New Fermenters

24 Jan

Ah. Now I understand why the new glass fermenter I wanted has been out of stock for some time.

Big Mouth Bubbler EVO 2
Big Mouth Bubbler EVO 2

Northern Brewer just announced a new version of it this week. I use traditional glass carboys, of three gallon capacity, because that is what I used for much smaller batches of mead when I started my hobby. I am not sure why I initially chose glass, maybe I felt the plastic buckets were better suited for the lower alcohol fermentation of beer. Or maybe they weren’t as common twenty years ago.

When I was making mead, the carboys were not much of a hassle. A typical mead takes months, even years, to fully ferment and condition. The time spent prepping the fermenters is a much smaller fraction of time compared to beer. A batch of beer can be ready as quickly as a few weeks. I am sure I must have been using two carboys at once, since I bought the six I have a pair at a time. What simply didnt’ register, splitting batches between carboys, feels way more like a double of work and hassle with the greater frequency of beer brewing. Preparing the fermenters has become my least favorite part of brew days.

Carboys are too large to wash with a cheap pressure fitting on standard kitchen faucet. You have to use a large bottle brush, with an L-bend in it. Especially when you have a fair amount of material left over from a vigorous ferment, it can be difficult to get enough leverage with these brushes to scrub away caked on yeast sediment. The part of my brew days I like the least is getting my fermenters entirely clean and ready for a fresh batch. All the other cleaning is still a hassle but so much easier in comparison when you can simple work over a mash tun or brew kettle directly with a sponge and some elbow greaser.

The Big Mouth Bubbler, including the brand new EVO 2 version, are more like a jar, with a large screw on lid, into which you fit your air lock. It combines the advantages of glass with the ease of cleaning a plastic bucket. Plastic buckets scratch, bacteria can get into those, especially as the plastic ages, and become a risk of bad infection. I don’t know what the expected duty life of a plastic fermenter is because I never used them, but you do have to replace them regularly. Glass lasts quite a bit longer, in theory forever.

I just ordered two of these with the recommended accoutrements, specifically carrying harnesses since at 8+ pounds per gallon, handling a full carboy, wide or narrow necked, is still difficult. I already have the ingredients for my next beer, I am just trying to pin down schedules with folks I have invited to join me as well as ensure some recent kitchen repairs are finished before the next brew day. The silver lining may be that these will arrive in time for the next beer. It would  be nice if I never have to use a large bottle brush again.

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