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Equipment Recommendations - Fermenter

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pullen0

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I'll start by saying I only have 1 gallon equipment at the moment and just bottled my first 3 batches this week. I wanted to start off on the cheap with 1 gallon equipment to see if I can make beer I like and to be able to experiment with different styles of beer without spending a fortune on ingredients only to dump it out if I don't like it.

That said, I'm looking into what equipment I want to buy if and when I step up to 5 gallon batches. I only want to buy this stuff 1 time instead of wasting a bunch of money by constantly upgrading.

My next major purchase will be an 8' stainless sink with 2 - 24" tubs and drainboards on each side. Working out of my kitchen sink was a nightmare. I'll have a pre rinse faucet along with a hose bib for my bottle washer and another hose bib for filtered, non softened water.

As far as the brewing setup I want, I'm about 95% sure I'm going to go with the Grainfather system and their sparge heater. I don't want anything to do with a gas burner setup and want to do it all in my basement. For the cost of a Blickmann 10 gallon pot, boil coil and temp controller, I'm already way over the cost of the Grainfather.

Next big item, is a fermenter. I originally planned to go with Fast Ferment Conicals. My brother bought 2 and I was pretty displeased with the fit and finish for the price. Getting the top caps on and seated was a nightmare. Next, the plastic is cloudy enough that it's really hard to tell trub from beer, even with dark beer. By the time you accessorize the Fast Ferment, you're getting up there in price. My next thought was the SS Brewmaster Bucket. The reviews I've seen on them have been hit and miss. My next though is the SS Chronical. I'm about positive I'll end up brewing lagers so I'm turned off by the Chronical height due to limited options of fermentation chambers. I don't want any glycol/air conditioner setups so I will either be buying an upright freezer or refrigerator.

With the SS Chronical, the base version doesn't come with butterfly valves but I don't ever see a need for the chiller in the upgraded version. It looks as though if I want to upgrade to the butterfly valves, 3" opening lid, etc, I can do that in the future.

With all that said, would the SS Chronical be a good choice for a buy once, cry once fermenter? Is there a better value out there that comes with the upgraded butterfly valves? From my research on here, the biggest complaint I've seen is that the thermowell isn't welded in. I believe that's something I can live with.

Sorry for the long post, just wanted to give some background to the questions.
 

Rev2010

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Kind of confused by your post since you said you are turned off by the Chronicals due to their height and limited options for cooling in fermentation chambers due to the size and don't want to use other chilling setups. I bought one Ss BrewMaster Bucket, still have my amber ale in there but all went fine so far and I can't see running into any issues kegging so I ordered two more recently. I'm coming from plastic fermenters which I loved but went to the Ss for several convenience improvement factors (ease of lid removable, conical styled bottom, easier cleaning, constant digital temp readout, etc). I love it so far, though I'll admit at one beer inside one currently I'm still new to them. I also did order slightly thicker o-rings, haven’t installed them yet, since I think the included are a little on the thin side and malform too easily with tightening. But o-rings are dirt cheap.

Why not consider the Brew Bucket with the FTSS cooling system? You can then sit the fermenter on top of say a cooler that the tubing runs through, saving horizontal space and eliminating a fermentation chamber? That said, if there was a conical I were going to buy right now it would likely be the Ss one.


Rev.
 
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pullen0

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The height of the Chronical is definitely a down side when it comes to putting it in a fermentation chamber. That said, it won't be any taller than what the fast ferment is. With a cooler, wouldn't I have to be constantly feeding it with ice to keep the temp down? With a refrigerator or freezer, if I decide to give up brewing, I still have a refrigerator or freezer I can use for other things.

One of the things I like about the Fast Ferment is the ability to dump trub. With the Brew Bucket, I don't have that option.
 

sillbeer

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I have 2x SS Brewtech brew buckets and I love them. They should last forever.
 

badmajon

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Yes, use buckets. Even if I had tons of money to spend on brewing stuff, which I guess you do, I would still use buckets to primary and I'd use glass carboys for secondary. In fact, I got a stout sitting in my garage in a HDPE bucket now. It'll be in there for 3 weeks total without any need to secondary. So, really, all you need in a good 6-7 gallon brew bucket for making a 5 gallon batch of beer.

Spend your money right now on temperature control and an o2 tank (for aeration after pitching yeast).
 

ndinh

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Two words: Speidel Fermenter...

Look em up... I have one... I like it.
+1. I have the 7 gallon one and love it. I just got the Chapman SS fermenter through their kickstarter but haven't used it yet. Can't wait though because it looks coolio. Seems like you're on the fast track going from 1 gallon brews to conicals, skipping pass carboys, etc. If you have Trump like money to spend, go for Stout conicals.
 

Bowtiebrewery

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+1. I have the 7 gallon one and love it. I just got the Chapman SS fermenter through their kickstarter but haven't used it yet. Can't wait though because it looks coolio. Seems like you're on the fast track going from 1 gallon brews to conicals, skipping pass carboys, etc. If you have Trump like money to spend, go for Stout conicals.

If you have Trump like money... Buy a Brewers Hardware jacketed conical...
http://www.brewershardware.com/15-G...Jacketed-Conical-Fermentor-CONICAL15G-FJ.html
or a Glacier
http://www.glaciertanks.com/Conical_Fermenter_w_Jckt-15_Gallon_100L_Conical_Fermenter_Jacketed.html
 
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pullen0

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LOL. I don't have Trump money but I've been into enough hobbies to learn the phrase Buy Once, Cry Once. Meaning, if you keep doing middle of the road upgrades, you're left equipment that isn't worth what you paid for it and pay more in the long run than if you just bought the good stuff in the beginning.

As for the brewing system, I don't see a better value of getting into all grain than the Grainfather. That's why I've pretty well decided I'm going that route.

If I go to 5 gallon, I'll probably start with 6.5 gallon buckets. I figure they'll be good to have around as cheap extras. I currently go through about a 12 pack of beer a week. If I get into some of these longer fermenting lagers, 1 fermenter won't be enough. It's possible I'd end up with 2 stainless conicals but that will be a long time down the road. But I would also like to make cider as well so having some cheap extra fermenting buckets around would be nice.

As for glass carboys, I'm not a big fan of cleaning them and seeing pictures of bandaged hands due to broken carboys has pretty well turned me off to glass.

If I stick to plastic, I think Spiedel will be definitely the way to go. Although I did see one poster complain about the caps on them as well.

I'm going to order my sink after Christmas and build a backsplash set up for it. Once I get that done, it'll be time to start buying the rest.
 

Bowtiebrewery

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I have probably gone through 10 brew buckets in my short 10 years of brewing. However, i can say its mostly because I've moved 3 times and am less than careful in what i put in them. I have 6 glass carboys, which I mostly use for making wine for transfers. I purchased a Chinese conical, which was a terrible terrible mistake, which I will scrap some day.

I now have this spiedel 60L for my typical 10g brew days and so far its pretty great... Incredibly easy to clean and incredibly easy to transfer and dry hop in.

Less than $100 and so far does the job.

I almost bought a conical but decided I would try the speidel as a first shot before spending almost $700 for a 14g conical. Do I still want a blingy conical? Yeah, but I can accomplish just about everything I need to with the exception of yeast and trub dumps.
 

kh54s10

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I use Better Bottles. They are re-tooling at the moment so you need PET bottles from ?? At less that $30 each if you wait for sales, you can't go wrong. If money is no object you need glycol cooled Stainless steel conicals...... At $$$$$$
 

sikkingj

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I have two chapman fermenters from the kick starter, I like them well enough, however I believe SS buckets have more useful bells and whistles. My only advice is get a large enough bucket - I love my 14 gallon bucket. I've been brewing more 10 gallon batches because everything is easier...
 

Braufessor

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I have used a wide variety of fermenters over the years. I tried the SS Brewbucket when it came out. I love them. I have 4 of them now and could not be happier with them.
 

Kampenken

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I have the 7g SS Chronical and I enjoy it. Lots of bling factor, but it's in my chamber all the time! I need to come up with a place to store when not in use, not too often!, and not hidden.

A plastic bucket works fine, is quick to clean and cheap while you're deciding on the hobby, so upgrade cost isn't an issue. What I love about the SS - looks, yeast harvesting, sample port for hydros and awesome for transfer (quick!), welded deep thermowell and great locking mechanism on lid. Good quality. This cleans easily, but lots to clean and will take more time, though it's generally enjoyable working with it. As for fit in ferment chamber- no problem. My chamber uses the smallest dorm fridge size, has a 2' x 2' foot print and is about 40" tall. Room to hold the Chronical easily and holds temps perfectly- oh and with the shape of Chronical I can still squeeze in my cheap mini plastic conical and a bucket!

I just ordered the GF this past weekend, I agree with your assessment plus I think I will brew more test batches- which if <3-3.5g will NOT be in my SS, but rather a bucket or my mini 3g plastic cheaply (~$25) conical.

I've brewed AG for 2yrs now, with boil kettle and a cooler mash tun. Looked at upgrading, inspired by Kal's electric brewery, and even ordered and got a chugger pump to pair with a RIMS tube I was looking at- just for RIMS setup w/my cooler tun, I'd be in for $400! Another advantage for GF, plus cleanup for GF appears to be a breeze, and I REALLY like that too!

Cheers, enjoy the hobby!
 

rossi46

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I have 4 speidel fermenters, 2 30s and 2 60s. I like them alot. I've been eyeing a grainfather too and with them on sale it's hard not to buy one, but I would need to sell one of my other systems first.
 
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pullen0

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I have the 7g SS Chronical and I enjoy it. Lots of bling factor, but it's in my chamber all the time! I need to come up with a place to store when not in use, not too often!, and not hidden.

A plastic bucket works fine, is quick to clean and cheap while you're deciding on the hobby, so upgrade cost isn't an issue. What I love about the SS - looks, yeast harvesting, sample port for hydros and awesome for transfer (quick!), welded deep thermowell and great locking mechanism on lid. Good quality. This cleans easily, but lots to clean and will take more time, though it's generally enjoyable working with it. As for fit in ferment chamber- no problem. My chamber uses the smallest dorm fridge size, has a 2' x 2' foot print and is about 40" tall. Room to hold the Chronical easily and holds temps perfectly- oh and with the shape of Chronical I can still squeeze in my cheap mini plastic conical and a bucket!

I just ordered the GF this past weekend, I agree with your assessment plus I think I will brew more test batches- which if <3-3.5g will NOT be in my SS, but rather a bucket or my mini 3g plastic cheaply (~$25) conical.

I've brewed AG for 2yrs now, with boil kettle and a cooler mash tun. Looked at upgrading, inspired by Kal's electric brewery, and even ordered and got a chugger pump to pair with a RIMS tube I was looking at- just for RIMS setup w/my cooler tun, I'd be in for $400! Another advantage for GF, plus cleanup for GF appears to be a breeze, and I REALLY like that too!

Cheers, enjoy the hobby!
By fitting in a 40" fridge, I'm assuming you're talking about the SS Brew Bucket and not the Chronical Conical.
 
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pullen0

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I appreciate all the great advice so far! I was reading the SS Chronical thread and saw Bru Gear was mentioned. At first, I ruled them out do to not having a 7 gallon fermenter.

After further research here, I see you can do 5 gallon batches in a 14 gallon fermenter. Plus it'd give me the option to do 2 batches in the Grainfather and put 10 gallon in the fermenter at 1 time. With layering taking 2 months or more, the increased size would give me a better return on time.

I figure if my consumption outpaces 10 gallon in 2 months, I can brew 5 gallon batches of ales to fill in the gaps.

If I buy an 7 gallon SS Chronical and upgrade to butterfly valves, I'm almost at the price of a Bru Gear 14 gallon with butterfly valves and a welded thermowell. Plus, I could get away with just 1 fermentation chamber.

I like doing the research to get the best fit for my needs. Thanks again and I'm still open to any suggestions!
 

Kampenken

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By fitting in a 40" fridge, I'm assuming you're talking about the SS Brew Bucket and not the Chronical Conical.
Nope, not at all. 37.5" to top of airlock. Chamber height is 41". (From phone, sorry for sideways pic).

image.jpg
 

madscientist451

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Keep it simple, get a 6.5 gallon better bottle type carboy. Then get a small chest freezer and temperature control. The temperature control is more important than a stainless steel fermentor. But if you have the money and space for a dedicated SS sink I suppose the other items you mentioned aren't a big deal and you should go ahead and get what you want. Good luck and happy brewing.
 

madscientist451

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After further research here, I see you can do 5 gallon batches in a 14 gallon fermenter.
I ferment 5 gallon batches in a 6.5 gallon carboy. If I have to do a lengthy secondary, I'll rack to a 5 gallon.
Don't know why you would need a 14 gallon fermenter for 5 gallons of beer.
Sorry for the multiple posts, just saw the above (quote).
 

JLeuck64

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+1 on the fermentation temperature control!

I really started to notice a dramatic improvement in my beers, especially during the hot summer months, after building a ferm chamber. I am using an older up right fridge, given to me, and after making a shelf on the bottom it can easily hold 3 of those 6-1/2 gal buckets like they sell over at Rebel Brewer or the BSG buckets like they have over at Beverage Factory (really like those!). By the way not all 6.5gal buckets are created equal! I've noticed the ones that have the really thick lid seal the best!

It can take many... many brew days to get your equipment dialed in! I've been home brewing a few years now, and wish I had some equipment to do smaller 1 or 2 gal test batches, just to dial in a recipe before scaling it up. SAVE THAT OLD EQUIPMENT!
 

Kampenken

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I ferment 5 gallon batches in a 6.5 gallon carboy. If I have to do a lengthy secondary, I'll rack to a 5 gallon.
Don't know why you would need a 14 gallon fermenter for 5 gallons of beer.
Sorry for the multiple posts, just saw the above (quote).
I don't think the point was needing a 14g fermenter for 5g, but rather a 5g batch can be fermented in a 14g fermenter.

I don't know the validity of that, but if the racking port at the lowest point of collection in a 14g does not leave materially more beer than in a 7g than I'd agree. My issue with the 7g Chronical is that if I were to ferment a small batch, <3g or so, it will leave a fair amount below the racking port (especially if you pull of yeast/trub prior to racking, which I do and expect most with a conical will do as well).

So to the OP, one other slight, minor really, disadvantage to the conical is you will likely leave behind a bit more beer (1-2 bottles max) if you pull off yeast and trub, unless you use an alternative method to pull out the missed beer from the racking port.
 

augiedoggy

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I have probably gone through 10 brew buckets in my short 10 years of brewing. However, i can say its mostly because I've moved 3 times and am less than careful in what i put in them. I have 6 glass carboys, which I mostly use for making wine for transfers. I purchased a Chinese conical, which was a terrible terrible mistake, which I will scrap some day.

I now have this spiedel 60L for my typical 10g brew days and so far its pretty great... Incredibly easy to clean and incredibly easy to transfer and dry hop in.

Less than $100 and so far does the job.

I almost bought a conical but decided I would try the speidel as a first shot before spending almost $700 for a 14g conical. Do I still want a blingy conical? Yeah, but I can accomplish just about everything I need to with the exception of yeast and trub dumps.
Are you unaware that they are all chinese conicals except blichman and spikes conicals (which are both made by toledo metal spinning).... ss brewing are made by the same chinese factory as the bru gear. Bru gear just ordered better upgrades when placing their orders.. hell anyone can order a pallet of them with their own name put on them.
The stout stuff is made by the same people who make multiple others including the no name ebay ones and the identical ones sold by moonshiners on ebay.. even the jacketed brewers hardware conicals are avaliable directly from the manufacturer in china on aliexpress

I have an OLD Chinese made generic 7 gallon conical I bought used and while its no where near the fit and finish of the stout or AHB that I also own, it works the way it should.
What doesnt work correctly on the conical you have and how long ago did you buy it? It seems they have all improved dramatically in recent years. with welding technics and improved materials, especially since they make most of the "name brand" stuff now too

a person on a budget could easily build a chiller easily from an old window air conditioner and a cooler and use a aquarium pump with an stc1000 and $10 worth of dicharge hose for a jacket along with some foil faced bubble wrap for insulation and along with the conical you would have about $600 invested in the whole getup if your ok with a 12.5 gallon conical... the issue here is it wont look as pretty as most who buy the conicals are looking for... I bought my 3 stainless conicals to make beer not show off so they are covered in cooling jackets and insulation. But they make great beer and they are all temperature controlled by a chiller.

I know some people complained of the quality of stouts products but I have to say the 12.5 stout fermenter I bought from their ebay store is flawless and in my opinion ideal. A tall slender conical has advantages for different brew sizes as well as cooling capabilities and cone pitch over a short fat one.. I have one of the ebay "american home brewer" spike brewing clones and while it has worked great so far and the $300 price was great, I dont care as much for the demensions. it does seal easier then the stout system however.

If your not committed to this hobby though your better off with better bottles... they work fine , they are just more work to use requiring transfers to get the same quality beer.
 

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What about fermenting in corny kegs? Readily available, small foot print to fit in your ferm chamber, can take pressure for closed transfers, easy sanitary gravity samples, can pressure ferment if that's your thing.
 

augiedoggy

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What about fermenting in corny kegs? Readily available, small foot print to fit in your ferm chamber, can take pressure for closed transfers, easy sanitary gravity samples, can pressure ferment if that's your thing.
I have a friend that does this and loves it...
 

RichH

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What about fermenting in corny kegs? Readily available, small foot print to fit in your ferm chamber, can take pressure for closed transfers, easy sanitary gravity samples, can pressure ferment if that's your thing.
I use a corny keg as a secondary fermenter. Got an extra lid with an airlock hole drilled out. Works like a champ.
 

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6.5 gallon better bottles. I could buy a lot of equipment for brewing or yeast management for the difference of anything stainless holding beer. Even a stainless bucket is $200 and a PET carboy will cost you $30 after tax typically. I could buy a pump, a stir plate and flask, a mini fridge with temp control and heating element or a couple recipes for the difference
 
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6.5 gallon better bottles. I could buy a lot of equipment for brewing or yeast management for the difference of anything stainless holding beer. Even a stainless bucket is $200 and a PET carboy will cost you $30 after tax typically. I could buy a pump, a stir plate and flask, a mini fridge with temp control and heating element or a couple recipes for the difference

^^^^This but as far as I know BB's only come in 3,5, & 6 gal sizes. They're all I use so I keep at least 4 of ea on hand.
 
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