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Fermenting in a bucket

i’ve used glass carboys since the beginning of my brew days.

i think i’m ready to consider a bucket for the primary, but a few questions come to mind…

  1. will the lid gasket stop messy spillovers for higher gravity beers??

  2. i’ve always used iodophor…will i have to change to a non staining sanitizer??

  3. after fermentation…do you siphon from the bucket, or use the standard plastic valve to drain beer from the bottom??

  4. how long can beer stay in the bucket without affecting flavor??

  1. Yes although the krausen can run up through the airlock and make a mess, or if it gets stuck the lid can pop off. Ale pails are 7gal though so it makes it less lilkely except for the Belgian of weizen yeasts that have a lot of krausen.

  2. I don’t think so, the bucket will get a little discolored by dark beers anyway.

  3. I sophon, although lots of people do use the bottling buckets. Since I drop mine in a swamp cooler, I don’t trust the spigots and I’d have to sanitize them from the outside before using. Autosiphon for me.

  4. I used to think you could leave it in for a month, but I’m starting to wonder if I haven’t been getting oxidation at times. Maybe its because I like to peak in the bucket several times a week. I’ve begun transferring to carboys when the krausen starts dying down, and I transfer plenty of yeast so things don’t stall at the end. Not saying this is always necessary, just where I am currently in my process philosophy.

Now that my only carboy is going into the fridge for a lager, I’m just going to be using buckets. They are so much easier. I do like the idea of adding a spigot to my buckets. Not so much for emptying, but for pulling a sample to check the gravity. Then again, I’m only taking really taking a gravity reading during or just at the end of fermentation. I think you barely need a lid while things are active.

those spigots can harbor a lot of nasties that your not going to want in clean beers

I worry about using the spigot for a gravity sample, then trying to re-sanitize the outside parts (including the inside of the spigot) before using it again days later to rack. I’m sure it can be done, but it will take some effort.

I generally don’t even check FG until I’m racking to bottle or keg. I give the beer a good amount of time to finish based on experience with the yeast and my system, then just go with it.

I use buckets and then secondary in the keg. I haven’t had blowoff problems with the lids or even airlocks, but I ferment at the lower end of the yeast’s temperature range and use Fermcap. I don’t get very concerned about oxidation because the amount of co2 that’s generated is enough to fill the keezer the buckets sit in (the science nerd in me loves to dip a match in to see it immediately snuffed out). I’m not convinced you would get much oxidation through a bucket wall, anyway. I’ve never had a problem with discoloration, though a very clean bucket does have a very slight beer smell. It’s nowhere near enough to affect the next batch. I also siphon and wouldn’t trust a bottling bucket for a fermenter, if only because I can see myself bumping the tap and snapping it off.

Buckets are just easy to use IMO. Easy to move, easy to clean, easy to fill… just easy.
Blowoff is never an issue because of the extra head space, but if I’m concerned what I do is insert the main part of a 3-part airlock with out the 2 smaller parts and attach a blowoff hose to the cylinder sticking out of the airlock. Run the hose into a pitcher of sanitizer and done. No issue. But again, I’ve yet to have any blowoff with the 6.5 gallons buckets.

I wouldn’t use a bucket with a spigot to ferment. Like others said, you have a good chance of getting bacteria in there somewhere.

And yes tom sawyer, if you open the lid several times a week during fermentation you do run the risk of oxidation. I don’t even check gravity anymore except before I pitch yeast and after a minimum 3 weeks of fermentation.

buckets are fine as long as you are not aging anything in them for a long period. Get the beer in and out and you shouldnt have an oxidation issue. If you aging in buckets you will have some major oxidation

I don’t think the air is coming through the plastic, I think its coming in around the lid seal. Most of my buckets don’t seal well enough for the airlock to work, so I know that once the generation of CO2 is over its only a matter of time before regular air is atop my new beer. I’ll often see most of the active fermentation done in less than a week, whereas I always try to leave the beer on the yeast cake for closer to two weeks.

I don’t know that its a big deal but I’ve been racking my brains trying to figure out why my malt-forward brews aren’t as good as commercial stuff, and this is one of the things I came up with to try.

[quote=“tom sawyer”]I don’t think the air is coming through the plastic, I think its coming in around the lid seal. Most of my buckets don’t seal well enough for the airlock to work, so I know that once the generation of CO2 is over its only a matter of time before regular air is atop my new beer. I’ll often see most of the active fermentation done in less than a week, whereas I always try to leave the beer on the yeast cake for closer to two weeks.

I don’t know that its a big deal but I’ve been racking my brains trying to figure out why my malt-forward brews aren’t as good as commercial stuff, and this is one of the things I came up with to try.[/quote]

you still probably have a blanket of C02 on the beer in just a couple weeks

On rare occasions I have had krausen come up into the airlock - I just swap out the airlock for a piece of hard plastic (from an airlock) and put a couple feet of tubing on it for a blow off tube.

I use oxiclean or b-brite on my buckets to “clean” them, then I rinse and put them in iodophor for a couple minutes. I try to watch them pretty close though because they will stain if you leave them in long. Oxiclean or b-brite usually takes care of any staining though.

I use bottling buckets with spigots. I take the spigots totally apart though when I sanitize. I twist them so the spigot is facing up during fermentation so I don’t snap them off. I also put a plastic sandwich bag over the spigot with a twist tie after sanitizing to keep it clean. I also replace buckets every year or so - I just keep rotating new ones into my stock (of 6 fermenters) as they start to get old. For me, I have always felt like the times I most likely infected beers was during siphoning - so the spigots seem like they would reduce the chance of infection.

Generally, I never have a beer in a bucket longer than 2-3 weeks. I did do a bourbon barrel porter in buckets - 2 weeks in primary, 3 weeks in secondary with oak cubes and makers mark bourbon. Best beer I ever brewed, so if there were any ill effects, I sure could not tell.

Not sure the CO2 would stay put, even though its heavier than air. Temperature changes cause small currents and mixing, and theres apparently some exchange of gases if the seal isn’t tight. Plus when you open the bucket to see if the krausen has fallen, you lose most of your protection.

I wish they’d make the ale pails with gaskets like the wine pails have, something that would be more likely to seal.

[quote=“Braufessor”]On rare occasions I have had krausen come up into the airlock - I just swap out the airlock for a piece of hard plastic (from an airlock) and put a couple feet of tubing on it for a blow off tube.

I use oxiclean or b-brite on my buckets to “clean” them, then I rinse and put them in iodophor for a couple minutes. I try to watch them pretty close though because they will stain if you leave them in long. Oxiclean or b-brite usually takes care of any staining though.

I use bottling buckets with spigots. I take the spigots totally apart though when I sanitize. I twist them so the spigot is facing up during fermentation so I don’t snap them off. I also put a plastic sandwich bag over the spigot with a twist tie after sanitizing to keep it clean. I also replace buckets every year or so - I just keep rotating new ones into my stock (of 6 fermenters) as they start to get old. For me, I have always felt like the times I most likely infected beers was during siphoning - so the spigots seem like they would reduce the chance of infection.

Generally, I never have a beer in a bucket longer than 2-3 weeks. I did do a bourbon barrel porter in buckets - 2 weeks in primary, 3 weeks in secondary with oak cubes and makers mark bourbon. Best beer I ever brewed, so if there were any ill effects, I sure could not tell.[/quote]

Dude, save yourself some money. No need to replace buckets every year. Maybe a new lid if the seal gets bad, but replacing a few buckets every year is completely unnecessary, unless of course you have infection issues. But I would then be more concerned with your cleaning and sanitation practices.

[quote=“tom sawyer”]Not sure the CO2 would stay put, even though its heavier than air. Temperature changes cause small currents and mixing, and theres apparently some exchange of gases if the seal isn’t tight. Plus when you open the bucket to see if the krausen has fallen, you lose most of your protection.

I wish they’d make the ale pails with gaskets like the wine pails have, something that would be more likely to seal.[/quote]

true, I have gotten a C02 whiff, on some sours that are aging a long time, granted yes there is probably some exchanging of gases when moving things around and such, but it can hang around for quite a while if you treat it right, if it is in a bucket thought your screwed

[quote=“dobe12”][quote=“Braufessor”]On rare occasions I have had krausen come up into the airlock - I just swap out the airlock for a piece of hard plastic (from an airlock) and put a couple feet of tubing on it for a blow off tube.

I use oxiclean or b-brite on my buckets to “clean” them, then I rinse and put them in iodophor for a couple minutes. I try to watch them pretty close though because they will stain if you leave them in long. Oxiclean or b-brite usually takes care of any staining though.

I use bottling buckets with spigots. I take the spigots totally apart though when I sanitize. I twist them so the spigot is facing up during fermentation so I don’t snap them off. I also put a plastic sandwich bag over the spigot with a twist tie after sanitizing to keep it clean. I also replace buckets every year or so - I just keep rotating new ones into my stock (of 6 fermenters) as they start to get old. For me, I have always felt like the times I most likely infected beers was during siphoning - so the spigots seem like they would reduce the chance of infection.

Generally, I never have a beer in a bucket longer than 2-3 weeks. I did do a bourbon barrel porter in buckets - 2 weeks in primary, 3 weeks in secondary with oak cubes and makers mark bourbon. Best beer I ever brewed, so if there were any ill effects, I sure could not tell.[/quote]

Dude, save yourself some money. No need to replace buckets every year. Maybe a new lid if the seal gets bad, but replacing a few buckets every year is completely unnecessary, unless of course you have infection issues. But I would then be more concerned with your cleaning and sanitation practices.[/quote]

Thats pretty good practice IMO, I replace them about yearly to dpending on how much i brew.
There cheap and 10-15 bucks here and there dont hurt over a year

Not that I have much to add being a novice and all, but Tomsawyers’ comment about the rubber gasket had me thinking. I brewed my first batch about a month ago using a True Brew bucket/kit I got on the cheap (using points) from overstock.com. They’re bucket lids DO have a rubber gasket and are extremely tight. I then bought another fermenting bucket, so that I could do two batches at once, from NB and I was surprised to see there was no gasket seal.

The first batch was a pale ale that fermented with Wyeast, the second was an IPA fermented with 2 pks of 05. The second/05 batch had crazy-busy airlock activity from about 6 hours after pitching and then for 2 days. After that I’ve seen virtually no activity. I highly doubt the fermentation is over per say but I wonder since it’s slowed down if the C02 is finding it’s way out around the non-gasket lid?

I know it’s two different yeasts etc but there’s definitely been a difference in the fermentation’s in each bucket. I know the NB bucket is holding some of the pressure as I can barely touch the lid and see bubbles in the 3pc airlock but I don’t see much otherwise. The True Brew bucket batch was somewhat slow and steady for over 7 days before it even slowed down.

I don’t necessarily replace every bucket every year. But, I buy one or two every 6 months. I suppose I might keep some as long as a year and a half, or maybe 2 years. They aren’t very expensive, and I then use them for other things. Just not worth the risk to me - especially since I am using the bottling buckets, spigots, etc. I would rather spend $20-$40 a year than risk any chance of infection. Same with tubing,etc. I just rotate it out before it gets too old.

Solomon, two packs of dry yeast is probably four times the cell count of a Wyeast pack. That would account for the difference in ferm rates. And yes, CO2 is quite likely leaking out around the lid of the fermentor although you’d be surprised how fast a lot of yeast will work, at 2 days it might be slowing down.

[quote=“dobe12”]Dude, save yourself some money. No need to replace buckets every year.[/quote]If I was fermenting in bottling buckets, I would replace the valve every 12-18 months, but not the bucket itself.

Sorry for the thread drift, but does 1 packet of dry yeast harbor more yeast than a vial or smack pack?

What is the advantage then? I always thought the vials and smack packs had more and that is why they were preferred.

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