Plastic Conical Fermenters: A Home Brewing Alternative

Plastic Conical Fermenters: A Home Brewing Alternative

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As home brewers, we often walk a fine line between utilizing home techniques and professional techniques.  To be honest, the major consideration many brewers have money.  Given an unlimited budget we would purchase mini stainless steel versions of the same professional equipment.  Unfortunately, I have a budget and so do many other brewers.

Striking a compromise between budget and function is common in the world of homebrewing.  For instance, I currently use an aluminum boil kettle.  This is because it accomplishes the same job as a stainless steel kettle, but was only a fraction of the cost.

Fermenters are another piece of equipment where you can spend just a few dollars or upwards of a few thousand.  They vary in shape, size, and material.  Plastic buckets are the economical fermenter that most beginners use.  Professional’s prefer stainless steel for durability and conical shaped designs for usability.  Plastic conical fermenters offer a compromise for home brewers.  They’re budget friendly and conical in design.

What are Plastic Conical Fermenters

The design of a conical fermenter is what makes it unique.  The bottom has a cone shape to allow for settling.  Most designs have straight walls outside of the cone shaped bottom though some are more bell shaped.

The conical design has many advantages to a bucket or carboy.  By progressively reducing the size of the bottom, then you limit the surface area of the yeast.  This is important if you’re going to have your beer in contact with the yeast for an extended period of time.

The cone usually allow for the removal of the yeast and trub.  This is a big advantage that is impossible to accomplish with a bucket or carboy.  With the yeast rounded up a the bottom, a valve can be opened to release the yeast.

After harvesting, then brewers are able to wash yeast for re-use.  For serious home brewers, washing yeast can save some real money.  Assume an average brew costs fifty dollars and the yeast is seven dollars.  By washing and re-using yeast for multiple batches, you could get your cost below two dollars in yeast per batch.  Saving five dollars in yeast per batch would reduce the overall brewing cost by ten percent.

Also, removing sediment will result in beer with greater clarity.  You’ll be able to pull trub from your brew multiple times throughout the fermentation if you desire.  This will help increase your overall beer clarity.  If used in conjunction with other common clarity techniques, you could have a great impact on the overall final clarity.

Less Racking = Less Risk

When you move your beer, you create risk.  For brewers who use a secondary fermenter, they take on the risk of oxidation and infection.  Simply put, transfer your brew at your own risk.

For brewers using secondary for clarification and to be able to yeast harvest, plastic conical fermenters are a great fit.  For newer brewers looking to move away from plastic buckets, plastic conical fermenters could be a logical next step.

Plastic conical fermenters allow for many of the benefits of a secondary fermenter without the added risk of racking and transferring.  I would suggest them as a potential equipment upgrade for many new brewers looking to get away from the basic brew bucket.

Easy to Clean

Many brewers swear by glass carboys.  I have one and I absolutely love it.  Well, I should say that I love it until I need to clean it.  Cleaning a carboy is a major pain.  The shape of a carboy makes it difficult and aggravating to clean

Most fermenters have a large opening in the top.  This makes reaching inside and cleaning very simple.  Cleaning and sanitizing are critical to brewing great beer and plastic conical fermenters make this process manageable whereas I find carboys to be a major struggle.

On the Market for Plastic Conical Fermenters:

BrewDemon

The BrewDemon conical fermenter is the most economical on the market.  This of course means that it has many drawbacks.  The standard BrewDemon is only three gallons in size.  For brewers brewing five or more gallons, BrewDemon has a new larger conical available at a higher price point.

Having a way to harvest yeast from the bottom of the conical is important to some home brewers.  It’s one of the many reasons I myself want am interested in plastic conical fermenters.  The BrewDemon doesn’t have this ability.  It does however have the conical shape with reduces the contact space for the yeast and trub.

One of the largest complaint with the BrewDemon is it’s spigot.  It’s not a well built spigot and can break with heavy or less than delicate use.  Replacements are available if your do break your spigot.

However, the BrewDemon is about the cheapest way for small batch brewers to enter into the world of plastic conical fermenters.  At only forty-five dollars it’s price point may make up for it’s drawbacks.  You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons to decide if the BrewDemon is right for you.

BrewDemon
BrewDemon

FastFerment

The FastFerment system checks a lot of boxes for home brewers looking to break into the conical market.  A large 6” lid makes getting inside to clean a breeze.  It has an almost eight gallon capacity making it idea for any five gallon style of beer.  It’s large ball valve and collection ball make it ideal for brewers looking to harvest and wash yeast.

FastFerment also has a lot of optional add-ons.  It can be mounted to the wall and hung out of the way.  You can get a stand so that it can side upright inside of a cooler.  FastFerment claims you can cut 80% of sanitizing by changing to their all-in-one fermenter.  I’m not sure about the 80% claim, but I would argue you can do less sanitizing and take on less risk with this fermenter.

FastFerment
FastFerment

Fermentasaurus

The Fermentasaurus takes another step toward being a complete fermenting and serving system.  It too has easy top access for cleaning.  It has a larger capacity of 9.25 gallons. Fermentasaurus has a large ball valve and a large collection ball.  This will help you remove your trub and yeast from the fermentation process.  This conical fermenter beats or exceeds the FastFerment in every category, but at a higher price.  The Fermentasaurus will  cost you about one hundred and twenty dollars to start.

If this product was just a larger and better fermenter, it would be worth the price.  However, the Fermentasaurus has a slew of options you can purchase to improve the functionality of the fermenter.  This fermenter can be pressurized just like a keg with an optional add-on.  It is pressure rated to over 30 PSI.  This eliminates the need to keg or bottle as the fermenter can be served right on tap.  Absolutely an incredible feature for home brewers.

Fermentasaurus
Fermentasaurus

Catalyst

The Catalyst Fermenter has a cult following of users that swear by the product.  My favorite feature is that it has a completely removable top that makes cleaning the inside the easiest of all the plastic conical fermenters.  It does have the largest ball valve and the largest yeast collection jar.  At six and a half gallons it too is a great size for five gallon home brew batches.

The Catalyst is the highest price at just under two hundred dollars.  Users of the Catalyst swear by it’s results. It has the added advantages of the large trub and yeast receptacle by using 24 oz. Mason Jars that fit it’s industry leading 3” butterfly valve.  The Catalyst also has a stand with a large and wide base to avoid potential tipping.

Catalyst
Catalyst

Minibrew 6.5

The Minibrew 6.5 is built the most like a commercial style conical fermenter.  Visually, it looks exactly the same as what you would see in a brewery except on a small scale and with a plastic body.  The six and a half gallon size will fit any five gallon brew with ample room for fermentation.

Best of all, the Minibrew has two separate stainless steel valve.  One valve is for removing trub and yeast.  This give you the ability to remove the spent yeast and trub for a beer resulting in better clarity and flavor.  It also has a separate racking valve so you can easily pull samples during the fermentation process.  For $175, you can have a plastic version of fermenter that exactly mirrors what professional brewers are using.

Minibrew 6.5
Minibrew 6.5

Conclusion

Finiding a balance between price and functionality is critical to home brewing.  Upgrading to one of these plastic conical fermenters is a perfect example of how home brewers can replicate what professionals use but in an economical way.  If you’re looking to improve your fermenting, look no further.

Which one would I recommend?  Well that depends on your situation.  I think the functionality of the Fermentasaurus is amazing.  Being able to carbonate and serve from the fermenter is awesome.  The FastFerment may not have all the bells and whistles but it comes in at the lower end of the price spectrum.  The Catalyst is well liked by its users but comes in at the highest price point.  Minibrew is a great way to mirror professional brewers but it too is one of the most expensive.  Finally, BrewDemon is a great option for new brewers, and specifically for small batch brewers.

Do you use a plastic conical fermenter?  Let me know down in the comments below what you use and if you would recommend it.  Thanks for reading and don’t forget to comment and share to help NewToBrew grow!

Ryan Caldbeck

NewToBrew.com

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