In this article, we’ll offer our suggestions for the eight best conical fermenters for homebrewers.
Fermentation is an essential part of the brewing process. After all, without fermentation, you really just have a pot full of strange-tasting tea, and that’s not great. Because this step is so important and tends to have the greatest room for error, it’s the process that most breweries spend the most money on.
Walk into any brewery, and the large, conical fermentation vessel is a centerpiece of the brewhouse. These large conical fermenters are valuable tools that allow brewers to dry-hop, reduce sediment, and bring clarity to beers. Breweries spend good money on fermenters because they are a big part of creating a better beer quality.
Many of us as homebrewers started our hobby with a bucket or carboy fermenter. They work fine, and for the home brewer, they are an OK option if you only brew occasionally.
When your hobby gets more serious, especially when you transition to all-grain brewing, you want something that works better and has a lower risk of spoiling your beer.
If you’ve gotten serious about your home brew adventures and are ready to take the next step in improving your brew and making a better beer, a conical fermenter is a must.
Before we did our research on conical fermenters, we were happily fermenting with a plastic bucket. However, after learning more about the benefits of using a conical fermenter, it became clear that we needed an upgrade.
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Why You Should Use A Conical Fermenter For Home Brewing
Before we share our picks for the best conical fermenters, here are some of the benefits that really matter to homebrewing.
Reduced risk of oxidation or infection
This is a huge benefit to using a conical fermenter instead of the plastic bucket fermenter. Conical fermenters create a more airtight environment for fermenting. Many conical fermenters have a door or port that can be used for dry-hopping or adding other flavoring elements to a beer. Additionally, secondary fermentation can be completed in the same vessel without ever opening the fermenter fully. This keeps air and unwanted yeast and bacteria out of your beer, thus keeping it safe from oxidation or fouling.
Many experienced home brewers harvest yeast from their beers, especially if they have good results with a particular strain of brewer’s yeast. Conical fermentation vessels have a dump valve on the bottom. You can easily collect the trub from your beer, store it for yeast harvesting, and reuse it in another beer.
Conical fermenters allow for a more complete settling of sediment from your beer. This improved clarity is thanks to the dump valve on the bottom of the fermenter that will easily remove sediment and trub and then instantly start secondary fermentation in the same vessel.
Fewer pieces of equipment
This idea goes hand in hand with the beer clarity. First, you can use one fermenter for both primary and secondary fermentation. Instead of needing two or three buckets or carboys, a racking cane, tubing, and all the other bits and pieces, you have all you need in one piece of equipment. You can also add your priming sugar directly to your conical fermenter before bottling, which keeps air out of your beer and improves the flavor and efficiency of the carbonation process.
The least fun part of brewing beer is cleaning all the equipment, so it makes sense that if you can find a way to do more and wash less, you would. Because conical fermenters are so useful and can be used for multiple stages in the brewing process, you can use and wash one piece of equipment instead of four.
Conical Fermenter vs. Carboy
One of the questions that we saw asked on numerous brewing forums and product reviews was the difference between the conical fermenter and carboys, particularly how they improve or change the quality of your beer. There are certainly pros and cons to both types of fermenters, but both work well when it comes to fermenting your beer.
Both the carboy and the conical fermenter settle the trub to the bottom of the vessel. Extracting the beer from the trub when using a carboy is done using a racking cane, which siphons the beer off the top.
This is challenging, and very few of us can complete this task without ending up with some sediment in our beer. Conical fermenters allow you to remove the trub from the vessel’s bottom, so you get less sediment in your beer. Unfortunately, this also means that you have to use extra carboys if you want to dry-hop or secondary ferment your beer.
Carboys are generally made of clear glass or food-grade plastic, while conical fermenters are made from stainless steel or food-grade plastics. Both options are safe for making beer.
However, carboys, especially glass carboys, allow light into the fermenter, which can impact the fermentation process. Pick a carboy made from opaque plastic instead of a glass or clear plastic carboy for the best results.
Finally, in our opinion, the most significant difference between conical fermenters and carboys is the safety factor. While glass carboys are a great tool, there have been many instances where a dropped glass carboy causes serious physical harm to a home brewer.
It is the reason many home brewers avoid carboys altogether. Conical fermenters are still heavy, but they don’t shatter, and if you place your fermenter in the right spot, you don’t have to move it until it’s empty and you’re ready to clean and sanitize it.
As much as we would love to try every conical fermenter on the market, they are a bit more expensive than other brewing equipment. So instead, we spent hours reading reviews, looking for the good and the bad, and ranking conical fermenters based on their average ratings. From all of this information, we’ve come up with a list of eight great fermenters for homebrewers.
Best Overall Conical Fermenter
SS BrewTech Chronical Fermenter – 7 gallon
There wasn’t a review or homebrew site that didn’t list the SS BrewTech Chronical (yes, that is the correct spelling) Fermenter. This is a simple to use conical fermenter that is basic but at the same time can be upgraded with features that make it an excellent, multi-function fermenter.
This fermenter has a lower dump valve and a swiveling racking arm. Both of these features mean that you can easily separate beer from trub and sediment. In addition, the domed locking lid has a port for stopper and airlock, so you don’t have to worry about pressure building up in the fermentation chamber.
The reason we like this fermenter best is the accessories that can be added. You can buy temperature control kits for this fermenter, allowing you to maintain fermentation temperature accurately. SS BrewTech’s FTSs heating and chilling units are set inside the fermenter and use pumped glycol to heat or cool your beer. This is an excellent way to lager beer.
- Stands taller than other fermenters
- High-quality stainless steel construction
- Professional grade product at a reasonable price
- Adding temperature control increases the price significantly
- Not rated for pressure fermenting or for carbonation
Best Electrical Conical Fermenter
The Grainfather Pro – 8 gallon
Where to Buy: MoreBeer!
This is one of the more expensive conical fermenters that we reviewed, but when it comes to simplicity and an all-in-one package, the Grainfather is the winner. Because temperature control is so essential to proper fermentation of sugars, having a fermenter that gives you built-in temperature control is just one less step you have to think about.
The Grainfather is a bit larger than some conical fermenters with a maximum capacity of 8-gallons. This fermenter can easily accommodate 5-gallons of a high-gravity beer with plenty of headspace to avoid an overflow of krausen.
- Transfer and sample inlet above the sediment line for clearer beer
- Integrated heating and cooling system
- Double-walled stainless-steel for better insulation
- Doesn’t work well with accessories from other brands
Best Plastic Conical Fermenter
FastFerment Conical Fermenter 7.9-gallon
Where to Buy: Amazon
This is another conical fermenter that we found to be very popular with homebrewers and is well-rated overall. The FastFerment 7.9-gallon conical fermenter is made from food-grade plastic and is lightweight. The wide mouth of this plastic conical fermenter makes transferring wort to the fermenter easy and made for easy cleaning. The lid is fitted with a stopper and airlock for releasing pressure. A yeast collection vessel and bottle filling attachment are included and screw easily onto the bottom of the spigot. The FastFerment comes with a handy wall mount that keeps your fermenters out of the way and reduces the need for you to lift 5 gallons of beer from the floor.
- Lightweight and durable
- No off-taste from the plastic
- Floor stand not included
- Seems to clog easily if dry-hopping
Best Conical Fermenter For Harvesting Yeast
Craft a Brew Catalyst Fermentation System
This is an excellent fermenter for beginner homebrewers or those who have just started to try all-grain brewing. This fermenter looks a lot like a big measuring cup. It is made from Tritan, a medical-grade, BPA-free polymer that is the best of both plastic and glass. The fermentation vessel has easy-to-read volume markings.
One of the things we like the best about this conical fermenter is that it has a wide opening for easy transfer of wort and easy cleaning. The easy-to-remove lid seals tight, which is excellent for dry-hopping and sampling. Additionally, the dump valve is a large 3” butterfly valve that doesn’t clog.
- Very durable material
- Trub trap accommodates standard-size Mason jars
- Largest butterfly valve available on fermenters
- Reasonable price
- Clear polymer exposes beer to light
- Cannot be used for carbonation
Best Value Conical Fermenter
SS BrewTech Brew Bucket – 7 Gallon
Where to Buy: Amazon
This is the original product from SS BrewTech, and even though it’s been around a while, it is still a great product and offers fantastic value. So if you are ready to invest in a conical fermenter and want the benefits of stainless steel without the price, this is a great option.
It doesn’t come with all of the added accessories other fermenters have, but the Brew Bucket is reliable and easy to clean. And the rotating racking arm with a ball valve is designed to allow you to stack Brew Buckets together for easy storage.
- Durable stainless steel construction
- Digital Thermometer Included
- Great price for the quality of the product
- Flat lid reduces available headspace
- Ball valve clogs easy
Best Large Capacity Conical Fermenter
KegLand FermZilla Conical Fermenter – 13.2 gallons
Where to Buy: MoreBeer!
If your homebrewing operations have increased in scale, and you need a fermenter that holds more than 5-gallon batches of beer, then the FermZilla is the conical fermenter for you. This plastic conical fermenter is made from transparent PET, so you can easily keep an eye on the progress of your beer. One of the unique features of the FermZilla line is that they all have a pressure kit accessory that allows you to ferment and carbonate in the same vessel.
This is another fermenter that has the 3”-wide butterfly dump valve and trub trap, so it won’t clog when you’ve dry-hopped your favorite IPA. Additionally, the PET tank is pressure rated up to 34.8 PSI, so you can ferment under pressure and eliminate compounds that cause off-flavors.
- Large Dump Valve
- Reasonable price
- Easy to clean
- Comes with an airlock and adhesive thermometer
- Carbonating in the vessel can weaken the walls
- Trub trap and dump valve can leak under pressure
Best Multi-Purpose Conical Fermenter
Blichman Cornical Fermenter
Where to Buy: MoreBeer!
Our last conical fermenter is the Blichman Cornical Fermenter. This is another conical fermenter with a name that seems misspelled. However, this one’s name gives you a hit to what it can do for your home brewing efficiency. The big selling point of the Blichman Cornical Fermenter is that it easily converts from fermenter to corny keg just by switching out the bottom. This fermenter is rated to 50 psi, so you can easily carbonate in this fermenter or pressure ferment. The other cool thing about the Blichman is that it is really easy to clean as it has a removable base.
This is a pretty fancy conical fermenter and has many features that others don’t, like controlling the pressure during fermentation without using an airlock. In addition, you can buy multiple keg tops for the removable base, so you can use one keg for holding your finished beer while you ferment another.
- Really versatile fermenter
- 1.5” butterfly valve doesn’t clog
- Rotating racking arm
- Tall when fully assembled
- Adding the corny keg lid does expose beer to oxygen.
- High price