Who Makes the Best Glass Carboy?

The best glass carboy is still made in Italy!

Infographic of a carboy with an Italian badge on itItalian carboys have the best quality glass!

Some of the best and cheapest suppliers of these carboys are listed below. They are a heavy item to ship though so they won't usually qualify for free shipping.


Italian glass carboys have a very uniform thickness compared to other brands. And ribbing in many cases as well to strengthen them even more.

This means they don't have "weak areas" within the wall which could potentially crack easier. They've been making carboys and demijohns for hundreds of years and it shows.


There's nothing wrong with carboys made elsewhere in the world but you have to be even more careful when setting them down. Keep in mind that some of them may have bubbles or thinner glass than the Italian models.

Also watch out for any heavy tinting... it makes it harder to view your fermentation.


Best Suppliers of Glass Carboys!

Infographic showing a supplier truck

I suggest amazon.com as the first choice here... if anyone can ship these heavy bad boys free or flat rate it's them. See the weight of each glass carboy according to their size below.

A couple other trusted and long-time suppliers are:

Beer brewers and wine makers have been using these guys for years. They're trusted because of good customer service records and fast delivery. Not to mention the jillion other brewing goodies they sell all at one place.


Which One is Better?

There are some people who swear by the wide-mouthed glass carboy. I like some of the features but don't like others.


Image comparing a wide-mouth carboy to a regular oneIs a wide-mouth carboy better than a regular carboy?

Wide-mouth:

Pros


  • easy to clean fermenter due to the large hole that you can fit your hand into
  • adding oak chips or other ingredients is a breeze
  • gallon graduation marks are handy


Cons


  • large neck means more headspace and possible bacteria to contact the surface of the wine
  • larger lid also has more surface area to invite bacterial infection

A standard carboy has a small neck so there's less chance of air infiltration to spoil a batch. And because the neck is so narrow there is very little air in contact with your must/wine as long as it's topped up.

If it wasn't for that I think the wide-mouth carboy would rule. However air infiltration and headspace volume are just too important in wine making to ignore. 

What Makes a Glass Carboy Better Than a Plastic One?

Are they?

Not so long ago soft drinks were sold only in glass bottles. Now they're all plastic. Is that where the glass carboy is going?


Not likely for quite a few reasons. Plastic pop bottles are one-time use only. Your glass carboy should last two or three decades at least.

Here's the comparison:

Image comparing a plastic carboy to a glass oneWhich carboy is better - PET plastic or glass?

Glass:

Pros


  • they don't collapse inward when you pick up a full carboy- so your wine or beer won't take a "gulp" of air or water from the airlock
  • they won't hold any odors because glass is non-porous and too hard for substances to penetrate
  • they clean and sanitize easy because the hardness of the glass resists staining and leaching
  • the glass doesn't break down over time like plastic does
  • there's no question of "food contact safe" - glass is always safe for food or liquid storage
  • glass is an environmentally better option than plastic - they'll last a lifetime if you don't drop it and it's made from a natural and recyclable source (sand)
  • glass doesn't scratch very easy so there's no worries of bacteria ruining a batch (scratches in plastic harbors bacteria)
  • glass never gets cloudy over time so you can always view your fermentation (and aging) clearly to monitor it
  • you can use a brush to clean glass but not plastic (scratches it)

Cons


  • glass is heavy - about 12 lbs for a 5 gallon carboy
  • can be slippery when cleaning
  • will sometimes break if you drop it
  • usually more expensive upfront but over time the plastic carboy will have to be replaced so in the long run glass is cheaper

It's not that I'm totally against plastic carboys. Far from it. They are a cheaper alternative and because they don't weigh
that much shipping is reasonable.

PET plastic is great when used as a fermenter and they might be just the thing for short-term wine storage - less than 3 months.

In fact if you're just getting your feet wet in wine making the plastic carboys are a good place to start! If wine making really sets it's hooks into you though you can take a long-term approach and get some glass carboys when you're ready.

At least for long-term storage.



How Many Sizes Do You Need to Have On Hand?

Image showing 6 carboys in different sizesIt's convenient to have different sizes of carboys

The more sizes of glass carboys you have the better.

You can use them for:

  • primary fermentation
  • secondary fermentation
  • long-term storage


Each time you rack the must or wine off the lees you need a smaller carboy. That is unless you have a similar wine to top up with - always a good idea! Or some sanitized marbles to toss in if the headspace isn't too big.

Keeping topped right up into the neck of the carboy should be second nature if you're going to make great wine.

Having more sizes on hand also gives you more options when it comes to choosing a batch size for your next brew. If you decide to make a slightly larger batch then you can do that. Running around trying to clean and sanitize the just-emptied carboy will be a thing of the past.






Sizes and Weights of Carboys

Infographic showing a glass carboy being weighed on a scaleHow much does a full carboy weigh?

Carboys come in many sizes. In fact there are some in-between sizes that were made in years past that I haven't listed below.

For instance you might find a glass carboy like a 2 gallon or 2.5 gallon but the mainstream suppliers have mostly stopped carrying them.

Note:

The weights listed below are pretty close, though they do vary from carboy to carboy, and also from each manufacturer.

Image showing a table of weights for different sizes of carboys.

½ -Gallon (1.8l) -

The half-gallon jug is great for when you don't quite have enough wine to fill a 1-gallon jug. You can fill one of these and a 1.5l bottle and you're good to go.

1-Gallon (4l) -

The one gallon glass carboy is also called a growler or jug. They usually have a finger-hole to carry it while the actual larger carboys don't. These little jugs are fantastic for making small batches of fruit or vegetable wines.


3-Gallon (11l) - 

The three gallon glass carboys are perfect for doing smaller or half-batches. At this weight they're a huge back saver too!
Instead of making one or two large batches of wine you could shake it up and make more varieties of wines.


5-Gallon (18.9l) - 

I actually don't mind moving these around when they're full. Just a good all round size that many wine recipes tailor to. Set these down gently, whether empty or full. 


6-Gallon (23l) - 

These 6 gallon carboys are great for racking down to from the 6.5 gallon carboy. When these guys are full you need to have your game on to move them. Carboy handles or straps will help you to keep your back straight but be extra careful setting it down on a hard surface.


6.5-Gallon (25l) - 

The 6.5 gallon carboy is a beast! Watching the fermentation in one of these tall boys is so cool. As mentioned above just take extra care setting them down on a hard surface. In fact don't. Put something on the floor with some "give" to it and set it on that.


The retailers mentioned above keep all of these sizes in stock.


So... How Heavy Are These Guys?

How Much Does Wine and Beer Weigh?

Dry red table wine (13%):

  • 8.325 lbs per US gallon 


Beer regular (5%):

  • 8.409 lbs per US gallon

How Much Does a Full Carboy Weigh?

Example 1.


6.5 gallon carboy x 8.325 lbs of wine + 20 lb carboy = 74.112 lbs US gallons

Example 2.

6.5 gallon carboy x 8.409 lbs of beer + 20 lb carboy = 74.658 lbs US gallons

Using the info above - just punch into the equation the desired size and weight of the carboy you want to know about.



What Exactly Are Glass Carboys Made Of?

There are surprisingly few ingredients in a glass carboy:

  • sand (73%)
  • soda ash (13%)
  • limestone (8%)



A few other small ingredients are added too like:


  • dolomite (4%)
  • alumina (1%)
  • other fining agents (1%).


Sand (silica)

Image of quartz rockQuartz
Image of silica sandSilica sand

Silica is most often found in the mineral "quartz". It's also the major component of sand. That makes it readily available as our ancient forbears discovered.

Soda Ash (sodium carbonate)

Image of the mineral TronaTrona
Image of soda ash powderSoda ash

Soda Ash is found naturally in both minerals "Trona" and "Nahcolite" as well as sodium carbonite-rich waters called brines.

It's also made synthetically using limestone, salt and ammonia. About 30% of all soda ash goes directly into making glass products.

Lime

Image showing a limestone ledgeLimestone
Image showing limestone powderLimestone powder

Limestone is a natural mineral that also provides calcium and magnesium to glassmaking that increases the durability of the glass. That's great for chemical resistance to the alcohol and acid in wine or beer!

Once all these ingredients are heated to over 3000 °F they form molten glass and from there - carboys and other glass products.


What Else Makes a Great Fermenter?

There are other fermenting and storage vessels you can use as well, like:

  • PET carboys
  • stainless steel tanks
  • oak barrels 
  • food grade drums

And they all have their place in home wine making and brewing. But the glass carboy still rules over cost and performance!




› [Glass Carboy]