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Old 06-26-2012, 11:25 AM   #1
jarrodaden
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Default Possible misinformation about plastic fermentation buckets

I recently purchased a glass carboy thinking that I would begin using secondary fermentation. When I purchased the carboy, I put my wort into the carboy using it as the primary. It was later on this forum that I was told that the plastic bucket is better for a primary because when using the plastic bucket for a secondary, air could permeate into it causing undesired results.

I have been thinking about this and I am not sure that this is necessarily true. The fermentation process produces gas. Thus the reason for an airlock. The airlock will only release the gas when the pressure inside the fermenter is higher than outside.

That being said, if the pressure is higher inside than outside the fermenter I do not see how air would have any tendency to permeate into the fermenter. The only thing that might cause this is if the fermenter drops in temperature and the outside temperature becomes relatively higher there might be a brief moment that the pressure is actually higher outside than inside the fermenter. It is a fact that a set volume of gas will increase in pressure in the temperature rises and vice versa.

Some of us (including me) have seen this happened first hand when they put their wort into the bucket while it was still a bit warmer than room temperature. The following morning they come back to find the liquid in the airlock has been sucked into the fermenter. Set volume of gas is cooled and the pressure drops.

The key in my estimation is to transfer to the secondary while there is still a small amount of off gassing occurring so that the secondary will have a chance to build up gas again once it is sealed.

Another note - An "s bend" airlock has an added benefit if you understand the manometer principle. It will not only function as an airlock, it will give you an indication of how much higher the pressure is inside the fermenter vs outside. You don't necessarily need bubbles to know whether or not the fermenter is slightly under pressure due to off gas.

All of this said, I will still use the bucket for the primary because of ease of cleaning but thought it would be helpful to others to share a little science.

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Old 06-26-2012, 11:33 AM   #2
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Very few people give any real credence to the whole glass vs plastic idiocy. Most of us laugh when we hear those arguments bandied about. It's usually from the extremely noobish, and/or unscrupulous (or just plain ignorant) LHBS people trying to pimp an expensive glass carboy to the unsuspecting, rather than a cheaper (and just as fine) better bottle or plastic bucket.

The yeast don't care what they do their job in....In reality a fermenter is a fermenter is a fermenter.....glass, plastic, carboy, bucket, jerry can, keg, milk jug, ceramic crock, glass hurricane jar, stainless steel or plastic conicals, pet food storage vessels (vittle vaults), HD or Lowe's buckets, frosting buckets, water jugs, the old Mr Beer jug...All of those and anything you can think of, all work perfectly fine, and have been used by hundreds if not thousands of brewers...

No one type is better or worse than any other...good beer or crappy beer can be made in all of them, dependant onthe brewer, NOT what it's fermented in...

It's really just a matter of preference, nothing more....

It really isn't rocket science, it's really about using what works for you.

The only better or best in this race has to be what you've misunderstood. It's better to use a carboy (be it glass or plastic) as A SECONDARY, rather than a bucket, and that has to do with HEADSPACE (if you choose to use a secondary at all.) It doesn't matter what you use as a primary......

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Old 06-26-2012, 12:02 PM   #3
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Ever since I started brewing I have been using buckets as primaries and carboys as secondary, both have been serving me well for many years. Some of my buckets are 5 years old and to date I have never had a beer go bad or infection.

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Old 06-26-2012, 12:36 PM   #4
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My theory is, that at some point CO2 stops being expelled by the fermentation process, and there is no longer a positive pressure airlock (higher pressure inside the fermenter). At that point oxygen can begin to migrate through the vessel walls. I don't know how long this takes,, weeks, months? Or if the rate is even enough to effect beer. But the fact that so many people can make great beer that sits in a HDPE pail for 3-4 weeks or longer without issue, is a testament that most of these polymers are acceptable for fermentation vessels.

*Glass is zero.
Oxygen permeability of different polymers.
Polymer Oxygen permeability (x10-13 cm3. cm cm-2 s-1 Pa-1
LDPE-low density poly ethylene 2.0
HDPE-High density poly ethylene 0.4
PET-Polyethylene terephthalate 0.03
PP-Polypropylene 1.7
PC-Polycarbonate 1.0
PS-Polystyrene 2.0

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Old 06-26-2012, 12:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jarrodaden
The key in my estimation is to transfer to the secondary while there is still a small amount of off gassing occurring so that the secondary will have a chance to build up gas again once it

Had the same thoughts about when to transfer but now I have my own co2 tank and I try to purge all my fermentors of oxygen. It's probably not that effective but helps me sleep at night
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Old 06-26-2012, 12:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revvy View Post
The yeast don't care what they do their job in....In reality a fermenter is a fermenter is a fermenter.....glass, plastic, carboy, bucket, jerry can, keg, milk jug, ceramic crock, glass hurricane jar, stainless steel or plastic conicals, pet food storage vessels (vittle vaults), HD or Lowe's buckets, frosting buckets, water jugs, the old Mr Beer jug...All of those and anything you can think of, all work perfectly fine, and have been used by hundreds if not thousands of brewers...
I once saw an article where a guy made a pumpkin ale and did the primary in a carved-out pumpkin fitted with an airlock. Pretty cool.
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Old 06-26-2012, 01:17 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spartangreen View Post
But the fact that so many people can make great beer that sits in a HDPE pail for 3-4 weeks or longer without issue, is a testament that most of these polymers are acceptable for fermentation vessels.
Many people have left beer in buckets and other plastic vessels for YEARS with no issues.

But yeah, as you posted, the difference between most plastics and glass is really negligible.
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Old 06-26-2012, 01:18 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jkendal View Post
I once saw an article where a guy made a pumpkin ale and did the primary in a carved-out pumpkin fitted with an airlock. Pretty cool.
Yeah the only issue was some mold formation on the pumpkin lid.

Just wait til after Big Brew Day in November, I'm going to do and post something that's going to blow everybody's minds.
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Old 06-26-2012, 01:31 PM   #9
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I left a 13% Tart Cherry Braggot, on cherries, in secondary of an Ale Pail for 8 months. It is super yummy and not oxidized at all. Yooper has had some and I am sure she would have told me about it. It was force carbed and has been in bottles for a few months now. The bucket now has beer stone inside it, it sat so long.

I plan to make a second batch of this but will prob not leave it on the cherries quite so long and will use a carboy as all my buckets have been converted to do sours. In the fore mentioned bucket I have a Lambic going that will be in there for nearly 10 months.

YMMV but that is my story.

IMO:
Buckets: are cheap and work well. The 2 big draw backs are not being able to see the fermentation (Which is HUGE for new brewers) and scratching the inside. There is also a very real danger of getting "suck back" when lifting one full with an airlock attached.

Better bottles and Glass Carboys: These are great for new brewers because they can see what is happening. They are also great for wine so you know when it is done clearing, this can be months.

I use both bucket and glass. The right tool for the job.

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Old 06-26-2012, 01:38 PM   #10
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My only issue with plastic buckets is that plastic can, and eventually will, scratch. Those scratches are a great place for baddies to hide. I've only had one infection since I started brewing and that was in a plastic bucket (Ed's Oktoberfest too.. I almost cried!). If for no other reason then a false sense of security I only brew in glass now.

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