Be honest. If you are a homebrewer, it either happened to you or someone you know. You put 5.5 gallons of high gravity beer into a 6.5 gallon carboy or plastic bucket. It ferments well. Very well. It shoots out the top like Old Faithful having a beergasm. You come home from work to a huge, sloppy, shitty mess. Why are we content with this scenario? As I read more homebrewng blogs, I notice that this is happening to the bloggers as well.
Luckily, this is an extremely solvable problem. The solution seems obvious to me: use a larger vessel or rethink the system.
You have many options: do a smaller batch, use a larger fermenter, use your brew kettle instead of a plastic fermenter (the brulospher tried that once), or use your large mash tun.
What I Do
With One Pot Brewing, this is another benefit: one pot for the entire process. I never have to worry about a blow off tube or a mess (which means possible contamination) – heck, I don’t even use an airlock. My vessel, which is also my mash tun, is naturally bigger than a carboy or plastic bucket. It’s a 7.5 gallon aluminum stock pot. This is a benefit, not a drawback. I usually put a little over 5 gallons of beer in it. I pitch the yeast, cover with aluminum foil, and let it be; plenty of room for the beer to ferment, krausen, drop, and clear. The aluminum keeps air out, and is easy to take off for dry hopping. Here’s my latest DIPA at peak fermentation:
The main and most obvious drawback is that your brew kettle is tied up for about two weeks. For me, this is the perfect amount of time to plan the next beer. I like to brew continuously and constant, every three weeks or so, not in seasons. For others, this won’t work (or they will get another pot….shit why not the entire turkey fryer system is around 50 bucks…I just saw a brand new Bayou system on craigslist for 40 bucks).
Although it’s too early to tell, so far, so good. The possible issue with a large fermenter is oxidation – to much oxygen being exposed to the fermenting beer. I’ll believe it when I see it, which means when I taste it. So far, no cardboard beer.
Do you see any problems with a large fermenter? Have you tried it? If so, please comment.