How-To Tips


Introduction

BetterBottle PET carboys and fittings have a great many advantages when compared with glass carboys. Advantages such as safety, light weight, and ease of cleaning are obvious and result in automatic benefits; however, many other advantages are of no benefit unless they are actively applied. The following tips explain how to apply BetterBottle products to their best advantage. Use the tabs to the left of this page for detailed information about the installation and maintenance of specific items.


Handles

Lifting a filled 5 gallon carboy by its neck will apply a tensile (stretching) force of at least 55 lbs (~24 Kg) to the narrowest part of the neck. Glass carboy should never be lifted by handles attached to their necks, especially when they are full, because the tensile (pulling) strength of glass is not predictable. Glass that has been scratched or etched (i.e., washed with caustic detergents) is especially likely to crack. However, the necks and shoulders of BetterBottle carboys are designed for high tensile forces. Handles make moving filled carboys much easier and BetterBottle recommends several. Use the Handles tab to the left of this page for specific information about handles.

When a BetterBottle carboy is raised off a surface by lifting its neck, the weight of the contained liquid will cause the carboy to flex slightly. This flexing can suck liquid out of liquid-filled air locks. BetterBottle recommends using DryTrap air locks. Alternatively, the outlet of a liquid-filled air lock can be closed off with a stopper when a carboy is being lifted. Use the DryTrap tab to the left of this page for specific information about DryTrap air locks.


Closures

Vinyl caps and #10 stoppers fit the necks of BetterBottle carboys better than they fit the often irregular necks of glass carboys; however, these soft closures suffer from numerous drawbacks, primarily related to flavor scalping (adding undesirable flavors). Use the Technical tab at the top of the page to learn more about flavor scalping. BetterBottle Universal and the Big Blow closures are made of PET. They do not scalp flavors and use Teflon-encapsulated ,Viton O-rings to create precision seals that require no lubrication. BetterBottle closures are also designed to make it easy to rack under the low-oxygen, or oxygen-free, conditions described below. Use the Closures tab to the left of this page for more detailed information.


Labeling
Plastic post-it labels, which are available in a variety of colors, or easy-release masking tape (usually blue or green) make convenient, easily removed identification labels. Plastic cable ties, which are also available in a variety of colors, make color coding easy and can be used to attach tags to the necks of the carboys. Fast-drying marking pens of the sort used to label CDs or DVDs can also be used and the writing can be removed with ethanol. Do not experiment with other solvents; they may cause Environmental Stress Cracking (ESC). See the Wash/Sanitize and Materials sections under the Technical tab at the top of this page for additional information about ESC.
A typical, 2 cm X 16 cm, dual-scale (4C - 28C / 39F - 82F) liquid crystal strip will fit all three sizes of BetterBottle carboys. Furthermore, testing by BetterBottle indicates that the special PET used to make BetterBottle carboys conducts heat sufficiently well so the strips can indicate the temperature of the contained liquid within a fraction of a degree, even when the ambient temperature is 20C higher or lower. In fact, strips can be attached to BetterBottle carboys with clear tape, leaving the paper liner that protects the adhesive of the strips in place, without affecting the accuracy of the strips to a significant extent. The tape should be just a little wider than the strips, so the strips are held firmly to the surface of the carboys. It is easy to remove strips attached with clear tape and the clear tape comes off the smooth face of most strips very easily.

As a general rule, it is wise
to calibrate strips when controlling temperatures to within a relatively narrow range is critical.
      


Filling

Before filling a BetterBottle carboy with juice or wort the carboy should be washed, sanitized, and rinsed. Use the Technical tab at the top of this page for specific information and tips about cleaning and sanitizing. If the carboy is equipped with a Racking Adapter and SimpleFlo valve, test the seals by filling the carboy with water. Use the Racking Adapter tab to the left of this page for troubleshooting information.

Very Important Brewer's Note: Pour a generous portion of the cold diluting water to the BetterBottle carboy before adding the wort and be very certain that the wort has been chilled so it is cool to the touch. Mix the wort with the water right away (see Mixing/Oxygenating/Degassing below). Do Not chill hot wort in BetterBottle carboys and do not pour undiluted wort into BetterBottle carboys doing so appears to promote environmental stress cracking (ESC). For more details about ESC, see the Wash/Sanitize section, under the Technical tab at the top of this page.

BetterBottle offers a sturdy funnel that fits snugly into the wide necks of all BetterBottle carboys. There is no bubbling around the stem during fast filling and none of the slopping that occurs when funnels rock back and forth. Use the Closures & Funnel tab to the left of this page for additional information.

Sudden temperature changes will not cause BetterBottle carboys to crack the way a glass carboy does. However, do no fill BetterBottle carboys with liquids that are above 60C (140F). At 60 C, skin will be burned severely in about 6 seconds and higher temperatures will not give time to react. Furthermore, higher temperatures can damage the carboys. See the Materials section under the Technical tab at the top of this page for additional safety and materials information.


Using Liquid Crystal Temperature Strips

A typical, 2 cm X 16 cm, dual-scale (4C - 28C / 39F - 82F) liquid crystal strip will fit all three sizes of BetterBottle carboys. Furthermore, testing by BetterBottle indicates that the special PET used to make BetterBottle carboys conducts heat sufficiently well so the strips can indicate the temperature of the contained liquid within a fraction of a degree, even when the ambient temperature is 20C higher or lower.


Mixing/Oxygenating/Degassing

Agitating the unsettled contents of BetterBottle carboys in order to mix ingredients, add oxygen, or remove CO2 is very simple and, in contrast to glass carboys, no special equipment is required. If the wine or beer has already been settled in preparation for racking, slapping the side of the BetterBottle carboy will cause shock waves that will drive CO2 out of the liquid and hasten the settling of low density suspended or clinging solids without significantly disturbing the sediment on the bottom of the carboy. To prevent oxygen contamination during degassing, carboys should be closed or equipped with a DryTrap air lock. Use the DryTrap tab to the left of this page for detailed information.

A BetterBottle carboy can be placed on a cloth or towel and shaken (short rolls) back and forth to slosh the contents vigorously with very little effort. Leave extra head space during initial mixing and aeration to maximize agitation. Tune your rocking motion for the desired effect; very hard rocking may result in less efficient mixing than more gentle rocking.


Swirling the contents of a BetterBottle carboy vigorously requires almost no effort, if a tennis ball is placed in the punt space under the carboy. Do not tilt the carboy by so much that the edge of the carboy's base touches the surface (see Important Note). And perform the swirling on a smooth or soft surface for good measure. Leave extra head space during initial mixing and aeration to maximize agitation. Tune your swirling motion for the desired effect; very hard swirling may result in less efficient mixing than more gentle swirling.

Important Note: Never rock or swirl BetterBottle carboys without using a tennis ball. Doing so will cause the edges of the bottom of the carboy to repeatedly crease and flex, causing a great deal of stress in the PET that may eventually cause cracks, like bending a paper clip back and forth.




Fermenting

When a carboy is equipped with a Racking Adapter, the adapter should be adjusted so the stem angles slightly downward (hour hand at about 3:30 or 8:30) during fermentations in order to prevent solids from settling into the bore of the stem. If an adapter or valve does become blocked, there are simple procedures for clearing it (See Racking below).

BetterBottle carboys are well suited for primary fermentation as well as secondary fermentation and clarification. There are a number of advantages to performing primary fermentations in BetterBottle carboys rather than plastic pails: 1) BetterBottle carboys are clear, so it is possible to see how a fermentation is proceeding and to rack more effectively; 2) The tapered shoulder of the carboy results in better removal of foam, which can contain undesirable components (e.g., volatiles and denatured substances) that are best removed (i.e., kraeusen); and 3) Plastic pails are injection molded and are likely to be made of materials that impart, or carry over, strong flavors.

Wine and beer kits may call for primary volumes that fill BetterBottle containers so full that the surface area is insufficient for the initial aerobic stage of fermentation or even modest foaming would cause excessive loss of liquid. In these cases, begin primary fermentation under slightly concentrated conditions and dilute to the recommended volumes once the initial rapid fermentation subsides.

Many juices produce only a modest foam during primary fermentation and there is no need for a blow hose. However, if foam rises to the point that it would enter the air lock, switch to a blow hose until the foam subsides. BetterBottle Universal Closures will accept an 11 mm (1/2") OD tubing, which should serve nicely as a blow hose for even the most foamy strained juices. Juices and worts that contain solids are likely to require a larger opening; the BetterBottle Big Blow Closure is designed for these cases. Use the Closures & Funnel tab to the left of this page for information about blow hoses. BetterBottle recommends keeping blow hoses as short as possible and placing their open ends into a small, short glass in a sink or basin. Liquid in the glass will serve as a trap and overflow will run into the sink, where it can be easily rinsed away, or into the basin. As soon as foam no longer rises into the neck of the carboy, replace the blow hose with an air lock, preferably a BetterBottle DryTrap. DryTrap air locks are particularly well suited for use with BetterBottle carboys; they will no blow out or suck back and they can play an important role during racking (see below). Use the DryTrap tab to the left of this page for specific information about DryTrap air locks.

In order to minimize the number of times a carboy is opened during fermentation, BetterBottle recommends placing a hygrometer in the carboy when the air lock is installed. If a carboy is equipped with a Racking Adapter and SimpleFlo valve, test samples of the wine or beer can be drawn through the valve.

If solid items (e.g., oak chips, elderberry, etc.) are added for flavoring, BetterBottle suggests placing them in a winemaker's tea bag to prevent them from floating above the sediment and being transferred during racking.


Racking

Racking wine or beer can certainly be done in a traditional fashion with siphons or pumps, using plain BetterBottle carboys. However, BetterBottle Adapters and SimpleFlo valves make racking far more convenient. They also make it simple to rack under, closed-loop conditions to reduce, or eliminate, oxygen contamination. It is essentially impossible to perform closed-loop racking with siphons.
Use the Racking Adapters and SimpleFlo Valve tabs to the left of this page for detailed information about these components and the connection of tubings. Use the Tubing tab to the left of this page for information about PET-lined tubing. Unlike conventional tubing, this special tubing does not scalp flavors and is exceptionally easy to sanitize.

The following sub-sections provide suggestions for performing: 1) Pail-to-carboy, open racking; 2) Carboy-to-carboy, low-oxygen, closed-loop racking; and 3) Carboy-to-carboy, oxygen-free, closed-loop racking. The steps for the three approaches are so similar that they could be integrated; however, in the interests of clarity and because there are so few steps, each of the approaches is described independently.

In all three approaches, the bottom of the full (input) carboy, or pail, should be positioned well above the top of the output (empty) carboy. When the input carboy, or pail, is placed on a 1 meter (39 inches) high counter and the empty carboy is placed on the floor, the wine or beer will flow at about 2.5 liters/min using 1/4" ID PET-lined tubing and 4 liters/min using 3/8" ID tubing. BetterBottle recommends using the smaller ID tubing and taking a couple extra minutes, because racking too quickly only makes it difficult to rack cleanly.

Important: Racking flow will be greatly reduced if a bubble of gas becomes trapped in the tubing through which liquid is being transferred. In the case of 1/4" ID PET-lined tubing, the gas in the transfer tubing will essentially always be pushed out by the flow of liquid. Sometimes, gas will trap in 3/8" PET-lined tubing, but it can be coaxed out by tapping the tubing at various points while the liquid is flowing. Removing trapped gas from 1/2" ID siphon tubing can be a nuisance.


Pail-to-Carboy (Open) Racking

Racking from a pail, fitted with a BetterBottle Pail Adapter and SimpleFlo valve, into a BetterBottle carboy, fitted with a Racking Adapter and SimpleFlo valve, entails little more than connecting a tubing.
  1. Prepare a sanitized output (empty) carboy and insert a sanitized DryTrap air lock.
  2. If there is any doubt about whether or not the outlets of the SimpleFlo valves are sanitized when you are ready to begin racking, take a moment to sanitize and rinse them. The valves can be rotated, so it is easy to sanitize and rinse their outlets with a small squirt bottle or a dropper. A sponge or cup can be used to catch drips. Rotate the outlets of the valves downward to drain any residual rinse water.
  3. Rotate the Racking Adapter of the carboy so the opening of the adapter's internal stem is pointed downward, but not quite straight down.
  4. Prepare an appropriate length of sanitized transfer tubing and connect the valves together. Refer to the schematic drawing to the right. The transfer tubing should be just a little longer than necessary to make the connection. The valves can be rotated to prevent interference with the surfaces on which the pail and carboy have been placed and to minimize the length of tubing required.
  5. Open the valves to permit the wine or beer to transfer from the pail into the carboy.
  6. If there is only a little sediment in the pail, tilt the pail slightly to recover more clear liquid.
  7. To recover the liquid remaining in the transfer tubing at the end of racking:
    1. Close the output carboy's SimpleFlo valve and press down lightly on the shoulder of the carboy for a moment to expel some air from the carboy through the DryTrap air lock (a one-way valve); thereby, creating a slight vacuum inside the carboy.
    2. Partially open the carboy valve until the liquid remaining in the tubing has been drawn into the output carboy. If some liquid remains in the tubing, repeat these last two steps.


Carboy-to-Carboy (Closed-Loop) Racking

Racking between two BetterBottle carboys, fitted with Racking Adapters and SimpleFlo valves, can be done in exactly the same open manner as racking from a pail to a carboy. However, the adapters and valves make it so easy to rack between carboys under closed-loop conditions that there is no reason to rack any other way. Racking under low-oxygen, closed-loop conditions requires no advanced planning or preparation, and racking under oxygen-free, closed-loop conditions requires only minimal advanced planning and preparation.

Low Oxygen
All you need in order to rack under low-oxygen, closed-loop conditions is two short lengths of tubing.



Simple Closed-Loop Racking

  1. Prepare a sanitized output (empty) carboy and insert a sanitized DryTrap air lock.
  2. If there is any doubt about whether or not the outlets of the SimpleFlo valves are sanitized when you are ready to begin racking, take a moment to sanitize and rinse them. The valves can be rotated, so it is easy to sanitize and rinse their outlets with a small squirt bottle or a dropper. A sponge or cup can be used to catch drips. Rotate the outlets of the valves downward to drain any residual rinse water.
  3. Rotate the Racking Adapter of the input (full) carboy to position the opening of the adapter's internal stem about 1" (2.5 cm) above the sediment layer.
  4. Rotate the Racking Adapter of the output carboy so the opening of the adapter's internal stem is pointed downward, but not quite straight down.
  5. Prepare an appropriate length of sanitized transfer tubing and connect the valves together. Refer to step "A" in the schematic drawing above. The transfer tubing should be just a little longer than necessary to make the connection. The valves can be rotated to prevent interference with the surfaces on which the carboys have been placed and to minimize the length of tubing required.
  6. Prepare a sanitized pressure balancing tubing with a 90 hose barb closure adapter at one end, using an appropriate length of 1/4" ID tubing, and connect the port of the input carboy's closure to the hose barb of the DryTrap installed in the output carboy. Refer to step "A" in the schematic drawing above.
  7. Open the valves to permit the wine or beer to transfer. Refer to step "B" in the schematic drawing above.
  8. When the level of the clarified liquid in the input carboy approaches the stem of the Racking Adapter, rotate the stem slowly downward until it is just above the point where sediment would start to be drawn up. Refer to step "C" in the schematic drawing above. Closing the valve somewhat will reduce the flow rate and permit you to position the stem closer to the sediment layer. If flow breaks off before all of the clarified liquid has been recovered, you can position the stem a little lower and easily restart the flow, even if it does not start spontaneously.
  9. To restart flow that breaks off before racking is complete and when the liquid level is too low to flow spontaneously, or to recover the liquid remaining in the transfer tubing at the end of racking:

    1. Close the output carboy's SimpleFlo valve and press down lightly on the shoulder of the carboy for a moment to expel some air from the carboy through the DryTrap air lock (a one-way valve); thereby, creating a slight vacuum inside the output carboy.
    2. Partially open the carboy valve until the liquid remaining in the tubing has been drawn into the output carboy. If some liquid remains in the tubing, repeat these last two steps.

Oxygen Free
All you need in order to rack under oxygen-free, closed-loop conditions is two short lengths of tubing and a way of purging the oxygen from the output (empty) carboy. The cost of renting a tank of a dense purge gas (e.g., argon, nitrogen, or CO2) and a pressure regulator is not great; however low-pressure CO2 costs very little, if anything. Inexpensive dry ice (solid CO2) is readily available from ice cream shops and many supermarkets. However, fermenting 20 liters of wine or beer to an ethanol concentration of 5% (ABV) will produce about 380 liters of CO2, way more than necessary to purge a carboy free of charge.

Note: Before using dry ice, learn about handling it safely and follow good safety practices. Sixty grams (~2 oz) of dry ice, a chunk about the size of a large standard ice cube (3.5 cm X 3.5 cm X 3.5 cm), will sublime (evaporate) to produce approximately 45 liters of CO2, enough to purge a closed-loop very nicely. The dry ice can be broken up and placed in a relatively small, wide-mouth, transparent, plastic bottle, equipped with a closure to which a 1/2" ID tubing can be attached. Do not use a glass or metal container and be sure pressure cannot build up! To increase the rate at which the dry ice evaporates, the bottle can be warmed gently by placing it in warm water. Dry ice should not damage BetterBottle carboys; however, BetterBottle recommends that dry ice not be placed directly into the output carboy, because commercial dry ice may contain solid contaminants (e.g., dust, bits of paper, etc.)

The purge gas should be introduced through the valve of the output carboy, because recommended purge gases are more dense than oxygen and purging will be somewhat more efficient. The configuration of the tubings during the purging stage depends on the source of purge gas.

Fermentation CO2 If the choice of gas is CO2 produced during fermentation, a connection must be made from the top of the input carboy to the valve of the output carboy while fermentation remains very active.



Purged Closed-Loop Racking (Fermentation CO2)

  1. Prepare a sanitized output (empty) carboy and insert a sanitized DryTrap air lock.
  2. When you are ready to begin purging, if there is any doubt about whether or not the outlet of the SimpleFlo valve attached to the output carboy is sanitized, take a moment to sanitize and rinse it. The valve can be rotated, so it is easy to sanitize and rinse its outlets with a small squirt bottle or a dropper. A sponge or cup can be used to catch drips. Rotate the outlet of the valve downward to drain any residual rinse water.
  3. Rotate the output carboy's Racking Adapter so the opening of the adapter's internal stem is pointed downward, but not quite straight down.
  4. Prepare a sanitized pressure balancing tubing with a 90 hose barb closure adapter at one end, using an appropriate length of 1/4" ID tubing; connect the port of the input (full) carboy's closure to the output carboy's valve by pushing the tubing into the ID of the valve's output; and open the valve. Refer to step "A1" in the schematic drawing above. As the DryTrap valve opens and closes with the flow of CO2, it makes a gentle clicking, which serves as a simple indicator that fermentation remains active.
  5. When it is time to rack, rotate the Racking Adapter of the input carboy to position the opening of the adapter's internal stem about 1" (2.5 cm) above the sediment layer. Refer to step "B" in the schematic drawing above.
  6. Close the output carboy's valve connect the end of the pressure balancing tubing to the hose barb of the DryTrap installed in the output carboy. Refer to step "B" in the schematic drawing above.
  7. Re-sanitize the outlet of the output carboy's valve.
  8. Prepare an appropriate length of sanitized transfer tubing and connect the valves of the input and output carboys together. Refer to step "B" in the schematic drawing above. The transfer tubing should be just a little longer than necessary to make the connection. The valves can be rotated to prevent interference with the surfaces on which the carboys have been placed and to minimize the length of tubing required.
  9. Open the valves to permit the wine or beer to transfer.
  10. When the level of the clarified liquid in the input carboy approaches the stem of the Racking Adapter, rotate the stem slowly downward until it is just above the point where sediment would start to be drawn up. Refer to step "C" in the schematic drawing above. Closing the valve somewhat will reduce the flow rate and permit you to position the stem closer to the sediment layer. If flow breaks off before all of the clarified liquid has been recovered, you can position the stem a little lower and easily restart the flow, even if it does not start spontaneously.
  11. To restart flow that breaks off before racking is complete and when the liquid level is too low to flow spontaneously, or to recover the liquid remaining in the transfer tubing at the end of racking:

    1. Close the output carboy's SimpleFlo valve and press down lightly on the shoulder of the carboy for a moment to expel some air from the carboy through the DryTrap air lock (a one-way valve); thereby, creating a slight vacuum inside the output carboy.
    2. Partially open the carboy valve until the liquid remaining in the tubing has been drawn into the output carboy. If some liquid remains in the tubing, repeat these last two steps.


External Purge Gas When the source of purge gas is external, arranging to have the gas available is the only preparation required.



Purged Closed-Loop Racking (External Purge Gas)

  1. Prepare a sanitized output (empty) carboy and insert a sanitized DryTrap air lock.
  2. When you are ready to begin racking, if there is any doubt about whether or not the outlets of the SimpleFlo valves are sanitized, take a moment to sanitize and rinse them. The valves can be rotated, so it is easy to sanitize and rinse their outlets with a small squirt bottle or a dropper. A sponge or cup can be used to catch drips. Rotate the outlets of the valves downward to drain out any residual rinse water.
  3. Rotate the Racking Adapter of the input (full) carboy to position the opening of the adapter's internal stem about 1" (2.5 cm) above the sediment layer.
  4. Rotate the Racking Adapter of a sanitized output carboy so the opening of the adapter's internal stem is pointed downward, but not quite straight down.
  5. Prepare a length of sanitized transfer tubing that is just a little longer than necessary to connect the input and output carboys' valves together and connect one end to the output carboy's valve. Refer to step "A2" in the schematic drawing above. The valves can be rotated to prevent interference with the surfaces on which the carboys have been placed and to minimize the length of tubing required.
  6. Prepare a sanitized pressure balancing tubing with a "T" hose barb closure adapter at one end, using an appropriate length of 1/4" ID tubing, and connect the port of the input carboy's closure to the hose barb of the DryTrap installed in the output carboy. Refer to step "A2" in the schematic drawing above.
  7. Be sure the output carboy's valve is open and connect the source of purge gas to the free end of the transfer tubing. Run the equivalent of about 4 carboy volumes of purge gas through the output carboy and pressure balancing tubing.
  8. Turn off the flow of purge gas, connect the free end of the transfer tubing to the input carboy's valve, and close off the open end of the "T" hose barb closure adapter in the input carboy's closure. Refer to step "B" in the schematic drawing above.
  9. Open the valves to permit the wine or beer to transfer.
  10. When the level of the clarified liquid in the input carboy approaches the stem of the Racking Adapter, rotate the stem slowly downward until it is just above the point where sediment would start to be drawn up. Refer to step "C" in the schematic drawing above. Closing the valve somewhat will reduce the flow rate and permit you to position the stem closer to the sediment layer. If flow breaks off before all of the clarified liquid has been recovered, you can position the stem a little lower and easily restart the flow, even if it does not start spontaneously.
  11. To restart flow that breaks off before racking is complete and when the liquid level is too low to flow spontaneously, or to recover the liquid remaining in the transfer tubing at the end of racking:

    1. Close the output carboy's SimpleFlo valve and press down lightly on the shoulder of the carboy for a moment to expel some air from the carboy through the DryTrap air lock (a one-way valve); thereby, creating a slight vacuum inside the output carboy.
    2. Partially open the carboy valve, until the remaining liquid has been drawn into the output carboy. If some liquid remains in the tubing, repeat these last two steps.


Bottling

BetterBottle SimpleFlo valves are designed so a standard 3/8" bottling stem with a valve tip will fit into the outlet. This makes it convenient to bottle and rack at the same time without any pumps or siphons. Contact with oxygen can be minimized by maintaining an inert gas blanket over the wine or beer in the BetterBottle carboy and flushing each bottle with the gas just before it is filled.


Cleaning Up

BetterBottle carboys are more easily washed and sanitized than glass carboys, because BetterBottle carboys are so light weight and the surface of the special PET from which they are made is non-porous and hydrophobic. For details see the Wash/Sanitize section, under the Technical tab at the top of this page.

Stiff brushes, abrasive scouring pads, and cleansers should never be required, or used.