Author Topic: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy  (Read 6697 times)

Offline darthmalt

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Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« on: February 08, 2012, 02:38:26 PM »
I'm sure this question has probably been asked several hundred times in the past, although I was unable to find it.  Wouldn't it be nice if the threads were searchable ;)

Back to the task at hand.  I've been using some plastic buckets that used to hold icing with sealed lids as fermenters, but I'm wandering whether glass carboys would be better.  I have heard that there are taste variations with certain styles of beer between the two.  What do you all think?


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Offline bluesman

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2012, 02:47:12 PM »
The carboy/bucket question has been debated for years and comes down to your personal choice for the most part unless you are aging beer.

Buckets are light and easy to handle whereas carboys are heavy and cumbersome not to mention hazardous.

Carboys are transparent allowing one to view the fermentation whereas buckets are opaque. Carboys are impervious to O2 whereas buckets will allow O2 to eventually penetrate into the beer.

You can do some searches on this topic by selecting the search function above.
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Offline dannyjed

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2012, 02:50:52 PM »
I've used both and I've never tasted any difference.  It is just personal preference.  Buckets - Pros> easy to clean, carry, and won't break as easy  Cons> can't see fermenation activity without taking lid off, can scratch easy.   Glass carboy - Pros> you can see fermentation activity, look cool, don't scratch easy  Cons> harder to clean, carry, and can break and slice flesh.
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Offline darthmalt

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2012, 02:57:29 PM »
Thanks, guys.  I thought the search would be close to the reply menu.  My mistake  ::).

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Offline ukolowiczd

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2012, 04:01:04 PM »
I have always fermented in plastic buckets, but my last 5 batches I've fermented solely in glass (all lagers so haven't tasted any yet for results). I read "Wild Brews" by Jeff Sparrow and he has a chapter devoted to oxygen for wild yeast. He has a chart in the book that gives the following shocking oxygen diffusion through selected fermentation vessels:

Wine barrel 8.5 O2 cc/L/year
Glass Carboy (depending on stopper) 0.10 - 17 O2 cc/L/year
Homebrew Bucket 220 cc/L/year

I know it's per year but the bucket is 13x more permeable to oxgyen than the glass! This changed my tune.

Offline weithman5

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2012, 04:28:55 PM »
I have always fermented in plastic buckets, but my last 5 batches I've fermented solely in glass (all lagers so haven't tasted any yet for results). I read "Wild Brews" by Jeff Sparrow and he has a chapter devoted to oxygen for wild yeast. He has a chart in the book that gives the following shocking oxygen diffusion through selected fermentation vessels:

Wine barrel 8.5 O2 cc/L/year
Glass Carboy (depending on stopper) 0.10 - 17 O2 cc/L/year
Homebrew Bucket 220 cc/L/year

I know it's per year but the bucket is 13x more permeable to oxgyen than the glass! This changed my tune.

that still doesn't mean it is a significant amount to change anything over the duration the beer was in the bucket.  most buckets are hdpe as are some of the kegs that are now available and used by some of our current forum members for their business.  granted turnover is different, thickness is different..
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Offline a10t2

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2012, 04:30:01 PM »
I'm a little skeptical of a single value for diffusion, since it'll depend on temperature, surface/volume ratio, etc. To say nothing of the type of plastic/wood and its thickness.

Regardless, that's ~300 ppm O2, whereas at room temperature the highest you can get is ~8 ppm. Extrapolating, you'd reach saturation after about nine days (assuming no more O2 is being metabolized by the yeast). And here we have all kinds of experienced brewers saying that storage in a bucket for several times that long isn't resulting in perceptible oxidation.

So maybe the oxidation reactions take so long that oxygen ingress through the plastic isn't the driving factor.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2012, 05:59:37 AM »
Diffusion is insignificant compared to the leakage through the bung or lid.  And when the fermentation is generating CO2 and puching out of the container, there is little threat of oxidation.  Once it subsides, its time to get it somewhere with less chance of air getting in and contacting the beer.  Also, its more about the surface area in contact with air, and that is greater with a bucket unless you don't fill the fermentor to near the top of the neck.
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Offline weithman5

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2012, 07:56:06 AM »
i am not so sure the oxidative reactions take so long but maybe,, i remember how stale kegs would taste a few days after being tapped (you remember the old air pumps at house parties). i just think that in those cases you are actively pressurizing the keg with air which is 20% oxygen and after a couple days the small amount left in the keg would be stale.  I think at STP,maybe the reaction is slower and there is not as much o2 diffused in a plastic bucket to make an issue. none that i have noticed.
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Offline corkybstewart

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2012, 08:35:10 AM »
I left a stubborn Belgian strong dark ale in buckets for 5 weeks once trying to get it to finish fermenting.  A year later we were drinking the second keg and there was no indication of staling at all.  I don't recommend leaving beer in buckets for 5 weeks routinely, but I'm not convinced it's bad either.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2012, 08:53:15 AM »
Let's not forget the Better Bottle.  Clear like a carboy, plastic like a bucket.  The best of both worlds.

I ferment in these and love them.  I also have many years of using glass and never had an issue, though there are some real horror stories about breaking carboys.

I've only fermented in a bucket once, and that was recently.  It was very odd not being able to see what was going on, but the beer came out great.  I didn't let it sit too long, so I can't speak to oxidation.
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Offline denny

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2012, 09:45:46 AM »
I started with carboys for t he first 4-5 years I brewed.  AFter breaking 3 of them and losing 10 gal. of double decocted pils, I went to buckets and never looked back.  I find buckets easier to use, easier to clean, and take up less storage room.  In addition, they're unbreakable.
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Offline repo

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2012, 09:50:38 AM »
Just curious, as I 've seen different opinions on this, but how how ferments will you use the same bucket for????
I started with carboys for t he first 4-5 years I brewed.  AFter breaking 3 of them and losing 10 gal. of double decocted pils, I went to buckets and never looked back.  I find buckets easier to use, easier to clean, and take up less storage room.  In addition, they're unbreakable.

Offline denny

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2012, 09:52:23 AM »
Just curious, as I 've seen different opinions on this, but how how ferments will you use the same bucket for????
I started with carboys for t he first 4-5 years I brewed.  AFter breaking 3 of them and losing 10 gal. of double decocted pils, I went to buckets and never looked back.  I find buckets easier to use, easier to clean, and take up less storage room.  In addition, they're unbreakable.

I have no idea....dozens at least.  I don't track it or worry about it.  I've got maybe 10 buckets and usually 2-3 are in use at any moment.  I look for scratches before I use them, and take them out of service if I find any.  But in 10 years, that's only happened once or twice.
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Offline euge

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Re: Plastic bucket vs. glass carboy
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2012, 11:45:12 AM »
Buckets don't scratch that easily unless you abuse them. And I'll overlook blemishes. Used buckets benefit from an overnight caustic soak like PBW to get the stains and residual aroma out. I use sodium hydroxide but oxyclean also works well if used properly.

And another benefit is that I've drilled out a 1" hole in my fermenting buckets to allow a plastic spigot. Voila! No siphoning just gravity. I haven't siphoned once in five years.

Take care of your buckets and they'll take care of you. ;)
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