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Old 05-09-2006, 09:06 PM   #1
gmal1
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Default carboy purpose

I am about to get back into homebrew after a hiatus. I never used a carboy, just a 5 gallon plastic tub; never did a secondary. What exactly is the purpose of using a carboy versus a standard pail or tub?

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Old 05-09-2006, 09:12 PM   #2
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You can see all of the glop floating around, therefor, when using a carboy for a clearing tank, you can see when the glop has settled. Some people believe plastic buckets are hard to sanitize. I don't like large pieces of glass and have never had a problem with cleaning a bucket.

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Old 05-09-2006, 09:23 PM   #3
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The conventional wisdom is that when you let a brew sit in a fermenter for more than two weeks, you should have it in glass rather than plastic. The thing that is thus being avoided is an off taste. Like David, I have never experienced an off taste from a plastic fermenter, so that's what I mostly use (and what I exclusively use for one stage fermenting). However, I do use a glass secondary sometimes, mainly when I am making a fruit beer, so that I can see the progress.

I like the ease of plastic - easy to put stuff in the pail, easy to sanitize, easy to use as a tool for sanitizing all your stuff, easy in a lot of ways.

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Old 05-10-2006, 02:11 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveM
The conventional wisdom is that when you let a brew sit in a fermenter for more than two weeks, you should have it in glass rather than plastic. The thing that is thus being avoided is an off taste. Like David, I have never experienced an off taste from a plastic fermenter, so that's what I mostly use (and what I exclusively use for one stage fermenting). However, I do use a glass secondary sometimes, mainly when I am making a fruit beer, so that I can see the progress.

I like the ease of plastic - easy to put stuff in the pail, easy to sanitize, easy to use as a tool for sanitizing all your stuff, easy in a lot of ways.
Any off tastes aren't supposed to come from the plastic.

The reason most folks recommend glass for secondary is that plastic is oxygen permeable, and the surface of the beer within it has a large surface area. Add all this up over a few to several weeks, and you have a better chance of oxygen getting into your brew than in a non-permeable container that only offers a very small surface area at the top of the vessel.

Really though, the choice is up to you. I'd never secondary in a plastic vessel, but that's the choice I made.
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Old 05-10-2006, 11:20 PM   #5
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Thanks - I was not very clear in my comments - the off taste being avoided in theory coming from a level of air permeability.

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Old 05-11-2006, 02:44 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bikebryan
Any off tastes aren't supposed to come from the plastic.

The reason most folks recommend glass for secondary is that plastic is oxygen permeable, and the surface of the beer within it has a large surface area. Add all this up over a few to several weeks, and you have a better chance of oxygen getting into your brew than in a non-permeable container that only offers a very small surface area at the top of the vessel.

Really though, the choice is up to you. I'd never secondary in a plastic vessel, but that's the choice I made.
With all due respect, I don't think that the amount of oxygen that could permeate through the plastic during the course of a typical secondary fermentation will have any noticeable effect.
What I do think could have a noticeable effect is:
  1. The anoint of oxygen in a bucket at the time the lid is sealed is much larger than with a properly sized carboy, and this oxygen could have a detrimental effect.
  2. The circumference of a bucket lid is much greater than the neck of a carboy, so any sealing problems are greatly magnified with a bucket.
  3. It's easier to judge the progress of a fermentation in glass (where you can see it) than in plastic (when you can't).
-a.
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Old 05-11-2006, 02:53 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveM
Thanks - I was not very clear in my comments - the off taste being avoided in theory coming from a level of air permeability.
I've had beer in a primary for 34 days once. It won Best of Show...go figure.

I always use a glass carboy for my secondaries.
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Old 05-11-2006, 01:21 PM   #8
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Yeah, note that I said "in theory." I am skeptical of the whole issue. In any case, it seems to me to be a lot tougher to get a good seal with a carboy plug than with the lid, and unless you are in the habit of filling your carboy to the very top (and thus expose yourself to the risk of blowing out), the issue of air on the surface of your beer looks like about a draw anyway.

Bottom line, I am happy with my plastic primary fermenter.

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Old 05-11-2006, 01:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveM
In any case, it seems to me to be a lot tougher to get a good seal with a carboy plug than with the lid,
Eh? hard to get a good seal with a carboy? It's actually simplier than a bucket lid. Either push the stopper in or just snap on the carboy cap if you buy the new fangled caps instead.

To each his own. My father used glass carboys for primary and secondary thus I use glass carboys for primary and secondary.
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Old 05-11-2006, 02:08 PM   #10
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What it comes down to is that you'd have to brew a 10 gallon batch, then transfer half to a bottle and half to a bucket to see if you notice any difference. My guess is that even in a blind taste-test it would take the most sensitive pallet to detect which is which.

I use plastic, and have had no problems. I don't use anything more abrasive than a clean washrag to wipe it out so I don't have problems with nasties hiding in scratches. I use OxyClean immediately after emptying the bucket and before reusing it, and give it a good soak in sanitizer (> 5 minutes) prior to reusing.

Now, I'll suppose that there is some leftover flavor stuck in the walls of the bucket. Due to the amount of sanitation, I'll also assume that it's sterile and only adds complexity to the flavor of my present brew. It's like a well seasoned griddle or wok.

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