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  • Bottle cleaning machinery

    Anyone have any experience with refillable bottle cleaning machines? We're exploring a project, and I've very little experience with these.

    Looking for a machine that would clean up to 2500+ 12 oz bottles in a typical 4 hr shift and have the bottles suitably clean to go back onto the bottling line. Best would be a unit that doesn't require clean steam.

    I don't even know what manufacturers to look at...any help would be welcome!


  • #2
    Well, talk about your perverbial "can of worms". Having lived in Germany many years working in the (90% dominated returnable bottle) beverage industry, I think your best bet is to check out the German suppliers like Krones, KHS and others.

    But, just to warn you: refilling bottles which MAY have been used for various purposes (which you never know - oil, cigarettes, urine, etc), possible broken bottles (hair break), and the generally huge apparatus (read: $$) you need to insure the quality of your product is the reason why many US breweries use new glass. Sounds great on paper (being green), but do not underestimate the lengths you must go to, financially, space-wise and energy-wise.

    Here a gander at larger washing machines from Krones.


    • #3
      There are a number of used equipment dealers in Germany that deal in small bottlewashers though they are still bigger than what you are talking. You might find a 12 wide that can run at a minimum speed of 5 drops/minute =60 bpm but they are rare.

      You will need a fairly large steam boiler (1000000 btu) and the downstream bottle inspection is mandatory for the reasons above. The footprint is large for a small brewer and uncasing the glass by hand means you have a dirty end with associated fruit flies, broken glass, debris, etc... and you need a baler for the cardboard which will cost you to get rid of it (beerboard is not popular because of debris and reinforcement tape issues). Your manpower requirements go up massively. It is not uncommon for small brewers to have up to 18 people on a returnable line in Canada and more on a big brewery line.

      Forget being green with these machines. You put a massive amount of water down the drain per minute and a lot of halogens (caustic/chlorine) which are necessary to run them. My 28 wide machine ran at 45 gal/min to drain for a 300 bpm line. Remember, you are keeping an entire machine/caustic pool at 170F in order for it to adequately clean the bottle. The energy requirement is large no matter what the scale. The payback in Canada and Germany is a reduced cost/bottle. The big breweries here look at a bottle as $.03 costing across its life cycle. We use twist-offs here which is insane and unsafe on a returnable bottle but moronic marketing depts run things up here. Germany uses crown caps which is much safer and less prone to breakage.

      I would highly recommend you watch all the video you can on this before commiting and if you do find a smaller machine option then certainly let us know


      • #4
        There's a company up in Calgary that had used equipment for bottle washing. We were looking at one from them and mostly decided against it due to the huge cost environmentally, and $$$ wise to get started. We're just a small brewery and it would have required an upgrade to a 1M BTU high pressure boiler.

        Call them to see - it may still be there.

        A.M. Jade Company, Beverage and brewery equipment supplier providing high quality new, used and reconditioned equipment solutions to the beverage and brewing


        • #5

          All of this isn't very encouraging.

          I was hoping for a little 6 or 12 bottle wide unit with label remover and soak. The plan is to offer the service locally only (crowns, not twist) in wooden boxes of 18 bottles (no cardboard).

          Now I'm wondering if such a (l'il) beast could be built. I built my own cleaner/racker for much harder could bottles be?

          Probably a lot harder.

          Any bright ideas? I'm pretty hot on this for our community...even if it ends up costing the same as non-refillable bottles...and as long as I can find a way to keep the energy/pollution down.



          • #6
            Check this out.

            I'm following up right now with the engineering department and will keep you posted in terms of pricing and details etc.

            Love to have a prototype to trial for them. I think I could live with their current 40 seconds per bottle.

            Natrat: I encourage you (if you have any time) to pursue the building of that which you seek. It can't be that complex.

            Once again though, I could be wrong.


            Last edited by liammckenna; 08-11-2010, 07:46 PM.
            Liam McKenna


            • #7
              Okay Liam,
              Where in the Telegram is the bottlewashing option?


              • #8
                Just on a side note...

                There have been MANY studies done in Germany to determine whether or not refillable bottles are economically and eco-nomically "better" than using new glass. The results were pointing towards them being equal, due to energy costs for washing, heating, chemicals, rinsing, disposal of chemicals (aerating), and of course double the space requirements to store used bottles. The only redeeming factor is and was the $0.03 cost per bottle which Rob mentions when considering an average of 10 fills per bottle.

                How will you know if a bottle is usable when it returns? Of course you can always do the Laverne & Shirley method of optically inspecting every bottle, but please also be aware that the standard US 12 ounce bottle was not made to be re-used. If you do decide to do this, look at european made glass bottles which are considerable heavier/sturdier.

                If you are like most returnable systems, you will need to charge a deposit for each bottle. How will you credit retailers? Will retailers allow your (stinking) bottles to sit around their store? What about bottles that are not from you, which will inevitably end up in your possession?

                Can of worms IMO...most German brewers would LOVE to go to non-returnable packaging, but the public demands it.
                Last edited by einhorn; 08-11-2010, 07:39 PM.


                • #9
                  Sorry Rob (and everybody else)

                  Try this

                  Not sure what happened. I'll edit the earlier post.


                  Liam McKenna


                  • #10
                    Einhorn's bottle weight issue is a big concern. A US NR 12 oz bottle with label comes in around 198gr (Sorry, metric up here). A returnable 12 oz with label in Canada is 270gr.

                    When I'm talking to startups who ask me where to put their brewery, I always remind them of the industry their getting in.

                    Beer is weight. It costs more to buy returnable packaging (25% more glass, heavier boxes to carry it - with unrecyclable reinforcement tape built in so the handles don't blow out) and beer has to be distributed which means you are paying for the extra weight in gasoline.

                    And then you get to pay for truckloads of empty, dirty, fly, condom, syringe infested cartons of glass coming back your plant and you must handle it and pay to get rid of the 1 way cartons that are virtually unrecyclable. At least the German's use recleanable plastic crates that allow for automation. Our countries are too large for this without a massive commitment.

                    Your biggest component cost in any beer sold is distribution so an ultra lightweight can with a can/lid weight of 15gr? and a height of <5" and a very lightweight high graphic package that is completely recyclable and your cost/gal shipped is the lowest is without question the greenest package alternative available (nice run-on sentence eh?). Ignore the greenies with the energy cost/can arguement. We actually do it and washing is an environmental disaster that compares with BP.

                    That said, I'm stuck with it so if you find out any more Liam, I am interested.


                    • #11
                      fair enough

                      All of these are good points and well taken IF we were planning to do classic distribution. And in that vein, we are packaging in non refillables and trucking them to points afar.

                      However, in this small community (1500 ppl, with another 2000 40 km away, and a summer population of 22500 new people/tourists each day) we were hoping to get a local program going. Thick, refillable glass is available from India in the $.02-03 range, coming in at $.11 after shipping. We would use wooden crates, and pick up empties when we delivered full...and no deposit, voluntary recycling (not recycling around here is a big taboo)

                      It's more of a publicity and local green movement thing than a cost cutting measure. Because we'd use custom molded bottles sorting others (which would invariably come back) into a bin wouldn't be a chore. We're thinking about leasing a 1935 Dodge flatbed from a friend of mine for delivery. Like I say, publicity. We figure local sales to be around 2500 bottles a day in full season.

                      Thinking about slinging all that extra bottle weight does make my back ache, but it would just be liquid if it weren't glass. The wooden box is a lot heavier than the cardboard, too. But that's why dollies and power liftgates were invented, right? :-)

                      I'm not expecting to save money on this, but I'm hoping that it is money better spent than an advertising campaign. We're not really looking to expand production, just make a community effort.

                      I found a made in china 6 wide machine online that does a hot caustic soak, rinse, sanitize, filtered water rinse, and then a seperate label removing machine. Footprint seemed about the same as a Meheen+labeller. I emailed them for more info and a price. But there is a lot of stainless around here from closed fish processing plants, and I'm browsing it to see if any can be adapted for this. Yesterday I saw 4 idle SEW units! Lexicor has a plastic conveyor system that is modular and has tube/spray units available. I'm having fun, now, figuring this out.

                      Always a new project...thanks for the input, guys (and girls) !



                      • #12
                        Okay, I'm interested. Please post results.


                        • #13
                          I'm interested to hear how things go with this plan. Personally, I would not change my production process so radically just for a questionable result, especially amongst tourists who probably don't care as much as locals, not to mention the costs, time and thought involved. Personally, I would have started a marketing campaign which would (for example) allow customers to come in (or you drive around and pick up) and recycle their bottles, giving out coupons for beer, swag or services. IMO glass is a good packaging when it's properly recycled - that should be the message. You could even extend it to non-brewery bottles if you really want to get non-customers into the process.

                          Best of luck!


                          • #14
                            As Dave Meheen can attest to, much of the equipment we use as craft brewers did not exist a number of years ago. When I first started in the industry (late '70's), I saw a 12 wide bottlewasher in a sodapop plant that didn't have a label removal process because all the bottles were silk screened. I have not seen too many machines smaller than the standard 40 wide that would have any appeal to a Meheen user (or other <50bpm) lines. Of course, their are other markets in the world that have different production requirements and needs. The following machine comes from that mould.

                            After reading Nat's posting about his particular situation, I followed his suggestion to a website for Gongda Machine Company in Jinan City in China. I received the following specs for my 500ml bottle:

                            1. Principle Features
                            The machine contains the inner washing machine , the outside label removing machine , and soaking machine etc...

                            2. Principal parameters:
                            Bottle spec: Bottle outside diameter 56-64mm
                            Bottle height: 140-390mm
                            Production capability 1800 bph (30bpm)
                            Inner washing machine Main motor power 1.1kw
                            Inside washing motor 0.55kw
                            Inside washing motor 505 rev/min
                            Pressure of water supplying 0.3-0.4Mpa
                            Bottle feeding speed 7.24m/min
                            Driver plate speed 7.28r/min
                            Outer size 1750×1320×1320mm
                            Weight 1100kg
                            Outside label removing machine Orbit motor 0.75kw
                            Orbit speed 11.13r/min
                            Outside washing motor 0.75kw
                            Water pump motor 0.37kw
                            Water consumption 2.8 m3/h (2800 lph sounds high?)
                            Outer size 2900×800×1350mm
                            Weight 600kg
                            Steeping machine Liquid temperature 45-65oC (about right)
                            NaOH solution concentration 2-4%% (that's right)
                            Outer size 2400×2650×2400mm
                            Weight 450kg

                            I haven't figured out a way to insert a picture so you will have to check their site yourself at

                            Price: US$26875.00

                            Not bad. Very reasonable footprint. I am hoping to find out whether they have sold one into N.A. yet and will post when I do.


                            • #15
                              we are interested in a very low tech, labor intensive option for reusing old bottles.

                              our bottles are clear so visual inspection is easy fortunately.

                              i was thinking of soaking in big plastic tubs of chemicals for 30-60 mins each stage, possibly 3-5 stages. total throughput, about 4000 bottles/day for 2 workers.

                              the question then is what cleaners to use?

                              first stage i think soak for 60mins in detergent to loosen up the crap.
                              second stage pressure wash with clean detergent and chlorine
                              3rd stage, soak again for about 30-60mins in something like chlorinated alkali solution
                              4th stage, soak in acid solution then rinse

                              just before use we rinse all bottles (new and old) with sanitizer for 30 seconds and a final rinse in the monoblock with pure water and KMS

                              does this sound ok?

                              any suggestions about a better cleaning chemical chain? i want to do everything ar room temp which is about 30degC here.

                              thx steve
                              Full Moon Winery, Thailand