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What are the advantages and disadvantages of plastic v. stainless steel fermenters?


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John Watt from Stout Tanks and Kettles

What are the trade-offs of plastic verses stainless steel conical fermenters?  There are several key differences:

    Durability.  Plastic is not as durable as stainless steel.

    Sanitary.  I would be concerned about the inevitable scratches that will occur in plastic.  If you purchase a plastic conical, consider that you will have to be extremely careful about causing bacteria-harboring scratches in it.  The problem with a scratch in plastic is that the plastic will tend to close up over the scratch and trap bacteria.  You can have a scratch in stainless but it remains open and cleanable.  Stainless can also take high heat for cleaning, much more so than plastic.  Also, a plastic fermenter will only have threaded fittings (that I know of). There is no option for sanitary tri-clamp fittings.

    Light Exposure.  Plastic conicals are somewhat opaque, but if I had one I would still wrap something around it to prevent harmful UV light from reaching my beer.  With stainless, you have no worries about that.

    Cost.  Plastic conicals will almost always cost less – in the short term.  However, because they are more susceptible to scratches, you could spend more in the long term because you would have to replace it sooner.  If you start dumping batches of beer or losing accounts because of infections, the low up front cost of plastic will get high very quickly.

For home brew use, plastic is commonly used.  Some start ups make due with them for financial reasons, but generally plan to get away from them as soon as possible.  For my money, if it is at all possible I would spend extra for a stainless steel vessel that will last for years and years.

Oct 9, 2013

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Andy Brassington at M.A. Silva

Excellent advice John. Making a capital investment or starting a winery or brewery is a long term commitment of time and capital. I would not place my precious capital into plastic tanks.

Mar 6, 2014

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