Are you looking to save some money?
Have a bunch of plastic water jugs that you want to use to ferment you brew?
Well now, just waiiit a minute! I know if your like me you want to make great beer and keep costs down. Reusing large plastic water bottles sounds like a good reuse and cost saving measure but not so fast. Don’t make the mistake I made recently assuming that if you drink water from it, it must be food grade. As usual there is more to the story and with plastic there is a lot more to the story.
Recently I saw a post in one of the Brewing Facebook groups I belong to about this and I just non nonchalantly answered sure you drink water out of it you can ferment in it! Whoaaa!! Terrible advice, but that is why FB groups are so flippin awesome! I was immediately schooled to the error of my ways.
Just because it is used to drink water out of doesn’t make it food safe. Most if not all plastic is marked with numbers these days to indicate if they are food grade or not. Some Water bottles while safe for drinking water from are not food grade for long term storage.
Here is a good resource for information on plastic and food grade rating. Food grade rating info. The best grade for fermentation and long term food grade storage and reuse is #2 marked plastic. Here is a link that outline all seven grades of plastic and exactly what they are normally be used for. The seven grades of plastic.
The long and short of it is that any plastic container that is marked #1 or #2 should be food safe and ok to use for fermentation. Take that with a grain of salt however. If your reusing a container that held some form of food item other than just water it is ok to reuse.
The issue with most plastic water bottles is they are designed for single use. Drink the water and then recycle the bottle. Plastics used for this have a decent shelf life but will eventually break down and leach into what ever your putting into them.
Keep in mind Plastic is not the most effective substance for fermentation vessels historically. It is cheap and easy to use plastic but stainless steel and glass are the best materials for fermenters. They are more expensive but they will last a lifetime with no break down or leaching of any kind.
Obviously the safest way is to buy plastic bottles/carboys from a reputable home brew shop like my affiliate partner Adventures in Homebrewing plastic carboys but there are some other sources that you can scrounge buckets or bottles up from that are safe.
- Bakeries or other food stores that get food stuffs in bulk. Just go ask the mangers if they have any used pales they are throwing out.
- Chinese food places are good for this as they get sauce and other condiments in 5 gallon plastics pales. Although I wouldn’t recommend using the soy sauce containers as they might contribute off flavors.
- Hit up your local grocery store as they will sometimes get bulk food items in large plastic food grade containers.
- Check out any organic food mart as they will also get organic food items in food grade containers.
Happy Hunting! Let me know in the comments what you think. Also please share any good idea for finding food grade containers I might not have mentioned. Thank you for stopping buy and reading my site.