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.
- 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.
- 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?