Better Bottles – Review

When it comes to fermentation vessels (FV), there are plenty of options at just about every price point.

The low end is the plastic bucket, and let’s face it, it’s is probably the first thing most of us used when we started. On the other extreme are the homebrew scaled cylindroconical jacketed fermentors.

Finally, there is the classic glass carboy, which in my eyes is the standard by which most FVs are judged.

All of these vessels have their problems. Plastic buckets stain and scratch easily, while cylindroconicals are quite expensive. Glass carboys are heavy and very fragile.

The best vessels that I have found for fermenting my beers are Better Bottles.

Pros:

  • Weight – Right now I am brewing with a combination of my dad’s glass carboys and my Better Bottles. My Better Bottle doesn’t weight much more than a pound, while my dad’s glass carboys weight closer to 10 times that. Now that is not too bad while empty, but the difference is quite noticeable after they have been filled. After a long brewday when I’m hauling then down to the basement, those 9 fewer pounds are great.
  • Durable – Glass has the nasty habit of shattering when you drop it. Not only do you risk losing all of that beer that you worked so hard to make, but all of those glass shards can be very dangerous. Better Bottles are made of plastic resins, specifically PET (polyethylene terephthalate). This means that if you drop it, it won’t shatter into thousands of pieces. Trust me on this one. Mine slipped out of my hands onto the hardwood kitchen floor and not only did it not break, but I didn’t lose a drop of beer.
  • Stain resistant – PET is fairly non-permeable plastic, which means the Better Bottles won’t smell like beer after a few batches like plastic buckets, nor will they be stained orange if you are using Iodophor (I do) for sanitizing.
  • Price – While not cheaper than plastic buckets, Better Bottles are cheaper than glass carboys.

Cons:

  • Transparency – One of my big issues with Better Bottles, and glass carboys for that matter, is the fact that they are clear. Sunlight kills beer and I would love these more if they were opaque.
  • Durability – Yes, it is a con as well as pro. Better Bottles, if not taken care of properly, can scratch. I’ve yet to scratch mine over the nearly 2 years that I’ve used them, but yes it can happen.
  • Size – They only come in the following sizes: 3, 5, and 6 gallons. That probably covers a majority of homebrewers, but if you brew larger batches you will have to look elsewhere.

In the end, there are a bunch of factors that go into the decision of what fermentation vessel to use, the biggest factor probably being batch size.

That being said, for brewers brewing  5 gallon or less, Better Bottles are in my opinion the best value for the money.

What do you think?

About Ryan Murphy


Ryan has been homebrewing for just shy of 2 years and is in the planning process of starting a nanobrewery. A native of the northern IL farm country, Ryan is currently enjoying the beer and brewing scene of Chicago, IL.

Comments

  1. I looked into these before I made the switch from my plastic buckets to glass carboys. My concern is that they would scratch like my buckets did (resulting in several contaminated batches) so I decided the glass would be better. Thanks for the article.

    • Ryan Murphy says:

      Corey,

      It is a valid concern. In my experience, the Better Bottles (PET) are much more scratch resistant that buckets (HDPE). While I haven’t tested the scratch threshold of my Better Bottles, after about 1.5ish years of regular use I haven’t scratched even the outside of the bottles.

  2. I absolutely love my Better Bottles; as much as I hate to admit it, being a girl does have some disadvantages in the homebrewing world :( I’m just not strong enough (yet!) to lift a full glass carboy up into and down into the kegerator, the 9lbs or so less on a Better Bottle makes a HUGE difference to me.

  3. Robert French says:

    Great points Ryan. The next fermentor I buy will be a 6-gallon Better Bottle. I have been wanting to try them for some time, I just have not had the need to buy on until now.

  4. Billy Broas says:

    I have three better bottles and love them. My favorite is actually the 3 gallon one – it’s perfect for splitting batches and it’s light as a feather even when full.

    I wish they made them in 6.5 gallon size so a blowoff wouldn’t be necessary, though someone once told me that the reason they don’t is because if you filled a 6.5 gallon one it wouldn’t be able to handle the weight. Not sure if that’s true or not.

    Another good point about these things was brought to my attention by Mike Tonsmiere who brews a ton of sour beers that age for years. If you age a beer that long, you don’t want to risk the carboy shattering which could happen with glass carboys.

    Great post Ryan.

  5. Nice review. I have two 6 gallon Better Bottles that I am quite pleased with. I think you should look into fermenting with one of the ported Better Bottles and then add that experience to this review. Keep up the good work.

    • Ryan Murphy says:

      Rick,

      I have never used to the ported version and with a price tag over $50 just for the racking adaptor pieces, I am not sure if I can justify the cost. Here are the pros/cons of the ported version as I see them:

      Pros:
      – Easier transfer of wort

      Cons:
      – More parts to sanitize
      – Price

      With auto-siphons costing about 1/5th the racking adaptor, I don’t see the pros outwieghing the cons. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Ahh…there’s my problem. I don’t think I would like the extra parts to sanitize or the cost. However, I wouldn’t mind someone actually reviewing them and maybe they could convince us that the recognizable cons are actually outweighed by the ease of use factor.

  7. I have 2 – 6 gal. ported with the necessary accouterments – flow valve and racking adaptor. Yes, the set up was $56 per but as I figured it, the less weight, bottling convenience were pluses. And the result – it was worth it. The bottling adaptor fits right in the flow valve. Take bottle push up, fill – Cool. No mess. The “stopper” BB has is rather expensive ($20) with dry air lock ($15) – far too expensive. I’m using a #10 drilled rubber stopper with the usual three piece air locks.

    A big plus is the CO2 racking BB allows. See the web site.CO2 exchange can be done with a BB ported secondary fermentator. The inexpensive way is to use the rubber stoppers, a “modified” 3-piece arilock with the the two other pieces removed. I found that the rigid plastic top airlocks handle the plastic tubing better – easier to remove. The flexible top airlocks main outlet are slightly larger making removing the tubing really, really, ah -, really difficult. The flexible top locks can be modified by removing the plastic that encases the airlock and its water. This will make it unusable as an airlock but they are cheap. I think the tubing is half inch ID. It will fit the airlock, too. The tubing fits around the flow valve and can be held in place with a hose clamp. Check the BB web site and substitute the BB expensive stopper arrangement for the above and two lengths of tubing and you’ve got a CO2 racking system system on the cheap. I am now setting up the system – need to run and pitch the yeast. Hope this helps.

    “Stay thristy.” Like the comment, hate the beer.

  8. Oh, sanitizing. I throw all parts in a bath and that’s it. Reassemble the system and move on. Yeah, it’s extra than a unported carboy but the benefit is worth it. And we know the three rules of brewing are Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize.

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