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Bad experience with a Fermentemp

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Birrofilo

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At the beginning of my homebrewing hobby I bought a Fermentemp. It's a home brew heated tray with a resistence inside rated 50W 24V. Later on I discovered much cheaper and equally effective alternatives, I paid this object €179,00 in December 2017.

I am talking about this object: Amazon.it

(this is the new version, my version was 50W and had a different display).

I later built a controller with an STC-1000 and bought a couple of Inkbirds ITC-308S, all used with three heating mats, 25W, which is sufficient for the typical 23-28 litres batch. That means I have overall 4 heating systems, I was not using only the Fermentemp.

Overall, I don't know whether I used the Fermentemp for more than 10 fermentations, probably less.

The Fermentemp failed a few days ago while heating a fermentation. The control electronics still works, but the resistence is kaputt.

I opened the object today. The resistence is stuck inside a metal container which is riveted to a metal plate which is screwed on the tray. The electrical connections are soldered. The resistance is made of a material like talk powder, it disintegrates under your fingers.

I don't see any interest in trying to repair this object, considering the difficulty in finding the resistence, having to drill and re-fix, and to make the soldering (I am not at all inside DIY and those kinds of work). I hoped I would have found a connector and some heating mat or resistance which I could substitute myself.

Overall an extremely, extremely disappointing consumer experience, and a very badly engineered object in my pissed-off opinion. I think a Fermentemp review was necessary after such a failure.

A defective item can happen, but here we have very bad engineering. The two probes are soldered, the heater is soldered, the heater case is riveted, it's all made very cheaply and it simply cannot be serviced. And it's a stupid metal box with a heater and a controller. It's hard to imagine doing worse than that.

Fermentemp_failure.JPG
 
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Birrofilo

Birrofilo

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Thanks. I noticed, just before closing the case, that there was a lose wire around. Being not a genius but not totally stupid either, I reckoned the wire should have been soldered to the other tip of the resistence, which was dirty with some strange carbonated stuff.

I cleaned the contact, and re-soldered the wire to it. I think it's 20 years I did not take that welder in my hands...

I think it works now (it heats) but I don't know how long it will last.

Thanks for the head-up. The component is certainly fairly cheap. It's a work that I could do, as annoying as it may be.

The judgement on the appalling quality of realization remains firm, though.
 

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Hello Birrofilo, sorry you had a bad experience, I represent the manufacturer of the Fermentemp; if you send your address via a PM I can send you a new element. The parts used are not cheap, the part in question is good quality Welwyn 50 Watt resistors, designed to radiate 50/48W of heat, via the heat sink. However it would appear that the problem was not in fact this part, rather the loose connection, it simply looks like the solder joint had failed, this does happen and again i can only apologise. Indeed none of the components used are cheap.

I would be interested to understand more about how and why you think our engineering is appalling? We have had no other such failures (that we are aware of) and there are hundreds of fermentemps out there. But like any product, things can and do fail.

Please feel free to contact us via einbrew.com regarding any problems you have. If you are not happy with our responses, then you can post informed judgements about us. Please don't execute us before a fair trial.
 

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Based on the picture showing the resistor physically failed I expect it will fail completely in short order. Even the Welwyn brand resistor is under $5 from Mouser Electronics. The type @Tom R linked with the studs on the ends might be a better option to make it easier to change out.
 
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Birrofilo

Birrofilo

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I would be interested to understand more about how and why you think our engineering is appalling? We have had no other such failures (that we are aware of) and there are hundreds of fermentemps out there. But like any product, things can and do fail.
Hallo,
your engineering is appalling because when one spends €170 for a piece of metal with a resistence and a controller one expects it to be user-serviceable. Like any product, things can and do fail, and I expect to be able to easily replace the failed component, if a product is engineered decently.

User-serviceable means no rivets and no soldering, but screws and connectors.

If a component fails, which can happen, the user opens the device, substitutes the component with his hands, or with a screwdriver, and solves the problem.

Your approach to service is that I buy this €170 object in Italy, and just because a component fails, I send it back to you to the UK, then you repair it to me, probably at a cost, and then send it to me back, presumably at my cost. This will cost to me presumably more than €100 and many weeks of waiting.

Screws and connectors were invented very many years ago. Selling this kind of device with soldered items and riveted items is inexcusable. You made an un-repaireble (or uneasily repairable) object just to save a few pounds in manufacturing.

Take into your hands an Inkbird ITC-308S. The temperature probe is connected with a connector. If the probe breaks, I just buy another.
In the Fermentemp even the temperature probes are soldered! Those things can easily break or be damaged just by pulling them absentmindedly. Many persons have no idea of what soldering is, they will be left with an useless item.

Besides, the maximum fermentation temperature that can be set with this object is 30°C. Why this limitation? Yogurt is made a 38°C or more, whisky is often fermented at 35°C. Did it cost anything to allow the user to set a 40°C temperature? Or 45°C? Ever heard of black garlic, of dried vegetables? Why limit the temperature range?

I also want to point out that this object is expensive for what it does: the abovementioned Inkbird costs €39 and it has a user-replaceable sensor. A 25W heating pad costs €25 or so. If it fails I cannot repair it but I can buy another for €25. Together, they can do the work a Fermentemp does, with more scope (no temperature limitation) and with the only sacrifice of the missing "statistics".

A €170 object must be repairable by the user. It should not fail, but if it fails, by Jove, must not force me to send it back to the UK. Your car has a user-replaceable battery for a reason, people don't like going to the mechanics for that stuff. Resistences fail. I can, maybe, accept that I must do a soldering if really, for some reason, you could not fit a resistence with a connector, which seems strange to me but who knows.

I cannot understand riveting the resistence, I cannot condone the sensors to be soldered, and I cannot for the life of me understand the limitation to 30 °C.

Daniel 5:27 comes to mind, frankly. But that's MHO and anybody is free to make their own opinion on this product. My experience is that I paid €170, I made less than 10 fermentations with it, it failed.
 
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MadHax

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How can we make it right for you, we have no interest in conflict?
 
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Birrofilo

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Frankly I think a full refund for such a case would be perfectly in order, so that you can demonstrate that, when "things happen", the problem is not left on the consumer.

If that is also your opinion, I will PM you my bank coordinates.
 

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As you have opened and tampered with internal parts you would have invalidated any warranty and guarantee, even if it were within the 12 month guarantee period.
 

doug293cz

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I used to do failure analysis of electronics (among other things) for a living. The resistor looks like it failed due to mechanical abuse. The resistive element (and the powdered insulator the element is packed in) has been pulled out of the metal housing, probably by pulling on the wire attached on the top side. The wire pulling probably also broke the solder joint to the resistor terminal.

Also, an expectation of user serviceability is totally unwarranted. Cell phones cost many $100's, and they are not user serviceable. Since most consumer electronics are not user serviceable, if user serviceability is one of your product requirements, it is on you to insure that this requirement is met before you purchase.

Brew on :mug:
 
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Birrofilo

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I used to do failure analysis of electronics (among other things) for a living. The resistor looks like it failed due to mechanical abuse. The resistive element (and the powdered insulator the element is packed in) has been pulled out of the metal housing, probably by pulling on the wire attached on the top side. The wire pulling probably also broke the solder joint to the resistor terminal.

Also, an expectation of user serviceability is totally unwarranted. Cell phones cost many $100's, and they are not user serviceable. Since most consumer electronics are not user serviceable, if user serviceability is one of your product requirements, it is on you to insure that this requirement is met before you purchase.

Brew on :mug:
The Fermentemp stopped working, and that is why I opened it. Yes, it might certainly be that while opening it I pulled the wire, and that extracted the resistor, and finally detached the wire. Yet, the Fermentemp was not working when I opened it (the resistor was not heating).

Cell phones are serviceable for the obvious. I opened very simply my smartphone with a hair drier (Sony Xperia Z1 compact, 2014) and changed the battery inside it, which is mounted with a connector. And in any case, cell phones are complex objects, this thing is a metal box with a controller and a resistor placed on a metal plate and two thermal sensors. I don't expect to service the control board, but yes I expect sensors and resistors not to be soldered.

My requirement is that things don't broke after 10 uses or less. When I open them, I judge what I find inside (which I cannot know until I open them).

I think it is good to inform people of the way this object is made inside, besides the fact that it broke after so little use. I never intended to have an exchange with Fermentemp, I have their email and I would have contacted them directly. Actually I thought they got out of business or the product was out of production because it is not anymore available nor on Amazon.it nor where I bought it (Mr-Malt.it).

And once I am contacted by them (or by somebody who says he talks on their behalf) I expect some better and more polite exchange.
 
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Birrofilo

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Why? You've been rude and impossible to deal with - why would you expect the same in return?
I have not being rude at all! Nowhere! I have been insulted for having exposed their product for what it is. Re-read the thread. I just show the failure and the inner making of the object. This user contacts me just to provoke me. I am entitled any opinion on this or any other product.
 

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If you're handy enough, that resistor is replaceable for a very nominal price.

Or (from what you've said so far), it's probably much better and safer if you know someone who is handy with electronics, to do it for you.

It looks like this is the replacement:*
One of these will get you going again.
HS50 15R J ARCOL / Ohmite | Mouser
But you'd be ordering it from a electronics distributor in your country.

* That also means there is a transformer inside the case that supplies the resistor with 24V (AC) or thereabout.
 

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...

I think it is good to inform people of the way this object is made inside, besides the fact that it broke after so little use. I never intended to have an exchange with Fermentemp, I have their email and I would have contacted them directly.
Early life failures (aka infant mortality) are a fact of life with most products, and these are often due to latent defects in components. The components are just good enough to pass the QC tests, but then fail after a short amount of use. This is why we have warranties. The length of the warranty period is meant to cover the time frame over which most of the early life failures would occur. Manufacturers expect a certain number of ELF's, and budget for replacing defective product.

I don't understand why you didn't contact Fermentemp about your issue prior to publishing a public rant. Contacting the manufacturer/seller first is accepted etiquette. It's not really fair to the mfg/seller to bash them, unless they have first refused to offer any assistance in remedying your problem.

Brew on :mug:
 
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Birrofilo

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If you're handy enough, that resistor is replaceable for a very nominal price.

Or (from what you've said so far), it's probably much better and safer if you know someone who is handy with electronics, to do it for you.

It looks like this is the replacement:*

But you'd be ordering it from a electronics distributor in your country.

* That also means there is a transformer inside the case that supplies the resistor with 24V (AC) or thereabout.
Yes, the replacement was already pointed to me, but if the thing fails again, i will just throw it in the dustbin.

The transformer is external to the case.
 
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Birrofilo

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I don't understand why you didn't contact Fermentemp about your issue prior to publishing a public rant. Contacting the manufacturer/seller first is accepted etiquette. It's not really fair to the mfg/seller to bash them, unless they have first refused to offer any assistance in remedying your problem.

Brew on :mug:
Because I think that it is important that people know, so that they don't make my experience. This is my general rule of life.

Once eBay somebody sends me something that it is not as described, and I gave a negative feedback. Then the seller offered to refund me the price if the negative feedback was removed (there was this possibility). I preferred to let him the negative feedback.

There is not only money in life, there is also belonging to a community and saying what worked and what not. And for me, this is what this forum is about. If my mill, or may kettle, breaks fast and I open it and I see that it is badly engineered, I write it here. It seems normal to me.

[And in any case, this seller would have told me that the item was out of guarantee, as he did (supposing it is who he claims to be). Or in the best of cases he would have told me to send the item for servicing, free of charge, freight to my charge, which is just ridiculous. But that's not the point. The point is that I am disappointed by the make and I say it. This object must never require a complicated repairing in my legitimate opinion.]
 
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Birrofilo

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Early life failures (aka infant mortality) are a fact of life with most products, and these are often due to latent defects in components.
Actually, I am not an expert in this, but when I re-soldered the resistor, it heated again. For some reason, the contact, the soldering, was lost. I found some kind of carbon matter on it, something as if it were burned. I cleaned and resoldered but I do expect this failure to repeat itself, and next time I will just junk it. The tray is immobile so it did not take any shock, none that I am aware of. It just stopped heating by itself. I thought the resistor was gone. I now think the contact was somehow burned, which is not something that should happen.
 

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Actually, I am not an expert in this, but when I re-soldered the resistor, it heated again. For some reason, the contact, the soldering, was lost. I found some kind of carbon matter on it, something as if it were burned. I cleaned and resoldered but I do expect this failure to repeat itself, and next time I will just junk it.
I would not try to reuse that resistor since it has been mechanically damaged, even if the resistor still works.

Brew on :mug:
 
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Birrofilo

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I would not try to reuse that resistor since it has been mechanically damaged, even if the resistor still works.

Brew on :mug:
Do you mean it might take fire? In that case, I just junk it immediately.
(although it is encased in a metal box, I don't think I want that to happen). I expect my soldering to melt first, if the thing overheats, but I might be wrong.
 

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My resistor is for a half outside of the metal case. Is there a reason why it is so?
That shouldn't be, it's broken, and cannot be used as is.

The resistance is made of a material like talk powder, it disintegrates under your fingers.
There should be no white powder coming out of the resistor/heat sink package. It's the medium that transfers the heat generated by the resistor to the external heat sink. In turn, that heatsink heats up the top of the warming plate.
 
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Birrofilo

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There should no white powder coming out of the resistor/heat sink package.
I was surprised to see the thing half outside of the casing, but I now see that I probably pulled it out of it. I tried to push it back inside, but it did not go (it pulverized under my fingers). I understand that the white part is the resistor and half of it doesn't transmit the heat to the metal thing. Actually it might overheat and melt the soldering or just dissipate the heat inside the metal case.

For what I remember, the yellow metal in touch with the resistor transmits the heat to a metal plate, but the plate is not in touch with the black case. It just diffuses the heat inside the case.
 
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doug293cz

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I was surprised to see the thing half outside of the casing, but I now see that I probably pulled it out of it. I tried to push it back inside, but it did not go (it pulverized under my fingers). I understand that the white part is the resistor and half of it doesn't transmit the heat to the metal thing. Actually it might overheat and melt the soldering or just dissipate the heat inside the metal case.

For what I remember, the yellow metal in touch with the resistor transmits the heat to a metal plate, but the plate is not in touch with the black case. It just diffuses the heat inside the case.
The white powder (probably magnesium oxide) is not the resistor. The resistor is a wire. The powder is an insulator that keeps the resistance wire electrically isolated from the metal case. The powder is packed around the actual "resistor".

Brew on :mug:
 
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