Conical fermenter recommendation

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kmarkstevens

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Big topic and no one size fits all.

What I think I'm looking for in descending order:
  1. price. I can spend but am frugal at heart. Like to keep the fermenter itself under $200 but realistically can afford a lot more.
  2. ~7 gallon/30L
  3. yeast harvesting
  4. trub dumping
  5. weight (50 pounds is about the max my back and knees can handle)
  6. siphonless (this may be an oxymoron?)
  7. Convenient sanitization (I am a little lazy and don't always take everything apart every time to sanitize every nook and crany)
  8. fermenting under pressure/pressure transfer
  9. prefer to be able to see the ferment but that's a non starter with stainless
  10. gotchas I may have missed?

First, is there a realistic "plastic" solution? I've looked at the Fermzilla 7.1 gallon and the Catalyst. Love the Fermzilla design concept, just not sure how well it actually works in real life, durability, etc? Especially concerned that removing the yeast harvest/trub dump doesn't work well on plastic. Fast ferment is a PITA for this and often can undo the canning jar while fermenting. BTW, I have plastic speidels, big mouth bubbler, 3 gallon fast ferment.

Second, do I need stainless steel? I confess to being a somewhat lazy sanitizer, and that does catch up to me eventually with plastic

Third, for stainless, is it practical to use the racking tube to dump trub and/or harvest yeast? In other words, can you point the tube down, and drain trub until it clears?

Fourth, any feedback on the Reactor Stainless Steel Conical Fermenter

Fifth, any recommendations and why? Thanks in advance.
 
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If you're looking to go stainless check out the Flex. It's about the same price as the NB but with welded fittings has an upgrade option to pressurize up to 15psi!

 

hotbeer

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If you are willing to go plastic, then why not the FermZilla Conical Fermenter - 7.1 gal. / 27 L
Your posted reasons for not would apply to all plastic, though you later seem to prefer plastic. And those reasons are only valid over a long time of use. Not the one use and you need another.

It's pressure rated to 34.8 PSI. Though I'm not sure I'd want to be anywhere near the thing if it was even half that PSI.

Plastic might give you better or at least allow your wifi router to be further from your FV than SS if you use a RaptPill or other that can use Wifi.

I'd probably have one if they made a 3 gallon version. Instead I've got a 3 gallon Fast Ferment that I had to trash the plastic valve and other stuff and purchased a npt to 1.5" sanitary flange along with site glass, butterfly valve and other 1.5" sanitary fittings to make it work correctly for me.

 

sibelman

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@kmarkstevens: The Spike Flex+ works well for me. No trub dumping though - the racking arm doesn't reach low enough for that. Re cleaning: I find it pretty straightforward, and can generally avoid disassembly of components on the lid. With the clear cap option you get some visibility, but it's often obscured by condensate - nothing like a carboy.

Best of luck with your new fermenter, whatever you end up choosing.
 
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kmarkstevens

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Appreciate the replies all! Challenge is that there are plenty of unboxing or first brew reviews, and hard to find information from someone that's actually used the product for a year or three. Even harder to find someone that has multiple systems to give good end user feedback.

I am kind of a frugal soul, but I can easily afford something in the $500ish category if it makes sense. I have $150 in unspent company money that I can use for "hobby gear" this calendar year.

FermZilla looks pretty decent. some online feedback is the plastic is pretty lightweight, it can be a real pain to unscrew the mason jars for the trub and yeast. I like the form factor, that it can be under pressure, yeast harvesting and can actually be used as a "pressure barrel" to spund and dispense beer. Howdy Brewer offers these for $120: 7.1 Gallon / 27L FermZilla Conical Fermenter Uni-Tank Vessel - KL06835 - HowdyBrewer

The FLEX looks pretty good actually for the stainless, and I like the accessory options. If I go this route, definately leaning towards this one. Downside is it doesn't seem to have yeast harvesting options. Is that right?

Keep sharing thoughts if you have them. I'm going to pull the trigger on something around Black Friday.
 

SanPancho

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here's a little advice-

there's really two main decisions you need to make to pick a conical. plastic or steel? holds pressure/pressure ferment?

once you make a solid decision on those two questions, you'll know what your options are. otherwise you'll just go around and around debating every aspect.

fermzilla will get you what you want right now for what you want to pay. the dumping/yeast harvest is kinda clunky, but it works. and you can pressure ferment. there is no issue with plastic staying sanitary. thats simply a case of you cleaning/sanitizing properly. and you definitely do not want to scratch the plastic. but its really not hard to get them clean and sanitary. its pretty damn easy to be honest. even old/dried trub/yeast muck isnt hard to get off if you know the trick.

stainless- this is obviously alot more expensive but will last longer, take more abuse, and give you easier dump/yeast collecting. tons of options.

so basically, my advice is go with a fermzilla. that'll get you what you want right now, cheaply. or wait a few weeks and get one once things go on sale for xmas.

if you're not opposed to spending more like 400, then i'd say get a used stainless conical. plenty of folks selling them for various reasons. be patient and you'll find one.

but either way, plastic or stainless, if you're gonna go for a conical, get a real one. bottom drain/dump. holds pressure.
 

SonomaBrewer

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Echo SanPancho's two questions -- spot on.

The other consideration to bring to your decision is where are you in your brewer's journey? At an entry level, plastic is great. But as most people get into the hobby, they gain a better appreciation for the value of stainless. Nobody regrets buying higher quality, they regret buying lower quality. As they always say- you get what you pay for...

My FermZilla has been gathering dust on a shelf for several years now, long since replaced by the Spike stainless that I now use and that I should hsve purchased in the first place.
 
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kmarkstevens

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Great feedback. I first helped with a homebrew in 1980 at UC Davis when it was still all wine focused. Started in volume after moving back to the US and buying a house in 2012. Done several hundred batches since then. Have gone through a couple of Big Mouth siphonless and 3 Speidels. It gets frustrating to brew up a nice 6 gallon batch and then have it ferment down to 1004 with an obvious infected taste, do a full scale sanitization, and not 100% confident that the next batch will be clean. The Grinch in me says FermZilla, the brewer in me says stainless, and my philosophy is the right tool for the right job (vs most expensive tool).

I brew a lot of English ales. In the winter, do a bit of lager when it's colder. Not sure how important the pressure ferment is but if I go whole hog then I do want:
1. yeast capture
2. trub dump
3. nice to have: pressure transfer/ferment
4. Nice to have: rack hot wort (near boiling temp) directly into the ferm tank

Question: are tri-clamp valves the way to go?

Question: any feedback on the Delta 8 gallon ferm tank? The FermTank - 8 Gallon Fermenter - Delta Brewing Systems The FermTank - 8 Gallon Fermenter

anyhoo, really appreciate the feedback, voices of experience, and food for thought.
 

DavidWood2115

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I love my CF10. It will do everything you want and more. Will bust your budget, but I think you would not regret the decision.
 

hotbeer

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Question: are tri-clamp valves the way to go?
Tri-clamp and sanitary fittings are the same thing aren't they? Or at least for the colloquial use of brewers aren't they?

I very much prefer Sanitary/Tri-clamp anything for connections out of the FV. The NPT to 1.5" sanitary flange I put on my FastFerment is a game changer IMO. Why they didn't mold that with a sanitary flange is beyond me.

After seeing all the crud that gets trapped in the ball valve that came with the FastFerment, I think that butterfly valves are the way to go.
 

TLaffey

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If you are willing to go plastic, then why not the FermZilla Conical Fermenter - 7.1 gal. / 27 L
Your posted reasons for not would apply to all plastic, though you later seem to prefer plastic. And those reasons are only valid over a long time of use. Not the one use and you need another.
I had a Fermzilla for a while as a first step up from "SS brew buckets" to test pressure fermentation. Inexpensive, worked well, easy to clean using my keg washer. Had all the bells and whistles installed including cooling coils. But dry hopping, while not impossible, was a messy PITA. Same with dropping yeast. After maybe 6 brews I decided that it had served its educational purpose. I now have a Spike CF5 and Spike CF10.
 
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kmarkstevens

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Based on feedback and my research, I think I've narrowed down requirements to:
1. stainless as a potential solution to some of my sanitation issues (I've done plastic for so many decades, it's time to spread my wings a bit)
2. conical for the trub dump
3. conical for yeast harvesting
4. Nice to have: pressure fermenting or pressure transfer
5. If I like stainless, then in the future I will probably get a fancier second fermentation chamber (one can never have too many. :) )

Shortlist of candidates:
The Anvil Crucible ($310) Anvil Crucible™ Conical Fermentor - 7 Gallon
advantages: welded 1.5” tri-clamp bottom dump
disadvantages: 7 gallon capacity;

versus

Delta FermTank ($230) advantages: 8 gallon capacity; Pressurizable to 4 PSI for pressure transferring
disadvantages: 3/4" drain is not really designed as a trub dump or yeast harvest

Still open to other ideas and suggestions but definately leaning toward the Anvil
 

hotbeer

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Spend the extra bucks to get the sanitary/tri clamp fittings for everything coming out of the FV. No threaded stuff and no ball valves on the out going side.

IMO of course!

I bought my SS sanitary 1.5" valves, sight glass and fittings from a vendor on AliExpress. The quality has so far impressed me for the much less cost it was compared to what I'd have to pay to get the same stuff from a stateside supplier that had to pay import duties and fees.
 

jwa120

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Just an FYI if you interested in the anvil crucible, anvil will have it 20% off on Nov 28.

I never made the jump to a conical, but i was always intrigued by the blichmann cornical. Similar features to the crucibal except it has blichmann's sanitary valve, rather then the ball valve that's on the crucible. It's also pressure rated.
 
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kmarkstevens

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Appreciate all the replies. Last night I pitched a split batch into the fast ferment 3.5 gallon plastic conical. Resolved: I'm going to get a stainless steel conical. The fast ferment is a great concept, but it's become leaky, the plastic doesn't quite thread perfectly, and I'm not sure I'll be able to get the canning jar off to dump the trub because I really had to crank it on tight.

Anvil at 20% off is the lead candidate right now. Depending how I like it, will then look at a bigger fancier second stainless as I start to retire the plastic stuff I have now.
 

wstumper

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If you are willing to go plastic, then why not the FermZilla Conical Fermenter - 7.1 gal. / 27 L
Your posted reasons for not would apply to all plastic, though you later seem to prefer plastic. And those reasons are only valid over a long time of use. Not the one use and you need another.

It's pressure rated to 34.8 PSI. Though I'm not sure I'd want to be anywhere near the thing if it was even half that PSI.

Plastic might give you better or at least allow your wifi router to be further from your FV than SS if you use a RaptPill or other that can use Wifi.

I'd probably have one if they made a 3 gallon version. Instead I've got a 3 gallon Fast Ferment that I had to trash the plastic valve and other stuff and purchased a npt to 1.5" sanitary flange along with site glass, butterfly valve and other 1.5" sanitary fittings to make it work correctly for me.

Delta Brewing Systems makes the FermTank, a 4 gallon small batch ss fermenter. 4 PSI for pressure transfer. Does not have a bottom drain, although their 2 other larger tanks do. I *might* buy one eventually, although my glass carboys still do the job! I only do 3 gallon batches...

 

madscientist451

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Big topic and no one size fits all.

What I think I'm looking for in descending order:
  1. price. I can spend but am frugal at heart. Like to keep the fermenter itself under $200 but realistically can afford a lot more.
  2. ~7 gallon/30L
  3. yeast harvesting
  4. trub dumping
  5. weight (50 pounds is about the max my back and knees can handle)
  6. siphonless (this may be an oxymoron?)
  7. Convenient sanitization (I am a little lazy and don't always take everything apart every time to sanitize every nook and crany)
  8. fermenting under pressure/pressure transfer
  9. prefer to be able to see the ferment but that's a non starter with stainless
  10. gotchas I may have missed?



Fifth, any recommendations and why? Thanks in advance.
If you didn't purchase the ANVIL yet, you may want to consider a 10 gallon corny keg, which are available for $220 at more beer.
numbers 1,2,5,6 (shorten dip tube,use CO2 to transfer), 7,8 are all checked off. Or, you could be frugal and use 2 corny kegs instead of buying a big one.
You really don't need #3, yeast harvesting.
Yeast harvesting from a fermented batch of beer can be avoided by simply making a large starter and saving 25% of the slurry for your future yeast and pitching the rest in the beer. I was having some infection problems and I started doing this a while back, the yeast I save has only been used as a starter, I just make a new starter next time.
 

AlexKay

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Delta Brewing Systems makes the FermTank, a 4 gallon small batch ss fermenter. 4 PSI for pressure transfer. Does not have a bottom drain, although their 2 other larger tanks do. I *might* buy one eventually, although my glass carboys still do the job! I only do 3 gallon batches...

I've got two of the little FermTanks. They had all the features I wanted out of the SSBrewtech Mini Bucket and didn't get: legs, handles, thermowell, more capacity, a domed lid, and a ball-lock port on the lid. They're significantly larger in diameter, though. Other (very minor) gripes: the airlock hole has sharp edges, which occasionally cut through the silicone grommet that fits in it; I like the curled edge and stopper approach better. The legs are also uncomfortable to hold (again, sharp edges) as you're moving the bucket around in the sink for cleaning.

Also, SSB has now upped their game on the Mini, by a lot: they've added handles and the silicone base is attached.

Delta is 10% off over the weekend, and SSB is 15%.
 

Bobby_M

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Convenient sanitization (I am a little lazy and don't always take everything apart every time to sanitize every nook and crany)

Stop right there. There is no fermenter with submerged ports of any kind that fits this description. You MUST take everything apart and that's the price you pay for the other conveniences. I agree with your goal, but I think that's more like a modified Fermonster rather than a conical.
 
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