Friday, December 10, 2010

Stainless Steel Conical Fermenter - Parts and Costing

Dec. 10th 2010  

    If you're like me then right after you bottled your first batch of beer you sat there wondering about all of these really cool conical fermenters people keep writing about. It's everywhere on the net. They promise you things like the ability to reuse your yeast, the ability to ferment and condition your brew in one container (less really big containers to cleanup), and cool valves that you can use to bottle or keg. Really cool! However, after a few trips around the google block you might realize that your gonna be forking out a lot of money for one of those 304 stainless steel conical fermenters. Hard to cope with that cost when the return is minimal. We'll I've been there and analyzed that, and now I'm gonna share it all with you. In the bulk of this post I will even lay down some really cool websites, some price tables, and other gems that should get you on the right track to building your own conical fermenter. I feel like Bob Vila when I say this but, "Lets get started."

    Check out  www.conical-fermenter.com  Stout fermenters are the cheapest pretties fermenters I've seen online. They should be, they ship direct from China and I think they're hand polished. Hard to beat that. You have to order them in advance too. The next best thing is going to cost you a few more C-notes, but it will come from www.blichmannengineering.com/fermentor/fermentor.html  a place right at the heart of Indiana USA.  Yep these guys know what American brewers want...  gadgets, gadgets, and high price tags. Well I got 2 out of the three right. If you're like me then the high price tag negates the purchase possibility. We can try to go lower though. Can't we? We can always try to get something for nothing. That's my nature! Alright! Ready? Let's go.


#1)     304 Stainless Steel 15 Gal DIY Conical Fermenter:

    Lets DIY. That should save us some bucks and it does. But in order to DIY right we first have figure out how much all this stuff is gonna cost. Now I'm going for a very specific fermenter it has to be large enough to hold at least 15gals with room. It needs to have a racking valve, and also a dump valve for the yeast collection, and it has to have a lid that seals. There needs to be a lot of space in the opening so that I can clean the thing out, and there has to be some gadgets. Most importantly it has to be really well made. Why shouldn't it. It's gonna be made right here at home. Lets take a look at the parts list.

Costs are from 2010.

Cost for 1
Item#
Description
Supplier
Part#
Cost
Total w/Tax (9.5%)
Web Site
1
Conical Hopper
Tolido Spinning
TMS201014
 $          248.00
 $                  271.56
2
Lid
Tolido Spinning
TMSL2016
 $            59.00
 $                    64.61
3
Racking Valve
Stout
3/4" sanitary ball valve
 $            29.99
 $                    32.84
4
Hose Barb
Stout
3/8" Hose Barb
 $               9.99
 $                    10.94
5
Weldless Thermometer
Stout
Brewers Themometer
 $            24.99
 $                    27.36
6
Steel for Frame
I-Beam or C-Channel
 $            20.00
 $                    21.90
7
Misc
 $            50.00
 $                    54.75
Total
 $          441.97
 $        483.96
Cost for 5
Item #
Description
Supplier
Part#
Cost
Total w/Tax (9.5%)
1
Conical Hopper
Tolido Spinning
TMS201014
 $      1,035.00
 $              1,133.33
2
Lid
Tolido Spinning
TMSL2016
 $          295.00
 $                  323.03
3
Racking Valve
Stout
3/4" sanitary ball valve
 $          149.95
 $                  164.20
4
Hose Barb
Stout
3/8" Hose Barb
 $            49.95
 $                    54.70
5
Weldless Thermometer
Stout
Brewers Themometer
 $          124.95
 $                  136.82
6
Steel for Frame
Anywhere
I-Beam or C-Channel
 $          100.00
 $                  109.50
7
Misc
 $          250.00
 $                  273.75
Total
 $      2,004.85
 $              2,195.31
Price/Unit
 $                    439.06


    If you want to build one then it will cost about 483.96. If you want to build five then they will cost about 439.06 each. Of course this is a 21gal fermenter, but you can custom make any size you need since it's DIY.

   This is for a 21gal fermenter and it includes the information you need to purchase each item. There's the website and even a Part # for the more important parts. I have to warn you though. You have to be good at welding. This is my down fall as well. I don't have one. But as soon as I have a Ar/CO2 gas shielding wire fed MIG 110v Welder then... Oh yeah Watch out. Caz I'm gonna build 5 of these. You save $44 on each one if you build 5 at a time. Not a huge savings, but worth it if you have buddies that want them. 

So 483.96 to get the stuff you need to build one. That's still expensive, but it might make you feel better to know that when you get to the 21 gal size your actually saving about $500. That's worth it too me, but not doable under current economic conditions. 

#2)    Inductor Plastic Conical Fermenter:

    I thought for sure that I mentioned earlier that we wanted to get one of these things for free. We'll I don't know if we can get it for free but if you're willing to compromise in material (steel to plastic) then we can  get the price down to a fraction of even this, with out the need to use any welding. Basically if you can put in the pipes under a sink then you can construct one of these "Inductor" conical fermenters. Remember the word "Inductor" because that's what these plastic conical fermenting tanks go by. just type it into  your browser and see for your self.
    First of all we aren't going sacrifice quality at all. We are simply going to compromise on materials that we use. With that said go ahead and check this one out  http://www.plastic-mart.com/class.php?item=2800  This is by far one of the best inductor conical tanks that I've seen online. It's not the cheapest but it does state some very important information that makes it a little easier to plan ahead with the construction of the final product. They give us the size and type of fitting for the Dump Valve. It will work with regular plumbing so everything you need will be at your local Hardware store, and since it's plastic you can drill holes in it and use any of your weldless fittings on it. It also appears that the plastic that they use is very durable, you can get your arm in there to clean out the tough to reach places, and best of all there is a pressure tight threaded screw on lid that comes with it. Quality, yes? I think so. And no need for that MIG welder. Oh yeah it comes with a stand. 

These links and hints should get you started in the right direction. I will post more when I have finished with these DIY projects myself.

There are a few people that have come before us, and I think that it's only fair to give them an honorable mention. They are in the "League of Extraordinary Home-Brew Do it Yourselfers"

Long Lasting:
Stainless Steel 21 gal Conical Fermenter DIY:
Yuri Rage
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/diy-conical-fermenter-14855/

Frugal:
Polyethylene 14.5 gal Inductor Conical Fermenter DIY:
Joe Airstrup
http://frugalconicalfermenter.blogspot.com/


Recently I've finished my 50th home brew in a Inductor Tank Conical Fermenter that I build my self. See Below.

These tanks last a long time but you should be careful cleaning them. I will most likely upgrade to a stainless steel conical however I wont do it until my Inductor Tank Conical fails me.


_________________________________________________________________________________
DO IT YOURSELF INDUCTOR TANK CONICAL FERMENTER
-HOW TO TUTORIAL-



Dec 24th 2010

   We'll I posted previously about how much it would cost to build a conical fermenter. Since then I was able to get all the supplies I needed to build the Polyethylene Inductor Tank Conical Fermenter. It was actually very easy. I even took pics of the project from start to finish so that you could get a real feel for it. Lets start with what parts I needed and what I did with them.

   I got the inductor tank that already had a screw on lid and also a 1.5 inch threaded plug. This made is much easier to add the ball valve to the bottom because 1.5 inch is a standard plumbing size. I bought a 1.5 inch male fitting, 1/2 inch female fitting, and a 1/2 male ball valve. I also got three 4" casters wheels for the stand. The casters have a threaded bolt that is 3/8 inch which matched the bolt holes already in the stand.





Delivered! Unwrapped!














Stuff I needed.












It rolls good. This will help when moving it while it's full. I brew in the garage and ferment in the house.
























The tank comes with a plug. Take the plug with you to the hardware store so that you can get the fitting that you need. Pick up a Ball valve while you are there. You'll also need some PVC primer and Blue Glue.

The PVC Primer and Blue Glue are a 2 part type of glue that is similar to a plastic welding process. When the PVC Primer is mixed with the Blue Glue it will harden and weld with the PVC.








































Put all your fittings and ball valve together. You'll need to apply Teflon tape to the ball valve threads because it's metal. Use a lot of Teflon Tape. Normally you want to do at least 3 layers of teflon. However some experts will go with more. I've had luck with 3 layers so I use it, but if I'm worried at all about the surface condition of the threads, I'll add a couple of layers. You'll never want to use less than 3 layers.





Take the plug out and insert the modified ball valve assembly. Looks Good, Feels Good.
















Once you're confident that you got the seal right fill it with water and test your work. I'm testing mine in the shower for a few days with tap water.



So far I have successfully added the Yeast dump valve and the casters. Still to do is adding a racking valve, gasket for the threaded lid, and a hole for the Air Lock. Since I have 2 weeks before my next brewday. I'll focus on those things next weekend.
When adding any thing to your fermenter, you'll want to go with a weld less fitting. Drill a hole just slightly larger than the weld less fitting. You should be fine.



Dec 27th 2010

Ok, I got around to finishing up the racking valve. Here's a photo. This valve will be connected to a hose for filling bottles and kegs so there is a barb on it. Since this is all custom work I recommend that you customize yours to what ever equipment you have. I use a small barb for small diameter ID hoses, just because that's what I prefer, and it's easily adaptable. Go with what you like.






Jan 9th 2011

   I decided to place a temperature controller on this fermenter. By doing this I don't have to turn the heat on in the house while no one's home. This heating pad lines about 25% of the exterior of the fermenter. I have also ordered an On/Off Switch Temperature Controller with temperature probe. The Temperature controller will turn the heating pad on when the temperature gets too low and off when it gets to the right temperature. This will allow for better control over the fermenting process.










Jan 13th 2013

   Time flies. I still use this fermenter for brewing and it still gives a very good beer. Kevin recently purchased a stout stainless steel conical fermenter for his brewing process. It's a gorgeous 14 gal fermenter. I like how it looks, but I just can't justify upgrading when this one works just as good or maybe even better.
Of course the poly ethylene is much softer than 304 stainless steel so I have to be very careful not to scratch the inside while cleaning it. If that's a concern of your's I would definitely pay the extra few hundred $$ for the steel fermenter. Another drawback to the steel fermenter is that the stand does not readily accept casters, so you have to weld or rig up something if you want rollers. The steel is a bit heavier but when either of these fermenters is full they are pretty much, equality hard to move around.


   For comparison I've added this photo of the Stout Conical Fermenter. This is a well made inexpensive fermenter that's made in China. You notice that is doesn't have any holes on the legs to mount casters, so if you want them you'll have to make a bracket drill some holes and bolt it on, or weld them on.

Image taken from
conical-fermenter.com





   This fermenter also has a thermometer mounted on it. If your using a temperature controller then you'll already be monitoring the temp with the controller, however it's always nice to have extra temperature monitoring. All of the valves and thermometer have hardware holding them on that is completely removable and cleanable. You can also order parts for everything from Stout.

   Of course I'm only discussing this in comparison to the Polyethylene that I build before. Between Kevin and I we've brewed at least 50 times using the Polyethylene fermenter and it still provide consistent good tasting beer. I will Post on here as soon as it dies.

   This is something that you should never have to worry about using a stainless steel fermenter, as you can clean it as hard as you want with severe cleansers and the steel should hold up well. Although I've read that you should not use highly concentrated bleach on 304 stainless because it may cause pitting. With Polyethylene you must to use mild detergents.


If you have any questions about any of my posts, let me know. I will get back to you.

Travis








7 comments:

  1. Greetings Travis; Did you do anything to make the lid "airtight" on the poly conical? I just bought a couple poly conicals from Den Hartog with the poly legs, which has the same lid. I see someone online went to much trouble "sealing" the lid with food-grade silicone, because it isn't airtight (and then installed a blow off valve fitting). Just curious if you did the same, or did you effectively open-ferment without trouble? Also, any trouble with leaking of the racking arm? Did you have any sort of tube inside the racking arm fitting? cheers and thank you, Rod Daigle email: daigle2010@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rod

      It isn't an air tight seal as is. If you want to get it air tight then you'll have to go through the trouble of using the silicon. My conical has been used by myself and my friend Kevin. We both have different ideas about getting the conical airtight. Kevin has always been able to get a air tight seal on the fermenter by using weather stripping, but I think that the silicon seal would work just as well. You'll have to seal it in 2 places where the flange meets the conical and also where on the lid that screws on meets.
      However, I never saw the need to get the seal myself. Once the ferment starts the danger of getting an infection is minimal due to the existing seal. It always seemed to me that the crack was so small that it didn't allow for any draft and the it was just large enough to prevent a true seal. I just capped it off and didn't worry about it. Of course I'm very stringent when it comes to being sanitary during the whole process. The airlock is a good way to measure your fermentation process, since you can visually account for CO2 leaving the fermenter. However after brewing for a while I found that I needed less and less reassurance in my brewing. With the conical you can also dump yeast and account for activity in that manner.
      So to make a long answer short. I open fermented with out any trouble.

      There shouldn't be any leaking, Make sure your weldless fitting has a good O-ring on it.

      Cheers and happy brewing.

      Also could you send me some pics, I'd like to see how it looks.

      Delete
  2. Hi Travis,

    Thanks for your super-informative blog. I am building my own 60g plastic conical fermenter now. I'm almost done with it but have a question for you.

    I am able to access my dump valve but pulling the plug out of the bottom of the conical, but how do you access the racking valve? I can't reach it . Have you had better luck or is there a tool you use?

    Thanks!
    Robert.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Robert

      The weldless fittings I used for my project require you to tighten them from both sides. You may have to find another way to put it on all together. I wonder if there's a plastic equivalent of welding? Is your tank made of PolyEthylene?

      Travis

      Delete
  3. Hi Travis

    Yes, the fermenter is a poly-type construction. Here's the link to it:

    http://www.denhartogindustries.com/blow-mold-inductor-tanks-with-poly-stand-set/

    I was able to crawl into the fermenter and tighten down the valve, but I don't think it's a good long-term solution (given that I almost dislocated my shoulder this time). I wonder if there's an arm extension that can reach that far?

    Thanks,
    Robert.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Travis:

    Just a comment on your SS pricing.
    It's nice that you are shopping American, but this is one of those cases where the price differential is to great to be loyal.
    I've been an industrial designer for many years.
    All the way back to the pre-China era. (that's not anything like the dinosaur era) Most industrial designers will tell you they are "parts sorcerers"; and I start by telling you that I can buy an industry standard commercial SS 100L (27 gal.) cooking pot (Just google 500 x 500 or 100L pot.) for $25 bucks.(and that includes the lid) Yes that requires small quantities and they don't stack, so shipping is large. But all in all that is many times cheaper than the $200 plus ($300 plus) I see for said pot at this link. This is also the same price range for similar sized conicals.
    If you sampled one you would end up close to these large prices, but if you Group purchased/ kick-started even just a dozen, you would land these several times cheaper. aka poly prices.
    I would do this, but I am a long way from believing that poly doesn't do the job just fine.
    And on that note I see Poly conicals at $7 to $10 a pound. (for $1/LB poly) So I am investigating this also. I want 15+ gallon fermentors and I see the opertunity here to design it from the ground up. It will not that many at these prices, to pay for tooling.
    If you know of any "ultimate beer fermenter" chats/discussions let me know. May do a kickstart.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Still working fine? Any changes or failures?

    ReplyDelete