Home brewing in Connecticut Discussions - CT Beer Trail

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Flip top bottles? What's the deal with the seal?



Last Monday I had the day off and decided to bottle my Witbier. I was concerned about timing, after all Saturday marked the 1 week mark, and the airlock stopped bubbling right about then. Would waiting a couple of days hurt or harm the beer?

I found this discussion to be very timely and relevant. How long do you let your beer ferment before you bottle? Apparently 2 weeks is the new conventional wisdom, but I suppose it really all depends on final gravity and such... Speaking of gravity, I just want to repeat, I love my thief!

I'm happy to say, this particular batch of beer has gone off without a hitch. By far the easiest brewing and bottling days so far. I just hope the final product is good, time will tell. I'm chomping at the proverbial bit waiting for a taste, but I'll be good and let the beer condition for another week or so before I crack one open. Which leads me to a question...


I've been using these flip top bottle now for a while now. The last 3 batches I've made have all found a home in the flip tops. As far as I'm concerned they beat the crap out of recycled bottles and that accursed two handed caper that came with my brewing equipment. But it's not all cotton candy and walks on the beach with these things. I would say a less than acceptable percentage of my bottles fail to provide a good seal, and some of my beer ends up flat.

One of my buddies tried to make me feel better a few of weeks ago when I opened a couple bottles of my left over Holiday Ale, in hopes of clearing the batch out and moving on with my life, only to find that 2 out of the three I opened were a little flat. He said, "Hey, it's not that bad, its like a cask ale or something..." Not quite, it's just a flat mediocre Holiday Ale...

A friend at work suggested wetting the seals before capping the bottles, but that sounds like an opportunity to introduce something to the bottles that will kill the beer. I don't know, maybe I should say to hell with it and move straight to kegging... But there's something to be said about the portability and portion control offered by bottles.

So, does anyone out there use the flip top bottles? And if so, have you had a problem getting good seals? What did you do to resolve the issue? I could use a little advice, but perhaps I should have asked this before bottling my latest batch... DOH!

33 comments:

  1. We considered flip-top bottles to condition a while ago, but decided against it.

    It was all that we heard that they do not offer the seal needed to endure bottle conditioning.

    As you know, a good seal is needed to withstand the pressure build up in the bottle that gives the beer it's carbonation. The rubber seal of flip-top bottles can't hold that pressure over such periods of time.

    They work great for bottling from a keg for short periods of time (bring home from the bar, to a friends house, party), but not for conditioning.

    We have stuck to capping bottles, and are moving to kegs this summer.

    You can't go much wrong with a keg. And everyone loves a guy who brings a keg to a party... :-)

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  2. I was thinking of engineering some sort of device to use to keep the caps firmly shut during the conditioning phase. But then I got lazy and remember that I have no engineering or building skills. Instead, I put some extra tiles from a recent home renovation (that someone else did for me) on top of bottles to add weight to the caps, pretty lame huh?

    Kegging is cool, but I like the idea of portion control... Not sure if I'd go through a keg fast enough. But that being said, I think there will be kegging in my future.

    So, how did you get into photographing beauty pageants? Must be a "horrible" job...

    Do you have a beer related blog?

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  3. I think flip top bottles is not a good idea..as mike have said it can't hold the pressure..

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  4. Spawn,

    I think you're both right. My local home brew shop recommended replacing the seals after every batch... That doesn't seem very practical to me. I really want to get into kegging...

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  5. I have not had any problems with flat beer when using the flip top bottles. Having said that. I started with new gaskets and remove them after the bottle is opened and poured. I have bottled several batches of beer with the same gaskets with success.

    Ross

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  6. You could put some saran wrap around them and shrinkwrap with a hair dryer.

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  7. I will be doing replacement gaskets next time, but shrink wrapping sounds like it might be messy... How about melted wax? Classy!

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  8. It's vital to replace the gaskets every now and then. Frequency will vary depending on how abusive your sanitizing process is. Gaskets run through the dishwasher will only be good for two or three uses, where gaskets removed carefully and washed by hand can last much longer.

    Toss any gaskets that have visible cracks or damage. Replacement gaskets can be bought at most brewing supply stores or online.

    It's also possible that the wires for your swing top caps have weakened and the caps themselves need to be replaced. They can be a bit stiff, but removing and replacing them by hand is fairly straightforward.

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  9. My current batch (an IPA) is now bottle conditioning with the benefit of brand new seals. So time will tell if that fixes the problem. I was also wondering about replacement wires/swing tops. That could be an issue I suppose. Thanks for the advice!

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  10. "I was also wondering about replacement wires/swing tops"

    I get them at the local brewing supply store. They usually cost a little over a buck each.

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  11. My latest batch is bottle conditioning with new seals right now. I'll let the world know how they turned out! Thanks again all for the comments...

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  12. Some friends and I all use swing tops. They hold pressure well enough to have created a bottle bomb from a batch that my friend forgot to check the FG of. Good luck.

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  13. do you think storing the bottles upside down after filling would help?

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  14. I don't know, seems counter intuitive...

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  15. Greetings all,

    I came across this board searching for replacement seals for my home brew flip-top bottles.

    These amazing bottles have been the main container of my brew for 30 years but require seal replacements every 50 or so cycles.

    Use of a quality ceramic stopper with strong stainless steel cage is essential to good carbonation. With proper adjustment of the bail and reasonable storage temperatures, explosions are avoided.

    Removing and cleaning the seals after each use and storage in an air tight container ensures good life of the seals. I prefer rubber seals but the synthetics work just as well.

    Happy brewing!

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  16. I have been brewing for about 4 months now. I got a Mr Beer kit from my wife (the best gift ever!) - and absolutely love brewing.

    I started with the plastic bottled provided in the kit, but very quickly switched to glass.

    I searched local stored for a killer bottle, and found a decent beer called "Fischer" that comes in a nice flip-top style bottle.

    The bottles are 22oz (perfect size in my opinion) - and seem to be doing a great job.

    I have used some bottles 4 times - and have not yet had a problem with flat beer, leaks, bad seals, etc.

    So far, so good. Very convenient to bottle & drink -- I am not planning on changing my approach at this time.

    Great stuff!

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  17. Hello. I am a film student at the savannah college of art and design. I need to aquire some 'resealable beer' for an upcoming shoot. I would be extremely happy to buy some of your bottles. I don't care if they hold a seal, they just need to look good om camera.

    I can be reached at greyghost1414@yahoo.com (Oh, I need them by march, 2009. I don't know how long this will be posted.)

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  18. George,

    You can buy these bottles at any good homebrew shop, or online and any good homebrew supply website. If you're in Georgia, you may even want to stop in and visit the guys from Monday Night Brewery...

    http://mondaynightbrewery.com/

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  19. I disagree with some of the comments. I have been using the self cappers for a long time. They seal perfectly, and they condition the best! When you close the lid locks, use one hand to ensure they are pefectly centered over the hole. And when empty and in storage, position the cap an seal over the hole but don't lock dow,. That ensures they don't get worn out and over imprinted. You can order cheap replacement rubber seals too. (5 cents)

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  20. One more thing. I have used the same bottles and rubber seals about 30 time over the past several years. They still work perfect. I have never had any problem. Take care of your equipment and you will be the most sucessful.

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  21. I've been using a set of old German beer bottles that have flip tops for about 10 years now. They've gone through no more than two dozen uses but seal perfectly. I just recently lost one to a bottle bomb because the seal didn't release before the glass did.

    I've only encountered problems with some new bottles I bought a few months ago. From day one the seals never held enough for good carbonation with the exception of about 3 or 4 bottles per batch (perhaps more luck than anything). I think it mostly has to do with the exact quality of the seals you have or the strength of the assembly.

    I am thinking that the seals, because they are new and hard, may not seal very well and may do a better job if I can soften them up a bit like the ones on the old bottles. They are so soft that the pressure will actually stretch them during fermentation serving as a sign that they are ready.

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  22. Oddly enough, my Frankenbeer (the Oktoberfest inspired Ale gone wrong) was mostly "bottled" in my Tap-A-Draft set, but a few portions made it to my flip tops, and were left in the dungeon and forgotten. I recently stumbled upon them and the seals held nicely and the beer aged very well. A significant improvement, almost tasted like Sam Adams Oktoberfest, which is leaps and bounds above the original taste upon earlier samplings...

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  23. Hello, I have been reading this list with some interest. I have a big problem with the bale top bottles. I want to use them for convienience and I bought a brand new case at a local brew supply store this year. Out of 18 bottles (they are 1 L bottles) I have gotten 2 to seal successfully and carbonate. All of the others were flat. I've looked at the rubber gaskets and they appear flexible but I am going to try replacing all of them for my next batch. I only plan on trying 2 or 3 of these bottles because I am tired of losing beer. I have been very careful to properly center the caps before closing the bale as well. I cannot figure out why my seal is inadequate. Is it possible that the wire bales are simply cheap and weak? Could the gaskets be at fault? I really want to get this working and I am at a loss as to why it isn't. Any help at all would be very appreciated.

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  24. You could have issues with the wire or the gaskets could need replacing. I personally had a high rate of bad seals myself. I have not used the bottles in a while... I was told that getting the seals wet may help with the seal...

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  25. I just ran across this while searching for a good way to sanitize my swing tops. I used them once and my sanitizer oxidized the metal parts. Does anyone know a good way to sanitize swing tops without any damage?

    By the way, I'm brewing a Sweetwater 420 clone. It is always delicious.
    thanks

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  26. I have seen flip top bottles using a seal made of silicon rubber instead of the usual rubber. Does not age, dry out and crack.. should be the deal..

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  27. I'm a long time brewer, although I laid off for about 7 or 8 years and just recently restarted. I used to bottle - but once you've used a corny keg, you won't bottle anymore. Turn time on beer from pitch to keg 1.5 to two weeks, keg and carbonate overnight. Bottling.....who wants to spend all that time sanitizing and filling and capping and worst of all WAITING??

    Do yourselves a favor, keg your beer.

    You want to take a six pack to share? Fill those flip tops from your keg and deliver the goods.

    Besides - bringing the keg does make you the life of the party!

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  28. hi
    ive only startrd getting into brewing
    and iam useing one lt bulmers bottles , screw tops , ive done one kit and they were perfect , i have another on the go , i had to buy lots of bulmers to stock up on bottles , but it was a buzz collecting them ha ha, if it keeps going ok , ill be buying no more, happy days.

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  29. I have always used a bit of sugar syrup or honey on the seals, it's naturally sterile and formes a gas tight joint.
    found your blog while searching online for new seals, mine are 20 years old and losing their 'rubberiness'.

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  30. My parents bought my husband swing tops for christmas. Normally he uses a capper. How do I convince him this is a better way to bottle?

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  31. I've been having a big problem with this as well. I'd say 30% of my bottles lose their seal and become flat. I've tried everything under the sun to make it work, but I think i'm just going to do force carbonation instead.. It's too much wasted beer.

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  32. Hi,
    I've been using the ceramic swing top sealing bottles for several years with no issues at all, everything from a stout to a cider.
    Obviously the quality of the steel clamping device is key. If its not clamping hard enough, it needs to be replaced, simple as that. The problem is rarely anything other than that, you should be able to feel how hard it clamps down, it should be snapping down with good force.
    Another cheaper option is bottling in plastic food grade bottles with plastic screw tops. I've also used them many times and they work well, never leak, and actually slightly expand so almost impossible to explode.

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  33. I've been brewing in flip tops for 20 years without mishaps - plenty of fizz. The only irksome part was that the rubber seals started to perish at the two year point so I replaced them all recently with the orange silicon seal. Since then I have often had up to 90% failure with flat beer - embarrassing. The beer still tastes good but flat?? So I reprimed them and got a reasonable fizz after a further 10 days priming - but not that good. I am going back to the old (but irksome) rubber seals and will accept replacing them at the two year point. The original grolsch seals seem to last about 4 years. Pity I can't get them.

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