Like most homebrewers, I started my brewventure with bubbler airlocks – liquid valves filled with sanitizer or vodka. I had a few one-gallon glass jugs, a lot of six-gallon brew buckets, and eventually a couple of five-gallon glass carboys. I capped all of them with three-piece bubblers. This type of airlock contains a loose inner column and a cap that keeps it from bubbling up and out. Most popular these days are the s-shaped twin bubblers. These two-piece plastic airlocks contain a reservoir of liquid in the middle bend.
Bubbler airlocks use a sanitary liquid as a “valve” between the must and the outside. CO2 can bubble out, but nothing else can get in. They do come with some maintenance needs, though – a bubbler should not run dry. So you need to keep an eye on it and top up the airlock when required. And that can be very annoying to keep up with – particularly when you’ve got a dozen or more brews in various stages of fermentation and aging.
When this problem surfaced, I took to furiously Googling. I hoped that someone else was suffering from the same lazy first world problem as myself. Somehow, some way, I came across a website selling “breathable” silicone bungs. I bought one. And I aged a blackberry merlot under it for three years. It worked perfectly.
So I bought a ton more. I have been using silicone bungs consistently since 2012. I’ve never looked back.
- They keep a very tight seal
- There’s no rubbery aroma from the bung
- They’re low-profile, helping your carboy fit into tight spaces
- And there’s no maintenance required
These (often medical-grade) airlocks are molded, breathable, silicone valves that fit into the neck of the carboy. I’ve come across two kinds – the one-piece and the two-piece. Both seem to work equally well.
The only down-side is that you don’t get to see that satisfying bubbling during the fermentation process itself.
Honestly, I can’t understand why the whole homebrewing world hasn’t changed to silicone bungs. It’s hard for me even to remember life before I switched to these handy, low-maintenance bungs. Pick one up for yourself and give them a try. You might find yourself wondering if the bubbling was worth the hassle all along.