Name: Curtis K.
Yes, it is perfectly fine to use plastic carboys to make wine, just as long as you are talking about carboys that are used for holding drinking water. If you are referring to some other type of plastic container, you will want to check to see that it indicates food-grade on it somewhere, or that it was previously used for a product meant for human consumption.
The 5 gallon plastic water bottles – like you see at the grocery store – are made of food-grade plastic. And, as an additional step of assuring that no plastic taste will transfer into your drinking water – or wine – the manufactures blow in a thick layer of Saran to the inside of the plastic carboye as a last step. This is done to create a protective barrier.
Saran is an oxygen barrier plastic. This means that unlike some other plastics, it lets little-to-no air go past it, so you shouldn’t have any concerns about your wine oxidizing. Saran is also a very clean form of plastic, so there is virtually no chance of it putting a plastic taste in your wine.
I also wanted to point out that we have specially produced 3 gallon, 5 gallon and 6 gallon plastic carboys. These plastic carboys are manufactured specifically for home winemakers and beermakers. They are completely made of PET plastic and are BPA free. This is the same exact material used to make 2 liter soda bottles, only thicker. It is the ultimate plastic when it comes to being food-grade and durable.
As an additional note, you may want to take a look at a previous blog post, There’s A Plastic Taste And Smell In My Wine. It goes a little bit over the different recycle symbols you will find on containers and what they actually mean. These are the little triangle arrows with the numbers in the middle.
So, can you make wine in a plastic carboy? Absolutely. Just know what kind of plastic you are dealing with and have an idea of what was in the container before, if anything.
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.