A Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine reader recently asked us the following question:
I see a lot of homebrewers switching to conical plastic or stainless-steel fermentors. Do I need a conical fermentor to make good beer?
A conical fermentor has a cylindrical main fermentor attached to a conical bottom. The cone is typically set at around a 60° angle, which allows any sediment or yeast to slide rapidly down the cone and settle in the bottom. This leaves minimal contact between the sediment and beer and makes it easy to draw the sediment/yeast off the bottom using some kind of dump valve at the bottom of the cone.
A conical fermentor is what professionals call a “unitank,” in that every stage of fermentation can be completed in the same vessel (primary, secondary, tertiary, clearing/aging) without needing to transfer the beer from vessel to vessel. Yeast can be harvested for reuse from the bottom of the tank, and typically, every few days the sediment is drawn off so it will not affect remaining beer. Commercial conicals also have temperature control for precise fermentation profiles.