Choosing Bottles for Your Homebrew

Once you’ve completed your brew day, you’ll have to put it down to sit and ferment for a while. If you haven’t considered it before, now is the time to think about how you’re going to enjoy the beer. Some people keg their beers, for enjoyment at a home bar. Canning is out – the equipment alone will be too much for any hobby brewer to handle. So, for most of us, this means that bottling is the way to go.

Bottling is quick, easy, and you have a fairly infinite supply of bottles – just beg or borrow them from other drinkers, or simply keep drinking until you have enough to bottle your batch. You’ll need to pay attention to what you are drinking, if you’re going that route. You’d think that a beer bottle is just that – a beer bottle. That all bottles would be created equal. However, there are tons of bottles out there on the market, varying in size, shape, closure, and more.

Size Matters, to a Point

330 milliliter, 12 ounce, 500 milliliter, 22 ounce – the list is fairly endless. It really doesn’t matter if you have all one size, or if you have a mix of sizes. It’s really just what you find convenient.

That being said, you’ll want to consider how many bottles you’ll need. For the typical batch that runs around 19 liters in volume, here’s a chart for the minimum number of bottles of a single size that you’ll need. This is taking into consideration that you’ll need to leave room in the neck. You never want to fill your beer to the cap, so we calculated these numbers as if only 95% of the listed bottle size is actually filled. This may not be a complete chart – there may be other oddball sizes running around you may come across, but these are the prevalent sizes.

Bottle Size Minimum Number for 19 Liter Batch
330 Milliliter 61
12 Ounce 57
16 Ounce 43
500 Milliliter 40
22 Ounce 31
750 Milliliter 27
1 liter 30

We would always suggest collecting more than the minimum – you never know when one may break, hopefully while still empty. Don’t want to lose that precious liquid.

Through Colored Glass

It’s fairly well-known that the less light that reaches your beer, the better it is for the beer. For this reason, colored glass is one of the top choices for bottling home brew. The darker the bottle, the better. Ceramic bottles would theoretically be great, because they are solid and block out all light. However, they can be very difficult to fill properly, since you can’t see the beer. If you want to go this route, you’ll need patience and caution.

The Shape of the Thing

Bottle shapes are just as varied as the size of the bottle, and in the end, it doesn’t matter all that much. The smaller bottles tend to have a wider variety of shapes – from the round, squat bottles to the tallboys with angular necks, to the curvy longnecks. It’s all really a visual thing – pick a bottle that matches your style, and the style of the beer you are brewing.

Heavy Duty

You’ll want to keep an eye on the heaviness of the bottle, particularly if you’re still getting the hand of carbonation. A heavier bottle can withstand a little more pressure, and can be the difference between a bottle foaming over after opening, or a bottle exploding while in storage. If you are bottling highly carbonated beers on live yeast, you’ll need heavy bottles.

Getting It Shut

You’ll need to make sure you find the right bottles to meet your planned sealing method. Check the lips of the bottle – if they are rounded off, it’s meant for corking. If it has a groove right beneath the very top, it’s meant for capping. If it is grooved, it’s meant for twist-caps. Stay away from the latter – they do not seal well.

What Bottles Are Recommended?

So what are the best bottles to look for to reuse?

  • Grolsch amber swing-top bottles – green if you can’t find amber. The swing-tops reduce bottling time and complexity.
  • Belgian and Belgian-style beers and lambics – these bottles are heavier due to the pressures exerted by the original beers.
  • Brown 750 milliliter or 22 ounces bottles – with plenty of room for carbonation expansion, these are also the perfect size for sharing your homebrew with groups of people – which we’re sure you’ll want to do.

You should start saving bottles ahead of your brewing, but when all else fails, there is a growing market for new and used bottles online. You could also go ahead and make friends with a local bar, a nearby homebrew club, or have your friends save bottles for you. Flea markets can also be good places to find older flip-tops and scarce bottles.