Plastic water jugs as carboys

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mcliffor

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This seems like the kind of question people would ask all the time, but I can't find it anywhere on the forum. Can you use 5 gallon plastic water jugs designed for office water coolers as fermenters? They're the right size, light, clear, and most importantly, they're free. I don't want to spend $100 on glass carboys if I don't need them. Will the plastic give the beer a bad taste? It doesn't with water, but then again, water doesn't have alcohol in it.
 

Cheesefood

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mcliffor said:
This seems like the kind of question people would ask all the time, but I can't find it anywhere on the forum. Can you use 5 gallon plastic water jugs designed for office water coolers as fermenters?
I'm going to try them as secondaries, but not as primaries. There's not enough room for the krauesen. If you did 3 gallon batches, you'd be fine.

mcliffor said:
I don't want to spend $100 on glass carboys if I don't need them. Will the plastic give the beer a bad taste? It doesn't with water, but then again, water doesn't have alcohol in it.
Glass carboys are under $20. Plastic pails are even cheaper. Are you sure you're getting them free? Sounds like you're going to steal office supplies. Your company is charged for the jugs so I doubt that they're giving them away.
 

Brewno

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Cheesefood said:
I'm going to try them as secondaries, but not as primaries. There's not enough room for the krauesen. If you did 3 gallon batches, you'd be fine.



Glass carboys are under $20. Plastic pails are even cheaper. Are you sure you're getting them free? Sounds like you're going to steal office supplies. Your company is charged for the jugs so I doubt that they're giving them away.
My LHBS sells 5 gal glass carboys for $17. Most of the water jugs I've seen have contours that look like it would be difficult to clean. With my plastic ferment bucket at least I can get my arm in there with a sponge to clean it carefully. How would I do that with a jug? More chance to scratch the plastic I think. Scratched plastic is a great place for bacteria to build up. I'd stick with glass.
Then again, I'm new also....so maybe I'm wrong.

Tommy
 

the_bird

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Brewno said:
My LHBS sells 5 gal glass carboys for $17.
My LHBS is getting either $25 or $27 for a 5 gallon carboy. Grr.

On the good-news front, I discovered that there's ANOTHER LHBS that I wasn' aware of. Both are about an hour from my house, one to the East, one to the West. Gonna take a trip to the *new* one (which appears to have been around for years and years) this weekend. Looking ideally for some 3-gallon carboys; want to split a 5 gallon batch in half, ferment one half according to the standard directions (Brewer's Best kit) and add some either some fruit or some maple syrup to the other half. I liked the first HBS a lot, except the prices; hoping the other is a little more reasonable.
 

Sephro

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Well the water jugs will work... just not as well as a glass carboy. They are different than those they sell "Better Bottles"... The reason you would use glass or these new plastic ones is they do not allow O2 to get into the beer. The plastics that they use for the water will.
I would not suggest using the water jugs. I would say buy a carboy and a bucket as a primary...
 

the_bird

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Sephro said:
Yeah I just check BYO.com and they don't have anything close to you..
http://www.beer-winemaking.com/ is the closest but that's way down in North Hampton..

Too bad you are that far out.. the one that I go to has 3 gallon carboys..
http://www.home-brew.com/index.html?token=1228241237-1364202592-219840980&A=9&B=PRODUCTS
NoHo's a little more than an hour, but it's a nice drive and it's such a great place to hang out for an afternoon, anyway. The NoHo place is the one I didn't know about until recently. The one that I have been frequenting is Hennessy Home Brew outside of Troy, NY, just about the same drive. Don't recall them having anything smaller than 5 gallon in stock.

I'm not even sure whether I should be using a 3 gallin carboy as a primary for 2.5 gallons, or whether I should be using a pair of 5s. I'm thinking now that probably my smartest course of action is a pair of 5s for primary, pair of 3s for secondary. Sound right?
 

Sephro

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If you are added stuff very often that is done after the primary when you transfer to the secondary. Reason being at this time there is active fermentation and an alcohol content that will help with unsanitized things such as dry hopping or fruit.. If I were doing Maple syrup I would think about putting that in earlier since you don't want to mix the wort at that stage..

What I would do if you want to do smaller batches is to do the primary all in one bucket. Then when it is ready to go into the carboys transfer it into the two smaller batches...

I wouldn't make small batches myself because if a batch comes out really good I will be upset that I don't have more ;) but if it's crappy I would prolly be glad that I didn't have 5 gallons of the stuff to drink.. (can't throw it out....:p )
 

the_bird

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Well, this is all experimentation from me, making my own mistakes!

I'm thinking syrup in the primary (I'll boil it with a little bit of extra water first) because I do want this to ferment. Pretty sure I read that about two-thirds of the sugars are fermentable. I want the maple flavor, but not so much the sweetness per se.

The concern that I would have doing fruit in the secondary is that I want all the gunk to have a chance to fall out before it's time to bottle. Don't really want to do a three-stage fermentation, I ain't THAT patient. If I do anything with fruit this time around, it would be some frozen raspberries or something that I would maybe not boil, but bring up to ~ 170 degrees or so for a while to make sure they were sanitized. Not sure about this, gotta do some more research, would prefer to not have more pectin haze than is necessary...
 

Sephro

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From what I have read (I haven't done this) you would want to put the thawed out raspberries in the secondary and rack right onto them. Then you will want to rack into a 3rd vessel... I think this is to keep the fruit taste from getting a rotten flavor... then age for at least 2 more weeks... If you want beer fast don't brew fruity beer :p
 

Radarbrew

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Getting back to the question. Don't use the plastic water jug. Can't seal them, can't clean them, CAN scratch the bejesus outta them! Scratches harbor bacteria, makes bad beer, gives you a bad rep, girls won't call you, you wind up living with 20 cats...you get the picture..:cross:
 

kornkob

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The idea that plastic tools cannot be cleaned and will magically be 'scratched' and thereby 'harbor bacteria' is a myth that is solidly trounced by hundreds of homebrewers using plastic tools and fermenters for the past several decades.

Abuse your stuff and bad things happen. take care of it and all is well.

Is plastic the best choice? That's debatable but let's use facts, not scare tactics.



For the record, I use glass fermentors because that's what daddy used.
 

Beer Snob

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kornkob said:
The idea that plastic tools cannot be cleaned and will magically be 'scratched' and thereby 'harbor bacteria' is a myth that is solidly trounced by hundreds of homebrewers using plastic tools and fermenters for the past several decades.

Abuse your stuff and bad things happen. take care of it and all is well.

Is plastic the best choice? That's debatable but let's use facts, not scare tactics.

For the record, I use glass fermentors because that's what daddy used.
As another point to what KornKob said... I tried to help someone get a basic starter equipment setup a few months ago. He was from I think London... or somewhere in that area... I tell you, they don't use glass over there. I couldn't find something that looked like an American basic starter set at all! Finally PMed someone from the general area to help him find something good over there. Everything is plasic...I did not even get the sense that they bottled.... they use a pressured plastic container. Oy it was an interesting net search....
 

johnsma22

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If the plastic water bottles are made of HDPE plastic (high density polyethylene, they are marked with a #2), don't use them. HDPE is oxygen permeable. If they are made from PET plastic, like Better-Bottles, (polyethylene terephthalate, marked with a #1). They have negligible O2 permeability, and are hydrophobic, meaning that they are easy to clean and won't carry over any flavors from batch to batch, go ahead and use them.

If you are interested in using PET plastic fermenters, and don't want to pinch used water bottles from your employer, just get some Better-Bottles. I have been using them for some time, and I love them.

John

 

Sephro

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Well said John!

Yes I would use the better bottles but at my LHBS they cost more than glass...
I don't mind the extra weight... Plus I bought glass before I even learned about better-bottles
 

johnsma22

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Sephro said:
Well said John!

Yes I would use the better bottles but at my LHBS they cost more than glass...
I don't mind the extra weight... Plus I bought glass before I even learned about better-bottles
That's cool. I learned about them before I wanted to move onto carboys. Up until then I had only been using plastic pales. The best part about the Better-Bottles for me, is the ability for zero oxygen transfers from primary to secondary, using the racking adapters, high flow valves and ported closures . No more siphoning for me!

John
 

sudsmonkey

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Brothers and sisters ! Understand that far before they invented the hydrometer, the glass carboy, or the airlock, our forefathers( and mothers) were drinking some MIGHTY FINE beer.
Keeping your tolerances loose and not taking the hobby too seriously is what makes brewing fun. That and the alcohol. Beer can be made in darn near any container. A plasic water jug is just fine, though it presents it's own problems, just as fermenting in a stone pot would work. It would just have a few drawbacks.
I started with a 2.5 gal. Mr. Beer kit. I expanded with a 5 gal. water bottle that I found on the side of the road. Used it in several batches of really good beer. Stole another 5 gal from work. Used it in several more really good batches of beer. Bought a 6.5 gal. glass carboy. The beer just gets mo' betta ! One of my customers gave me a 5 gal. glass carboy ( can you say " secondary?").
My point is this: Brew in what you've got. Upgrade as you can . Don't worry too much about the spaces in between. Just do it !
Remember- There's guys in prison making wine in Pepsi bottles that would kill for your setup.




Keep On Brewing !
That Darn Monkey
 

Sephro

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Yes everyone can make beer in whatever... But if you care enough to go online and post a question... I think you want to avoid the learning steps many of us have made. So sure you can brew in your dirty socks if you want but if you want to skip the batches of beer that might not be what they could given the equipment at hand, take the advice given here.

But if you just want to get started... by all means brew with what you've got! what do all the books say?
Relax... have something something :)
 

Levers101

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Nalgene has some 20L carboys in different shapes and sizes, polycarbonate and polyethylene. Has anyone seen them? Like any lab equipment they are expensive, but especially the polycarbonate ones would last forever. You can get them with handles (I think the handles are solid not hollow like a milk jug) and with spigots at the bottom.
 

Bernie Brewer

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Cheesefood said:
I'm going to try them as secondaries, but not as primaries. There's not enough room for the krauesen. If you did 3 gallon batches, you'd be fine.

There's plenty of room for a 5 gallon batch. I use my 5 gallon carboy(glass) as a primary all the time. That's what blowoff tubes are for. I actually did buy a 6.5 gal carboy in order to stop using the tube, and found that it is harder to clean than the 5-er for some reason. I went back to the 5-er and only use the 6.5 gal if I have more than one batch going at a time.:mug:
 

sudsmonkey

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Sephro said:
Yes everyone can make beer in whatever... But if you care enough to go online and post a question... I think you want to avoid the learning steps many of us have made. So sure you can brew in your dirty socks if you want but if you want to skip the batches of beer that might not be what they could given the equipment at hand, take the advice given here.

But if you just want to get started... by all means brew with what you've got! what do all the books say?
Relax... have something something :)
You know, I didn't take into consideration that he might not want to follow the learning curve. Didn't mean to give that impression. The point I was making is that if you can get your hands on a water bottle for nothing, by all means, use it until you can do better. Start small and upgrade as you can. Think I'll join you in a something something...:) :mug:
 

Saunassa

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I use a 3 gallon plastic water bottle(handled carboy) from walmart for 2 gallon batches. Use it for a number of batches and when not sure if I can get it clean enough for fermentation I will wash it well and then exchange for another 3 gallons of water.
 

Katman

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I used the 5 gal water jugs for my first couple of batches without any problems other than they needed a blow-off hose instead of a airlock. The main reason was the buckets that came in my NB starter kit were not air tight. Now I have a few 6.5 gal big mouth bubblers (plastic). I really like them since I do 5 gal batches and there is plenty of room for the krausen and they are easy to keep clean.
 

dwhite60

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Carboys look cool and it's nice to be able to see your beer working. Plastic buckets are cheap though and easy to clean.

Watching your beer work is like flying in a plane, getting the window seat is cool, for a while. Now, I prefer sitting on the aisle.

All the Best,
D. White
 
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