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As a DIY homebrewer, you already know that the quality of the beer you brew, and the efficiency at which you do it, should be high on your
list of importance.
One of the ways you can eliminate a few steps during the brewing process, and save some time along the way, is to use only one vessel for fermentation instead of two.
Just one conical fermenter can take the place of traditional plastic buckets and and a separate vessel if doing a secondary fermentation, like another bucket or a glass carboy.
Using a conical fermenter can make your brew day run smoother because you are bypassing steps, using less equipment, less cleaning and sanitizing, and most of all, less chance of infecting your beer.
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A Quick Look At Our Top 5 Conical Fermenters
In this post, we are going to review the best conical fermenters for homebrewing, but if you are in a hurry, check out the home brewing fermenters that we recommend.
What Is A Conical Fermenter?
A conical fermenter is a single container used in the beer fermentation process, and can be made from glass, plastic, or stainless steel. If you’ve seen pictures or visited a large commercial brewery, or even a local micro-brewery, I’m sure you have seen a conical fermenter.
These are the massive shiny large tanks that have a cone or conical shape at the bottom of the vessel. The cone-shaped bottom allows for solids to collect and has a dump valve for a simple and sanitary removal of yeast and sediments, anytime during fermentation.
Depending on the type of beer you are brewing or just a personal brewing preference, many homebrewers choose to do a two-stage or secondary fermentation. Normally this would mean a higher risk of contamination and oxidation when transferring the beer from a primary to a secondary, and then again to a bottling bucket. With a conical fermenter as part of your brewing equipment, all of these steps can take place in one tank.
A Look At Our Top 5 Conical Fermenters
There are valid arguments over which style is best, so hopefully this guide will steer you towards the right beer fermenting vessel for your specific needs.
Keep in mind there are many more than what we have on this list, but these are five of the most popular models that are ideal for anyone who wants to brew better beer or make wine at home.
Ss Brewtech Brew Bucket Brewmaster Edition
This 7-gallon Ss Brewtech Brew Bucket became one of the first quality stainless steel conical fermenters on the market, and has many features that make it a top choice for many homebrewers.
Besides being made from stainless steel, which is lighter than glass and more durable than plastic, it has many features that will help with the beer brewing process.
It has a LCD thermometer so you can keep an eye on the fermentation temperature, a rotating racking arm, welded carrying handles, large clamps to secure the lid, and four strong legs with rubber bottoms that won’t scratch your table or countertop.
Ss Brewtech Brew Bucket Pros
- Made of high-quality stainless-steel
- LCD thermometer
- Internal rotating racking arm
Ss Brewtech Brew Bucket Cons
- More expensive than other models
- Cannot collect and remove trub during fermentation
Craft a Brew Catalyst Fermentation System
Simultaneously elegant as well as functional, this fermenter can be on display rather than hidden in a closet or garage. It has integrated professional brewing features into a more compact device that is practical for most home brewing systems.
This Catalyst Fermentation System from Craft a Brew is easy to understand and assembly can be completed in minutes. The multi-function tank is made from Tritan®, a medical-grade, BPA-free, polymer, that has the clarity of glass, but all the durability of plastic. The tank is designed to protect your beer from oxygen, is more scratch resistant than other types of plastic, and is completely dishwasher safe.
The large opening on the bottom acts as a trub trap and adapts to different size mason jars to efficiently collect sediment and yeast. Anytime during fermentation, the valve can be closed off and the trub and yeast can be removed without disturbing the beer.
Craft a Brew Catalyst Fermenter Pros
- Lightweight but durable
- Easy to collect yeast
- Simple to use
- Easy to clean
Craft a Brew Catalyst Fermenter Cons
- Not easy to move around
BrewDemon Conical Fermenter
This particular BrewDemon conical fermenter is a budget friendly small batch fermenters created for the home brewer who is not interested or ready for large batch brewing, and is made from BPA-free professional grade, durable food grade PVC that won’t leave any unwanted off-flavors in your finished beer.
Although it is specifically designed to be used with all BrewDemon 2-gallon recipes, it will also work with any 2 or 2-1/2 gallon beer, wine, kombucha, or mead recipe.
It has a wide mouth opening which makes adding ingredients and cleanup easy. Because it has a unique venting design that allows CO2 to escape while keeping oxygen and contaminants out, an airlock is not necessary. Even though the plastic tank allows you to see what is going on inside, it is still recommended to keep it out of the sunlight.
BrewDemon Conical Fermenter Pros
- Versatile: Can make beer, wine, mead, or Kombucha
- Great for making small batches
- Compact design
- No air-lock is needed
BrewDemon Conical Fermenter Cons
- Cannot remove trub during fermentation
- Sediment can collect above the spigot
- Using Star-San is not recommended
7.9-Gallon FastFerment Plastic Conical Fermenter
If you are looking to move away from your standard plastic bucket or glass carboy, this food-grade 7.9-gallon plastic conical fermenter from FastFerment is a budget friendly option, and will take care of your 5-gallon batches of beer, wine, or cider.
The top has a wide opening which makes adding ingredients to your beer or wine a simple task. If you want to save your yeast and reuse it on another brew day, it also has a collection ball that will catch the trub, which can also make for a much clearer beer or wine. It also comes with a bottling filling attachment which allows you to easily rack your beer to a keg or the bottles of your choice.
These are definitely not deal breakers, but most accessaries are not included in the box. It does come with brackets for wall mounting, but that might not be practical for most homebrewers. The items that are optional and not included in the box is a table/countertop stand, carrying straps, insulated jacket, and thermometer.
FastFerment 7.9-Gallon Pros
- Wall mount design
- Less expensive than other fermenter
- Easy to clean
FastFerment 7.9-Gallon Cons
- Plastic can scratch
- Some parts can leak
3-Gallon FastFerment Conical Fermenter
Another product where you can do a two-stage fermentation all in one vessel. This 3-gallon model is also made by FastFerment, and is similar to it’s 7.9 gallon big brother, but for smaller batches. All the high quality you’d expect from FastFerment, only in a more compact size.
It is an efficient time saver as racking is not needed, and can brew a 1 or 2-1/2 gallon batch of beer with ease. It also comes with a 4 ounce mason jar trub trap and attachment for harvesting your own yeast which will also save you more money in the long run.
FastFerment 3-Gallon Pros
- Great fermenter for small batch brewing
- Removable screw top lid for adding ingredients and cleaning
- Compact size
FastFerment 3-Gallon Cons
- Supplied collection jar should be larger
- Sometimes yeast won’t drop into the mason jar
What Are The Advantages & Benefits Of A Conical Fermenter?
Previously, a quality conical fermenter was almost out of the question for an amateur home brewer because of the outrageous cost. But over the last several years as the homebrewing hobby continues to skyrocket, this once out of reach type of equipment has become more affordable and can now be bought on just about any budget.
There are quite a few advantages for the commercial brewer as well as a novice homebrewer when using a conical fermenter.
One Fermentaion Vessel
When brewing beer at home, most people often use a plastic bucket or glass carboy for “primary”, then transfer to another optional “secondary” vessel to add additional ingredients and separate the beer from the layer of yeast and sediment.
But when using a conical, you can essentially do the same thing by removing the trub from the tank and leave the beer behind where it can age in the same vessel.
Reusing The Yeast
After the yeast has finished its job, it doesn’t die, it just becomes dormant. Another advantage of using a conical fermenter is you can remove the yeast from the tank and reuse it on future brews, and save you money.
In fact, many commercial brewers will use the same yeast up to 6 times before it is thrown out.
Saying Goodbye To Racking
Many homebrewers will do a transfer two or three times during the brewing process. Once from primary to secondary, from secondary to the bottling bucket, and then filling the bottles or keg.
Every time you introduce oxygen after fermentation, your beer is at risk for infection and oxidation. Using a single conical fermenter allows you to complete all the steps from one vessel.
Saves Brewing Steps & Time
Of course this goes without saying, but anytime you can eliminate specific steps in the brewing process, you can drastically cut down on your preparation and overall brewing time.
Less Brewing Equipment Means Less Cleaning & Sanitizing
Because you are using less equipment overall, you will save time by not needing to clean and sanitize unnecessary and extra equipment when using a conical fermenter. Many units are made of stainless-steel which makes cleaning much easier, and even the plastic models are easier to clean because they have a wide opening on top.
Even though a conical fermenter will be more expensive than a bucket or carboy, you will be able to eliminate these two items along with some racking and bottling equipment as well.
Things To Think About Before Buying
When it comes to picking the right conical fermenter, there are a few things you should consider to choosing the right product for your overall brewing needs.
It is important that the one you end up choosing works with all the variables to your home brewing environment: space, budget, amount of beer you want to make.
Often times there are “optional” accessories that are included when you buy a specific product, like a trub trap for yeast collection, or a thermometer for temperature control.
Many times the low-budget models come with the bare minimum and that’s it, where some of the higher priced models already come equipped with all the bells and whistles.
Just be aware that you might be spending more money in the long run, every time you have to buy an optional piece that is not alrady included in the price.
Physical and Volume Size
You want one that will fit into your space, for sure. If you do the majority of brewing in your basement, almost any size will do, but if you are a kitchen brewer who has to share space with a significant other, your options will be somewhat limited.
Make sure you have a good idea how much space you have available for the brewing and storage, and that will help determine the perfect size.
For the volume size, if you buy a model where you can only make 2 or 3-gallons of beer, you are severely limited on future brews if you want to make the larger batch sizes. But just because you buy a bigger one that can hold 5 or 6 gallons of beer, that doesn’t mean that it will be able to work for small batch beer brewing.
What It's Made Of And The Quality Of The Parts
Once you have a size in mind that you think will work in your brewing space, deciding on the material of the fermenter is next. Do you want plastic or stainless steel? Of course plastic will be less expensive and not as heavy, but it can scratch and provide a place for bacteria to hide.
Then there is stainless steel, which looks professional, easy to clean, much larger & heavier, more durable, and more expensive, but can last a lifetime if taken care of.
It is important to purchase a fermenter that is built solid and sturdy, and parts like the spigot, yeast collection ball, butterfly ball valve, etc, are made of quality materials and can be taken apart or removed easily when it is time to clean and sanitize for the next brewing day
Of course conical fermenters vary in volume size, construction, and accessories, but the price is usually the deciding factor when choosing a particular model.
Basic vessels for small-batch brewing made from plastic are a much more cost effective than the larger stainless steel models, but there are limitations. It is always wise to buy the one you can afford, but not to limit yourself going forward for future brewing.
But, whether you are looking to spend less than a hundred bucks, or willing to spend a thousand, there is an option that can cater to just about every budget.
What Are The Drawbacks To Using A Conical Fermenter?
If you are thinking about buying a conical fermenter to take your home brewing to the next level, there are not a lot of drawbacks or disadvantages to using one, besides the larger physical size and the increased cost.
These “uni-tanks” are larger than a plastic primary fermenting bucket or glass carboy and will usually require more space in your brewing area. Keep in mind that conical fermenters are more expensive than your standard vessel, so if you are not sure about how often you want to brew or if you are experimenting with brewing for the first time you may not want to invest in this product just yet.
Also, a conical fermenter, particularly if it stainless steel, can be heavy and difficult to transport. If you are starting your brewing process in one place and moving to another, you need to take into account how to safely handle the weight and protect it so no damage occurs, to you or your beer.
Final Say On The Best Conical Fermenters
So what are the best conical fermenters?
When purchasing any piece of beer brewing equipment, you should never spend more than you can comfortably afford, but it also isn’t wise to buy the least expensive product too.
Aside from the higher price, we definitely would recommend the Ss Brewtech Brew Bucket, assuming you are wanting to brew five or six gallons of beer. The overall features and the stainless steel construction is why this one comes out on top, and is also a favorite among many other amateur home brewers and professional brewers as well.
No, it’s not a stainless steel fermenter, but if you want something a bit less expensive, but will still allow you to brew up to 5 gallons of beer, another good choice is the Catalyst Fermentation System by Craft a Brew.
This fermentation system is easy to clean and has some of the same features as it’s stainless steel counterparts, but is more lightweight and still durable enough to last for many years.