I’m planning on starting one last one gallon batch before I go on a trip for a bit. When I get back it’ll be orchard season and I’ll be switching to cider from a local orchard. I’ll also be upping the size with a 6.5 gallon brew bucket. Yay for scaling up!
The pop top bottles that I like and have been using aren’t going to do so well with scaling up. A dozen 16oz bottles costs over $30. It takes about 7 of those bottles to cover a one gallon batch. My 6.5 gallon brew bucket will likely end up with 5 gallons of cider when its all said and done. Thats about 40 16oz bottles. Given that I’ve got some aging and some cold crashed in the fridge, I’d basically need to order 3, if not 4 dozen more sets. Thats basically $100 for empty bottles. It also will just barely cover the 5 gallons. If I start a new batch, I’ll need more unless I’m drinking 5 gallons of cider in a month.
So we need different bottles. Something that will scale. The answer is really easy actually. Reuse regular 12oz bottles. A 6 pack is about $10. I need ~54 bottles to fill 5 gallons. I’ve decided to aim for 48 bottles to start with, knowing I should have a few pop tops to cover the rest. Thats 8 six packs for ~$80. Its already cheaper than buying pop tops – not to mention all of those bottles come with cider/beer in them! Add in that its very easy to ask friends if they’ll save you some of their extra bottles. It’ll probably cost you far less. You could even scrounge around in recycling bins and whatnot if you’re really desperate.
So now we’ve got 3 problems we need to solve. Unlike pop tops, we need new caps for each bottle. Also unlike pop tops, we need something to actually secure the cap on the bottle. And finally we need (want, really) some way to store these bottles. The good news is all these solutions are easy to solve.
Bottle caps are cheap. You can find a pack of 144 caps with apples on them for ~$7. You can probably get plain ones for cheaper with a bit of looking around. I bet its also not expensive to get custom-printed caps. Grab an artistic friend and make some logos to give your cider a professional look! Given that I’m still using numbers written on tape, I don’t think I’m ready for custom caps – but the apple caps are a good compromise.
Now that we have caps, we need a capper. Heres the one I picked up for ~$13. Theres several other colors and brands that are less than $20. Its really easy to use too. Put a cap on the bottle, and use the arms to lock it onto the bottle. Nice and easy.
Finally I wanted some way to store this set of bottles. I was envisioning a plastic crate that is used to hold bottles/cans/glasses – but I found something slightly different. I found a drying rack that holds 48 bottles, perfect! It comes with a tray to catch liquid, and 2 stackable racks that hold 24 bottles each. According to the manufacturers, you shouldn’t stack higher than 2 – so I might pick up a second set if I get too many bottles. Or continue looking for crates that might work.
So now that I’ve got all the pieces lined up, I just need to drink a lot of bottles of cider and beer (and convince my friends to as well). Good stuff.