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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: hbrewer on January 15, 2011, 08:20:57 PM

Title: Glass or Plastic
Post by: hbrewer on January 15, 2011, 08:20:57 PM
I am a relatively new home brewer and am try to accumulate equipment to get things going.  One item I continue to get hung up on is the price difference between glass carboys and the plastic one's.  Are there any serious downfalls to using plastic for secondary fermentation storage??  I feel like I can double my storage capacity going with plastic but do not want to waste the money if glass is worth the price.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: tubercle on January 15, 2011, 08:40:57 PM
I am a relatively new home brewer and am try to accumulate equipment to get things going.  One item I continue to get hung up on is the price difference between glass carboys and the plastic one's.  Are there any serious downfalls to using plastic for secondary fermentation storage??  I feel like I can double my storage capacity going with plastic but do not want to waste the money if glass is worth the price.

 1. Unless you are planning on brewing unusually high gravity beer that requires extended fermentation no "secondary" is necessary.

 2. Plastic
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: hbrewer on January 15, 2011, 09:01:07 PM
I have typically gone from the boil, after the wort is cooled, to a 6 gallon plastic bucket for fermentation then siphon it out to a carboy to get it off of the sediment at the bottom.  Would this not be recommended??  Sorry if these questions seem elementrybut I am relatively new to this.  I appreciate all of your expertise.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: euge on January 15, 2011, 09:24:33 PM
I recommend a food grade plastic fermenter from a homebrew supply. Avoid generic HDPE buckets such as the one's from Lowes or HD.

Glass is great except it is heavy and actually quite dangerous.

Controversial subject LOL!  ;D
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: capozzoli on January 15, 2011, 09:33:02 PM
Plastic. glass is way to heavy.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: euge on January 15, 2011, 09:52:21 PM
If you want to "store" your beer do it in glass bottles or cornie kegs.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: Malticulous on January 15, 2011, 10:09:45 PM
I use six gallon buckets form a food storage place (no LHBS here.) I use them mostly because they take less space in my chest freezer and they are cheap. I secondary in kegs, glass or a better bottle.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: tumarkin on January 15, 2011, 10:42:16 PM
Food quality fermentation buckets provide an inexpensive & adequate solution. Just not good for long fermentations/storage. Glass carboys are easy to clean & good for long term. However, they can break & are potentially quite dangerous. Still, they're used by many of us. The newer Better Bottle plastic carboy is the new option. Safer, lighter, supposedly good for long term ferments. I haven't got any yet, but plan to. Another option (less used) is to ferment in corny kegs.

The whole question of siphoning into a secondary is another issue. Many use secondaries, but others have come to believe (me too) that secondaries aren't necessary. You can achieve great clarity, with no risk of yeast autalysis, in a primary alone. Less work, less risk of oxidation or infection (though good technique makes this somewhat moot). I have concerns about using buckets as secondaries for long term ferments (big barleywines, RIS, meads, etc). Glass is better in this regard. I don't know about long term in Better Bottles, though others report good success.

Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: richardt on January 16, 2011, 12:37:00 AM
For safety reasons, I will NOT use glass.  I only use food-grade HDPE buckets (I use bottling buckets) or PET (i.e., Better Bottle) for primary fermentation.
For price reasons, the food-grade HDPE buckets and spigots are the way to go.  Plan to clean and dry them well after every use and replace them every year or so.
For storage reasons, the food-grade HDPE buckets are the way to go.  The spigots disassemble and you can stack multiple buckets when empty.  Your spouse will appreciate that. 
For use in fermentation fridges, the food-grade HDPE buckets are the way to go (go for the taller, narrower one [6.9 gallon, 12 inch base vs the 7.9 gallon, 14 inch base] if you have space concerns in your fridge).  It has a convenient handle already and is shatterproof.  Here's an example:
http://www.midwestsupplies.com/6-5-gallon-plastic-fermenter-with-lid.html (http://www.midwestsupplies.com/6-5-gallon-plastic-fermenter-with-lid.html)
For cleaning reasons, the food-grade HDPE bucket is the way to go.  The ease of access to the interior of the fermentor cannot be beat.  Just take the lid off, soak the bucket in some water and clean with a soft sponge.
I have two better bottles.  I don't use them anymore.  Transfers are more difficult into carboys and cleaning them afterwards is more work--the buckets are just plain easier.
If I want to secondary, I have plenty of 5 gallon SS corny kegs which offer all the desirable qualities (and more) that a glass carboy does (like protection from oxidation and light exposure), with none of the negative qualities (like shattering if bumped or dropped).  I also don't have to protect it from bumps or sunlight and it takes up a lot less room in my fridge--I can put 4 corny kegs minimum in my smalles fridge whereas I can only put one bucket or Better Bottle).  They do offer corny keg lids that have been adapted to accept a stopper and airlock.

Forget the glass carboy. 
Consider also passing on the Better Bottle unless you like watching the fermentation process (which admittedly is kind of cool).
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: hbrewer on January 16, 2011, 01:13:43 AM
Thanks for info and insight.  I feel like I have enough information to make a decision for now.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: Hokerer on January 16, 2011, 01:24:15 AM
Fermenters aren't really about storage.  Once fermentation's done along with any bulk aging you want, if any, you'll be getting your brew out of the fermenter and into bottles or kegs.  As far as glass vs plastic, there's really nothing wrong with plastic.  There're lots of benefits and about the only down side is that they are slightly oxygen permeable but it's so little as to not really matter.  You'll be fine with plastic.  Oh, and that means a real plastic fermenter not just an old plastic water jug.  There is a difference.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: ipaguy on January 16, 2011, 03:03:38 PM
I've avoided the better bottles because of the difficulty of cleaning them without scratching.  I use the 6.5 gal plastic buckets for most things & don't worry about O2 for less than 3-4 wk. total time in fermenters (primary or secondary).  I usually don't do a secondary unless I'm doing a fruit beer, or am dry hopping.  I do have glass carboys that I occasionally use as secondaries.  I recommend that anyone using glass invest in a sturdy canvas carboy bag for a little more safety.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: majorvices on January 16, 2011, 03:13:01 PM
Neither glass nor plastic. Stainless. ;)
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: beerocd on January 16, 2011, 03:36:24 PM
Plastic. glass is way to heavy.

Glass. If you can't lift your carboy maybe you should take up knitting.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: denny on January 16, 2011, 04:20:47 PM
Plastic. glass is way to heavy.

Glass. If you can't lift your carboy maybe you should take up knitting.

Hey, that's MY line!   ;)  And FWIW, I started with glass, switched to plastic, and never looked back.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: beerocd on January 16, 2011, 05:04:16 PM
I'd like a stainless conical, but I got 13 6.5gal Italian glass carboys with screw caps two years ago for $15 each.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: kgs on January 16, 2011, 05:55:16 PM
Plastic. I moved from buckets to Better Bottle and am contemplating a move back to food-grade buckets (with a separate question in the equipment forum). It has been useful/fun to watch the fermentation process, but to get the wort into the BB I transfer it into a bucket and then into a BB anyway, and as others have noted, buckets are easier to clean. If it's easier to clean it's likely to be cleaner. (That said, warm water and an OxyClean clone cleaner work miracles.)

I am a sissy girl and can barely lift an empty glass carboy, so a full one would have to sit wherever I filled it. :)

One last thing about buckets: less chance of getting light-struck. For my BB fermenters I use an inverted grocery bag with a hole punched in the bottom (after one time when someone left a light on in a closet I use for fermenting), but again, a bucket takes care of that.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: Slowbrew on January 16, 2011, 06:55:00 PM
I have both glass and better bottles.  I use both because I have them and am really quite a cheapskate.  I primary in 6.5g glass and typically secondary in better bottles.  If I have more than 2 beers in play I secondary  in my 5g glass bottles.  Both work with no issues so far.  Now if I drop a glass carboy and lose a hand I might change my mind.   ;)

Paul
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: capozzoli on January 16, 2011, 08:22:35 PM
Plastic. glass is way to heavy.

Glass. If you can't lift your carboy maybe you should take up knitting.

I was speaking for the masses, ya know the pencil pushing dress up types. Its easy to lift carboys at the end of the day if the heaviest thing you lift all day is a cup of coffee. I can lift a glass carboy with one hand I just dont want to cause the damn thing pops in half some times with a one handed neck lift.  ;D

Seriously though, they are too damn heavy, not so much the weight as the awkwardness. Then its just horrible when you drop them. ..and I have actually been thinking of macrame.




Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on January 16, 2011, 08:25:35 PM
Plastic. glass is way to heavy.

Glass. If you can't lift your carboy maybe you should take up knitting.
Knitting 101 is coming to this household.  ;)
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: beerocd on January 16, 2011, 09:24:45 PM
Plastic. glass is way to heavy.

Glass. If you can't lift your carboy maybe you should take up knitting.
Knitting 101 is coming to this household.  ;)

Awesome - the cooking thread is getting boring. Start a new thread....
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: capozzoli on January 16, 2011, 10:28:28 PM
Stainless is for men, plastic is for women, glass is for fools.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: richardt on January 16, 2011, 10:34:06 PM
Now that's a great epigram.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: gimmeales on January 16, 2011, 10:40:57 PM
Plastic for primary, stainless for 'secondary' - I can also carbonate and serve out of my secondary :)

Really, why spend $30-35 on a carboy or better bottle when you can get a corny for that much and start your keg collection for an eventual upgrade to a kegging system!?
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: maxieboy on January 16, 2011, 11:59:37 PM
Plastic. glass is way to heavy.

Glass. If you can't lift your carboy maybe you should take up knitting.

I was speaking for the masses, ya know the pencil pushing dress up types. Its easy to lift carboys at the end of the day if the heaviest thing you lift all day is a cup of coffee. I can lift a glass carboy with one hand I just dont want to cause the damn thing pops in half some times with a one handed neck lift.  ;D

Seriously though, they are too damn heavy, not so much the weight as the awkwardness. Then its just horrible when you drop them. ..and I have actually been thinking of macrame.


Couldja macrame me a carboy carrier?  ;D
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: cheba420 on January 17, 2011, 12:47:30 AM
I used the buckets when I started and still do when everything else is full. I go stainless first. Have to. For what I paid for it, it needs to be full of beer all the time! When the conical is full I go to the glass and when the glass is full, I start filling buckets. Would like to get a couple better bottles and lose the glass. I like using the glass for the most part but the breakage and the horror stories I've heard make me want to get rid of them.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: Tim McManus on April 11, 2011, 07:32:40 PM
This is what a 6-gallon glass carboy of Irish Red Ale looks like after you drop it.  I wasn't carrying it by the handle, but was hugging it with one arm.  I lost my balance on the steps and had one of two options:  Stumble forward and try to save the carboy, or watch it shatter.

I've heard enough stories and know enough about this glass to watch it smash.  I decided to order a plastic 6-gallon to replace it and start working with that material.  I'll give it a shot and see how I like it.

Full-size image:
http://www.bacon-n-beer.com/carboy.jpg

(http://www.bacon-n-beer.com/carboy.jpg)
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: corkybstewart on April 11, 2011, 08:00:31 PM
I have stainless, glass and plastic fermenters.  i use the stainless most of the time, then when it's full I use my plastic buckets.  Only when I'm making a slow fermenting beverage like cider or mead will I use the glass carboy, and then only if I can fill it and drain it without ever having to move it.  Right now I have one cider in a carboy and 5 gallons of cider vinegar, but they'll be sitting until they're ready late this year and won't have to be moved.
As far as the quality of the results I don't notice any real difference between the three materials.  It's the skill and techniques of the brewer that determines the quality of the beer, not the fermenter material.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: Kit B on April 11, 2011, 08:03:10 PM
If you use glass, just don't carry it around, unless it's empty.
Fill & rack, in your fermentation room...Problem solved.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: tschmidlin on April 11, 2011, 08:08:37 PM
Clear path, one hand on the neck and one on the bottom . . . carrying a full carboy around is no problem.  But do what you like, as long as it works for you.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: bluesman on April 11, 2011, 08:17:30 PM
Glass carboys can be very dangerous as Tim has shown. I am very leary of moving them without a carboy harness these days. I broke one last year while cleaning and it scared the bejesus out of me...I didn't get hurt but it was an eye opening experience for me.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: beersk on April 11, 2011, 08:29:26 PM
I use 6.5 gallon glass carboys, the "brew haulers" are life savers.  I don't understand how anyone could not use them with 6.5 gallon carboys.  Never have had an issue.  Ever.
Glass is easy to clean, easy to sanitize, doesn't scratch, you can see your beer as it ferments...I also use the shake method to aerate, which isn't possible or very easy with buckets.  Plus I can have a better blow off tube attached, if needed. Yeah, it's a little heavier, but it ain't that heavy.
Wins all around. 
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: Joe Sr. on April 11, 2011, 08:32:08 PM
I keep my 6.5 gal glass fermenter in a palstic milk crate.  This gives it some protection from other things banging into it and also makes it somewhat easier to move since it has handles.  It's a tight fit in the milk crate so the handles aren't 100% accessible.  Regardless, it alleviates hoisting a full carboy by the handle on the neck.

At some point, I'll put my better bottles into crates as well, which should reduce the amount they deflect when lifted.

FWIW, I don't have any problem cleaning the better bottles.  A good soak does most of the work.  A rag wrapped around a carboy brush does the rest and alleviates risk of scratching.

I also have rubber matting on the floor where I work with the carboys, which alleviates some risk of shattering.  This is just cheap rubber matting from Menard's.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: JKL on April 11, 2011, 08:41:20 PM
If you use glass, just don't carry it around, unless it's empty.
Fill & rack, in your fermentation room...Problem solved.

Thanks for this post

This subject has actually been a concern of mine lately.  I plan on using a newly modified chest freezer to ferment in this weekend and I'm a little nervous about picking two full 6.5gal carboys in and out of this thing.  This post makes me wonder if I can just put the freezer on a platform w/casters, roll it over to the brew area and pump straight into the carboys inside the freezer?

I broke a 5 gal carboy cleaning it in a bathtub at my old house 6 or 7 yrs ago.  Not a fun experience.  I've been very lucky not to break one full of beer. 

-J.K.L.

Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: beersk on April 11, 2011, 09:43:54 PM
I keep my 6.5 gal glass fermenter in a palstic milk crate.  This gives it some protection from other things banging into it and also makes it somewhat easier to move since it has handles.  It's a tight fit in the milk crate so the handles aren't 100% accessible.  Regardless, it alleviates hoisting a full carboy by the handle on the neck.

At some point, I'll put my better bottles into crates as well, which should reduce the amount they deflect when lifted.

FWIW, I don't have any problem cleaning the better bottles.  A good soak does most of the work.  A rag wrapped around a carboy brush does the rest and alleviates risk of scratching.

I also have rubber matting on the floor where I work with the carboys, which alleviates some risk of shattering.  This is just cheap rubber matting from Menard's.
Man, your post sounds kinda like those medicine commercials on TV, haha...
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: Joe Sr. on April 11, 2011, 09:50:54 PM
I forgot the disclaimer.  Excessive consumption may cause blurry vision, slurring, headaches, etc...
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: JKL on April 11, 2011, 09:58:29 PM
I forgot the disclaimer.  Excessive consumption may cause blurry vision, slurring, headaches, etc...

I experienced some of these side effects yesterday.   ;D
-J.K.L.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: Tim McManus on April 11, 2011, 11:29:08 PM
Unfortunately for us, we brew outside in the garage and ferment in two separate locations in the house.  In the summer we have to brew outside, fill the carboys, and then walk down a set of rickety stairs in a 100-year-old house to get to the basement.  Not fun, but it's the work we have to do for the beer.  So carrying around full carboys is something we regularly do.

I've been brewing for 16 years and have 18 glass carboys.  This is the first time I've ever broken one.

The most interesting part of dropping it was watching it break.  Full carboys don't break like empty ones (I saw that firsthand once).  The liquid on the inside provides extra mass and it's best to get a few feet away from it because the shards move quickly.

The only consolation to this is that the first carboy made it into the house safely.  So our 10-gallon batch is now a 5-gallon batch.

Brewing is a dangerous sport.  Be careful out there.   ;D
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: CASK1 on April 12, 2011, 01:35:20 AM
I'm gradually making the move to better bottles. I've got two primaries and really like them. Cleaning is not an issue. A good soak in oxyclean has never failed. I secondary in glass, but a gift certificate to my LHBS will get me a couple of 5 gallon BB (thanks Mom & Dad!). While I never use a brush etc. on BB, I do all sour/funky beers in glass. The risk of bugs hiding out in my BB is too great to risk it. I move glass fermenters in milk crates like others have posted above. Cheers!
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: ccarlson on April 12, 2011, 12:26:16 PM
I rarely use carboys anymore, but if I had to move them great distances, when full, I'd definitely build a sling or some sort of carrier to get those things away from my chest and belly.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: Tristan on April 12, 2011, 02:29:38 PM
I've been using glass carboys for years.  Love the brew haulers and I've never had a problem.  I'm always thinking about ways to make it easier and would be open to trying plastic or stainless in the future.

Separate question about fermenting in corney's.  Every have problems with the yeast cake/trub clogging up the post?

I rarely use carboys anymore, but if I had to move them great distances, when full, I'd definitely build a sling or some sort of carrier to get those things away from my chest and belly.

A guy I know is in his 80s and brews exclusively down in his basement.  He designed a pulley/track system.  He puts the brew hauler on the carboy, lifts (cranks) the carboy with the pulley and pulls the carboy along the track to spot he ferments, then cranks it down.  No lifting, no problem.  I'm in the situation most brewers are in where most of my fermentations happen in a different location (basement down rickety stairs) then my brew day (garage).
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: erikn68 on April 12, 2011, 04:29:40 PM
I have use the pet plastic better bottles for more than five years.  It is the ones that are NOT ported.  I had no problems and love them.  If I need to store a lager for an extended time, I will put it in my corny keg.

Erik
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: glitterbug on April 13, 2011, 04:45:43 AM
Stainless is the best option for me. It can be thoroughly cleaned without fear of scratching, can handle boiling liquids, is hard to break\crack\shatter, and should last a very long time.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: theoman on April 13, 2011, 12:58:29 PM
I use these:
http://www.brupaks.com/vessels%20glass.htm
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: dbeechum on April 13, 2011, 03:06:40 PM
Oh man, the way I've seen those things explode worries me.
Title: Re: Glass or Plastic
Post by: jayoun on April 18, 2011, 02:16:56 AM
I once froze and shattered a carboy full of beer (my only one), so I switched over to plastic buckets.  I recently bought a replacement glass carboy (6 gal) which I have only been using for beers using odd ingredients, peppers, smoke, brett, etc... things I am scared of impregnating my buckets.  For lagering or extended aging of beers I will use corny kegs.