One of the most important decisions you have to make when brewing beer is what fermentation vessel you will use. Most beginners will use a plastic bucket or carboy from a starter set. While these are great for starting your brewing journey, they may not suit your brewing for the long term.
Fermentation vessels are available in a variety of materials and forms, from plastic to stainless steel, and buckets to conicals. With so many possibilities, it can be hard to decide which is best for you and your setup.
Food grade plastic is the most common material for fermenters, especially for casual or beginner homebrewers. Plastic is inexpensive, lightweight and pretty hard to break. It does, however, have one major downside - it can scratch easily which gives bacteria a place to grow.
|Food grade plastic buckets are the usual beginner fermenting vessel. Most brewers start with a bucket for primary fermentation and it's a great way to get used to the process. However, you can't watch your fermentation when it's in a plastic bucket, which might not be a huge concern, but it is fun to see.|
Plastic carboys are a lighter advantage to glass carboys. Like plastic bucket fermenters, these are made of high quality food grade plastic and are relatively inexpensive compared to glass carboys. However, they have the same downside as buckets as they can scratch easily. They also have a tendency to flex when being carried which is some cases can force the airlock off.
While most plastic carboys have a narrow neck like traditional glass ones, Fermonster carboys come with a wide neck which makes cleaning much easier.
Plastic conical fermenters like the Fermentasaurus and FastFerment are becoming increasingly popular with brewers of all levels. While you still have to be careful cleaning these products to avoid scratching, there are several advantages to a plastic conical fermenter.
The main reason brewers opt for this type of fermenter is you can avoid transferring your beer to a secondary, which decreases the chance of infecting your beer. The yeast sediment settles at the bottom of these vessels in small containers that are easily removed and dumped. This feature also allows you to collect and harvest your yeast.
These fermenters come in a variety of sizes, making it easy to do different batch sizes. However, you need a stand or a wall mount for these fermenters. This set up makes it harder to control temperature, so if you're a lager brewer, these may not be the best option for you.
Glass is an option for fermenting, although not nearly as common as plastic. Glass has several advantages over plastic - it's harder to scratch and impermeable to air when an airlock and stopper is used. However, glass is heavy and breakable.
Glass carboys are still somewhat popular with homebrewers. However, the biggest drawback to glass carboys is their weight. Carrying a full glass carboy can be awkward and heavy. Using carboy handles or straps makes carrying easier.
Glass carboys also have very narrow necks which make cleaning more difficult. You will most likely need a tool like the Carboy Cleaner to make cleaning easier.
Stainless Steel Options
At first glance, stainless steel fermenters seem like an extravagant purchase for homebrewers, especially when compared to the price tag on plastic buckets and carboys. However, stainless steel is much more durable than plastic and lasts significantly longer than plastic fermenters when taken care of properly.
Stainless Steel Keg
A used corny keg is the least expensive method of moving into stainless steel fermenting, and can be easy to set up with a little DIY time.
The easiest way to get your keg ready for fermenting is to remove the IN gas fitting and replace it with a grommet that fits a blow off tube or airlock.
If you're feeling especially handy, and don't want to reuse your keg for anything but fermenting, you can drill a hole in the keg lid to fit an airlock and stopper.
Stainless Steel Bucket
Stainless steel fermenting buckets like the Anvil Bucket Fermentor have a coned bottom and are outfitted with a moveable racking arm to avoid trub when transferring.
These bucket fermenters also often come with an airlock and stopper and all fittings needed for transferring your beer for a relatively low price point.
Stainless Steel Conical
If upfront cost is not an issue, you can't beat a stainless steel conical fermenter. Like stainless steel bucket fermenters, these are much more durable than plastic fermenters and have a conical bottom that allows yeast and sediment to settle at the bottom and not attach to the sides of the vessel.
The Grainfather Conical Fermenter Bundle is made of double walled stainless steel and includes digital temperature control.