Are there any downsides with using plastic buckets as fermenters?

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Pixalated

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I am fermenting my 3rd brew in a bucket, and I wondering if there are any downsides to it. So far, the only thing I dislike about it is that I can't see my beer inside, but besides that it's easier to carry, it's cheaper and it's easier to clean.
 

BendBrewer

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You'll get tired of staring at your beer. I like the buckets a lot more than my Carboys as long as they don't have a freaking spigot on them. Those spigots increase the clean time 3 fold.
 
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Pixalated

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When I did my third batch, i kinda missed seeing the krausen rise, but i got over it. No, my bucket doesn't have a spigot, I will just syphon.
 

findlaym

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they can be scratched easier than glass. I have also read that they are slightly permeable to oxygen but I doubt this would be an issue as long as you weren't keeping the beer in there for a very long time- like 3 months...

also you can't see what's happening during fermentation, not that it effects the quality of the beer though.
 

SwampassJ

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1. Can't see the krausen without popping the top (unless you've got it spewing out the airlock/blow off).

2. Easier to scratch

3. The 7.9G bucket doesn't fit into my fermentation freezer if I already have a carboy in there.
 

FensterBos

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One of the main downsides to the plastic buckets is that they can scratch very easily; when this happens bacteria/infection can bury itself deep into the scratch and can possibly infect future batches.
Outside of that, there isn't a whole lot of downsides to using the plastic pails compared to glass or plastic carboys...in my opinion.
 
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Pixalated

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Since I don't plan to use steel wool to scrub the sides, I am not worried about scratching.

I've been reading about the oxygen issue, but I've yet to find anything conclusive. So far, the consensus just seems to be that buckets are not good for aging, but I've yet to find some kind of study on this topic.
 

Firebat138

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So can anyone state a good reason why I need a bucket AND a carboy... why do people do the bucket first and then the carboy... there has to be a reason...
 
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Pixalated

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@Firebat138, after some searching, some people say to do your primary in a bucket, but your secondary in a carboy. They say carboy, because it will minimize the headspace, and glass because it will keep the oxygen out. I am still skeptical about the oxygen issue.
 

JWest

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One upside to the buckets is that you don't have to worry about light affecting the beer.
 

BendBrewer

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So can anyone state a good reason why I need a bucket AND a carboy... why do people do the bucket first and then the carboy... there has to be a reason...

Bucket is bigger as most people have 5 gallon carboys. Bucket can handle the fermentation process that would blow out of a smaller container.

You rack to the carboy after fermentation subsides to open up your bucket for another batch.

I just have a lot of buckets and leave the beer in them for a month and go straight to keg. I do still have 2 carboys if I really want to stock up the pipline though. Again, just to free up some buckets.
 

ChshreCat

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they can be scratched easier than glass. I have also read that they are slightly permeable to oxygen but I doubt this would be an issue as long as you weren't keeping the beer in there for a very long time- like 3 months...

I've gone over 3 months in a bucket with no oxidation issues at all.

Don't even use a Green Scrubby either. Soft dishrag and some soap is all you need.

Not even that, usually. A soak with oxyclean, rinse and you're spotless.

Downside to buckets? They don't make that exciting "KIIIISSSSHSHHHHH" sound when you drop them on accident. :D
 

TRainH2o

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You should have a problem with oxygen unless you are aging a Stout or Barleywine. It's best to use glass for extended aging. I do wonder about the plastic holding onto odors. I made a Belgian Dark Strong Ale in a new bucket about a year ago. The bucket still smells like the esters from the Belgian yeast.

Use a soft sponge or rag for removing hop and trub that might be stuck on the sides.
 

BendBrewer

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Not even that, usually. A soak with oxyclean, rinse and you're spotless.

I like to have my first bucket cleaned, dried and put away before my second keg is done filling. Wife likes it that way too.
 

RM-MN

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So can anyone state a good reason why I need a bucket AND a carboy... why do people do the bucket first and then the carboy... there has to be a reason...

The reason you have a bucket and a carboy is so you can make beer and cider at the same time.:rockin:
 

dmbRedGetta

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BendBrewer said:
Bucket is bigger as most people have 5 gallon carboys. Bucket can handle the fermentation process that would blow out of a smaller container.

You rack to the carboy after fermentation subsides to open up your bucket for another batch.

And, if you do a secondary, the carboy will expose the beer to less oxygen since there's less headspace.
 

Golddiggie

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I've stated it before, and I'll state it again... I don't like buckets for fermenting beer in... Period... They're ok for fermenting a melomel if you're adding fruit in at the start. Otherwise, I don't use them. Period...

As for what you ferment in, completely up to you... I will advise against racking a brew before it's time to bottle/keg it from the yeast. I'm going 3-6 weeks on the yeast and getting GREAT brews time and again.

While I do like to see the action inside the carboy (either PET or glass), I'm slowly making the shift over to SS for fermenting and aging... I have my first brew that started in a 5 gallon corny still going (started on 2/26) and only used an airlock in it (we used fermcap in the boil, didn't need a blowoff tube at all)... I'm in the process of cleaning out four 5.16 gallon Sanke kegs that I'll be using for fermenting and aging brews in... I'll probably still use the carboy's for brews, until I have more kegs to use... I will be getting some corny kegs to age my mead inside of soon... That way, I can tuck them away for another ~6 months before bottling them...

Of all the choices, I see stainless steel as the best for fermenting/aging in... Smaller footprint than either carboys or buckets, and you won't get any light/air penetration. Pretty hard to beat that. Plus, if you happen to drop one, and fall on it, the worst thing that will happen is your voice might go up a notch. :eek: Well, unless it falls on YOU that is, and is full of brew... :eek: :eek: Zero chance of it shattering and you getting stabbed.
 

sweet_corn

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80 + batches using nothing but buckets. No problems here. I won't make any claims as to more/less oxygenation, but i like my setup. 1 as a primary, 2 secondaries will allow me to build up the pipeline after it has been raided.

I have never had a plastic bucket shatter if I dropped it.
 

beergolf

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Buckets are cool.

Easy to aerate. Just take your spoon or a wisk and go at it.Easy to take the temp. If you do dry yeast just sprinkle it all over the top and close it up. Wait and then bottle.

Give me a pail over a carboy any day.
 

two_hearted

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plastic buckets are awesome. Easy to dry hop in and easy to clean. Though, I have scratched one and had to throw out and another smells like the pumpkin spice ale I fermented in it.

I'd buy a few more of those before I by another carboy.
 

jheist

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To each his own but buckets remain way easier to scratch even without using something harsh. Use a scratched bucket long enough and you will get an infection.

Something no one has mentioned: when opening a bucket for whatever reason (sampling, gravity, etc) it is much easier for air particles (mold, wild yeast, etc) to sneak into that gaping hole than the small one of a carboy.

I use both and just retire the buckets to cleaning buckets eventually.
 

JohnTheBrewist

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I've easily done 100 batches in buckets, never had a problem. I don't add fruits or dry hop, so it stays in the bucket until I'm ready to keg. I also have a plastic conical for my larger batches.

The only thing I put in a carboy is apfelwein.
 

wedge421

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The only issue I have ever had with buckets is that if I make a very hoppy beer the bucket seems to get stained by the hops and smells like them no matter how much I scrub. Its happened to me twice now. Guess I should try some PBW and see if that clears it up. Oh well just another reason to get a conical :(
 

dmbRedGetta

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wedge421 said:
The only issue I have ever had with buckets is that if I make a very hoppy beer the bucket seems to get stained by the hops and smells like them no matter how much I scrub. Its happened to me twice now. Guess I should try some PBW and see if that clears it up. Oh well just another reason to get a conical :(

I like it that way! I'll even go smell my fermenter when I'm itching to brew but can't...what, is that weird? Don't say you haven't done it.
 

Dynachrome

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When I did my third batch, i kinda missed seeing the krausen rise, but i got over it. No, my bucket doesn't have a spigot, I will just syphon.

I don't seal the lid tight. If I want to know what's going on I lift and take a peak. I try not to disturb the CO2 layer on top. and I don't wait too long to bottle.

:D

I recommend using virgin HDPE (high density polyethylene) buckets. Theyre about $4.00 at Home Depot.
 

Baldy_Beer_Brewery

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Every time the topic of plastic buckets comes up, the same worries about scratches comes out. If you clean well and sanitize properly, scratches shouldn't be a worry.
 

itsme6582

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You should be able to buy at least three buckets for the price of a carboy

3 buckets >> 1 carboy
 

GeoGirl

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Maybe its because I am a girl or maybe I am just too much of a newbie but how does one go about scratching a bucket? I use hand made wash cloths for cleaning (soft enough to be used on a baby but strong enough to be useful) and either unscented dish soap or oxyclean.
 

iaefebs

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I've stated it before, and I'll state it again... I don't like buckets for fermenting beer in... Period... They're ok for fermenting a melomel if you're adding fruit in at the start. Otherwise, I don't use them. Period...
.

Stating an opinion and stating it again.... wow.... and based on what information? OP I use buckets and they are fine. I like them for the same reason as post #1
 

Golddiggie

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Stating an opinion and stating it again.... wow.... and based on what information? OP I use buckets and they are fine. I like them for the same reason as post #1

Personal experience with using them... I used one for my very first brew, and for another brew before I had picked up more carboys... Both times, PITA... Compared with carboys at least.

I'm migrating over to use kegs for fermenting (~5 gallon corny and Sanke kegs) and aging now. With the significantly smaller opening (when pulling a hydrometer/taste sample, less chance of something negative falling in. Just need to get a few more of the orange caps for the Sanke kegs (picked up one today, needed to make sure it would work before getting more) and I'll be in business.

Fermenting in either keg has more positive aspects than either a bucket or even carboy. Although they share more with carboy's than buckets...
1. Zero light penetration. Plastic buckets are not 100% light tight.
2. Zero gas penetration through the fermenter's materials. Plastic could allow gas through, given enough time. Probably not going to be in there long enough, but zero chance is better than a chance.
3. Small top opening similar to a carboy. Benefit over buckets.
4. Easy to pull out a sample via turkey baster or wine thief (match with carboy).
5. Racking from them will be easy. More so than buckets or carboys. I've already done this from the corny keg, the racking cane holds itself upright, without any additional hardware.
6. Zero chance of scratching them using cleaning methods available (keg cleaner tool).
7. Life span... Kegs can last for much longer than either buckets or carboys. It takes a LOT more force to damage a keg than either a bucket or carboy (glass or PET)...

I'm sure I'll find additional items as I use them over the coming years... Only possible negative is that the capacity is just over 5 gallons. But, that is negated by using fermcap and/or blow-off tubes. I also plan on making a fermentation chamber this year. I'll be able to fit more of these into the chamber than either buckets or carboys. Since they have a diameter of no larger than 9", and it's the same for the entire height, it will be easy to get the size chamber I want. Or build one to house them.

People tend to love the what they're fermenting in... Until they find something better... I started with the bucket (as already mentioned) and immediately disliked/hated it. Carboy's were a much better option for me. Since figuring out how to use kegs, that will become my vessel of choice moving forward.

The only reason I used a bucket for the melomel, was due to being able to leave it without the actual lid on it (used a sanitized towel, secured to the top)... That was only for the first week though. After that, it went into a glass carboy. Not sure how long it will be before I do another melomel... Need to see how this one turns out in X months before I actually decide.

Way I see it, use what you like. But, you can use almost anything you want, as long as it's made from safe materials. That means either glass, the correct type of plastic, or stainless steel... Don't segregate one size/type of vessel to just one task. You can easily use 5 gallon carboys as primaries. No need to use them JUST for bright tanks/secondary vessels. You don't HAVE to have over a gallon of head space in order to ferment. Granted, there are some yeasts that you'll want the extra space for. But, you can also do other things to reduce that need.
 

devilishprune

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Buckets FTW. I have both buckets and carboys, but if I ever need another fermenter I know what I'm going to get!

Way easier to carry and I don't have to worry about them slipping and breaking and killing me, or worse, losing beer!
 

RM-MN

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The real downside to the buckets is that they are too cheap, easy to clean, easy to store and convenient to carry so you tend to have too many of them and need to keep them full leading to too much beer. Oh wait, is that really a downside?:drunk:
 

Jawbox0

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Something no one has mentioned: when opening a bucket for whatever reason (sampling, gravity, etc) it is much easier for air particles (mold, wild yeast, etc) to sneak into that gaping hole than the small one of a carboy.

Actually, all you need to do is drill an extra hole in the bucket lid, about the same size as a carboy neck. You can stopper it with a carboy bung, and just pull out the bung for a sample or whatever. I do the same for my airlock hole, using a universal carboy bung instead of a grommit.
 

Sithdad

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You should have a problem with oxygen unless you are aging a Stout or Barleywine. It's best to use glass for extended aging. I do wonder about the plastic holding onto odors. I made a Belgian Dark Strong Ale in a new bucket about a year ago. The bucket still smells like the esters from the Belgian yeast.

While my bucket does retain some odor I have never had any of it leech into anything I have fermented in it. I've made roughly 20 batches in it with styles ranging from lagers, stouts, pale ales, a sangria kit, and mead. My wife doesn't like beer and would would have been able to pick out any flavors or odors that would have leeched into her sangria or mead.

As for scratching the bucket. You'd have to scrub pretty hard or press hard, with a metal spoon, to scratch them. I have a long handled restaurant grade spoon I use to stir and it's never scratched the bucket. Then again I am careful about how I stir.

Carboys are best used as a clarifying/aging vessel where you need to minimize the contact of air and the liquid.
 

mikeysab

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Ive only used buckets so cant comment on glass. Spigots on all of them. Oxyclean gets them perfectly clean. Once im done cleaning, rinsing and drying the bucket, i take the spigot apart and put all parts in a bowl with oxyclean. Before i started using oxy, i would notice some beer inside the spigots moving parts, but that oxyclean gets everywhere.
 
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