Category Archives: Equipment

Carboys: Plastic vs. Glass




Scary Monsters II finished a nice, quick primary and is ready to be thrown into secondary on some Willamette. I’ve been ignoring this fact for two days, because the only vessel available is my one glass carboy.

A gift from my brother, this 6 gallon glass behemoth opened my eyes to the weird universe that explodes to life when yeast is pitched, then just as suddenly, sinks into a new order and becomes still. I am very grateful for the glass carboy. That said, I hate to have to actually use it.

At my house, I have three plastic BetterBottles, one 5 gallon (mostly used as a secondary vessel) and two 6 gallons. In a perfect world, I’d transfer from BetterBottles to BetterBottles and never have to worry about glass. The advantages, especially for women who brew, are many:

    • BetterBottles are very light, ounces compared to pounds. One gallon of water (or beer) weighs eight pounds, so when you need to move six gallons of full carboy, your baseline is nearly fifty pounds. Using a 6 gallon glass carboy throws another 10 pounds into the equation, so now you’ve got 60 pounds of mass to move around.




  • BetterBottles don’t break. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but I’ve been brewing in mine for several years and I can say that it hasn’t happened. I’ve poured wort that was warmer than it should have been, I’ve stored them in less-than-ideal conditions when not in use, and they remain healthy, viable fermentation and aging vessels. Glass accumulates injury invisibly over time, and fails catastrophically without warning. I am always aware that there’s a ten pound chunk of curved glass and when it finally fails, I don’t want to have my arms around it or underneath it.
  • BetterBottles are easier to clean. Again, they’re light and you don’t have to worry about breaking them. Brushes work great, as does putting some sanitizing solution in and stuffing a solution-soaked rag into the mouth and shaking. My favorite is the little dance I do on brew day, vigorously shaking sanitizing solution around the BetterBottle without worry. It’s hugely liberating to be so cavalier after starting in glass. My glass carboy has a much smaller mouth and requires painstaking brushwork to scrub out solids. Rinsing it is messier than with plastic and just much more work.
  • BetterBottles are cheaper to buy and cheaper to ship. Which makes them an amazing bargain.

I certainly understand the romance of plastic-avoidance, but as I see it, that ship has sailed. At the batch size which I prefer to brew, there’s simply no comparison. Plastic provides a superior user experience by every measure that matters to me.

What’s your take on the plastic v. glass question?

Vinometer

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There are so many gadgets available for the home brewer and I freely admit that I have bought quite a few of them. Sometimes I even end up with the right gadget at the right time and that is how I felt about the vinometer.

Using the vinometer is easy. First, position the cupped end upright. Next, add about a milliliter of wine or cider to the cup and wait until drops begin to work their way out of the bottom of the tube. Finally, invert and watch the column of fluid drop until it stops then read the alcohol percentage from the scale.

Easy right? Well, there is one one catch. The vinometer really only works accurately for dry wines. I also have had luck using it with dry ciders where the SG is at or under 1.000. It works by capillary action where the specific gravity and surface tension cause the column of the liquid being measured to drop until an equilibrium is achieved. Alcohol lowers surface tension, so the higher the alcohol content, the further the column drops down the tube. Any residual sugars will cause your readings to be low as the sugar will increase the surface area. This makes it not so handy for beer, but certainly can be helpful for country wine, cider and perry where getting an accurate initial SG can be challenging due to the fruit solids in the must.