Why Is Weld Free Important?
Blichmann's competitors talk about the quality of their sanitary welds and the skill of their welders. But a sanitary weld is nothing more than a weld that is done in an oxygen-free environment on both
sides of the weld using an inert gas. Since there is little oxygen in the area of the weld, burning and porosity are greatly reduced, but not completely eliminated. These welds are usually done from the outside
of the tank while the inside of the tank (which is the critical area) is not visible to the welder while welding. Others do weld from the inside, but the small confined area makes this weld very difficult and requires "elaborate" procedures to produce a reasonable quality weld.
In the real world, there is no such thing as a microscopically flaw free weld as any welding Engineer can attest to. Depending on the skill of the welder, and the day he or she is having, the remaining flaws (quench cracks, porosity and cold laps) will vary and are usually not visible to the naked eye. Many elaborate methods are used to reduce these flaws, but unless they are microscopically inspected and repaired, there is no way to determine if the flaws in the weld are small enough (0.5 micron or less) to not present a sanitation or corrosion problem.
Clearly, the best design is one that is not susceptible to human or process error and doesn't require elaborate welding procedures to reduce quality problems. Subsequently, that design will have little variation in quality. Quite simply, that was the driving force in the design of the FermenatorTM and Blichmann's quality is very high, very repeatable and absolutely free of any possible flaw.
Their weld free fittings are a snap to install and thoroughly clean which simply cannot be done with a welded fitting.
Why do commercial breweries use welded tanks and fittings? Due to the sheer size of commercial fermentors they are made by welding rolled sheets of steel together. The welds are subsequently ground and polished and then non-destructively tested for microscopic flaws. And since commercial breweries often utilize hot steam for sanitization, it is less of a problem even if a flaw is present.
Since homebrew sized fermentors (fermenters) are too small inside to grind, polish and polish from the inside, these flaws can't be removed -- or detected. And improper grinding techniques can cause micro-cracking too! Steam sanitizing is not a realistic option for homebrewers. Fortunately, the homebrew tanks are small enough to be deep drawn from a single sheet of stainless steel and formed without any welding whatsoever. So why take a flaw free tank and add welds to it?
What happens in these flaws?
Obviously this is a good place for bacteria to hide since liquids carrying sanitizer have a hard time penetrating these small flaws, due mostly to the surface tension of the water. And since oxygen can't readily travel to these flaws, the protective CrO2 layer that stainless steel naturally forms in the presence of air (oxygen) can't form on the walls of the flaw. Eventually these flaws will grow through rusting of the base metal (iron). In extreme cases, these flaws can propagate through the wall of the tank and leak.
Although the weld-free fittings are more expensive than welded fittings, we think it's well worth it for peace of mind, clean bacteria-free beer, and a fermenter that will last a lifetime.
High quality fittings
All fittings used for the bottom dump and rotating racking arm are specially made stainless steel high quality industrial
fittings, not make shift hardware store parts and pipe fittings sandwiched between o-rings like most "weld-free kits" available at homebrew supply stores. Competitive designs utilize compression fittings which have inherent corrosion and bacteria problems. The ferrule on a compression fitting locks in place on the racking tube and, as above, prevents a flow of oxygen to the surfaces under the fitting allowing pitting and corrosion to take place. Threaded fittings that can't be disassembled exhibit similar phenomenon. Others use short pipe nipples that can't be easily disassembled. The Fermenator, on the other hand, uses a flare fitting eliminating this problem. All threaded fittings have hex flats for easy disassembly and the o-ring design is identical to hydraulic systems capable of holding 4,000 PSI of pressure!. Again, more expensive than welding, but well worth the added cost.
Easiest fermenter (fermenter) to clean
All fittings used for the bottom dump and rotating racking arm are stainless steel high quality industrial
fittings, not make shift hardware store parts and pipe fittings. And unlike welded fittings, ours can be removed for easy sanitizing by sanitizer, boiling or autoclaving.
Since one side of the fitting on all competitive models is welded to the tank, it can't be removed, and flooding those surfaces with sanitizer is difficult at best. Particularly threaded fittings. That's why they recommend you Clean In Place (CIP) with expensive cleaners and time consuming soaks. In less than a minute you can remove the bottom dump and racking arm assemblies in your FermenatorTM and have them ready for a good cleaning. If you're a real sanitation obsessive, a few minutes more and you can completely disassemble them. Much faster than readying all the CIP circulation equipment and much more thorough. Rest assured that you've got every nook, every cranny, every time, in just a little time. You choose the cleaning method that's right for you. Replaceable fittings!
Our competitor's welded-in fittings can't be replaced if they get accidentally damaged or wear out! Cutting and re-welding are the only way to repair a damaged or worn fitting on their tanks.
Last, but not least
, the weld-free fittings allow you to orient the dump valve in any position you want, not where it happens to end up when tightening a welded fitting....such as facing the rear of the refrigerator.
Guaranteed 100% Leak Free!!!
Our time proven design is rock solid and the core design is identical to hydraulic systems under thousands of PSI. Even the lid seal can be fully immersed under pressure!
Why Buy Conical Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel is extremely durable and the easiest material to sanitize. It is impervious to heat (well, up to 2000 F anyway), won't shatter like glass, and won't scratch, discolor and harbor bacteria like plastic.
The conical "uni-tank" offers many
advantages to carboys
- Dumping cold break & trub takes a couple minutes
- Collecting wort samples is quick and completely sanitary
- Pressurizeable for CO2 pumping
- Impervious to UV light that causes "skunking" in beer.
- Large open top makes scouring and sanitizing the interior a snap
- The rotating racking arm allows siphoning completely sediment free beer
Cooling your conical:
We get regular requests for jacketed or solid-state cooling devised for our line of conicals. While our competitor offers these, they are very expensive and have limited performance. At Blichmann Engineering, we very much believe that simple-is-better. While we would make more money selling you this complicated equipment, our philosophy is to provide value. We would never recommend a product that we wouldn't use in our own brewery. That said, we have designed the Fermenator to easily fit into an upright freezer which offers the following significant advantages over thermo-electric cooling and glycol jacked conicals:
Converting a freezer to a lagering freezer
- Much lower cost than jacketing the conical. An upright freezer can be had for $375-550 brand new. The competitors cooling options cost $850-$1,275!! Ouch!
- Adding a simple Ranco or Love controller to this freezer will allow you to get significantly more cooling power - easily cool to 28F or less!! Eisbock? No problem! Solid state coolers can do about 25-30F off of ambient MAX. So if you're in a garage in the summer, you'll be lucky to reach ale temps much less lager temps. Using a light bulb or pad heater will also allow you to heat the freezer in the winter.
- Much more economical, quieter, and reliable to operate. For typical use, these will cost about $25/yr to operate.
- Can be used for beer storage when not fermenting
- Takes little more floor space than the conical itself
- No foam insulation or clumsy wiring to mess with for cleaning the conical , and no condensate dripping on the floor.
- Frigidaire (or Kenmore equivalent) The 13.7 cu ft model FFU1464FW (28W X 28.5D X 59H) work well for the 7 and 14.5 gal Fermenators. The 20.3 cu ft model FFU21F5HW and GLFH21F8HW (32W X 28.5D X 70H) both work well with the 27 and 42 gal models. These are all frost-free units. We have no control over the design of these freezers, so it is best that you measure the actual unit before purchasing it to ensure that it'll fit. They WILL require the removal of the door panel as instructed below.
This is very easy to do with basic tools (jig saw and drill). You will need to remove the door shelf panel and replace it with a flat panel to gain access to the full depth of the freezer. You can either cut the shelving off and leave the foam insulation exposed, but a more attractive option is shown in the pics below. The fiberglass sheet, Ranco controller, and plywood shelf will cost you about $100-125 total.
How do I install a temp probe in my conical?
Many brewers use a digital temp control to monitor and control fermentations. In our opinion, immersion probes are overkill for these small conicals - and open another area for contamination risk. While it doesn’t look as cool, a liquid crystal thermometer on the outside is inexpensive and has they actually have the accuracy of an RTD (+/- 0.5F)! We have measured the sidewall temp vs core temp at high krausen using precision instrumentation and there is less than one degree difference….so in reality, insignificant. If you are using the probe for control, just tape the probe to the side of the tank using a small piece of aluminum duct tape. Again, you’ll be easily within a degree and you have nothing to sanitize.In addition, this limits thermal cycling of your cooling equipment and overcooling that can happen with immersion probes. At Blichmann Engineering, we very much believe that simple-is-better. While we would make more money selling you this equipment, our philosophy is to provide value. We would never recommend a product that we wouldn't use in our own brewery.
Can I Ferment Smaller Batches in My Conical?
YES - you can ferment, say, a 5 gal batch in your 14.5 gal conical. The CO2 gas from fermentation will fill the head space and protect your beer from oxidation. The only drawback is that you'll have less head pressure available to push out your yeast. Dumping more frequently will resolve that issue. Or you can simply use the pressurization feature to push it out.