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Glass or Plastic?

Thanks to the advice given in response to my previous post, I’m planning a new small-batch brewing setup. The big question for me now is: glass or plastic? The setup I’m (temporarily) abandoning consists of a plastic bucket for the primary fermenter and a pair of 5-gal. glass carboys as secondaries. The new setup will require three carboys, I think, in order to have two batches going at once (the second batch will need somewhere to go once it’s time for the secondary).

So do you folks think I ought to go with glass or plastic carboys? I’m concerned about the permeability of plastic. Even if I never have contamination problems, I don’t want any flavors being retained between batches. But glass is fragile, and thus potentially dangerous. Also, the plastic carboys to which you can attach a spigot seem as if they would cut down on waste when racking or bottling. Which is as far as my deliberations have gone, as I’ve realized I lack the experience to come up with a definite answer on my own.

Any advice?

This is a tough decision as there are advantages and disadvantages both ways. Personally I have gone to glass to eliminate all possibility of contamination and oxidation, but I also hear a lot of good things about the BetterBottles and wonder if those would be every bit as good or not. Honestly I am not certain, and that is why I have stuck with glass to eliminate any question. But BetterBottles might be worth a shot. Someone will soon come and sing the praises of plastic next. Who is to say which way is best??

I’m all about glass over plastic. Glass is easier to clean, keeps better for longer secondaries, and will last a lifetime baring an accident.
I get the 2nd in bottle bucket for less transfers/ air exposure but I equate the same as having to mix in priming sugars as to racking into an empty bucket of priming sugars from a carboy.
Every time I grab a full carboy in a hurry the shear weight makes common sense kick in and say “slow down there dude… this is no laughing matter”.
If you are going to stay with this great hobby think about the long term.
Just my .002

There are plenty of top notch brewers that use glass. There are plenty of top notch brewers that use plastic. There are plenty of top notch brewers that use stainless. I’m just going to leave this here…

http://brewing.lustreking.com/articles/ ... rboys.html

I’ll take the argument for plastic. It is safer, easier to clean, easier to store, cost less, and does NOT impart off flavors, increase risk of infection or oxidation if you use even reasonable care cleaning and sanitizing. I’ve been using the same plastic bucket primaries for five years now since I got rid of my carboys, and my beer has improved in that time tremendously. Of course, I would say that the beer has improved for the most part because I’ve improved as a brewer in that time, not because I switched to plastic, but the fact remains that if plastic was problematic, I suspect I’d see some issues. Not a single oxidized or infected batch in that time.

i did my research and ended up getting 3 -3 gallon better bottles…pleased

Glass will last a long time as long as you are very careful. My wife says I drop everything but by some miracle a few of my glass carboys are 15+ years old. Plastic might not last so long but it is cheap enough (buckets) to replace so it is a toss up in my thinking. Stainless conicals are almost indestructible but very expensive. So it is a personal preference I guess.

I never owned a Better Bottle and would like to ask those who do how do you clean them? A long soak with some kind of cleaner makes sense but what about tough stuff. Does scrubbing them with a carboy brush scratch them?

I used carboys for the first 4-5 years I brewed. After breaking 3 of them and losing a lot of beer, I switched to buckets and I couldn’t be happier. Unlike Dave, I’ve never had an infected batch due to the buckets. The large opening makes them easier to clean and store than carboys. The Better Bottle is unbreakable, but still has the (to me) downside of maintaining the carboy form factor. For anything other than long term aging my opinion is that buckets are the way to go. If it matters, I’ve got 12 years of bucket use and and over 400 batches to back that up.

[quote=“Hades”]There are plenty of top notch brewers that use glass. There are plenty of top notch brewers that use plastic. There are plenty of top notch brewers that use stainless. I’m just going to leave this here…

http://brewing.lustreking.com/articles/ ... rboys.html[/quote]

Yep, that settles that. I’ve had my heart in my mouth every time I’ve carried a full carboy up or down the steps to the basement here. Going down a steep staircase, carrying a heavy weight, with no way to hold on to the railing, with my bum knee… some sort of stumble is probably inevitable. Add in the tales of empty carboys simply breaking for no apparent reason, and I’m sold on plastic. I’d rather risk ruining my beer than ruining myself.

Thank you all for your responses and advice. If it weren’t for my history of occasionally catastrophic clumsiness, I’d probably still be debating this on the merits of glass and plastic as brewing materials, rather than as a matter of which substance is less likely to mutilate me. :slight_smile:

Since you’ve made up your mind, let me give you two more reasons to reinforce your decision:

A spigot in the bottom of a bucket lets you sample the beer to check gravity easily and without risk of contamination.

When you’re ready to transfer to a keg, you can connect a liquid disconnect to the spigot and run the beer into a purged keg without any risk of oxidation.

I’ve still got 8 glass carboys (4-6.5g & 4-5g) but I prefer my Curtec 15g wide mouth plastic kegs. I like them so much, I now have 6.

[quote=“Old_Dawg”]A spigot in the bottom of a bucket lets you sample the beer to check gravity easily and without risk of contamination.[/quote]Fermenting in a bucket with a “standard” spigot (the kind used for bottling) runs a very high risk of contamination unless you fully disassemble the spigot each time for a thorough cleaning. It’s not hard to do, though.

Jamil uses better bottles for home brewing. Anybody who professes their love for Adam & eve.com publicly has to know what they are talking about. Plus, he built evil cousin in a better bottle…enough said.

Thanks… I was thinking of the ported Better Bottles, but then I realized how much more that would add to the cost. So I think I’ll wait on that until/unless I have a more serious operation going.

But thanks again for the advice!

I never owned a Better Bottle and would like to ask those who do how do you clean them? A long soak with some kind of cleaner makes sense but what about tough stuff. Does scrubbing them with a carboy brush scratch them?[/quote]

a serving of oxiclean free and 1/2 gallon water swished around takes care of most brews ocassionally you may need to toss in a soft rag and swish it a little more. Krausen doesn’t have the holding power in these babies. yes, a brush will scratch them

I use a 6.5 gallon and a 5 gallon glass carboy. I cannot argue the point that they are dangerous. I smashed a new never used 6.5 gallon carboy. When I handle the carboys I am very careful with them. I was in a discussion about this with a fellow from work. He has a conical fermenter that he makes 25 gallon batches. Something was brought to my attention that needs to be cleared up for me by brewers that use the plastic better bottles or something like them. How is the heat transfer in a fermenting chamber? I was told that glass is far better than plastic. I keep the temperature probe from a Johnson controller against the side of the carboy to measure the beer temperature and to run the freezer. Is the temperature transfer just as good using plastic carboys?

Glass lost it’s novelty for me very quickly. It’s heavy. It breaks. Fun to watch fermentation a couple of times, but the cons far outweigh the pros for me.

Buckets have handles. They are easy to clean. I never really touch the inside. I rinse, soak in PBW, rinse again, sanitize and reuse. Cheap and easy and the beer doesn’t know the difference.

What about PBW or Star-San or other such products? Will they harm the plastic?

What about PBW or Star-San or other such products? Will they harm the plastic?[/quote]

They cover this on their website:

http://www.better-bottle.com/technical.html

What about PBW or Star-San or other such products? Will they harm the plastic?[/quote]

Nope, not at all.

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