Right equipment and process is very important to excel in any hobby or culinary arts. Fermenter is one of the most important equipment for a home brewer. We had earlier made a checklist to help home brewers choose the right equipment for them. Today we are going to compare and contrast the various options available. Based on the following 18 parameters what would be the best choice for their budget, brewing frequency and needs:

Pros and Cons Different Fermenter types

Choose between different fermenter types. Find out if Glass, Stainless Steel or Plastic is best suited for your home brew wine, beer, kombucha needs
#AttributeFlat bottom FermenterCorny KegConical FermenterGlass CarboyCeramic JarBrew Bucket/PailFrench Oak Barrel
1Image
flat bottom fermenter
flat bottom fermenter
5 gallon keg top view ball lockGlass Carboy with airlockbucket blender use with drill machineoak cask wooden wineOak Barrels
2Cost3,0004,500-6,00013,000-18,0005000-80001000700-90030,000
3Size (Liters)30 L9.5L to 19L27L to 55L20L5L20L190L or larger
4ProsLight weight & inexpensive. Wide mouth makes it easy to cleanStainless Steel, can withstand very high pressure (120 psi). Compact enough to make a KeezerThis is closest to a professional microbrewery setup that one can get in a small scale.Glass is an inert material of choiceIt can be used for pickle and kitchen item storage when not in use.light weight and inexpensive. Can be used for storing supplies when not in use.The only substitute to barrels is Oak Chips when it comes to European style red wine making
5ConsWithout a vent at the base, one has to rack frequently to get rid of sedimentsOne needs to invest in a chest refrigerator to get the best from kegsNeeds a professional expertise to get the best out of it.It is prone to brewing accidentsThe glace is often laced with lead. Also cracked glace can introduce contamination from the porous base material.Soft material prone to scratches. Bacteria can hide in the scratchesPrice tag. Also cleaning & santizing wood with Campden is tedious. The frequent temperature changes in India means that every change of season one needs to repair barrels with beeswax and Stainless Steel nails to get rid of any leaks.
Key features of Different types of fermenters. Compare & contrast
6Ease to Clean/SanitizeWide lid to allow ease in cleaningVery easy to cleanVery easy to cleanNarrow mouth, fragile body makes it extremely difficultThe glazing tends to crack making the porous inner material difficult to cleanThe cheap plastic tends to gather scratches and harbor bacteriaNeeds professional setup
7Durability~3 years~10 year~3 years~1 year (glass shatters)~1 year~1 year~3 years
9Pressure fermenting2 psi120 psi30 psinonenonenonenone
8OxidationLOW: Very tight lid with multiple ports enabling you to take measurements without introducing oxygenNEGLIGIBLE: Very tight lid with multiple ports enabling you to take measurements without introducing oxygenNEGLIGIBLE: Very tight lid with multiple ports enabling you to take measurements without introducing oxygenLOWHIGH: wide mouth and uneven fitting makes it difficultMODERATE: A large lid makes it porous and source of oxidationMODERATE: beeswax and SS nails are needed to frequently mend the barrels
10Primary/ secondary fermentationCan be used for either. but you need to Rack to remove sedimentCan be used for either. but you need to Rack to remove sedimentJust take out the sediment and it can be used forRacking and movement of liquids is cumbersomeCan be used for primary onlyCan be used for primary onlyGenerally used for secondary only. Removing sediments and debris from wood is tedious
11Can be used for dispensingYes, but a keg is preferredYES, keg is multipurposeYES, it has pressure ports like a professional microbreweryNONONOYES, but its size makes it cumbersome for most parties
12Temperature ControlEasy but needs a dedicated brew fridge7-10 kegs can be stacked together in a single ice-cream refrigeratorYes it is designed for research labs and recipe development forGlass is a poor conductorPottery & ceramic are poor conductorYes it can be stacked in a refrigeratorWood is a poor conductor
13MonitoringYES, It is made of transparent plasticNO, Stainless Steel, so you need to draw samplesYES, It is made of transparent plasticYES, It is made of transparent glassNO, you need to draw samplesNO, you need to draw samplesNO, you need to draw samples
14Storage and portabilitymulti-purpose aesthetic vessel can be used for variety of purposescompact cylinder design that can be stashed easilylight weight but occupies space. Hence recommended for professional brewers only.DifficultCan be used for kitchen containersbulky. Can be used as a furniture when not in used.Full size barrel is difficult to store. The minaturized barrels have higher wood to beverage ratio which causes rapid ageing.
Professional Notes and other comments for various recipes and brewing styles
15Research & professional Recipe DevelopmentTransparent body makes it easy to make periodic observations for academic purposesAbility to precisely maintain temperatures & smaller compact design makes it easy to run multiple tests simultaneouslyThe conical design and ports to draw samples from top and bottom makes it ideal for scientistsThe glass cannot be autoclave. Hence is not used in labsnot usednot used (or used as a one time use plastic only)porous wood can harbor infection and hence is not used in labs
16Suitability for Wine MakersYes, the wide mouth makes it easy to use for both primary and secondary fermentationYes, the wide mouth makes it easy to use for both primary and secondary fermentationYes, the wide mouth makes it easy to use for both primary and secondary fermentationused primarily for secondary fermentation. It is hard to clean narrow mouth glass after a primary fermentationused for primary fermentation onlyIdeal for primary fermentation. the wide lid makes it easy to remove the floating pulpused for secondary fermentation and aging. (introduces cask or barrel flavors)
17Suitability for Beer BrewingIdeal for primary and secondary.Best suited for lagers due to its ability to precisely control temperatures.being designed like a microbrewery, it is ideal for pilot brews and recipe development.Yes but the racking has to be done as there is no port to remove sediment from the bottomNO, your wort will get oxidizedBe careful about the lid otherwise you may face oxidation.except for cask aged beer ales it is rarely used.
18Suitability for Kombucha BrewersLow cost versatile vessel is ideal for kombucha brewing.Its ability to hold 120 PSI makes it ideal for kombucha brewers. Most commercial brewery use a Hop Tube for infusing flavors in secondary and Carbonation Keg Lid to infuse oxygen to reduce alcohol residue to FSSAI limitsIt is ideal for continuous brew setup. It is used for preserving the main mother SCOBY. Every week the brewer would drain the sediment from bottom and top it up with fresh batch of tea. This way the mother is not exposed to the stress from transfer from one container when a fresh batch is brewedThe narrow mouth prevents adequate oxygen to come in for the kombucha SCOBY to grow adequately.It is the traditional vessel for kombucha brewers. However it is extremely hard to get a large vessel which makes it difficult to scale.The wide lid allows for enough oxygen to enter to the tea. Hence ideal for Kombucha mother.NOT USED. The wood will deteriorate very fast in the highly acidic kombucha tea.

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Ankur

21 years of experience in Home Brewing and author of Arishtam (India's first homebrew Guide Book).

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