As a novice to home brewing beer, this is a question that I recently asked myself. Is it better to use plastic or glass bottles for home brewing?
I instinctively know that glass will be fine, after all breweries have used glass bottles forever. However I don’t see any breweries using plastic bottles for their beer. Plastic maybe okay for fizzy soft drinks. But there must be a reason why breweries don’t use them for beer.
Is It Better To Use Plastic Or Glass Bottles For Home Brewing?
The answer is not as straightforward as one being an outright winner. Yet I think, taking everything into account, glass wins overall. But that is just my opinion, and that seems to be the main point when is comes to which is best. Personal choice seems to be the overriding factor when deciding between plastic or glass bottles.
However there are things to consider before making your choice. So in this article I will share my findings.
When Do I need To Bottle My Beer?
The point at which you need to bottle your beer is after the initial fermentation has finished.
This is when you prepare your beer for secondary fermentation. At this point you add priming sugar and syphon the beer into a secondary fermentation vessel (pressure barrel) or vessels (bottles).
Which is better a pressure barrel or bottles?
That again is pretty much down to personal choice and facilities at hand.
It is best to decide on your bottle choice before the initial fermentation process has finished. This will give you time to get your plastic or glass bottles.
Why Don’t Breweries Use Plastic Bottles?
Actually some have, and do use plastic bottles.
Although beer can be packaged in plastic bottles, we don’t see many breweries using plastic bottles for their beer.
The main reason for this seems to be because plastic can allow oxygen in. Which can cause the beer to go bad and produce off flavours.
Second is the customer perception. We don’t like drinking beer out of plastic glasses, and the same goes for plastic bottles.
Third, for breweries plastic bottles may not be as cost effective as glass.
Plastic has come a long way and bottles are now produced to stop the oxygen problem. But with that development comes a heavier cost.
To find out what breweries use plastic bottles for beer. How plastic bottles for beer has moved on, this article is very interesting.
Using Plastic Bottles For Home Brewing?
There are plenty of homebrewers that use plastic bottles for the secondary fermentation process. They do have their advantages over glass.
On the other hand, there are plenty that would not use plastic bottles for their precious home brew. Some through personal experience, others because of the disadvantages over glass.
The Pros and cons of plastic bottles for home brewing.
The Pros Of Bottling Beer In Plastic Bottles
- Easy To Use
A plastic bottle is easy to use and also very light. Once filled you just screw on the top and your good to go.
Plastic bottles are way more robust than glass bottles. If you drop one it is less likely to break. Also if the beer is high in carbonation, plastic is less likely to explode.
- Good For Transporting Beer
Obviously because plastic is more robust than glass, it makes them the best for transporting your home brew.
The cheapest plastic bottles are the ones that use to hold fizzy drinks. They are free after all, but if reusing fizzy drink bottles, it is best to use brown ones.
Some homebrew companies sell brown plastic bottles for bottling. They are cheaper than buying brown glass bottles.
The Cons Of Bottling Beer In Plastic Bottles
This especially counts if you reuse fizzy drinks bottles for your beer. Plastic can allow oxygen in, which can cause beer to go bad and produce off flavours.
Apparently it is worse over time, so the longer the beer is in the plastic bottle, the more chance it will spoil.
Leaching means that chemicals within the makeup of the plastic can leak into the food or beverage within the plastic container.
Just like drinking beer from a plastic glass is gross. Pouring beer from a plastic bottle is the same, it’s just not appealing.
When cleaning plastic, especially if we use a bottle brush, it could become scratched. This may allow bacteria to enter the abrasion.
Sanitiser may not be able to access all scratches and do its job completely.
- Short Life Span
Compared to glass, plastic will have a shorter lifespan and probably cannot be used as many times as glass.
Using Glass Bottles For Home Brewing
Many breweries now use cans as well as bottles for their beer. However the majority still choose glass bottles over plastic bottles.
This may be for any of the reasons I have already mentioned. So should the home brewer take this as a sign, and not even consider plastic bottles?
Maybe many have, because the glass bottle is still the favourite among home brewers.
So what are the pros and cons of using glass bottles?
The Pros Of Bottling Beer In Glass Bottles
- No Oxidation
A properly sealed glass bottle will not allow oxygen into your beer. Producing better flavours and fresher beer.
- No Contaminates
Glass will not leach as plastic can do, leaving your beer pure.
Glass bottles have been around for a long time and we are all comfortable with them. Pouring a beer into the glass from a glass bottle just feels right.
As long as glass is cleaned thoroughly it is less likely to become scratched trapping bacteria. This makes glass a lot more hygienic than plastic.
- Long Lasting
If you look after glass bottles they will last a long time, serving your home brews over and over.
The Cons Of Bottling Beer In Glass Bottles
- More Time Consuming
Although bottles are still easy to use, there is more time involved in the bottling process. Plastic bottles just need the cap screwed on.
Glass on the other hand requires you to cap them. Which although doesn’t take much longer, is still more fiddly. Unless of course you get the swing top bottles.
As long as you are careful, there should be no problem. However glass is not as robust as plastic, drop one and its a smashing mess.
Also if the beer is too high in carbonation, the bottle could give way and break.
When buying bottles for home brew, they are more expensive than plastic bottles. Unless you buy the swing top, you will also have to buy crown caps too. Also there is the capper to buy too.
Obviously there is the free glass bottle option. If you buy beer in bottles and you clean them and save them, then you have free glass bottles.
However you will still have to buy the caps and capper.
Those are the basic pros and cons to using plastic or glass bottles for homebrew. Weighing it all up, I think the glass bottles come out on top.
All that aside, it still probably boils down to personal choice for most people.
I personally decided on using glass bottles rather than plastic bottles. However I didn’t come to that conclusion as a result of any research. It is just a personal choice, I just prefer glass to plastic.
I also opted for the swing top glass bottles, just for ease to begin with. That is not to say I won’t invest in a capper so I can recycle beer bottles.
What do you use for bottling your homebrew? Share your thoughts below about what you use and why.
8 thoughts on “Is It Better To Use Plastic Or Glass Bottles For Home Brewing”
I started with plastic as they came with my brewing kit, but over time I noticed deformities when I’d over carbonated, or scratches on the inside from my cleaning.
Occasionally a few in the batch would taste terrible.
I started using glass after my brother in-law visited and left about 100 empties and I thought I’d give it a go.
Much easier to sterilize, a good high quality capping tool from Italy only cost $100 from eBay, and caps are $10/100 from my local supermarket. Add a gravity filter from the local plumbing place and you’re good to go.
My beer comes out much better, cleaner, crisper and I’ve yet to have that god awful plastic taste.
I’d never go back to plastic.
Great Point Rhys, plastic is bound to deteriorate over time, but I did wonder if that would actually make a difference to the taste of the beer. It obviously does if you have had a few that tasted bad. Thanks to your brother in law you went the glass route and got rid of that plastic taste. I would never go the plastic route, and as you say, you would never go back to plastic.
Thanks for leaving your thoughts on this subject, it is good to get feedback from real experience.
I use both these days. When I started I used just plastic, but the bottles that came with my home brew kit weren’t very good, so I started to replace then with 1 litre fizzy drinks bottles, and stuck with those for years, never had any issues really, and if you over prime then at least the plastic expands, which saved me once it twice!
But recently I’ve wanted to improve my brewing presentation and started wanting to use glass bottles so I’ve been collecting what I can and using glass swing top bottles, plus glass bottles that need capping and some plastic bottles too.
I much prefer the taste of my home brew from the glass bottles, but plastic is fine really, and it’s much easier to store empty plastic bottles than empty glass bottles, as they take up a lot of space and are heavy even when there’s no beer in them!
So it’s definitely a choice, both are fine and have pros and cons. If you have the space, patience and funds for glass, then do that, but if not, plastic is absolutely fine – it’s also less painful to part with a plastic bottle than a nice swing top bottle when gifting your beer to friends!
You’re right it really comes down to personal choice. I do prefer beer from a bottle, rather than plastic. Having said that the point you made about gifting beer to friends is a valid one. A lot less painful to let plastic go than bottles, a great point and one that has got me thinking.
I am literally brewing today, just about to set things up to brew a red ale, so will have a couple of weeks to think about bottling.
Thanks for your thoughts
There is one very important pro side to using plastic. To see if carbonation is present during secondary fermentation, squeeze bottle ,if firm good carbonation if soft then no carbonation. Can’t do that with glass without losing any carbonation you have
This is a good point and very true, carbonation is obviously a pretty important part of brewing beer. I think I still prefer glass though, but that is just a personal choice. Although I won’t rule out plastic down the road. As I get more experienced with brewing it is something I will try out and I might end up preferring plastic.
Thanks for your thoughts
I use glass bottles, I’ve got about 300 pint bottles some of them are about 15 years old, I also have a crown capper.
That is a lot of bottles, they must take up a lot of room to store. Just shows how long they can last though. I don’t have anywhere near that amount, but mine are the swing top bottles.