the great fermenter debate

so after some research and deliberation, I have been unable to confirm the “food-grade” nature of my current fermentation barrels.

  • the seller claims they are “food grade,” but told me they were used to ship guava juice, with the juice in (presumably) a food grade liner.
  • the kicker is that the cap of the barrel has that signature strong plasticky smell, which honestly freaks me out.  luckily my last 2 beers I fermented in these barrels didn’t pick up any off-flavors or smells, but my experience had me looking for alternatives.
  • some background here – in the near future, I plan on not only turning over some quick batches (homegrown hop pale, etc.) but also whipping up some more long term 10-gallon+ projects (3-year lambics for a geuze, maybe a solera setup, another barleywine or quad) that need a stable (oxygen-resistant) environment.
  • I initially looked at truly food-grade barrels as an option.  they are inexpensive and look promising for short-term fermentations (around a month or less).
  • however, for long-term aging, plastic doesn’t seem to be the way to go.  specifically, on pps. 218-220 of wildBREWS, Jeff Sparrow makes a convincing argument against using plastic due to its permeability, stating that “plastic fermenters exhibit a high permeability to oxygen – actually too permeable for wild fermentation.”
  • I then researched glass – specifically, 15 gallon glass demijohns, which included light-shielding plastic baskets and seemed to be a good option.  that is, until I envisioned one of those suckers breaking…
  • I also considered conical options such as the fermenator, which would definitely be in the cards were it not for the price (I would probably need at least 3 in the long term for a geuze).
  • my current plan is to go with with slightly modified sankey kegs – I’m thinking of using a rubber carboy cap and racking cane (which can be pressurized to rack from) or large stopper in conjunction with an airlock up top, and maybe trying to finagle a dip tube/spigot at the bottom for racking.
  • another option is to modify a sankey coupler, which would get me into pressurized closed-system fermentation.
  • since a sankey won’t fit into my fermentation fridge, I would just split 10 gallon batches into 5-gallon corny kegs when I wanted a controlled fermentation temp.  I don’t like the idea of splitting a starter up, but I can’t think of another option.
  • anybody have anything to add? personal preferences?

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One Response to “the great fermenter debate”

  1. rajat Says:

    have you heard of el pozolero , the soupmaker, the mexican assasin? Maybe you can hit him up for some barrels. where do you keep all this stuff, have you mvoed to a barn?

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