Brewer's Hardware jacketed conical / unitank. Full Review

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martianpc

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So I recently got rid of my SS brewtech 14 gallon unitank and switched to the Brewers Hardware 15 gallon jacketed conical. It has been quite an experience so far and I thought I would share some of my initial Impressions with everyone. I will follow up again within the next few weeks after fermenting with it for the first time.



I wanted to upgrade because of some of the concerns I had with my process and the SS brewtech. My single biggest complaint on the SS brewtech was the submerged coil as opposed to being jacketed. I like to be able to brew 5 to 7 gallon batches on occasion and I was completely unable to achieve adequate cooling with the coil. Even one time on a 10 gallon batch it managed to completely form a ball of ice around the coil. This was for a roughly 5.5% ABV Czech Pilsner. The neoprene jacket was somewhat effective but when storing the conical at lower temperatures it struggled tremendously with condensation.

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The first thing you notice is the shipping. This thing comes FedEx freight on a pallet in a wooden crate. Seriously impressive. FedEx was kind enough to not secure mine in the delivery truck so it tipped over. It did get a very small dent in the front top lip from the fall. It's not big and it's very hard to photograph, but does definitely annoy me.

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Coming from the SS brewtech there were a few things I was used to and I wanted to maintain with the new tank. One of those was mobility. I had casters on the SSBrewtech and due to its lightweight construction it was quite easy to move around. My Brew area is about 20 feet away from the fermentation room / closet.


The Brewers Hardware conical is substantially heavier. I don't know the exact weight but I know it's well north of a hundred pounds. The legs have Tri clamp fittings on the bottom, 1.5". This makes it a little more challenging to add casters. Morebeer.com does cell Tri clamp casters, however I was concerned that without a cross brace and that heavy of a weight that it could be a problem bouncing across my tile floor. I also like to use a sight glass underneath the dump valve so I can monitor fermentation and see when my trub and yeast gets compacted. To do this I needed leg extensions. I bought three 8 inch long Tri clamp spools. Obviously though for an already top-heavy tank if I was going to be making it taller I needed to widen the base and provide cross-braces. So after exploring a metal scrap yard I found a nice piece of 14 gauge stainless sheet that I was able to clean up and weld 3 Tri clamp ferrule to it to attach the legs. Rather than welding on casters I chose to bolt them on in case they ever got stuck or rusted. The base that I made is about 24 by 22 in. The thing is incredibly stable with the three legs and 3 casters. I bought basic locking casters for about $4 each from Harbor Freight. I've used them on a workbench before and I know they can handle the weight.

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The Brewers Hardware conical does not come with a racking cane, and instead comes with a 90 degree Barb Tri clamp fitting to attach hose to. This makes it impossible to close off the fermenter for carbonating without removing the barbed fitting at the top and potentially exposing oxygen. I had Brewers Hardware custom make a racking cane that attaches to a tri clamp tee and clamps to the leg. This left me with the top 1.5" port still being available on top of the tee. Having a TC on the bottom of the racking cane allows me to attach a valve or another tee or cross as needed at the bottom of the racking cane. I am extremely glad I did this, the quality of their welds are fantastic and frankly it looks awesome.


I added a 24" long TC thermowell to the lid TC port as well. This works great for reaching down into the cone for temp readings on smaller batches. It does however mean I can only rotate my racking cane one direction without hitting the thermowell. Not a big deal but something I need to remember. I think I'm going to make a label with an arrow showing which direction is ok to twist.


It does not come with a pressure relief valve, pressure gauge, or diffusion stone. Fortunately, Spike Brewing has this part really figured out. I got Spike's pressure gauge prv manifold, which I put above the tee where the racking cane is. This gives me a corny post for adding gas for pressure transfers, a gauge to measure my overall tank pressure, as well as a 15 psi prv. All while only taking up one Tri clamp port. I also bought the Spike Brewing diffusion stone tri clamp tube. I intend to attach this to my racking cane valve for inserting oxygen or diffusing CO2.

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One of my concerns which I have not had a chance to test yet, is the amount of volume below the racking cane. This could become an issue when trying to make a 5-gallon batch. I'm not sure if this will work well or not but I am considering using a small piece of silicone tube with a BrewHardware.com cam and groove barbed male fitting pressed into the end to add weight. This should allow pickup lower into the cone. At the expense of keeping the racking cane pointed vertically. This will need to be tested to see if it works well. It may work best with a trub dump out the bottom first.


On the back side of the tank are two 1/4" fntp connections for the glycol hookup. The bottom should be the input and the top the output. I keep my homemade A/C chiller in the unfinished part of my basement on the other side of this room. I used a washer and dryer hookup box on the wall to bridge the plumbing. I ran PEX pipe inside of pipe insulation, inside of 1.5" PVC that I painted. Then using some colder brand quick disconnects connected to some Spike Brewing insulated tubing I was able to connect everything without a condensation or heat loss problem. I 3D printed a drip tray to go under the pipes by the washing machine connection box and where the tank connects. This way any condensation that forms in the brass connections we'll have a place to drip and hopefully evaporate.

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To control everything I built a 3D printed enclosure with a Raspberry Pi running craft beer pi software. It works wonderfully and is able to control the glycol chiller, the conical glycol pump, a second conical glycol pump if I ever get another conical, and a submersible aquarium heater if I need to warm the glycol.

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Overall, it is a seriously heavy duty tank. It is absolutely gorgeous if that matters to you. While I haven't had a chance to ferment beer in it, I have no doubt from my experience with other conicals that it will work wonderfully. It certainly cost more than the Spike or SS brewtech options. That said, it is absolutely worth the extra money, just in terms of build quality alone.


There is very little information about this conical available and I was nervous to buy one without more info so it hope this helps anyone else who has been considering it.


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Tartan1

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@martianpc
I like the way you ran your chiller lines, simple, clean looking, great idea! I have the 8Gal version and was considering adding the MoreBeer castors and had the same concerns about lack of X bracing. The only small complaint I have with it is the lack of space between the floor and bottom drain valve, but adding the short 1 1/2" spools does offer more possibilities.
Thanks for the detailed write up!!
 

Punjom

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Great Job! I have the Brewers Hardware jacketed 20 gal and absolutely love it.
 

branman

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I have the same 15 gal fermentor and also the non-jacketed one. Wish i wouldn't have been so hasty on the first purchase and spent the extra for 2 jacketed. They are awesome in terms of looks, quality, and the near endless possibilities for customizing to fit any process. Great write up and Cheers!
 
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martianpc

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See this is why I need to delete this app from my phone. You people make me want to buy shiny stuff. [emoji2]
Haha, I do love that I can see the shiny too! No more neoprene jacket!
 

Justin Speight

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Long time lurker, first time post.

I'm so glad I stumbled on this thread. I'm in the market for one of these and this solidified my decision. Thanks Martianpc.

Do you happen to have the build information for your temp controller/brewpi setup? I purchase a brewpi about a year ago but due to deployment, I haven't had time to get it setup. I'll be returning home in the next month or so and I'd love to set something similar up. I don't have a 3d printer but I suspect I could get a project box from online that I could customize.

Cheers!
 

Peter B Wiley

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I'm considering getting the 8 gal jacketed fermentor over the SSB unitank. You've got me thinking about getting the larger 15 gallon version for the flexibility. Have you tried filling it with 5.5 gallons of water to see where this level is on the tank? Would love to know!
 
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I'm considering getting the 8 gal jacketed fermentor over the SSB unitank. You've got me thinking about getting the larger 15 gallon version for the flexibility. Have you tried filling it with 5.5 gallons of water to see where this level is on the tank? Would love to know!
We do get some people that use our 15 gallon conical for 5-6 gallon batches, but 6 gallons usually hits at the bottom of the temperature port. So you might not be able to use the thermometer on the front, but you can clamp one of our tri clover thermowells into the lid and use a temperature probe to come in from the top for smaller batches.

Here are some volume levels for the 15 gallon conical:
  • 1/4" gallon to the end of the racking arm.
  • 1 gallon to the ferrule of the racking arm.
  • 4 gallons to the top of the cone.
  • 6 gallons to the bottom of the temperature port.
  • 7 gallons to the top of the temperature port.
 

Peter B Wiley

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We do get some people that use our 15 gallon conical for 5-6 gallon batches, but 6 gallons usually hits at the bottom of the temperature port. So you might not be able to use the thermometer on the front, but you can clamp one of our tri clover thermowells into the lid and use a temperature probe to come in from the top for smaller batches.

Here are some volume levels for the 15 gallon conical:
  • 1/4" gallon to the end of the racking arm.
  • 1 gallon to the ferrule of the racking arm.
  • 4 gallons to the top of the cone.
  • 6 gallons to the bottom of the temperature port.
  • 7 gallons to the top of the temperature port.
I was looking at your CIP ball for the fermentor, it recommends 40 to 60 PSI. I have a Riptide pump which is rated at 7 GPM. I'm not sure how to compare to two figures. Does the Riptide work?
 
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I was looking at your CIP ball for the fermentor, it recommends 40 to 60 PSI. I have a Riptide pump which is rated at 7 GPM. I'm not sure how to compare to two figures. Does the Riptide work?
Unfortunately the Riptide pump doesn't work very well with our spray balls. The Riptide and Chugger pumps just don't create enough pressure to get a good spray. It will spray out a bit, but usually it isn't enough to get the ball spinning. We usually recommend using a 1/6 or 1/4 horsepower submersible/sump pump. They work great and get the ball spinning fast.
 

augiedoggy

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Unfortunately the Riptide pump doesn't work very well with our spray balls. The Riptide and Chugger pumps just don't create enough pressure to get a good spray. It will spray out a bit, but usually it isn't enough to get the ball spinning. We usually recommend using a 1/6 or 1/4 horsepower submersible/sump pump. They work great and get the ball spinning fast.
this is the norm for all spray balls except the one that SS sells and possibly spike , like this one
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Sanitary-Fitting-Rotary-Spray-Ball-Tank-Cleaning-CIP-Micro-Spray-Ball-1-5-TC-and/283159695320?_trkparms=aid=555018&algo=PL.SIM&ao=1&asc=57475&meid=fbb153acd42d4d68a55ff4f297cd80c0&pid=100005&rk=4&rkt=12&mehot=lo&sd=173937623478&itm=283159695320&pg=2047675&_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851
all the full sized sprayball require more power to work effectively. for small fermenters like this its a wash really (bad pun) vs just wiping them out or brushing them by hand.
 

Tartan1

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I'm considering getting the 8 gal jacketed fermentor over the SSB unitank. You've got me thinking about getting the larger 15 gallon version for the flexibility. Have you tried filling it with 5.5 gallons of water to see where this level is on the tank? Would love to know!
I went thru the same thought process you did when considering what size of fermentor to purchase. In my case I have very little space in my brew room and only have room for 1 fermentor. I decided to go with the Brewers Hardware 8Gal as I had the vertical space available but not the space a larger diameter fermentor would occupy, or wanted to commit to doing large batches.
What I had in mind was how do I brew 5Gal and on occasion brew up 10 or 12Gal and ferment in 1 vessel. This is what I have done so far as it is a work in progress.
Purchased 1- 12" X 12" TriClamp Spool, 1- Pressure Clamp, 1- Silicon Gasket, 1- Coil Stainless or Silicon or other suitable tubing wrapped around the spool for glycol chilling/heating and fittings 1-suitable insulation for the spool. This bumps up the volume for the 8Gal to roughly 15Gal and a bit including the cone. Usable headspace, figure about 12-13 Gals. It can be top heavy so mount firmly to a movable platform or the floor. If I want to do 5Gal take out the spool and put back on when doing larger batches. I did have to purchase an extended thermowell for monitoring the bigger batches. Note the castors are fine for the 8Gal setup not so much for the larger setup, I'm planning a moveable base with 4 castor wheels. 20190806_135604.jpg 20190806_135722.jpg 20190806_140710.jpg
 
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postalbunny

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this is the norm for all spray balls except the one that SS sells and possibly spike , like this one
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Sanitary-Fitting-Rotary-Spray-Ball-Tank-Cleaning-CIP-Micro-Spray-Ball-1-5-TC-and/283159695320?_trkparms=aid=555018&algo=PL.SIM&ao=1&asc=57475&meid=fbb153acd42d4d68a55ff4f297cd80c0&pid=100005&rk=4&rkt=12&mehot=lo&sd=173937623478&itm=283159695320&pg=2047675&_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851
all the full sized sprayball require more power to work effectively. for small fermenters like this its a wash really (bad pun) vs just wiping them out or brushing them by hand.
I've had good luck with smaller spray balls... 3/8" to 1/2" adapter and a camlock allows me to attach to my kettle lids. the chugger pump is able to push this smaller one where it failed on the normal 1/2" sized sprayball.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DQZQQQV/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
 

Elfmaze

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We do get some people that use our 15 gallon conical for 5-6 gallon batches, but 6 gallons usually hits at the bottom of the temperature port. So you might not be able to use the thermometer on the front, but you can clamp one of our tri clover thermowells into the lid and use a temperature probe to come in from the top for smaller batches.

Here are some volume levels for the 15 gallon conical:
  • 1/4" gallon to the end of the racking arm.
  • 1 gallon to the ferrule of the racking arm.
  • 4 gallons to the top of the cone.
  • 6 gallons to the bottom of the temperature port.
  • 7 gallons to the top of the temperature port.
This is what I did on my 15 gallon Jacketed conical to be able to run 5-10 gallon batches... I run i believe a 21"(?) thermowell in one of the top 1.5" triclamp holes for my glycol temp reading. and just use the front thermometer as a double check. The 5 gallon batches are below the level of the front thermometer, but the air temp still equalizes over time and the thermowell can read down to the 5 gallon batch.

I have my top ports set up as 1) 1.5 TC for my PRV/Vac breaker and pressure gauge on a "tee" with CO2 inlet(I run the Co2 purge gas whenever I have the top open to work on my WORT/MUST and "refill" the blow off tube. 2) 1.5 TC for my 21"(?) thermowell for the glycol pump. 3) on the 3" clamp I will swap in the CIP ball with a 1.5" cap to pressurize and move the product when i'm done with the blowoff tube

I LOVE the versatility of top connections on this tank!

My top I/O(I would like to replace that gauge with a -30INHG - 15psi So I can keep an eye on vac levels) during cold crashing in a sealed unit you can easily create a vacuum and implode the tank if you are not careful :
 
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Elfmaze

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Are these insulated like most larger jacketed tanks or do they sweat a lot when cold crashing?
Fully insulated, but you do get a few drips off the triclamps and such, even the walls a bit if your really driving it hard at 35* with 90+ humidity out. Might get a bit of drip, I would not put it over carpet but it doesn't create a flood either.
 
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Peter B Wiley

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Since these are out of stock we get to ask a lot of questions before ordering!

How are people handling warming the tanks for a diacetyl rest or using kviek? If you have 2 tanks you can’t really heat the glycol...
 

Elfmaze

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Since these are out of stock we get to ask a lot of questions before ordering!

How are people handling warming the tanks for a diacetyl rest or using kviek? If you have 2 tanks you can’t really heat the glycol...

Not super easy TBH, But depends on climate. fermentation is exothermic, so it will naturally heat up on its own esp in a warm garage. But otherwise I have used a heated blanket(not super effective) or you can use one of the ports to install an element or loop of some sort. I would think picking smart scheduling (time of year/ similar glycol needs in second tank) is the better choice. You could also do two glycol loops and three way ball valves to isolate the heat or cooling you want.
 

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Since these are out of stock we get to ask a lot of questions before ordering!

How are people handling warming the tanks for a diacetyl rest or using kviek? If you have 2 tanks you can’t really heat the glycol...
Good question, the larger tanks like the 3.5bbl ones I just ordered have dual jacket zones for this reason although they make them in that size in single zone as well.
 

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Since these are out of stock we get to ask a lot of questions before ordering!

How are people handling warming the tanks for a diacetyl rest or using kviek? If you have 2 tanks you can’t really heat the glycol...
How warm is ambient?

SS makes the heating option for their unitanks and conicals. Just a specific shaped heating pad that goes on the bottom. Or get one of the fermwraps they make for carboys.

I’ve often wondered if the SS and Spike heating pads that heat from the bottom are creating too much heat for the yeast in the cone which could cause some off flavors/aromas. The room I ferment in hovers around 62 in the winter so I need to heat some ferments and I swear I get a slightly different aroma from the gravity samples but I don’t notice anything in the finished beer.
 

Peter B Wiley

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Good question, the larger tanks like the 3.5bbl ones I just ordered have dual jacket zones for this reason although they make them in that size in single zone as well.
How warm is ambient?

SS makes the heating option for their unitanks and conicals. Just a specific shaped heating pad that goes on the bottom. Or get one of the fermwraps they make for carboys.

I’ve often wondered if the SS and Spike heating pads that heat from the bottom are creating too much heat for the yeast in the cone which could cause some off flavors/aromas. The room I ferment in hovers around 62 in the winter so I need to heat some ferments and I swear I get a slightly different aroma from the gravity samples but I don’t notice anything in the finished beer.
The heating pad would work on the SSB and Spike but the BH conical is insulated and jacketed so the heating source is quite removed from the wort, i would think it would be very inefficient.
 

Tartan1

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How are people handling warming the tanks for a diacetyl rest or using kviek? If you have 2 tanks you can’t really heat the glycol...
I have only 1 jacketed fermentor (Brewers Hardware 8 Gal )so the setup is simpler, 2 -3 way valves, glycol loop, chiller tank, heat tank. I may automate the 3 way valves at some point but for now using the jacketed fermentor provides even heating and cooling.
I did add a 12" extension to the fermentor for 12Gal batches (see post #17)and provided tubing coiled around the top. Works like a charm.
 
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This fermentor, together with two other from Stout and Glacier Tanks, are the only jacketed conical at the homebrewing size I'm aware of (happy to stand corrected). However, the Brewers Hardware one is much cheaper, is there some feature I'm missing here?
 

augiedoggy

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This fermentor, together with two other from Stout and Glacier Tanks, are the only jacketed conical at the homebrewing size I'm aware of (happy to stand corrected). However, the Brewers Hardware one is much cheaper, is there some feature I'm missing here?
They may be the only homebrewing conicals with stainless jackets but Ive been using soft jackets on my stainless conicals for years.. along with silicone heating strips

BTW these conicals are available direct from china on places like alibaba from different manufacturers and resellers besides the ones mentioned above. others including myself have purchased them this way..
 
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Elfmaze

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They may be the only homebrewing conicals with stainless jackets but Ive been using soft jackets on my stainless conicals for years.. along with silicone heating strips

BTW these conicals are available direct from china on places like alibaba from different manufacturers and resellers besides the ones mentioned above. others including myself have purchased them this way..
Problem with China is when stuff arrives after a month or so and a part is welded 15* crooked your "SOL". The customer service from Darrin and Brewers hardware has been top notch and they WILL make sure you are happy with it.
 

mcl

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They may be the only homebrewing conicals with stainless jackets but Ive been using soft jackets on my stainless conicals for years.. along with silicone heating strips

BTW these conicals are available direct from china on places like alibaba from different manufacturers and resellers besides the ones mentioned above. others including myself have purchased them this way..
Do you happen to have a link. I have looked and haven’t found them. My order has been in since early summer and the delays are getting old.
 

augiedoggy

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Problem with China is when stuff arrives after a month or so and a part is welded 15* crooked your "SOL". The customer service from Darrin and Brewers hardware has been top notch and they WILL make sure you are happy with it.
To each his own, I'm just mentioning it as an option for those who rather buy direct.
I myself, am very happy when I dont over pay for something. I know I saved just under $5,500 on the three 3.5bbl unitanks I just bought directly from the manufacturer vs going through a middleman for the same product welded by the same people. For those kind of markups I'll take my chances and hire our welder to fix a crooked weld if it somehow actually impacts functionality.. I already know I saved $4500 (no exaggeration it was literally less than $600 short of being twice the price) on my brewing kettles with accessories from the same manufacturer vs buying them from the popular american reseller and waiting 3 extra months for them. And I had no issues with them quality wise but if I did I have no reason to believe id be SOL anyways. Its really just about which point of view you take.. there are some that would rather buy a used car from a dealership and pay extra and some that dont even consider it and would rather buy directly from the original owner. they each have their benefits.
 
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augiedoggy

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Do you happen to have a link. I have looked and haven’t found them. My order has been in since early summer and the delays are getting old.
I'll look tomorrow and message you. I found these exact tanks twice before so they should still be up there unless somethings changed.
 

effeffe

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They may be the only homebrewing conicals with stainless jackets but Ive been using soft jackets on my stainless conicals for years.. along with silicone heating strips

BTW these conicals are available direct from china on places like alibaba from different manufacturers and resellers besides the ones mentioned above. others including myself have purchased them this way..
You're right, that's another option, thanks. There is a bit less choice at the homebrewing size, but there a few options there. I have to say the pictures/descriptions are not always precise and professional though, which kinda sucks for expensive equipment.

Problem with China is when stuff arrives after a month or so and a part is welded 15* crooked your "SOL". The customer service from Darrin and Brewers hardware has been top notch and they WILL make sure you are happy with it.
Living in Europe, I guess I'm gonna be out of luck anyway if I receive some defected item, whether it's from China or USA.

Slightly off-topic: what does "15*" mean?
 

augiedoggy

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I believe he means 15 degrees..

I totally understand and respect wanting to buy from someone who takes responsibilities to correct any issues a person might have vs taking your chances with the actual manufacturer or chinese reseller as they might not be likely to take cosmetic defects as seriously. In this hobby we all have vastly different expectations. Also to be fair I do believe if my memory serves me right, that the price that brewers hardware charges for these is actually very reasonable compared to what the sellers on alibaba wanted with customs and shipping but its been a couple years since that thread so my memory is hazy.
Keep in mind these are really supposed to be for making beer not the mancave decor many see them as. The manufacturers are used to dealing with resellers or breweries where such things are usually not as much of a priority unless its some sort of showpiece. in the early days of this kind of equipment I remember seeing pics of non sanitary weld and such but in this case we are taking about pros here that make this stuff for the vendors like the ones mentioned in this thread.

Going by the complains I sometimes see shared I think some people can be a bit petty with expectations, then again, I guess If I was paying some of the prices I see I think id want cosmetic perfection too.. but for the prices I like to pay, I just expect it to do what I need and want it to. I'll let the picky people drive up the prices for others

After just looking at options on alibaba I can see there are actually a LOT of choices for jacketed unitanks under 100 liters... most in the 60l range go for around a grand plus customs and shipping so unless your buying in bulk it may not even be worth it for one fermenter.
 
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Elfmaze

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When I bought mine in 2014-2015(?) I did search China pretty extensively and never found a similar product. But Much has changed since then. I don't even think SS brew tech had their stuff out yet. But the one conical I was referencing was a guy I was talking to that had bought one from BH and one of the triclamps was welded so jacked up that he could hardly get the band on it. BH I think sent him a whole second unit for the trouble. Mine was good out of the box, but cemented my decision to go with BH.
 

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We do get some people that use our 15 gallon conical for 5-6 gallon batches, but 6 gallons usually hits at the bottom of the temperature port. So you might not be able to use the thermometer on the front, but you can clamp one of our tri clover thermowells into the lid and use a temperature probe to come in from the top for smaller batches.

Here are some volume levels for the 15 gallon conical:
  • 1/4" gallon to the end of the racking arm.
  • 1 gallon to the ferrule of the racking arm.
  • 4 gallons to the top of the cone.
  • 6 gallons to the bottom of the temperature port.
  • 7 gallons to the top of the temperature port.
What connectors do you recommend to the input and output for the glycol lines? Looking at insulated lines and trying to figure out best way to connect hem to the conical fermenter and also the glycol chiller. I have my 15 gallon jacketed conical on order and planning out all the other components!
 

Elfmaze

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Oct 22, 2008
Messages
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Location
Pittsburgh
Quick disconnects might be nice, but if you're not moving at that much it doesn't matter. I used off-the-shelf Lowe's, I believe quarter inch threaded to barb fittings. Lowe's also sold foam pipe wrap that I used to cover the lines from the cooler back to the conical. That's been working for 6 years or so
 
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