Thinking about canning beer for yourself? You might be on to something! Canning is a great way for homebrewers to impress their friends and for taprooms to make extra revenue from to-go sales. They’re also less expensive than bottles, better at preserving flavor, and easier on the environment.
In order to start canning, you’ll need a few pieces of equipment and some supplies, and we’ve got the full list right here.
Oktober’s Beer Canning Best Practices
We’ve been in the beer canning space for a long time, and we’ve created several best practices to ensure that your beer is well-preserved and tastes great.
Keep in mind that how you fill a can (and what equipment you’ll need) will depend on what you’re serving and how it’s meant to be consumed. For instance, if you’re selling to-go cans out the door, you can probably fill straight from a tap. However, if you’re selling beverages that won’t be drunk until later, it's best to purge oxygen from the can with CO2. If too much oxygen gets into the can during filling, it can break down the ingredients over time and affect the flavor.
Our Beer Canning Supplies Checklist
Sterilized Brite Cans and Lids
In order to start canning, you’ll need some quality cans to fill. There are plenty of options available, including silver or “blank” brite cans, custom-labeled cans, or classic “Drink Local” cans. Of course, you should always sterilize your cans before using them, even if you just had them delivered.
Beer Gun or Hose
Many of our clients choose to fill their cans directly from the keg using a hose and valve setup. That’s a good choice, though a filling wand or beer gun can be a bit easier to work with. A few fancy beer guns even have a built-in CO2 dispenser, so you can fill even faster.
They’ll also allow you to fill your beer from the bottom, which reduces oxygen reintroduction and foaming. Also, the volume of the hose or wand typically creates the perfect headspace for your fill.
If you’re planning to can a lot of beer, and you need to do it quickly, keep in mind that it takes a lot longer to fill a single can than it does to seam it. So if you want to pick up the pace, you’ll either need multiple people filling cans or a multi-head filler.
If either you or your customers plan to store your beer for any length of time, it’s a good bet to use a CO2 dispenser to purge oxygen from the can. You can be pretty flexible with your tools for CO2 purging. While you can buy CO2 purging guns specifically made for canning, you can also use a simple shop airgun as long as it allows you to gently dispense CO2 at the bottom of the can before filling.
Using a scale is a solid way to check the fill level of your cans. Just make sure your scale is accurate, reliable, and regularly calibrated. If you don’t have a scale handy, you can always drop the cans into some water. Cans that float easily have too much air, while those that sink are slightly overfilled. A can that lightly (one might say delicately) floats just at the water’s surface is the Goldilocks zone you’re looking for.
Dissolved Oxygen Meter
If you want to get scientific about making sure your beer doesn’t go stale, you can use a dissolved oxygen meter. These will ensure that you’re not letting too much oxygen into your product and affecting the taste during weeks of storage. However, these little meters can be expensive, and they probably aren’t necessary for homebrewers or to-go orders.
If you’re looking for a less expensive way to test the effects of storage on the flavor of your beer, there’s one pretty simple method. Drink it yourself! We always recommend that you continuously test your product at different lengths of storage to ensure quality.
Cleaning and Maintenance Supplies
One of the most important parts of beer canning is making sure that your space is clean. Perform regular cleaning and maintenance of your beer canning equipment to prevent the growth of bacteria and ensure that it’s working in peak condition. While cleaning, use food-safe grease and oil to keep your equipment running at peak condition. You’ll also need a set of good tools for maintenance and calibration, including wrenches, nippers, seam tear-down tools, and calipers.
Beer Can Seamer
The last step in the process is seaming your can, and for that, you’ll need a fast and reliable can seamer. Oktober Can Seamers offers a range of options, including the Model 8 automatic can seamer for professional use and the SL1 Homebrewer and BenchMK for hobbyists.
The Model 8 requires minimal maintenance, is available in custom colors, and can complete a seam in just a few seconds. We have different models available, from 8 oz SLEEK cans up to 32 oz CrowlerTM cans.
How Much Does Craft Beer Canning Equipment Cost?
The amount you’ll be spending on brewery canning equipment will depend on how much canning you’ll do and how you plan on drinking or selling your beer. You can get by on filling with just a keg, a hose, and a plan if you really want to. The cans themselves are relatively inexpensive, you can buy more than enough to get started for less than $100. You can also order an entry-level can seamer for homebrewing at around $499.
If you’re looking to purchase a low–maintenance, professional-grade can seamer, multi-head filler, dissolved oxygen meter, precise scale, and other beer canning supplies, you’re looking at spending $6,000—$9,000. But that can easily be worth it if you’re adding an entirely new revenue stream to your business that will last for years.