When I got my beer brewing kit for Christmas, it came with all the basics. But, as my wife got me the upgraded kit, for fermentation I received a 6.5 gallon Ale Pail, and a 6 gallon glass carboy. For my first few brews I followed the logic of primary in the bucket, and secondary in the carboy. I even bought a couple extra buckets so I could brew more often, and as they were on ly $11 each it wasn’t a significant investment. Pros: inexpensive, easy to clean, durable. Cons: lid seal never airtight – so airlock may not bubble even if there is active fermentation, have to remove lid to check on wort, scratches on the inside could harbor bacteria, the buckets could absorb smells of previous beers.
Then one day, I was brewing and my 2 buckets were full, so I decided to use the carboy for primary fermentation. WOW – my eyes were opened! I could see what was happening to my beer. I saw when krausen formed then fell, I saw the yeasties churning around and doing their thing, and I saw the beer clear up and the yeast drop when fermentation was pretty much done. I had a better idea of when to start taking gravity readings without having to open a bucket and guess by what was on the surface. Obviously this reduced exposure to the elements, thereby reducing the chance of infection. I was a fan, and promptly bought another 6 gallon glass carboy and started doing my primary’s in there and using buckets only when I needed extra vessels. Pros: Everything was visible, tight seal with bung and airlock, sturdy, doesn’t scratch or absorb odors. Cons: harder to clean, heavy, really slippery when covered in StarSan or water, glass is fragile…
I broke both of my carboys in a 30 day period. I was fortunate and escaped injury – unlike some of the unfortunate folks that post horrific pictures of their carboy induced injuries. (Google it if you must – don’t say I didn’t warn you…) Sure, I had buckets, and I put a brew in one, and found myself prying the lid open more often than I should have. It was inconvenient, and possibly dangerous to my beer. I looked at the plastic Better Bottles for brewing. And they were appealing to some extent. I went to the Bearded Brewer and checked them out. Light, kinda flimsy, and from what I read really difficult to clean without scratching the inside as you couldn’t use a traditional carboy brush.
So I went to the internet to look for more options and stumbled upon the Big Mouth Bubbler.
The Big Mouth Bubbler is a new carboy sold at Northernbrewer.com and Midwestsupplies.com. It is described as:
“the revolutionary replacement for those water jugs known as carboys. Its mouth welcomes cleaning and facilitates a sterile fermentation environment. No bung slipping on a foamy carboy top—the Big Mouth cap is a twist off. Once you screw the cap on, ITS ON and not coming off until you say so.”
It looked intriguing. The best of both worlds: a glass carboy, with a wide mouth and screw in lid. So I did some more research, and it turns out that for every user that loved it, there was one that said the glass was too thin and poorly made and they broke a lot easier than a traditional glass carboy. Well that’s not good… Apparently this was a prevalent opinion as it prompted this disclaimer to be added to the BMB listing on the Northern Brewer website:
“Caution–Big Mouth Bubbler™ is a large hand-formed glass item that can be easily damaged if not used with proper care and handling. It may have variations in shape and thickness, and will show the normal bubbling characteristics of hand-formed glass. Extreme changes in temperature or sudden contact with hard surfaces may cause glass to crack. Handle with care–we strongly recommend using the Big Mouth Bubbler™ carrying harness for increased safety and ease of handling.”
SO I did some more research and saw that they made a PLASTIC Big Mouth Bubbler. It was the Danny DeVito to the Glass Arnold Schwarzenegger in this “Twins” analogy. Instead of it being a glass carboy with some features of a bucket, it was the other way around. It was a plastic vessel with a wide mouth, secure lid, and 2 ports – that was clear! The 2-port lis was a desirable option as it meant I could take samples for gravity readings without disturbing my airlock/thermowell or otherwise removing the lid. Plus, it had a raised “dimple” in the bottom that you were supposed to be able to set your auto-siphon on and draw out wort without getting the yeast and trub from the bottom. It was a dream come true!
I promptly ordered a 6.5 gallon and a 5-gallon version. I ordered the BMB Carboy strap for the 6.5 gallon one, extra 2 port lids, and priority shipping. Then I waited…
A couple of days later, my boxes arrived.
RW knew what I Liked!
I unboxed them and checked them out. Then I sanitized one of them and immediately used it.
As you can see in the pics, clear plastic, cool lid, wide mouth, beer looks good in it. So far I’m very happy with them and will be ordering a couple more. In my opinion, here are the only items I have concern with:
1. The raised nub on the bottom does indeed make a good place to rest your siphon, but – if you are transferring out of primary and have a decent yeast cake and some hop material in the bottom of your carboy, the nub isn’t high enough to rest your siphon there without pulling a bunch of gunk with it. I hold it in place manually where I need it to be.
2. Th cool “bubble” design on the sides. Useless. Make those rings smooth. The little dimples for the bubble pattern hold junk in them, and sometimes a gentle wipe while soaking in PBW doesn’t get it all. You have to look and be careful to get it all out. Now – most of us pay really close attention to the cleanliness of our equipment, but I have to admit I almost put a batch of beer in once without noticing a but of krausen gunk that wasn’t visible unless you held the carboy up against a dark background.
All in all – these Big Mouth Bubblers are less expensive than glass carboys, relatively easy to maintain, and a solid option for fermenting your brews in. I may order a glass one just to test its durability, but for the most part I am completely satisfied with the plastic ones and fully endorse them.