Jan 26, 2013

Waxing, but not Poetic

Waxing bottles looks bad ass.  I think almost everyone will agree to that.  So, when our homebrew club racked out the Russian Imperial Stout from the Maker's Mark barrel, Eric and I decided to bottle (who needs that on a keggerator?), label, and wax cap our share.  Coming up with a name is post all its own - as is labeling, so I won't talk about that here.  What most people want to know about is how to wax.  I found a very helpful post over on Passion Beer's website and we followed their example.  

I'll walk you through our steps and give you our details.  We were going to wax about 48 bottles.

1.  You need crayons.  We used 12 Crayola crayons.  There were cheaper options, but I decided on quality.  I hear that when school supplies hit in the fall, these 8-packs are about 25 cents.  I ended up paying 79 cents for these.  But now I can do this seven more times.

2.  You need hot glue gun sticks.  I went with the mini sticks because I could get more glue for the price (50 mini-sticks for the same price as 20 regular sticks; and 2 mini sticks have more glue than 1 regular stick.)
3.  You need a tin can.  I went with one of the "Soups that eat like a meal" soup cans.  Rinsed it out well and took the label off.  (More on the can below.)
4.  You need to heat up all the glue and crayons.  We added half the glue sticks and waited for them to melt, then the other half and waited for them to melt, then the crayons, which melted immediately.  As you can see, we put the can straight on the burner.  We started off with the can in a skillet to help diffuse the heat, but that didn't work; the glue wasn't melting.  We also tried a double-boiler kind of deal, but that didn't work either.  Putting the can directly on the burner was the only thing that melted the glue.  I was nervous that it would get too hot, but I never turned the heat to "high."  I kept it just below the highest setting and things finally started to melt.  I used an oven mitt to handle the can and a stick to a broken spatula to stir.
5.  You need to bottles to dip.  Once everything is melted, dip the bottles in the wax, pull out, spin, set right side up, and let it dribble down.  This picture to the left was one of our first attempts.  We did not dip far enough in this example.  I think it probably ended up looking alright once the wax started dripping, but there are much better examples, as you can see below.

So, what would I change?  What would I do again?
  • The hot glue to crayon ratio:  I felt like the wax was a little thin and my best guess is that it has to do with the amount of hot glue.  In Passion Beer's process, their glue to crayon ratio was closer/more even than ours  (in my little own way of calculating, theirs was about 3:1, ours 9:2).  I like the way their glue covers the caps a bit more and runs.  The crayons add the thickness, but I think too much crayon and the wax would get brittle.  Finding the right ratio is something I would work on for next time.
  • Get a wider can:  It was hard to dip the bottles toward the end because the mouth of the tin can was not wide enough to get the caps/necks submerged enough.  But too wide and the wax wouldn't be deep enough.  Again, a balance is needed.
  • Pretty much everything else.  The process was fairly easy, fun, and way cool.  Once we figured out how to melt the glue, things went along smoothly and quickly.    If you have bottles you want to keep for a long time or give away as gifts, I highly recommend waxing.  It gives an extra layer of protection from oxygen and it kicks the presentation up a few notches.  

The finished product.  
Hope you learned something.  I learned that waxing bottles isn't as intimidating as I initially thought.  Give it a try!


I wonder how hard this will be to clean off... . . . . . .  .  .  .  .  .   .   .