beer brewery setup

6 BBL Fermenters for Craft Brewing

A 6 barrel (BBL) fermenter is a key piece of brewing equipment for many small to mid-size craft breweries producing up to 2,000 barrels per year. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of 6 BBL fermenters, including types, design considerations, suppliers, installation, operation, maintenance and how to select the right system.

Overview of 6 BBL Fermenters

A 6 BBL fermenter has a capacity of 6 barrels or 31 gallons per batch. With typical brewing cycles, a single 6 BBL unit can produce around 650 barrels annually. Most small breweries use between 1 to 4 x 6 BBL fermenters in their production layout.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 6 BBL or 31 gallons per batch
  • Annual beer output: 650 barrels with typical brewing cycles
  • Vessel construction: Stainless steel (most common)
  • Temperature control: Glycol/steam/electric cooling & heating
  • Pressure rating: Atmospheric or Pressurized
  • Popular suppliers: JV Northwest, Premier Stainless, SS Brewtech, Paco, Demoisy

6 BBL fermenters are available in different configurations to suit wort production systems, fermentation requirements, packaging layouts and brewhouse spaces.

Fermenter Types

ConicalCone-shaped bottom with yeast dump valve and optional sight glass
CylindroconicalCylindrical bottom half with conical top section
Square/RectangleBoxy shape for compact fit, less efficient yeast harvest
Uni-tank (CCT)Combines fermentation and beer storage in one vessel
MobileMounted on casters for transfer between cellar areas
Single-walledBasic stainless construction without insulation
Jacketed/InsulatedGlycol/steam/electric heating-cooling outer jacket
AtmosphericVenting pressure relief valve
PressurizedRated for pressurization during fermentation

Table 1: Main types of 6 BBL fermenters and their characteristics

Conical fermenters with yeast dump valves are the most popular as they allow efficient yeast harvesting after fermentation. Cylindroconical and square fermenters without cone bases take up less floor space but lose some yeast harvesting ability.

Insulated, jacketed units allow precise temperature control while mobile fermenters can be moved flexibly between locations. Pressurized fermenters allow brewers to ferment under pressure for desired beer profiles.

6 BBL Fermenter

6 BBL Fermenter Dimensions

Typical dimensions for 6 BBL fermenter vessels are:

6 BBL Fermenter Size

TypeHeight (ft)Diameter (ft)
Conical7 – 93 – 4
Cylindroconical7 – 83 – 4
Square6 – 83 – 4

Table 2: Approximate height and diameter dimensions for common 6 BBL fermenter types

The dimensions above can vary based on specific manufacturer designs and options like single-wall vs insulated. Shorter, wider units can fit tighter spaces while slimmer, taller tanks consume less floor space.

Installation Considerations

  • Floor rating must support full weight with beer
  • Height – measure doorway access, ceiling clearance
  • Layout – allow transfer access and opening lids
  • Utility connections – glycol, CO2, cleaning, electrical

Proper planning of fermenter placement, spacing and connections is crucial before purchasing and installing any units.

6 BBL Fermenter System Design

Beyond the fermentation tanks, a complete 6 BBL fermenter system consists of:

  • Temperature control – glycol chiller, steam, electric
  • Air/gas valves – blow-off, CO2 purge, oxygenation
  • Sample valve – stainless tee port for taking gravity readings
  • Sight glass – view batch activity and yeast level
  • Cleaning accessories – spray balls, CIP attachments
  • Automation package (optional) – monitors temp, density, controls valves

Additional components like stands, platforms, stairs and safety railings may be required as well.

Brewers can customize options like number of fermenters, temperature control methods, air/gas valves, automation systems and other accessories to match their production requirements, budgets and layouts.

Popular 6 BBL Fermenter Manufacturers & Costs

There are many equipment companies providing quality 6 BBL fermenters to suit different brewery needs and budgets. Below are some of the most popular stainless steel tank manufacturers in a range of price points:

ManufacturerTypePrice Range
JV NorthwestConical/Cylindro$16,000 – $26,000
Premier StainlessConical/Square$19,000 – $30,000
SS BrewtechConical/Uni$22,000 – $36,000
PacoConical/Cylindro$20,000 – $32,000
DemoisyConical/Mobile$18,000 – $28,000

Table 3: Popular 6 BBL fermenter suppliers and typical price ranges

The prices above are for base 6 BBL fermentation tanks only. Complete fermentation systems with additional valves, controls, accessories or automation can range from $25,000 up to $50,000+.

Factors like brand, quality, tank complexity, automation features and customization options can impact costs significantly. Comparing multiple vendors on total fermentation system pricing is recommended.

Selecting and Working With a 6 BBL Fermenter Supplier

Choosing the right fermenter supplier for your brewery involves careful consideration of several key factors:

FactorEvaluation Criteria
Reputation & ExperienceYears in business, client references and reviews, breweries served
Quality & Lead TimesConsistent quality tanks, reliable order fulfillment
Offerings Match NeedsTank types, automation features, customization capability
Service & SupportResponsiveness pre/post-sale, troubleshooting assistance
VALUE FOR BudgetPrice, payment terms balanced with offerings

Table 4: How to evaluate and select a 6 BBL fermenter supplier

Reaching out to 3-4 reputable suppliers, discussing needs in detail and requesting quotes for comparison is advisable. Prioritize finding the best value fermentation system for current brewery scale and future growth plans within budget.

Be ready to provide key brewery specifics like capacity goals, production schedule, space constraints, and budget. This allows suppliers to tailor proposals with optimal fermenter configuration, features and pricing.

Installing and Operating 6 BBL Fermenter Systems

Once purchased, 6 BBL fermenter systems require proper installation along with developing standard operating procedures for beer production.


Proper fermenter placement and connecting utilities are critical first steps.

PositioningFloor re-enforced for weight? Spacing for transfers & cleaning?
Glycol HookupChiller connected to jackets, leak check completed
CO2 & Air LinesGas valves & stone connected, tested for leaks, purged
Sight GlassViewport cleaned & sealed, lighting positioned
Cleaning SetupSpray balls inserted, CIP pump & tank connections confirmed
Safety ChecksPressure relief valve working? Access stairs & railings?

Table 5: 6 BBL Fermenter Installation Procedures

Poor installation can lead to leaks, injuries, damaged batches and downtime if issues emerge after starting up tanks. Thorough testing by a brewery or external technician is highly recommended.


Consistent procedures for fermenter filling, monitoring, yeast harvesting and cleaning are key to smooth operations.

Wort FillingO2 stone purge, bottom fill valve open, fill level sight glass
FermentationTemp and gravity monitoring, adjust per yeast strain
Yeast DumpOpen bottom valve, send to yeast brink or capture
Cleaning (CIP)Caustic then acid combo with heat, spray ball flow
SanitizationFinal purges, sanitizer contact then water rinse

Table 6: 6 BBL Fermenter Standard Operating Procedures

Following best practices around filling volumes, fermentation schedules, dumping yeast timely and cleaning/sanitizing thoroughly minimizes risk of infections or off-flavors.

Maintenance & Troubleshooting for 6 BBL Fermenters

Preventative maintenance and prompt issue resolution keeps fermentation on track.

AreaMaintenance Tasks
Gaskets & SealsReplace worn gaskets affecting seal, spray with glycerin
ValvesLubricate/replace valves sticking or not sealing fully
Sight Glass & LightsClean viewing window, replace lights periodically
Glycol SystemCheck glycol concentration, clean/backflush chiller coils yearly
Pressure ReliefTest functionality quarterly, replace faulty valves

Table 7: Recommended preventative maintenance on 6 BBL fermenters

IssuePotential CausesCorrective Action
Not hitting target tempsGlycol concentration low, chiller coils dirtyAdjust glycol, clean coils
Not holding pressureDamaged lid gasket, pressure relief stickingReplace gasket, test/replace relief
Fermentation too fast/slowImproper pitching rate,incorrect ferm temp profileAdjust yeast quantity and ferm temp program per strain
Beer flavor issuesBacterial infection, yeast health problems, fermenter residueDeep clean & replace soft parts, replace yeast, improve SOPs

Table 8: Troubleshooting common 6 BBL fermenter problems

Catching and addressing problems early prevents batches from being dumped or quality compromised.

6 BBL Fermenter FAQs

Q: What is the difference between conical and cylindroconical fermenters?

A: Conical fermenters have a fully cone-shaped bottom for efficient, compact yeast collection. Cylindroconical tanks feature a cylindrical lower half with a conical top section, taking up more floor space but allows some yeast harvesting ability.

Q: Should I choose insulated, jacketed fermenters or single-wall?

A: Insulated tanks allow precise temp control via glycol, steam or electric heating/cooling. This is recommended for most breweries. Single-wall non-insulated tanks depend solely on cellar ambient temp management.

Q: What level of automation should I consider?

A: Basic automation (temp and density monitoring, valve control) provides efficiency gains for an added $2,000 – $5,000 per tank. Advanced options (multi-parameter AI control) offer tighter precision but may carry a $5,000+ price premium. Evaluate ROI carefully.

Q: Is there a typical brewery growth path for fermenter sizing?

A: Many breweries scale up fermenters steadily in these general ranges: 1-3 BBL start with tasting room → 3-7 BBL with local distribution → 7-30 BBL with regional presence → 30-60+ BBL at mature production volume. Individual growth rates vary widely however.