Brew Biz: Werts and All

The Topic: FastFerment Review

fastferm

Written by Ken Carman

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay, Clarksville Carboys and Music City Homebrewers, who has been writing on beer-related topics, and interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast, for over 15 years.

  I must admit as homebrewers my wife Millie, and I, are more than a bit dated. We started brewing when it was made legal in 1979. We had moved to Nashville the year before and one of my jobs was as a security guard.
  My multiple security guard assignments included the many buildings that were part of the Green Hills Mall complex, one which was also home at the time to Lil’ Ole Winemaker: the first post legalization homebrew store in Nashville.
  I had learned to love the darker, stronger, more complex beers after several visits to Canada and simply couldn’t find the kind of brews I craved in the Bud/Miller dominated 70s. So homebrewing was almost a necessity.
 A few years after that we were diagnosed having a medical condition that kept us away from drinking. Once that passed we started brewing again.
 We were amazed how much the hobby had changed. The equipment alone had become more complex, more interesting.
  We actually went the other way from the “get bigger, more complex” trend. For years, we’ve used an increasingly smaller, primitive, system because I can’t pick up heavy items with my bad back, and because it’s HOBBY, guldern, dang, vanshwangle it! (Or, %$#@!, if you prefer.)
  We were still using 2 1/2 to 1 gallon food grade plastic primary and secondary fermentation buckets up until a few weeks ago, when I bought a FastFerment.
  The first thing that impressed me was how clever, how simple, how space age looking, the design is. There’s kind of a lower tech, fermentation side to the process, Braumeister-ish cleverness to it. FastFerment doesn’t eliminate my preferred two step brewing, it simplifies it, beyond just using a conical to remove the sediment and much of the yeast. Fully enclosed, FastFerment’s a sealed system that helps with saving yeast for possible re-pitching while preventing contamination caused by wort transfer. There’s enough room for vigorous fermentation, yet it’s sealed well enough to be a great secondary during what was referred to as “the quiet stage.” Well, that’s what they called in one of the first books I had in 79.
  We bought the full package, not having a place to just hang the FastFerment. .
  The first two criticisms I’ve heard: both of which have yet to cause a problem, are cleaning, and that the wort supposedly tends to get stuck transferring to the collection ball you see at the bottom of the alien spacecraft that is FastFerment. We have had a hell of a problem with trub/sediment, I think mostly because I’m cheap and have yet to buy a grain mill. Another reason I thought the FastFerment was a great concept for us.
  Didn’t I already typed, “…we are a bit dated?” Yup, I did.
  Every homebrew shop I’ve been to damn near pulverizes the grain into a fine sand: great for efficiency, but it passes right through the false bottom, or worse it sneaks under the false bottom and I wind up filtering through a permanent coffee filter, one… cup… at… a time.
  Even with 2-3 gallons that’s a lot of work.
  But when I finally twisted the lever the trub, including the yeast, dropped right down. The wort looked nice and clear. I’ve heard that’s because they’ve redesigned the FastFerment. If so: success!
  Cleaning? Well, having tub problems at the house, I washed it down outside with buckets of water: Star San and PBW, hot water. The valve makes draining a breeze, and its less problematic than my small buckets in a tiny sink. So I have no idea what their problem was, from my perspective.

Courtesy Youtube
Courtesy Youtube
  On the less than positive side, if you make something with a multi-part valve assembly you really, really, really need to have clear instructions about how that valve goes together, and which way it goes on Paul’s spaceship. (Yeah, but it wasn’t Paul of movie fame’s shop I bought it from. I purchased it from Paul Denson’s shop in Clarksville, TN, called The Grog.)
  Luckily the part I put on upside down works well both ways, and I found out on the web a part I thought that looks like it MUST attach to the valve actually goes to the hose you use to siphon off beer.
  If you consider buying, the fatter part of the valve goes closer the collection ball.
  Another criticism: if you make an instruction manual for your product you probably should have something other than crappy, poorly lit, black and white, pictures.
 The most serious criticism: the manual didn’t tell me was that the top needed to be carefully screwed on and off 9 times before it sets well. I messed with it, messed with it, cursed more than once, and finally got it right. Luckily my friendly homebrew store owner in Clarksville, TN had been testing it and knew. Thanks, Paul!
  Might want to put that in bold on top of a page, eh, guys?! How many have ruined their gear in frustration?
  The lesson here manufacturers and homebrewers: if it can be screwed up, it will be, and I’m real good at that, unfortunately.
  We will return to our review after a brief ad…..

  “Attention brew equipment manufacturers!!! Ken Carman’s professional messer upper service is ready to serve your needs. Have your equipment tested by the best! He’ll even do it for the gear. So send your 100 barrel, fully automated, complete brewhouse package, plus obedient army of brew slaves for life, to Ken Carman @…

  We now return you to your regular scheduled review.
  Yes, if you scratch the food grade plastic you could ruin your rig. Luckily we’ve always used food grade plastic and, though we clean like crazy: no problem. Just don’t use metal scrapers, or use metal brewing spoons aggressively. This ain’t stainless steel! But, actually, I suggest avoiding no matter what you use to brew.
  So far, I recommend, with a few caveats.
  Considered buying the small S&S bucket too, stainless steel is great, even better. But for our needs this is both cheaper and more multifunctional.
  We’ve just started to use it, so, I hope to return and give you an update.
fast_ferment_laid_out_fastferment
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    Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the brew business, and discussions regarding all things beer.
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