Brew Dudes

Homebrewing blog and resource

Better Bottle Mishap

This past weekend I bottled up my Kolsch and IPA. I had brewed the Kolsch in a “Better Bottle” carboy. You may have seen or heard of these carboys at your local brew shop, or in your favorite brewing magazine (like Brew Your Own).

I only have one of these, but I love it. Primarily because it’s much lighter and significantly less fragile than the traditional glass carboys that many of us have. I strongly endorse these carboys for primary fermentation, even as a seconday container. I would still use glass if I was brewing an imperial stout for aging or something with a bacteria addition or “wild” yeast addition. But for most applications I think the Better Bottle is the best substitute out there for doing ferments in.

I have been using my buckets to do most of my fermentation in mainly because of their ease of cleaning. However, my buckets are getting tired and I think I may start to replace them with a couple Better Bottles. There is however, on small issue with the Better Bottle that I was painfully reminded of this weekend when bottling.

Because these things are plastic, they are mildly malleable. I tend to put my carboys (glass or otherwise) in a milk crate to help carry them around. This is a great way to support the carboy and pick it up when it’s full as they are difficult to grab onto. As I lifted the carboy out of the milk crate to put it on the kitchen counter, the bottom of the carboy flexed down a little bit with the weight of the beer inside it. This change in shape creates just enough of a plunger effect that a vacuum was created and it sucked a bit of air from the airlock into the beer as I lifted it!

As I put it on the counter, I said “DAMN” to myself. Brewing up a Kolsch is a bit more work than a tradition ale and I may have contaminated it right at that moment with the airlock water. The lesson learned here is that Better Bottles are great, but just don’t take them out of the milk crate when they are filled with beer because of that flexible plastic issue. The saddest part of the story is that this has happened to me before, but I just don’t use my Better Bottle often enough to have remembered that.

So I’ll just be sure to drink up the Kolsch fast enough that if there is a mild contaminant in there it won’t have a chance to spoil the beer too quickly.

Lesson learned,
Brew ON!

Check out our earlier post on Better Bottles!

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11 Comments

  1. I’ve been debating on whether or not to buy the Better Bottles for my primary fermenters. Didn’t realize about their bendability when full. I worry about how easy these are to clean and also about the risks of using plastic. I think that perhaps I’ll try one of these but also get a glass carboy with a carrier as well.

  2. Great tip on the malleability and suction. I’ve had similar issues before. I now use Everclear or vodka in the airlock for secondaries. It evaporates faster, but provides a second barrier of defense.

  3. I’ve been using the better bottle for a little bit. The issues they have is that that have all the negatives of plastic (scratching, 02 permeability) and the narrow neck for cleaning that a glass carboy has. That said, I fear a hospital visit with glass in my leg from glass. So I am extra careful with cleaning the better bottle. I haven’t made a beer that needed to be aged for more than a month, so I think the BB is perfectly fine for that.

    I have collected the lids off of Deer Park 5 gallon office water bottles to slap on top when I am transporting the better bottle. These fit perfectly and actually snap on. I am sure any 5 gallon water container cap will work perfectly. This helps with the vacuum effect. I also keep a big bottle of vodka around to fill the air lock.

  4. According to The Mad Fermentationist, at http://madfermentationist.blogspot.com/, Better Bottles serve admirably for “wild” beers. The brett requires a bit of oxygen and the Better Bottle is just permeable enough to allow that.

  5. G-Lover

    As far as the water in the airlock, I’ve always used vodka. It’s already sterile and come what may, if some winds up in the beer, all you’ve done is upped the ABV a minuscule amount.

    If I were doing a wit or other orangey/coririandery brew I usually use orange liquer. Just a thought.

  6. I did end up investing in a better bottle and did not have any issues with it for my first two batches. If I needed to move my full bottle around I would put the bottle on a roller and just push it around. Didn’t have to pick it up much. So far no ill effects but will have to see as I do more and more batches with them. Eventually I’d like to get a stainless steel fermenter. Sorry to hear you gave up on yours but you gotta go with your feelings and do what works best for you.

  7. Wayno

    I only use Better Bottles, and I love them. I too was frustrated with the flexing sucking the water out of the airlock. I went to a blow off tube and this problem is gone. I’ve lagered an Oktoberfest in one for 3 months with great results. I have glass carboys, but they just sit on the shelf.

  8. Ted

    I have started using the better bottle a couple of times, I have used a carboy brush and no scratches yet, but I think they will be noticeable if I continue, that is a drawback. But I did just see that you can saok a couple of days with PBW or inserts a small washcloth and swirl around to get some krausen gunk off, which sounds like an idea. as far as sloshing, I have always used a plastic mild container for my carboys. It was easier to move glass and with the Better Bottle, I didn’t have much flex from an unsupported bottom to have airlock water get sucked in. Overall, I recommend Better Bottle too, mostly due to the safety issue. I have used glass carboys for over 15 years and with a secondary, I would still use glass, due to limited movement. But mostly I do ales and with a herniated disk, the last thing I need to have happen is to have my nerve get pinched when carrying a full carboy into the basement from outside and then fall on the shattered glass when I can’t even stand up, let alone keep a grip on the carboy. I never tapped carboys and have them shatter, butI have heard plenty of stories of it happening. Then I read where someone had a carboy tap another one and after the full carboy shattered, the guy’s hand was literally hanging on by a tendon and the rest was cut through. Hand was saved, but now very limited usage and of course, no more brewing for him. I’ll take safer brewing into my old age over a horror story any day. I can’t think of a worse way to end your brewing fun and impact your life & work at a young age.

  9. buckets rock. large opening for cleaning, can use them for a myriad of brewing purposes, not just for fermenters, ie: star san sanitizer container, bottling bucket, beer equipment storage. They are light, space saving (unlike Mike, I do not subscribe to the scratch principal at all. even with nesting). They are air tight, people say they are not, but I use a lid with a gasket, and use a gasket maker material to fill gaps where my blow off tubes go. When I push down on the lid, bubbles come from my blow off container. good enough for me. Hey, where talking max 14-21 days in primary, if the container is permiable to air 2-3 weeks is not going to do it. Use your cornies, or bottles to secondary.
    ok, i’m done, Ha ha

  10. Matt

    I use a 5 gallon better bottle as a secondary and love it – it’s lighter and smaller than the 6.5 glass carboy I use as a primary. For your airlock issue, use vodka in the airlock – just buy a very cheap half gallon. This way the beer won’t get contaminated if the water gets sucked in.

  11. Dave Lubertozzi

    I’ve always used a weak iodophor solution in my airlocks; keeps mold from growing in them for long-term aging and won’t evaporate as fast as vodka (and is much cheaper when you have around 40 carboys filled with wine and beer, as we do every fall after pressing the wine).

    Don’t worry about getting a tiny bit of iodophor in the beer; use a dilute solution in the airlocks. It’s a no-rinse sanitizer, and some guys in our club tested spiked additions to a light beer and couldn’t taste it. http://www.bayareamashers.org/content/maindocs/iodophor.htm

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