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General Category => Equipment and Software => Topic started by: aubeertine31 on April 28, 2010, 07:43:14 PM

Title: Glass or plastic?
Post by: aubeertine31 on April 28, 2010, 07:43:14 PM
Hey all,

I am new to this site and home brewing and I am carefully selecting my prospective equipment. I was just wondering which was better for a fermenter: glass carboy or plastic bucket? I realize the breakability of the glass carboy, but I guess I am questioning how air tight the basic 5 gallon buckets with lids are. I don't have any goals of making more than a 5 gallon batch, but I am looking to eventually create some cool, original recipes to enjoy amongst friends.Any input would be great,

Thanks!
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: hamiltont on April 28, 2010, 07:52:54 PM
Plastic is okay to start with. Glass is nice for a long secondary but not every brewer brews a beer requiring a secondary. Don't worry about leaking lids. As long as you keep the vermin out of the bucket you're fine. The only thing a tight lid does is makes sure all the CO2 exits the blowoff. It's really only for your visual satisfaction. If you stick with it you'll be adding this & that along the way so start basic & work your way into it... 
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: theDarkSide on April 28, 2010, 07:58:56 PM
Don't forget plastic carboys ( Better Bottles ).  This is all I use.  I don't do Lagers yet, so I really don't need to worry about long term storage issues.  The orange carboy caps fit on the 6 gallon bottles perfectly and can be used with a blow off tube ( 1/2" ID tubing on the big port ) or an airlock.   The only disadvantage is they are only 6 gallons, so there's not a lot of headspace when you fill them up ( I try to fill mine to 5.5 gallons so I get 5 in the keg ), but that's when I use the blowoff tube and then switch to airlock when fermentation slows.

I figure when I do lagers, I use the BB, then lager in a keg.

Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: wingnut on April 28, 2010, 08:02:11 PM
FYI, there is a third option...

Better Bottle is a plastic carboy that has all the benifits of both. (never used one, but with Glass Carboys getting more expensive, that is probably the route I will go for the next one.)

It is light, low Oxygen permiabilty (pretty close to glass, but better seals than plastic buckets), not dangerouse if broken...

However, plastic scratches easier than glass, so you need to be more carful when cleaning plastic, never use a green scrubby..etc.  

I have used both Glass Carboy and Plastic Buckets for abut 5 years now.  Some batches I use the glass (it is fun to watch the fermentation process), some I use plastic buckets.  I like the convienence of plastic buckets vs carboys, but if I am going to leave a beer in the container for more than three or four weeks, I ususally choose the carboy over the plastic bucket.

Also if you get a Carboy, get a Carboy parka or brew hauler device to allow you to pick up the carboy by straps instead of the neck of the bottle.

I guess my recomendation is start with a plastic bucket, and then as time goes on, you can add a carboy if you desire.  I like the ability to clean out the bucket easier, and quite frankly, cleaning and sanitation is really the biggest part of brewing.

Also, what I found is that after a while, having one beer going at a time was not enough, and I actually have two buckets and two glass carboys right now.  Near Christmas time when I am brewing for parties, I have all four in play!

Good luck and have fun!
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: aubeertine31 on April 28, 2010, 08:09:08 PM
Awesome, thanks for the input. I'll look into the Better Bottle. All very good points, so maybe I'll have to go with all 3 haha. Thanks again
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: richardt on April 28, 2010, 08:24:37 PM
I understand the pluses of using glass (cleaning, visualizing the fermentation process/results, and affordability).  But, I've seen firsthand too many glass injuries as a surgeon and simply cannot afford the risk such an injury would cause to my livelihood and ability to support the family.  Statistically, I don't know that handling a full carboy with wet hands or wet floors is any riskier than driving your car 50 mph on a road.  But, if it happens to you, it's 100%; and glass (even pyrex) cuts quick and deep like a hot knife through butter.  My wife nearly severed her tendon on her big toe dropping a pyrex bowl from 2.5 feet off the floor when she was just taking it out of the dishwasher.  It can happen.

I've only used Better Bottles.  I agree with the above comments about cleaning carefully.  Soak the bottles with warm water and oxyclean to help get the caked-on trub off the shoulders and neck of the better bottle.  Go easy on the carboy brush--the wire rod and bristles can scratch it.  Use the warm water and oxyclean to help soften things up significantly (i.e., soak for hours or days) before scrubbing, and it will come right off.

The better bottle is flexible.  I've turned it over to drain and as the warm air inside it cooled, it created suction and sucked in the paper towel as I lifted it off the table.  No permanent damage, but I suggest a little PVC ring, plastic bucket, or CD plastic case to hold the carboy off the table during drying so the pressure can equalize.

Also, the plastic is not rated for boiling water!  I made the mistake once of running the hot water from the Immersion Chiller into the better bottle while the cell phone rang and I didn't pay attention to the temp (too hot, i.e., above 200 F)) and it melted the better bottle enough to cause a tilt (I haven't come up with a name for it yet, like Pisa or Titanic).  It still gets the job done, but it looks pitiful.
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: theDarkSide on April 28, 2010, 08:31:53 PM
Richardt...I do the same as you. Soak it in Oxiclean ( and I usually forget about it for a couple days ), but I never use a brush on it.  I usually just dump the oxiclean water and rinse several times with hot tap water and it comes out nice and clean.

Regarding the flexibilty of the BB when fermenting something and using an airlock.  If you try to pick it up, it will probably suck back the stuff you have in the airlock.  I put mine in a milk crate so I can pick it up without the sucking action.
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: glitterbug on April 28, 2010, 08:52:18 PM
Stainless Steel   8)

My ultimate goal is to get rid of as much glass and plastic as possible. SS combines many of the great qualities (easy to clean, durable, uv resistant, etc).
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: richardt on April 28, 2010, 10:23:40 PM
Stainless Steel   8)

My ultimate goal is to get rid of as much glass and plastic as possible. SS combines many of the great qualities (easy to clean, durable, uv resistant, etc).

Agree!  I've purchased some modified 5 gallon corny keg lids that have a small round hole in place of the vent and one can use a small rubber stopper w/ a hole in it and an airlock.

A 5 gallon corny doesn't leave a lot of headspace, though, if one is brewing in 5 or 10 gallon batches (and using one or two cornys respectively).  The solution for that is to use Fermcap-S (an antifoaming agent) to keep the krausen under control.  Use 1-2 drops per gallon.

I did have one situation where the krausen/hop bits clogged the three piece and shot the airlock towards the ceiling.  Fortunately it was in the shower tub, so cleanup was pretty easy.  But I am going to have to fix the ceiling--the process of removing the brown crud also took off the texture and paint.

One may want to make the openings bigger on the airlock inlet to reduce the chances of this happening.  I routinely fill the airlock witih cheap vodka rather than sanitizer--just in case some gets back in the beer (more of an issue with the better bottle than the SS corny keg.)
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: tom on April 29, 2010, 01:15:40 AM
I ferment in cornies too.The only change I made was to cut one inch off of a beer-out diptube for transferring off the trub.
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: tygo on April 29, 2010, 01:21:52 AM
Better bottles have always worked for me.  I have 2 6gals and 3 5gal now.  Although I haven't ever personally secondaried in them for a year or more I've heard reports from those who have and they said it worked fine.
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: glitterbug on April 29, 2010, 01:24:52 AM
I'm looking for pony kegs, they are 7.5 gal and should ferment a 5 gal batch without fermcap :)
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: IHBHS on April 29, 2010, 04:15:24 AM
I ferment mostly in an LME mini drum.  It's 18 gallons so I can do a full 15 gallon batch. Talk to your LHBS and if they get their LME in bulk they would probably be willing to get rid of the mini drums for pretty cheap.  I know we sell ours off for $25.  I really like them because like a 55 gal drum they have a 2" port and a 3/4" port and are fairly easy to clean with hot water and PBW.  You can also set them up as a lay down fermenter with the 3/4" port at the top for your blow off and the reduce the 2" to a valve that sits above the yeast cake for easy transferring.
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: tom on April 29, 2010, 06:22:33 AM
I'm looking for pony kegs, they are 7.5 gal and should ferment a 5 gal batch without fermcap :)
I just bought some "slim" 1/4 barrels. They are as tall as a half-barrel and little wider than a corny. 7.75 gallons so I should get 5+ gallons from each one.
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: glitterbug on April 29, 2010, 07:13:19 PM
I'm looking for pony kegs, they are 7.5 gal and should ferment a 5 gal batch without fermcap :)
I just bought some "slim" 1/4 barrels. They are as tall as a half-barrel and little wider than a corny. 7.75 gallons so I should get 5+ gallons from each one.

how much did you pay?
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on April 29, 2010, 10:03:55 PM
I still use the carboys that I have, often for ales.

A SS conical for primary and cornies for secondary (lagering) is what I use for my lagers.
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: tom on April 30, 2010, 05:04:45 PM
I'm looking for pony kegs, they are 7.5 gal and should ferment a 5 gal batch without fermcap :)
I just bought some "slim" 1/4 barrels. They are as tall as a half-barrel and little wider than a corny. 7.75 gallons so I should get 5+ gallons from each one.

how much did you pay?
I got them for $80 each plus shipping from a wholesaler. When others tried he upped the price.
I still haven't used them yet. Hopefully in the next few weeks. I will probably use an orange carboy cap on each.
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: mrdrysdale64 on April 30, 2010, 06:06:57 PM
A lot of people are moving towards the Better Bottles for safety and convenience of their weight. I have gotten rid of all my carboys except one 7.5 gallon and two 3 gallons I use for wines and meads. A few years back I bought two 10 gallon cornies and have used them exclusively for beer. They are expensive and hard to fine but they can be used as fermenters, serving kegs and I use them to store filtered water when not used as fermenters.

(http://i307.photobucket.com/albums/nn282/mrdrysdale64/Fermenters.jpg)


They are awesome!
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: 4swan on April 30, 2010, 06:37:47 PM
I've used Better Bottles for a few years and like them.  Soaking in Oxyclean or PBW cleans it, only once have I put a wash cloth in it to swirl off some extra gunk, probably could have soaked longer.  The suck back on the airlock when moving the bottle is the only major problem- fixed with using the milk crate, loosening the airlock or they also make a dry airlock which works well, albeit it is expensive.
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: glitterbug on April 30, 2010, 07:24:35 PM
I've also heard of people using "milk cans", large stainless steel containers used in the dairy industry. Not sure how much they cost though.
Title: Re: Glass or plastic?
Post by: weithman5 on April 30, 2010, 08:51:36 PM
i still use a plastic bucket even up to 4 weeks.  i know of no reason not to use a corny for the longer duration lagers as long as the batch size works, and i am tending toward smaller more varied batches rather than big volumes.  cornies arent very expensive considering.  i have thought about some of the plastic conicals also but again i think i am okay