Using the Better Bottle
Fermentation and Bottling Made Easy
If you are anything like me, you probably started out your home brewing 'career' by reading a few books and
maybe buying a kit that contained a bucket or glass carboy to be used as a primary fermenter. You may have then
purchased (another) glass carboy to conduct a secondary fermentation. Well, I'm here to tell you,
there's a better way!
I have recently discovered the Better-Bottle. This is a plastic-based product that is sold with or without a special racking spout at the bottom. The model I will be discussing includes an adjustable racking spout/arm that they call the Racking Adapter. Essentially, there is a spout inside the bottle that twists to keep what you are emptying from the bottle above the line of trub and can be twisted as low toward the trub as you please when you are nearing the bottom.
Why I like the Better Bottle system
Let me clear this up firstly - I am in no way affiliated nor do I receive advertising revenue from the Better-Bottle
manufacturer. I just really like the product. Here are a few reasons:
It's Unbreakable - I am always scared of breaking glass carboys and often read horror stories of folks breaking carboys and ruining their beer and even receiving serious injuries as a result. This is not for me. I like brewing but I am not going to endanger myself (more than necessary) during brewing, bottling, or cleaning.
It's Light - The Better-Bottle is much lighter than a carboy. This saves my back and greatly decreases the chance of dropping my batch of hard-earned beer sometime from brewing to bottling.
Oxygen Permeability - These bottles are designed to be much less oxygen permeable than your standard water bottle and also less permeable than the fermentation buckets you may have used. Read their site if you want the gory details about exactly how much less permeable.
It's Clear - If you like using plastic buckets but hate not seeing the fermentation in action, this one is for you.
The Racking Adapter - I have found that I am able to get a batch from yeast pitch to finished beer to bottle without ever exposing it to the outside air. Sanitation is paramount to brewing success, and this is a major plus to me. A regular bottle filler attaches easily to the Racking Adapter and allows me to finish my fermentation, let everything settle out, and bottle from the same container with little disturbance of the yeast/trub.
Use 1 - Clearing the Trub
I own two Better-Bottles currently - a smaller 5 gal. version and a larger 6.5 gal version - both with the racking adapters in place. After chilling my wort with an immersion chiller, I make a whirlpool and let it settle out for about 20 minutes. This clears the wort some but really never settles it completely. To remedy this and ease my worry about my fresh wort sitting in relatively 'open air,' I have started racking my wort from my boiling kettle into the 5 gallon better bottle for further settling. I seal the container then rack it again a bit later leaving some more trub behind. An additional benefit is that the dual racking allows time for easy aeration through splashing, etc.
Use 2 - Fermenting Completely
With most ales, once I get the wort into the primary fermenter it never leaves or is opened to the air until
bottling time. Despite common practice/myth, you do not need to rack your beer into another fermenter if
you are bottling within about 4 weeks. I suspect this practice got started with the use of oxygen-permeable
buckets and the need to prevent oxidation by transferring to a carboy. However, with relatively impermeable
fermenters like the Better-Bottle (or a glass carboy) I really feel no need rack my beer and possibly introduce
not only oxygen but who-knows-what from the air. I have had no ill effects doing this and autolysis has not
been a factor in any of my beers.
So, with the Better-Bottle, I just let the beer go at its own pace, undisturbed, until itís done.
Use 3 - Bottling
Bottling is no fun, but using the racking arm of the Better-Bottle makes this process almost as painless as it
can be. My technique is simply to transfer my Better-Bottle to a countertop the morning I am going to bottle
and let any sediment I rustled up settle back down. Then, I sanitize the racking adapter with a spray bottle
of StarSan solution, and attach a standard bottle filler (I use a Phil's Filler) to the spout. Open her up and
she's ready to go.
Once the level of the liquid gets down, the process does start slowing down a bit. However, if you get a carboy cap, a sanitary filter, and a tube you can blow air into it to increase the pressure and the flow rate of the liquid. Even better, if you have a CO2 system, this can be used.
Use 4 - Lagering/Aging
If you have a beer that requires extended aging such as a lager or even an ale like a higer gravity Belgian or barley wine
that will take longer than 4 weeks, you will want to transfer to a different container. I transfer from the 6.5
gallon Better-Bottle to the 5 Gallon one for this job. The transfer can be achieved in an air-free environment by
attaching the racking adapter of one bottle to the racking adapter of the the second bottle with some tubing then
attaching carboy caps or the caps that Better Bottle sells (the Dry Trap airlock) with a hose to make a closed loop.
An illustration can be seen on Better Bottle's website under the How-To Section / Racking / Carboy > Carboy.
Trub can be contained very well this way and your beer will be safe from airborne muck.
Using the Better-Bottle system does have a couple of challenges that you need to be aware of. In the scope of
things, these are no big deal - just gotchas'.
First thing is, you can't use a brush to clean or the Better-Bottle will scratch. I usually overcome this by filling a used Better Bottle up with hot water from the bathtub and soaking in PBW for a couple of days. This sometimes cleans it completely, and sometimes it takes a second soaking. The Better-Bottle website also recommends the following method : "For faster results, put a few cups hot wash solution into a carboy, add a face cloth, and vigorously slosh the solution and cloth. Better-Bottle carboys are light, so sloshing the carboy in your hands will not be difficult; however, rocking the carboy back and forth on its side or rocking it on a tennis ball placed under its punt requires even less effort."
Second thing is, if you use a liquid-filled airlock, be sure to remove it before moving the Better-Bottle even the slightest. It seems that, given any chance, the Better-Bottle will suck air in through the lock and bring some of the liquid with it due to the fact that it's flexible. This can be overcome as well by a liquid-less airlock that the Better Bottle folks sell. I have never used one, but it seems a good alternative.
Another air lock solution is to make a blowoff system using a carboy cap (the orange ones seem to work for me) with a 1/2" hose attached that runs into a growler filled with water.