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Old 01-21-2013, 05:35 PM   #1
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Default Can I use this aluminum can as a fermenter?

I'm looking for some opinions on whether I should use this aluminum can as a fermenter.





I've read the sticky on aluminum kettles, but it doesn't discuss fermentation and the existing threads on aluminum fermenters aren't very illuminating.

A little history: I got the can from my dad, who bought it from a vendor who told it came from Russia filled with honey (I take this with a grain of salt, btw). It sat outside my hours for many years, but it finally attracted my attention as a possible fermenter so I brought it inside and washed it out. It was in remarkably good shape inside; i'm not real familiar with aluminum vessels, could it have some sort of liner inside?



I'd like to use it because it's big (I estimate 10 gallons), light, and free! It's also more attractive sitting around the house than the buckets I currently use; or it will be, once I've cleaned up the outside a bit. I figure the high conductivity would help keep a stable temperature in a swamp-cooler style fermentation chamber. It's also nice and wide, which I've read is desirable in fermenter design.

My major concern is the aluminum material itself. I could certainly boil water in it for an hour to form an oxide layer. However, I'm wondering if there are different concerns with leaving wort in it for a month at fermentation temperatures than there are boiling wort for a couple hours?

Thanks for any thoughts on the matter!



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Old 01-22-2013, 10:25 AM   #2
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if it doesn't have an inner liner the acid from the beer will eat through the aluminium. at least that is my understanding.



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Old 01-22-2013, 10:34 AM   #3
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I have never heard of people putting beer in aluminum cans. I would bet that it would be dangerous!

Just kidding! Boil a little water in it and fill it up! Nice fermenter, by the way.

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Old 01-22-2013, 10:59 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcarter View Post
I have never heard of people putting beer in aluminum cans. I would bet that it would be dangerous!
Yeah. Beer and soda cans are lined to protect the aluminum from being effected by the acids and causing off flavors. I don't know if the layer built up by boiling would be enough for long exposure of fermentation. I'd never be convinced it was really sanitized. How about puting a heater element in the side and using it as a HLT or BK?
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:22 AM   #5
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There are two - maybe three - possible ways to use this as a fermenter:

1. Form passive oxide coating by boiling the whole thing in water for 20-30 minutes.

2. Properly anodize the inside.

3. My favorite, which is to have it electroless nickel plated ("immersion nickel").

Or take it to a scrapyard and use the money received to buy a Better Bottle or carboy or bucket.

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Old 01-22-2013, 11:27 AM   #6
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if you go with the #1 option that magic says then you can't clean it with percarbonate because it will take the layer off each times. You could just boil everytime i guess though...

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Old 01-22-2013, 11:28 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by MagicSmoker View Post
Or take it to a scrapyard and use the money received to buy a Better Bottle or carboy or bucket.
Noooooo...

While I wouldn't use it as a fermentor due to the Al disolution concerns, which may be more significant for long-term storage than for a short boil, that's way too odd a thing to recycle.

If you want to ferment in it, I would try to contact someone who actually knows about food safety issues like this in a professional capacity. A food sciences prof at a nearby university might be a place to start. If it really was a honey storage vessel, it might be ok (honey is fairly acidic), but I'd be careful before using it.

Also bear in mind that you don't know authoritatively what it contained previously. Even if it was honey, are you sure it wasn't a Chernobyl honey disposal unit?
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Old 01-22-2013, 12:02 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by dcarter
I have never heard of people putting beer in aluminum cans. I would bet that it would be dangerous!

[QUOTE=iBrewR;4812195]Yeah. Beer and soda cans are lined to protect the aluminum from being effected by the acids and causing off flavors.

I would argue that the negative effects of the BPA in the coatings and plastic fermenters would be more of a health risk than letting wort sit in this can for two weeks and I don't think that a real health risk exists at all for BPA contamination. Ferment in it and if you think it tastes metallic, find a bucket. This ain't rocket science. LOL

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Old 01-22-2013, 12:13 PM   #9
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Nice aluminum can, FWIW I have fermented in an aluminum kettle with good results. No corosion issues, kettle looks the same as ever. You could boil wort in that thing as well, how about adding an element for an e-kettle, that would be da bomb!

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Old 01-23-2013, 04:34 PM   #10
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Thanks for the comments, folks. I'll gonna do a boil for an oxyide layer, then throw a few gallons of cider in there to see what happens.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zeg View Post

If you want to ferment in it, I would try to contact someone who actually knows about food safety issues like this in a professional capacity.
We actually have a NIOSH facility in town; there might be someone over there who deals with these sorts of issues.

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Also bear in mind that you don't know authoritatively what it contained previously. Even if it was honey, are you sure it wasn't a Chernobyl honey disposal unit?


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