Many people make homemade hot sauce, whether for their own or for selling to others. While they’re often healthier and tastier, proper bottling of hot sauce can be tricky. So, how should one bottle their hot sauce?
To bottle hot sauce, sanitize your bottles or jars properly. If they’re glass, fill them with hot or boiling sauce, leave a headspace, put cap liners, screw the cap tightly, and put them upside down. You can also boil the bottles for an extra ten minutes. Then seal them and shrink wrap the bottles.
Whether you’re a hot sauce lover who enjoys homemade hot sauce or wants to make some cash from it, keep reading this article to learn the proper bottling process. We’ll also go through some facts about hot sauce and its general lifespan.
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A Step-by-Step Guide to Bottling Homemade Hot Sauce
Most manufactured hot sauces are usually sour, salty, vinegary, or thin, and may contain high amounts of sodium or preserving ingredients. That’s why many people prefer to make their own hot sauce.
However, the bottling process of homemade hot sauces is a bit delicate and should be done properly to increase their lifespan. Here’s a step-by-step guide to bottling hot sauce:
- Hot bath your glass bottles or jars, utensils, and other equipment and then let them dry completely.
- Measure the pH level of your sauce and make sure it’s acidic enough. You can lower its pH using vinegar, lemon juice, or sugar.
- If you’re using glass containers and the sauce pH is lower than 4.6, you should hot-fill them. This means you should pour the hot sauce at temperatures between 140 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 and 82 degrees Celsius into the bottles, screw the caps tightly, and place them upside down. The hot temperature of the sauce helps with pasteurization and placing the bottles inverted allows the liquid to sterilize the lids. Make sure to leave a little head space on the top of the bottle.
- You can also boil the bottles in hot water for ten minutes to prevent further fermentation. Put the jars in a pot filled with boiling water (220 degrees Fahrenheit or 104 degrees Celsius), keeping them a few inches apart. Make sure the bottles are fully submerged. Remove the bottles and let them cool.
- Seal your bottles properly. You can use induction sealers for sealing bottles. There are also cap liners that prevent your hot sauce from leaking. These Advanced Girl Seals Cap Liners, available on Amazon.com, are an excellent choice. They’re pressure sensitive, so they’re more effective than regular caps. Plus, they stick very well to both plastic and glass jars.
- An extra step to give your hot sauce bottles a more attractive and cleaner look is to shrink-wrap them.
If you want to learn about making hot sauces without vinegar, check out my article highlighting 5 Alternatives to Vinegar. If you accidentally added too much vinegar, I got you covered with my post Too Much Vinegar in Hot Sauce – 6 Easy Fixes.
How to Preserve Hot Sauce in a Bottle
Preserving hot sauce in a bottle might seem simple, but it’s tricky. With proper bottling, hot sauce can remain fresh for months and taste just like it did on the first day.
To preserve hot sauce in a bottle, pour it into woozy bottles or other glass containers while still hot (140-180 degrees Fahrenheit or 60-82 degrees Celsius) and then place the containers upside down and let them cool. Properly sanitize and tightly seal the containers so that the hot sauce can stay fresh for months and have a long lifespan.
Preserving homemade hot sauce requires careful attention. Hot sauce contains fresh ingredients that can go bad after a while if you don’t bottle it correctly. One crucial point to remember is sanitization.
How to Sanitize Bottles and Other Equipment
You must sterilize all the utensils, bottles, caps, and other equipment used to produce the hot sauce. You can do this in several ways.
Use Boiling Water
One of the best methods for sanitization is using boiling water. Boiling water temperature is 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius and kills unhealthy micro-organisms like bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Boil your bottles and other equipment in boiling water for about 10 minutes—make sure they’re completely submerged in water. Then take them out using a pair of tongs and allow them to dry.
If you’re using plastic bottles for hot sauce, they may distort in boiling water so consider other sanitization methods.
Make a Bleach and Water Solution
This method is an excellent alternative to boiling water, especially for sanitizing plastic bottles. To make a water and bleach solution, remember that the bleach amount shouldn’t exceed 5 to 10 percent of the solution—one tablespoon per quart of water should be enough.
Then fill your bottles with this solution and allow them to sit for about 2 to 5 minutes. Pour the solution out and rinse the bottles. Then let them air dry completely.
Soak Bottles in Vinegar
Vinegar’s acidic nature makes it perfect for cleansing and killing bacteria like salmonella and E. coli.
You can soak bottles and other equipment in vinegar overnight and rinse the next day. If you rinse bottles thoroughly, there’s no need to worry about it affecting the taste of your hot sauce.
Purchase Sanitizing Tablets
Another option for cleaning your bottles is to use sanitizing tablets like Steramine Sanitizing Tablets, available on Amazon.com. They’re completely colorless and odorless, leaving your hot sauce unaffected.
To use the sanitizing tablets:
- Dissolve tablets in warm water—1 tablet per 1 gallon (4.54 L) of water. This may take a few minutes.
- Immerse your bottles, utensils, and whatever that’s used for the hot sauce bottling process.
- Let them stay in the solution for at least one minute and rinse. And you’re done!
How to Shrink Wrap Hot Sauce Bottles
Shrink-wrapping is an effortless and economical way for preserving things like hot sauce bottles. You can shrink wrap your products in different ways using a range of simple machines or equipment.
To shrink wrap hot sauce bottles, you’ll need shrink-wrapping films to cover the bottles. Then you can seal and cut it with an impulse heat sealer or with scissors. Afterward, you’ll need a heating device like a heat gun or even a hair dryer to shrink the film around the bottle.
Use Impulse Sealer and Heat Gun
Impulse sealers are small machines commonly used for sealing bags and bottles. They look like paper cutters, but when you bring the arm down, it seals the wrap using a high temperature and some have cutters, too.
To shrink wrap your hot sauce bottles with an impulse sealer, you need to choose a shrink-wrapping film. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyolefin are the two most common types of shrink-wrapping film.
While polyolefin is more durable and almost odorless, it’s also more expensive. However, PVC films can suffice for most purposes, including for shrink-wrapping bottles. You can choose between flat rolls of shrink-wrapping film or pre-made bags that come in various sizes and three sealed sides.
The Metronic Shrink Wrap Bags, available on Amazon.com, are great for this purpose and made of high-quality PVC.
To use the sealer, follow these steps:
- Set the impulse sealer according to the specific heat setting of the film type you’ve chosen, and practice on a small piece to find the ideal heat.
- Fold your shrink-wrapping films around the bottle’s neck and its cap, leaving plenty of room to fit properly under the sealer’s arm.
- Cut the film and seal its sides. If you’ve got pre-made bags, just put the bottle’s neck inside them.
Now you should shrink the film with the heat gun. Point it to the film from several inches away and evenly heat it, so the film shrinks down quickly to the exact area size. Remember to rotate the bottle and don’t use the heat gun too close to the film.
Use Scissors and a Hairdryer
Using scissors and a hairdryer to shrink-wrap hot sauce bottles is very similar to the above method and may be preferred if you don’t have an impulse heat sealer and a heat gun. Here are the steps:
- Fold your preferred shrink-wrap around the bottle’s neck and cut it slightly larger than its size.
- Cut off the excessive parts of the shrink wrap. It should cling tightly to the bottle to prevent air pockets.
- If there’s a seam to be sealed, take the hair dryer, and use it to heat directly along the wrapping film overlap.
- Heat the whole shrink-wrap film evenly until it shrinks. It might take longer than the heat gun, but you can give it a clean look with patience and practice.
If you still struggle with the shrink-wrapping process, here’s a very helpful video to watch:
What Equipment is Needed for Bottling Hot Sauce?
You don’t need complex equipment for bottling hot sauce at home. You can do it using basic and around-the-house stuff unless you’re aiming to bottle in mass numbers. But you’ll typically need plastic or glass bottles, pH strips or a pH meter, a funnel, and shrink-wrapping films and tools.
The very first thing you’ll need are bottles (plastic or glass). You can use any bottle, such as mason jars, but the classic woozy bottles with their long neck are particularly suitable for hot sauce bottling. You can buy these Cross Store Hot Sauce Bottles on Amazon.com in a pack containing 30 woozy bottles. They’re made of extremely durable commercial glass.
You’ll also need pH strips or a pH meter to measure the acidity of your final product, as it can affect the longevity of your hot sauce.
You’ll also need shrink-wrapping films, an impulse heat sealer, and a heat gun to give your bottles a more appealing and cleaner look. You can also use scissors and a hair dryer for shrink-wrapping the film. And most probably, you’ll need a funnel to fill the bottles.
If you aim to bottle hot sauce in mass numbers, you’ll need to invest more on equipment. You can use gravity-fed machines (under $200) or pneumatic, piston-driven pumps (over $600) to fill the woozy bottles. Using these machines, you can set how much hot sauce goes into bottles.
Fully functional automated machines are another option that cost more than $2,500 and can fill around 60 bottles per minute.
Glass vs Plastic Hot Sauce Bottles
It has probably occurred to you to use plastic bottles to preserve your hot sauce as it’s more economical. But you should know that plastic bottles have some disadvantages too. Let’s compare them with glass bottles and see which one is more appropriate for hot sauce bottling.
While using glass bottles to preserve hot sauce may not be the least expensive option, it offers some advantages. For example, glass bottles allow you to see the contents clearly and are more durable.
They’re also more environmentally friendly and give an appealing look to your final product. What’s more, pouring hot sauce into glass bottles won’t affect their structure, and you can quickly boil them in water to sanitize them: easy-peasy!
The only disadvantages of glass bottles are their higher price and their fragility making them more susceptible to breaking.
Plastic bottles don’t break easily, unlike glass bottles. They’re also more affordable, with lower shipping fees. However, they’re unsuitable for pouring hot sauce (hot filling), and you can’t boil them in hot water.
The hot temperature of sauce or water can easily distort the plastic bottle and even release harmful chemicals. And of course, they are less environmentally friendly than glass.
If you’re looking for different varieties of bottles for your hot sauce, check out my post 8 Bottles to Show off Your Homemade Hot Sauce.
Troubleshooting Why Your Hot Sauce Bottles Explode
If you’ve been bottling hot sauce for a while, you may have encountered this problem, too. But why do hot sauce bottles explode?
When you bottle hot sauce, a buildup of lactic acid can cause the sauce to keep fermenting, which leads to CO2 formation. This trapped CO2 accumulates inside the bottle and increases the pressure until it explodes. This is why it’s important to leave some headspace in your bottles when you bottle your hot sauce.
Mold also produces gas, and it can grow in hot sauces with no preservatives kept at room temperature. This is why it’s important to properly sanitize your bottles and equipment.
Commercial hot sauces are made in a way that prevents this problem. They usually contain preservatives and are vinegar-based, making them so acidic that bacteria won’t grow in them. But homemade hot sauces are more vulnerable to an explosion, even upon opening.
A simple solution for this issue is to boil the bottles after filling them to kill their bacteria and prevent more fermentation. Another option is adding vinegar.
Another way to decrease the risk of explosion is to refrigerate it. Cold temperatures keep the hot sauce from further fermenting.
How Long Will Unopened Bottled Hot Sauce Last?
Hot sauce generally lasts a long time due to its natural preservatives. A bottle of commercial hot sauce can stay fresh and tasty for about 2-3 years and even five years if stored properly and unopened. However, if opened, its shelf life reduces to around 6 months outside and 12 months in the fridge.
Unopened hot sauces have a very long shelf life, and their storage is simple. Just keep them in a cool, dry space. Yes, you guessed it, the pantry is the ideal place for storage of unopened hot sauces.
The shelf-life of a hot sauce that has been opened and out of the fridge is around six months. If you keep the opened hot sauce in the fridge, it could last one year or longer.
Cleaning the lids of hot sauce bottles helps close them properly. Bottles left open or those with a crusty sauce around their rim are more likely to produce mold.
Bottling hot sauce is easy, but there’s more to it than just filling jars and screwing the caps. You should consider its hygiene and keep it from further fermentation to prevent it from exploding. Don’t forget sealing and shrink wrapping as final touches that can make it more appealing to the eye.