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fermenting Large Scale Fermentation Equipment & Monitoring

Hi folks - I'm interested in what equipment you all have used to do larger scale pepper fermentation, and how you've handled monitoring the fermentation process with non-glass containers. (I've seen a lot on the forums about larger scale processing of ingredients and bottling, but not on fermentation.)
 
From my own searches, it looks like glass jars don't get a whole lot bigger than 1 gallon. So if you want to make fermented hot sauces in volumes much larger than that, you'll either have to use a whole lot of gallon glass jars, or switch over to ceramic or plastic.
 
There are some nice stoneware fermentation jugs, like this 5 gallon jug that comes with lid and crock:
http://www.gardeners.com/buy/stoneware-pickling-crock-5-gallon/8587577RS.html
 
But stoneware jugs are awfully expensive (the above is $150, probably a lot for shipping all that weight as well), and you also don't get an airlock - a stoneware lid would probably work as well, but an airlock I assume is preferable for venting and keeping oxygen out.
 
Another cheaper option appears to be the large plastic fermentation buckets that are marketed for beer fermentation, like this 8 gallon bucket that comes with a lid, drilled hole, grommet, and optional airlock in the top, for $10:
http://www.homebrewing.org/product.asp?itemid=5183
 
One downside of both the stoneware jugs and plastic buckets is that you can't easily observe the ferment, and potentially troubleshoot issues. It would be pretty awful to lose a ferment of that size to, say, a bad mold.
 
So I was curious how folks on here have handled larger scale fermentation, and what equipment you've used. If anyone has tried ceramic jugs or plastic buckets, how did you handle observation of the ferment, or did you just "seal and pray"? lol
 
Thanks for any feedback!
 
** Footnote: I haven't used either of the products I linked above, so I'm not endorsing either. They're listed just as examples!
 

salsalady

Business Member
Somewhere, sometime on a food show, I saw a bit on a small sauce company in California making habanero sriracha.  They used 5 gallon plastic buckets, can't remember for sure, but I think they had airlocks.  I did a quick search for the video, but nothing came up. 
 
If the peppers are ground up or at least finely diced and there's enough liquid, you can use glass carboys.  Might loose a little bit of product when dumping it out, but you can give a quick rinse to slosh out all the bits.
 
If a ferment tanks, you can smell it right away.  I haven't done it, but I'd think that with the 5 gallon plastics and an airlock, you should be able to do a nose test at the airlock.
Also, you can get 3 gallon glass jars that will work.  I've done several ferments with these jars, double layer of plastic wrap across the top and the lid on top of the plastic wrap.  That creates enough of a seal, but the CO2 can vent out.
 
bostonheat said:
 
From my own searches, it looks like glass jars don't get a whole lot bigger than 1 gallon. So if you want to make fermented hot sauces in volumes much larger than that, you'll either have to use a whole lot of gallon glass jars, or switch over to ceramic or plastic.
 
 
 
Not so fast with the 1 gallon glass assumption. If I was going to scale up fermenting I would use the Big Mouth Bubbler. You were on the right track with the brewing supply shops. They are 6.5 Gal glass fermentors, they have lids already cut for airlocks, and the mouth is large enough that you can actually get inside and clean it when you need to. Check out the link below:
 
http://www.midwestsupplies.com/big-mouth-bubbler-evo-2-6-5-gallon.html
 
For <$500 you can get over 40 gallons of fermentation capability, or roughly 1000, 5oz bottles. 
 
TW
 
pa1966stang said:
 
If I was going to scale up fermenting I would use the Big Mouth Bubbler. You were on the right track with the brewing supply shops. They are 6.5 Gal glass fermentors, they have lids already cut for airlocks, and the mouth is large enough that you can actually get inside and clean it when you need to. Check out the link below:
 
http://www.midwestsupplies.com/big-mouth-bubbler-evo-2-6-5-gallon.html
 
Oooh. Nice find! It seems the answer in general is to mack on beer-making supplies. $60 + another $15 for shipping is pricier than the plastic bucket options, but it could be well worth it for vegetable fermentation. Thanks for the tip.
 
pa1966stang said:
 
Not so fast with the 1 gallon glass assumption. If I was going to scale up fermenting I would use the Big Mouth Bubbler. You were on the right track with the brewing supply shops. They are 6.5 Gal glass fermentors, they have lids already cut for airlocks, and the mouth is large enough that you can actually get inside and clean it when you need to. Check out the link below:
 
http://www.midwestsupplies.com/big-mouth-bubbler-evo-2-6-5-gallon.html
 
For <$500 you can get over 40 gallons of fermentation capability, or roughly 1000, 5oz bottles. 
 
TW
 
This is exactly what I'm looking for. Gonna order 10 of these bad boys.
 
The 6.5 gallon glass carboy is an option however you'll find they're heavy and difficult to transport and maneuver not to mention they're glass. If it breaks you have 5 gallons of very spicy mess to clean up.
 
Personally, I've done a pepper ferment in a 6.5 gallon brewing bucket and it came out fantastic! not to mention they're cheaper and less apt to break. Just run a no rinse sanitizer through it, fill it up, close it up and slap a bubbler on it. If space is a problem you can even stack them some what.
 
JMHO 
 
Back looking for answers to this very question and realize I have used ALL of the above with sometimes devastating results.
The Big bubbler, has nice large mouth, and has very thin sides. It broke quickly.
The carboys are WONDERFUL but the small neck makes it hard to pour out and they are HEAVY to empty and can be hard to clean depending on your kitchen and sink size. I found out in the yard with a hose worked best but then, how to dry them? Well, there is a gizmo for that but when you have more than 10 of them, gets kind of crazy. And yes, they BREAK. I have lost THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS of product and no, they don't stack for storage.
Cleaning up 5 gallons of hot sauce is one of the most harrowing things you will ever have to do. Think of CSI murder with eye goggles on.
Plus,if the glass is slick and your are dumping it out, guess what happens..
This year I am reluctantly using plastic for the reasons above and so far so good if you can find the buckets. PLAN AHEAD they can be hard to find.
I found the lids that have the twist off pour spouts can accommodate the same airlocks with #7 plugs that I used on my 5 gallon carboys.
So far so good, but storing too long in a plastic bucket allows for more oxidation than I had in glass. Loss of bright color and the texture changed rapidly. Even so, I am happiest with the Food Grade 5 gallon buckets the best for all the reasons above. Durability, space saving, cost, and ability to easily wash, dry and sanitize.
 
 
 
Helpful thread.  Don't think I've seen any metal solutions of any sort, but I would assume that must be what industrial sauce-making operations use.  Anyone using anything like that?
 

salsalady

Business Member
I think hoy fong uses 55gal blue food grade barrels.


Sonoma~, I am surprised the plastic bubbler broke. I have a couple that are used a couple times a year. I have the carry harness that worked great transporting to another location for a making hot sauce class. How did yours break?
 
I dropped a carboy of wine in my kitchen once. I tried to one hand it by the neck down to the friend from off of the counter. I can't remember if it was my hand or the carboy, but one of them was wet lol.
 
I'm starting to look at plastic as well. Initially I thought using bubblers would be OK since I can get a 3.5 gallon on to start.  Presently my max bottle size for fermenting is about 3 liters and those are the clasp style jars as shown below.  
 
IMG41971.jpg

 
With a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket, (like this one) 
how much fruit is needed?  I'm also seriously considering switching from mash ferments to just roughly chopped and submerging in brine.  Too many ferments have gotten moldy and it's really annoying.
 
Sonoma HOT said:
Back looking for answers to this very question and realize I have used ALL of the above with sometimes devastating results.
The Big bubbler, has nice large mouth, and has very thin sides. It broke quickly.
The carboys are WONDERFUL but the small neck makes it hard to pour out and they are HEAVY to empty and can be hard to clean depending on your kitchen and sink size. I found out in the yard with a hose worked best but then, how to dry them? Well, there is a gizmo for that but when you have more than 10 of them, gets kind of crazy. And yes, they BREAK. I have lost THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS of product and no, they don't stack for storage.
Cleaning up 5 gallons of hot sauce is one of the most harrowing things you will ever have to do. Think of CSI murder with eye goggles on.
Plus,if the glass is slick and your are dumping it out, guess what happens..
This year I am reluctantly using plastic for the reasons above and so far so good if you can find the buckets. PLAN AHEAD they can be hard to find.
I found the lids that have the twist off pour spouts can accommodate the same airlocks with #7 plugs that I used on my 5 gallon carboys.
So far so good, but storing too long in a plastic bucket allows for more oxidation than I had in glass. Loss of bright color and the texture changed rapidly. Even so, I am happiest with the Food Grade 5 gallon buckets the best for all the reasons above. Durability, space saving, cost, and ability to easily wash, dry and sanitize.
 
 
 
 
Cool, these and plastic 6 gallon ones are available here.  Do you work with mash of chopped fruit?  How do you prevent mold on these large scale ferments?
 
Greenguru said:
yes, mine came from midwest has a cheesy strap on it has not broke yet, this has/will get the job done for sure.
 
 
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