One of the great beauties of brewing, outside of the beer at the end, is that you can tailor your brew rig countless ways, depending on your budget, the size of your space, and other factors. Over the past several years of brewing with my husband, we’ve upgraded just about everything in our arsenal. But we are still using the same 5-gallon (19 l) plastic brew buckets we bought more than a decade ago. At one point we tried a glass carboy, but that ended in a trip to the ER and lots of stitches, and we decided plastic was the way to go.
We’ve always wanted to brew lagers at cooler temps and saisons and other wild ales at higher temps. Most of the time I’m beholden to the seasons, and in Colorado’s climate, temperatures are a bit unpredictable. So when the opportunity came to try out the Ss Brewtech ½ BBL Fermenter with the FTSs Temp Control for Chronical ½ Barrel as well as the Brew Bucket, I was game to see what I’d been missing out on.
Turns out, quite a bit.
I’ve made some excellent saisons, but I’ve never been able to bring out the flavors that yeasts fermented at higher temperatures produce. It was something I always wanted to do, so I brewed a 15-gallon (57 l) batch of saison using a blend of saison yeasts that I’d chosen, and I used the Chronical and FTSs Temp Control setup to ferment and control the temperature (pictured below).
I poured 15 gallons (57 l) of wort into the Chronical and put together the pump and temperature control system (it was a snap—it took me less than 5 minutes). I monitored the temperature as it rose over the next few days, then dropped an aquarium heater into the bucket and let it do its job. Controlling the temperature rise was easy to configure, and once I hit my target, it stayed exactly on target the entire time.
Every few days I checked to make sure everything was good to go and loved the aromas of the yeasts changing as they fermented. At first it was like baked bread, but by week three, it smelled fruity and estery, and so, so amazing. This yeast blend is one I’m definitely going to use again, for a few reasons. One, because I love it. And two, because I’m going to barrel-age this beer and will need to brew another 10 gallons (38 l) to blend in as the beer soaks into the wood and evaporates during the conditioning time. I want to hit the same target flavor-wise, and with saisons being driven so much by the yeast, I want to reuse the blend I have now. The Chronical’s conical design (pictured below) keeps the trub and yeast at the bottom of the tank, but the spout higher up lets me siphon nothing but the good stuff into my barrel, leaving the yeast at the bottom so I can harvest it.
I brew a lot of batches that rack to a secondary, where I then dry hop or add spices. Doing that in a flat-bottomed brew bucket is a bit messy, and with my siphon, I always end up with more trub than I want in my secondary. There’s also the issue of trying to weed out the other goodies from the secondary when it’s time to bottle. Yes, the filter in the funnel does take care of some of that, but there’s the super small sediment that gets through the screen.
Using the Brew Bucket (pictured above) as a secondary served a number of purposes. One, I used it as my secondary, after pouring my milk stout over cacao nibs. After a few weeks of letting the beer soak up the chocolaty amazingness, I was ready to bottle. The design of the Brew Bucket was an advantage because I didn’t have to transfer the beer to a bottling bucket (meaning less dirty equipment to clean!). I connected my tubing to the spout in the side of the bucket, turned the lever to ON, and bottled as usual (as pictured below). My beer came out incredibly clear, and I had only the Brew Bucket, the tube, and the bottling wand to clean.
You can make great beer with just about any equipment at your disposal. Upgrading certain parts of your setup is going to make your life easier, cutting down on the time it takes to perform various parts of the process, and creating results that are more finely tuned, reproducible, and even better tasting. After looking at a number of the options available for controlling temperature during fermentation, I’m definitely very partial to the simplicity of the Ss Brewtech designs—everything is designed to make the process more streamlined, and the parts come together beautifully. There isn’t anything Ss Brewtech skipped over in their engineering. And now that I’ve seen what I have been missing out on, it’s changed the way I brew. Now, if Santa will just come through!
Sponsored by Ss Brewtech