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I'm making a Chardonnay wine kit for the first time ever, so bear with me here.

The instructions say to rack the wine from the primary fermenter (which they suggested be a food safe HDPE plastic bucket with a loose fitting lid) into clear glass carboys (with stoppers atop them) after 10 days of primary fermentation.

I'm just curious what the need for glass carboys is for the secondary fermentation/clearing of the wine? Does the secondary fermenter need to be absolutely air-tight as they suggest?

Does it have to do with infection of the wine? Is an open fermentation method not suitable once the wine stops producing a lot of CO2 on it's own? Or are the glass carboys recommended for visually determining the clarity of the wine and thus when you want to bottle?

tl;dr My question is basically "Can I use a lidded plastic bucket for my secondary fermentation/clearing process? Or are glass carboys a necessity for the secondary?"

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For your secondary you will need something that seals airtight or at least with an air lock, a sealed plastic bucket would be OK, I have used them before, but don't use for too long. A loose fitting lid is not suitable. Also, the thin plastic brew buckets you tend to get for home brewing are permeable to O2 so left for too long you would get oxidation of the wine.

Glass carboys are better as they are not permeable to O2, but they are heavy and can make a real mess if you drop one.

Re: Q: Does it have to do with infection [bacterial contamination] of the wine?

A: not really it has to do with oxidation, if the fermenter has a lid that covers it then critters are unlikely to drop in.

Q: Is an open fermentation method not suitable once the wine stops producing a lot of CO2 on it's own?

A: yes, unsuitable once the blanket of CO2 is no longer being refreshed.

q: Or are the glass carboys recommended for visually determining the clarity of the wine and thus when you want to bottle?

A: They are mainly recommended as you can store your wine in them for a few months if you like as they stop oxygen getting to the wine. Being able to see when your wine is clear is also a very nice feature they have.

  • Good answer: I would like to add that glass carboys are not intended for pressure. So "air tight" is a poor descriptor for the secondary in the kits instructions. It should be sealed with a liquid filled air lock, or mechanical bung that can allow pressure release. Using a solid stopper can lead to carboy failure under increased pressure or the stopper sucking into the carboy on a pressure drop. – Evil Zymurgist Jun 12 '16 at 13:53

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