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Level-Fill or Volumetric? Bottles? Tolerances?


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Our initial production will be less than 100 bottles/hr. If we can sell that much, we'll buy bigger stuff. We could use some guidance on what's appropriate...what can we buy that's inexpensive and good enough to pass inspection.

In a recent discussion with a bottle vendor, an assertion was made that wine bottles and spirit bottles are somehow technically different (1) in style, (2) in headspace, (3) in volume tolerance at a given fill height. Further, the conclusion advanced is that wine bottles (and perhaps wine bottle filling equipment) is not appropriate for spirits.

Some of you are using Level-fill equipment, either gravity or vacuum operated, and some are using or have used so-called volumetric fillers.

A blog at the end of this page

St.Pats Filling Machines

(sub-titled "Volume-Filling Machines cannot be used for wine bottles")

explains that wine bottles have a tolerance of +-.25oz (+-7.4ml) or about +-1% of total volume, and that this translates to a range of almost 2.5" variance from one end of the scale to another. Not good if you're filling to volume....but for wine, who cares? Not much revenue difference there.

For spirits, the revenues are higher, and one would expect the TTB is interested in protecting not only the consumer, but also the revenue stream. A fill difference of +1% in volume would account for a difference of as much as 1 bottle per hour (in our tiny 100/hr plant), or about $2.14...times 8 for a shift or $17.12 per day...or as much $171.20 for a 2 week reporting period...(not that we'll do that anytime soon).

So the questions are: When does the TTB flinch?

What about headspace? I remember reading something about 8% for standard containers, 17% for non-standard containers (815ml or 882ml for a 750ml product). (Chapter 9) Do wine bottles not meet these criteria?

What is the lowest-cost ensemble of bottles, bottler, and labeler we can get by with for our initial production?


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