Author Topic: can I use a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter?  (Read 5903 times)

Offline chadgordon

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Ok, obviously I’m new at this & I have what I'm afraid might be a dumb question.
I'm brewing an IPA & it's been fermenting for 9 days in a plastic bucket.  I racked it to another 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter but then I found out that a glass carboy is best because it has less headspace & less oxygen in contact with the beer, but I only have 2 plastic buckets. 
Unfortunately, my wife might throw me out if I spend any more money on beer equipment this month so I have to make due with what I have.
So that leads me to my question: 
If I place a large sanitized stainless steel mixing bowl inside the plastic bucket, sitting on top of the beer, and weight it down so that the surface of the beer is touching the bowl all over, will that reduce oxidation?  The bowl is the perfect size & actually fits snugly inside the bucket.  I’ve also got the bucket sitting in a tub of water to help control the temp & possibly help oxygen from seeping through the plastic but from what I’ve read I’m not sure that it actually helps.  I’ve read through other questions in the forum & haven’t come across anything like this.
Any help is greatly appreciated!

Chad

Offline denny

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Re: can I use a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter?
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2011, 09:33:09 AM »
If I were you, I'd just leave it alone at this point.  The less you mess with it, the better off you'll be.  In the future, you should just skip secondary.  It's almost never necessary and most homebrew "experts" recommend you not even bother with it.  Just leave the beer in the primary for 3-4 weeks and you should be fine.
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: can I use a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter?
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2011, 09:40:47 AM »
Yes as Denny says, don't bother with transferring to another vessel.  This is especially true if you can keep the vessel and the beer cool.  That reduces the chance of autolysis of the yeast trub in the fermenter. 

Unless you're actually adding another yeast, bacteria, or other fermentables, there is no such thing as a secondary fermentor.  Its a clarifier.  Your primary fermenter is equally suited to serving as a clarifier.  Temperature control is an important caveat.  Keep it cool, (preferably cold) in order to reduce the time it takes to clarify the beer and reduce autolysis risk.
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Offline chadgordon

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Re: can I use a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter?
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2011, 09:51:57 AM »
Thanks for the advice.  This is my first brew & I just want it to be drinkable.  Well, actually I want it to be great but for my first time I'll settle for good  :)

Temp control is a bit of an issue because I'm in southern California & it's the beginning of summer.  I've been adding ice to the water that the bucket is in to keep the temp between 65-70.

On a more positive note, this is one of the coolest things I've ever done & I'm already lining up my next batch! 

Offline majorvices

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Re: can I use a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter?
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2011, 01:08:37 PM »
Just to add to what the others said, plastic buckets are great for primary fermenation but you need to get them out of the bucket soon after fermentation is finished because they are not air tight and oxygen will quickly start to move in. The only beers I have lost to acetobacter (and infection that can only happen in the presence of o2) are beers I kept far too long in buckets in the primary. No way you would want to secondary beer in a plastic bucket. In fact, I don;t think the merits are that high for secondarying any beer in any vessel that you can not purge the head space with Co2.

In your case, you might consider bottling this beer ASAP. It may actually be fine to wait until the weekend, but I would not let it sit around much longer than this (assuming the fermentation is complete.)

Congrats on your first beer!
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Offline chadgordon

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Re: can I use a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter?
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2011, 01:27:52 PM »
majorvices - thanks, I think I'll bottle this weekend because it is finished fermenting.

Offline weithman5

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Re: can I use a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter?
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2011, 06:05:42 AM »
I racked it to another 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter but then I found out that a glass carboy is best because it has less headspace & less oxygen in contact with the beer, Any help is greatly appreciated!



5 gallons of beer in a 6.5 gallon bucket has the same volume of headspace (1.5) gal, as 5 gallons of beer in a 6.5 gallon carboy.  the surface area may be a little different based on the configuration but this is unlikely to be a significant change over several weeks of fermentation. 

that said, i agree with the others, don't transfer if you aren't going to add anything or gain anything (yeast harvest) i have lagered in plastic for several months with no problems due likely due to cold.
Don AHA member

Offline majorvices

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Re: can I use a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter?
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2011, 06:16:58 AM »
I racked it to another 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter but then I found out that a glass carboy is best because it has less headspace & less oxygen in contact with the beer, Any help is greatly appreciated!



5 gallons of beer in a 6.5 gallon bucket has the same volume of headspace (1.5) gal, as 5 gallons of beer in a 6.5 gallon carboy.  the surface area may be a little different based on the configuration but this is unlikely to be a significant change over several weeks of fermentation. 


That's why you would never use a 6.5 gallon carboy as a secondary. 5 gallon carboy only and limit head space, unless you are replacing the volume with more fermentables such as fruit. Also, if you are to do a secondary in a carboy you want to transfer while there is still some Co2 in solution or introduce a secondary fermenation with fruit, bugs, etc.

That said, at least with a glass carboy you can seal the secondary. You can;t really seal a bucket no matter how hard you try. It is always 02 permeable. Not only that, but fruit flies can and will find a way inside a bucket. The bucket seal won't stop them. Apparently it is the larvae that can get in under the bucket lid.
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Offline nateo

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Re: can I use a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter?
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2011, 01:04:49 PM »
I've never heard of fruit flies getting past the rubber seal on bucket lids. Is there something about that rubber that is different than the rubber used to stop up a glass carboy?

The O2 permeability claim got me researching a bit, and I came up with this:
http://www2.parc.com/emdl/members/apte/flemishredale.shtml

So, a glass carboy with a rubber stopper isn't really sealed. The glass carboy will admit 17cc of O2 in a year. An HDPE bucket will admit 220cc of O2 in a year. Obviously 220cc is a lot more than 17cc, but how many people are leaving their beer in their bucket for a whole year? 220/12 = 18.33cc. So in one month in a plastic bucket, your beer will oxidize about as much as one year in a glass carboy. Now, whether or not this is "too much" oxidation is a question each brewer has to ask himself. I'll continue using my buckets because they're easier to clean, and I'm not concerned with such a small level of oxidation.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: can I use a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter?
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2011, 01:27:37 PM »
Its not the fruit flies that get in, its the larvae and they can get in under the seal. I was pointed to a couple of links several years ago. An internet search might find it for you.

Truth be told, the only time I have ever had troubles with fruit flies were in buckets. The flies are attracted to, but can not tolerate Co2. So when the Co2 abates they can and will find a way to get in. My opinion is that Carboys hold Co2 better than buckets and so the flies can not get in.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: can I use a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket as a secondary fermenter?
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2011, 01:29:24 PM »
Do you think it is the larvae getting in buckets with rubber seals on the lids?  I was picturing the standard plastic buckets/lids that have no real seal and can't even hold in CO2 well enough to bubble an airlock.
Tom Schmidlin