Part 1: an Introduction
Maybe six or seven months ago I was browsing the net on my mobile, when I came across a product called the FastFerment, an HDPE plastic conical fermenter for an astonishingly low price of $99 (£79.98 at BrewUK). I’d always wanted to try out a conical fermenter, but had been completely put off by the price, so I was buzzing. My pulse raised as I quickly searched for a distributor in the UK; however, to my dismay, there wasn’t one.
Fast-forward a few months and Brouwland, the king of distributors, started importing the FastFerment into Europe. Luckily for me, it wasn’t long until BrewUK started selling the FastFerment in the UK. Now, I digress. The fact that an innovative homebrew product, made by a Canadian company, managed to find it’s way over the Europe and the UK is fantastic. It’s so often the case that really innovative homebrewing equipment is a nightmare to get over here in the UK, unless you want to spend your cash on outrageous shipping costs across the pond. Thumbs up to Brouwland and BrewUK for making this less and less of an occurrence.
But, lets not get ahead of ourselves. Innovative isn’t always good – and you may know from my other post on GBLK that I’m a bit of a minimalist. Nevertheless, because I brew mostly Kölsch and my carboy’s are almost always full up in the fermentation fridge, I really needed something to ferment my quick turnaround ales in. Luckily, the guys over at BrewUK were happy to hook me up with a FastFerment. And for all those out there wondering if purchasing a FastFerment is the way forward, think no further – GBLK has got you covered with a two part review of the FastFerment conical fermenter. And without further adieu, part 1 begins… now!
Conical fermenters are a staple in the brewing industry. Their design allows for minimal space requirements, easy cleaning and sanitary removal of yeast which collects in the bottom of the vessel. Sure, on a homebrew scale, all of these things can be achieved when fermenting in a basic, glass carboy. Indeed, cleaning a carboy is as simple as soaking with hot water and Oxi-Clean. If you don’t have room for a glass carboy, then quit homebrewing! The selling point for the FastFerment, however, is that at the bottom of the fermenter there is a collection ball that collects yeast (and trub). This ball can be isolated from the fermenter and removed. You then have a collection ball full of yeast that can be harvested easily.
No Need to Rack to Secondary
Once the yeast and trub has been removed with the use of the ball, the ball can be sanitised and attached back on to the fermenter. A valve can then be opened, allowing the beer to rush back in. Because, hypothetically, you have previously removed the trub and yeast, you can now start the so called ‘secondary’ fermentation. Although ‘secondary’ fermentation has its followers, it’s generally considered to be unnecessary unless you want to reduce off-flavours, which may be generated over an extended period whilst the beer sits on the trub. Nevertheless, if you do want to secondary, the FastFerment makes this easy. By eliminating the need to rack to a secondary, not only will you save on clean up time, but you will minimise the possibility of oxidisation occurring during the transfer.
Easily Transfer the Beer to Bottles or a Keg
When you are ready to bottle, all you need to do is isolate the ball at the bottom of the fermenter, and swap it with a nipple. Attach tubing to the nipple, and open the valve. Gravity will do the rest, and the beer will transfer easily without the use of a siphon. Again, this reduces clean up and minimises the possibility of oxidisation occurring during transfer.
The FastFerment conical fermenter is made of food grade HDPE plastic. It holds 7.9 US gallons, and has graduated volume markings on the side. Its height depends on whether you mount it to a wall using the included mount kit, or use a stand which is sold separately. If mounted to a wall, the height of the FastFerment is 35.5″ to the top of the airlock. If you are using a stand, the height is 37″ to the top of the airlock. Unfortunately, this makes it too tall to fit in my under counter style fermentation fridge. It is 14.25″ wide. It has an integrated thermowell, which is great if you are concerned with temperature control.
- 7.9 US Gallon conical fermenter body (HDPE Plastic)
- 1 x collection ball
- 1 x thermowell (thermometer sold separately)
- left and right wall mounts
- wall mount bolts and washers (4 of each)
- 1 x 1″ union valve
- assorted union valve fittings (for the collection ball)
- 1 x 6″ screw top
- 1 x 6″ gasket (for the screw top)
- 1 x 3 piece airlock
- 1 x rubber grommet (for the airlock)
- 1 x hose barb
- 1 x roll of teak tape (to prevent leaks at joints)
- hose (for beer transfer)
- 1 x hose clamp
Initial Thoughts and Reservations
If you’re thinking about trying a conical fermenter out, but don’t want to foot the bill for a stainless steel unit, then the FastFerment may be for you. As can be seen from above, there are quite a few parts that come together to form the FastFerment, and for £79 I don’t think you can beat the price. I’ve read quite a few comments on HomeBrewTalk and Reddit, where people have said that they could put their own HDPE conical together for less than the price of the FastFerment. Maybe. But the fact that the FastFerment is sold with everything you need to get going is definitely nice. In fact, if you have made something similar I would be interested to find out how much it cost you.
All the parts appear to be of very good quality. Everything was sturdy, and everything that was drilled was very clean. I wasn’t expecting much from the stand, but I was actually very surprised at how robust it felt. Personally, I think that the stand is a must if you decide to get a FastFerment.
First, harvesting yeast from the bottom of the FastFerment conical is supposed to be easy and hygienic. I wonder, however, how effective this method will be when there is a high proportion of trub to yeast. In my tutorial on bottling beer and harvesting yeast, I explain that my Kölsch beers have very little hop debris and other muck that settles to the bottom. Most of it appears to be yeast (viable or not). If this wasn’t the case, and you have a large amount of hop debris at the bottom of the fermenter, I would worry that harvesting yeast straight from the collection ball may not be as easy as it’s supposed to be.
Second, I usually aerate my wort prior to pitch by putting my glass carboy on its edge, and vigorously rocking it about. I’m not so sure how easy it’s going to be to do this with the FastFerment. Without further considering, it appears the only way to agitate the wort whilst in the conical would be to pick up the whole unit, wort and all, and shake. Now, I’m reasonably strong, but damn – this may be too much to muster!
In the next post, I’ll review how the FastFerment works in operation.Full disclosure: the FastFerment was provided to me free of charge by the guys over at BrewUK and the FastRack. I intend to review this product in an objective and impartial manner.