Review: Stainless Steel Brew Bucket
By Kip Barnes
If you’re like me, home brewing sanitation is one your top priorities. It’s this focus alone that causes stress when determining whether to ferment in plastic or glass. Glass is sanitary and easy to clean, but it’s also heavy and fragile. Plastic is cheaper, lighter weight, and doesn’t result in 13 stitches after unfortunate carboy accidents, but on the other hand it’s also porous and easily scratched. But what other option is there?!
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If you’re like me, home brewing sanitation is one your top priorities.
It’s this focus alone that causes stress when determining whether to ferment in plastic or glass. Glass is sanitary and easy to clean, but it’s also heavy and fragile. Plastic is cheaper, lighter in weight, and doesn’t result in 13 stitches after unfortunate carboy accidents, but on the other hand it’s also porous and easily scratched. Its shelf life is short and is a common breeding ground for harmful beer bugs and bacteria. So which one do you use? Neither! Go Stainless! Go Ss Brew Tech!
Ss Brewing Bucket
Ss Brew Tech
A small start-up out based out of Irvine, CA aims to change how home brewers think about fermentation.
Relatively new to the scene, Ss Brew Tech has been in operation for over a year, shipping it’s first round of products in late 2013. Their goal: to bring innovative, affordable, and high efficiency fermentation gear into home breweries.
The team at Ss Brew Tech sells 7 & 15 gallon “Chronical” Fermentors and 7 gallon Brew Buckets using 304/316 stainless steel. Later this year, Ss Brew Tech plans to launch a line of kettles with their own line of accessories and also the FTSs, a fermentation temperature controlling device.
These fermenters are easy to use, simple to assemble, and are cost effective.
The 7 Gallon Brew Bucket comes complete with a rotating racking arm, sanitary fitting, conical bottom, and a spring loaded steel locking lid with punched airlock hole. The Chronical Fermenters kick it up a notch with 1.5” Tri-Clamp fittings perfect for advanced home brewers who desire a completely sanitary threadless fermenter. Each fermenter is robustly made of thick 304/316 grade stainless steel and are incredibly easy to disassemble for cleaning, which is also a breeze. They are engineered, not over engineered for ease of use.
Ss Brew Tech
Great Out of the Box!
I’m going to break this little gadget into pros and possible improvements.
This will be the easiest way to let you know what to expect. I’ll come right out and say that I loved using the Brew Bucket, but I’m also looking for some improvements on future renditions and accessories. The great thing about these are that they are built to be accessorized at an affordable price.
Stainless: – Stainless looks great and it’s completely sanitary. I like that I can see how clean it is. A soak in TSP, which is recommended (but I used PBW), pacification with an acid sanitizer, and final sanitation is all you need. Pacification is something home brewers don’t usually do, but this is a great opportunity to follow commercial brewery techniques for maintaining stainless. I’m clumsy at times so I also like that it doesn’t shatter into jagged sharp blades like a glass carboy when it falls over – 13 stitches is enough for me thank you.
Weight, Stackability and Lids
Weight & Stackability: These fermenters are light when empty and actually still pretty light when full.
Handles on the side make them easy to move around and reposition. They are also stackable. The lid has a punched airlock hole that is on the outer ring, while the brew bucket feet or more concentrated towards the middle – you can stack 2 or 3 on top of each other. Ss Brew Tech has a great shot of the fermenters stacked on the next note.
Lid: Having a lid with 304 spring loaded steel clamps makes it a breeze to open and close the fermenter. Dry hopping or adding secondary additions is a breeze. Make sure the lid seal is seated properly though. It’s engineered to be completely sealed if seated properly, but not having it sealed right can lead to blow off out the side of the lid (whoops). The punched lid hole can also be fitted with a 1/2? ID hose for blow instead of airlock!
Isn’t brewing all about cleaning, sanitizing, and cleaning, sanitizing? Having a large removable lid makes these two things a breeze. You can still use a carboy brush if you want to, but using a brew sponge and some elbow grease is just as effective. If you can see it, you can clean it. Soak before using it and soak it after. *It is recommended that you only use TSP. I used PBW during my brewing, but that’s what I have on hand.
Having a cone collects the yeast into a centralized area. Rather than having a layer at the bottom of your carboy or bucket that covers the entire bottom, you’ll have a concentrated mass right in the center. This will result in cleaner beer.
Brew Buckets have a 7 gallon capacity, which makes them larger than 6.5 gallon carboys. An extra 0.5 gallons is great when you’re dealing with beers with severe blow-off.
Ball Valve & Transferring & Customer Service
Ball Valve & Transferring:
With the rotatable racking arm and ball valve, transferring is a synch. I used my bucket to brew a lambic and transferred right into my sour barrel without the need of an auto-siphon.
Customer Service: The team at Ss Brew Tech is incredibly responsive. If you have an issue or question, the solution is only an email away. Add in that these units ship for free and you’ve got yourself a winner.
the racking arm, even the extended one, doesn’t quite reach down into the cone. After fermentation, you’ll have a sizeable yeast cake along with trub in the cone, with about an 1-2 inches of beer above it, which the racking arm cannot reach. This isn’t a huge deal unless yield amounts need to be exact for some reason (i.e. filling a barrel, specific number of bottles, etc). You could use a normal racking cane to get what’s left. I’m not exactly sure how to remedy this problem. The racking arm would need to be much longer and would need to be bent at an angle such that it could easy reach all the way into the cone.
Having a cone to collect the yeast is great, but the whole purpose of having a cone is to harvest yeast and dump trub.
It would be great to have another port on the bottom where this could be done. The yeast on my last batch was so healthy and easy to access, it was painful dumping it down the drain, but that’s more on me for not having another beer ready. That being said, being able to harvest yeast easily from the bottom like on a commercial uni-tank, would be a big plus. Using an Ss Brew Tech Chronical is another solution.
Legs and Tri Clover/Tri Clamp
Legs: The legs are a tad short for reaching the lower ball valve.
Having longer legs or leg extensions available, would be a nice to have. I like being able to completely sanitize any valve open to the outside with isopropyl. When you have the bucket on the ground, it makes it hard to get the bottle nozzle into the port without flipping it upside down.
Tri Clover / Tri Clamp: A nice to have, but not a necessity. I would like to be able to outfit this fermenter with either tri clamp fittings or quick disconnects. You are slightly limited by the included ball valve, but with that being said, it’s still easy to use, sanitize, and is effective.
Brittle glass carboys run $30-50, bacteria harboring plastic buckets & better bottles are $15-40, and the Brew Bucket will set you back $225.
Stainless is sanitary, easily cleaned, heavy duty, pro-quality, and damn sexy. While the price may seem high, it’s definitely worth it and it’ll last a lifetime. The conical shape of these encourages yeast to drop out and the ball valve on the bottom makes racking easy. Easy to assemble, easy to clean, easy to use. I’m a big fan of this one and I’m excited to use it for many of my special brewing projects from beer to sake to soda. I’ll definitely be looking toward future version of the Brew Bucket along with future accessories.
If you’re looking for a larger capacity vessel with tri-clamp fittings, be sure to stay tuned as I’ll be reviewing the Chronicals Fermentors next.
For more information Ss Brew Tech and their entire product line, visit their website at ssbrewtech.com
Special Side Note: The Pacific Brewers Cup 2014, one of LA’s largest home brew competitions, happens this September and this year's grand prizes include a Brew Bucket, Half Barrel Chronical Fermentor, and Ss Brew Tech brew pot. If you want to test your home brewing prowess for a chance to win these great pieces of equipment…get your brew on and enter the Pacific Brewers Cup!