Carboy Hacks (aka Pimp Your Carboy)
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, we need carboys if we’re going to home brew. Unfortunately for us, they’re large and, when full of wort and doing their job, difficult and sometimes dangerous to move. Glass carboys in particular are susceptible to breakage every time you pick one up or set it down, sending glass shards and sticky wort everywhere. Homebrewers are nothing if not an industrious lot, so here are some easy-to-do and inexpensive carboy hacks that will make them safer, easier to work with, and more useful.
The ubiquitous milk crate is a multitasking master for the home brewer. The crate protects your carboy from a lot of incidental bumps and impacts, and provides convenient handles for moving them around. Make sure you use real resin crates and not the cheap plastic crates sold at big-box housewares departments for college dorm rooms. The latter will not tolerate the weight of 5 gallons of wort in a 6-gallon glass carboy.
Stack two milk crates, cut a hole large enough for the neck of your carboy in the bottom of the top crate, and you’ve just made a drying rack, McGyver. The last I checked, the purpose-built carboy drying stands cost about $10 + shipping. You can easily buy two crates online for that much, plus you’ll have them to store and protect your carboys when you’re not drying them.
Much like the milk crate, carboy handles give you something to grab hold of. They’re available in two basic types, one for glass carboys and one for plastic Better Bottle-type carboys. The former type is made of vinyl coated metal and are locked into place around the carboy neck by tightening a nut & bolt. The latter type is made of plastic and just slip around the neck of the bottle. I’ve never personally used the plastic carboy type so I can’t attest to how well they hold a full fermenter.
Also called a Fermometer, this inexpensive addition stays with your carboy. To make it last longer, especially if you submerge your carboys in water, cover it with a strip of heavy-duty clear packing tape.
A carboy hack that you can make as simple or as fancy as you like. For me marking off 1-gallon increments with water-resistant tape is enough. You might want to mark off 1 quart increments and cut numbers out of vinyl. Go nuts. Be creative.
Of course you’re going to paste a sticker from your favorite brewery on your carboy, to make it look like the worldly, well-traveled soul it is. Better yet, affix a RYP sticker to it.
Nylon Bumpers – my personal carboy hack
Your glass carboy can’t always stay in a milk crate. When you set it down on tile or another equally hard surface, it’s nice to have some adhesive nylon bumpers stuck to the bottom to absorb the impact. The 1/2″ round ones are about $3 for 16 at a home improvement store. That’s enough to protect two glass carboys. I’m still testing the long-term durability of these if the carboy is submerged in water – so far I’ve only used PET bottles for primary fermentation.
A pimped carboy’s beer is different from that of a square –No one, ever (my apologies to Mike Judge)
Chances are %100 that I haven’t thought of every cheap carboy hack. Got a different or better idea? Let me know in the comments.