Fermentation equipment is pretty simple for the homebrewer. When setting up a brewing station at home, you have a few basic choices for the equipment you’ll use.
Plastic Fermentation Bucket
The first option is MoreBeer.com’s Plastic Fermentation Bucket. This equipment is great for the following reasons:
- Easy to find and cheap
- You can gather top-fermenting yeast while fermentation is at high krausen
- Easy to stir, oxygenate, fine, add additives to, etc.
- You can use a heat belt to raise the fermentation temperature
You can attach a transfer valve to drain the bucket or attach a bottle filler to easily bottle your beer. However, there are some disadvantages when going this route, such as:
- Scratches easily, harboring bacteria
- You can’t see what’s going on inside
- Plastic allows too much oxygen to enter which can oxidize your beer.
This equipment is fine for a beginner. In fact, most homebrewers start with the Plastic Fermentation Bucket as their main equipment and end up keeping several around.
FerMonster Carboy with Spigot
- Large 6 gallon pet plastic carboy with spigot and wide lid opening
- Drilled lid is included - just add a #10 stopper & airlock
- Large 4 inch
Another good option for fermentation equipment is the classic glass carboy. This product is widely available, from your local homebrew shop to various online stores. Glass Carboys are non-permeable, and allow you to see the fermentation process inside.
The obvious drawbacks to this equipment are that it weighs a lot, and if you drop it, you not only lose your beer but also have a huge mess to clean up. Plus, breaking one glass carboy may get you a trip to the emergency room.
This has always been the most widely used fermenter by the advanced homebrewer. Most use glass carboys as secondary fermenters, but you can use them as your primary fermenter with either a stopper and airlock or 1″ clear blow-off tube.
The blow-off tube allows the foam and everything it brings to the surface (hops, cold and hot break proteins, yeast) to escape into a jug or container of water or sanitizer.
Some people feel that the foam at high krausen shouldn’t be allowed to fall back into the beer. They feel that it causes bitterness and offsets the intended flavor profiles. During a vigorous ale fermentation at high krausen (the most active phase of fermentation), so much foam and residue is formed that it will blow the stopper and airlock right out of a carboy, resulting in a huge mess.
Eventually, this foam and sediment will “fall” back into the beer and either settle on the bottom or get incorporated into the beer. With a blow-off tube in place instead of an airlock, this foam “blows” out the tube and into a receptacle with water or sanitizer in it.
The other end of the hose is usually under the fluid so you can still monitor the CO2 bubbles during fermentation.
Many homebrewers are fermenting in a corny keg these days. With the price of glass carboys almost as high as a used corny keg, and the dangers associated with picking them up when they’re full, it might make sense for you, too.
(To learn about fermenting in a keg, click here.)
- HOMEBREW: Before the Brew Bucket, there were no affordable stainless steel fermenters available to the home brewer. Often imitated, never duplicated, the mini c Brew Bucket continues to be the perfect fermenter for smaller batches.
- CONICAL BASE: The conical base of the brew bucket is designed to minimize trub interaction with finished beer. A rotatable racking arm allows you to effortlessly rack off clean beer just like the pro's do in Ss Unitanks.
- LCD THERMOMETER: Housed within a weldless thermowell the LCD thermometer clearly displays that monitors the temperature of your fermentation to within 1 degree.
A somewhat recent addition to the fermentation equipment available to homebrewers is the stainless fermenter. If you don’t want or can’t afford to purchase a conical, then this is probably your best option.
Stainless fermenters are easy to clean, don’t harbor bacteria, are virtually indestructible, have pressed volume markings (delineated in gallons), the 14-gallon fermenter (pictured) will easily handle 10-gallon batches, and, best of all, they really look cool.
Chapman Brewing Company makes one of the most affordable Stainless Fermenters on the market today – we highly recommend that you give them a try!
With some special, or adapted equipment, you can also ferment in a commerical keg. Here is a gadget that will allow you to ferment in 15-gallon commercial Sanke kegs.
The Blichmann Cornical Keg & Fermentor is a unique fermentation and kegging system like nothing on the market. Made into two main pieces, the Cornical Keg & Fermentor allows you to ferment, carbonate, and serve all in one vessel.
The first piece of the Cornical is a keg system with a removable bottom that makes cleaning ridiculously fast and easy.
The second piece is a versatile conical bottom that clamps onto the keg and converts it into a fermentor.
The versatile design allows you to purchase multiple kegs and utilize the fermentation kit simply by switching the cone bottom to the keg bottom after fermentation. Afterward, you dispense in the keg and utilize the cone on another keg to ferment an additional batch.
The ultimate fermenter is the stainless steel conical fermenter. An all-stainless steel conical fermenter eliminates the need to transfer beer or wine from a primary to a secondary.
You can dump trub and yeast sediment without transferring the beer, easily sample the wort, and harvest yeast. As well, unlike simple conicals, the rotating racking arm lets you siphon out completely sediment-free beer.
The only drawback for the average homebrewer is the cost. You have to be pretty serious about your hobby to purchase one of these. However, it makes things simpler, and there is less of a chance of contamination from transferring to the secondary.
An even more advanced fermentation system is the glycol-cooled conical fermenter with digital temperature control.
Ferment 10-gallon batches of beer in these beautiful conical fermenters, and control the temperature of your fermenting beer to within 1 degree, any time of the year!
The included Dual-Stage Controller will simultaneously control both the cooling unit and the 40-watt heater.
The cooling unit mounts to the outside of the cone with no internal contact with the beer. The cooling is extremely gentle on your yeast, changing wort temperatures at about a degree an hour.
It can get to and hold your ale fermentation temperatures of 65-72° Fahrenheit even in ambient temps of 100° Fahrenheit. In addition, it can get to and hold lager fermentation temperatures of 48-52° Fahrenheit all the way up to ambient temperatures of 80° Fahrenheit.