[Northkeep] questions....

Miles Grey Kahn at West-Point.org
Tue Nov 18 09:51:45 PST 2008

zubeydah at northkeep.org wrote:
> - Does anyone know of an inexpensive source for bottles, of an appropriate
> size for mead making?

Bars and restaurants.  It helps if you know someone who works at such a
place.  They can set back beer and wine bottles for you.  But remember,
such bottles get fuzzy after only a couple of days.  They also attract
bugs.  The bar/restaurant isn't going to rinse them for you - they're too
busy.  So most places won't want to keep them for more than a couple days,
maybe a week.  You'll need to make arrangements to pick them up regularly
until you have enough.

You also run into the problem that they might not be able/willing to
segregate the bottle for you.  In other words, instead of being able to
ask them for, say, all of the Modelo Especial bottles or even just all of
the non-twist-off beer bottles, they may only let you ask for "beer" or
"wine" bottles, and then you'd have to be willing to cart off *all* of the
beer or wine bottles.  In such cases, it would be wise to specify that you
don't want them to save them for you on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or
Sunday (the latter especially true if they get a lot of football fans). 
Otherwise, you're likely to be overwhelmed.

Again, do NOT impose upon them to store these bottles for you for any
length of time.  The bottles are unsanitary and take up a lot of their
valuable space.  If you don't make it very easy for them, they won't be
willing to do it for you more than once, and you'll ruin that
bar/restaurant as a source of supply for other brewers.

You will have to be careful sorting through these free bottles.  Some are
likely to be broken, which can be dangerous.

Remember, you cannot re-use beer bottles with twist-off caps.  Only
pry-off caps (requiring a "church key" to open) can be re-used.  You can't
really re-use wine bottles with screw caps, either.  You need bottles that
were corked.

Finally, remember that you're going to need some equipment in order to
re-use the bottles.  For beer bottles, you'll need a bottle capper and
bottle caps.  If you buy the inexpensive two-handled, hand-held bottle
capper, be very careful with beer bottles that have a thin indexing ring
on around the mouth.  While a counter-top capper will handle them without
trouble, the hand-held, two-handle variety tends to hold on to the bottle
cap after you apply it.  This often results in you lifting up the whole
bottle by the cap as you remove the capper.  The bottle promptly slips
free and thumps back down on your counter.  If you're lucky, that's all
that happens.  If not, you'll discover that gravity isn't always your
friend, that a full bottle makes a real mess when it smashes on the floor,
and that a full beer bottle is quite capable of chipping ceramic floor

If you're using wine bottles, you'll need a corker.  Most of them have a
hard time with wine bottles that have a flanged top.  The inexpensive
hand-held corker works fine for big guys with good grip strength, which
means you might need to invite friends over to help with the bottling. 
It's also an unsteady arrangement, so you'll need to be willing to accept
that a couple of your bottles will tip over and spill while you're trying
to cork them.  The floor model corkers work very well (but mine doesn't
handle flanged bottles, so I use my hand-held corker for those, then use a
mallet to finish driving home the cork).  The lever handle is long so you
expend very little effort.  If you need to cork splits (half-sized wine
bottles), you'll need to make a small wooden extension for the bottle
stand to raise the split up high enough for corking.

No matter whether you use new bottles or used bottles, you will discover
that washing bottles is a pain.  I hate doing it.  Always rinse your
bottles immediately after you empty them if at all possible.  If not, do
it as soon as you get home.  If you don't, Clorox *is* your friend.  Rinse
the now-fuzzy bottle vigorously (shake well) to remove as much of the fuzz
as you can.  Then pour in a little Clorox (a couple tablespoons) and fill
the bottle with warm (not hot) water.  Let it sit for a few days.  The
fuzz will be gone and the bottle will be *clean* - just rinse it 3-4

When you're tracking down local honey, you do not want light honey.  You
want a good medium honey.  In my opinion, with light honey you'll either
have to increase the amount you use by 1/3 to 1/2, or you'll end up with
an insipid end result that's good only for making half-decent sangria.

That was probably a *lot* more than you really wanted to know, but I
figured it couldn't hurt.

  Miles Grey

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