I honestly have never bottled a batch of homebrew. I went straight into kegging to avoid the cleaning and sanitizing of 50+ bottles. Setting up a bottle filler and CO2 purge station always seemed like a huge pain in the ass compared to just sanitizing and filling a keg. I already owned a kegerator, so kegs just were the obvious choice.
I noticed canning machines popping up in brewpubs about 4-5 years ago. These small machines allow customers to take home a crowler of their favorite brew. Cans offer a few benefits that bottles do not, so I always wished there were an affordable homebrew canner for small batch brewers. Guess what? My wish was granted.
Oktober approached me with one of their early 12 oz / 16 oz canning prototypes and then ultimately sent over their Oktober Can Seamer SL1 for testing. As I thought through the pros and cons of canning vs bottling or kegging, I immediately saw some areas where canning would be worth the extra time.
Pros of Canning Your Homebrew
So, why did I decide to take a deeper dive into canning my homebrew? In addition to the pros just mentioned, the idea of canning just seems new and cool.
Most all my favorite commercial craft beers are now being canned. If you look at the beer shelves these days the old "can stigma" is long gone. It's not just PBW and Natty Light you find in cans anymore and what's left on the shelf sold in bottles almost feels like an old relic to me. Sure, there are still some amazing craft beer offerings sold in bottles (Bells, Russian River, Founders, etc.), but smaller breweries use cans and beautiful designs to stand out.
Blocking out the light and O2 are really what pushed me over the edge into canning. I love the fact that I can can a beer that took me a year to make (barrel aged something or other) and it can be can conditioned further without risk of a light struck reaction or oxygen getting through and staling out all that hard work.
Let's take a test drive of the canner, shall we?
Unboxing the Oktober Homebrew Can Seamer
Here is the SL1 Homebrew Canning Machine and the big box of cans and lids
Here's the instruction manual and additional parts
Here's how I cleaned and sanitized my cans
Here's how I setup my filling and CO2 purge station
Here's how the first round of canning went
Here's how the second round of canning went
Having used other canners on the market, I'm very impressed by the quality, accuracy and level of detail the SL1 can seamer brings to the table. By far the coolest "bonus" of this machine, for me, is the ability to can your own starter wort for yeast propagation. Just for fun I filled a can with toasted oak cubes and whiskey. After 2-3 months I can pop the top and pour the whiskey straight into a Porter or Stout for added flavor. The options are limitless with what you can CAN!
The Oktober Design Homebrew Canner SL1 has changed the way I think about "bottling". Before using this canner, the idea of individually bottling my beer seemed like way too much work for little reward. The electric can seamer makes quick work of this task now and is very easy to use.
Something to Consider
The machine has a small footprint (which rocks), but the box of cans waiting to be filled is rather large (50+ cans). Make sure you have plenty of storage space to store your blanks.