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Compared to plastic food grade fermentation buckets and glass carboys, conical fermenters are the sturdiest, hardest to clean, sediment can be removed without racking (transferring), yeast can be harvested, and they can be sanitized effectively as most are stainless steel which is scratch resistant. Exposure to oxygen is reduced or eliminated, and they provide a good oxygen barrier for long term storage. They are considerably more expensive than plastic fermenting buckets or glass carboys.
Some advanced conicals called 'unitanks' are built to withstand higher pressures (usually 15 PSI or more) which adds the ability to carbonate directly in the fermenter before packaging. This higher pressure also simplifies doing closed transfers and filtering directly out of the vessel, an option mostly used by professional brewers who wish to skip using a separate post-fermentation vessel for clarifying (called a 'brite' or 'bright' tank).
Some conicals include integrated heating and cooling systems for automatically controlling fermentation temperatures. Just plug them in and set the temperature and brew any beer any time of the year at just about any ambient room temperature. No need for separate refrigeration. Very useful for brewing warmer or colder than room temperature. For example, lagers are fermented near 50F while some ales (notably Belgians) may require temperatures as high as 95F.
For more information see our Ferment and Package article.
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