Fermentaiton Buckets

I’m looking to purchase more fermentation vessels and am considering going back to the good old buckets. I’m honestly tired of cleaning carboys…haven’t dropped or broken one yet but I know my days are numbered. Am also considering the new plastic bottles with the large mouth openings. Just wanted to get your two cents.

Also, can you do the secondary fermentation in the buckets as well? I only see them listed as primary fermentation vessels. Not sure if it makes a difference but thought I’d ask.


Food safe buckets are great. I wouldn’t use one for extended secondary aging, though. If you use a bucket, it’s probably best under most situations to skip secondary and leave it in primary the whole time, up to 6 or 8 weeks - do all your dry hops or additions right in there. I’d get nervous leaving it in a bucket longer than that.

I totally agree with porkchop. New clean buckets are great up to 6-8 weeks. If you really love buckets, I would recommend replacing them every couple of years, or as soon as you detect any slight signs of possible contamination. It’s not worth any risk trying to sanitize plastic, as through experience I have found it impossible to sanitize plastic effectively – I have had many failed batches due to bad plastic. But new plastic? Sure, you’ll be fine. Just clean it effectively but carefully without scratching, and replace it periodically just to be safe.

Personally I only use glass these days to eliminate all risk. However I will no longer totally poo-poo the idea of plastic, because I know it’s safe if the plastic is well cleaned and maintained, and reasonably new, and never had contamination in it before. Once it gets contaminated, though, just don’t try to sanitize it, m-kay? That’s my current stance and I think I’ll stick to it.

You say that like it’s a bad thing. You guys with your monoculture beers… :twisted:

And to make this post constructive instead of just being a smarta$$, I’ve had good luck sanitizing non-sacch microbes from a plastic bucket with dumping near-boiling water in it to the rim and holding it for 10 minutes or so. All safety precautions apply here - and don’t try it with a PET carboy, but a food-grade bucket can handle it. The heat kills everything you need to be concerned about with a clean beer. :cheers:

Hmm… Don’t think I’ve tried adding 6 gallons of boiling water to the bucket… that should kill everything. But then again, so should a heavy solution of bleach followed by StarSan. Hmm.

Part of my problem, besides my laziness, is that I did purposely make a couple of sour beers. But once those bugs got in there… I had several more sour batches that were NOT intentional.

I think the issue with using caustics and sanitizers is that some microbes, including brett and pedio, can form a biofilm on the walls of the fermenter, and it’s virtually impossible to remove. This really can protect the microbes from sanitizers and bleach, as it’s one of the toughest materials on the planet. Then when they get exposed to a sugary wort, BOOM, infection. Scratches just make it that much harder to remove.

My thinking is that you don’t need to expose the bacteria to sanitizer if you can get the entire container up to a pasteurization temperature - the heat kills everything. It seems to have worked so far… (knock on wood).

Thanks guys. As far as the scratches go, isn’t that avoidable if I just use a sponge or soft cloth to clean it every time? I can see the brushes making significant scratches but by avoiding those I can’t see a way it could get scratched.

Do you all tend to stick with the carboys then?

[quote=“coachg”]Thanks guys. As far as the scratches go, isn’t that avoidable if I just use a sponge or soft cloth to clean it every time? I can see the brushes making significant scratches but by avoiding those I can’t see a way it could get scratched.

Do you all tend to stick with the carboys then?[/quote]

A soft sponge or cloth should be just fine for cleaning buckets.

I don’t think most people ferment exclusively in glass. I think a lot of people, probably the majority, ferment in plastic. It does work.

I like to primary in a bucket and if secondary is needed, then it goes into a plastic or glass carboy. But if I’m going to transfer to secondary, it’s only because it needs to be in there for many months or if I need the bucket back for another beer.

I’ve always done a secondary; not sure why, probably out of habit. I haven’t done anything too exotic yet, just brown ales, wheat beers, and an occasional pale ale. The beer does come out nice and clear, but the more I read the more it sounds like the secondary stage is unnecessary.

For those types of beers, it’s really not necessary. To be honest, though, I transfer most of my beers to secondary. I’m exclusively a bottler, and I get less yeast and trub in my bottles when I rack to secondary for a few weeks before bottling. They also turn out fine when I leave it in the primary bucket the whole time, but there’s more sediment in the bottles if sediment bothers you.

Right now I mostly keg. I’ve got 3 cornies and a 20# tank that I have in a fridge in the garage. I just use picnic taps as I feel like it’s a little too nice to drill holes in it. It’s a full size fridge with no freezer.

I used to use carboys, then moved to fermenting in kegs. When I got tired of cleaning kegs after fermentation (which was fairly recently), I started fermenting in a bucket. I like the bucket a lot and I’m very careful in cleaning it. The last 2 batches, I’ve fermented right in my brew kettle with cling wrap over the top and somewhat secured by a bungee chord. It’s nice to have one less vessel to deal with and I can see what’s going on in the fermenter. The 2nd one is going now, but the last one I transferred to a keg after the krausen dropped, which was about 9 days. Gonna give this a few goes and see how it works out. If it doesn’t work out so great, I’ll go back to a bucket. But I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. People are too afraid to have break material in their fermenters I think.
I agree with what Dave says about buckets though, ya gotta be crazy careful when you’re handling/cleaning them. I use a rag and carefully clean the bucket with an oxyclean solution that is mixed in a different vessel (to avoid oxyclean granules from scratching the bucket).