For homebrewers, the art of mixing grains and hops to craft a beer that everyone can appreciate is what makes brewing beer so enjoyable. Cracking open a cold one and taking that first sip makes all the work and time worth the wait. But one thing you’ll never hear homebrewers say is how much they enjoyed washing bottles. For someone who has just starting brewing beer, this typically means scraping labels off bottles to reuse and scrubbing them inside and out. Not a fun task, considering a typical five-gallon batch needs roughly 50 12-ounce bottles, making it a very time consuming process. For years, homebrewers, microbreweries, and even large corporate breweries have looked for ways to make cleaning and sanitizing bottles much more efficient. While many gadgets and sanitizers have been made to simplify the process over the years, like speed racks for drying bottles or Star San for sanitizing bottles before bottling, none has helped change the cleaning game quite like powdered brewery wash (PBW).
Originally developed for Coors Brewing Company, PBW is an environmentally friendly product that cleans without the need for scrubbing, and works great for equipment that is difficult to reach. We started using this product at FISHBIO to clean our fermenters, and found it worked so well that we decided to try it on cleaning our beer bottles. When we looked online for ideas on how to construct our own bottle washer, we found some designs that worked and some that were not so great, but it didn’t stop us from trying to do it ourselves. Most systems you can purchase online are only designed to wash 24 bottles at a time, and many of them didn’t have the water pressure to thoroughly wash each bottle. Since we brew larger batches of beer, quantity is key. However, our first bottle washer attempt didn’t go so well. The volume of water was too low, and the pump didn’t produce enough pressure, so we went back to the drawing board. With a larger diameter pipe and a much larger pump, we were able to produce a jet stream capable of pressure-washing 48 bottles with a solution of PBW, and completely eliminate the monotonous task of scrubbing each individual bottle. So now we can spend more time brewing and less time prepping, and that’s something that everyone can drink too.