Traditionally, the conical fermentation tank is primarily used by professional brewers and is rarely utilized by homebrewers. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of conical fermentation tanks in commercial brewing to help you determine if they are worth purchasing.
What are the requirements for choosing a fermentation vessel?
There are three key requirements when selecting a fermentation vessel:
- Stable and cool temperature: Beer typically ferments between 64 to 72°F (18 to 22°C), while lager beer requires a lower temperature of 45 to 55°F (7 to 13°C).
- Minimal disturbance to the yeast: Yeasts prefer to work undisturbed and don’t appreciate interference from other microorganisms.
- The ability to remove sediment and dead yeast while preserving the beer for bottling or adjustments: This is the primary function of a conical fermenter.
What is a conical fermenter?
Most professional brewers have moved away from open-top and flat-bottom fermentation tanks and now opt for closed conical fermentation tanks. Conical fermenters have a conical bottom that allows the yeast to settle and collect. Typically, these tanks have two taps—one at the top to extract clear beer and one at the bottom to extract everything. The conical fermenter allows easy yeast collection, reduces contact with bacteria and oxygen, and offers visual appeal. Temperature control in the conical fermenter can be achieved using an internal coil or an external jacket. Cooling is accomplished by circulating cold water or ethylene glycol through the jacket. We recommend using a conical fermenter with an external jacket as it is more convenient, user-friendly, and easier to clean and disinfect.
Advantages of the conical fermentation tank
- Enhanced control over the fermentation process: A stainless steel conical fermenter can be equipped with various accessories, providing winemakers with greater control. Accessories such as aeration/carbonation systems, pressure gauges, rotary valves, and sampling valves offer significant control and interchangeable components.
- Easy removal of yeast and conditioning of beer: In large breweries, the bright tank is usually adjusted while the fermenter is freed up for a new fermentation process.
- Convenient yeast harvesting and reuse: The conical fermenter simplifies yeast collection with a simple valve turn. The collected yeast is healthy and vigorous, and can be easily separated, cleaned, and stored.
- Pressure fermentation capability: By adding a unitank to the conical fermenter, you can ferment under pressure and naturally carbonate the beer. Pressure fermentation allows warmer ambient temperatures while inhibiting ester formation. This benefits those without a glycol system or large refrigerator, and enables brewing within malt liquor temperature ranges.
- Easy sample collection without yeast: The top faucet allows for yeast-free sampling, making it easier to monitor beer gravity.
- Efficient management of dry hop additives: Residual hop particles can be removed through the cone, facilitating the management of multiple dry hop additions.
- Simple beer removal via pressure or gravity from the top tap, eliminating the need for siphoning equipment.
Disadvantages of the conical fermenter
- Higher cost: Stainless steel conical fermentation tanks are generally more expensive than regular tanks. However, they offer excellent value for money.
- Complex cleaning process: Conical fermenters have more components that require thorough cleaning and disinfection. Fortunately, clean-in-place (CIP) systems simplify the cleaning process.
- Space and cooling requirements: Conical fermenters are typically large, necessitating a spacious fermentation chamber or a glycol system to maintain proper temperatures. Cooling solutions can be costly, but most glycol cooling devices can handle multiple fermenters.
Can a conical fermenter improve your beer?
The impact of a conical fermenter on beer quality depends on the style of beer being brewed. When brewing delicate styles like IPA or NEIPA, the conical fermentation tank can be highly beneficial. When oxygen elimination is paramount, the conical fermenter provides maximum control. However, the difference may not always be noticeable. While a conical fermenter doesn’t guarantee delicious beer on its own, it does make the brewing process more manageable.
Ultimately, you need to assess whether investing in a conical fermenter is worthwhile for you. Buying a conical fermenter doesn’t guarantee success, but it can provide you with professional-level capabilities and tools. From a value perspective, conical fermentation tanks are definitely worth considering.
If you’re ready to open a craft brewery, feel free to reach out to us. Our engineers can provide you with a list of craft brewery equipment and associated prices. We also offer comprehensive turnkey brewery solutions, allowing you to focus more on brewing exceptional beer. We look forward to collaborating with you, my friend!