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Best conical for wine, mead, cider

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Scientific hippie

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Wow, I am really getting into this! My husband wasn't initially interested in my making cider; now he is. We weren't mead drinkers; now we are. Whenever I work up a sweat, I cool off with kombucha. I have started buying 3 gal carboys; I just bottled 4 gallons of cider. The other day I dropped a 3 gal carboy on my racking cane and broke it; I used a ladle today. I am starting to think about getting a conical fermentor for 6-gal wine kits and large batches of cider. Most of the people discussing fermentors are beer brewers; we have a craft beer place around the corner and love their beer; I don't want to mess with all the wort cooking and pressurizing and stuff. I first considered a FastFerment, but so many users complain about the poor QC and the need for lots of Teflon tape to eliminate leaks. The jury is still out on the toxicity of Teflon, but why risk it? The Fermentosaurus looks good, but some people complain about the fragility of the plastic and the awkward butterfly valve. The Catalyst looks interesting; I like that it uses standard Mason jars. I wish it were a little less pricey, but it looks like it would pay for itself by eliminating all that racking that I, a newbie, am still getting the hang of. Thoughts?
 
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Scientific hippie

Scientific hippie

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I already have two one-gallon Fermonsters that I am using for Joe's Ancient Orange Mead. It was hard to get a good seal; I couldn't tell if it was fermenting or not. They don't come with anything that allows you to remove sediment from the bottom, do they? I was hoping to find one that allowed sediment removal so I didn't need to rack from one carboy to another.
 

piojo

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Based on the reading I've done, the dump valve of a lot of conical fermenters may not be big enough to dump most fruit pieces, and I see in your signature that you seem to like melomels. You might want to take valve/fitting size into consideration as well. If you have substantial chunks of fruit, you probably won't even be using the bottom valve, and the best you can hope for is to use the sample port to draw off your mead. In that case, a rotating racking arm might help (to change the height you draw from, as needed), or simply get a fermenter with enough room under the sample port (unlike a sun tea jar with the dispenser right at the bottom).

Note: these are opinions, not experience. (I'm also thinking about what I need from a serious fermenter, but haven't bought/built one yet.)
 
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Scientific hippie

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piojo

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The jury is still out on the toxicity of Teflon, but why risk it?
I thought the teflon toxicity concerns were due to very high temperatures that occur in frying pans. (And everything becomes nasty and toxic when it actually reaches 250-350°C, including food.) I thought teflon was the poster child for "nonreactive" at normal temperatures.

But if you think wrapping threads in tape is a pain, I sympathize! There is only the question of how often you will have to do it.
 

piojo

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Only once, one would hope! But would that make it more difficult to clean?
A quick video agreed with my intuition that everything has to be unscrewed when giving it a thorough cleaning. (That's a different fermenter, of course, but I think they'll all be the same in this respect.) And if you take it apart or clean the threads, you'll need to remove the tape then reapply. This wouldn't be a deal breaker for me, as I would need to reapply at most once per month, but to each their own.

I wonder if the threads can be greased with something that won't contaminate the mead? Vaseline should be safe if it's not dissolved at all in 15% alcohol. There is probably a silicone grease that's friendly to this type of application. Since you're not force carbonating, you won't need to withstand terribly high pressure.
 

beernutz

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That's interesting. I wanted to get one, but I saw so many complaints about leaks that I was put off. Did your friend have to use a lot of Teflon tape to keep the fittings from leaking?
He hasn't mentioned it but I would have to ask him. I did see that as a complaint in several of the product reviews at midwest so buyer beware I guess.

I don't particularly worry about an airtight lid seal on my fermenters, particularly for wine. I use a bucket with lid for the first stage of making wine and the lid isn't airtight as the airlock never really bubbles during fermentation. However I have never had a bad batch and I use an airtight better bottle for later stages where oxidation is more of an issue. YMMV.
 

RPh_Guy

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I already have two one-gallon Fermonsters that I am using for Joe's Ancient Orange Mead. It was hard to get a good seal; I couldn't tell if it was fermenting or not. They don't come with anything that allows you to remove sediment from the bottom, do they? I was hoping to find one that allowed sediment removal so I didn't need to rack from one carboy to another.
I use silicone airlocks. They seal exceptionally well and theoretically minimize oxygen transfer.

No way to remove the sediment from Fermonsters, but transfer is easy through a port and more cost effective than a conical.
None of the fermenters really break the bank though.

Cheers
 

VTX1300

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Scientific hippie, I have been using a FastFerment for almost two years and 27 batches of beer. I only do a complete disassembly ever dozen batches. PBW soak and rinse after use and StarSan soak just before use and you don't need to disassemble every time. Yes you do need to clean the flash off of the threads the first time it's assembled. Tape the threads and leak test with water.Never had a liquid leak but the lid can be difficult to get a good seal so if you depend on airlock activity as a sign of fermentation that can be a problem. Overall I have been very happy with the FastFerment. The bottom drain makes it easy to dump trub and yeast without racking. I also installed the sample port about 3inches above the dump valve. Makes taking gravity samples easy. I also use the sample port to bottle directly from the fermenter or closed transfer to a serving keg. If temperature control is a concern these can be a little tricky to work with due to the size and shape but if everything you do is room temperature they are easy. Hope this helps with you decision on a fermenter.
 
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Scientific hippie

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Well, I watched a few videos on YouTube and then went to the store; every setup has its pluses and minuses. I was worried about the Teflon tape, but hubs said we have tons of it and not to worry about it; the guy at the home-brew store (he's a botanist; we talk permaculture and I gave him my extra nitrogen-fixing hog peanuts) said the same thing. So I bought a FastFerment; I hope I can get it assembled this weekend. I think I want it wall-mounted. I also got a lot of bottles for the upcoming ciders and meads. Thanks to everybody for their help!
 
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Scientific hippie

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Scientific hippie, I definitely recommend adding the sample valve. Much easier to bottle off of that than the bottom valve.
OK; I'll put it on my list. Hubs (an engineer) really likes it; he is wall-mounting it. Because of space constraints, he is installing it a little higher than 40". I am soaking all the parts in detergent; that won't affect the silicon grease on the valves, will it?

I haven't gotten my apple juice yet, but I got my elderberry plants. I ordered two; they sent me an extra!
 

VTX1300

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When mine was wall mounted it was higher than 40". The sample port will be even higher. I find it a lot easier to bottle with it higher. Not as much bending over to wear on my old back. I hope you enjoy using your FastFerment as much I have mine.
 
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Scientific hippie

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Ok. it's assembled, leaks have been fixed, and we just installed the port. I have refilled it with StarSan solution both to sanitize it and to check for leaks. I have no idea when the NH juice will arrive! Can't wait.
 
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