Sometimes we want to step up our game and push our homebrews a little further in terms of appearance. We’ve gone ahead and taken care (and time!) to get all the labels off tons of bottles so at least our beers look a bit cleaner on first glance. Though, to take it further you want to put a label on there; though now you’re back to that label cleaning nightmare but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
There’s plenty of resources on designing you own labels from scratch, or using an online service to design and print them. Some of the online services might include sticker-like adhesives, or if you’re printing fully home-made ones there’s also self-adhesive tags you can apply. However, with sticker-style labels you often don’t have much say over the adhesive and they can sometimes be huge nightmares to for future you.
Though, there’s an adhesive that works really well for both application and removal; milk! Any milk should do, but using something that is richer, such as 3.25% (whole milk) is what we used. So far we’ve only labelled a single keg with milk adhesive, we were able to get about 34 bottles labelled fairly quickly.
Now, milk isn’t just great for the homebrew label scene, it’s actually used in the manufacture of adhesives designed for glass! So it’s not just some crappy homebrew solution, it’s used quite frequently, albeit in a different form which has properties that aid it’s use at high speeds.
The major advantage to using Milk as an adhesive is how it loses it’s stick after placed in a warm PBW/Oxiclean solution. Other casein-like adhesives (i.e. Sierra Nevada labels), also show similar properties when soaked. They don’t take a long time to become saturated, their glue loses it’s stick, and more often than not the label+adhesive comes off extremely easily. This isn’t necessarily the case with other sticker-like adhesives which will often leave a difficult to remove sticky residue behind. It is even more important if there’s any intention to re-use bottles in the future.
We originally tried applying labels using a technique we saw on Youtube, but our labels weren’t long enough to try it. They basically ended up getting super damp and fragile. Using a thin polyester-bristled brush worked exceptionally well, and after a few tries it’s fairly easy to have them centred. Using this approach, they only require a couple after patting excess milk off before they are dry enough to be put back into the case. Even weeks after applying they are still holding their stick and don’t smell sour. Patting them dry with paper towel, and keeping the labels from getting too saturated with milk appears to be a good technique for keeping the sour smell away.
So, next time you’re thinking of going with self-adhering labels, consider giving milk a try and see if that helps. And if you know of any inexpensive and easy to use non-dairy adhesives with similar properties, let me know!