Sunday, May 5, 2013

Fermenting is better in a Speidel

Man, ya gotta hand it to those Germans.  No, I'm not saying that only because I'm half of one myself; I'm talking about the fact that they know how to make some pretty darn good stuff.  To be more specific, I'm talking about the Speidel fermenter that I've used for my last couple of batches of beer.

Wanna know what's scary?  When a glass carboy breaks.  I've had it happen once before.  Lucky for me, it happened when I was outside and cleaning it, so there wasn't glass all over my house, and the only liquid that spilled was water.

After that, I went and bought one of the plastic carboys.  Those are nice because they're lighter and much, much harder to break.  The problem was the cleaning.  I have one of those angled brushes, and unlike with a glass carboy, the dried krausen that forms at the top wouldn't just brush away with a quick swish.  I had to really work it, and that no doubt resulted in the metal part starting to scrape the plastic.  Experienced homebrewers will know that if the plastic is scratched, that makes for a potential home for bacteria - which means you can get some pretty awful beer.

So, I went back to glass, and I've been extra careful ever since.  Still, there's that constant paranoia with glass.  What the hell am I gonna do if I drop the damn thing while walking it through the house and to the closet?  Five gallons of beer and tons of broken glass all over the place?  How many frikken' paper towels is that gonna take to clean?

Then Speidel came up with something brilliant - a plastic fermenter that's easy to clean.  Check out the image above.  Basically, you can unscrew the lid on top, reach your hand in, and wipe away any dried up mess with a soft sponge.  Another plus is that you don't have to siphon it into the bottling bucket like with a carboy.  That's not a major pain, but it's certainly easier to just turn a spigot and let it all pour into a bucket (using an attached hose, of course - don't want too much splashing!)

Other pluses include the handles and plenty of headspace.  It's a German company, so they go by liters.  That means that for my five-gallon batches, I have to use the 30L, which is 7.9 gallons.  (They have other sizes, from 12L to 120L.)

I've used it twice now, and the only drawback, as I've seen somebody else mention, is that you don't get to see your beer fermenting, which is kind of a fun thing to do, as it's tempting to scream: "It's alive!" whenever I do.  Maybe they can work on a version using clear plastic, but I'd say that all the pluses, especially if you're as paranoid as I am, far outweigh that one minus.

I figured that I'd write this little review because when I was considering buying one, I didn't see a whole lot of information out there on it.  Hopefully this review will help, and maybe I can figure out a way for MoreBeer to give me some kind of a discount for anybody who clicks this link and buys one from them.  Honestly, if I knew somebody who was just going to get started into homebrewing, I'd recommend that they go straight to the Speidel.


Matthew Holderfield said...

I totally agree. Glass fermenters are the dumbest thing in homebrew. However, there is something magical about a new brewer being able to watch the yeast flocks churn during their first fermentation. I say start with the better bottle and upgrade when your need for convenience outweighs your curiosity.

Lance Johnson said...

Something I forgot to mention about this one is that it has a lot of head space if you're brewing 5-6 gallon batches. That will be a big plus when reusing yeast from a previous batch to make a high-alcohol beer. When I made a Tripel the last time, the airlock rocketed off the top, and krausen spilled out on to the floor. I don't anticipate that problem with this one.