Separate Fermentation Tanks or a Unitank: Which Is Better?

Posted on September 24, 2021 by Cedarstone Industry Team

Large-scale breweries have traditionally relied on separate fermentation and brite tanks to produce their products. But with the rise of craft and home brewing, unitanks have found a more prominent place in the industry. The question every brewer has to ask is whether or not separate tanks are still a better option than the unitank. In most cases, they are.

Needless to say, a brewmaster’s recipe heavily influences how fermentation tanks are used. The nature of the unitank’s design leads to a more hazy finished product. Separate tanks produce a clearer and brighter beer.

Primary Fermentation

Brewing beer is a process that requires both primary and secondary fermentation. This explains why separate fermentation tanks came to be.

During primary fermentation, the bulk of the hard work is done. Fermentation tanks are loaded with wort, that liquid substance created by mashing the grains. After oxygenating the wort, yeast is added and the fermentation process begins.

Yeast interacting with sugars in the wort is that which produces the alcohol. Internal temperatures must be maintained in order to tightly control fermentation. As the process progresses, various compounds begin settling at the bottom of the fermentation tank. You are looking at heavy fats, proteins, debris, and dead yeast.

When all is said and done, the resulting brew is then transferred into a tank known as the brite tank. This allows for secondary fermentation separate from the residue left behind in the first tank. Incidentally, that residue is known as trub.

Secondary Fermentation

The point of secondary fermentation is to clarify the brew and enhance its taste. This process also produces some sediment, but not nearly as much. Once complete, the beer can be carbonated and then moved on to filtering and finishing. But what if a brewery doesn’t have the financial resources to invest in a brite tank? The same thing can be accomplished with a unitank.

Unitank Fermentation

A typical unitank is a conical tank that looks surprisingly similar to a primary fermentation tank. However, it has some added features that make it possible to remove sediment prior to secondary fermentation. The unitank model allows brewers to accomplish both primary and secondary fermentation in the same tank, followed by carbonation.

The upside to the unitank is that it requires a smaller footprint and less of a financial investment. The downside is that it does not produce a super clear and deeply rich taste profile. That may be fine for some beer recipes that don’t require a higher level of distinction. But when brewmasters are going for a specific taste profile and an exceptional level of clarity, separate fermentation tanks are the better choice.

No Right or Wrong

The beauty of brewing beer is that there really is no right or wrong way to do it. Brewmasters would obviously disagree, but the fact that there are so many different types of beer – and people willing to drink them – indicates that there isn’t one particular recipe or process that is superior to all others. A lot of what goes into making and enjoying beer is a matter of personal preference.

With that said, no brewing operation can get by with low-quality equipment. Whether your operation utilizes separate fermentation tanks or a unitank, you need equipment that you can depend on. You need tanks that will provide years of faithful service with as little downtime as possible. That is where we come in.

We offer breweries a complete selection of stainless-steel fermentation tanks and their associated components. We would be happy to provide a quote for your next tank purchase.