A big part of distilling at home, is understanding what tools you need to for fermenting what will eventually be your final product. The following below is an excerpt from the author Rick Moriss’ The Joy of Home Distilling:
Before you can start to ferment, you first need to gather the equipment necessary to get you all the way through the process. There are many fine “starter kits” available through homebrew and winemaking supply stores that will include all of the basic pieces necessary to complete fermentation and prepare you for the next step. If you do not have a homebrew supply store near you, there are many such stores online that specialize in this type of equipment. Although we are focusing on fermenting for the ultimate production of spirits, and therefore there are pieces in some equipment kits that you will not require, we will discuss the equipment that is used in winemaking and brewing, as well, so you understand what these pieces of equipment are and what they are used for and you can decide which kit would be best for you.
Fermenter: This is a fancy word for a food-grade bucket. Because there are generally two steps in winemaking during fermentation, you may see this called a “primary” or “primary fermenter,” meaning that it is used in the first stage of the fermentation process. They may have a loose-fitting lid or a sealed lid with a hole to allow the gases formed during fermentation to escape. Either is fine, although I am partial to a sealed fermenter, as it helps avoid surrounding air, which contains oxygen and contaminants that can spoil your wash. You will hear people talk about using trash cans or a host of other containers as fermenters, but you want to ensure that you are using a food-grade container if you are making food-grade spirits. If your intention is to make only fuel-grade alcohol, then obviously it is not necessary to use a food-grade fermenter. A proper, food-grade fermenter is an inexpensive piece of equipment, usually under $20, so here is not a place to try to cut costs. You will generally want a primary fermenter that is at least 20 percent larger than your batch size to allow space for the foam that will build at the start of the fermentation process. For certain types of product, such as grains, molasses, or fruit, it may even be necessary to allow more space, as the layer of foam could grow to an inch or two. Using too small of a primary fermenter can lead to one heck of a mess!
For more you can check out the book: