Friday was a very exciting day for us. We got our stainless fermenters! We purchased two 1.5 BBL and one 3 BBL stainless fermenters from Stout Tanks in February and have been counting down the days until they would ship. Well, they finally arrived!
So what’s the big deal? Not only will it mean better beer, but it will also mean more beer, as we will be doubling production in order to get some beer out to some accounts in preparation for our expansion, as well as bottles. In addition, we have one 14 gallon conical en route from SS Brewtech, which we will use for test batches and variants. For the past year and a half, we have been using plastic inductor tanks from Ruralking to ferment our beer, a great cheap option for nanos. They have served us reasonably well and we have made some fine beer with them, but they have some limitations.
So why the change, and why after this long? First, the inductor tanks are neither airtight nor lightproof. Even after lining the collars with food-grade sillicone, I was never able to get them completely sealed. In addition, HDPE is oxygen permeable, although the rate is so low it is negligible for a two week fermentation time.
Second, the inductor tanks do not have a port for racking above the yeast. When I kegged, I would hook up a diaphragm pump to the bottom of the cone and pull from there. Even after dumping yeast, I would inevitable pull some of it into the kegs. Not terrible, as it would settle out, but it required my kegs to be babied, as any shaking would result in the yeast getting kicked up. Even handled gently, they still sometimes required a period of 15 minutes to settle after moving them in order to serve brite beer. Not good, and especially not good for sending beer to restaurants and festivals. Why not install a port on an inductor tank? My feeling was that this would be an easy point for contamination, using a bolted on ball valve or plastic spigot that would be very hard to remove and clean.
Third, dry-hopping isn’t as effective in an inductor tank. Since I had to pull from the cone, I couldn’t add my hops directly into the beer since they would end up in the keg. Instead, I had to add the hops inside a nylon paint strainer bag tied to the side of the fermenter. With less dispersion and contact area with the beer, I would get less flavor out of my dry hops. Lastly, there was no way to deal with the negative pressure when kegging. Air would be pulled down into the top of the tank as I kegged the beer. Not terrible, as there is a fair amount of CO2 sitting above the beer, but not optimal. With the new tanks, beer can be racked from above the cone using CO2 pressure. By simply taking the blow-off tube from the top and attaching it to a CO2 tank and regulator outfitted with a low pressure gauge, I can push the beer out of the racking port at 2 PSI and into the kegs. No exposure to air or light, just brite beer. Why didn’t we get these sooner? When we opened in 2013, there was only one manufacturer of smaller conicals, Blichmann Engineering. While Blichmann makes some cool things, their fermenters were around 3 grand a piece. Now, there are a couple companies making nanobrewery-sized equipment. Our fermenters ran $1200-$1500 each–much more affordable for us. We celebrated the arrival of our new tanks by brewing our Galaxy single-hop American IPA, Storm, and two variants: a peach habanero and a cherry cayenne version!