Home brewing is an increasingly popular hobby, and a remarkably rewarding one: home-made wines, meads, beers and ciders are delicious, inexpensive, easier to get going than you might imagine and make fantastic presents. You can buy all your ingredients online or use things you grow in your own garden, and as the years pass you'll find the quality of the drinks you produce becomes ever higher.
It's important to bottle your home-brewed drinks correctly, though. If you don't, you may find that they turn or spoil long before their time--and in some cases, the wrong type of bottle can even explode! So how can you be sure you're getting it right?
To Recycle Or Not To Recycle?
There's absolutely no reason not to buyrecycled bottles for your home brewed drinks. It's just as tough and versatile, and much better for the planet. Recycled glass is also a great deal cheaper than new glass, meaning that you can save yourself a lot of money by going green!
Beers and Ciders
Beer and cider tend to be at least slightly carbonated. Just how carbonated they are will depend on how much sugar is in them, but there's usually at least a little fizz--and that fizz will last for longer in a glass bottle than in a plastic one. Plastic can also affect the taste of beer, which glass doesn't; all told, a glass bottle is your best bet.
You should look for dark-coloured glass to help protect your flavour compounds from light degradation. Beer that has been ruined by too much light can be quite disgusting! If you must use clear glass for your beer, make sure to store it in a dark place to keep it tasting great.
The pressure caused by the carbonation means that screw top bottles usually aren't appropriate; buy a device for capping your bottled properly with metal caps, or invest in a set of reusable flip-top bottles.
Wines and Meads
Light, fresh wines that don't have a very long shelf life--such as elderflower champagne, for example, which ferments in a very short time and needs to be drunk quite soon after it's made--are fine in plastic bottles with screw tops, and they're certainly a convenient way to store them.
Older, longer-lasting wines, however, mature far better in a glass bottle than a plastic one--and indeed for some wines bottle aging is a part of the maturation process. Choose opaque glass bottles for red wines, to protect the flavour compounds; mead and white wine will be fine in clear bottles, however.
A screw top will be absolutely fine for wine and mead, and there's little point buying a bottle corker; they're fiddly to use and provide very little benefit!