What To Do If Your Glass Carboy Has Scratches

This will be a short post but a post that is well  needed.  Recently a few customers have come up to me with a question about if their carboy has scratches can they still use it.  Yes, yes you can.

Many people are concerned about bacteria or other micro’s dwelling in the scratches.  I don’t think you need to worry too much about that.  But if you are, my suggestions are as follows:

  1. Use it for your primary if possible. Having your beer not sit on the scratches for a long period of time will help in not getting contaminated.
  2. Sanitize well.  I would use iodophor, or star san.  2 minutes of contact time will normally suffice.
  3. Bake it in the oven.  I do this with all of my glass hardware.  Maybe I have a large oven but my carboy has no trouble fitting into it.  I have a post about how to do that.   It describes how to do it with bottles but same thing for carboys.

So if you come across an old carboy and it has some scratches don’t dismiss it.  You may just need some aid in getting it in tip top shape for your brew.  Hope it helps.

Leave your comments in the space below.



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The 6 Things You Need To Know About Choosing Glass Or Plastic Carboys

You would think that the choice is simple when choosing a carboy.  You have glass carboy’s and you have plastic carboys. But is it really that simple? An ongoing debate has been in the brewing world about plastic or glass carboys ever since Better Bottles have been around on which one is the best option for you when fermenting.

To make life a little bit easier we have created the only guide you need when it comes to knowing about plastic vs glass carboy’s called, The 6 Things You Need To Know About Choosing Glass Or Plastic Carboys . Before we dive in, it’s important to get a general understanding between the two.

Glass Carboy’s

A glass five gallon carboy weighs 13 pounds and take a #6.5 stopper or if you like a tighter fit, #7 stopper.

 Reasons why people like glass carboys:

  • Last a very long time
  • They do not scratch when you clean them with a carboy brush
  • Oxygen cannot penetrate it so you beer or wine will not spoil
  • Flavors don’t stick in glass
  • Come in 5 gallon, 6 gallon, and 6.5 gallon
Reasons why people do not prefer them:
  • They are heavy (13 lbs empty and 5 gallons of water weighs about 42 lbs so your looking at approx 55 lbs when said and done)
  • Storage might be an issue
  • If they drop they can shatter or break
  • Expensive to ship
Better Bottle Carboy’s
A plastic better bottle five gallon carboy weighs about 1.5 pounds.  Plastic carboys take a #10 rubber stopper.
Reasons why people like them:
  • They are light
  • Storage is not an issue
  • Less expensive
Why people do not prefer them are:
  • Scratch
  • Afraid of storing beer in plastic resulting in off flavors
  • Don’t come in 6.5 gallon so you will need a blow off in some cases
  • Cannot take negative pressure
  • When lifting up moving carboy it can and will suck water from air lock into fermenter
Personally I use both glass and plastic carboy’s.  I have collected quite a few over the years of brewing.  I’m really not in favor of one over the other, I honestly will use which ever type is empty when I ferment my beer, wine or mead.  No matter what though, I do prefer using a carboy from primary and secondary fermentation rather then a bucket.  The reason is, the area where air can enter a carboy is significantly less then the area for a plastic 5 gallon bucket when comparing a lid vs a rubber stopper.
A personal story: I had 5 batches of beer going on at once and it came to bottling day.  As I cracked open my first plastic fermenter it was spoiled, then I opened my next, spoiled, next spoiled.  At the end of the day all of my beer was spoiled. Why? I had been using my plastic fermenter so much that the lid itself was not sealing properly any more. After that day I switched over to carboy’s and ever since then I don’t have an issue with spoiled beer.
As shown in the picture below, the area for air to get in for a plastic bucket verses a carboy is significantly larger. Working with carboys is also nice because you can visually see the bung sitting properly as well. 
As you can see, the stopper is much smaller then the lid.

With that background information we can now jump into

The 6 Things You Need To Know About Choosing Glass Or Plastic Carboys 

1) One’s Heavy One’s Not

The first thing that you’ll notice when looking at plastic and glass carboys is that plastic carboys are significantly lighter and for the most part are shatter proof.  Being light and virtually unbreakable making storage fairly easy with them.  Glass on the other had is heavy and can break.

2) Better Bottle Are Made To Avoid Sediment With Racking

One advantage to plastic carboy’s that I don’t hear many people talk about is that the divot at the bottom of the carboy is raised up significantly higher then the glass carboys.  This is a benefit because the yeast/sediment will fall further down in a better bottle then in a glass carboy making racking a breeze with out sediment.  To me this is one of the biggest advantages of the better bottle over a glass carboy.

A picture of this can be seen below comparing the two.

3) Better Bottle Has Ways To Help Clarify

Another advantage that I see with plastic carboys are that the sides come out significantly more then glass carboy’s. Better bottles also have rivets all over the dents that come out as well. The reason that better bottles have these dents filled in with small rivets is that, “floaties” such as yeast or other sediment will hit these dents/rivets and they will fall down.  With the glass carboys they have this feature but again on a very down sized fashion.

Pictures can be seen below comparing the two.

4) They Both Break

So how often do glass carboys break? I’m not really sure to tell you the truth. I can tell you that I’ve heard some customer horror stories with them falling on there feet, bruising the foot and then slicing it open with the shards of glass. I can also say that breaking glass carboys has happened to me as well .  But don’t think for a second that that Better Bottles are invincible. They do scratch when you use a carboy brush.  The other problem with Better Bottles is that if you pour in hot liquid (over 120 degrees) you will most likely melt the plastic aka breaking it too.

Personal Experience With Breaking Glass Carboy:

The worst was when I had 6 gallons of red wine explode all over my basement when using a glass carboy.  The odd thing about it was that I set it down on a folded towel, and I set it down very lightly.  All of a sudden it started to crack and then BOOM!  It exploded.  It led to a long night of moping, cleaning, and air freshener. For a full month walking down into my basement and smelling the red wine lingering in the air served as a constant reminder of a mistake I promised myself that I would never repeat.

5) Better Bottles Can Suck… Literally

A nice aspect to glass carboys are that when you end up picking them up, while it may be heavy, you don’t have to worry about the water in the air lock getting sucked into the carboy.  With plastic better bottles if you pick it up by the neck, the better bottle will bend/flex (because it is plastic) making a suction and by the time you realize what is happening you will see dirty water just get sucked into your brew. Not the best way to start your bottling or racking.

An easy solution to avoid getting dirty water sucked into your brew when using a better bottle is, just take the stopper and air lock off before you plan on moving your beer. When glass carboy users are using all ammo to try to convince others to use glass I seem to see them resort to this problem with better bottles too.  I’ve never really understood why this is a big deal because all the times I’m moved my fermenter I am doing it not for a work out, but because I’m going to be siphoning it and the top is going to have to come off regardless.  So to me, not a big deal, but hey – everyones got there thing.

6) Glass Can Not Only Break, But It Can Break The Bank

The cost difference between plastic and glass at appearance may not be to much if you are walking into your local home brew shop and you don’t have to pay for shipping.  But if your plan on buying it over the internet be prepared for a pricey shipping on the glass carboy.  It weighs 13 pounds and has to get shipped with care/special packaging. When comparing glass to plastic, plastic is by far the easier one of the two to ship.


Like I said in the beginning of this post, I’m really not trying to convice you one road or the other.  If you don’t own a carboy yet and your thinking about getting one, start off with one style and then get the other one later on.  You should be the judge of how you like your carboy, and only you.  There really is not a, “better one” just preference from your own experiences. Everyone has an opinion, and the only real way to learn is by experimenting.

Regardless of what you use, I would love to hear from glass and plastic carboy users and your personal experiences with them.  Every brewer has them.

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5 Situations To Consider Secondary Fermenting

A common question I here a lot from home brewers is, “Do I need to secondary ferment?”.  The answer to this question is a bit complicated and really is a case by case, so as of now I will say, “It depends”.

Before we dive in too deep, I should first clarify for those that don’t know what secondary fermentation is.  Secondary fermentation is when the beer is racked over (siphoned from your primary fermenter into another fermenter) into usually a carboy, acting as a second holding area for your beer, wine, mead etc.  With that said, what do you really gain by secondary fermentation? This is where the, “It depends” comes in.

Here are 5 situations when you might consider putting your beer in a secondary fermenter:  

1) If the beer has a lots of sediment, by putting it in a secondary fermenter you will not have as much sediment in your bottle.  With oatmeal stouts this can be a big plus or a brew that has lots of steeping grains.

2) By putting beer in a secondary fermenter you are allowing your beer to settle and for flavors to blend.  This can be a good idea for Belgians or beers of higher alcohols even IPA’s.  Think about chili or soup, it always taste better on the second day. Why is that that? The flavors have blended together.

3) You can use secondary fermentation to add clarifiers.  Post boil claifers work in secondary fermentation.  I personally use gelatin which helps clarify beers.  If your not kegging your beer’s this is one great way to avoid even more sediment in your bottles.

4) You can ingredients to the secondary.  Dry hopping, oak, spices, all of these work best in the secondary.  I have found with my past brews that when you add any or all of the ingredients listed above into a secondary fermentation you can smell them better.  In my opinion, if you can smell it, you will start to pick up on them even more when you taste them.  So if you are trying to bring out certain flavors, consider what you can do in the secondary.

5) Another reason for secondary fermentation to is if you know you won’t be bottling for a while.  Let’s face it we have things to do other then brewing. A good reason to secondary ferment is that if you make a brew, but you know that you aren’t going to have the time to bottle for a few weeks. In this situation I would recommend you put your beer in a secondary and just let it chill out in there for a while until you can get to bottling.  Rule of thumb for me is: I try not to keep things in primary fermentation for more then 2 weeks.  The reason for this is I’ve found that you can get some off flavors to the beer if left to long in the primary.  

So going back to it all, when would you not want to secondary ferment?  It really depends.  Some beers in my opinion really don’t need it.  If you’ve ever come down to Jay’s Brewing or know me personally, I’m sure that I’ve mentioned how I love sessions brews (Scottish 60L, Milds, Browns anything less then 2.5% -3.9% for me). Typically you don’t need to secondary ferment these.

The reason why is that there is not a lot to them.  I make sessions and will have them pumped out quickly.  Quickly as in a week, then they are bottled (really not that hard to do with such a low alcohol level).  If you are trying to stay away from beers that need secondary fermentation, rule of thumb: Don’t brew stuff that is over 6.8%.  I should emphasize rule of thumb, every one has there own rule on this one – this has worked fine for me.

If you are dead set on the secondary fermentation or think that you need to for the next brew, the question normally is, “What should I secondary ferment in?”.  I would recommend a 5 gallon carboy for secondary fermentation. Now there are 2 different types of carboys: 1) Plastic  2) Glass.

We’ll keep this short because I feel that the discussion of preference between plastic and glass carboy’s deserves its own blog post, which we will do in the coming weeks.  But, you will want a plastic or a glass carboy. If it’s for a 5 gallon batch use a 5 gallon carboy.  The reason why you want to use a carboy is that the top of the carboy goes upwards, so surface area of the brew is reduced which makes it less likely to oxidize.

The make shift way of getting around this is quite easy and something I use to do when I first got started out with brewing – I didn’t want to fork over money for a carboy.  I would take the brew from the primary, rack it over to the bottling bucket, clean out the primary/sanitize, pour the beer back into the primary close it up, then shake it up and your done.

Is that the correct way of doing it? No, but it worked and never had a ruined batch from it.  The main thing that you have to do is, make sure to shake it up a little bit. The reason for shaking up the brew is you need to get CO2 to build a layer over the beer to protect it from O2 oxidizing the beer.  By shaking up the fermenter you are getting they O2 out of the brew threw the air lock.

At the end of it, I try not to get too stressed over secondary fermentation. I do it for my, “gourmet” brews that I pride myself on with being more technical.  On just drinking beers, I don’t. I’m sure people could argue either way, on why you need to do it with every brew and people could argue why not to do it.

If your considering using secondary fermentation, I think you should know why you want to.  If it’s one of the reasons that I listed, consider doing it. If you have any other reasons why you should secondary ferment please let us know.

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