Spike Brewing Conical Unitank

By scot in Home Brewing, Lounge on Friday, March 6th, 2020

Purchased Spike Brewing Conical Unitank

Brewing equipment never makes the home brewer but it definitely can help with process, make better and more consistent beer . This is for certain: a home brewer needs his/her toys.

I haven’t made an update to my home brewing equipment since I purchased a Blichmann kettle back in 2013. Since I started trying to brew top notch Northeast India Pale Ales, I have tried to identify ways to make the post fermentation processing devoid of oxygen.

In that pursuit, I have tried a number of process changes, each with varying degrees of success; none of which gave me the quality of finished product I wanted or needed. I needed a way to keep oxygen away from the beer while I racked it to the keg. I needed a fermentation vessel that would allow me to move the finished beer to the keg without any oxygenation: conical.

The seed of using a conical was planted in late 2019 while having a conversation at Noon Whistle with a fellow home brewer sitting at the bar. He mentioned the FastFerment Conical Fermenter, which he had two of and had great success.

Research is always my starting point. I needed to find out which conicals where available to home brewers, follow up with the manufacturers, and ask a shit-ton of questions to make a quality decision.

spike brewing conical unitank
Spike Brewing Conical Unitank CF5 setup for testing.

Decision Making – which Conical

When making my decision on which conical was right for me, these are the points that mattered, in no particular order:

  • Quality
  • Price
  • Customer care
  • Fittings
  • Size
  • Accessories
  • Location of manufacturing

Quality is typically a function of materials used, craftsmanship and money. I find it hard to get a product made of quality materials and high craftsmanship without a price being tied to it. After all, quality materials carry a higher price, while a more skilled craftsman will need to be paid a higher wage/salary.

Grades of materials, the type of material, the type of connections, the number connections, etc all determine the quality/ease of use of the product. This was very important in the decision: the further I went through discovery, the more I realized I wanted a stainless steel conical.

The stainless steel seemed to create the sturdiest product, which meant it would last. Stainless also was more scratch resistant and easier to clean, make it the best for sanitary reasons.

Craftsmanship lead me to looking for kettles that were manufactured in the United States. I know all the 304 stainless steel is made in China but all other work needed to be produced in the United States and at a high level.

This leads to the money. How much was the cost of the materials, craftsmanship and mark-up worth to me. Stainless steel already put me at the high end, now it was more which accessories made sense and were fiscally feasible.

Initially, cost was number one or two on my list in terms of importance to my decision to purchase a conical. From past experience (purchasing three kettles before I landed on the kettle I am still using today – a waste of money) and as I reviewed the options, I realized that it moved down, way down. I still needed a sense of return on my investment: quality for the price.

Customer Care:
Customer care was high on my list to start and, after all the emails and phone calls, it moved to the second position, behind perceived quality.

Customer relations: responsiveness, willingness to help, patience, advice, openess, belief in product, videos, etc. really pushed me towards the Spike product. I never had a time that I didn’t think that they were their to assist and wanted to genuinely make sure your experience, as a customer, was top notch.

Spike even has a process in place that customer care representatives cover for each other while another is out, so that responses to inquiries are not delayed.

Unfortunately, there were certain companies that never replied to me or were very short with me in a single reply, never following up. This soured me. How was their customer care going to be after I gave them $1,000+ of my money?

The type of connections/fittings that are available for the conical started gaining my interest as I researched. The fittings needed to be something easy to use, quick, and sanitary. My introduction to tri-clamp (TC) fittings was an epiphany.

Never heard of them but they are considered to be the most sanitary fitting on the market for home brewing. Two pieces are paired up with a silicone gasket fitting between and held in place with TC clamp. Amazingly simple but efficient.

Simple here: I needed a conical that serviced my home brewing needs and style. I brew 5.5 gallon batches, therefor the conical needed to be at least 6.5 gallons for headspace.

I didn’t know what was available when I started my research in terms of accessories for a home brewing conical. Stainless steel had the most accessories which were a la carte, driving up space.

Temperature control, both hot and cold, and closed pressure transfer were the accessories that had to be offered. Having the ability to hook up to a glycol chiller was necessary in case I wanted to do that in the future. Once again, I didn’t want to purchase a conical that I would want to purchase an upgrade in the future.

Location of Manufacturing:
Mentioned this above but this was simple for me: I want to help keep Americans employed.

The Final Decision: CF5 Spike Conical Unitank

Once I settled on the CF5 Spike Conical, including accessories, I needed to share my plan with my wife. A decision of this $ize needed to be a team decision.

She was on board but asked for me to look for a used tank prior to purchasing new. Scouring the usual message boards and online market places, I found a used CF5 tank in Wisconsin that had all the accessories I wanted and, unbelievably, a glycol chiller!

The price was ~$250 more with the chiller included. The conical had been used five times and the chiller twice. For the prices, it was a no brainer.

Getting the glycol chiller was more of a wish. I thought it would be at least a year or so before I could purchase one. The package deal was perfect timing for me.

Next: I have to test all the pieces together and get a feel for how it all works, then it will be time to brew a beer. Enjoy!

I am not affiliated or paid by any of the manufacturers of these products. This is just my account of purchasing a conical for home brewing, what I took into account, and ultimately why I purchased the conical I did.

Useless Fact:
If you went out into space, you would explode before you suffocated because there’s no air pressure.

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