Fermentation Equipment – What’s Best?
Fermentation equipment is pretty simple for the homebrewer. You have a few basic choices.
First is MoreBeer.com’s Plastic Fermentation Bucket.
These are available from most homebrew shops (check out MoreBeer.com’s Plastic Buckets & Carboys). Some of the advantages of this type of fermentation equipment include
- They are easy to find and cheap
- You can gather top-fermenting yeast while fermentation is at high krausen
- They are easy to stir, oxygenate, fine, add additives to etc.
- You can use a heat belt to raise the fermentation temperature
- You can attach transfer valve to drain the bucket or attach a bottle filler to easily bottle your beer.
Some disadvantages include:
- Easily scratched, harboring bacteria
- You can’t see what is going on inside
- Plastic allows too much oxygen to enter which can oxidize your beer.
For the beginner, these are fine and most homebrewers begin with one of these as their fermentation equipment and keep several around.
FerMonster Carboy with Spigot
The Ported Fermonster is a brand new fermenter designed specifically for fermentation. MoreBeer! gave product feedback for over 2 years of development and we think they nailed the design. The large lid allows for easy filling and makes hop or oak additions a breeze. The smooth sides are fantastic for sanitization – no ribs or texture to collect yeast or bacteria. The large 7 gallon size was designed to provide ample space for fermentation and you’ll find the molded in volume markers super handy for accurate filling. The punted bottom allows sediment to collect to the sides so that you can siphon liquid from the center. Because they are made from virgin PET plastic they nearly unbreakable and a lot safer than similar glass carboys. Also notice the conical top which reduces surface area if you plan to store beer or wine long term.
These ported versions come with our plastic spigot allowing for easy racking and sampling!
Made from heavy PET plastic, the same material used in 2 L soda bottles, which is nearly impermeable to oxygen penetration. Due to the thickness of the material and the overall geometry the Fermonster does not require ribs or dimples for stability. That results in a super smooth interior surface that reduces yeast and sediment buildup making it the easiest to clean, most sanitary PET carboy on the market. The huge 4″ opening makes filling a breeze, and cleanup is as easy as wiping down the inside. The 7 gallon volume is a monster of a fermenter, reducing blowoff issues seen with standard 5 and 6 gallon carboys. Fermonsters are easily moved by hand or consider using our Carboy Carrier for even greater ease of use.
These fermentors are completely air-tight and the lids sealed tight with an O-Ring.
Another good option in fermentation equipment is the classic glass carboy. They are widely available from your local homebrew shop or online. Glass Carboys are non-permeable, and allow you to see what’s going on inside.
The obvious drawbacks are they weigh a lot and if you drop them, you lose your beer plus have a huge mess to clean up. Plus, breaking one may get you a trip to the emergency room. They have 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 should not be allowed to fall back into the beer. They feel that it causes bitterness and off flavors. 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, making 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.
Fermenting in a Corny Keg
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 up glass carboys full of beer, it might make sense for you too. To learn about fermenting in a keg, click here.
A somewhat recent addition to the fermentation equipment available to homebrewers is the stainless fermenter. If you don’t want to, or can’t afford to purchase a conical, then these are probably your best option. They are easy to clean, don’t harbor bacteria, are virtually indestructible, they have pressed volume markings (delineated in gallons), the 14 gallon fermenter (pictured) will easily handle 10 gallon batches, and they really look cool. Chapman Brewing Company makes one of the most affordable Stainless Fermenters on the market today. You should 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
Blichmann Cornical Keg & Fermentor
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. Then 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 fermenters 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, harvest yeast, and, 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. But, it makes things simpler, and there is less of a chance of contamination from transferring to the secondary.
MoreBeer.com’s Conical Fermenters
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.