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Broken Carboy Alert

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

To everyone who is using glass carboys, you may find this of interest.  This is a re-post from a wine maker we know in the area who had some serious trouble with glass carboys breaking lately!

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This morning I discovered a small pool of wine underneath a 5 gallon glass carboy I was using to put some Merlot through malo. I immediately racked off (without moving the carboy) into a PET 5 gallon and discovered a small crack running halfway around near the base. This is the THIRD time this has happened to me. The first was last year when I was carrying a carboy to the kitchen, I heard a small click and the bottom suddenly came loose in my hand, I managed to get to the sink before the bottom dislocated and wine ran EVERYWHERE. I got cut but was lucky to avoid anything serious. A couple days later I noticed a carboy with a small pool of wine at the base, foolishly tried to slide it to see if the pool was just a spill and the base separated once again, with the subsequent loss of the entire 5 gallons, fortunately into the bathtub. I realized that these 2 carboys were part of a batch of 3 that I bought from someone used, though they appeared to be in good condition, and I destroyed the third one.

Since then I’ve worn welder’s gloves when lifting and have otherwise BABIED all of my carboys, setting them down very carefully and avoiding subjecting them to temperature extremes, except for cold stabilizing when I put them outside on the patio, each on wood platforms in order to avoid getting the bottoms too cold. All of these 3 failed carboys have been 5 gallon CRISA’s, which are manufactured in Mexico and are commonly sold at wine/beer supply houses. I’ve looked them over and notice that they generally have an uneven nature to the thickness of the glass at the base, probably a sign of poor manufacturing technique, and that may cause them to have uneven structural integrity or could cause differing amounts of expansion/contraction with temperature change, eventually resulting in failure under load.

Below are some pictures, I’ve got a number of these but will destroy them all now. I have had good success with the 5 gallon Vintner’s Harvest models sold at Main Street and also the 6 and 6.5 gallon versions made in Italy. At this point however I’m moving to PET (plastic) carboys, since I’ve now heard of a number of very serious injuries people have sustained carrying glass carboys, and since now PET is a proven, safe material to make wine containers out of.

So, not saying all glass is a problem, but please be extra careful if you lift them when they are full. Buy some heavy gloves!

CRISA broken cracked glass carboy

glass carboy prone to cracking

Post and images by Phil

  1. 7 Responses to “Broken Carboy Alert”

  2. I’ve always wondered about the plastic PET bottles. Do they stain or absorb odors or other stuff into the plastic?

    By Gary on Feb 9, 2013

  3. They are pretty much impervious to stains, unlike standard food grade plastic buckets. They weigh less too!

    By Larry on Feb 12, 2013

  4. Thanks for sharing. I own a lot of glass carboys, but none of the brand that failed you. I think I’m now going to start using welding gloves when moving glass carboys…just in case.

    By Luke on Feb 26, 2013

  5. The Mexican-made carboy style in the photos has been problematic in my experience. I have been using the very old water jugs once used in the glug glug inverted carboy type dispensers. They seem to be heavier and more suitable. I suspect the old jugs were made at at time when reuse and rough handling was anticipated. The new glass carboys with the ridges on the side have broken for me too in the exact same place as the photo — right along where the sides meet the bottom.

    The new glass carboys are exceedingly temp sensitive as well. The older ones I use have not been as fragile.

    By NH on Mar 1, 2013

  6. It’s a problem with the annealing process when the carboys are manufactured. Annealing is when the glass cools down from near molten and if the base is thicker glass than the walls, the cooling becomes uneven and causes an inherent fault in the product. Fine another producer.

    By Mark Rattray on Mar 16, 2013

  7. One time a friend and I had the bottom fall out on a 6-gallon batch of mead. Don’t remember the brand, but I do recall we had been using a bottle brush to clean inside the top and around the bottom to get that last stubborn yeast off. At the time I was thinking minor scratching had caused weakness (no visible signs of scratch or crack).

    By Mathaeus on Mar 20, 2013

  8. I had one explode while cleaning it upside down with a garden hose. It ver nearly killed me, and I had just sent my daughter in for a nap. These are even more dangerous than people realize who know about fermentation explosion or breakage injury. This was a huge explosion from trapped air that became highly pressurized by slowly riseing water inside the upside down keg, with the hose inside the neck to spray the water up to loosen debris stuck to the bottom. I noticed the water rise, and that the air seemed trapped, and that water was spraying out more around the hose as it did. At the last second I saw the water rise faster and saw the danger and pushed it away from my face. It blew glass it all directions for 50ft. True story.

    By Jacob on Jun 5, 2013

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