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Brewing Topics => Brewing Discussion => Topic started by: Chas at Tahoe on October 17, 2009, 11:07:30 AM

Title: Disposable carboy
Post by: Chas at Tahoe on October 17, 2009, 11:07:30 AM
I had an idea.  What if I use two 2.5 gal spring water jugs from Railey's for my water then use the same jugs as disposable carboy(s)?  I tried it and it seems to have worked.  The brew is conditioning now so I don't have any flavor tests to report.
The jugs are designed to sit on a shelf in the frig and water is accessed through a very water tight pour valve.  The whole valve was removable so I was able to pour into the boil pot and then replace to keep the jugs sanitary.  I then removed and replaced again for racking to my carboy(s).
The issue of an airlock was solved by some 5/16" vinal tubing jamed in the remains of the pour valve.  I removed the actual valve innards with a razor knife and used some tape to make the tubing fit tightly ( next time I'll use larger tubing ).  I coiled the tubing into a pigtail and taped so it would stay then created an airlock with sanitized water.  I was also able to note the fermentation activity by the level of sanitizer in the pigtail.  :o)
After 4 days in the primary I carefully racked into the two carboys, trying not to disturb the trub.  Then after 7 days in the secondary I chilled to about 40 degrees and then carefully racked into my bottleing bucket.  I noted about 3/8" trub stuck to the bottom of both carboys.  yeah!
 I had to add about a quart of filtered Tahoe water to the primary and I used about 1/2 gal of water for my primer and ended up with two full cases of bottles.
Carboy(s) cost $2.29 each including spring water.  Very disposable if you ask me. The only down side is that I didn't get to use my wonderful Lake Tahoe water.
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: SleepySamSlim on October 17, 2009, 12:16:51 PM
Very interesting idea - a few of thoughts:

- you may want to check on the plastic type used in the water bottles. I would want to use the same type of plastic as they use in the Better Bottle carboys. Since you have an alcoholic liquid going into them you don't want any plastic leaching -- or -- increased permeability to oxygen

- I feel you always need to sanitize ! In fact even if I know I cleaned a something a week ago at a minimum it gets rinsed (remove any dust or dander) and then sanitized. And my current opinion is StarSan is the easiest to use. When I talk with friends or others about brewing (as they may be interested in starting) --- yes its fun and enjoyable - but I make it clear that to be successful "There be a lot of cleaning and swabbing in this here pursuit"

I guess ultimately I tend to go to proven and approved materials anytime foods or beverages are involved. I want all items rated food quality or better.

Brew On !
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: Chas at Tahoe on October 17, 2009, 01:07:50 PM
You have made a couple good points.  I should have sanitized the carboy(s) before racking.  I also assumed that since the bottles were filled with sanitized water they would be food grade.  ugh.  Should have researched more.

I'll report on the taste test on November 1.  I'm brewing an orange\wheat for the boys for my Talladega race day party.  BBQ ribs, cole slaw and orange wheat.  ooooohhhhhhaaaaaa.

Thanks for the imput.  Your responses are always sagacious and helpful too. :0)
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: SleepySamSlim on October 17, 2009, 07:06:45 PM
BBQ Ribs + Cole Slaw --- Now thats good eating. And the orange wheat sounds interesting - let us know how your brew comes out. For the first time in a long time I had some good wheat beer this last Summer - so now I'm interested again. Shoot me a copy of your recipe if you would.

Don't take any of my comments as a damper --- its good to hear you are brewing and being innovative.

Brew On !
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: Chas at Tahoe on October 21, 2009, 07:22:47 PM
I promised to update my disposable carboy invenion.  After 7 days in the bottle I taped one for a taste test.  It was fairly well carbonated but the taste was kinda undefinable.  I don't know it was a plastic taste or just the additives but I'm not sure I liked it.  I don't think it was an infection.  Nothing really definably off on the taste.  Maybe it's just a bad recipe.  I'll update further when I get an opinion from #1 son.
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: stevemwazup on October 22, 2009, 12:03:24 AM
     I had a question. Are you using the Two 2.5 gallon jugs because of space restrictions, or is it because you have some extra water jugs on hand.
If you have limited space where your at, I think you have a great idea, of course SleepySam brings up some good points to look at.
Although, if space is not an issue I would recommend getting glass carboys, because cleaning and sanitizing is allot easier and worry free, Plastic can be tricky when it comes to cleaning, especially if you cutting and modifying your buckets or jugs, (it can be done) but glass is just a good bet.
Let us know how your idea turns out.
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: MaltLicker on October 22, 2009, 07:35:22 AM
Even if they work well, it's still $5 extra per batch, and you gotta buy it and lug it home.  Despite the recent price increase on glass carboys, you'd still break even on glass after around six batches.  And glass lasts, has the benefits others cited above, and you can use your Tahoe water.  Or, lots of people primary in a food-grade bucket, and secondary in glass when desired. 

Did you boil and cool your top-off and priming water?  Whenever you must add water post boil, try to boil it and cool it.  Bottled, distilled, "city" waters are not "sanitary or sterilized" waters for our purposes. 
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: Chas at Tahoe on October 22, 2009, 07:56:22 PM
Stevewazup:  My original plan was to do two different batches of a hefe-weisen one orange and the other rosehip.  As I cast about for a plan I noticed how cheap the spring water was at the local Raley's.  It was then that I decided to try the two water bottles for secondary fermenters.  My batch could easily be split betweenthe two recipes.  My space is not really that limited, except by my wife who doesn't like the smell of beer.  :o)  I'm beginning to agree that the glass was a better idea.  I've taped one bottle after a week in the bottle and it doesn't taste quite right.  I dont' know if it was my recipe or the plastic...  On the positive side my Cream Ale didn't taste quite right after just a week in the bottle either.  Everyone liked it as I did after it conditioned for another couple weeks.

Maltlicker:  You make a good point too.  Glass has to be cleaned but there is practically no danger of it flavoring the batch either.  I did boil.  For my orange zest I boiled in about a quart of water the night before bottleing and then the next day added my priming sugar and boiled again.  The water I looked at at Lowes was sanitized and I supposed that I assumed that my spring water was also sanitized too.  Should have paid more attention.

So far I'm not convinced that my big idea was so brilliant after all.  As it turned out I combined the rosehip and orange in one batch anyway.  No excuses, I did it and I'm not going to hide it.  I'll wait for another week before tossing the batch, so to speak.  I still haven't heard from #1 son though.  He may change my mind.

Thanks to all for your imput.  Always appreciated.

Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: Happy Frogs Brewery on October 23, 2009, 03:11:10 PM
Welcome to the homebrew club. I have used water bottles for secondaries on numerous occasions. Sometimes I have two or more beers going at a time so I will use the 5 gal jugs from my water cooler as a secondary. I haven't had any problems yet. (Of course as soon as I hit send something will arise)  :) I haven't ever brewed a wheat, and have heard that they do not need the conditioning of other beers, but every beer I have made as needed more than one week to taste decent. You will find that in a couple more weeks your beer will mellow and taste better. Last week I bottled a stout that I won't touch until Christmas. After cleanliness, I think patience is one of the most important traits for a brewer.
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: Chas at Tahoe on October 23, 2009, 05:58:53 PM
I checked out craigslist after son#1 wanted to buy a couple cases of bottles ( so I could make more brew for him ) and I remembered what they cost with shipping.  I found a guy who wanted to sell his outfit.  I offered $50 ( the cost of 2 cases of 12oz bottles ) and he took it.  I now have a fermenting bucket, bottleing bucket, capper, hydrometer, 4.5 cases of 22oz bottles, a boil bucket, wort chiller, and a 5gal glass carboy.  I'm guessing the plastic disposable deal is going to be history.  He has a second carboy but I ran out of cash.  The carboy was a surprise.

My son did taste the brew though and said it was very good.  A slight after taste but no plastic flavor.  hmmmm.  Must not be my style.  It was very malty and hops were not very prominent.

I'll post the recipe when I get a little more time.
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: SleepySamSlim on October 23, 2009, 11:03:21 PM
Hey - glad to hear you made a good score on craigslist. You can definitely use all that equipment - did you get a carboy cleaning brush ? Its a long handled thing with a dog-legged brush. If not go to your LBS and pick one up. I also highly recommend using StarSan to sanitize with. Its a no rinse sanitizer that works great - easy to use. Lastly get some dish soap that is no-fragrance no-dyes to use for cleaning.

And as others have said - stand by on the beer --- my tasting cycle is 2 weeks - 4 weeks - 6 weeks. Also be sure to condition your beers between 60 - 68deg for at least the first few weeks so the yeast can work.

I'm not sure if the flavored wheat was your first brew - but you might dial it back and do a couple of medium amber ales to get your process down. Then maybe a darker ale. Buy or find a recipe and then use BSmith to tweak the IBUs to your taste.
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: Chas at Tahoe on October 24, 2009, 12:55:33 PM
I got the carboy brush.  I think I'll try soaking the buckets and carboy in oxyclean.  It leaves a little residue but it will clean almost anything.  The carboy looks clean but the buckets are a  little colorful around the top.

My first batch was a Liberty Cream Ale from  It was pretty bullet proof.  Vigorous yeast and not particularlly temp sensitive.  I conditioned it in my closet too but that was this last summer.

The Wheat was a kit from Northern Brewers.  I added the yeast, danstar wheat ( also fairly vigorous ), and the flavoring. Looking back I think I should have started with just the orange and tweaked.  It looks like I won't have to toss it though.

I have my bottles in the spare bedroom closet where the temp is between 60 and 64deg.  I got a weather station for Christmas with a remote sensor and I put the remote in the closet.  I'm tracking high and low temperature.  It's getting cold already here at Tahoe so with the furnace on the closet is pretty steadliy between 60-64deg.
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: Chas at Tahoe on November 01, 2009, 07:24:04 PM
Welp, after two and a half weeks in the bottle I have to say, along with my son and his firends, that the disposable caroby thing worked.  I was a little worried at one week contitioning but we poped the caps this weekend and it was very good.  No detectable plastic taste.  There was some Blue Moon there too but my recipe won.  I'll admint I'm not an experienced beer drinker but by boys are and they all agreed that it was great.

I'm calling the disposable carboy invention a sucess, at least for an orange hefe.  More testing is obviously needed. ;)
Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: SleepySamSlim on November 02, 2009, 06:28:58 PM
Glad to hear you've got some good brew --- on bottle conditioning the magic usually happens between 2 and 4 weeks. And even at 4 weeks I'll only chill what I want to drink and let most of the bottles sit 2 more weeks ---- then the whole lot goes into the brew fridg

Title: Re: Disposable carboy
Post by: Chas at Tahoe on November 29, 2009, 02:44:51 PM
In the bottle 4 weeks and tasting pretty good.  Not even a hint of plastic from the secondary.  The very malty start at two weeks has mellowed to a nice gentle malty start and the traditional barley finish with a nice carbonation bite on the side.  I didn't notice the orange notes I expected.  Maybe I'll use an extract next time.  There were some variations in the bottle but my scientific opinion is that it was because I didn't stir my primer before bottling.  I woke up that night and realized, "I didn't stir!"  haha.

I used a Northern Brewers hefe extract kit with 1oz of Mediterranean orange peel and 1oz of rosehip.  I boiled both in about a quart of water with 4oz of confectioner's sugar the day before bottling.  I then strained the "broth" through a grain bag into the my bottling bucket and bottled.