To make wine at home, you need fermenters… a place to keep the grape juice, yeast, and whatever other additives are in the wine kit. There is a primary fermenter, which in the equipment package I have, is a large 30 litre plastic pail. There is also the secondary fermenter, which is also called a carboy. These can be either glass, or plastic. Fundamentally they do the exact same job, but which one should I use??

When I was reading about the benefits of each and trying to decide which one I would prefer to get in my kit, I had read that glass was superior. Why exactly? Well, the glass is non-porous, more durable, and resistant to scratches and stains from making red wine. OK, it’s been decided… glass is the way to go.

Then I had a chance to chat with the staff at the local wine making shop. She recommended plastic. Uh oh, did I make the wrong choice?? Why is plastic better?? It turns out most of the info I had read before wasn’t wrong, just old. Older plastic carboys were in fact, less durable, prone to scratching and staining. Durability isn’t much of a concern as long as you are careful. Staining isn’t too bad if you happen to only make red wine. Scratches though, that can kill a batch of wine. Bacteria can make a home in the scratches, then spoil a perfectly good batch, no matter how well you clean or sanitize your equipment. Plus, the plastic carboy is about 10 pounds lighter! The lighter weight is going to be handy for me since I’ll be keeping the fermenters in the basement while they work their magic, but carrying them up to my kitchen when it’s time to rack or bottle.

I also have a heat belt. It’s used to heat the fermenters, if you happen to be doing things in a cool environment like my unfinished basement. It helps keep the temperature constant and in the right range for the yeast to do what it does. The instructions for the heat belt warn not to use it on a glass container. Really, it is safe to use on glass, you just have to monitor the wine closely. If you have the heat belt on a glass carboy and you have a power outage while using the heat belt, then the power comes back on, you might temperature shock the glass and it might shatter… leaving you with 23 litres of grape juice and shards of broken glass all over your floor. Plastic won’t suffer the same

Fortunately for me, the people at Wine Sense are very helpful. They let me exchange the glass carboy for a plastic one, even though my kit was open (but unused). Customer service there is some of the best I’ve ever encountered.