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CONTAINER CHOICES FOR YOUR FERMENTS

How to choose the right container to house your new ferment without breaking your budget.

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by Jody Gowans in Fermentation Tools, The Basics
November 3, 2016
a range of bottles and jar types that are used to do fermentation

Bottles, flip-tops, canning jars, giant jars and Fido jars, “there are never enough containers!!”  It is the familiar complaint of every fermenter- where and how to find the right container to house your new ferment without breaking your budget.  Fortunately, there is a variety of affordable options to keep up with your fermenting fervor!

The number one concern is to reduce contamination from pathogens.  This can be helped by using glass instead of plastic containers to store your ferments. Clay fermenting crocks are also an option.   Also avoid any containers with metal, as most household metal products will degrade in the acidic environment created by the ferments and are thus more susceptible to rust.  The easiest and most effective way to sterilize your containers is with vinegar, hot water and a good rinse.  

BEVERAGE STORAGE FOR FIRST FERMENTATION (F1)

1.a   CANNING JARS

Canning jars are inexpensive and come in a range of sizes.  It is preferable to use the wide-mouth variety in order to increase the oxygen flow required by your SCOBY or water kefir grains.  Any glass jar will do.  For larger batches, I use recycled, gallon-size pickle jars.   For continuous brew kombucha, glass beverage dispensers with a spigot are great (make sure the part of the spigot inside the dispenser is plastic).   It is a convenient container to sample the brew mid-fermentation and makes bottling easy.

ball-jar

 FOR SECOND FERMENTATION (2F)

2.a   FLIP-TOP BOTTLES

It is critical that your bottle is able to withstand the pressure (sometimes quite intense!) from the carbonation created in the anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions of the second fermentation (2F).  Flip-top bottles are ideal as they allow you to control the release of the CO2 trapped in the bottle and avoid getting sprayed in the face or on your ceiling, depending on the strength of the 2F!

These bottles can either be purchased from kitchen or brewery supply stores, and obtained from recycled Grolsh or carbonated beverage bottles.  I became obsessed with finding flip-top bottles when I started brewing kombucha.  I switched my husband’s preferred beer brand to Grolsch for the free flip-top bottle.  I also found a tasty carbonated lemonade from France in 750 ml bottles.   Although pricey at $5.99/bottle, it’s a steal when you consider you get the lemonade and can keep the bottle.  It’s also very important that you advise your family members of your plan for the bottles as my kids thought I had lost my mind when I freaked out after finding those coveted bottles in the recycling bin!

flip-top-bottles

2.b  VOSS BOTTLES

VOSS is a water company based in Norway that bottles both spring and sparkling artesian water.  I have always loved their bottles and saved them to make my own infused water.  Not only are they lovely to look at, they are designed to contain carbonated water.  The cap holds a nice seal to keep in the carbonation, which can be “burped” by slowly opening the cap.  While I have used them for kombucha, I prefer these bottles for less carbonated fermented drinks like kvass and tepache.

voss-bottles

2.c  CANNING JARS

If you can’t find a bottle, you can use a canning jar.  Try to find plastic lids instead of the metal rings that come with the jars to avoid the risk of contamination from rust.  These jars can be used to for the 2F of kombucha and water kefir, but be very diligent in burping them daily to avoid the chance of the jars exploding from the built-up CO2 pressure.

2.d  RECYCLED TWIST-OFF BEVERAGE BOTTLES

I have heard of using recycled twist cap beverage bottles, but do not recommend them.  Low-grade glass increases the dangerous risk of exploding bottles, particularly those bottles that previously held non-carbonated beverages.

CONTAINERS FOR FRUIT AND VEGETABLE FERMENTS

In vegetable and fruit fermentation, it is imperative that the food remains submerged in the acidic environment of the fermenting liquid (brine, honey, etc.) in order to avoid contamination of pathogens.  Fermentation weights are commonly used to keep the food submerged.  In most cases, the fermentation is anaerobic, therefore a gas release system must be used to release the built-up CO2 .  

3.a  CANNING JARS

Canning jars are the ultimate go-to container for fermenters.  This jar is so widely used that is has become synonymous with fermentation.  These jars are inexpensive and come in a range of sizes.  The wide-mouth variety is preferred to facilitate pushing the food down into the fermenting liquid and to insert a fermentation weight.

3.b FIDO JARS

Fido jars have a flip top glass lid with a removable rubber seal/gasket.  The lid is held down by a metal clamp and is generally a sturdy jar.  The lid and rubber gasket allow for CO2 to slowly escape without the unwanted introduction of oxygen into the ferment.  Please note that it is not a foolproof system and I encourage burping the container for active ferments.   I once made a kimchi that aggressively spat at me when I popped open the Fido jar!

fido-jars

3.c  FERMENTATION CROCKS

Fermentation crocks are earthenware vessels designed for vegetable ferments.  These containers are more expensive options, but those who own them, swear by them.  They are available in 2 formats: Open and Water-Sealed.

Open Crocks have no lid.  A plate is placed on the vegetables and the crock is covered with a cloth.

Water-Sealed crocks have an internal moat on the lip of the rim that is filled with water.  This created a seal with the lid, preventing the introduction of oxygen into the ferment and allowing CO2 to escape.

3.d  RECYCLED FOOD JARS

Avid fermenters will use any good quality food jar they can get their hands on.  If you have the patience to clean, remove the labels and have the space to store them, then any jar will do.  Just make sure the jar is clean and that the lid is in good condition.  I have heard success stories using recycled commercial salsa jars, pickle jars, etc.  When you start to go crazy with your ferments, you’ll become very creative in sourcing out jars!!

8 Comments
  1. Natalia says:

    Hi! What do you think about using recycled beer bottles with a cap?

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Natalia- thanks for your interest and question. Yes, you could use recycled beer bottles as long as you have a capping device- you don’t want to manually cap the lids- the built up CO2 will create beer cap missiles if not properly secured!

  2. Joanne Lam says:

    Hi again Jody! Searching for grolsch beer growler in west island. Where should I look? None in regular grocery stores. Thanks! Joanne

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Hi Joanne- I haven’t seen Grolsch beer in growlers (large glass jugs), only the fliptop green bottles. You can find Grolsch beer in most grocery stores. IGA even has carried supersized bottles!

  3. Alecia says:

    Thank you, This was very to the point and helpful.

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Thanks Alecia! Good luck with your ferments!

  4. Emma Annett says:

    It was so nice to meet you today at the Fall fair in Pointe-Claire. You are a wealth of information and I am looking forward to starting my first batch of kombucha!
    Thanks!

    1. Jody Gowans says:

      Thanks Emma! It was a pleasure to meet you – your enthusiasm is fantastic! Good luck with your first batch of kombucha, and don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any questions!

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