For Sale: Counter Pressure Keg-to-Champagne Bottler ($225USD)

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Bostonapothecary is proud to introduce a next generation counter pressure bottler inspired by the infamous champagne bottle manifold. The counter pressure bottler attaches to champagne bottles with the same collar system as the original manifold but also includes a down tube and side port with a second Cornelius fitting for venting or pressurizing. The down tube can also be removed and a check valve inserted to revert the bottling head back to the same functionality as the original design for in-bottle carbonating, reflux de-aeration, or counter pressure to preserve sparkling products.

Counter pressure bottling is a fairly advanced procedure and assumes users are familiar with carbonating in Cornelius kegs. There is not much hand holding here so this product is designed to fulfill the dreams of people who pretty much already know what they want to do and how it will work. This product fills a giant hole in the market. Cheap versions, which don’t handle pressure levels beyond beer (and require two man operation) are available for $70 and then nothing worth a damn is available until $10,000. No other product is available that can give you full control at the smallest possible scales. Though slightly technical, counter pressure bottling is safe and liquid is typical only transferred at under 40 PSI which is a small fraction of the working pressure of Champagne bottles. Transfer pressure, because liquid is only being moved rather than forced into solution, is much lower than the pressures used for in bottle carbonation of the original Champagne bottle manifold and is thus a safer procedure.

setThe down tube has been designed as a standard soda keg down tube to keep all the parts familiar. The accessory check valve (included) is from a Guiness type keg coupler so it is tried and true as well as easily replaceable. The check valve slides comfortably into the specially designed food safe seal which engages the bottle. The functionality of going from down tube for liquid transfer to check valve for various non transfer tasks means the tool can be used around the clock and helps justify owning multiple units. Such versatility is not a feature of any competing product at any price range.

optionsGas can be bled from the bottles with a “key” which is best done with a Cornelius gas quick release fitting with a pressure gauge and bleeder valve (pictured above). This key is not included with purchase but can be acquired affordably from my favorite supplier, the Chicompany. Champagne bottles, such as magnums, can even be turned into mini kegs and a hose can be placed over the down tube to reach the bottom of the bottle. Gas can then be inputted into the side port to move liquid up the hose instead of down. The key can also be used to measure the internal pressure of a keg and when paired with the temperature, can imply carbonation level (a common brewers technique!).

keyinstalledEverything was designed with cleanup in mind which is another major strength over competing designs. The Cornelius fittings hold a seal when only thumb tight so disassembly can be done without tools to maximize productivity. The Cornelius fittings have also been proven to hold a seal for months on end which is the reason for using a second Cornelius post instead of integrating a bleeder valve (yes, I systematically explored and tested every option). As opposed to the bulky, large square footage, standing clamp designs of competitors, the small size and portability of the collar design allows all parts to constantly be dunked in sanitizer for cleaning (parts should never be dish washed at high temp because high heat will weaken the seal of the embedded fittings).

The bottling head features unique over-molding of stainless steel 19/32 fittings for anchoring and an uncompromising seal. This complicated production technique, typically found only in very expensive medical devices, was made possible by developing a new laser cut acrylic mold box & plastic silicon die technique (that I’m very proud of, woohoo!).


Production is currently still rather bespoke and all sales are being reinvested into the project to upgrade the designs and manufacturing techniques to take full advantage of CAD, 3D printing & CNC machining (there is finally a legit engineer on the team!). Until further notice, purchasers will be part of an early adopters / patrons of the arts program and entitled to trade in their units towards new versions at the expense of shipping and other greatly minimized expenses (manufacturing techniques allow reuse of the costly stainless fittings). Early adopters will also get the benefit of small amounts of consulting which is basically the ability to constantly pick my brain about product usage and potential applications as well as recipe development.

The design features many advantages over competitors and the number one is portability and the potential to be used 24/7 for a variety of tasks followed by affordability. Counter pressure bottling requires significant amounts of inactive time (due to physics) so it is not exactly the fastest process. The affordability of the design allows users to own multiple heads for the price of a one head system from competitors. This allows users to purchase more heads at their own pace to reduce inactive bottling time. As one bottle is coming to equilibrium and “bonding” so the manifold can be removed without detrimental foaming, another bottle can be filled and maybe yet another can be capped.

Another unique feature is the usage of only Cornelius gas fittings instead of both gas & liquid fittings. Liquid can run through the gas quick release so what this means is the same input at the top of the bottling head can be used to both pressurize the bottle, bringing it up to the same pressure as the keg (as well as flush it using the key), and then be used for the liquid line. The liquid jumper cable going from the keg to the manifold will have a liquid disconnect on the keg side but a gas disconnect on the manifold side. This breaking of the rules means the bottler requires less fittings to function and the force to attach the main fitting presses straight downward over the center of the bottle so as not to stress the seal.

With enough early adopters, new tools will be introduced such as a collar to hold 25 mm beer & soda bottles. Working prototypes already exist but need to be scaled upwards to safe, consistent, mechanically precise, and economically viable production.

Distant projects are proposed for affordable but limited production runs of equipment for bottling carbonated water in old fashioned soda siphons. Also a flexible bottling plant has been conceived for eco-hotels and other programs in far flung areas who need bottling heads that can handle the assortment of miscellaneous bottles recycled in their area.



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Green Apple Soda as De-aeration Color-Indicator-Test

Acmeapple soda

For a while I’ve been trying to dream up a test that could illustrate the effectiveness of reflux de-aeration with the champagne bottle manifold.  Of course you can smell the absence of oxidative aromas in de-aerated lemon juice but not everyone smells so well, not even experienced culinary professionals.  A better test would be something visual which made me think of apples.

Apples are subject to oxidative browning which many people are well aware of.  The juice starts out pale and fairly clear like white wine then slowly turns brown before your eyes.  My hope was that de-aeration could remove enough oxygen to prevent any visible browning.  This might be achieved without even adding any ascorbic acid as anti-oxidant.

Using only reflux de-aeration, the juice of green apples stays green and the highly carbonated product is delicious even by itself with no added sugar or acid.

Of course it is even more delicious in a cocktail:

5 oz. highly carbonated green apple soda (probably 8g/L dissolved gas)

1 oz. gin (something burly and high proof)

.5 oz. lime juice

2 g. non-aromatic white sugar

The green apples were juiced with an Acme centrifugal juicer.  The juice was then quickly funneled into a champagne bottle (a clear bottle!) and reflux de-aerated at 65 PSI.  Centrifugal juicers are known to whip a lot of air into the juice accelerating browning but miraculously reflux de-aeration takes the oxygen right out.  Once the oxygen was vented, the juice was carbonated to 8 g/L of dissolved gas which gives it quite the sparkle.

At this point the unadulterated juice is turbid and has some sediment which might irk some neurotics, but the settled juice could easily be racked before carbonation to remove most of the particulates.

To clarify the unadulterated juice within reason on the larger scale (gallons), I bet the juice could be de-aerated in a 3 gallon keg, allowed to settle, then racked off by use of a floating down tube.

Production is pretty quick, low foot print, and economical. No enzymes, no agar clarification, no centrifuges (even though I love those techniques!). Just plain old raw juice, reflux de-aerated.

Measure Carbonation with your Kitchen Scale!

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[This is a very old post and I’ve learned so much since. I’d either explore the Carbonation time line or jump to taking a look at the Champagne Bottle Manifold.]

A few months back in the summer I wrote a post called new ways of thinking about carbonation where I started to explore carbonation in terms of grams per liter of dissolved gas instead of pressure and temperature. I set up quite a few projects and so far have been slowly crawling through them.

The first project to be tackled asked this question: Can I easily weigh the gas I add with my car valve carbonator to know how sparkling I am?

I was turned onto the car valve carbonator by the folks at the Milwaukee Maker Space. It is basically a soda bottle with a hole drilled in the cap and a replacement tire valve affixed to the hole.  It is an astoundingly cheap and easy way to carbonate.  you then a get a tire filler and attache it to your gas supply.  set your regulator to 50 PSI and then inject some gas and shake to facilitate dissolving. [it turns out these valves have lead in them and I abandoned using them. I now only use the tap cap and my Champagne Bottle Manifold.]

We used 20 oz. soda bottles that were filled with 500 mL of liquid.  The filled bottle was placed on a kitchen scale and zeroed then we weighed after each injection.  We were easily able to add 3.5 grams (7 grams per liter!) to our bottle.  We then put it in the fridge to rest and come to equilibrium so it didn’t gush when opened too quickly. [I think when I did this I was not accounting for what was in the head space which has a significant weight that can be accounted for by zeroing. Newer things I’ve written explain the process much more clearly.]

What is awesome about this is that you don’t have to taste as you go, you can learn what 7 g/L tastes like and then keep all your numerous bottles consistent. A jigger for carbonation and its as simple as a kitchen scale!

What I’m really bent on is doing this with champagne bottles or those tiny San Bitter soda bottles. I won’t be impressed until I get perfect carbonation and an elegant delivery.  Luckily my champagne bottle manifold works well now that my plastic foundry skills have grown.  I also discovered a stainless 19/32-18 to 1/4MPT thread adapter that will allow me to put Cornelius quick release fittings on top of my manifold! The same link also has a 19/32-18 adapter that goes on a 1/4 male flare fitting so you can combine it with a draft tail piece and put a Cornelius quick release on a soda siphon (I know a picture would be worth a thousand words). For a busy bar, the fittings will pay for themselves in a few weeks!

The next thing I wanted to tackle is how much gas actually goes in a soda siphon when you charge it with a 8 gram cartridge.  I’m equipped to do this.  I’ll have to charge up the siphon, zero the scale, then unscrew the cartridge but leave it on the scale and see how much weight was left trapped in the cylinder. Then I can unscrew the top of the siphon and see the weight of the gas that escapes. Then I’ll know how many g/L of gas made it into the water. I should probably also weight the cartridge to actually see how full it was.

This information will let us know how much dissolved gas we should put in our soda if we want them to compare to classic siphon made versions.

We can also see how much gas is lost to the turbulence of going through the siphon.  For that I’ll use the Carbodoseur tool that my new favorite commenter Julia mentioned. They are typically expensive but I was lucky enough to acquire a new one very cheap on ebay.

There is more to be done but I’m off to work.

[I never followed through with exploring the soda siphon because the Champagne bottle manifold was so successful. I eventually even built cradles that allow me to fill 100 mL San Bitter bottles as well as 187 mL & 200 mL bottles. Ideas developed quickly from here and I recommend checking out my Carbonation time line.]

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