Review: Glass Carboys
Glass jugs are a classic fermentation vessel. They come in everything from a one gallon jug up to a six gallon carboys and beyond. Glass is of course very fragile but has many benefits that outweigh its fragility. It doesn’t scratch easily when cleaning so it won’t hold bacteria or off flavors from other batches. Glass is clear so you know exactly what is going on in your batch from top to bottom. Warmer liquids won’t damage glass but can warp the plastic. My personal experience is from using one, five, and six gallon vessels but most glass should treat you the same.
The glass on my carboys is quite thick and won’t deform like a plastic can with warm wort. I’ve bumped my carboys lightly several times when washing them without incident. I even dropped my 5 gallon from a few inches on to carpet when first unpacking it and it didn’t break. I haven’t poured boiling water into a carboy but have poured warm wort without explosions of glass. Here’s a highspeed shot of Pyrex experiencing temperature shock. Needless to say, watch your temperatures!
Cleaning isn’t too bad on most batches but can be a pain sometimes. Longer fermentation times and long bulk aging tends to build up gunk that sticks to the glass. The beer styles and ingredients also affect the severity of the mess. A carboy brush and warm water can generally get things clean. If you can’t quite get everything off then a long soak in PBW or OxiClean Free will get anything off. I soak my carboys in Oxiclean Free after every batch anyway. A super long soak in Oxiclean Free can leave some white staining but a 24-hour soak in vinegar will get rid of this. Always remember to dry your carboy well before storing. Don’t forget to buy a carboy dryer so you reduce your breakage chances. Of course, remember to soak your carboy in Star San before transferring in your wort or juice.
Transportation sucks with a carboy! They are heavy and can break easily. Luckily they make several things to make moving your carboy easier. A carboy handle works well for empty carboys. Although you’ll shatter your carboy if you try to use just the handle with a full carboy. Carboy straps are ok for transporting but I’ve found a much better option. Milk crates offer the best way to both house and transport your carboys. Another note on transportation is that shipping is typically expensive and very rarely free for carboys.
Plastic can absorb things and only gets worse if scratched. No off flavors is where glass shines. Glass is not porous so it won’t absorb off favors and resists scratches. Bacteria and other nasties won’t have anywhere to grow on your carboy as long as you keep it clean. I’ve had no problems with infections in my glass carboys.
I’d love to have a set of stainless steel fermenters but glass fermenters are a cheaper alternative that works fine. I’ll continue using glass carboys for the near future. My first tip is to try to pick your carboys up locally as shipping sucks for both breakage and price. Amazon does have a decent deal on carboys with free shipping if that’s your only option. They have amazing customer service in case the delivery person decides fragile means chuck’ n run. Finally, go for the wide mouth carboys if you can as it will make cleaning much easier!
Update: I’ve recently added two BrewTech SS Brewmaster Buckets to my arsenal but still love my glass carboys. I’m currently using them on extra batches and for long-term aging batches.
- Won’t absorb off flavors or bacteria
- Doesn’t scratch easily
- More resistant to temperature “oops” than plastic
- Will break if dropped
- Hard to transport
- Costs about twice as much as plastic