How to Choose a Home Brew Fermenter

Whether you’re just starting out brewing or looking to upgrade. There’s a lot to consider when picking the perfect fermenter. The fermentation process is one of the most important parts of brewing. Without fermentation, we wouldn’t have beer, wine cider, or many other delicious beverages. Having the right fermenter can make all the difference in making the best drink possible. Sometimes choosing from too many varieties and brands can be a bit of a headache. But we are here to help.

While you are choosing your new fermenter maybe you want to learn more about Fermentation Under Pressure Easy Guide.

The Materials

The first place to start is the material that the fermenter is made with. The three most common types are glass, plastic, and stainless steel.

Different types of glass, plastic and stainless steel fermenters for beer brewing.
Credit: https://www.northernbrewer.com/blogs/new-to-brewing-start-here/fermentation

Glass is the go-to for many beginner brewers because it’s often sold in part of home brewing kits. The best part about glass is that it’s impermeable to oxygen. Meaning that it’s perfect for long-term storage and oxygen-sensitive brews. Since glass doesn’t breathe. Glass is also super easy to clean. However, it’s super easy to break. It can also be heavy. Lastly, depending on the color of glass you can have issues with light exposure.

Plastic is also very common with new brewers for the same reason as glass. Additionally plastic is inexpensive and fairly durable. Plastic can be easily scratched that can cause areas to collects bacteria that can potentially infect your fermenter. So it’s best not to use abrasive or metal tools with plastic. It can come in many forms and colors. In general, make sure you use food-safe plastic that is meant for reuse.

Stainless steel is what most people see as a gold standard for fermenters. Breweries around the world use them to create beer every day. Stainless steel should last you a lifetime if taken care of properly. But it comes with a higher price tag. they are nearly scratch resistant and can handle how rort going in them better than plastic does. Stainless steel is also extremely easy to clean. they often come with various outputs that can give you more flexibility but can increase your overall cost. Another downside besides the price is you can’t really see what’s going on inside the fermenter.

Another option that isn’t as common on the homebrewing scale is wood, as in wood barrel. there are some new options out there but generally, wood is meant for more long-term storage and aging.

Buckets, Carboys and Conicals

A fermenter bucket and a fermenter carboy.
Credit: https://brulosophy.com/2020/11/23/fermentation-vessel-hdpe-bucket-vs-pet-carboy-in-a-pale-ale-exbeeriment-results/

Buckets are the homebrewer’s best friend. Brewers have been using buckets in some way for decades. they are simple and easy to move around. Some buckets have spigots and some don’t. Most common is the plastic bucket since they are inexpensive. Plastic buckets can have other uses in the brewery once their life as a fermenter has passed.

The typical carboy is usually made of glass and has a narrow opening. Glass carboys can also be used to homebrew for a long time. they are perfect for aging wine or other drinks that need a little more time to mellow up. But the narrow opening makes it difficult to clean.

Glass carboys don’t have any spigots. Luckily in the last 20 years, there have been some great improvements in plastic carboys. They have much wider mouths and the potential for a spigot for simple transfers. Either way, carboys are not the easiest thing to lift or hold on to.

Different types of conical fermenters for beer brewing.
Credit: https://beerandbrewing.com/ask-the-experts-do-i-need-a-conical-fermentor-to-make-good-beer/

Conicals are all the rage these days. Probably because breweries utilize a conical for fermenting to encourage the yeast to drop out. The conical shape allows the yeast to slide down towards a point where there’s either a spout that the brewer can collect the yeast or rack the beer off without getting any yeast slush. Some homebrewing conicals even have a collection ball on the bottom for the yeast to fall into so you can remove it reducing the overall amount of flocculated yeast.

Those collection balls can also double as a place to dry hops from as long as you can ensure it oxygen-free space. Conicals are usually seen in plastic form and stainless steel. And because of their shape, they usually come with a stand or have legs for stability.

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