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Recycled Bottles

Submitted by: Anonymous on January 31st, 2003

I've been brewing now for 11 years and I still haven't moved to corny kegs, so I go through a lot of bottles (although I do have 2 party pigs). I've found the easiest way to get them (other than drinking all the beer in the first place) is to buy them back from your local recycler. I usually get them for 5 cents a bottle, and I have lots to pick through. I've found that Fat Tire and Fish Tail are the easiest to get the labels off, and people drink them in abundance, so there are always lots there.

How do I get the labels off? I soak them in a dilute TSP solution in a big old plastic trash can for a few days and the labels just peel away. A quick scrub to remove the glue and a trip through the jet bottle washer leave them ready for sanitizing, which I do along with 1/4 cup bleach in my new dishwasher which has a "sanitize" feature and a heated dry.

Yeah, I know kegs are easier, but I end up giving away about half of what I brew (to other brewers and appreciative friends), so it's not the most practical for me.

Also, if you can find a restaurant that serves Grolsch or Fischer in the big bottles with the flip top, they will often save them for you if you ask. Then there's not even a label to worry about!


17 Comments Posted
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Re: Recycled Bottles Feb 5th 2003, 05:46 am
Even better than a plastic trash can is a big plastic cooler. I have a 50-something quart cooler that can take a case and a half of bottles all standing up. I fill the bottles with hot water and then continue filling the cooler until it is over the lip of the bottles. (Experience confirms that doing it visa-versa causes the bottles to float and is a pain the backside) Add a little bleach and let it soak for a couple of days. Because it is in a cooler, the water will stay hot/warm. Most of the labels will fall right off.

I've found that Bud Light labels come off the easiest using this method. Coors Light labels are stubborn as hell. Sierra Nevada labels come off nicely but leave alot of gummy glue to clean off.

I use A LOT of bleach in this method, so thorough rinsing is a must. I rinse twice. The first time, using a homemade bottle jet-washer. The second time (just prior to bottling) with a one-step sanitizer solution. I could probably cut way back on the bleach, but you never know what people have stuck in those redemption center bottles.

Comment by: BlueWaterBrewer reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Feb 8th 2003, 06:10 pm
There's an easier, more environmentally friendly method than either TSP or bleach..Oxyclean. Soak 'em in a strong, hot Oxyclean solution overnight and the labels will float off.
Comment by: DConn reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Mar 13th 2003, 02:05 pm
I've found that filling bottles with hot water and letting them soak in a sink full of hot water for about five minutes gets labels of very cleanly. There is no bleach needed for this, just the water.

Bass Ale labels come completely off, with hardly any glue left behind. Heineken labels slip right off, too. Beware of Sam Adams, unless you like scraping.
Comment by: BriarHillBrewmeister reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Aug 8th 2003, 12:15 pm
Although sam adams bottles( my favorite to drink if buying from supplier rather than homebrew) are hardest to clean . I find them the best to bottle with ,other than grolsh ,because the caps go on better and seem to hold a better seal.
Comment by: dale euber reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Nov 13th 2003, 07:44 pm
Bass is easy, I like using their bottles. I had some empty Becks dark bottles around, the foil labels were very hard to get off and required a lot of scraping. Avoid those.
Comment by: snyderbm reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Oct 11th 2003, 11:04 pm
You can enjoy the benefits of both worlds - bottling AND kegging - by finding smaller kegs. I have a couple of 3-gallon Corny kegs and several 5-gallon kegs. I use the smaller ones for my laziness, and bottle the leftover for handing out. The 5's are for parties, etc. It works very nicely.

As far as removing labels: Straight A - which is an oxygenizing cleaner like Oxyclean and is available at your LHBS most likely - will remove labels in 10 minutes if used with hot water. It really works well, and is also very aggressive at removing any leftover biology from your bottles if the previous user wasn't thoughtful enough to rinse it after use.
Comment by: Legendary reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Oct 12th 2003, 08:56 am
I collect bottles from recycling bins in my local area once a week, and wash them out using dishwashing detergent and a bottle brush, then i rinse them about 3 times using hot water. I find that there is no problem using detergent as long as you rinse it out properly.
Comment by: melbourne ledgend reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Nov 12th 2003, 03:20 am
I have found recycle bins to be the best. You get a lot of funny looks as you dig through. And people throw this stuff away???? :) I use a big tupperware container with water and ammonia, through the bottles in and fill with water. Leave for a few days and labels are off. Quick clean of the glue and off to the dishwasher. No Bleach!! Dangerous. Works great! Happy Homebrewing!
Comment by: Tim Patterson reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Dec 5th 2003, 02:33 pm
my favorite bottles to re use are the returnables they come in a ultra heavy duty cardboard box convient for carrying 24 bottles and I havent tried it but all the local liqor stores take them and give a 1.20$ deposit back per case I suppose you could find one to buy empties from or get them from you cheap beer drinking friends if you have any
Comment by: Jesse W reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Mar 16th 2004, 08:52 pm
I find Newcastle bottles to be the easiest to re-cap, plus I like to be able to see the color of my beer before I pour it out of the bottle. And the labels come of pretty easily too.
Comment by: joshstevens reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles May 20th 2004, 07:21 pm
If you all haven't started using oxy-clean or a generic equivalent, you really should. It's so easy it's almost mindless, and I haven't run across a label yet that hasn't literally just floated off, leaving little if ANY glue residue. If you do like someone mentioned above and use a cooler where they can all stand upright, you can fill each bottle with oxyclean solution and then fill the whole cooler to just BELOW the lip of the bottle... this way you don't even have to worry about glue or label bits getting into the bottles. A quick rinse or two with tap water and they're ready to be sanitized!
Comment by: Rick reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Oct 18th 2004, 08:13 am
I leave the labels on. Why not? I once had a diner guest who said he did not like home brew and so he pulled a "Bud" out of my frig and drank it with diner. We never told him what he was drinking.
Comment by: Bob reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Oct 29th 2004, 03:57 am
That is great!
Comment by: bispo reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Sep 16th 2005, 05:38 pm
He didn't notice anything different from "Bud" with your homebrew...and you're happy about this? :D
Comment by: T reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Mar 28th 2005, 09:13 pm
If you soak your bottles over night in a strong mix of hot water and automatic dish waher liquid the label will be in the bottom of the bucket in the morning. The only labels this does not work on are foil type. I don't see very many of them.
Comment by: Rich Ross reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Apr 11th 2005, 02:24 am
I use a large cooler as well, instead of bleach I use Cheap (from the dollar store) unscented dry dish washer soap and hot water. I let it sit for 15 - 20 min. and the lables come right off. If the labels do not come off in 15 - 20 mins. I add more soap and hot water.
Comment by: csitt reply to comment
Re: Recycled Bottles Apr 12th 2006, 11:20 pm
Another great place to get 22 oz bottles are sushi resturants, Sapporro and Karin bottles. They go through tons of em.
Comment by: RDH reply to comment