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Thread: Bulk Vessel

  1. Exclamation Bulk Vessel

    Ok, this may sound like a really bad idea but I figure I would put it out in case in some odd chance of life its a good idea.

    I have access to 55 gallon oil drums, emptied and doing nothing. Is it possible or even safe to throughly clean one and use it for an aging vessel?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    San Francisco, CA


    My first instinct is to say "heck no!". Haha, that being said, I'm sure it comes down to what the drum is made of, the condition of the interior, and just how far you really want to go to save money for bulk aging items.

    Anything from the chemical industry (especially an old rusty oil drum) just sounds like your asking for trouble. I could be wrong, but it might not hurt to get an update on your tetanus shots updated...
    Find what you like, and hone it to perfection.

    And don't serve dodgy mead!

  3. #3


    When large Brute containers are so cheap....Why bother?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    UK - South Coast.


    YogiBearMead726 has "hit the nail on the head"!

    "Oil" drums, are usually mild steel. Which apart from being porous to chemicals/liquids that have a certain volatility, will also start to rust with the water content of wine.

    The problem is, that certain chems/oils, can leach into the metals surface (think the inside of a truck diesel tank here - as it's a convenient analogy).

    Yes you might be able to clean it enough to be able to weld the metal, but you can bet your arse, that if you filled the "cleaned" tank with water, a couple of days down the line, if you tasted the water, all you'd taste would be bloody diesel.

    Which leaves you with "plastic" drums - presuming they're made of "food grade" plastic (either HDPE or PET). If they've contained anything that is any kind of solvent, then you'll get the same issue as above and anything you put in to age will get a taint of the original chemical.

    So, then you're basically left with food grade plastic containers that might have originally contained something that was relatively benign and probably used in the food industry.

    For instance, while "water cooler" bottles (the plastic 19 litre/5 US gallon size) are often made of "poly carbonate" - which is very slightly porous/air permeable, they can be used for fermenting etc, but if they display a stain or odour after a while, should be discarded. I wouldn't use them for long term ageing. Whereas there are the plastic "better bottles" in similar sizes, they're made from PET a.k.a. Polyethylene terephthalate, which is clear, non-porous and seems to be Ok for ageing as well as the fermentation stage of wine making.

    Yes, I would say that it would be worth keeping an eye on any batches ageing in PET containers, as it's plastic and alcohol is a very good solvent. Which is why a lot of brewers/winemakers do prefer to stick with glass or stainless steel......

    It's up to you what you make and age your brews in, but that lot should give you some idea about other materials......


    here's me home brewing blog (if anyones interested....)
    and don't forget
    What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away! Tom Waits.....

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by huntfishtrap View Post
    When large Brute containers are so cheap....Why bother?
    The difference is cheap and free, but I;m not gonna sacrifice quality or health for that matter.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Ithaca, NY


    I feel like I've seen polymer inserts you can install inside 55-gal drums. Then it doesn't matter what the drum is made of, or what was in it before (as long as it won't soak through the polymer).
    Want to see something added to the GotMead Glossary? PM me! Didn't know we had a glossary? Check the top row of links.

  7. Default

    What abbout those big blue plastic pickle barrels? I mean they seem to se air tight and pretty secure. The plastic itself is really thick and should stop oxygen. But I;ve only seen them used for pickles with the brine keeping everything the way they want it. Thoughts?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Ottawa, ON


    They also ship fruit juices in those barrels, if you could find one that's not pickle-flavoured it would be ideal... We use them in the winter for emergency water storage at my horse's stable, they don't go all funky like the rubbermaid tubs used to. Plus, the horses liked fruit-punch scented water! (that was only the first year, the smell's all gone and probably a good scrub with the pink cleanser would do the trick)
    "The main ingredient needed is 'time' followed closely by 'patience'." - The Bishop 2013
    "When you consider that laziness and procrastination are the fundamentals of great mead, it is a miracle that the mazer cup happens." Medsen Fey, 2014
    "Sure it can be done. I've never heard of it, but I do things I've never heard if all the time. That is the beauty of being a brewer!" - Loveofrose, 2014
    "I tend, er, experiment, and go outside the box. Sometimes outside the whole department store." - Ebonhawk, 2014

  9. Default

    Now thats great to hear because after a quick search, I found the barrels and they cost the same, amusing as it is, as the high end plastic 5 gallon carboy at between $25 and $50

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