Using the best bottle caps for home brewing to seal beer has been a common method used for over a century. Learn more in this article.
It’s inexpensive and allows your beer to be more portable than a keg. This method is also a good option if you plan on gifting your home brew or entering competitions.
There is some debate about which type of cap is the best to use for home brewing. In my experience, color and material don’t matter. Instead, buy what you like aesthetically.
What makes a significant difference has more to do with your cap, capper, and bottle combination.
Allow me to explain in more detail below.
Do all Caps Work the Same for all Home Brewing Bottles?
The short answer is no. This answer is going to sound complicated but doesn’t have to be. Let me explain.
All metal bottle caps are crown caps. If you want to learn a bit about their more than 100-year history, then check out this article.
There are two kinds of crown caps, twist-off, and pry.
You can use a twist cap on bottles with or without threading (the little lines around the bottle opening). The reverse doesn’t work. You can’t use a pry cap on a bottle with threading.
Unless you’re paying for a cool design or color on your caps, most basic caps cost about the same amount. That’s why the price isn’t going to be the deciding factor for you on twist vs. pry.
What it will come down to is the extra work and stress involved with twist caps.
Twist caps are made of softer metal. This is so they form easily to the bottle threads during capping. This also allows them to be conveniently twisted open by hand.
But because the metal isn’t as strong, they have more room for error. Twist bottles vary in their neck sizes and threads, so getting a seal with the caps can be inconsistent. This is especially true if you’re using a bunch of different bottles for the same batch.
Twist bottles also vary in quality depending on your country. If you collect and save commercial bottles, be careful. You might have twist bottles that break easily during capping. In Canada, for example, twist-top bottles have thicker glass than their US counterparts.
Also, depending on which type of capper you use, the bottle might lack the shape for an adequate seal. Even though they’re more expensive upfront, a bench capper is best if you insist on bottling twist caps. Wing cappers tend to break bottlenecks more often on twist cap bottles.
My simple answer is don’t use twist-top bottles or twist caps. There are too many possible issues. Broken glass and beer that won’t seal will cause unnecessary amounts of stress during bottling. Not worth it.
What are Oxy Caps and do I Need Them?
You’ll also notice caps with descriptions like “oxy,” “oxygen barrier,” and “oxygen-absorbing.”
The materials used in these caps and cap liners claim to prevent oxygen from getting into your home brew. For this reason, they’re also recommended if you plan on aging a batch. But to this day, I’m not sure this isn’t a gimmick. In my own brews, I’ve never noticed a difference.
So the oxy factor isn’t a dealbreaker for me when buying caps.
Can I Save my Used Caps the Way I do With Bottles?
Some people save and recycle commercial caps, but I don’t recommend it.
If you’re going to try and save caps, you need to make sure they aren’t damaged at all when you open your beer. That’s tough without specific bottle openers. And good luck with this delicate art if it’s your second or third beer of the night.
Caps are one of the cheapest equipment costs for your home brew. Save yourself the hassle and the risk. Buy them new.
Which Caps Are The Best on the Market for Home Brewing?
The market is filled with different colors and designs for beer caps. Aside from my recommendation to use pry caps and un-threaded bottles, you should go with what you like.
You can get caps with hops on them, which look cool on hoppier beers like IPAs. You can get caps with fruit on them if you’re making fruit beers or ciders.
If you’re a minimalist, you can just buy plain caps.
If you’re looking for something unique, these cold-activated caps are fun. They change color when the bottle is cold, telling you when your beer is ready to drink.