Demijohn vs. Fermenting Bucket: A Homebrewer's Guide to Choosing the Best Fermenter

Demijohn vs Fermenting Bucket! which is right for your homebrew set-up? We discuss the pros and cons of both options.

BREWING EQUIPMENT

Brewpedia

9/1/20233 min read

clear glass bottle
clear glass bottle

Demijohn vs. Fermenting Bucket: A Homebrewer's Guide to Choosing the Best Fermenter

A key decision every homebrewer faces is what type of fermenter to use. The two most common options are plastic fermenting buckets and glass demijohns/carboys. What are the key differences, pros and cons of each to consider? This guide examines the factors to help you choose the best fermenter for your needs.

Demijohn/Carboy Overview

  • What are they? - Large jugs made of glass or plastic, ranging from 1-6 gallons

  • Also called - Carboy (US), demijohn (UK/EU). Same item, different regional name.

  • Uses - Primary or secondary fermentation, clearing, ageing, storage

  • Shapes - Narrow neck jugs or wide mouth buckets

Benefits of glass demijohns

  • Non-porous material prevents oxygen ingress

  • Easier to fully sanitise and scrub clean

  • No scratches to harbour bacteria

Downsides of glass demijohns

  • Heavy and prone to breakage and shattering

  • Small openings make cleaning difficult

  • Much more expensive than plastic

Plastic Fermenting Bucket Overview

  • What are they? - Food-grade plastic vessels, typically 6-7 gallon capacity

  • Also called - Ale pail, fermentor, primary fermenter

  • Uses - Primary fermentation, clearing, short-term storage

  • Features - Wide opening, volume markings, spigots, handles

Benefits of plastic fermenting buckets

  • Durable, scratch-resistant plastic

  • Lighter weight and lower cost

  • Wide opening simplifies cleaning

  • Spigot models simplify transferring

Downsides of plastic fermenting buckets

  • Can scratch over time, harbouring bacteria

  • Oxygen permeability through plastic long-term

  • Limited ageing potential compared to glass

Comparison of Demijohn vs. Bucket Performance

Fermentation

  • Identical performance in primary and secondary fermentation

  • Plastic or glass makes no discernible difference in finished beer

Aging/Storage

  • Glass superior for long-term ageing over months due to impermeability

  • For short-term ageing of weeks, no major differences

Ease of Use

  • Plastic buckets easier to handle and clean due to wide opening

  • Glass carboys more difficult to manoeuvre and clean

Cost

  • Plastic buckets roughly 50% or less the cost of glass carboys

  • $20-30 for plastic bucket vs. $50-60+ for glass carboy

Recommendations for New Homebrewers

For new brewers starting out, plastic fermenting buckets offer advantages:

  • Lower cost to begin batch brewing

  • Lighter weight for easier handling

  • Simpler cleaning through wide opening

  • Affordability - buy multiple buckets to streamline processes

Down the road, consider adding glass demijohns for:

  • Ageing beers longer than 1 month

  • Sour beers where oxygen ingress alters flavour

  • Small batch experimentation in 1-3 gallon jugs

But don't feel like glass is required! With proper care and sanitation, plastic makes a fantastic fermenter for the vast majority of beers. We offer options for both fermenter types here.

Environmental Considerations

An often overlooked aspect when choosing between fermenting equipment is their environmental impact.

Glass Demijohns:

Glass, as a material, is 100% recyclable and can be recycled indefinitely without any loss in purity or quality. This means that when a glass demijohn eventually breaks or is no longer usable, it can be melted down and reformed into a new glass product, reducing waste in landfills.

Manufacturing glass demijohns is more energy-intensive than producing plastic buckets. However, the longer lifespan and recyclability of glass can often offset this initial environmental cost.

Transporting glass, due to its weight, consumes more fuel, which can increase its carbon footprint.

Plastic Fermenting Buckets:

Plastic buckets, although reusable for several batches of beer, eventually wear out and are disposed of. Unlike glass, plastic degradation is a long process and plastics can remain in the environment for hundreds of years.

The production of plastic buckets generally consumes less energy compared to glass. However, the environmental impact of plastics, especially when not recycled properly, can be harmful.

Lighter in weight, plastic buckets use less fuel in transportation, giving them a lower carbon footprint in this aspect.

Recommendations for Eco-Conscious Homebrewers:

For those concerned about environmental impact, glass demijohns can be a more sustainable choice in the long run, especially if well-maintained to avoid breakage.

If using plastic buckets, ensure they're reused for as long as possible and explore recycling options in your area when they're no longer usable.

Additionally, consider the environmental implications of cleaning agents and other resources required for maintaining and sanitising your fermenting equipment.

Conclusion

The choice between plastic bucket and glass demijohn comes down largely to personal preference and brewing goals. For most homebrew applications, either fermenter will produce outstanding results.

Focus on fundamentals like yeast health, sanitation and fermentation management first and foremost. With good practices, the vessel choice boils down to convenience and budget.

Find the solution that best fits your brewery space, cost, and usage - then get busy brewing great beer!



clear glass bottleclear glass bottle