Traditionally only available to pro brewers, New product lines have made Conical fermenters much more accessible to the average home brewer. But what are the main differences between the ranges and are they worth the extra cost?
Most professional brewers stopped using open top, flat bottom fermenters in favour of closed conical style. Allowing easy yeast collection, minimising exposure to bacteria and oxygen it’s easy to see the attraction.
So what is a conical?
Conical fermenters have a cone shaped bottom section allowing the yeast to settle and collect. Most have two taps, one at the top of the cone and one at the very bottom. The top tap allows clear beer to be drawn whilst the bottom dump tap allows everything to be removed. Most will either use an airlock or blow off cane to allow co2 to escape during fermentation much the same way as standard fermenters.
Temperature control can achieved by either a coil that is inside the fermenter or a jacket which runs around the outside. Both can then have cold water or even glycol re circulated to provide the required cooling. If heat is required them hot water can be used. Coils can be more difficult to sanitise but they are more efficient and are generally cheaper.
Material is the next option, namely plastic or stainless steel. Plastic is usually cheaper but it may scratch and need replacing whereas stainless steel will generally last for years. It’s also easier to use hot cleaners on stainless steel making cleaning more effective.
What are the main advantages of conical fermenters?
- As the yeast can be removed the beer can be left in the vessel to condition and clear without fear of suffering yeast autolysis.
- As the beer can be conditioned without transferring to another vessel, it minimises risk of introducing oxygen post fermentation.
- Yeast can easily cropped and collected for reuse.
- Dry hop debris can be removed via the cone making multiple dry hop additions easier to manage.
- The top tap allows samples to be taken without any yeast and therefore it’s easier to monitor gravity.
- Beer can be moved out via the top tap either via pressure or gravity eliminating the need to syphon.
Using a conical
Fundamentally there is no difference between using a conical and a more traditional bucket fermenter although there are a few things you need to consider.
When racking beer into the vessel, you can either rack into the top via the lid or you can connect the boiler to one of the taps. Running into the tap will minimise exposure to wild yeast and bacteria but as there is no splashing you will need to aerate the wort sufficiently.
Once the wort is transferred then primary fermentation will be exactly the same as a standard fermenter. Avoid removing any of the yeast too early as this can create fermentation issues and off flavours. No yeast should be removed until fermentation is complete. If you plan to dry hop and reuse the yeast then you will need to remove the yeast before adding the hops.
When removing larger quantities of beer air will be sucked into the top of the vessel so make sure that the airlock is open or removed. If crash cooling will have the same issue as the beer contracts as the temperatures decreases.
When racking you may decide to use pressure to push the beer out rather than gravity. Caution must be taken to ensure the vessel is suitable for this. Transfer slowly keeping a very careful eye on the pressure.
When removing yeast for reuse always dump the first running until the yeast looks clean and thick. Then stop once it starts to get runny and looks like beer again. You may also find that some yeast sticks to the cone so it’s worth leaving it for 15 mins then trying to remove further yeast.
The different options available.
We hold a range of conical fermenters from different suppliers to suit different budgets and preferences.
The most economical is the Fast Ferment. These provide most of the advantages above although they don’t come with a sample port as standard and need wall mounting or a separate stand purchasing.
The other plastic model we offer are the kellermiester from Speidel. These have two taps and stand and offer all the advantages above although they are plastic.
A new range that has been really popular is the SS Brewtech models. They are all stainless steel and come in a budget Chronical range and more comprehensive Chronical brewmaster editions. The brewmaster comes with larger lid, butterfly taps and a thermal jacket as standard. Both ranges also include a really comprehensive list of handy extra options like blow off cane, casters, heating/cooling control and pressure transfer lids.
The most expensive range on offer is Blichmann. Before SS brewtech, these were really the only decent stainless steel conicals fermenters available to home brewers. Although more expensive than SS Brewtech they are spun which means they have no seams inside, making them super easy to keep clean. They are also very thick stainless steel compared to the SS brewtech making them less prone to damage.
So there are many advantages of conical fermenters and with the ever growing range of products there should be something that suits most requirements. If you require any assistance in choosing a fermenter please give us a shout via live chat, email or call us where we will be more than happy to assist.