How to store opened beer?
March 26, 2008 4:03 PM   Subscribe

How can I best store the contents of an open bottle or can of ale for a day or two? This is something I would be doing regularly so I would be happy to buy a special stopper or container for this purpose.
posted by tomcooke to Food & Drink (12 answers total)
These for bottles. It's a rubber stopper with a bottle cap opener on the opposite side; you put the rubber stopper in the bottle and flipping the opener down seals it.

I got mine at Tesco.
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:06 PM on March 26, 2008

When I do my shopping for the week I get a growler of beer and the sucker is good for damn near a week. So, a twist top glass bottle should do the trick.
posted by munchingzombie at 4:29 PM on March 26, 2008

You might look into a wine-preservation product (like this one), too. It's basically just canned argon, which, being heavier than air, sinks to the surface of the liquid and creates an oxygen-proof barrier to prevent oxidation. As a noble gas, it doesn't interact with the wine. I've not heard of anyone using it with beer, but that's probably just because the expectation is that with beer a bottle is a serving. Can't imagine why it wouldn't be useful.
posted by mumkin at 4:37 PM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Get a growler. If you get an unfiltered beer that hasn't been aged very long (like homebrew) it'll recarbonate itself.
posted by devilsbrigade at 5:46 PM on March 26, 2008

When I open a big bottle that I can't finish, I just put some saran wrap or a ziplock over the opening and double a rubber band around it until it's good and tight. Holds in the carbonation as good as any lid. Oh...and the colder the fridge the less the carbonation will be inclined to leave the beer anyway.
posted by keith0718 at 2:29 AM on March 27, 2008

I once used a vacuum stopper for wine on a bottle of Cantillon. It kept the beer carbonated and tasting good for a couple of days. You put in the rubber bung and pump out the air.
posted by kepano at 3:32 AM on March 27, 2008

I've also had a lot of success with vacuum stoppers. Try this one - I've had one for many years and it's been a real asset. Definitely works for beer too, although I can't vouch for its usefulness with carbonated beers (which shouldn't be an issue since you're talking about ale).

The science is that removing the air from the bottle will reduce the rate of oxidation of the various constituents of the beer, keeping it nice for longer. A vacuum stopper is going to work out somewhat cheaper than buying canned argon, although it may be marginally less effective. Refrigeration is also recommended, as it also reduces the rate of chemical reactions. The downside of a vacuum stopper is that the low pressure above the liquid will tend to draw out the dissolved gases in the beer, which may result in it tasting somewhat 'flat' - depends how much of a connoisseur you are...

As a super-cheap stop-gap measure, just pour the remaining beer gently into a plastic drinks bottle, squeeze the bottle until the liquid is close to the top, then close the bottle tightly. This will achieve much the same result as the above, although some air will gradually creep back in due to the nature of the plastic screw-top. This method will also keep the fizz in carbonated drinks.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:02 AM on March 27, 2008

Thanks for the answers so far. Since the amount that I want to save will be consistent (250ml) I'm wondering if just transferring it into a container of that size filled to the brim might be the best choice for me - but what kind of container would work well for regular use?
posted by tomcooke at 5:29 AM on March 27, 2008

If you transfer the contents, you will lose some of the fizziness. The ale would just be saturated with CO2 to one volume, at whatever temperature the beer is. That's one benefit of not transfering it (and keeping it cold, as keith0718 says). Bottled British ales are usually carbonated to about 1.5 volumes; Americans to about 2.5 volumes. So if you like it fresh as when you uncapped it, you'll need to avoid losing fizz by transfer. It will lose enough just from uncapping it in the first place.

If you just left it alone (say in a re-sealed 500ml bottle) you'll lose some of the fizziness, but not all - an equilibrium will form. But if you don't hold back the pressure, it will decarbonate to 1 volume eventually. I don't think I would trust a piece of plastic wrap, though it would work for a little while.

You could use 250ml bottles (those little Stella bottles). You could buy a capper and crown caps at a homebrew shop. I would sanitise the crown cap with a shot of boiling water for good measure. The squeezed plastic bottle is also a good idea if it's just overnight.

Sounds like a lot of trouble to save 250ml, but then I know I would just drink the whole thing.
posted by sagwalla at 6:14 AM on March 27, 2008

Thanks for all the answers. Right now what I'm doing is just stoppering the bottle but the beer doesn't seem the same the next day, and I suspect the loss of gas could be a big part of this - since there's only a small amount there to start with it doesn't take much of a reduction for it to seem completely flat.

What I'm wondering now is if it might be possible to insert a plastic bag into the neck and then use a fizz keeper type product to pump the bag full of air. If it worked, it would fulfill the three requirements of not moving the beer, keeping oxygen away from the beer, and preventing CO2 from being lost into the space in the bottle.
posted by tomcooke at 8:53 AM on March 27, 2008

I think filling the void volume would work in theory, but it sounds awfully fiddly. Particularly, making sure the bag was hygienic (unless you plan single use, which sounds wasteful). Also, I'm not sure how you'd inflate it - just blow it up with your mouth? In that case, I'm not sure how you would both tie it off and then get the bottle to seal.

If you did as I suggested above, decanting from the larger bottle to a 250ml bottle with a slow pour (say with the bottles almost horizontal one to the other) would minimise the amount of gas lost. The gas above one volume is supersaturated in the beer at the start due to having been under pressure. You might be able to keep some of this dissolved in the beer if you quickly decanted.

You're going to struggle to keep it properly gassed up without some kind of a pressured stoppering, as suggested above (the wine keeping systems). The comment about real ale regassing itself is reasonable if the beer has yeast left in it, but it probably won't happen overnight, especially if you keep it cool.

I keep bulk beer at home in a corny keg and use a CO2 cylinder to keep it fresh and in condition. According to CAMRA, this is no longer 'real ale', but I don't split hairs. But this is overkill for a single bottle. In fact, it's because I got tired of fiddling with bottles that I went to the keg system for my homebrew in the first place. That said, there are homebrew bottling counterpressure force carbonation systems out there, which might be a (pricey) option if this is a regular operation. Anything you do above the most basic stoppering systems seems to me to add a lot of sanitation overhead to the process. Maybe Occam's razor applies here. Keep it simple?
posted by sagwalla at 12:33 AM on March 28, 2008

I was thinking of single use for the bag, which is actually fairly economical (~2p for a bag, ~85p for 250ml of nice beer). In terms of the environment I would be surprised if a small bag isn't relatively insignificant compared to the energy used to produce, bottle and transport the beer but I'll admit to not having looked into it.

I haven't tried it yet, but I reckon it might be possible to use a stopper to seal the bag and the bottle at the same time (the bag gets sealed by having its opening firmly jammed in the neck by the stopper)- it's worth giving it a go anyway.

You're going to struggle to keep it properly gassed up without some kind of a pressured stoppering, as suggested above (the wine keeping systems)

The wine keeping systems seem to be either vacuum-based, (the opposite of pressurized! seems like it would just make CO2 loss worse), or gas based, which relies on the "skin" of noble gas resting on top of the beer. While the gas system seems like a pretty good way to limit contact with oxygen I haven't been able to find any evidence that the "skin" is strong enough to effectively hold in CO2 - the site that mumkin links to for example doesn't even mention sparkling wine.

Thanks again for your thoughtful answers!
posted by tomcooke at 6:49 AM on March 28, 2008

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