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Old 10-03-2010, 07:51 PM   #1
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Default wooden conical fermenter

Ok guys, I know I have some whacked out ideas sometimes, but.... I was dreaming of beer, like I do every night, and had a Belgian inspired dream and idea. I did a little checking before I decided to post and couldn't find anything on what I am about to discuss. If anyone know of any more information along the lines of what is to come, please chime in and show me where to go to get it.

Here goes.... I love to work with my hands and used to work in a machine shop. This has geared my brain to come up with ideas in such a way that I have to talk it out, on here, with other minds that can help me up or down with these ideas. The newest idea is a wooden conical fermenter. I have been reading about, and getting a palate for, Belgian's. Some of these beers I know I could brew would be "refined" by use of a barrel, just like a lot of beers were made in the old days. This made me curious about combining a barrel with a conical in a American or French white oak conical fermenter. Easy enough to manufacture on a lathe and with good cabinet building skills, I had a vision of the final product.

Aside from the arguable ways it could be made, I would like to focus the main areas of argument to if it would be worth while to make and use (not saying I don't enjoy any ones fabrication thoughts as well). So, if you guys had a "whatever gallon" wooden conical out there, would it be worth it? Could you see using something like this? I am honestly thinking about making one, but the thoughts have come about manufacturing them as a gourmet-type idem if I could sell one or two a year (something to keep me occupied and allow my perfectionist to shine through). Selling anything is a complete side-note to what I am after by this thread so... let us discuss. What say you, fellow HBTer's? Possible good idea, or insane beer porn dream? Oh, and in my dream, I pictured a wood carved massive piece of beauty .

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Old 10-03-2010, 08:13 PM   #2
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It would certainly be cool, but what's the real benefit over a barrel?

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Old 10-03-2010, 08:15 PM   #3
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Conical, and it would be an art piece, lol. I can see yeast/break removal being beneficial for not having to transfer once primary is done. That is really the only reason. Other than that, a barrel would be fine.

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Old 10-04-2010, 02:05 AM   #4
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If your into lambics it would be great. And yes, it would be a thing of beauty I'm sure. I can't imagine there's any possible way to sanitize a wooden fermenter (short of burning it out) tho.

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Old 10-04-2010, 02:26 AM   #5
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Well, how did they clean the old huge wooden fermenters of late? Scalding hot water is how! Now we have Star-San after the boiling water .

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Old 10-04-2010, 02:32 AM   #6
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Although I don't see any real advantages over adding wood to a standard conical, it has the potential for great beer porn.

How I would do it:
Build the cone inside of a barrel, the barrel is already made to hold the pressure, and the downward weight of the beer should hold help the cone hold it's shape. Install a bulkhead through the bottom of the barrel, this will give you a sturdy seal. Even if the cone fails, your beer is still safely contained in a barrel.

If I remember how geometry works, a cone is 1/3 the volume of a cylinder of the same height so a 32 gallon barrel with a cone to the top would yield a nice 10 gallon conical.

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Old 10-04-2010, 02:50 AM   #7
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Very true Roger, and I did think about that. However, my thinking "personally" was that if I owned a SS conical it would be refrigerated and very expensive. This would be like a passive, useful, artistic piece of furniture in my home not much different than the decorative but functional (if I ever used them) wine barrels I use as end tables. Think water cooler, most are ugly plastic water bottles in someones kitchen. No one thinks any different since they are functional. Now imagine that same water cooler made from terracotta, with decoration molded into it, and the same usefulness as the ugly one. Oh, and this is another project I would like to work on... the terracotta would actually chill the water a bit with no electricity from evaporation. I will admit wholeheartedly that the wooden fermenter is for specifics and not for everything. Lambics, Belgians, any funky beer are typically more artisan than even craft brewing is... so I just thought it goes with the theme so to speak. I am also thinking winemakers would like something like this. It is a very "gourmet" product and not for the average brewer/winemaker. There would be very few that would want one. I am just trying to talk out if I would like to do the project. I could just imagine all the laser engraving art I could fit on the side of a big one .

Oh, and the sanitation is easy enough to find out. Firestone Walker uses barrels they purchased, and had to sanitize. Limited life of wood, how old are some barrels that are still used? Strength of wood isn't an issue through proper fabrication. You would make a cone-like bulkhead fitting out of stainless to attach any valves or whatever to. Thanks for the comments though, as they really do help me think more.

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Old 10-07-2010, 12:53 AM   #8
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Dude, there's a thread where someone's thinking of making a simple cube wooden "aging container" (ie a non barrel shaped barre) and this popped into my head. ANd the more I think of it, it may work for you as well.

One shape to consider would be the cuban Cajone box drum shape.





I'm not sure of the term, but obviously you would have to come up with a water tight "joint" between each edge/corner of the box. Maybe dovetail or whatever these are called from wooden Japanese sake cups?



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Old 10-07-2010, 12:57 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WortMonger View Post
Well, how did they clean the old huge wooden fermenters of late? Scalding hot water is how! Now we have Star-San after the boiling water .

... was gonna say... if you're doing sours, why would you want it "sanitized" anyway? I would think a hardcore rinse to get resin and oils out of it would be enough... no?
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Old 10-07-2010, 02:23 AM   #10
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Hopefully we have gotten to the point that this sounds like a good idea, and the only thing left to discuss is execution.

After reading the box thread, and getting my head wrapped around the fact that a 1'x1'x1' box gives 7.8 gallons I'm really starting to think this is pretty workable.

My new suggestion would be something like a 1'x1'x2' box. In the lower 1' of the box put in diagonal pieces of wood for your conical section (Instead of a cone it would be more of a pentagonal prism with the pointy end down). As with my earlier suggestion, I like the idea of the conical portion being placed inside some other structure that you know is not going to fail just in case the conical doesn't quite work out.

On a related note, what sort of wood would you use to make this? Just solid pieces of oak from the lumberyard, or something else?

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