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Old 03-25-2013, 02:08 PM   #1
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Default Carboy Capacity

I know that this has been discussed at length (I've read 10+ threads here after a search), but I still can't determine what's right for my situation, so I'm just going to ask directly.

I'm an all-grain brewer. I usually stick to smaller beers, since things like a quality Ordinary Bitter are so much more difficult to come by commercially (I can buy a excellent hoppy IPA just about anywhere). I have a 5G Igloo Cooler Mash Tun and 2 5G glass carboys, although I've never bothered to rack to secondary with my brews because I don't generally dry hop or add any ingredients (although a coffee porter is on my list soon). Works fine for me.

First question: Both my carboys were hand-me-downs. I was told they were 5G, and my 5G batched come up to the last "line" in the glass "grid" before the neck starts to curve heavily. I assume that the 5G measurement includes that amount of head space rather than literally taking it to the top of the neck. However, if I am wrong and I actually have 6G carboys, someone please let me know

Back to the questions: a friend of mine wants a primer on brewing in general and all-grain in particular, and he desperately wants to make a Pliny the Elder clone with me. I knew that I'd have to upgrade to a 10G mash tun, which I had planned on doing eventually so that I could use my 5G as a HLT with spigot, which is going to make things a lot easier for me (I usually fly sparge). So I did so.

However, now I'm realizing that my carboys are probably not big enough to contain a 5G batch of Pliny with all the dry hops and krausen. I recently made a 5% ABV Fat Tire clone and got a GREAT krausen off the Belgian yeast, but I would consider it the max my carboy could handle. I was hoping for some definitive knowledge before going out and spending money on a new glass carboy (and I prefer carboys to buckets and glass to plastic; I know some people with disagree but that's my preference).

Another thought that I had that would make for an interesting experiment: what if I racked HALF of it to the second carboy and split the dry hops. Half would be dry hopping in primary with the yeast cake. I know there are proponents for both techniques but that it doesn't really seem to make a fundamental difference outside of considerations like ease of cleanup and the effort and risks associated with racking.

I know that batches can be scaled to whatever size you want, so this makes inherent sense, but does letting 2.5G sit on what was a yeast cake from a 5G batch make any difference? Assuming it's healthy but dormant yeast I would say probably not, and it won't sit on there for more than 6 weeks.

On the other hand my wife will NOT be happy with having TWO fermentors sitting out in the kitchen for 3 weeks (we don't have a big house) and I don't mind investing in new equipment when it's necessary. I also want this batch to come out as good as possible for my friend's sake, so am less amendable to risking a batch as a test than I normally am. Plus, it's a particularly expensive batch for me (high grain bill, double hops, double yeast, dry hops, etc.; my next "level up" in brewing is to make yeast starters and then get a stir plate, but I haven't made that leap yet).

So,

  1. Am I correct that I have 5G fermentors?
  2. If so, is it 100% inadvisable to attempt this beer using two 5G carboys (one for primary and racked to the other for secondary for the dry hopping)?
  3. If so, should I jump up to a 6G carboy or try splitting the batch?
  4. Any other ideas?

Thanks!
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Old 03-25-2013, 02:14 PM   #2
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#4 - go for a 6.5 gallon carboy if you decided to go larger in size. After than I'm out of advice. Wait no, just reread your post

I would NOT split the batch post ferment for the dry hopping and leave a 2.5 gallon headspace in each. That is asking for oxyidation issues/problems, unless you can purge with co2.

I would probably look for a 6.5 gallon and expect a blow off tube as needed. Also I'd then rack to a 5 galon 2ndary all of it for the dryhop, or put it in primary. either way, very little O2 contamination. The only splitting(#2) I would do would be to split the primary ferment and combine at the dry hopping.

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Old 03-25-2013, 02:14 PM   #3
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Sounds like 5 gallon carboys to me.

I don't ferment anything in my 5 gallon carboy - just too much blowoff and such. With the dry hopping you'll need, a single 5 gallon is just not going to work unless you scale things down or split the batch, and I don't think you want that much headspace for dry hopping.

I'd personally buy a 6.5 gallon carboy for use as your new primary.

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Old 03-25-2013, 07:28 PM   #4
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Thanks for the advice. I didn't consider potential oxidation. This is exactly the reason I decided to ask the boards

Considering that I will be giving half of the batch to my friend I definitely want to keep it at scale. My Fat Tire Clone clearly maxed out my current capacity for a 5G batch. It sounds like I will go for a 6.5G carboy to enable bigger beers in the future. At least I never paid for the ones I already have. I learned a similar lesson with the 5G vs. 10G igloo coolers, and at least I am also happy to reuse the 5G as a HLT.

Important lesson to new brewers: having a "5 gallon" carboy and a "5 gallon" Mash Tun does not mean that you can brew 5 gallons worth of any style beer. On both you will max out at a "medium" beer (<4-5% ABV) (or have to scale down, which is annoying).

Then I will probably rack to my current 5G carboy to dry hop.

Thanks!

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Old 03-25-2013, 07:40 PM   #5
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Another way of determining your carboy size is by actually pouring measured amounts of liquid and marking off half-gallon marks as you go. These marks will come in handy.

In my opinion, oxidation issues aren't that prevalent in primary fermentors, since the beer is going to be producing a lot of CO2 and will be pushing out the oxygen on its own. Racking to a secondary fermentor when the primary fermentation is already done is when you should be more concerned about oxygen headspace. I usually have a significant amount of headspace in my 6.5 gallon primary fermentors and none of my beers have ever developed cardboardy flavors.

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Old 03-25-2013, 07:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrewLocal365 View Post
On the other hand my wife will NOT be happy with having TWO fermentors sitting out in the kitchen for 3 weeks (we don't have a big house)
Be sure to keep those fermentors covered up. UV light will skunk your beer while it's fermenting. You don't want that.
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Old 03-25-2013, 07:53 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrewLocal365 View Post
At least I never paid for the ones I already have.
They have this place you should check out... craigslist... [/sarc]... But seriously, I found 5 carboys on craigslist once, I got them for gas (it was about 100 mils round trip) and $30 or so I think... I recall selling on of them, and I still have 2 5 gal, 1 6 or 6.5 gal and a 2.8 gal carboy plus 2 cases of wine bottles. A very good hall for only 30 or $40.

Anyhow, check craigslist for peopel bailing on brewing and buy their stuff.
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Old 03-25-2013, 09:34 PM   #8
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LandoLincoln (awesome handle): they are currently in use so I couldn't do the measured pour. But you made me realize that my plan to split the batch wouldn't work anyway because if I use them both at once I have nothing to rack to! I always cover up with a towel or blanket, both for UV protection and temperature "control".

ACbrewer: Craigslist was going to be my first stop. Thanks!

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Old 03-26-2013, 02:14 PM   #9
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I primary in 6.5 gal carboys. Anything higher than 1.050 gets a blowoff tube. From there, I'll rack to a 5 gal for dry hopping.

And all of my carboys have their sizes on the bottom (part of the glass mold).

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