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Need to upgrade equipment. Advice?

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Billy1093

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I know starting off, usually the cheapest option is the best way to go, as you don't want to dump money into something when you have no idea what you're doing.

BUT

I'm the type of person where if I decide to do something, I like being great at that thing, therefore after 1 batch of homebrew I'm now looking to upgrade my equipment. Was using 6.5 gallon glass carboy, but not a fan because of how small the opening is on top it makes life harder than it needs to be. I love the idea of a conical, but probably looking for a plastic for now rather than stainless. Also, used a sink ice bath to cool wort, but that took an hour and im looking for a better solution for cooling the wort faster, as I've heard that can have an effect on the quality of the beer.

So moral of the story, I'm looking for advice on plastic conical fermenters that have a wide opening on top, potentially a spout. I've seen the BrewDemon that looks great but has mixed reviews, but same goes for the Fermentasaurus and the Catalyst. I also like being able to see the beer so having a clear fermenter is preferred. As for my cooling problem, I'm assuming just go with an immersion chiller?

Lastly, any other equipment that I probably don't know about yet, but might make life easier or make my beer turn out better? or more clear etc

Thanks ahead of time!
 

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kh54s10

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Your chiller should be the first thing on the list. I use an immersion chiller - home made in two 20 ft sections. One can go in a bucket of ice water. In the summer the tap water is over 80 degrees here.

Next look into fermentation temperature control. Your choice on how you do that may have bearing on what fermenter you want to use.

Fermentation temperature control is one of the most significant upgrades to make you beer better.

Added: Actually I would do both of these things right away.
 
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Billy1093

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have you considered a fermonster? Thats what I use, its not a conical but its plastic and will hold pressure to transfer out. cheap too!
I looked at that one, theres a few options for add-ons in the options, which would you say are preferred items to add if I were to purchase that one?
 
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Billy1093

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Your chiller should be the first thing on the list. I use an immersion chiller - home made in two 20 ft sections. One can go in a bucket of ice water. In the summer the tap water is over 80 degrees here.

Next look into fermentation temperature control. Your choice on how you do that may have bearing on what fermenter you want to use.

Fermentation temperature control is one of the most significant upgrades to make you beer better.

Added: Actually I would do both of these things right away.
is there a cost effective temp control I would be able to purchase and use right away? im not super handy so the DIY options aren't really in my wheelhouse. also, for whatever you recommend, are there fermenters you would recommend to go with it? like I said I like the idea of the conical plastic fermenters but my main 2 must haves are 1) wider opening to reach hand in top, and 2) clear plastic so I can see from the outside
 

kh54s10

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Easiest is a Craigslist chest freezer and an Inkbird ITC-308 temperature controller. $75 - $100 for both if you can find a deal on the freezer. I use Better Bottles but those have the small neck. Big Mouth Bubbler fermenters have a wide neck.

I don't like the idea of a spigot unless with a conical for dumping trub and collecting yeast. I have buckets for the rare occasion that I want to add something that won't fit in the Better Bottles.

For cleaning the Better Bottles it is soak with Oxyclean rinse, insert a washcloth, swirl, rinse, rinse rinse. Takes longest to fill with water and the Oxyclean.
 
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Billy1093

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Easiest is a Craigslist chest freezer and an Inkbird ITC-308 temperature controller. $75 - $100 for both if you can find a deal on the freezer. I use Better Bottles but those have the small neck. Big Mouth Bubbler fermenters have a wide neck.

I don't like the idea of a spigot unless with a conical for dumping trub and collecting yeast. I have buckets for the rare occasion that I want to add something that won't fit in the Better Bottles.

For cleaning the Better Bottles it is soak with Oxyclean rinse, insert a washcloth, swirl, rinse, rinse rinse. Takes longest to fill with water and the Oxyclean.
now if I buy a chest freezer and mount a dual stage temp controller, how do I get the probe into the fermenter from outside of the chest freezer?
 

kh54s10

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now if I buy a chest freezer and mount a dual stage temp controller, how do I get the probe into the fermenter from outside of the chest freezer?
It is a thin wire. Either use a thermowell for the sensor or tape it to the outside of the fermenter with something over it to insulate from ambient temperature. I used a folded up washcloth. Just run it over the side and close the lid.
 

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Not sure all what you currently have or your budget... but I'd say some of the essentials (in my eyes) are wort chiller (i like immersion), fermentation temp control, yeast starter equipment, oxygen tank/kit, pressure transfer gear, kegging setup.
 

Day-Day

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Have you bottled your first batch yet? That’s all it took for me to invest in a kegging setup!
I actually quite brewing for a while until I could find a decent priced used kegging setup... I hated bottling that much. Kegging has it's own pains but I'd never go back to bottling...I might bottle a big stout once a year... but that's it.
 
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Billy1093

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Thanks to everyone that responded you were all very helpful and I really appreciate it! I have not bottled my first batch yet but will be doing so tomorrow night, I feel like the first few times its going to be fun to do it, and eventually I will get annoyed and switch to keg.

As far as what I currently have, I only bought a starter kit with a 6.5 gallon glass fermenter and bottling bucket. As far as my budget is concerned: that's why I don't want to go stainless just yet. I'd like to stay plastic or glass, but I really like the concept of the conicals and I know plastic would be the way to go, as I don't want to invest in stainless. BUT, if I didn't go conical, I would still like something with a wide top that I can put my hand in, and I like clear containers to see whats going on. I appreciate the help with all of the extra equipment I should look into, but if anyone has any other advice for fermenters that they maybe started with or still use that are relatively affordable (250 or less) then i'm all ears.

As of right now, im seeing the Catalyst, BrewDemon, and Big Mouth Bubbler as front runners for my next purchase, but if you have heard of or used any of these id love to hear your input, or maybe other suggestions! Thanks ahead of time!
 

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I have only skimmed through responses, so if I’m repeating something, I apologize. For me, to cool my wort, I use a immersion cooler, that is connected to a pump that is sucking water from a cooler( which I use between 5-15 lbs of ice). I use the first 4 gallons to fill a bucket that I use to clean my equipment, then I have it recirculate. I’m not sure what is cheaper, water or electric, thinking of kh54s10 suggestion.).

First immersion chiller I built (25 feet)second I bought (50 feet). 50 feet is a lot better.

now for fermentation, I use buckets for right now and I have a chest freezer ( 5 qubick foot)with a ink bird temp controller. I did put a 6 inch color on it. Like you would do for a keezer, and drilled the hole for the temp probe and lamp wire. I do plan on moving on to a SS chronically, that I can add temp control too later on ( which will be a buy all at once).
 

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Apart from my kegging equipment I wouldn’t brew without my plate chiller. Here in MI I transfer 5 gal from 210F to 66F (or less on winter) in about 3 minutes (5-6 in summer). Just another option. I use a hop spider so cleaning is easy.
 

Day-Day

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OP... I'm a huge proponent of fancy equipment/upgrades especially if you can afford it BUT... nicer equipment doesn't necessarily improve your beer. Technique/process is always number one IMHO. The reason I say this is because if you buy a nice new fancy conical.. but don't have a way to control the temp... you're gonna have issues. So, before buying a new fermentation vessel (conical or otherwise) make sure (or I would) that you have a means to control the temps. Carboys, buckets, big mouth bubblers, etc. can be relatively simple to control temps... mini fridge, chest freezer (with inkbird, etc), swamp cooler, to name a few. A conical you're going to need a fridge that it fits in (if that's possible), DIY chiller, glycol chiller, something to control those temps.

If you're set on purchasing fermentation equipment then I'd think about investing in a chest freezer and some kind of temp control. You can still use your glass carboy, buckets, etc. and have multiple beers fermenting at the same time.

I'd love to have a conical ... I just don't have one.

For the more economical vessels, I prefer glass carboys. I can see through them, and they are easy to setup up for closed system transfers (crucial for hoppy beers).

In summary, for me personally, until I have the few grand to drop on a stainless conical and temp control apparatus, I prefer a simple carboy that is easily temp controlled and easy to setup closed pressure transfers ( I mainly brew hoppy beers).

For the record, I've brewed in buckets, wide mouth vessels (Speidels, and other brands), and still prefer carboys... even though they are an absolute pain to clean.
 

PaleRider76

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Apart from my kegging equipment I wouldn’t brew without my plate chiller. Here in MI I transfer 5 gal from 210F to 66F (or less on winter) in about 3 minutes (5-6 in summer). Just another option. I use a hop spider so cleaning is easy.
+1 to the chiller upgrade. I don’t have a plate chiller yet but after a few years of brewing I really want one and have the itch. I’m still using my immersion chiller but it’s significantly better than an ice bath. With my current set up I wouldn’t be able to do an ice bath anymore anyway (10-15 gallon batches prevent this). Daycare and feeding the two short people that live in my house are hindering this specific upgrade at the moment.

My suggestions (aside from biting the bullet and getting a plate chiller or counter flow chiller) is get a second glass fermenter to do secondary fermentation and a bench capper if you don’t already have one.

Sometimes you can find glass carboys cheap at a peddlers mall, thrift shop or yard sale. I know you said you’d like a wide mouth, but personally, I only mind the narrow mouths when I dry hop my beers. To some, secondary fermentation isn’t needed, but if you wanted to get a second batch going two or three weeks after brewing, you could transfer your current batch to secondary and start a new batch.

I mostly do 10 gallons batches with the occasional 15. I keg 5 gallons and bottle the rest to give to family and people at work. I hated the double lever capper that came with my kit when I first started brewing. Hated it. Abhorred it. Detested it. You get the idea. It eventually broke and my wife’s grandfather gave me his old capper. Get one. If what you currently have is a double lever capper, by this time tomorrow you will hate bottling. With my bench capper, I enjoy the time I spend bottling.
 

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I don’t trust any equipment that wort runs thru that I can’t see or disassemble to clean. For me a plate chiller (or CFC) is no bueno. I use an immersion chiller and tap water then a pump and bucket of ice water. I get to pitching temps quick enough (I never timed it). Ball valves and pumps get disassembled, cleaned and inspected after every brewday.

Stay away from glass carboys. And if you must use glass get a good ER, ambulance and Dr on speed dial. ...and get good health insurance. ...and a will.
 
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PaleRider76

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I don’t trust any equipment that wort runs thru that I can’t see or disassemble to clean. For me a plate chiller (or CFC) is no bueno. I use an immersion chiller and tap water then a pump and bucket of ice water. I get to pitching temps quick enough (I never timed it). Ball valves and pumps get disassembled, cleaned and inspected after every brewday.

Stay away from glass carboys. And if you must use glass get a good ER, ambulance and Dr on speed dial. ...and get good health insurance. ...and a will.
Sounds like you might have a good ER story to tell.

Each has its downfall: plastic can harbor bacteria if scratched, glass can easily break, and stainless is expensive.
 

RM-MN

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I'd like to stay plastic or glass, but I really like the concept of the conicals and I know plastic would be the way to go, as I don't want to invest in stainless. BUT, if I didn't go conical, I would still like something with a wide top that I can put my hand in, and I like clear containers to see whats going on. I appreciate the help with all of the extra equipment I should look into, but if anyone has any other advice for fermenters that they maybe started with or still use that are relatively affordable (250 or less) then i'm all ears.
Can you explain exactly why you want a conical? They are essential for a large brewery buy questionable for a home brewery.

I'd suggest you forget the conical for now and buy several bucket fermenters. They are cheap and effective, have the wide mouth for easy cleaning or adding dry hops, and they come with a handle for carrying. They won't slice you to ribbons if you drop them either. I know you feel like you want to see what's going on so splurge and buy a quart mason jar. You can put a pint or so of wort in there and add a pinch of yeast to it and see just as well as if you had a carboy without the danger of the trip to the ER or morgue. Leave the lid loose to let out the CO2.
 

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I looked at that one, theres a few options for add-ons in the options, which would you say are preferred items to add if I were to purchase that one?
I just use the pressure transfer kit from brewhardware and it works perfect for me.
 

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I've been using Fermonsters for most of my brews where I need to dry hop and see activity to time that correctly. Anything else I use my Anvil Stainless Buckets.
 

brewbama

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Sounds like you might have a good ER story to tell.

Each has its downfall: plastic can harbor bacteria if scratched, glass can easily break, and stainless is expensive.
No, not really. I’ve just seen a bunch of horrific photos. Unlike my adult children, evidently I have an unique ability to learn from others’ mistakes. I don’t have to touch fire to know it’ll burn me. We stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before us. I choose to use their acquired experience to my advantage.

The price is worth it. Plastic is cheap and can be replaced when scratched.

Stainless is easy to clean, sanitize, and will last a lifetime. Pay once cry once.
 
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Billy1093

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OP... I'm a huge proponent of fancy equipment/upgrades especially if you can afford it BUT... nicer equipment doesn't necessarily improve your beer. Technique/process is always number one IMHO. The reason I say this is because if you buy a nice new fancy conical.. but don't have a way to control the temp... you're gonna have issues. So, before buying a new fermentation vessel (conical or otherwise) make sure (or I would) that you have a means to control the temps. Carboys, buckets, big mouth bubblers, etc. can be relatively simple to control temps... mini fridge, chest freezer (with inkbird, etc), swamp cooler, to name a few. A conical you're going to need a fridge that it fits in (if that's possible), DIY chiller, glycol chiller, something to control those temps.

If you're set on purchasing fermentation equipment then I'd think about investing in a chest freezer and some kind of temp control. You can still use your glass carboy, buckets, etc. and have multiple beers fermenting at the same time.

I'd love to have a conical ... I just don't have one.

For the more economical vessels, I prefer glass carboys. I can see through them, and they are easy to setup up for closed system transfers (crucial for hoppy beers).

In summary, for me personally, until I have the few grand to drop on a stainless conical and temp control apparatus, I prefer a simple carboy that is easily temp controlled and easy to setup closed pressure transfers ( I mainly brew hoppy beers).

For the record, I've brewed in buckets, wide mouth vessels (Speidels, and other brands), and still prefer carboys... even though they are an absolute pain to clean.
Thanks I appreciate it! I live in SoCal is it’s basically 70 degrees here year round so temp control isn’t an issue at all, and going into winter it’s gonna be around 60-65 so I won’t really have any issues with temp. Obviously a chest freezer would be nice. I’ll look into some of your suggestions thanks
 

kh54s10

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Thanks I appreciate it! I live in SoCal is it’s basically 70 degrees here year round so temp control isn’t an issue at all, and going into winter it’s gonna be around 60-65 so I won’t really have any issues with temp. Obviously a chest freezer would be nice. I’ll look into some of your suggestions thanks
Not true. 70 degrees ambient could allow as much as 80 degree wort temperature. That would be way too warm for many ale yeasts and basically all of the lager yeasts. I cool most of my ale fermentations to the mid sixties. That means that if the ambient temperature is 65 degrees, I still need cooling.
 

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Thanks I appreciate it! I live in SoCal is it’s basically 70 degrees here year round so temp control isn’t an issue at all, and going into winter it’s gonna be around 60-65 so I won’t really have any issues with temp. Obviously a chest freezer would be nice. I’ll look into some of your suggestions thanks
CenCal here and I find some temp control to be a must. 70F is higher than optimal for most yeasts. Even when average temps are optimal (like now) there are too many fluctuations through the day. Temperature control can be as simple as setting your fermentor in a big rope tub of water. The bigger thermal mass will help even out the fluctuations. Also, fermentation creates heat and a big tub of water is a great heat sink. When average temp is colder, you could use an aquarium heater to warm the water. When it is warmer, you could drape a t-shirt over your fermentor and blow a fan on it. Of course, a small fridge is much easier...

Another bonus is that rope tub is useful for a number of other things like sanitizing bottles and cold crashing too!
 

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immersion chiller is a must. you can make for super cheap too from Lowes or Home depot.

Fermonsters are nice. I have a couple. But I also regularly use my original 6.5 gal plastic bucket with spigot from 1994...nothing touches it but wort , hot water and a soft cleaning cloth (maybe some Oxyclean on occasion)...
 

Day-Day

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I agree... 70 F ambient is way to warm for my liking. Like others have mention there will swings throughout the day. You could build a swamp cooler ( I have a mop sink in my basement that I use) and that will do well to hold the temps down and deal with temp swings.

A good comprise between price and conical are the stainless steel buckets... they are reasonably priced and they would be easy to control temp with a little effort.

 

Alex4mula

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I don’t trust any equipment that wort runs thru that I can’t see or disassemble to clean. For me a plate chiller (or CFC) is no bueno. ....
No trust yes anyone can. No bueno without using it? What do you think breweries use? Good cleaning and sanitation practices for zero issues in 24 brews.
 

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Don’t waste your money on glass and plastic. Anvil brew buckets are very affordable, have plenty of headspace and allow for closed transfers. I would be far better off if I had just invested in SS from the start of my brewing. Just one mans opinion.
 

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Thanks I appreciate it! I live in SoCal is it’s basically 70 degrees here year round so temp control isn’t an issue at all, and going into winter it’s gonna be around 60-65 so I won’t really have any issues with temp. Obviously a chest freezer would be nice. I’ll look into some of your suggestions thanks
You could make kveik your house yeast and not worry about temp control.

Actually, you'd still want to be able to run it cool for clean beers. Some temp control is a bonus.
 

kh54s10

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Don’t waste your money on glass and plastic. Anvil brew buckets are very affordable, have plenty of headspace and allow for closed transfers. I would be far better off if I had just invested in SS from the start of my brewing. Just one mans opinion.
Define affordable!! I have 7 Better Bottles and 2 plastic buckets. I got half of the Better Bottles on BOGO sales so I have about $15 each in them. I have had beer and wines in all 7 Better Bottles at one time. If I had to buy 7 Anvil Brew Buckets??????
 

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Define affordable!! I have 7 Better Bottles and 2 plastic buckets. I got half of the Better Bottles on BOGO sales so I have about $15 each in them. I have had beer and wines in all 7 Better Bottles at one time. If I had to buy 7 Anvil Brew Buckets??????
fair enough, if someone is looking for lots of fermentation space, SS might not be the answer. I just eventually decided I was fine with 2 primary fermenters with a couple of 5 gal carboys that are only used for secondary of wine. My reasoning was longevity of equipment over volume of equipment, not to mention it’s all oxygen impervious and can take a good, hard cleaning without worries of scratches.
 

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After 24 brews I think conicals are overrated unless it is a true one you can harvest yeast and you actually do it. I have 2 glass carboys and one Anvil brew bucket. Both take me exactly the same amount of time to clean but the Anvil I also need to disassemble. I also loose more beer on the bottom of it. Only use it when the carboys are full. Also I like to see the activity. But some like the brewery look of the SS ones. I’m adding a 4th one and it will be a glass one.
 

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This question always has a ton of answers all based on everyone’s separate needs and wants.

My 2 cents, a lager immersion chiller 50’x1/2” that way if you decide later that you want to make bigger batches you won’t have to buy another one. And super simple to clean, just hose it off, no pumps needed.

Temp control, I used to live in cen cal and something to keep temps low was a must. And now being back on the east coast I need something to heat and cool.

Yeast starter equipment, good to have a big healthy pitch, you can make a stir plate pretty inexpensive.

And I’m in the no glass camp, to dangerous in my opinion. I’ve been brewing for 10 years and I still use the same buckets I started with, cheap and easy to clean with a large opening. You could have 4 brews going and still be cheaper than 1 stainless vessel.

And of course kegging, it was a few years in before I started and I didn’t mind bottling I had a good system (and kids to help) but when I started making 10 gallon batches it was a lot of work. And I had planned on kegging half and bottling half but that never happened I just bought more kegs to keep beer in.
 
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