Glass vs Plastic Carboy
A couple weeks back I dropped my 6.5 gallon glass carboy on my garage floor. Luckily for me it was empty, but sad none-the-less. I had just finished sanitizing the carboy to use and had it upside down on my starsan bucket dripping back into the bucket. I walk away and 10 seconds later, CRASH! I had shattered glass all over my floor. After tweeting about the breakage, I got several suggestions about trying plastic Carboys. While seeing the obvious advantage of weight, I couldn’t see any other advantages of plastic.
Regardless, I decided to give them a try, the Better Bottles were my choice. I was not about to go back to plastic buckets. What I liked about the Better Bottles, the cost. They are about $12 cheaper. They weigh much less then glass. They are also BPA-free, DEHP-free, and plasticizer-free. They are great reasons to use the Better Bottle. My concern was scratching. What I read, avoid using hard bristle brushes, I even went so far as to buy the Carboy Cleaner.
I have used my 2 Better Bottles about 6 times and I’m going to switch back to glass. Before my 6.5 gal glass carboy broke, I’d used it for about 100-150 batches of beer if not more and never had an issue. With the better bottles I couldn’t get them clean, the Krausen would stick to the bottle and the Carboy Cleaner couldn’t quite get the film off. Since I couldn’t use my bristle brush to clean them it became a huge pain in the butt. To further my plight the Carboy Cleaner scratched the hell out of the inside of the Better Bottle. While that is not the fault of the Better Bottle. It did show me how fragile the plastic really was when the Carboy Cleaner did get to the end of its useable life. It basically killed my Better Bottle. Had I been using the glass when that happened I’d still be able to use my carboy.
Not to completely disparage the Better Bottle, it was easy to move and as advertised, it didn’t add any off flavors to my beer.
I’m going to stick to my glass carboys, the plastic is just not for me or my process. I’d love to hear about your experiences both good and bad with Plastic Carboys.
To date, I’ve been able to get my Better Bottles clean. I use a combination of soaking and swirling with PBW. For stubborn particles, I toss a washcloth inside and swirl with that in there. I never use brushes or anything that might scratch the plastic. Sorry about your glass carboy!
Plus all those scratches in the plastic can harbor bacteria that will ruin your beer.
Thanks Doug. While cheaper and lighter, the cleaning process of plastic just doesn’t work for me. I’d rather spend 20% more and get something that will be more durable with my cleaning regimen.
Your right about that Ronan, which is why I wont use that bottle again. Not worth wrecking my effort to make the beer.
I use Better Bottles and a Carboy Cleaner and have not had an issue with scratching.
Glad to hear you have had Success Art. I found my Carboy Cleaner ripped at the seam and the plastic bar inside scratched the plastic. Are you using any kind of cleaner? How fast does your drill spin, I’ve tried to do it slow, but it doesn’t get the caked on Krausen. Would love to know what you are doing different from me, so I can not destroy my other Better Bottle. Cheers!
I use glass, but I’ll defend the better bottles, as I use both. Cleaning them is all about PBW or oxyclean, just like cleaning in the commercial brewery; trust me we don’t crawl into the unitanks with scratcher pads. I agree with you that the hardiness of glass is awesome, but it’s the only trait that wins out over Plastic. And to be fair, based on what you’ve written, it sounds as tho’ you’d have had a different opinion if you had approached cleaning from a different way from the beginning. I use http://WWW.homebrewchatter.com as resource, there are some well put together discussions on the subject there.
On a side note, for all brewers cranking out dozens of batches of beer a year, set aside a buck or two each batch, and in a year you’ll have more than enough to buy and convert a bio-diesel conical into a conical fermenter.
Tim, Thanks for your defense of Better Bottle. I was avoiding using a chemical like oxyclean or pbw on the plastic, but maybe that is where my problem is, being afraid of damaging the plastic with the chemicals. I got a Carboy Cleaner Replacement pads. Maybe the combination of a soak with a cleaner and new pads will help me (and others).
An OxiClean soak in the Better Bottle hasn’t failed me yet. PBW is a little stronger but usually not necessary. It might take a day or so to get a really tough ring of krausen, but with time and some splashing it will come off. I know what you mean about the allure of glass though. They’re just so classic.
Two words here: OXICLEAN FREE
Never had an issue in 100+ batches of really dirty carboys. This includes brett beers. Oxiclean really dissolves all manner or organic materials.
Cool! Thanks Billy and Jason. Maybe my low opinion of the Better Bottles is just a bit of presoaking with Oxyclean Free. I’m going to try it and hope that will correct my process with the Better Bottles. How much oxy are you guys using, Scoop? 1/2 Scoop?
Oxyclean works fine as long as you don’t have overly hard water or use a water softener. I find PBW works much better in hard water since it has phosphates that precipitate the calcium softening the water. I am using 6 gal PET carboys made by the Vintage Shop. They are a bit thicker than the Better Bottles and have straight sides which tend to be easier to clean. PET is not damaged by chemicals at normal cleaning concentrations, and generally comes clean with an overnight soak. If any residue is left a quick once over with the carboy cleaner will remove it easily, but is rarely needed.
I do not scrub anything. I don’t even own a brush, I just soak 24 hours in Oxyclean and rinse, clean as a whistle. Oxyclean is surprisingly gentle on everything. I also clean and delabel bottles en-masse by filling the bathtub up with hot water and Oxyclean. One hour in, virtually no scrubbing inside and out.
Although, I am thinking of getting rid of my carboys and going to buckets to mess with open fermentation.
A half scoop usually does it but you may need more for dirty ones.
Also HOT water works better than cold water (soak it overnight) and let it soak right after you use it (before the gunk dries) and you shouldn’t have any issues
Rob, SimianBrewing, & Eric. Gonna give it a whirl. I’m brewing tonight and will use my unscratched bottle and see how the oxy method works.
Anyone else have other tips or mistakes they have made with Plastic?
I used to use all glass carboys. Now I use all better bottles. A 24 to 48 hour soak with PBS along with some vigorous shaking and rinsing has always removed any scum and krausen from inside the better bottle I use my experience. I don’t use a brush or carboy cleaner.
I have heard of people putting a rag inside while shaking to help clean it but it I haven’t found that to be necessary.
I have had great experiences with my Better Bottle. I have a Vintage Shop carboy coming in the mail. Supposedly they are better than Better Bottles? We will see. Plus one with using oxy clean or PBW. Use “Warm” water not hot as hot can warp the plastic. I have had some pretty nasty krausen rings and soaking overnight seems to do the trick.
Tim, great advice on putting a couple bucks away with each brew day.
Bryan I’m officially a convert. Last weekend my last 6.5 gallon carboy had the bottom fall out as i lifted it full of oxy solution. what a mess. I’m also moving to using PBW from Oxy Free. (It seems to be harder and harder to find oxy free locally)