The Myth of Oxidizing and the Paranoia of Homebrewers

I don’t use a bottling wand (for those who don’t know, a bottling wand is a long tube that allows you to fill bottles from the bottom up). I bottle directly from a spigot attached to my fermenter (above the trub line, see here). So yes, although I do it gently and on an angle, I do get some oxygen in my beer when bottling. Oh my God! Oxidized beer! Cardboard IPA! Ahhhh! Fuck!Cardboard-box-open-lg-1-

Actually, no.

After about 60 batches, I’ve never noticed oxidized beer; that is, stale cardboard flavor. It’s not something I worry about. If I aged beer in the bottle, then I probably would worry about it. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that most homebrewers are like me and drink their beer when it’s ready, within a few months.

All overblown myths and worries are based on a slice of truth. Science says that oxygen can affect your beer. I don’t dispute that. In fact, One Pot Brewing incidentally reduces oxygen by never having to transfer the beer into another vessel (anyone that has used an auto-siphon knows what I’m talking about…they splash). When it comes to oxygen, the question is how much? On what scale? And perhaps most importantly: How long does it take?

The internet for beginning homebrewers is a scary place, a place where everyone seems to have strong opinions that if you don’t buy x, y, or z (in this case, a bottling wand), your beer will suck. Sometimes it’s people showing off what they know, but usually it’s well intentioned advice. To me, it’s an unfriendly environment for a person that just wants to make some cheap beer at home and drink it. I’m not going to pretend to know the science or anything like that, but I do have some educated guesses. I think this paranoia comes from applying commercial brewing science to homebrewing, as the brulospher routinely exposes. Commercial brewing has to worry about oxidizing much more than we do. They are brewing insanely huge batches, storing them, shipping them, etc. Also, people are just overly cautious and like having “insurance” and “peace of mind.” They don’t want to risk ruining a beer over a $4 bottle filler (and the stupid 1 inch tube you have to buy just to attach the damn thing). Good for them.

We need to clam down and stop worrying. And if you don’t have actual experience to back up your claims, then maybe reconsider. Just because you read something on the internet doesn’t make it true in practice. This sounds like a rant but it’s all in good fun. I’m still a young brewer so I have much to learn. I know one thing from experience: bottling wands are not necessary to make good beer. Anyone who disagrees is on crack.

Why Get a Bottling Wand
Having said all this, I’m actually considering getting a bottle filler! I know, funny, right? It would be a decision based on convenience, but I’m actually on the fence about it. First, I’m not sure it would save much time, if any. If I filled them all at once, and then capped all at once, sure that would be more efficient and save time. But if I fill, then cap (like I do), then I’m not sure I”m saving time at all. They seem to fill bottles at the same speed. Second, those bottling wands are super long, making you have to squat down even lower to fill the bottles. It’s not comfortable. Alternately, you could move your beer to a higher location, which isn’t ideal because you don’t want to rouse all the crap from the bottom.

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3 thoughts on “The Myth of Oxidizing and the Paranoia of Homebrewers

  1. Scott K says:

    I have been brewing a lot longer than you and the only oxidised beer I have ever had I had at a brewpub. I wasn’t sure if I would know it if I ever had it till I had it and you can’t really miss the wet cardboard awfulness. But I have never had a home brew that was oxidised. I keg and hardly any of my beer has hit the three month after brewing date when the keg blew.

    When I bottled I liked the wand. First off it stops at the tip so less dripping, and the want leaves the right amount of headroom if you fill to the top. Mine did anyway. I was syphoning so the valve was important. For you? If you are having a good time why change.

    Related to a different post…

    It won’t fit your all in one pot process but I add water to the grain and I add a LOT of water, as in as much as the cooler holds. I’m doing double (semi Parti-Gyle) 5 gal batches so I will have to do a second batch sparge anyway. The point is when doing very wet mashes I have never had dough ball problems. I do some stirring just because but you can see the air bubble out as you add the water. I started after a much more experienced brewer talked about working this way and he never even stirred. He was a multiple award winner so I figured why not. That was four years and almost 600 gallons of beer ago and I haven’t had any issues.

    Liked by 1 person

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