Leigh Erwin: Stainless Steel vs. Plastic Fermenters

Wine Fermenting In A Stainless Steel FermenterHi folks! Leigh here!
I wanted to elaborate a little more on my last post, particularly the part about purchasing a stainless steel fermenter. Since it’s a pretty large investment (well, large for the beginner winemaker), I want to make extra sure switching to stainless steel from plastic is really the best option for me. So, I decided to look up some pros and cons about both plastic fermenters and stainless steel fermenters to try and help me in my quest for the appropriate vessel.
Some Pros of Plastic Fermenters:

  • Least expensive option out there.
  • Light weight, so easier to lift and move around if need be.

Some Cons of Plastic Fermenters:

  • Easier to scratch when cleaning. Scratches are great places for hiding icky bacteria and other things you really don’t want in your wine.
  • Oxygen can diffuse faster from plastic than it can from something more dense, so it’s really not a great option for long-term storage.
  • Plastic tends to hold in odors no matter how well you clean it, which could affect your next batch of wine.

Some Pros of Stainless Steel Fermenters:

  • Much easier to clean.
  • Oxygen ingress is significantly less than a plastic fermenter, and the seals on stainless steel fermenters tend to be better/tighter than they are in plastic fermenters.
  • Less risk of contamination since the steel will not scratch like plastic, you won’t be harboring any bacterial stow-aways.
  • Stainless steel is more durable than plastic, so in theory it will last longer.

Some Cons of Stainless Steel Fermenters:

  • They are much more expensive than plastic fermenters.Shop Stainless Steel And Plastic Fermenters
  • They are more bulky and difficult to move once you get wine in them.

I’m sure there are other pros and cons of both types of fermenters, but just by reviewing these first few, I’ve already made up my mind. I like the idea of using plastic fermenters when you are just starting out as a home winemaker, as in the beginning you don’t really know if you’re even going to like doing it or if you’ll be able to continue making wine after your first couple batches. If you’re really getting into it and know you plan to continue making wine for a while, and perhaps know you’d like to increase your output, the upgrade to stainless steel (or glass) is more than worth it, in my opinion.
How about you all? Have you made the switch from plastic? If you are sticking with plastic fermenters, why did you decide to do so? Remember, there are pros and cons to each, so no one is “right” or “wrong”, but it’d be interesting to hear why others made the decisions that they did in terms of what kind of fermenter to use.
leigh_erwin_bioMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I’ll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.