Shattering Carboys?

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I started brewing beer in 1999 using some of my dad's carboys when he used to make wine. They have to be at least 50 years old. I really never gave a thought to the construction of carboys and the possibility of the bottom falling out but I have recently seen some articles and videos about this very topic. The bottom of their carboys simply fall off for no apparent reason. One video I watched was very informative and came to the conclusion that Italian made carboys are the best. Carboys made in Mexico not so good. It has to do with the quality of the glass and the cooling process of the hot glass. Bubbles in the side walls can also be a problem. Over the years I have noticed bubbles on the sides of some of those 50 year old carboys and wondered if they could be a problem. Apparently they could be but like I said I have used them for a very long time. I only have two empty carboys right now and they were both made in Italy. I'll have to inspect the full carboys at my next racking. Was wondering if any of you folks had carboy bottoms fall out or are even aware that this is a problem.
 
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I've heard of it, but never experienced it. Some of my carboys are 35 years old, and I've had no problems -- so far.

One issue that has been reported is repeatedly putting carboys on hard surfaces, such as concrete. This supposedly produces micro-fractures over time. I use workout mats on my concrete floor for protection.
 

Rice_Guy

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Temperature cycling is the major risk. You already mentioned cooling too fast, this also could be non uniform top to bottom heating or cooling for example a fast quench in a canning line can cause the bottom to fracture off. Thin glass is more risky but at twenty or fifty years the weak glass will have busted. Bubbles in a fifty year old would not be a concern for me.
 

jburtner

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I had it happen a few years ago and was very lucky. I had just finished emptying a carboy, was cleaning it and set it down after the final rinse. When I went to lift it to put away the bottom stayed on the dolly.

Was hot water by any chance involved? I recommend to only use cool room temp water for carboy cleaning. I had one develop a hairline crack that I can only attribute to a hot water clean/rinse.. No injuries but it kept loosing vacuum after racking and I finally came home to a cellar floor of 9 month old Chardonnay which was quite depressing... Whole house smelled good though!
 

mikewatkins727

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Was hot water by any chance involved? I recommend to only use cool room temp water for carboy cleaning. I had one develop a hairline crack that I can only attribute to a hot water clean/rinse.. No injuries but it kept loosing vacuum after racking and I finally came home to a cellar floor of 9 month old Chardonnay which was quite depressing... Whole house smelled good though!
Sorry for your loss, @jburtner . FWIT, I have 7, 3 gallon carboys that I routinely use and clean with hot tap water (abt 120°F) . They are at least 8 years old. Bought from Labelpeelers and I believe they are Italian made. I've had no problems.
 
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Was hot water by any chance involved? I recommend to only use cool room temp water for carboy cleaning. I had one develop a hairline crack that I can only attribute to a hot water clean/rinse.. No injuries but it kept loosing vacuum after racking and I finally came home to a cellar floor of 9 month old Chardonnay which was quite depressing... Whole house smelled good though!

Yes I did, I have a hot water only hose next to my sink and know that's potential problem. It's on my winter todo list to tie a cold to it for tempering.
 

JohnT

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I have had Mexican carboys for over 30 years and have NEVER broke one. I give credit for this track record to the carboy crates that my FIL made. They keep glass off of concrete, keep them from bumping each other, and also allows me to stack them horizontally!

I was hard pressed to find a pic. this is the best i could find...

carboy.jpg
 

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In 2018 and again in 2020 I mentioned annealing being a potential issue with glass breaking as discussed on this forum. I like the polariscope idea as it really allows you to see the stress in question. The only issue I have with the video is the constant reference to poor carboys from Mexico and no mention of the "other" country. The first carboy he puts in front of the polariscope at 13:18 shows no stress defects and you can clearly see the words "made in Mexico", as well as the circle VR logo indicating the specific manufacturing facility (most likely the Vidriera los Reyes plant). Later at 15:00 a carboy is shown with stress which he says is from Mexico, but there are no bottom punt marks visible confirming the manufacturer, the only marking is "5 gallon" in lower case letters which is unusual. This is just my speculation here, but there is a good chance the questionable carboys are coming from China.

Nothing new, as usual buyer beware, with significant counterfeit products being sold on open markets, it is best to purchase from reliable suppliers.
 
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My old carboys (30-35 years old) are all from Mexico.

I found the video to be a bit amusing, as he said to stop blaming the victim, then proceeded to list all the ways the owner IS potentially responsible for problems. ;)

While not into China bashing, the number of low quality products coming out of China is disturbing, enough to make me buy elsewhere.
 
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I have no idea where mine come from since, except for 4 three gallons ones, they were all bought used. The one that the bottom fell out was a 6 gallon. It was 1 of 2 ribbed ones I have/had and one was from my started equipment from Master Vintners. It's long gone so I have no idea of the markings on the bottom.

I only have a few left with no wine in them and will try to read the writing on the bottoms.
 

Raptor99

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It is likely that there are both good and bad carboys made in different countries. But some countries will have better quality control than others. Buying the cheapest carboy you can find, no matter where it is made, is risky.

I found it helpful to understand why carboys break. Once my polarizing filter arrives, I plan to check my carboys to see what kind of condition they are in. Using this method, it would be possible to check your carboys once/year to see if they are likely to break. That makes sense to me.
 

Steve Wargo

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Excellent video about glass carboys. Good video production. All of my glass is bought used. Most are the old water dispenser glass carboys. Yep, They are heavy. I also bought a few used Italian-made carboys and an older Mexican vintage CRISA carboy. I inspect for flaws, chips, cracks before sealing the deal. I think most of the new glass is junk. Maybe not the Italian. IMO
 
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It is likely that there are both good and bad carboys made in different countries.
Agree with this. While QC is certainly a consideration, at the end of the day it’s what the buying customer will accept. And by customer I don’t just mean the end user. Whoever is ordering from the factory is setting the expectation when it comes to quality, volume and price. Some of the most technically advanced and highest quality products in the world are made in China. I’m typing this message on one right now.
 
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