The Long Con...ical

Everyone having a good week so far? So are we.

No, we haven't incorporated yet - been far too busy to get that done. That'll surely come next week...until we get delayed again, but I digress.

The theme this week is addition. If you were paying attention on our Facebook and/or Twitter feeds, you saw that GrassLands finally obtained a conical fermenter! The beer geek in me is extremely excited to have this certain style of brewing equipment in our pilot brewing arsenal. If you've got a "huh?" look on your face, let me explain the benefits. Traditionally, homebrewers use either plastic buckets or glass/plastic carboys (bottles) to ferment their beers - we've done both for a long time now. These are all fine & good, but they lack the functionality that comes with a conical fermenter.

Sawyer making things happen...

Why? When your beer ferments, yeast and other products associated with the fermentation process (trub, hot/cold break, etc.) settle down at the bottom of the fermenter over the course of the next few days to several weeks. A conical allows you to collect the healthy yeast and discard the trub, ultimately aiding in making the beer more bright (or clear beer w/no yeast in suspension). On the homebrewing level, it's tough to get completely bright beer without a filtration system, but for some styles, the more bright the better. The fact that you can collect and re-use the yeast with relative ease is the icing on the cake. This is a definite plus for a brewery in-planning as we've been doing the best we can to re-use our yeast for the better part of two years. Re-using yeast is awesome simply for the fact that yeast is arguably one of the most expensive ingredients you can purchase when putting together a recipe. We're all for saving $$ while perfecting our recipes, and conicals make it extremely efficient to re-use yeast.

The lone downer? It's tough to maintain consistent temperatures during the fermentation process. Typically, conical fermenters are pretty bulky & larger than your average 6 gallon bucket or carboy, so they won't fit so easily in a temp-controlled freezer or refrigerator. As such, anyone brewing with a conical fermenter at home has two options:

  1. Figure out an ingenious way to maintain 60-68 degree temps during fermentation (right now I'm typing with frozen fingers as I've got the house a/c cranked down to 66 for our 12 gallon IPA to ferment happily), or
  2. Simply ferment style-specific beers that are capable of fermenting at higher, less consistent temps - such as Belgian/French beers like saisons, tripels, witbiers, etc. - as well as certain types of sours.

The other potential issue with conicals, especially with one like mine, is that while made w/food grade, durable PET plastic, it's tough to clean sometimes. Sawyer, as I'm lovingly calling my conical, will get a hot, oxyclean bath at cleanin' time after each fermentation is through. You can't aggressively clean the material with a bottle brush like you might with a glass carboy, for the nasties (bacteria) like to hide away in those scratches. This'll take a gentle touch w/a sponge - equaling more time spent cleaning, but oh well. I'm a happy camper nonetheless. As of right now, Sawyer's efficiently aiding in the fermentation of our first test batch of IPA - huzzah! :D Plus, it makes me feel like we're that much closer toward brewing legitimacy as just about every commercial brewer utilizes conical fermenters.

That'll about do it for this week - a crazy, travel-filled weekend through Orlando, Tampa & St. Pete is coming right up! In fact, I'll probably be driving by the time you read this (and you are reading down this far, aren't you?)...but we're really looking forward to touring/visiting/chatting with some awesome brewers in the region. Stoked! So you too have an awesome weekend, my dear readers, because you most definitely deserve it! Can't wait to report back!

Prost!