Home brewing can be fun, satisfying and its labor bears delicious fruit . Many companies make equipment and accessories that make the job easier an more efficient, but who knows what brands or type of items to buy? Let’s take a look at airlocks and decide which ones are best to use for home brewing
What is the purpose of an airlock and how do they work?
An airlock is a device that keeps outside, contaminated air from entering the airspace within the carboy or fermentation bucket. This prevents undesirable bacteria and mold from contaminating the wort during the fermentation and aging process. An airlock prevents this via the use of an encapsulated amount of fresh water through which the carbon-monoxide that is released during the fermentation process can bubble, without creating dangerous pressure. Gravity keeps the water down which seals the airspace in.
What are the different kinds of airlock and how do they differ?
There are two basic types of airlock meant for home brewing; bubbler type and three piece type. They are basically the same as far as the working principle goes; both have a chamber in which fresh water is placed, and both make the use of gravity to keep the water in its chamber while allowing excess cO2 pressure to be released through the water.
The bubbler type airlock is a tube which has an s-curve and chamber, in which water is placed. Gravity keeps the water inside the chamber, out of the wort, and also allows the cO2 pressure to escape from bubbling through the water chamber.
Three piece airlock types are, like the name implies, made up of three parts: the main chamber, the floating bubbler, and the cap. The main cylinder and chamber has a tube through the center with the liquid chamber surrounding it. This chamber is filled with water and the floating bubbler is placed upon the tube top, where it rests. When cO2 pressure builds up, the gas travels up through the tube, filling the floating bubbler. When the bubbler is full, the pressure escapes under and around the bottom edge of the floating bubbler and passes through the water, allowing no outside air into the fermentation airspce.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type?
Bubbler Type Airlock:
The design and nature of the bubbler type airlock makes it simple and easy to use. Just fill the chamber with water, place it inside a stopper and place the stopper in the opening of the carboy or fermentation bucket. One couldn’t ask for a more simple method of use. This simple design, however, is both its advantage and disadvantage. With only one piece, which is formed into a complex curve, and its tubular design, makes efficient cleaning extremely difficult. Contaminated particles can cling to the inside of the tube during the cleaning and rinsing process and potentially contaminate the next batch of brew.
Three Piece Type Airlock:
Having separate pieces, three piece airlock types excel where the other type fails. Each piece of this style airlock can be separated and cleaned very thoroughly, which reduces the risk of contamination by outside sources. The disadvantage of this design is that it is somewhat clumsy and an extreme and sudden buildup of pressure can cause the floating bubbler to pop out, which eliminates its effectiveness entirely. This, however, can be fixed by simply taping the lid shut, securing it to the top.
Which Airlock Is Best for You?
There is no end-all-be-all in airlocks, they all have their weaknesses and strengths. Experimentation and experience, with both types, is the only way to determine which would be the best solution for each individual.