Traditionally, the conical fermentation tank has been primarily used by professional brewers and is rarely used by homebrewers. In this article, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of conical fermentation tanks in commercial brewing to help you determine whether they are worth investing in.
What are the requirements for choosing a fermentation vessel?
There are three main conditions to consider when selecting a fermentation vessel:
1. Stable and cold temperature: The ideal fermentation temperature for beer ranges from 64 to 72°F (18 to 22°C), while lager beer requires even lower temperatures, from 45 to 55°F (7 to 13°C).
2. Minimal disturbance to the yeast: Yeasts are delicate organisms that prefer to work undisturbed by other microorganisms. It’s important to choose a vessel that minimizes disruption during the fermentation process.
3. Ability to remove sediment and dead yeast: A conical fermenter allows for easy removal of sediment and dead yeast from the bottom of the tank, and it also enables the collection of clear beer for bottling or adjustment purposes.
What is a conical fermenter?
In professional brewing, open-top and flat-bottom fermentation tanks are being replaced by closed conical fermentation tanks. A conical fermenter has a cone-shaped bottom that facilitates yeast settling and collection. Typically, a conical fermentation tank has two taps – one at the top and one at the bottom. The top tap is used to draw clear beer, while the bottom tap allows for the extraction of all contents. This design allows for easy yeast collection, minimizes contact with bacteria and oxygen, and provides visual appeal.
The temperature in a conical fermenter can be controlled either by a coil inside the tank or by a jacket surrounding the tank. If cooling is required, cold water or ethylene glycol can be circulated through the jacket. It is recommended to choose a conical fermenter with an external jacket as it offers convenience in terms of usage, cleaning, and disinfection.
ACE fermentation tank
Advantages of the conical fermenter
Professional winemakers can have greater control over the fermentation process with a stainless steel conical fermentation tank. These tanks can be equipped with various accessories and functions, such as aeration/carbonization, pressure gauge, rotary valve, and sampling valve, providing winemakers with extensive control and flexibility through interchangeable components.
Yeast can be easily removed, and beer can be conditioned and clarified within the same container without concerns about yeast autolysis. In large breweries, the bright tank is typically used for conditioning, while the fermenter is freed up for a new fermentation cycle.
Yeast can be easily harvested and collected for future use. With a conical fermentation tank, harvesting yeast is as simple as turning a valve. The collected yeast is healthy and active, and can be easily separated, cleaned, and stored.
By adding a unitank to the conical fermenter, you can ferment under pressure and naturally carbonate the beer. Pressure fermentation allows for warmer fermentation temperatures while inhibiting ester formation. This is particularly beneficial for those without a glycol system or a sufficiently large refrigerator. Additionally, pressure fermentation enables the production of beer within the temperature range required for malt liquor.
The top tap allows for yeast-free sampling, making it easier to monitor the gravity of the beer.
The cone-shaped bottom facilitates the removal of hop residues during dry hopping, simplifying the management of multiple hop additives.
Beer can be extracted from the top tap using either pressure or gravity, eliminating the need for siphoning equipment.
Disadvantages of the conical fermenter
Conical fermentation tanks are more expensive compared to regular fermentation tanks. However, they provide value for money.
The cleaning process for conical fermenters is more complex due to the larger number of components that require cleaning and disinfection. Nevertheless, extensive cleaning and disinfection are integral parts of the brewing process. Fortunately, the clean-in-place (CIP) system facilitates easier cleaning.
Due to their size, most conical fermenters require large fermentation chambers or a glycol system to maintain fermentation temperatures. This can be another expensive aspect when starting a brewery, as cooling solutions can be costly. On the bright side, most glycol cooling systems can be used to cool multiple fermenters.
Will a conical fermenter help you make better beer?
Whether a conical fermenter will help you produce better beer depends on the style of beer you are brewing. It is particularly beneficial for brewing delicate styles such as IPA or NEIPA, where oxygen elimination is of utmost importance. Conical fermentation tanks are sophisticated pieces of equipment designed to aid in achieving maximum control. However, it’s important to note that the difference in taste may not always be noticeable. While a conical fermenter alone may not guarantee delicious beer, it certainly makes the brewing process easier.
In conclusion, it is essential to consider what is worthwhile for your brewing needs. There is no definitive answer as to whether purchasing a conical fermenter will lead to ultimate satisfaction or success. If you aspire to become a professional winemaker and require a high level of control, the right tools, including a conical fermentation tank, can help you achieve your goals. From a value perspective, investing in a conical fermentation tank is definitely worth it.