This past weekend I bottled up my Kolsch and IPA. I had brewed the Kolsch in a “Better Bottle” carboy. You may have seen or heard of these carboys at your local brew shop, or in your favorite brewing magazine (like Brew Your Own).
I only have one of these, but I love it. Primarily because it’s much lighter and significantly less fragile than the traditional glass carboys that many of us have. I strongly endorse these carboys for primary fermentation, even as a seconday container. I would still use glass if I was brewing an imperial stout for aging or something with a bacteria addition or “wild” yeast addition. But for most applications I think the Better Bottle is the best substitute out there for doing ferments in.
I have been using my buckets to do most of my fermentation in mainly because of their ease of cleaning. However, my buckets are getting tired and I think I may start to replace them with a couple Better Bottles. There is however, on small issue with the Better Bottle that I was painfully reminded of this weekend when bottling.
Because these things are plastic, they are mildly malleable. I tend to put my carboys (glass or otherwise) in a milk crate to help carry them around. This is a great way to support the carboy and pick it up when it’s full as they are difficult to grab onto. As I lifted the carboy out of the milk crate to put it on the kitchen counter, the bottom of the carboy flexed down a little bit with the weight of the beer inside it. This change in shape creates just enough of a plunger effect that a vacuum was created and it sucked a bit of air from the airlock into the beer as I lifted it!
As I put it on the counter, I said “DAMN” to myself. Brewing up a Kolsch is a bit more work than a tradition ale and I may have contaminated it right at that moment with the airlock water. The lesson learned here is that Better Bottles are great, but just don’t take them out of the milk crate when they are filled with beer because of that flexible plastic issue. The saddest part of the story is that this has happened to me before, but I just don’t use my Better Bottle often enough to have remembered that.
So I’ll just be sure to drink up the Kolsch fast enough that if there is a mild contaminant in there it won’t have a chance to spoil the beer too quickly.
Check out our earlier post on Better Bottles!