Proper canning of carbonated beverages like beers is essential. If faulty canning practices are used, the beer can go flat, taste skunky, become a breeding ground for bacteria, and even explode. Finding an effective beer canning process is important for breweries, restaurants, and hobbyists alike. Learn how the proper use of beer canning machines can ensure the quality and safety of your products.
Why Your Beer Canning Process Matters
Canning beer helps preserve its shelf life. Oxygen is an agent of aging and degradation—that’s why metals like iron start to rust and apples turn brown when exposed to air. Canning beer with the aid of CO2 purging minimizes oxygen and enables beer to stay fresh longer. Cans are hermetically sealed, which keeps oxygen out and carbonation in.
Food safety isn’t the only thing that needs to be taken into consideration. The quality of flavor is important as well. Hops flavors can deteriorate quickly in the presence of oxygen, so proper canning methods are important to ensure the perfect flavor prevails while your product waits to be enjoyed.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Canning Beer
Even brand-new cans that have just been shipped to your doorstep should be sanitized—remember, they’ve been through warehouses and shipping trucks before arriving to you. Bacteria, fungi, and chemical contaminants can lurk on unsuspecting surfaces, and these are hazardous to the quality of your product and the health of consumers. You can never be too safe, so be sure to sanitize the cans and beer canning equipment prior to filling.
There are several methods of filling cans, from multi-head, automatic fillers to counter-pressure fillers, beer guns, etc. The bottom line is the method should fill quickly with as little turbulence as possible. The can should be filled nearly all the way to the top with beer, with minimal headspace.
The foam— which is bubbling CO2 that will displace oxygen in the can—should reach the top of the can but not take up too much space. Place the lid on top of the filled can as quickly as possible to avoid outside oxygen getting back in; minor overflow is acceptable.
To check for proper fill level, an easy test is to float a sealed can in water. If the can barely floats, it’s probably filled accurately. Weighing filled cans before sealing them is also a good method of getting consistent fill levels, since it is often difficult to see the level under foam.
Another important tip is to keep your beverage as chilled as possible to retain carbonation during the filling process. This is particularly important for beverages like seltzers, which can be nearly impossible to can at room temperature.
CO2 Purging of Oxygen
Oxygen is what causes the degradation of flavor over time. Removing as much oxygen from your can as possible will bring your product a longer shelf life. CO2 purging will deliver the best results for canned beer that’s intended to be enjoyed in a few weeks or months.
Some simple setups use a shop-style air gun for purging and filling. A good option for behind-the-bar canning is a CO2 tap at the end of the tap line. As CO2 is slowly released into the can, it forces out and displaces the existing oxygen. A bottom fill tube minimizes turbulence and separates the beer from the oxygen outside the can by creating a layer of CO2 on top of the beverage.
Leaky seals are clearly detrimental to the longevity of beer products. Ensuring a tight seal with a quality beer canning machine is essential when canning beverages. It’s a good idea to conduct seam inspections and quality tests periodically to make sure what you want in the can stays there—and what you don’t want stays out.
How do you know if your process is successful? Test it! To make sure the beer will be up to your expectations after storage, fill a few cans and schedule some tastings after a set period of time. Pour the beer straight off the tap, seal it, and let it sit for a few days or weeks before tasting it. Often that is all that a customer expects from a to-go beer.
For longer storage times, you might be surprised at the shelf life you can achieve with a dialed purge/bottom fill/cap-on-foam process. To let your customers know your intention for the can, you should always add an “Enjoy within:” with the date marked on your cans. You may also want to add “Keep refrigerated” for beers that may have residual sugars that can lead to secondary fermentation.
Our Best Tips for Canning Beer
Monitor Air Exposure Time
Minimal air exposure is vital for the mitigation of oxygen in beer cans to ensure quality across the board. Achieving a speedy and efficient beer canning process will result in the ultimate preservation of your product. The ability to fine-tune this step is why high-quality beer cans are so successful.
Cap On Foam
It’s best to achieve a small muffin top of foam above the fill level to set the end onto. The foam is CO2 that will seep out and down the side of the can as you press the can end down onto the can body, which forces out ever more tiny amounts of residual oxygen.
Pro-tip: hold the can at the rigid top and bottom edges rather than the center. Holding it in the center will squeeze the can slightly and push out more foam. As soon as you set the can in the seamer, however, that space will expand and suck in a small amount of air, resulting in more dissolved oxygen.
Choosing a Beer Canning System
Model 8 Can Seamers
Our automatic Model 8 can seamers seal cans of many different sizes at the push of a button. We also have Model 8 tooling sets available. It comes in a range of custom colors and has CrowlerTM models available.
Model 7 Can Seamers
Like the Model 8, our Model 7 line has nine variations, ranging from A to H. They can accommodate 202, 200, 206, 209, and 300 end tops. The Model 7 can finish seams within seconds with the push of a lever.
The SL1 Homebrewer is perfect for beer enthusiasts who’ve taken up making beer as a hobby or who are starting their own beer line out of their homes. It can seal 12-oz and 16-oz cans with size 202 end tops. It’s easy to use and was designed for non-commercial applications.
Our BenchMK Drill-Powered Can Seamer can be used on 12-oz and 16-oz cans with 202 end tops, much like the SL1 Homebrewer. It requires a handheld drill to operate, which must be purchased separately. It has the same options of lower adapters and upper chucks as the Model 7 B can seamers.
Order Beer Canning Equipment from Oktober Can Seamers
Oktober Can Seamers is your go-to for beer canning supplies, whether you are beer canning at home or in a professional brewery. Our beer canning machines save beverages from the sad fate of speedy degradation and flavor loss. Browse our product line and invest in better-tasting beer for yourself or your customers.