15 Gallon Conical Fermenter and Chamber

This is (for now, but who can really tell) the last of the big builds for our brewery.  We started looking at the FastFerment conical fermenters, but at less than 8 gallons, it was pointless.  This sent me on a search for something we could use for our 10 gallon batches.  After looking in to many choices, we decided that stainless was just too damn expensive.  Plastic seemed to be out of reach, too, until I found the inductor tank.  Researching further, I found that the tanks are made of food safe plastic.  That did it!  a 15 gallon conical tank for less than $100.  Now to find the very best price.  With some looking, I found it at SpraySmarter.com.  Another quick search for a coupon code and I ordered it.

From SpraySmarter.com:
Ace Roto-Mold 15 Gallon Open Flow White Inductor Tank – (Shipping included) $77.59

Note the volume marks on the side.  It’s marked up to 16.5 gallons and it looks like total capacity is over 18 gallons.  We may need to brew a 15 gallon batch for this beast soon!

The tank has a 1-1/2″ NPT threaded output which makes it easy to work with.

Next, I had to decide what the best way to drain from it would be.  Seems that the decision was not mine to make.  As you should know, my Brother-In-Law is a Brew Partner and his wife (my sister) decided that she did not like the shelves in her beer fridge.  They were wire shelves and the bottles would not always sit right.  I spent some time and helped her score a great fridge off Craigslist to replace hers, which she donated to the brewery.  Free Fridge!

After some measurements, I made some adjustments to my thought process and ditched the idea of a yeast collector.  There just simply was not enough space.  These are the parts I ended up using to build it out:

From RuralKing.com:
Banjo 1″ Male Coupler Male Thread Adapter 100F – $3.99
Banjo 1″ Female Coupler Female Thread Adapter 100D – $7.99
Green Leaf Reducer Bushing 1″ Male Threads with 1/2″ Female Threads RB10-12P – $2.19

From BargainFittings.com
1/2″ STAINLESS Quick Disconnect – Male x 1/2″ NPT male – $6.99

From Amazon.com
Stainless Steel 316 Cast Pipe Fitting, 45 Degree Elbow, Class 150, 1″ NPT Female x2 – $8.40
Stainless Steel 304/304L Pipe Fitting, Nipple, Schedule 40 Seamless, 1″ X 2″ NPT Male x2 – $6.80
SuperWhole 1-1/2″x1″ Male Hex Nipple Threaded Reducer Pipe Fitting Stainless Steel 304 NPT – $9.76
4-Rolls Teflon Tape Thread & Fitting Sealant 1/2″ x 520″ Roll – $4.25
(Buy the tape pack from California Tools, you don’t get Prime shipping, but it’s free shipping and it arrived in two days)
Sealing Ring Gasket Pressure Cooker Part 12 Inch Dia 4 Pcs White – $8.18

From eBay:
1″ Jamesbury Ball Valve NPT Threaded Reduced Port CF8M 316SS – $16.24

The first step  is the fridge.  Of course, take out all the shelves and drawers.  We then measured the height of the tank and placed two 1-3/4″ x 1-3/4″ wooden brackets along the sides, giving us enough room to remove the top of the tank.  To do this, we drilled through the side of the fridge and bolted the brackets on.

We then cut an 18″ hole out of some scrap plywood for the tank to fit through.  There is a ledge on the side of the tank that will keep it in place.  The dimensions of the plywood itself were easy enough to get.  Measure side to side and front to back.

Added and extra piece of bracing to the front.

Test fit in the fridge.

Checking all clearances with the tank in place.

Now to check door clearance.  No go.  The door won’t close, time to cut!

Using my trusty angle grinder with a cut off wheel, I went to work on the door.  I was able to keep the bottom shelf on the door.

Voila!  It closes.

Now I can start building the tank out.  Here are the parts I’ll be using all laid out.  I already had the 1″ – 1/2″ reducer and 1/2″ Quick Disconnect put together prior to this picture, and I didn’t want to take them apart.

This is how it will be put together:

But first, I have to clean up the 1-1/2″ to 1″ reducer.  Since this came on the slow boat from China, I didn’t want to go through the return process.  I used my Dremel with a cut off wheel to get rid of this extra steel.  I removed all the burrs that were inside.  Then I soaked the part in StarSan for three hours to sanitize and clean up the work.  This also jump starts the passivation process.  After letting it sit out overnight, I was confident that it was ready.

I wrapped the threads 8-10 times with PTFE tape for all connections

 

 

 

Once the valve was in place, I placed the tank in the fridge, checking clearance.

Since I was happy with the clearance, I put in two gallons of water to perform a leak test.  Of course, I had a connection that started sweating water immediately.  Once that was tightened sufficiently, I let it sit for three hours.

While waiting, This is a good time to cover all the exposed insulation in the door.

I used aluminum duct tape that I had left over from a home improvement project.

You can use whatever you have on hand, it doesn’t really matter what you use, just so it’s covered.

This way, the brittle insulation doesn’t fly into your beer or wort during transfer it it’s brushed up against.

Then I cut a square out of 2″ foam insulation.  This is what will hold the temperature probe to the side of the tank.

I cut the inside to match the curvature of the tank

Then I cut a channel for the probe

Not too deep, just enough for the probe to slide in and out.

I used adhesive squares to affix it to the plywood

Snug up to the tank.

The probe fits nicely and is held against the tank.  The insulation around the probe forces the temperature reading to be taken off the tank and the liquid inside.

Now, you want to talk about a slow boat?  These took over a month to get here!  They were the only 12″ silicone gaskets I could find, and only came in a 4-pack.

The only negative comments I found about the tanks was that the lids didn’t seal very well. That’s why I got these.  They actually fit perfectly.

I thought long and hard about an airlock/blow off tube.  Ranging from PVC,  PVC + Tubing, etc., etc.  Finally, I decided that I would use the 1/2″ ID silicone tubing that I have and just run that into a growler.  I found some rubber grommets that I had purchased a few years ago in a variety pack.  As luck would have it, there was one with an inside diameter of 3/4″, the exact outside diameter of the tubing.  Now I had to decide on the placement.  Naturally, for ease of access and consistent placement, the center of the lid made sense.  My 1″ spade bit made it easy.

I did have to trim down the grommet on one side to fit where I wanted it

Placing the grommet on the underside of the lid to test the fit.

Grommet in place.  Looks like it was shipped that way!

Inside view of the grommet in place

Test fit of the hose.  I couldn’t be happier.

I used the rest of the anti-kink coil I purchased when making the hose for our sparge arm.

Now that the leak test is complete, I finished the connections for the dump valve

This still allows for the door to close, too

Then I add the camlock with the Quick Disconnect for the hose.

Now that I had that together, I could finish running the hose for the blow off tube.  I used my 1″ spade bit to cut a hole in the plywood

Connected the hose to the lid.  You can see the anti-kink coils do exactly what they’re supposed to.  No kinks.  I will be removing the light from the fridge, It was left in for the pictures.

I then placed the growler where I wanted it and cut the hose to fit.  I left enough hose that filling the growler halfway would provide a great airlock.

Now I could add the heat source to the chamber.  As we have done in brewing, we have also tried many methods for our garden.  In doing so, we have extra hardware that we no longer use.  This seedling mat is one of those items.  So now I’ll put it to use.

I used the same aluminum Duct Tape that was used on the door to secure the heat mat in place.

As you can see, the mat is long enough to span the entire back of the refrigerator.

I put some wire clips on the side to keep the wires where they need to be.  Yes, I’m probably being overcautious, but I always separate power from data.  The top wire is the temperature probe, the bottom, the seedling heat mat.

Money shot! Fermentation chamber with 15 gallon conical fermenter complete!

I have it set a 60 degrees to run it as a test.  I used adhesive squares and screws to hold the controller to the fridge.  Yes, once I found out that there were no refrigerant lines in the sides of the fridge, I went a bit crazy with screws, but I am confident that everything will stay where I want it to.  This refrigerator is on the opposite side of the garage from the door entering the house.  With that bright blue LED (it turns red when heating) I can see what the controller is doing just by opening the door to the garage and glancing out.  If you missed it, the controller build is HERE.

I can dump trub at the open camlock after primary fermentation has completed.  If we dry hop, then we can dump the hop sludge prior to connecting the other side of the camlock which reduces to a 1/2″ Quick Disconnect.  This way, we can pump the beer into our bottling buckets.

This was also a really inexpensive build for what it is.  We spent $152.38 total for the build as you see it.  That doesn’t include the controller, but that was detailed in an earlier post with the cost.  If you don’t have a refrigerator or a sister that will donate one to you, first you should shame your sister.  Then, you should be able to find one on craigslist for $100 or less.

Now I can’t wait to fill it up!  This weekend we will be brewing our London Pub Ale and will be using this chamber for the fermentation.  I’ll make another post as an update on the fermentation process and any failures experienced along the way.

6 Replies to “15 Gallon Conical Fermenter and Chamber”

  1. Thank you. Got a batch fermenting now. I'll post pictures of the different steps so we can see how it all looks. Krausen and trub, then pics of the trub dump.

  2. Thanks for putting this together. I'm using a re-purposed 1/2 barrel keg which although stainless, is hard to clean and impossible to dry hop with. I was looking for a replacement 15 gallon fermentor and the Blichmann is not in the budget, this may fill the ticket nicely. If I follow your example, I'll be sure to mention your blog on my blog at http://3dogbrew.blogspot.com
    Mel

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