What fermentor is right for you?
If you are a homebrewer, you know you need something to ferment your wort in and without a plastic bucket, glass carboy or stainless steel unit you can’t turn that wort into beer. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons to some fermenters on the market today.
The plastic bucket is the “old school” way to ferment beer. Pros would be the price, availability and large opening and because this is the one of the oldest fermenters used in homebrewing it will not cost a lot. You see a lot of homebrewing starter kits that contain 1 or 2 plastic buckets. You can also find plastic buckets at your LHBS and online from many resellers. Plastic buckets have a large opening at the top so you can use them for dry hops or if your making a stout you can put a lot of adjunct in a sack and just drop them in. You couldn’t do this with a glass carboy. A list of cons with plastic buckets: if you get a scratch in the bucket you should go buy a new one because a scratch on the inside of a bucket can be a good place for bacteria to grow, and if you use anything hard to scrub the inside of a plastic bucket you could add scratches to it. Plastic buckets have become better over the last 10 years but you still don’t want to age your beer in them because over time chemicals from the plastic could soak into your beer.
Glass carboys can be a good option, as unlike plastic buckets glass carboys are not going to scratch - wire brushes or something of that nature can be used to clean the inside of it. The price if a glass carboy is in the $30-60 range and compared to some of the other fermenters we will talk about that’s not a bad price. The availability of glass carboys are the same as plastic, easily found all around. One con to a glass carboy is the weight, as once you fill a glass carboy up it is not going to be light and there are no have handles to pick it up. Carboy straps are options to purchase to move this carboy around with as you just want to make sure this doesn’t slip out of your hands and cut you. The last “con” of a glass carboy is dry hopping or adding items into secondary. It’s small opening makes it very hard to use a bag with this unit and if you can get a bag in you will have a hard time getting it out.
Stainless Bucket Fermentors
We are starting to see a lot more stainless buckets as companies are seeing that homebrewers want the same fermentors that the pros use. Stainless buckets have a large opening at the top and with it being stainless steel so you can use it for secondary fermenting. They also have handles on each side and are light weight, making them easy to carry. The addition of a ball valve at the bottom also helps to transfer your beer - something you will not get with glass. One con might be an availability: your LHBS may not have one to easily purchase, you will likely have to go online to buy them and if purchasing one online doesn’t interest you, you may have a hard time finding one. Price is also something to consider with stainless bucket with price points beginning at around $130 and can go up to the mid $200’s.
You do have a lot of options when looking for your first/new fermentor. If you are new to homebrewing and are not sure if you will like it or not I would go with a plastic bucket. It will work well and not break the bank. If you have been brewing for a year or more and looking for a new fermentor or looking to upgrade what you have I would say go with a Stainless bucket. There are a lot more fermentors out there that might fit you better than the ones I covered today but with some research, you can find the one that is best for you.