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New SS conical fermenter?

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khannon

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I brew ~10Gal batches usually once a month(though hoping to step that up a little bit). I usually ferment in 1/2bbl kegs, on with a 4" tri-clamp and the keg king ball-lock top 4 Inch Tri-Clamp Kegmenter Lid with Ball Locks , and one un-modified with a 2" TC fermeter kit Brewers Hardware Sanke Keg Fermentor Kit with Thermowell
They work great though I've had a few bad batches(I think due to cleaning, and not really being able to see inside and clean as well as I like. I like the closed transfer, They fit in the spare fridge that is rigged for ferment temps, though they do get a bit heavy.

The wife has given the OK to look into SS conicals. I was looking at the spike CF-15. With the jacket and cooling/heating and all of that it's up around $1,000. Others seem around the same price once all the parts are in.
I don't want to ferment in plastic.
Still with me? As cool as it would be, part of my brain says $1,000 buys a lot of beer, and even more grain/hops/yeast. The other part of me just loves the look of stainless, and thinks of the time I will save cleaning if I can visually inspect everything.

The advice I'm looking for is, Which conical, why, and should I wait for a used one to pop up or just bite the bullet, get something shiny and new? Or am I looking at just as much cleaning, and sink the money other places (I already have a decent setup that I am happy brewing on, with the possible exception of quick-disconnects on the hoses)?
Thoughts, advice, beer? I'll take what you are offering..
Thanks,
Kevin
 

Jtvann

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I love my unitank. I bought a 14 gallon one. To me it is more fun. That’s what the hobby is about to me. I started with a plastic bucket, went to a fast ferment, to a fermonster, to a glass carboy, a Ss brew bucket, to my unitank. Each step up I think let me do something a little different. Easiest to clean was the brew bucket. Most complicated by far is the unitank. There’s so many pieces. It’s not hard, and I got to expand my hobby more, playing with CIP, even though it’s totally unnecessary.

I can’t say that I make noticeably better beer between it and the brew bucket with ftss2. It sure is more fun though. I can carbonate in vessel and dump trub, which I do, but time gives you the same result.

It’s shiny and impressive looking. It pairs perfect with a Ss glycol chiller when you have another 800 dollars to blow. If I still used any type to of fermentation chamber i wouldn’t even think about a unitank. Others may argue, but a chiller makes it shine for what it is.

Spikes conical is comparable. I’ve never used it. If I’d gone with spike gear from that start, I’d be using spike everything. I went with Ss though very early on. I’ve never regretted sticking with them. There’s others out there, but the majority use spike or Ss. Brewers hardware has a beast of a jacketed conical.

Price between spike and Ss comparing apples to apples is about 50 bucks within each other. Everything is standard on Ss, and optional upgrades on the spike.

I don’t like the lid on the spike, but it it has advantages of being easier to hand clean though. Not that Ss is too hard. There’s a whole huge thread here on spike best practices. It’s worth reading. Spike has a big presence here in on homebrewtalk, Ss does not outside of folks like me.

They retain their value really well. I’d buy new. Shipping is stupid high on them, so unless someone who lives near you and you just find a good deal, buy new. Wait till Black Friday just to be safe.

Cleaning .... it’s much more involved. A lot more.

Be glad to answer any more specifics you might have.
 

eric19312

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I didn’t want to do the glycol and coil temp control. SS didn’t make that an option so I went with Spike. The lid was a bit worrying but I’ve done about 20 batches in it and it has worked quite well every time. No issues getting it sealed and holds pressure like a unitank should. Like @Jtvann said it makes cleaning and inspecting easier though I still do CIP.

If the SS could be used at 30 PSI like it seems like it was built for, that would be an advantage as you could get a full carb from spunding. The 15 PSI both Spike and SS are rated at and PRVd at is only about 1.5 volumes at ale fermentation temps.

Took me about 6 years of brewing to finally pull the trigger on a conical and like you say $1000 is a lot of grain and hops and yeast.
 

Jtvann

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I didn’t want to do the glycol and coil temp control. SS didn’t make that an option so I went with Spike. The lid was a bit worrying but I’ve done about 20 batches in it and it has worked quite well every time. No issues getting it sealed and holds pressure like a unitank should. Like @Jtvann said it makes cleaning and inspecting easier though I still do CIP.

If the SS could be used at 30 PSI like it seems like it was built for, that would be an advantage as you could get a full carb from spunding. The 15 PSI both Spike and SS are rated at and PRVd at is only about 1.5 volumes at ale fermentation temps.

Took me about 6 years of brewing to finally pull the trigger on a conical and like you say $1000 is a lot of grain and hops and yeast.
Ss can be used near 30, you just have to buy a few more parts. Don’t ever bypass the pressure relief with just a spunding valve. You can get 1.5 TC pressure release valves that open at 30 psi, and a 4 inch cap for the removed pressure release.

I haven’t needed to go above 18 psi, that I want to say the original release is set for. If I spund at 18, it’s still over 12 when I drop temp for cold crash. Only need 10-12 for full carbonation at low temp. I guess what you’re saying is full carbonation at room temp. Never considered needing to do that.
 

apache_brew

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I'm in somewhat of a similar boat. I've been using a modified 1/2 barrel with 4" tri clamp for a while now. My biggest gripe has been cleaning/sanitizing it (disassembling NPT fittings specifically) every time I want to use it. Given the DIYer/welder in me, I was dead set on fabricating 2 unitanks from sankes for the purpose of fermenting, yeast harvesting, fining, carbing, kegging finished beer. I even went so far as purchasing all the raw materials and tri clamp parts to do so (shhh). For me, the realization came with the time commitment that sort of equipment will require. I already spend 4 hours over 2 days breaking down a krausen lined fermenter for a sanitized one. I have kid #2 coming later this year and if I want to keep brewing beer, then my goal is to simplify things. I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to stop using my NPT thread laden fermenter and switch to un-molested 1/2 bbl sankes with the use of a floating dip tube and butterfly valve hop dropper (parts I already have given the unitank part purchasing, inspiration photo attached) I'm over wanting to harvest yeast too. I'm contemplating switching to dry yeast to avoid the need of stepping up 5 day yeast starters with liquid yeast and buying a 500g block of dry yeast and leaving it in my freezer until it's time to pitch. Lastly for me, I'm friends with a brewer who owns a commercial keg washer. My plan is to never clean a fermenter or serving keg again, just utilize a revolving door of sanitized ones from my buddy. Regardless, I'd take another look at finding an easier way to clean those sanke kegs. A bent carboy brush works well for around the neck.

co2 dry hop.JPG
sankefermenter.jpg
 

eric19312

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Ss can be used near 30, you just have to buy a few more parts. Don’t ever bypass the pressure relief with just a spunding valve. You can get 1.5 TC pressure release valves that open at 30 psi, and a 4 inch cap for the removed pressure release.

I haven’t needed to go above 18 psi, that I want to say the original release is set for. If I spund at 18, it’s still over 12 when I drop temp for cold crash. Only need 10-12 for full carbonation at low temp. I guess what you’re saying is full carbonation at room temp. Never considered needing to do that.
I imagine there is reason SS put a 15 PSI PRV on there and don't sell a 30... But I can see how should work and clearly the all TC build would seem to be better able to handle the pressure than the Spike lid.

Most of the carb tables don't make it to room temperature but I found this one:

Which says for 2.5 volumes at 72F you want to be at 30 PSI. I use 72 as this is where I normally finish my ales after doing most of the brew at 66. But even if I left beer at 66 and fogo the diacetyl rest that cart puts me at 26.5 PSI for 2.5 volumes.

Are you brewing lagers? 2.5 volumes at 50F is about 18 PSI I could see that working.
 

Jtvann

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I’m not using pressure that high. For me there’s no need. I can cold crash and have high enough pressure to carbonate at the level I want. I was just pointing out that the Ss is rated for use at 30 psi, but in order to take advantage of it you’d need additional parts. It’s easy to just throw on a spunding valve and crank it down, and buy a 4 inch cap. It’s easy, but dumb. I was just pointing out not to do that and make sure to buy an additional higher pressure dedicated pressure release.
 

Brooothru

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I’m not using pressure that high. For me there’s no need. I can cold crash and have high enough pressure to carbonate at the level I want. I was just pointing out that the Ss is rated for use at 30 psi, but in order to take advantage of it you’d need additional parts. It’s easy to just throw on a spunding valve and crank it down, and buy a 4 inch cap. It’s easy, but dumb. I was just pointing out not to do that and make sure to buy an additional higher pressure dedicated pressure release.
I don't remember seeing anywhere that Ss Brewtech unitanks are rated to 30 psig. I do see where the 'normal operating pressure' is 15 psig, and indeed I have had some temporary over-pressures in excess of 15 psig while adjusting the spunding valve. As to PRV, I seem to recall "somewhere" reading the release pressure was ~22 psig.

From a strictly engineering and structural perspective (at least in aerospace applications) limit G is 1.25 x normal structural limit (possible structural deformation may occur) and ultimate G is 1.5 x normal G (structural failure may occur). I'm not saying these are design criteria for pressurized vessels (although an airplane cabin is a pressure vessel), but if you apply these maxims to a unitank it would suggest 'normal' pressure = 15 psig, 'limit' pressure = 18.75 psig, and 'ultimate' pressure = 22.5 psig.

Over-stresses are also cumulative. If you take something to its limit pressure too many times, it may fail well before reaching ultimate pressure. That's why machinery often have "service lives" after which they are retired or scrapped. Also, design limits are just that: designed. They may not account for material sub-weaknesses or fabrication faults. That said, design criteria are generally conservative.

Bottom line: you may repeatedly exceed a design limit and never encounter a structural failure. It may even be that the limit was "lawyered down" by counsel to Ss Brewtech, and in fact it was safely designed and manufactured to withstand 22 psig with no ill effects. But I'm not willing to bet my life on that possibility. A 7 gallon unitank (or larger) can make a Hella fragmentation grenade.

Stay safe out there.

Brooo Brother
 

Jtvann

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Recommended operating pressure is 15 psi.
Manufacturers indicated max pressure is 30 psi
Manufacture tested to 4x recommended operating pressure
 

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