Temperature control w/ conical fermenter

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Jan 2, 2008
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I've been considering trying out a conical bottom fermenter once I move into a place that has some extra room. I like the looks of the fermenters at minibrew.com but I'm concerned about how to control the fermentation temperature with these things.

Before I saw these conical fermenters I was just going to buy a chest freezer and hook it up to a temperature control and ferment w/ glass carboys inside of it. This will give me tight temperature control but not the convenience of a conical.

Does anyone have any advice/insight? Up to this point I've just been fermenting in a carboy in my closet with a wet t-shirt over it to help keep it cool but now I want to step things up a bit...
I would think the wet t-shirt would work the same with the minibrew conical as with the carboy, but the glass/plastic might be different in transferring heat.

Speaking as one who doesn't have one (so, therefore, next to useless info) but I would think a minibrew conical would work with the freezer as well as a carboy; it should be lighter than a glass carboy, but you'd probably need to build or buy a second stand if moving it out of the freezer by yourself. Of course, with the conical in the (chest-type) freezer you lose some of the usefulness of the conical having to take it out to dump the trub.

My long term plan (subject to change some five hundred times between now and actual implementation) is something like this for multiple conicals on a bench/table:


Thanks for the info Rick. I guess I didn't realize that it would be possible to fit the conical into a freezer/fridge. I guess I should really look at the dimensions of these things before I start getting worried. :) That is a definite option even though I'll still have to move it around.

If I decide to go way overboard (which is possible), I was thinking I could build a small well insulated room and attach a wall mounted A/C unit to it. Then control the room temp with that. Good thing I have some time to think about this before I actually have a place with enough room to do that sort of thing...

Heh heh heh, my does that set up look familiar :cross:

I think the easiest way to control the temps on a conical is to put it inside of a refrigerator. This of course depends on how big a of a conical you want, and your budget. To utilize a mini fridge you will have to use the 7.1 gallon conical from Morebeer. The 7.1 gallon from Blichmann might work too, I've just not seen one in person to say for sure. The plastic conicals look to be too tall to fit in a mini. Lots of guys just buy a spare full size fridge which will hold the 14 gallon conicals just fine.

There's also the self cooled/heated models....but they are very expensive.

My Dad has a medium sized refrigerator, similar to this one, that should hold the minibrew conical just fine.
I think the 'cold room' idea would be awesome!
I'm considering getting a conical as well and have been doing some research. It seems the simplest idea (if you can't fit it inside of your fridge) is to build a 'glycol chiller'. You could either have SS tubing go into the fermenter, or jacket it on the outside. COLD non-toxic antifreeze goes into the freezer and a pump on a t-stat controls the flow to the fermenter.
I have yet to talk to somebody who has actually built or used one, but the theory seems feasible.
Then again, you wouldn't have a walk in refrigerator though! I read on a website about a guy that insulated a tool shed w/ an AC on a temp controller and used it for everything from lagering to cold storage of grains and hops. How cool would that be?
Heh heh heh, my does that set up look familiar
Is that yours? I just found it with a google search; I knew I had seen one, but didn't remember where.

I've been toying with the idea of a multi-chambered "son of fermenter" type thing though built more sturdily, with a chest freezer at one end utilized for the cooling. Haven't done the math, but it is a lot of cu. ft to cool -- though with ales and indoors I would think it could keep up.

rickylr said:
Is that yours? I just found it with a google search; I knew I had seen one, but didn't remember where.

Yep, that's me...cool.

Anyway the multi-chamber fermenter, or walk-in is a great option if you have the space and design/build capability. I use the 4.9cuft mini fridge and conical for temp controlled fermentation. Then I have full sized freezerless fridge for lagering and storage. Works out well, the footprint is small, and all appliances are Energy Star rated with little electricity requirements.

Nice setup! Do you happen to know off the top of your head what brand those minifridges are? I've looked at a few at Sears/Best Buy and most (maybe all) of them have a little step in the floor in the back where the compressor is housed that makes them unable to fit a fermenter. Just have to look harder I suppose.
There are only two mini models that will fit the conical.

Kenmore Elite 4.9cuft
Sanyo 4912 4.9cuft

Both models are freezerless, and unfortunately the Kenmore has been discontinued. The Sanyo is available at Bestbuy, Costco, and some other national retailers. It usually runs $200. Craigslist is another option for used mini's, and these two models do occasionally show up.