starting a micro brewery

3 BBL COMBO Fermenter Brewing Systems

A 3 barrel (BBL) fermenter is a common size for small to mid-sized craft breweries producing specialty beers on a micro scale. This article provides a comprehensive guide to 3 BBL combo fermenter systems, including design, specs, suppliers, installation, operation and maintenance.

Types of 3 BBL COMBO Fermenter

Fermenter TypeDetails
ConicalCone-shaped bottom efficiently collects yeast and trub
Uni-tankCombined fermentation and aging in one tank
Split-topTop opens into two parts for easy cleaning
JacketedHeating/cooling outer jacket controls temp
StackableVertically stack multiple units to save floor space
3 BBL COMBO Fermenter
Brewing system 5 vessesl

3 BBL COMBO Fermenter Brewing Process

The typical fermentation process in a 3 BBL fermenter system is:

  • Wort is transferred from the brewkettle into the fermenter tank. Yeast is pitched to start fermentation.
  • Active fermentation occurs over 4-7 days. Yeast converts sugars into CO2 and alcohol. internal cooling systems maintain optimum temperature.
  • Beer cleans as yeast and solids settle out. Diacetyl rest performed if needed.
  • After sufficient aging & clarification, beer is carbonated and packaged. Yeast may be harvested and repitched.
  • CIP (clean-in-place) procedures performed regularly to sanitize all internals.

Accurate temperature control is critical during fermentation to produce clean, consistent beer. 3 BBL fermenters are designed for complete automation and remote system control.

3 BBL COMBO Fermenter Specifications

Total Capacity90-100 gallons liquid volume
Batch SizeUp to 3 barrels (BBLs) of wort
Footprint4 ft x 4 ft floor space typical
HeightUp to 12 ft tall for conical unitary
Weight1700-2500 lbs when empty
ConstructionStainless steel interior and exterior

Many customization options exist including jacketed vs unitary, number of ports & connections, sight glasses, standalone vs integrated systems, and split-top options. Dimensions, weight and price vary accordingly.

3 BBL COMBO Fermenter Suppliers

SupplierPrice Range
JV Northwest$16,000 – $26,000
SS Brewtech$15,500 – $23,000
Spike Brewing$14,000 – $21,000
Ss Brewtech$13,500 – $19,500
Blichmann Engineering$12,000 – $18,000

Price ranges indicate tank only. Fully automated systems with temperature control, cleaning systems, valves & hardware can add $8000-$16000. Custom options also impact price significantly.

3 BBL COMBO Fermenter Installation

LocationLevel, vibration-free pad near brew house
LayoutGlycol lines, drains, electric
LiftingUse rigging equipment rated for weight
MountingAnchor to floor for hurricane
ConnectionsGlycol, gas, plumbing lines
InsulationWrap glycol lines and drains

Proper planning for layout, spacing, drainage and flexibility helps avoid issues. Hire contractors for specialized tasks like mounting, insulation, electricals etc if needed.

3 BBL Fermentation System Operation

Pre-brewInterior spray ball CIP
FillingBottom dump through 2″ tri-clamp
Yeast pitchThrough 1.5″ side port
FermentationTemperature automation & remote monitoring
End fermentDiacetyl rest if required
Yeast harvestUse bottom dump valve
MaturationAdjust temp, variable contact time
Pre-transferCIP spray ball cleaning
EmptyingCO2 pressure transfer through racking arm

Automated sequencing provides push-button simplicity after initial programming. Robust process control is easy with precise monitoring of each batch. Detailed logs aid reproducibility.

3 BBL COMBO Fermenter Maintenance

Each batchClean and sanitize all surfaces
MonthlyDe-stone weak acid rinse
QuarterlyBreak down valves for inspection
YearlyReplace gaskets & seals
As neededTune/calibrate sensors & probes

Regular inspection inside tank ensures probe function and cleanliness. Valve rebuilds prevent product loss from leaks. Yearly replacement of wear items keeps system running smoothly long-term.

How to Choose a 3 BBL Fermentation Supplier

FactorEvaluation Criteria
QualityWelds, surface finish, hardware
DesignUni vs conical, jacketed etc
CustomizationDimensions, ports, accessories
AutomationSensors, controls, programming
SupportWarranty, manuals, parts availability
CompanyYears in business, reputation
CostTank price, total installed system

Get quotes from multiple vendors to compare quality, configurability and pricing. Prioritize ease of operation and support during selection. Total cost is higher than just the fermenter tank.

3 BBL COMBO Fermenter Pros and Cons

Optimal size for specialty microbrewingHigher capital cost than larger systems
Flexible batch sizes up to 3 bblMore manual labor than fully automated brewhouse
Efficient testing of recipesComplex planning for layout, flooring, drainage etc
Simplified licensing and regulationsSpecialized contractors needed for install
Complete temperature and process controlReselling difficult if upgrading later

The 3 bbl scale balances capability and cost for artisan brewers. Limitations require careful projection of production needs and growth.

3 BBL COMBO Fermenter
2vessel Brewing equipment


What is the best fermenter material: stainless steel or plastic?

Stainless steel is superior for commercial production – more durable, cleaner, and professional appearance. High-grade stainless resists corrosion from cleaning chemicals unlike plastic.

Should I choose a conical or uni-tank fermenter design?

Conicals efficiently consolidate but need a separate aging tank. Uni-tanks simplify the system and use space efficiently, but cannot harvest large yeast quantities. Choose based on beers produced and workflow.

What additional equipment is required beyond the fermenter?

Essential peripherals include: glycol chiller, temperature sensors, automatic valve system, air compressor, cleaning tanks & pump, computer control panel. Can add yeast brink, carbonation/filtration, grain handling etc.

What are typical problems with 3 BBL fermenter systems?

Insufficient cleaning leading to infections, clogged dip tubes or dump valves, sticky valves, glycol leaks, sensor failures or calibration drift, and temperature control issues are common. Other problems arise from improper install or layout.

How many units can I stack together?

Usually 2-3 units maximum for stability and ergonomics. Use adjustable feet to keep units perfectly plumb if stacking multiple high. Ensure the floor can support total weight stacked.

What design choices affect ease of maintenance?

Conicals with bottom dump valves avoid climbing inside tank but limit access. Side-manways improve entry but need door lifts for ergonomics. Well-planned layout and space around tanks aids maintenance tremendously.


Optimizing design and operation of 3 BBL fermenters allows craft brewers to efficiently expand production while retaining control over specialty recipe development. Careful project planning and selection of turnkey automation systems reduces labor while delivering consistent quality and reproducibility. With some upfront investments into layout, drainage and accessories, 3 BBL configurations provide an ideal foundation for microbrewery growth for many years.

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