Don’t carboy unprotected

At the beginning of the brewery tour at the Samuel Adams brewery in Boston, guests walk through in improvised tunnel into the brewhouse. The tunnel is actually an old fermention tank cut open on either side. The outside is white fiberglass, but the inside is actual glass. In a lot of ways glass is the best material to store or ferment beer in.

While some homebrewers invest in expensive stainless steel fermenters, the vast majority of us use glass or plastic fermenters. I prefer glass because it isn’t as prone to scratching as plastic, it doesn’t stain, and it doesn’t absorb odor. Glass does carry a few obvious negatives. The most obvious is its susceptibility to shattering.

Related image
Every homebrewer’s nightmare. Imagine cleaning that up!

A glass carboy in and of itself is awkward to pick up or carry. Carboys are even more cumbersome when filled with five gallons of beer, or are wet after being cleaned. I can’t imagine dropping a carboy full of beer. Firstly, if that happened I would be very fortunate to escape injury. If I were lucky enough not to gash myself, I would then have to clean up five gallons of beer and huge shards of glass.

A long time ago I made the decision to purchase handles for every carboy I own. I won’t buy a new carboy without buying a handle of some kind to go with it. For my five gallon carboys I use a coated metal handle that attaches to the neck. These work very well when trying to tilt or drag a carboy, as well as carrying empty carboys. The only issue with these types of handles is that they are not recommended for carrying the weight full carboys. The weight of a full carboy could make the nipple along the neck of the carboy snap. When my five gallon carboys are full, I will use the handle to tilt them up, reach under with my other hand and use that hand along the bottom to bear most of the weight.

All of my 5 gallon carboys have one of these handles.
When I bought my first six gallon carboy, I bought a Brew Hauler harness. The Brew Hauler loops around the bottom of the carboy and can be used to carry a full carboy. The Brew Hauler is more expensive than the orange handle. That’s really the only reason I haven’t bought Brew Haulers for all of my carboys. 
The Brew Hauler can carry the weight of a full carboy
Both types of handles make me feel comfortable that I won’t drop a carboy. One thing that is a concern is sometimes when I move carboys they will clink against each other. Denny Conn had two glass carboys shatter this way and swore off glass forever. Glass carboys are also clear and depending on where they are stored can cause your beer to skunk by exposing them to light.  
To protect my carboys from light, I will cover them with an old t-shirt. My cellar is a who’s who of old Red Sox shirseys. Going forward I am going to keep the t-shirts on all of the time to prevent glass-on-glass contact. The only time I’ll take them off will be for cleaning.


Mike Lowell could walk into the 2017 Red Sox

That is how I carboy safely, but that certainly isn’t the only way to protect your carboys. One method I have seen used is to carry carboys in milk crates. This would seem to guard against glass-on-glass contact and would enable the brewer to carry the full weight of the carboy by grabbing the handles on the crate.

Image result for carboy milk crate
This handsome greyhound approves of his owner’s safe carboy practices.

There are specialized carboy bags or carriers online and on places like Etsy that are designed to block light and to be able to carry the weight of a full carboy. Some brewers will make their own, or have a family member make their own carrier for their carboys

This homemade cover/carrier looks cozy enough to sleep in.

If imagining cleaning up five gallons of beer and shards of glass isn’t enough to make you want to protect your carboy I don’t know what to tell you. It reminds me of some of the insurance customers I talk to who think carrying the bare minimum coverage limits is sufficient because they “have never had an accident”. Not protecting your carboy is irresponsible and unsafe. That is to say noting about potentially losing a batch to a shattered carboy. It is a stupid risk to take.

When handled safely, glass is vastly superior to plastic as a fermentation. I have been planning to phase out my plastic buckets and replace them with glass carboy. This winter I did buy two new plastic buckets for the sole purpose of saving a few dollars. When I had to recently dump a batch, that was my final straw. 
I recently purchased two six gallon carboys from another brewer who upgraded to stainless steel colonials. I sold one to a friend who recently dropped a carboy and lost a batch. That gives me two six gallon glass carboys that I can use as primary fermenters for five gallon batches. Even if I have a double brew day I can ferment in glass. In addition to that I have five, five gallon carboys I can use for secondary fermentation and/or long term aging. I can also use one of those as a primary fermenter for my three-gallon BIAB batches
I am now a 100% glass man! The only plastic that will be touching my beer will be tubing, siphons, and bottling equipment. My hope is going all-glass in the cellar, replacing my plastic racking and bottling equipment more regularly, and doubling down on my cleaning and sanitation (in particular my bottles), that I will have clean beer every time. That means avoiding batches that I know are bad right away, as well as the slower-acting infections that have seemed to plague my brewhouse over the years. 
Follow me on Twitter @JChalifour
Like The Would-be Brewmaster on Facebook
Share what beers you are drinking with me on Untappd

from Blogger

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *