Review: Malt Mechanics Conical Fermenter

by Billy Ellison | Last Updated: February 3, 2017

Who doesn’t like a brew day? I wake up on brew days with a little more hop (yes, I went there) in my step than per usual. For me, it’s the hunt, or rather the process that really gets me excited about brewing. The end result is always a plus as well, so getting the beer into the fermenter and letting the yeast do its thing is a positive eventuality that I look forward to.

That being said, can I really get excited about a fermentation vessel? I mean, it just sits there and holds your beer. How exciting can that be?

It turns out, Malt Mechanics were on a mission to prove how wrong I am.

Fermentation Vessels

Looking at all the different types of fermenters out there, it’s a little like trying to pick out a car. Do you go with plastic, glass, or stainless? For me, the answer becomes, what is the best option for my budget?

When I first started brewing, I had a couple of plastic buckets, but rather quickly invested in a glass carboy because I got spooked about scratching the plastic and ruining beers. Glass fermentation lasted about a year, until that ride came crashing to a halt, literally. The carboy exploded into a thousand little sharp shards of glass intent on gashing any and all in reach.

Since then, I’ve relied more on my old faithfuls, the plastic buckets. I’ve picked up other fermenters along the way too, and have been introduced to the glory of HDPE plastic.

HDPE stands for High-Density Polyethylene. Basically it’s super dense, food safe plastic. Super dense means it won’t scratch as easily. You still want to be careful, but it can take a few lumps. Once you settle on your material, things really start to take shape.

The holy grail of fermenter options are conical fermenters. Why conical?

  • When primary fermentation is done, you can easily remove the yeast and secondary in the same vessel.
  • Want to wash and reuse your yeast? Harvesting couldn’t be easier with a conical.
  • Let gravity do the work when you transfer to your keg or bottling vessel. Or bottle right out of the conical!
  • They just look awesome in your brew room, standing there all majestic!

Many conicals are made of stainless steel, essentially smaller versions of the big chambers professional breweries use. All of that stainless steel comes at a price though. Typically a fairly high one. If only you could pair the rigidity of stainless where you need it, but the budget friendliness of HDPE.

Now you can, with the Malt Mechanics Conical Fermenter.

Malt Mechanics – What I Love

Malt Mechanics made a HDPE conical fermenter. Boom! I could just stop there, drop the mic, and walk away happy. However, let’s look at a few features of this fermenter, and let me tell you why I love it.

Unibody mold

It would be easy to take a bucket, cut off the bottom, and meld a cone on the bottom. But you would have seams that could easily become a party for bacteria to hang out, multiply, and bring all of those off flavors you hate into your beer.

Malt Mechanics molded the entire body in one run. There are no seams and no lines for bacteria to hide in. It’s just sleek HDPE from top to bottom.

Thermowell

I didn’t initially expect this as a feature, but it’s a welcome one. You will need to provide your own thermometer to fit into the thermowell, but you will never have to open your fermenter to check the temperature during fermentation.

A huge opening

The opening of the fermenter is literally the entire width of the fermenter, or about 14 inches. This is fantastic when you start thinking about cleanup. It is as easy as those ale pail’s that I’ve known for so long.

Stainless where it counts: If the excitement of just having a conical fermenter in the brewery wasn’t enough, this detail sent me over the moon.

Beer is heavy, at least when you put 5 gallons in one spot. HDPE is high density and it can take a load, but with this being on feet, I really wanted it to be stable too. Malt Mechanics didn’t disappoint.

The feet and the lid are 304 stainless steel. The valves are stainless too, not brass! They also sunk stainless lugs into the side of the fermenter where the legs connect. This fermenter is sturdy, and I sleep well at night knowing this fermenter isn’t going to topple over in the middle of the night.

Malt Mechanics – What I Don’t Love

Let me preface by saying I’m in LOVE with this fermenter. Even if it went on tour with Justin Bieber, I would probably buy tickets. However, there are a couple of things that presented a difficulty for me. I think it’s good to point these out so that you can truly be prepared.

Tri-Clamp fittings

The valves all connect to a molded interface using tri-clamp fittings. You would think that this would be a plus. Let me explain.

Our brewery is all done up with quick disconnects. That was a decision that was made when we built our setup. I thought I would love the tri-clamp fittings, but I keep dropping the clamp everytime I open one. Plus all of our current transfer hoses have quick disconnect fittings rather than a tri-clamp interface. It’s a transitionary time for us as we move away from quick disconnects.

Don’t get me wrong, the fittings are incredibly well thought out. Just make sure you do your own thinking as well, and be a little more prepared than I was.

Assembly

When this showed up, there was some assembly required. This was not a big deal. However, the trip-clamp interface didn’t end up sealing well with the valves. I ended up having to retape a couple of times to get a good seal.

The lesson here is to do a water test on your fittings first! I did, and thankfully no beer was lost in the process.

No US distributors

We received this unit shortly after the Kickstarter campaign ended. I was all giddy and ready to start saving for another one after I got this unit. Unfortunately, right now, you can’t buy it here.

True, you can go to maltmechanics.com and find a distributor that will ship to the US. However, be ready to be patient as international shipping is going to take a bit longer than domestic shipping to get here.

So, if you are a product distributor and you are reading this, GET ON THE PHONE WITH THESE GUYS BECAUSE THEY HAVE AN AWESOME PRODUCT!

Ok, I’m off my soapbox now.

Conclusion

I really have no hates about this fermenter. As you can see with my list of things that I don’t love, it’s thinly veiled and largely a product of my own environment.

If you are used to tri-clamp fittings, this will automatically fit into your brewing world. If you are better at taping threads than I am, you might not have the same experience as I did during assembly. As for the distribution, well, I’m an impatient person and want it yesterday!

All things being told, the team at Malt Mechanics did a phenomenal job of making a fermenter that’s all out of bubble gum. It’s my first choice of fermenters on brew days from now on.

Billy (other Billy, Wd, etc.) is a transplanted Southern boy currently living in Southwest Missouri. Since being exposed to the homebrewing community, he has been building his passion for the full variety of beer styles. Not one to be tied down to one style, he continues to branch out in brewing styles, making each recipe his own, building a base of recipes for all to enjoy. Look out for building projects too, as RIMS has become a fascination of this fledgling homebrewer.