If you are like me, then you probably have tried just about every type of homebrew fermenter on the market with the exception of the stainless steel (mini Pro brewer) conical.
From traditional 6 gallon plastic bucket, glass carboys and the specialized plastic fermenters, I have tried them all.
Most of my brews over the last 15 years have all been in a 6 gallon plastic bucket. I even still have my original 6 gallon pail and although I don’t use it for fermenting any longer, in a pinch I think it’s still perfectly fine. I use my glass carboy, but I’m always concerned about breakage and weight of a full carboy can be a real pain lifting in and out of my fermentation freezer.
So over the past 2 years I have switched to two styles of fermenters that I use for the majority of my brews. The Brewcraft 30 liter plastic fermenter which is perfect for those high gravity brews and is also perfect for a secondary when you have a lot a fruit or other additions. The other is the 6 gallon Better Bottle. Light weight, great visibility and easy to clean.
I few weeks back I opened my fermentation fridge and noticed a ring of brown liquid at the base of my Better Bottle. My first thought was I spilled some wort when I transferred and did not clean in up. I lifted the Better Bottle out cleaned up the mess and picked up the fermenter to place back in. At that point I noticed more wort on the floor of my garage. So……after transferring to a new fermenter I inspected the bottom and notice a number of hairline cracks. I have never broke a glass carboy, so how did I break a plastic one?
After a lengthy email conversation with Better Bottle customer service, I learned that the Better Bottle, although durable it has some weaknesses.
“We are sorry to hear that you have encountered a problem with your BetterBottle product. BetterBottle carboys are amazingly tough, so I do not believe your carboy has cracked from a bump or a drop. It seems most likely your carboy has developed a caustic stress crack. Washing and sanitizing involves a great deal of complex chemistry. If you have not already done so, please refer to the Wash/Sanitize section, under the Technical tab, at our Web site. The article, Washing and Sanitizing Home Winemaking and Brewing Equipment will be a big help to you.
As a rule, BetterBottle carboys hold up very well under the conditions we recommend for washing and sanitizing. However, strong chemicals do attack metals, glass, rubber, and plastics and though our PET is way more resistant than many other plastics, it is not entirely immune to chemical stress cracking and you have to be careful how you use the strong chemicals, especially caustic detergents and sanitizers.”
This response caught me completely off guard. I clean all my fermenters pretty much the same way and have never encountered a problem related to PBW and StarSan both which I have used for years. This also concerns me because I own 4 of these fermenters, so after a quick inspection I noticed scuff marks and although I have no idea if they will lead the way to future failures, it does concern me.
The on-line instructions are extensive and go into too much detail to list, so if you use or are thinking about using the Better Bottle I suggest that you check them out. A few of the important points that should be noted is the temperature of the water, dilution of the chemical and total contact time. All of which can lead to caustic stress cracks. For some of you, that might be enough to turn you off using the Better Bottle, for me I'm still in a “wait and see” mode.
As for the “Better” fermenter….I really think that depends on what works for you. I won't stop using my Better Bottles, but I don't plan on buying any more until I feel more comfortable with their durability. After a quick price check of 6 gallon fermenters I think I will be looking for deals on glass carboys for the time being.
- Glass Carboy $30 to $40
- Better Bottle $25 to $30
- Bucket/Pail $10 to $15 (limited uses)