Are you a daredevil, dancing with danger? Every time you grapple with a full glass carboy, you’re tempting fate. Stick with homebrewing for long enough, and you’ll hear battle stories of pools of spilled beer, huge shards of glass, and sudden trips to the emergency room. People trip, slick glass can slip from hands, and fermentor necks can fracture under the concentrated grip of carboy handles.
Maybe that nightmare picture is a little overstated, but it is a serious risk. Full carboys are heavy and awkward, so it makes sense to find easier ways to carry them. Ideally, you’d also like to protect your fragile fermentor.
The two most popular lifting solutions you can buy are sling carriers and carboy handles. A sling carrier offers some protection because it can cushion the glass bottom when you set it on a concrete floor. It also lets you carry the carboy from the bottom without over extending your back. Many people also use carboy handles to haul their fermentors around their brewery, which isn’t a great idea. They’re good for holding a carboy steady, but they can stress the glass, which may lead to a broken neck, especially if they’re overtightened.
If you want to build a carboy carrier yourself, there are several different approaches that you can follow. You can create your own mesh carrier with nylon webbing or rope, you can repurpose a milk crate, you can build a wooden crate, or you can convert a large malt bucket. Each of these offers some advantages.
You can assemble a sling carboy carrier by sewing together strips of nylon webbing or knotting rope into a kind of macramé mesh. The carboy fits within the sling, and handles make it easy to lift and move. The bottom of the carboy is protected from jarring against the ground, but the sides are still vulnerable to damage.
Rather than building a carrier, you can set your fermentor inside a milk crate. This offers more protection to the bottom and sides of the carboy, but it can still be challenging to lift because the crate is shorter than the carboy. This means that you’ll have to extend your back a little more. The fermentor can also slide around inside the crate because the fit is a bit loose. It does have the advantage of being very inexpensive.
Building your own wooden crate is a step up from using a milk crate. It offers the same kind of protection for the bottom and sides, but you can size the crate to fit your fermentor more exactly and give it higher sides. This makes it much easier to lift and carry. The biggest disadvantage is that it can be quite a bit heavier, especially if you overbuild it.
Converted Malt Bucket
My personal favorite solution is to convert a malt bucket into a carboy caddy. With the malt bucket’s top cut off and handles cut into the sides, your fermentor can nestle down completely inside, safe from external damage and shielded from light. As a bonus, it can also catch any blow off, preventing a potential mess. Here’s how to build your own.
The hardest part of this is getting the malt buckets. What you want are 15-gallon (57-liter) malt-extract containers. I scored mine from my local homebrew shop for a very reasonable price.
Dremel tool with a cutting disk and a sanding barrel
- Start by cutting off the top of the malt extract bucket. Place your carboy next to the bucket. Mark a ring around the top edge of the bucket about the height of your carboy. Use the Dremel with a cutting disk to cut along your guide line.
- Next, cut two holes for handles on opposite sides of the bucket. Each handle hole will be roughly 4 inches (10 cm) wide and 1½ inches (38 mm) tall. For each handle hole, draw a guide line rectangle positioned 2 inches (5 cm) down from the top edge of the bucket. Use the Dremel’s cutting disk to rough out the hole. Note that it’s a good idea to round off the top corners of the holes, so they’re more ergonomic.
- Finishing: clean off all of the burrs and sharp edges along the top and the handle holes by using the Dremel’s sanding barrel.
Bonus: Carboy Dolly
Any of the above solutions will make it easier and safer to lift your carboy, but if you’re moving your fermentor around your brewery, a dolly can also come in handy. Why carry when you can just roll it along? Building a small wheeled platform is straightforward.
16 x 16 inch (41 x 41 cm) square of plywood
About 6 ft (183 cm) of 2" x 3" lumber
Four 2½ inch (6 cm) swivel plate casters with mounting screws
16 x 16 inch (41 x 41 cm) square of rubber non-skid fabric
1. Cut four pieces of 2" x 3" to 14½ inch (37 cm) lengths.
2. Nail these together to form a 16-inch (41 cm) square.
3. Cut four pieces of the 2" x 3" to 3 inch (8 cm) lengths.
4. Toe in these pieces into the corners.
5. Nail the 16 x 16 inch (41 x 41 cm) square of plywood on top of the frame.
6. Turn over the base and attach casters at the corners.
7. Glue non-skid rubber fabric to the top surface.