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Review, Grainfather conical fermenter

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chewie

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I've done 3 brews in one of these with a 4th to follow this weekend hopefully. This was a "pro edition/basic cooling" bought from grainfathers own website as at the time they where the only source for the base unit plus dump valve and temp controller as a discounted package, one other thing is that the GF website gives an extra year warranty on top of the standard 1 year guarantee for items bought directly from them.

These are not a cheap purchase and it will not drastically improve your beer by any stretch over and above what any other controlled fermentation and careful racking will achieve.

The fermenter is very well made, it has the exact same diameter as the grainfather so if you break your glass GF lid the fermenter lid would double up as a quick replacement.

The dump valve works very well as does the bottom transfer valve, the only niggle i have with these are that they are close to the ground and there is not a lot of room around the bottom of the base, hoses are a must and expect some delayed oozing out from the dump valve after you have closed it.

It maintains temp very well though it will not sit exactly at the temp that you might want it at, the variance between heating up and heat loss back down and switching heater on again is .5c, basically if you want your beer to ferment at 20c it will sit constantly between 19.5 and 20. Stat adjustment is by 1 whole degree so there is no fine adjustment for 10ths of a degree.

Staged fermentation is part of the advanced controller though this is something i have not yet went into in detail, there are some preset profiles loaded into it.

Dead space within the cone is about 1 litre (top of bottom draw of valve and dump valve), I would advise anyone to do a yeast/trub dump well before any racking/bottling, before letting anything out of either of the bottom valves either REMOVE the airlock or SLACKEN the lid retaining clips, failure to do one or either could result in the contents of your airlock vanishing inside the fermenter.

A pressure transfer kit is now available for these, this looks like it will be quite useful for anyone who would struggle to lift one of these for a gravity transfer, there are two very solid handles but lifting one of these full of beer onto a bench is not easy, though perhaps a small mag drive shunt pump may be a better option.

The one thing that has improved for me is the beers clarity, doing a full yeast dump one week (after full 2 weeks ferment) before bottling has meant that there is no residual sediment in the bottles other than a very fine dusting of priming sugar.

The basic cooling kit is just a small submersible water pump with the associated hoses to connect to the conicals cooling jacket, ideally you would want to use this in conjunction with a water tank placed inside a fridge where a stable temp is being maintained, water on its own will not drop the temp enough for lagering or to encourage drop out within your beer. I keep my kegs in an undercounter larder fridge which has the usual shelf above the motor, i should be able to fit some sort of small tank on top of this shelf and run the cooling hoses out of it to the fermenter without interfering with the kegs/dispensing setup.

The control leads i have the feeling would not stand up well to being stood on and i reckon it's best if these are kept out of the way if possible.

Overall I would buy one again if i had the room though the cost is certainly prohibitive, i would really struggle to justify the cost of the GF chiller for cooling a single fermenter let alone two, managing your brewing/fermenting times and maybe using an upright fridge would seem a more logical approach for chilling.
 

Martin O

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Hi have u bottled straight from it? I just got one and am planning on bulk priming and bottling direct form the conical and wondered if you have any experience of doing the same?
 

chewie

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Hi have u bottled straight from it? I just got one and am planning on bulk priming and bottling direct form the conical and wondered if you have any experience of doing the same?
Hiya, i do bottle directly from it with no issues, just be sure to empty/remove the airlock or you will draw its contents into your beer, i don't bulk prime though, if i was to i would do two sediment removals, one after a week of fermenting and the second before adding priming sugar. Do be sure to clean the valve assembly thoroughly after use it isn't hard to clean but there are places for stuff to stick to.
 

Bex Brew

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Nice review chewie. I'd be interested in purchasing one if I could justify the cost. I like the idea of the sediment dump and temperature control, but the price is putting me off.
 

Martin O

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Thanks chewie I may transfer the first one to my bottling bucket sine I have dry hopped loose and don't want any floaters.. Do u find that when u dump yeast beer then replaces it in the bottom of the cone and leads to loosing beer?
 

chewie

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Thanks chewie I may transfer the first one to my bottling bucket sine I have dry hopped loose and don't want any floaters.. Do u find that when u dump yeast beer then replaces it in the bottom of the cone and leads to loosing beer?
I brew a few extra litres to allow for loss, the cone will cost you about 1 litre with its deadspace, just factor that into your recipe initially and after a few brews you will have a good enough feel for where you are at with it. If you are brewing in a GF you should have np with transferring over 25l of wort into the FV.
 

Martin O

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So I made my first brew (lemon drop/mouteka pale) using the conical. I decided to transfer to my bottling bucket so didn't bother with a yeast dump.

When I came to transfer the beer the valve was blocked mainly with hops (dry hopped 120g) so I ended up using the dump valve to remove a couple of pints of trub. I then had a slow trickle coming out of the valve so it took ages to transfer.

Was a disappointing first use and want to avoid a repeat, do you put hops in loose?
 

Lawrence22

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For larger amounts of hops they sell a longer valve attachment with takes the beer from higher up the vessel. I have had no issues so far but as yet haven't used lots of dry hops. I always do a yeast dump however, usually one after active fermentation and one the day before I keg.
 

Martin O

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I read about the larger valve but I actually didn't think 120g was a lot, think I needed to do more yeast dumps
 

chewie

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I read about the larger valve but I actually didn't think 120g was a lot, think I needed to do more yeast dumps
I tend to put hops into a muslin bag to minimise the sediment, whilst some will still escape thru the bag keeps the bulk of them together.
 
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