Choosing a vessel: Carboy or bucket

Carboy or Bucket?

The standard size for a batch of home brew is 5 gallons – small enough to prepare in your kitchen, but large enough to keep you drinking for a while. If you buy an ingredient kit it will most likely be sized for 5 gallons. As such, you will need a container to hold 5 gallons of fermenting liquid.

You have two basic options to choose from:

  • A plastic food-grade Bucket
  • A glass or plastic Carboy
Glass Carboy with airlock


Both will work fine and mostly comes down to preference, but here are some considerations to take into account:

Food-Grade Bucket


  • Least expensive
  • Light weight
  • Easier to fill
  • Impossible to shatter
  • Easier to carry


  • Eventually needs replacing as scratches in the plastic will harbor bacteria
  • Opaque – if you want to look inside you need to take off the lid, which runs the risk of contamination

Glass Carboy


  • Never needs replacing
  • Transparent for easy viewing
  • Will not leach any plastic-y flavors


  • More expensive
  • Heavier – can weigh up to 20 lbs
  • May shatter if you poor too hot of a liquid into it
  • Harder to fill
  • Harder to carry

Plastic Carboy


  • Less expensive
  • Transparent
  • Will not shatter


  • Harder to fill
  • Harder to carry
  • Scratches in the plastic will harbor bacteria



Overall this all comes down to preference. If you are just beginning to experiment with brewing you may want to start with a bucket as they are cheaper, easier to handle and easier to store. Either buy a dedicated brewing bucket, or use another FOOD GRADE bucket. You can usually get these for free by calling local bakeries, which have more buckets than they know what to do with.

If you are starting to get more serious about brewing and have the space, you may want to think about investing in a glass carboy. They will last a lifetime and let you keep a closer eye on your brew. They will be more expensive upfront, but are a worth investment. You can find them on Amazon for around $40 dollars. I bought mine used off craigslist for $20 bucks.

I find plastic carboys to be an unhappy medium. They provide some benefits of glass and buckets, but also a lot of their drawbacks. They are bulky and take up a lot of space and still can get scratched which can lead to spoilage. While they are a little cheaper than a glass carboy, they will still run you around $30-40 bucks.

Whichever you choose, just remember to keep them clean and enjoy your larger batches of brew!