Bottle tree/sanitizing recommendations

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troycifer

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I am a newbie. And just finished racking my first batch to a carboy. I am wondering if a bottle tree is a good idea. If so, any recommendations? I have seen some that have a bottle washer/sanitizer at the top.

I was thinking of just running my bottles through the dishwasher without any detergent and leaving them to air dry. Is there any problem with doing this?

Finally, any recommendations on cleaners and sanitizers? I used One Step that came with my kit on my first batch.

Thank you!!
 

cmason1957

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Yes, a bottle tree with a sanitizing dispenser is an invaluable addition to your winemaking tools. I have two actually, since I often have to sanitize 60 bottles at a time.

I use unscented OxyClean (or sodium percarbonate, which you can buy in bulk). It works great and with a little elbow grease will clean off just about all the grime you need to get rid of. I believe this is the active ingredient in OneStep. I am a believer that the same thing used from cleaning cannot clean and sanitize with the same product.

For sanitizing, I use potassium Metabisulphite (K-Meta), 2 tbsp/gallon of water + 1 tbsp of powdered acid, I typically use tartaric, but sometimes Citric Acid and sometimes Acid Blend. It is to lower the PH of the water down to nearer that of wine, which makes the Metabisulphite last longer. I have a spray bottle always filled with it, you can tell if it is still good, by sniff test. Many folks use StarSan or Idophor, those will keep also, but you have to measure the ph to determine if they are still effective.
 

Boatboy24

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A bottle tree and sanitizer dispenser (I think mine is called 'Vinator') is pretty much required. I've never used the dispenser on top of the tree, just place it on the bench next to the tree.

As Craig mentioned, there's cleaning, and then there's sanitizing. When using new bottles, I assume they are already clean. So at bottling time, all they get is a spritz with the sanitizing solution (a strong KMeta/Water solution), and onto the tree to drip. For bottles that I've just emptied and plan to reuse, they get a double or triple rinse in super hot water, then go onto the tree to dry. Once dry, I box them up upside down until I'm ready to fill, at which time, they get the aforementioned sanitizing treatment.
 

TonyP

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You're probably going to get many recommendations for a bottle tree dispenser because it's very popular and I have one, too. I suspect you'll end up getting one. But I find it takes longer to clean with the bottle tree and I don't use it as such.

All you need is a large bin and some One Step or a similar sodium percarbonate such as Easy Clean. Make certain it's no rinse. Mix water and cleanser per the instructions, dump it in the bin, lay in the bottles making certain they're free of air, and leave them alone. In 2-5 minutes come back, empty the bottles, and leave them upside down to dry. That's it.

Note that if you have too many bottles to fit in the bin, you can continue to reuse the cleaner.

To sanitize, get a spray bottle and spray K-meta solution into each bottle. Leave the bottles upright because the SO2 gas it creates is heavier than air. Come back in a few minutes and drain each bottle. The One Step will also sanitize so the combination of One Step followed by K-meta is excellent.

The secret to cleaning bottles is to rinse each bottle right after they're empty. Dirty bottles should be cleaned with a bottle brush.
 
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Ajmassa

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Interesting anecdote regarding ‘OneStep’ cleaner (which is a legit product imo. As is EasyClean)

The OG owner of a local HomeBrew shop I used to frequent told me ‘OneStep’ & ‘EasyClean’ are actually identical (sadly the shop closed up 2years ago). He said that apparently LD Carlson was being taken for a ride by OneStep on the business end of things.
So LD Carlson, a large corporation not thrilled about being pushed around said, “GFY! We don’t need you. We’ll make our own!” And they did. And it sells for about 20% cheaper than OneStep I believe.
 

sour_grapes

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Like Tony, I don't use a bottle tree. I clean similarly to how Tony describes. I sanitize using StarSan immediately before bottling. I fill each bottle with StarSan from a bottling bucket, let it sit for a few minutes, then dump the StarSan out ("don't fear the foam"). I turn the bottles upside down into empty cardboard wine boxes. I then set about bottling.

There are a few ways to skin this cat.
 

winemaker81

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I clean and sanitize bottles, then dry on a bottle tree, and when done I put them upside down in clean cases. I do not sanitize at bottling time.

Commercial wineries use bottles straight from the factory. If the case is clean and the storage is clean, bottles coming out of the case as as safe as when they went in.
 

cmason1957

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I clean and sanitize bottles, then dry on a bottle tree, and when done I put them upside down in clean cases. I do not sanitize at bottling time.

Commercial wineries use bottles straight from the factory. If the case is clean and the storage is clean, bottles coming out of the case as as safe as when they went in.
Those are two mighty big ifs and all the commercial wineries I have toured do some sort of sanitizing (all bottling lines do sanitizing). It seems to me to be cheap insurance to guarantee the environment that wine is going into.
 

mainshipfred

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I also help at a few wineries and like @winemaker81's observations the new bottles are never sanitized. They blow a shot of nitrogen in the bottles which has nothing to do with sanitizing but that's about it.
 

winemaker81

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The risk is not high. I am in control of my actions and the conditions. The bottles are cleaned well and visually inspected before sanitizing. The bottles are upside down in the case so the mouth is closed, and there is nothing in the bottle that anything can grow on.

At bottling time, I inspect the bottles again as I line them up for filling. I've yet to have a problem with a dirty bottle.

That said, everyone should do what they are comfortable with.

@mainshipfred -- my guess is the nitrogen is to blow out any dust as the new bottles are not inspected at bottling time, and bottles are stored mouth up in the case. Also, it's possible the nitrogen is used to displace air to reduce any oxygen in the bottle.
 
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The best thing I've found for drying bottles is to pull the upper and lower racks out of an old dishwasher and use them as portable drying racks. They have many tines that you can put the bottles on, and they are wide and ultra-stable. It is also a multi-purpose drying rack (which I've found especially helpful in beer brewing since brewers have all manner of brew pots, lids, strainers, wort coolers, etc. to clean). I pull the racks out during clean up, put them on the floor (the rollers keep them elevated off the ground), and put them back away when I'm done.
 

vacuumpumpman

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I like using either a plastic milk crate or a commercial dishwasher rack to dry and move my bottles around and then fill them all in the same place.20160318_201056 [Desktop Resolution].jpg
 

Venatorscribe

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I use a bottle tree. My procedure is to wash, sanitise and store every bottle after I have drunk the wine. Then prior to bottle filling a batch I again rinse, sanitise and drain the bottles I need on a bottle tree. It may seem laborious but it is my hobby. I just find a good radio station or a few podcasts and get stuck in.
 

Ajmassa

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I clean and sanitize bottles, then dry on a bottle tree, and when done I put them upside down in clean cases. I do not sanitize at bottling time.

Commercial wineries use bottles straight from the factory. If the case is clean and the storage is clean, bottles coming out of the case as as safe as when they went in.
Good to know.
Skipping the hot water rinse, kmeta sanitize, and bottle tree dry would save me a TON of time. I always did feel like it was a bit overkill. New bottles seem extremely clean. No dust or odor or anything.

Also sometimes I get a kmeta residue after drying. Around the lip which I then have to clean off. Bottles can end up lookin all smudgy.
Meanwhile they look picture perfect beforehand. And if my wine is ~14%abv, contains all the natural acids and is properly sulphited then i could see it being ok—even without having a compressed gas setup.
 

pete1325

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Back in the day; I would rinse the new bottles or recycled ones with hot water, add sanitizer, shake and drain them just before filling. Never had a problem....
 

pete1325

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Now a days I use the bottle spray with a sanitizer wash and drain using the tree. It doesn't take up that much room and the excess drains into the tray at the bottom, they are pretty neat little things to have in the wine room.
 

BMarNJ

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I use a bottle tree and separate sanitizer spritzer. After I bottle (or rack) my wine, I use the bottle tree with just one layer screwed on to dry my carboy (it fits well in the center hole) and my wine thief and siphon assembly fit on the prongs. But I only do one carboy at a time, so this idea is not for everyone.
 
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