Fermentation is one of the most important processes in brewing beer and as home brewers its the hardest for us to control. Commercial breweries have insulated conical fermenters with glycol cooling to allow them to control temperature.
So what are the options for home brewers? Everyone at one point has fermented in a plastic bucket, they come with all the beginner all grain equipment kits. The pros; they are cheap, they are plastic, easy to clean and they have a handle. The cons, well they outweigh the positive in my mind. Since they are plastic they have the ability to scratch easy. Scratches are areas that can become difficult to sanitize and that leads to infected home brews. How can you tell when primary fermentation is over? In order to take gravity readings you need to open the lid. You expose the beer to oxygen and risk of infected beer. Transferring requires you to open the bucket, exposing to oxygen again and risk of infection, use a siphon, which if not properly sanitized can lead to infection. I said infection a lot there. The next option for a home brewer is carboys. There are a lot of varieties out there of carboys; glass, plastic, big mouth, traditional, 5gal, 6.5 gallon. In my opinion they are a bit better then a bucket. Glass carboys are easy to sanitize since they dont scratch as easy as plastic, but can be very slippery and when full can be dangerous. Shattering a carboy full of your last 6 hours of labor is gut wrenching. Plastic carboys reduce the risk of breaking but you still have the ability to scratch them. Traditional carboys with their small mouths are hard to clean but the newer big mouth make that easier. However, on all of the carboys you need to use a siphon to transfer as well as pull samples to taste or measure gravity. They also do not have handles. When it comes to controlling temperature, well its either put it in a room in your house that is dark and cool, which you are pretty much at the mercy of whatever ambient temperature that is, or if you have the space get a chest freezer and temperature controller. Thanks to Ss Brewing Technologies there are a couple more options!
In our project to upgrade our home brewing system here at CraftBeerTraders we began looking into fermentation vessels. We have used the traditional carboy but were looking for something more. We began exploring Conical Fermenters. Exactly what commercial breweries are using but obviously at a smaller scale. That is until we came across Ss Brewing Technologies. We were drawn in by their beautiful Ss Conical Fermenters which were available in 7gal, 14gal and half barrel sizes. They were beautiful! But then we saw something we havent seen before, their Brew Bucket.
Ss Brew Tech Brew Bucket fermenter has a feature set that nails everything on our checklist for the optimal home brewing fermenter. Made from 304 Stainless Steel this bucket is food grade and easy to clean. It has just under a 7 gallon capacity which is perfect for a typical 5 gallon home brewer and has etched volume markers on the inside.. No more messing with those plastic impossible bucket tops, the lid for the Brew Bucket is Ss with a food grade silicone gasket and is held on with 4 easy clamps. Yes it has handles! But wait there’s more… One of the coolest features of this bucket is that it has a conical bottom. The conical bottom allows trub and yeast to settle out in a concentrated area leaving less surface area for your beer to be in contact with it. That results in less “off” flavors as well as less loss of beer. The piece de resistance, a rotating racking arm. We had to have it!
A couple days later a brand new Ss Brew Tech Brewmaster Bucket was at the door. I must admit they do a fantastic job with boxing their equipment. All double wall cardboard with an extra layer in for protection. When we opened the box we were greeted with a SsBrewTech instruction manual and the shinny Stainless Steel lid from the brew bucket. We gently unpacked everything and just stared at the beauty. Standing about 20.5″ tall and 12.5″ wide, the brew bucket looked better in person then it did on the site with the Ss Brewing Technologies etched logo on the front. There were 2 pre-drilled holes for the rotating racking arm and digital thermometer (available on the Brewmaster Bucket). The racking arm uses a 3/8″ ball valve with a hose barb at the end. They also included a 1/2″ ID silicon tube and stopper for the 17mm hole pre-drilled in the lid. Taking a look on the inside, there is etched volume markers from 4 to 6 gallons at 1/2 gallon increments. Honestly they thought of everything on this one. Even the bottom of the legs have a nice padding on them to prevent scratching of floors! Assembly was super simple. You can see assembly instructions Here.
First impressions on the Brew Bucket is this thing is sweet! This bucket hit all of our major check points when it came to a fermentation vessel. Its Stainless Steel so its easy to clean and durable. It has a racking arm to allow for sampling and easy transfer. Bonus was that this racking arm is also rotatable! When installed you can rotate the ball valve and the arm inside will rotate as well. It has handles for easy transportation. It has a conical bottom similarly to commercial conical fermenters to allow trub to settle nicely with a small surface area. The Brewmaster Bucket comes with a digital thermometer for more accurate temperature readings then those stick on thermometers. Lastly, and I cant stress this enough, these are STACKABLE!!! The lid was designed to have a large flat surface where the legs of another bucket or conical can be placed on top! The blow off hole is drilled to the far side of the lid so that it will clear the bottom of the vessel that is stacked on top. This is something you could never do with any other fermentation vessels. There was one item still left on our checklist though. What about temperature control? We were looking for accurate ways to control fermentation temperatures without using refrigerators and freezers. Well SsBrewTech has that covered!
Introducing Ss Brewing Technologies Fermentation Temperature Stabilization System (FTSs) for the Brew Bucket. This system allows you to control the the temperature of your beer by either warming or cooling depending on your needs. No need for a refrigerator or chest freezer, the FTS is self contained within the brew bucket. It is a replacement stainless steel lid with pre drilled holes that a stainless steel immersion coil attaches to. There is also a thermowell that attaches to the lid for a temperature probe that attaches to a controller. Dont worry, the controller is included! They provide a controller similar to an STC-1000 in a nice metal box and it includes a power supply and temperature probe. Best part, its readings can be set to either Celsius or Farenheit. They also include a pro grade submersible pump and vinyl tubing. The only thing you need to supply is a hot water or cold water supply. It can be as simple as a cooler with ice or a fish tank heater. Lastly, the system includes a neoprene jacket that goes over the Brew Bucket to insulate against the ambient temperatures. So let me just review this… the FTS comes with a new lid, Ss immerssion coil, thermowell, controller, temperature probe, power supply, submersible pump, hoses and a neoprene jacket. Everything you need to start controlling your temperatures is included for a plug and play. All you need to do is supply the hot and cold. So this opens up a whole new world of possibilites and makes lagering so much easier for a home brewer. Not to mention cold crashing for increased clarity. You also have the possibility of using this system to cool your wort after boil. SsBrewTech says you can chill from .5-2 degrees per minute depending on the temperature of your source water.
Our over all impression with the Brewmaster Bucket and FTS from Ss Brewing Technologies is, well, just wow. The craftsmanship in their equipment and their attention to detail is just outstanding. The system is a true plug and play with the ability to control temperatures at a professional level. Beyond just the Brew Bucket, Ss Brew Technologies offers the FTS for their 7 gallon, 14 gallon and half barrel Conical Fermenters. They are on their way to changing the world of home brewing on step at a time.