After spending some time setting up my new 14 gallon “Chronical” fermentor, I have come up with a bit of a critical analysis of the design for anyone who may be considering buying one. While reading this, keep in mind I haven’t brewed with it yet!
- Sturdy 4 leg stand with levelling feet
- High weld quality
- Sufficient wall thickness (supports heavy valves and tri clamp hardware without issue)
- Lid includes a built-in pressure relief valve
- Relatively compact (dump valve is quite close to the ground, conical is relatively narrow overall)
- Replacement part availability (lids, gaskets, etc) is sufficient
- The provided thermowell will fit most probe types.
- The included ball valves are not simply NPT with NPT to tri clamp ferrules (as I had expected), but have one truly tri clamp side, and another threaded.
- Leg spacing makes it difficult to fit dump and racking valves in same space, even more so with bulkier butterfly valves
- Leg spacing makes it difficult to use a rotating racking arm, again, even more so when larger valves are used (I’ve decided to try to go without)
- The rotating racking arm doesn’t allow you to rack any more beer than you could have without
- The tri clamp rotating racking arm upgrade is two pieces, and is no more sanitary than the included racking arm (in my opinion). The racking arm will definitely need to be taken apart and cleaned between every beer (not clean-in-place-able in my opinion)
- The lid clamp design necessitates extra space all the way around the fermentor so that they may be released for dry hopping and whatever else
- There is a massive lid gasket, and it’s somewhat finicky… it’s unlikely to be CIP-able either
- You must be careful in the position of the lid such that you do not clamp the pressure relief valve (it should’ve been located elsewhere)
- The lid design limits the level of pressurization within the conical
- The 1.5″ tri clamp ferrule on the lid is highly limiting for spray ball configurations, overall a simple 4″ or larger tri clamp lid would have been better
- The thermowell is of the weldless variety, tri clamp would have been preferred
- No manufacturer upgrade process (if you want a better valve included or racking arm, you’ll need to buy that in addition to the stock configuration)
- Legs are too short to allow for installation of a yeast collector. 10″ leg extensions are available, but in my case (and I expect many others), that’s too much
So, overall, I am happy with the build quality. I do find the lid design questionable (but workable), and I do wish there had been more options at time of purchase (tri clamp this, tri clamp that). I have done away with the racking arm due to issues with space for rotation; the two piece design; and the fact that it does not allow for collection of any more beer than without. A bit of reading has indicated to me that it is unlikely the racking arm would contribute to my beer’s quality with proper dump valve use anyways.
The 14 gallon Chronical fermenter definitely seems well built for the price, and worthy of consideration for brewers with batch sizes between 7 and 11 gallons. I was limited in my selection of conicals in this size, being in Canada, and not wanting to deal with cross border shipping and duty. The Chronical clearly was preferred to Blichmann Fermenator (the other main option from Canadian retailers) from a value and features perspective… and I think I’ll be quite happy with it!
It certainly is shiny…