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FastFerment 3g

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DownstairsBrewing

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Looking at one of these for my smaller trial batches, particularly for the yeast harvesting. I am finding I like doing smaller batches for the variety, but 1 gallon is just a little too small. Looking at reviews, it appears that at least at first each of the FastFerment units had some quality control/production problems.

Anyone have any experience with these, positive or negative?
 

Shawn Murphy

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I had been running a 3Gal fast ferment for 2 years. There were some reports of threading issues but my screw and sealed tight. A year ago the ball snapped off at the threads when I opened the dump valve. As I was already placing an order was able to order a replacement that arrived at my door in 4 days. Once I could tolerate but last week the conical snapped off at the threads, unfortunately this was above the valve and my beer was spilling all over the floor! I caught what I could in an unrinsed turkey fryer pot. I am not hopeful for my results.

I contacted Fast Brewing as failing at the threads once is tolerable and could be a problem with the injection moulding process, failing twice is a design flaw. No answers, no replies from Fast Brewing for over a week.

Despite being a proud Canadian and wanting to support a Canadian company such as Fast Brewing. I am now looking at either a Catalyst or an Anvil Stainless fermenter.
 
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DownstairsBrewing

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I had been running a 3Gal fast ferment for 2 years. There were some reports of threading issues but my screw and sealed tight. A year ago the ball snapped off at the threads when I opened the dump valve. As I was already placing an order was able to order a replacement that arrived at my door in 4 days. Once I could tolerate but last week the conical snapped off at the threads, unfortunately this was above the valve and my beer was spilling all over the floor! I caught what I could in an unrinsed turkey fryer pot. I am not hopeful for my results.

I contacted Fast Brewing as failing at the threads once is tolerable and could be a problem with the injection moulding process, failing twice is a design flaw. No answers, no replies from Fast Brewing for over a week.

Despite being a proud Canadian and wanting to support a Canadian company such as Fast Brewing. I am now looking at either a Catalyst or an Anvil Stainless fermenter.
The impression I got looking around the reviews was of a company with the right spirit toward customer service, but slowly getting ground down by persistent problems. The largest size in particular seems to have been problematic. Two years ago, you could find lots of comments about excellent customer service, replacement parts shipped immediately, etc. Over the past couple of years, they appear to have partnered with other companies to manage production and distribution of particular products, and there has been a decisive change in tone.

I decided to give it a try - there really aren't any cheaper ways to try out a conical. Have not used it yet, but I will be doing so batch after next.

Curious if anyone else has had any experiences with this unit.
 

augiedoggy

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I have a larger older version known as the "V-vessel" along with a bunch of stainless conicals. It does what it should but a vcouple things I dont care for with this plastic conical is the fact that the threads at the bottom are soft and will strip easily. My plastic valve cracked and broke before I ever used it so I put a stainless valve on and use camlocks with the yeast ball. I dont like how the yeast tends to stick to the sidewalls of the plastic and not fall down into the yeastball compared to my stainless conicals and the jaybird canning jar yeast catcher. again just my experience since I started with stainless and bought this for more capacity. for the cost its not bad but its missing things like the sample port and such which make it not as nice as most stainless conicals in pratice as well.
 

Shawn Murphy

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Well it appears you are correct. After hearing nothing for two weeks I received a reply from the co-founder of the company. It appears due to significant customer service issues, they have let go all their CS reps and are replacing them.
He did conform that as my FF was 2 years old it was a design flaw that has subsequently been reinforced. He is also sending me a replacement conical at no expense and offered a discount on accessories to help ease the loss of my batch of beer. Unfortunately for me over the last 22 years I had purchased all of the accessories I needed for my FF system including getting in on the Kickstarter of the Brew jacket pro that can both heat and cool the beer to maintain positive temp control. I can even cold crash without over 24 hrs brining the beer from a 65°F in my basement to a cool 35°F. I will dump trub about 2 hours after filling the fermenter and stabilizing the fermenting temperature. Then I pitch, a week later I pull off the yeast which couldn't be easier to wash and reuse. After cold crash the ball is at least 1/3 full again but as this yeast is less flocculating I don't reuse it. Finally I fill a keg, fine with gelatin and burst carb. I use the Clear Beer Draught system on 2 of my legs and I am going to try the Fermentasaurus float to see if it works just as well. As a result I have relatively clear, finished beer in 3 days. By a week it is perfectly clear.

The impression I got looking around the reviews was of a company with the right spirit toward customer service, but slowly getting ground down by persistent problems. The largest size in particular seems to have been problematic. Two years ago, you could find lots of comments about excellent customer service, replacement parts shipped immediately, etc. Over the past couple of years, they appear to have partnered with other companies to manage production and distribution of particular products, and there has been a decisive change in tone.

I decided to give it a try - there really aren't any cheaper ways to try out a conical. Have not used it yet, but I will be doing so batch after next.

Curious if anyone else has had any experiences with this unit.
 
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DownstairsBrewing

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Finally got around to starting to use this, so thought I would put in some comments.

1. The HDPE casting of the threads is sort of an invitation to leaks. Having read various comments, before I began using the heroic amounts of teflon tape suggested I took a small needle file to do some deburring. So I was able to get a no-leak seal with just one failure - solved with even more teflon tape.

2. The documentation could be a little better. I made one stupid mistake, not realizing the Mason jar adapter did not have the gasket in place, and it was in fact shipped loose.

3. I can readily see why opening and closing the dump valve, and especially removing the jar attachment, puts stress on the threads. So far, the threaded joints have all seemed very stiff, and there really is no good place to hold on to. In the end, that may make the yeast harvesting I had in mind when I bought it rather difficult.

First 1 gallon batch is fermenting now. While I have no leaks, there is absolutely no activity in the air lock, so I am not sure if that is because there is enough headroom for it not to build up pressure to get through the water mass, or because the top air seal is imperfect.

Overall, I am not completely blown away, but set up was not too onerous and everything seems functional. My two concerns now would be durability and how easy it is to use for the operations (trub clearing and yeast harvesting) that make a conical worthwhile - first data point in about two weeks.
 
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DownstairsBrewing

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Some updates having done a few batches. Still not completely thrilled, but it is useful enough.

1. The bottom valve really is a pain in the ass. There is no really sound place to get a grip when you try to open it, and when it is stiff or stuck, that is a real difficulty.

2. I have not really tried the yeast harvesting, because of the difficulty of that joint. However, I am now thinking opening it and closing it more frequently in the whole process might not be a bad thing. Most of the batches I have done have too much trub for the small mason jar to empty it out. I may try Shawn's approach above of clearing the trub from the wort before pitching.

3. I have not been happy with using it for fruit beers with whole/chunk fruit additions. It gets clogged fairly easily. I suspect I would have similar problems with fresh hops.

On the other hand, it is fairly easy to clean, the bottling process is pretty easy once you get the trub/etc. out, and the seal has not been a real problem after the initial setup.
 
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I have 2 Fastferment conical 7.9gal fermenters, and I have been using them for about a year. It's the larger version but I think the issues would apply to the 3G as well...

SAMPLING PORT
Allows you to easily take samples for gravity readings and tasting without any danger of contamination and without having to use a wine thief (sampling port kit costs $14 on Amazon but once you've got one and have the drill bit, you can add generic sampling ports to subsequent Fastferments for much less)
THERMOWELL
A Metal - to metal connection goes straight into your wort giving an accurate reading without any danger of contamination. Thermowell is included but the thermometer will set you back $18 on Amazon.
BALL COLLECTION VALVE
Great for dumping trub and harvesting yeast. It also means there's no need for a secondary fermenter - just dump the trub and you're in secondary. One vessel means no racking and a lot of saved time. This also means you can bottle straight out of the fermenter (again, no racking to a bottling bucket = saved time and reduced opportunity for oxidization)
WALL MOUNT
This is awesome for limited space users and this is truly unique feature. Wall brackets included.
MILKY COLOR PLASTIC
This means you can't see the swirling movement during fermentation, but it also protects your fermentation from sunlight. I still wouldn't leave it in direct sunlight but it doesn't need to be in a dark closet.
GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE
Fastferment's team is great. I stupidly drilled my sampling port too low and wrecked a vessel. Fastferment sent me a new vessel for just the cost of shipping.
ONLINE VIDEOS
You have to set it up in a very particular way to ensure watertight operation, but FF has posted a bunch of online videos to help.

With all that said, there are some cons:

SCREW TOP LID
I have gone through 6 lids to find 2 that will seal to the point where my airlock will bubble correctly. The lid seals adequately to prevent infection, but most of them are not an exact enough fit to get the airlock to bubble. This is just an annoyance since it is fun to see the airlock bubbling. Don't worry though - fermentation is still happening and luckily you can take samples via the sampling port which is the true way to check on your fermentation's progress anyway. There is a thick layer of C02 sitting on your wort protecting it from oxidization, and I do not think any nasties are getting in past the screw top even though the seal is not 100% airtight.
TEFLON TAPE
Setup is a little tricky because you need to use lots of PTFE teflon tape to make sure nothing leaks. The videos cover this very well, and if you follow them you won't have a problem. I recommend on going ahead and getting yourself some extra teflon tape right off the bat. That way you will be able to use lots and lots the first time you set up the fermenter without worrying about exhausting the 1 roll that the FF comes with.
EASILY SCRATCHABLE
This just means you have to be careful cleaning the inside. I just fill mine with a PBW solution for a few hours, dump it out through the bottom valve, and then just rinse. No problems so far. BPA is just not as hardy as PTE or stainless, so you have to be extra careful with it.
COOLING JACKET IS NOT GREAT
I did go ahead and buy the FF cooling jacket and I didn't love it. It works for getting the temperature down, but requires 2x a day frozen bottle changes and I don't think it reduces the temp as much as advertised. I'm still experimenting with cooling but the best option would probably be a stand-up freezer with a temp controller. I haven't gone that way yet due to space but I may in the end. Currently I'm working with a Brewjacket immersion pro which is great for getting above or below ambient temp by 15 degrees but not by the 35 degrees advertised.
INCLUDED BOTTLING HOSE IS NOT GREAT
The fastferment comes with a too-short bottling hose and a clamp for controlling flow. I upgraded to a 1/2' silicon hose and a 1/2" racking cane and it works like a charm. Once you have those items, bottling out of the FF is quick and easy.

Overall I am super happy with the Fastferment. The one piece plastic body gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Eventually when I have the $$, I would like to upgrade to a Blichmann or SS, but for now though, the FF is a great system that is meeting all my needs and allowing me to spend my brewing equipment money on other aspects such as temperature control, yeast management, and all grain brewing equipment.
 
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kmarkstevens

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Doing my second batch with the 3 gallon unit. I got this because

First, I do a lot of split batches to compare different yeasts. I needed another half batch size unit. Gave up on the Mr. Beer fermenters as after a few batches they had infections.

Second, yeast ranching. I do a lot of 1030 - 1040 type English bitters. Got tired of making yeast starters and pouring off the starter liquid to get to a couple of autoclave worth of yeast. Now I can either save the entire 4oz mason jar, and/or pour off into a couple of autoclaves.

Testing an 8oz mason jar now as the 4oz might be too small (or it might be just right - will report back).

Will also play around with what's better:
- open the valve to the mason jar from the get go
- fill the mason jar with sanitized water, then open the value after 1-2 days to let the sediment out. Then swap out with a new mason jar full of sanitized water (to avoid aerating the wort) to collect the yeast. Or maybe wash the yeast in the jar.

It is a bit finicky. Need to make sure all the gaskets are in place. Had one mason jar that wouldn't unscrew, so I just broke it to get it out (I was just playing around so not big deal but not a great solution).
 
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