrigerate the bottles when they get too hard to dent with my thumb. After the bottles are chilled I carefully depressurise them to the point where I can open the bottle without creating a geyser of ginger beer - this stage varies according to how much pressure I've built up, sometimes a minute or two, sometimes it take 10 mins or more.

After this the bottles go back in the fridge & the ginger beer is consumed over the next few days to a week. The brew is always well carbonised over that week.

If you're letting most of the fizz out the 1st time you open them, maybe you're not fermenting enough in the first place.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:35 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


You totally don't need to force carbonate to use a tap-a-draft - it'll carbonate in the big blue bottle just fine. If you want little velvety bottles, use a nitrogen cream bulb to dispense.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:27 AM on October 8, 2009


Update: so far, I'm sticking with the soda bottles (switched to 1L so I can drink it more slowly). I think many of my carbonation issues were from not enough sugar--I'm using more now and it works much better (also ferments quicker).

And I can definitely taste that off flavor from the baker's yeast; apparently there's a homebrew shop in Sunset Park, so I think I'll head over there and try some beer yeast soon.
posted by goingonit at 6:42 PM on November 10, 2009


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