Well, today seemed to be a busy day for people asking me beer-related questions on facebook. I like to repost things like this here, since the facebook wall doesn’t really stick around very long.
So, a friend of mine who is just getting into homebrewing, posed this question:
hey, So the directions I have say no screw top bottles. I was planning on filling mostly just growlers, is that cool? and why is it that the net has so much contradicting information? mostly about the times for fermenting and carbonating
Well, I’ve experimented some with bottle-conditioning in growlers, with some mixed (but never disastrous) results. I’ve also heard the warning from people on the Internet about bottle bombs.
Read on for my response, which I elaborated on somewhat to fit this format (my blog), since facebook imposes character limits on wall posts and comments.
Be careful with Growlers. They aren’t really built to withstand the pressures that can build up during bottle conditioning. I have never had a problem with this personally, but I have heard of growlers becoming over pressurizing, and exploding. If this were to happen, it would make a huge sharp, sticky mess, as shattered glass and beer would go everywhere.
Be sure to use the ones with metal caps (instead of plastic). In my experience with this, the plastic cpas just don’t seal very well, and my beer did not carbonate (or all of the carbonation escaped out the cap before I opened it).
Also, be very sure that the primary fermentation is complete, to avoid exploding bottles. Keep them from getting too warm (a basement is probably a good temp, even in the New England summer). I would also suggest making sure the growler is fully chilled before opening it, as this will reduce the inside pressure somewhat. The moment you open it is probably the most likely for it to explode (and the most disastrous) since you are putting a lot of pressure on the neck of the bottle. If the bottle explodes in your hands, it will not be pretty.
I’d wait a full week after the airlock stops bubbling before putting it in growlers to be sure the fermentation is complete.
Also, be sure to enjoy it quickly, since growlers won’t seal the air out as well as crown caps will, and the beer will go stale faster.
So, officially, I feel I should not recommend that anyone tries to bottle-condition in a growler. Yes, I have done it, and had positive results, and yes, I will probably try it again in the future. Just don’t come blaming me if something bad happens.
So, this leads me to the next part of the question. Here in this single post, I have given some contradicting information. What gives?
My main feeling on this is that the net has such contradicting information because there is more than one way to do anything, and homebrewers tend to figure out a way that works, and stick with it. Also, as the homebrewing movement has evolved, you have higher quality ingredients available, but some people stick with the way they have always done something, which may have been necessary 20 years ago, but is no longer needed.
So, I hope that helps, Nick, and I hope other folks that stumble upon this through future Google searches also find it useful.