Today is a very exciting day here at CraftBeerTraders! Ever since we started home brewing we dreamed of one day canning beer. That to us was the culmination of our home brewing adventures and today is that day. We have received Oktober Designs SL1 can seamer designed for home brewers and we could not be more excited! We have been following and admiring Oktober Design since they first released their MK series seamers in 2016. Oktober Designs goal was to release a can seamer for the home brew market and well after years in the micro/nano commercial sector, they produced the SL1. Lets jump into this thing and take a look!
Picking up the box set the tone for what we were in for. This thing had some weight to it! Once we got into the box we saw that this thing meant business. Instruction manual right on the top. The machine was well packed with sturdy foam and all accessories wrapped and taped to the base. That Oktober Design logo just sitting on the top staring at you. We pulled this beast out of the box and you can just feel the quality of materials used. This thing is solid! Everything is fully assembled and ready to go. There are no adjustments needed as this comes fully adjusted and ready for use straight from Oktober Design. We also got a shipment of 192 16oz cans with the seamer. They came in double corrugated cardboard with packing paper between each layer. Tops were included! There were only about 5 or 6 dented cans which was awesome.
Oktober Design has had a lot of success in the Commercial sector with their MK series over the years and they have rolled some of the lessons learned into the SL1 while keeping the quality of the seam the same. Its not as pretty as the MK series, but its designed to seam and it provides the same quality seam as the MK as it shares the same upper and lower chuck adapters. Out of the box its set up to seam the 202 ends with the B64 style profile and comes with the 12 and 16oz adapters. But just like the MK16 it can be set up for CDL and SuperEnd profiles as well as an optional adapter for the 8oz stubby cans. That gives us as home brewers the same options of canning as a micro/nano brewery! One of the big features that is probably my favorite is the single arm operation. The SL1 has both seaming rollers on a single arm which makes for canning with one hand actually possible. The SL1 also shares the same 1/4hp electric motor and driveline. So you have the power, same upper and lower chucks, same quality seam. What more could you ask for!
We decided to put this canner through its paces and really see what it can do, what we like, dont like etc. We ordered the 192 pack of 16oz cans which is 24 gallons of beer and planned a brew day. Our first run through the seamer was 5 gallons of a Pineapple Milkshake IPA that we had just transferred from our conical to keg for carbonation. This was our first time canning so we set up our Blichman Beer Gun and began. We set the purge pressure to 3psi and the keg pressure to 9psi. It took us a minute to figure out the pressures to get a good transfer but we finally dialed it in after a few cans. One thing to note when filling the can is to raise the gun as the beer is filling into the can so that when you remove the gun the liquid/foam is at the lip of the can. This will ensure that there is little to no air space inside the can and will reduce any oxidation. We placed the top on top of the foam and locked it in. Excess beer did spill out the sides and when we turned on the seamer it did spray us a bit. We then graduated to our hand and a towel to shield us from any spray. Seaming with the one seaming arm was an absolute breeze. One second with the arm in position 1 ( to the right) then one second with the arm in position 2 (to the left) then back to neutral. Turn the machine off, unlock the can and rinse it off. It was really that simple. We ended with about 37 cans and it took us about an hour from setup to finish. The actual canning process itself was about a minute per can, 40 -50 seconds to fill and 10 seconds of seaming (if that). A couple take aways from the first experience was that it can be messy. With the excess beer spilling down the side and down to the base we did have a nice little puddle under the stand. Also turning on the seamer sprayed a little bit at us and the machine so it made for a little more clean up. The MK has the fancy splash guard which is a nice to have, it would be cool to see that somehow worked into the SL1 or offered as an optional accessory at some point. Id also like to see some type of tray as an accessory that the seamer can sit in to catch any spilled beer and keep the base raised out from it. Other than that, the seamer worked amazing and was dumb simple to use. We then set our sites on some partial kegs we had in our keezer. First up was a Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout with Vanilla which had approximately 2 gallons left. Next we decided to can the last keg of our Kriek originally brewed in 2014 as well as a Barrel Aged Barley Wine. Lastly we set up a brew day for a NE Style Juicy IPA because, well, what better beer is there to be in a can. The recipe is below for anyone looking to brew this beer. I personally think it came out great. This time the beer was fermented in the Unitank with the spunding valve so it was fermented under pressure. We also carbed and canned directly from the unitank by putting a liquid post TC on the transfer port. We canned 10 gallons in a little over an hour. Once we got in the flow it was super easy to pump these guys out. We ended up using all 192 cans from the box so we feel like we got a good grasp on the process and using the seamer.
So lets be completely honest, this machine is not for the home brewer on a budget. The SL1 comes in at $879 which definitely puts this as one of those novelty type items. However, with the way this machine is built, my opinion is that this thing will be running for a LONG time and is well worth the investment. We have bought Unitanks, Brite Tanks, Glycol Chillers and Electrical Control Panels for this or more so why not a can seamer. Now lets talk relative numbers. The MK series canners are $2000+ and the SL1 shares a lot of common parts but at less than half the price. Oktober Design did a great job simplifying the product and delivering the necessities needed to get quality seams at an obtainable price for the individual home brewer.
There are a few defining moments in a home brewers life and its usually followed by a statement of “Why didnt I do this earlier”. First is when you went to kegging instead of bottling. Second is when you bought your first pump and dont have to lift 10gal of 160F water. I am going to throw this canner right in there with these defining moments. This thing is a total game changer when paired with a bottling gun. Being able to can a beer in under a minute from filling to seamed is just amazing. I mean you literally are taking your home brew game to a whole new level by offering cans. The coolness factor alone (at least for me) is totally worth it. We canned 4 different style beers, a Kriek, an IPA, a BA RIS and a BA Barleywine. Honestly the usefulness factor for this seamer is amazing. We are actually planning on canning starter wort in cans to further expedite our brew days. Instead of boiling up DME to 1.040, cooling it down and pitching yeast for a starter, we are going to make a large batch and can it. Then on brew day we can pop a can, pour it into our flask and pitch our yeast. Seriously I cannot imagine brewing without this anymore. This is definitely for us one of the best additions to our setup we have made in a very long time! Check out what Oktober Design has to offer here.
Juicy NE Style IPA Recipe
Here is the recipe for the 5.5% Juicy NE style IPA we brewed and canned to bring down to the beach. The beer was a nice light straw color with a white foamy head. Tons of pineapple, grapefruit and tropical fruits on the nose. Light and crisp with a grapefruit finish. It has a little hop bite at the finish which I wanted because im an IPA fan so I like the hoppy finish. If you dont want that hoppy bite and just want all juice then eliminate the hop addition at the 20 minute boil.
Method: All Grain
Style: NE IPA
Boil Time: 60 min
Batch Size (in fermenter): 12 gal
Boil Size: 14 gal
Mash Temp: 150F 60min
Ferment Temp: 80-85F
10lbs – 2 row
4lbs – Torrified Wheat
2lbs – Carafoam
5lbs – Flaked Oats
1oz Simcoe (Pellet) Boil 20 min
2oz Citra (Pellet) Whirlpool 160F 20 min
2oz Mosaic (Pellet) Whirlpool 160F 20 min
5oz Citra (Pellet) Dry hop Krausen
3oz Mosaic (Pellet) Dry hop Krausen
5oz El Dorado (Pellet) Dry hop 5 days before canning
3oz Azzaca (Pellet) Dry hop 5 days before canning
Omega Yeast Labs – Tropical IPA OYL-200