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I have the options of a plastic barrel fermenter that has a screw on lid or a plastic pail type fermenter with a snap on lid.

I mainly brew beers and ciders but am looking at getting into wine and mead at some stage.

Is one type of fermenter better than the other for these types of brewing?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

If they are the same volume then there's probably not much in it. But I would imagine the pail to have more volume than the barrel. For primary fermentation, you need about 1/3 additional volume in the fermentor as headspace. So if you are fermenting 5 gallons, you should aim for a fermentor that's 7-8 gallons in size.

The headspace is necessary since the yeast can form a large head of foam (kraeusen) that will take up much of the headspace. (It can even overflow out the airlock if you've a particularly active ferment.)

For long term aging of high abv beers, wines and meads, the opposite is true. Then you want a fermentor that is as close as possible to your batch size to reduce headspace to the minimum. This reduces the amount of oxygen in contact with the beverage, which mitigates oxidative staling.

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FWIW, I've never seen much krausen with cider. Beer is a different matter! –  Denny Conn Oct 3 '13 at 15:26
    
Ok thanks guys, I have also found the following information from a home brew shop. The Pail is a LOT cheaper and brewers like its open neck for cleaning. But the wider the neck it is more difficult to ensure its sealed up 100% each time. The Barrel is more compact and a thicker plastic, this works well for brewers like myself that leave brews for a long time when ready for bottling. Either is suitable for the job of beer, wine and cider, you cant taste a brew and say "that was brewed in a pail". –  WillNZ Oct 3 '13 at 19:43
    
Regarding cleaning, you should be using a cleaner like oxiclean or PBW - avoid scrubbing the plastic since that will create scratches that harbor bacteria. –  mdma Oct 3 '13 at 20:02
    
Thanks @mdma I normally use a cleaner that requires no scrubbing so should be safe what ever fermenter I use. That was just the information from the home brew shop –  WillNZ Oct 3 '13 at 20:59
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