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Glass vs. Plastic for Fermentation

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

There is a lot of debate out there regarding glass versus plastic for the fermentation vessel. It is really a toss up and comes down to personal preference.

Which is better, a glass carboy or a plastic bucket as a fermenter?

In terms of cleaning, buckets are way easier. However plastic buckets seem to hold the smell of the previous batch. Plastic can get small scratches in the surface from abrasive cleaning which can harbor germs. Plastic can also discolor over time.

Plastic Bucket

Carboys are more work to get clean on the inside compared to buckets. Glass stands up to more use because zero smells seep into its surface and it will last forever. Glass carboys are clear, allowing you to see what is going on inside.

5 gallon glass carboy

I avoid using plastic as a secondary fermenter because you want to avoid head space in the secondary. See this article for more about choosing the correct size secondary.

Stainless steel, the third option:

Commercial breweries use neither glass, nor plastic, and opt for giant stainless steel fermenters. For the home brewer, canonical stainless steel fermenters are super expensive, I hope get one someday. In the mean time, there is a simple and affordable third option for fermenting. Use a corny keg. Attach a blow off tube to one of the outlets and close the other by screwing on the quick disconnect. Pour the beer into the corny keg and seal the lid. Now you have a fermenter with a small foot print, ideal for lagering.

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