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General Category => Equipment and Software => Topic started by: enso on November 18, 2009, 06:15:32 PM

Title: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: enso on November 18, 2009, 06:15:32 PM
I found a large plastic container today at the recycling center.

I am wondering if it will be safe to use as a possible primary fermenter for 10 gallon batches.

Here is what I know.  It is thick translucent #2 HDPE plastic  and holds about 15 gallons (it has markings up to about 3/4 of the way and the final volume is 12 gallons/ 45liters) and formerly held an acid based CIP sanitizer.  The sanitizer was for the dairy industry it appears.  It is a phosphoric/sulfuric acid based sanitizer called fc-298 made by IBA inc..  It has a handle on top and a main cap and a vent cap on top.

So, it would seem to me that if I were to rinse it well with water a few times, perhaps take a pH reading of the final rinse it is feasible this will be safe to use?  Can anyone think of any reasons not to use this? 

I have never been one to ferment in plastic but I brew 10 gallon batches at times or have 10 gallons of cider so it would be nice to have a one large fermenter rather than 2 5/6 gallon ones going.

Or maybe if not a fermenter it would be a great water collection vessel?  I get my water from a roadside spring and am constantly scrounging around for every empty bucket or keg I have to maximize my collection capacity.

Any thoughts out there folks?

Sláinte Mhath!
Title: Re: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: denny on November 18, 2009, 06:16:55 PM
Seems like it ought to be OK to use as a fermenter.
Title: Re: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: enso on November 18, 2009, 06:22:35 PM
Oh, and I tried to find a MSDS on this product but a quick search yielded nothing.  Not even a website for the company.  I realize that would help in determining the safety... 

Sound like it is pretty powerful (concentrated) stuff as the general usage rate on the container states 1 ounce to 15 gallons of water!  Oh and it has a warning label of corrosive with a level 8.  I think that covers what I know...
Title: Re: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: enso on November 18, 2009, 06:23:47 PM
Seems like it ought to be OK to use as a fermenter.

Thanks Denny.  Do you think just a good rinse will do it or should I use other steps?
Title: Re: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: denny on November 18, 2009, 06:40:25 PM
I really doubt that HDPE will have absorbed any "badness".  I'd give it a good wash with really hot water and Oxiclean or PBW.
Title: Re: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: yugamrap on November 18, 2009, 06:57:11 PM
+1 to Oxyclean or PBW.  Since the vessel held an acid-based sanitizer, you might want to follow a thorough water rinse with a wash of mild alkaline cleaner like PBW, then rinse again.  Other than that, I think your primary concern should be whether the interior of the vessel is smooth and free of cracks or scratches that could harbor unwanted bacteria.  Avoid using a carboy brush or anything that would scratch the plastic when cleaning.  A good PBW or OxyClean soak and vigorous agitation usually works fine.
Title: Re: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: davidw on November 18, 2009, 07:57:10 PM
Consider using food grade plastic liners. Once fermentation is done, rack the beer, tie up the bag full of sludge, and toss.
Title: Re: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: the_ferminator on November 18, 2009, 09:09:17 PM
One word of warning about using mystery vessels.  You never know what other purposes the drum was used for after the original product was finished. Some things are actually hazardous to human health and all plastics will absorb some and then leach into your beer.  :o  The suggestions of cleaning with alkaline is a good start.  I don't know how you would go about doing a chemical analysis. 
Your best bet is stick with known drums and those used for food and marked food grade.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requires that plastics used in food packaging be of greater purity than plastics used for non-food packaging. This is commonly referred to as food grade plastic. Plastics used to package pharmaceuticals are held to an even higher standard than food grade.
Food grade plastic does not contain dyes or recycled plastic deemed harmful to humans. However, this does not mean that food grade plastic cannot contain recycled plastic. The FDA has detailed regulations concerning recycled plastics in food packaging.
Another aspect of food grade plastic is matching the appropriate type of plastic to the food in question. Foods that are highly acidic or that contain alcohol or fats can leach plastic additives from the packaging or container into the food. As a result, you should only use plastic containers that are FDA approved for the particular type of food the plastic will come into contact with.
Finally, it should be noted that a plastic container can no longer be considered food grade if it has been used to store non-food items like chemicals, paint, or detergent.

check out this site to learn more about plastics.
http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/plastics.html

I bought a 15 gal container that used to hold Hawaiian punch.  Try to find one of those.

Your container, while not portable water, is still very handy for using at picnics and bbq etc.  A group I belong to has two of these set up on stands laying sideways with faucets attached.  We can then wash our hands before eating and after using the porta potty.

have a home brew.


Title: Re: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: BrewArk on November 18, 2009, 11:01:08 PM
I didn't see much discussion about valves, seals, lids, scratches on the sides etc.  I'd be especially suspicious if there were lots of crevices where chemicals or germs could hide.
Title: Re: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: bob on November 19, 2009, 06:00:12 PM
Go with the plastic bag drum liners. Put the bag in thru the bung hole with the coarsest threads, spread it around the hole and screw in the bung to lock it place. Leave as much slack as possible in the barrel to lessen the chance of ripping the bag when its full. Drill a hole in the bung for an airlock first. Make sure the bung is very clean too, even though it might not actually contact the contents, its the only thing that can. The rest I would soak with PBW solution for a day and rinse a few times.
Title: Re: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: mtbrewer on November 20, 2009, 11:28:00 PM
Here is a tip, ask your lhbs if they will sell you the empty bulk LME containers. Mine sells them for ten dollars, I think they are sixteen gallons. I use them for primaries, and you can cut the top off for large soaking and cleaning projects.
Title: Re: Found a possible large volume fermenter. Pondering, is it safe to use?
Post by: bluesman on November 21, 2009, 05:06:21 AM
A new food grade fermenting bucket at your LHBS should run you between $10-20.  8)