Beer Bottles - Glass or Plastic Beer Bottles?
Choosing beer bottles for the home brewer comes down to two very basic selections, Glass bottles or Plastic bottles? I like both, but for different reasons. Each has its advantages and disadvantages which we'll briefly explore here, then you can click on each topic for even more detailed descriptions. Whichever you choose, the main goal is to keep beer fresh and delicious!
There are some basic differences between glass and plastic bottles to consider. Both are easy to clean and sanitize, are about the same price and offer a home for your beer, but lets take a look at how they differ.
Glass Bottles come in several colors from clear and green, to the more appropriate Amber color we're used to seeing in the delicious microbrewed beers. This color keeps UV light away from the beer inside, which can damage the beer and give it that "skunky" flavor you might recognize from imported beer bottles with clear or green color.
When buying glass bottles for your beer, you can get the awesome 500 ml (16 oz) Amber Flip-Cap Bottles 12 pack or the more traditional 24 12oz Amber long neck bottles, just remember that unlike the Flip-Cap bottles, the long neck amber bottles will require Beer Bottle Caps along with a bottle capper like the Red Baron which are sold separately from the bottles. So right there we have the disadvantage of having to buy not only extra caps, but also a capper to close off the beer bottles. An additional disadvantage over plastic bottles, of course, is that they break much easier.
In terms of pricing, both plastic and glass bottles are within comparable range, but with glass bottles, you can buy a case of your favorite brew, drink it, and now you have a case of empty beer bottles! You don't have that option with plastic bottles. An advantage is having the ability to choose more shapes and sizes such as the 16oz Amber Bottle Belgian Sytle or even the 1/2 Gallon Amber Growlers (these come with caps)!
The main advantage of glass beer bottles though, is their ability to keep a strong oxygen barrier, keeping the beer fresh by trapping the necessary carbon dioxide inside the bottle for a long time. The trick with this is to properly cap the bottles, but the beer can last a very long time. I also like that it feels like a traditional beer when drinking it.
Plastic PET Bottles are an excellent alternative to the glass bottles. They are comparable in pricing and offer the same Amber color to protect your beer from damaging light.
Some good advantages include capping: they usually come with the caps since the caps are meant to be reusable, and you don't need to purchase the additional bottle capper since they are twist-offs. This Plastic Bottle Set comes with the caps and is priced right. Another advantage is that it travels well and is less sensitive to shattering like glass.
Their best advantage is the ability to tell if the beer has carbonated. As the final colonies of yeast turn the priming sugars into carbon diozide, the pressure pushes against the plastic, and the bottle becomes rock hard. Since glass is always hard, you can't tell unless you open it.
An intermediate disadvantage is that it is mainly available in one size, the one liter (33.8 ounce) bottle. I used to see the 500ml bottles online and in some of my beer supply catalogs, but not any more.
The main disadvantage however, is that beer just doesn't last as long as glass bottles. While they do well with bottled water or soft drinks, plastic bottles tend to allow carbon dioxide to escape while allowing some oxygen in. This ages the beer much quicker, and therefore can't be stored for very long. I like to consume my beers rather quickly after they're ready, but I've had an American IPA recipe go flat in a couple of months with plastic PET bottles, so while they may be good at acting as a temporary home for your regularly homebrewed beer, they won't do so well at storing a well crafted vintage.
Final Recommendations: I still like both. I use the plastic bottles for regular batches, Mr. Beer batches and for overruns. I also like to keep glass beer bottles after I finish with a good case of beer, so they're essentially free! I like free, and I also like to age certain beers for long periods.
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