My Experience with SS Brewtech

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ninkwood

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I recently finalized my months-long decision on a brewing system and decided that I'd go 3 vessel RIMS or HERMS and made my first hot side purchases: The SS Brew Kettle BME and the Infussion Mash Tun, both in 10 G. I'll figure out the third vessel and which direction I go with heating the mash at a later date, but compared to my makeshift 6 gallon BIAB set-up, this is a huge step up for me.

What I recieved was not up to my expectations, and to be fair to SSBT, They were quick to respond to my issues and offer some solutions. Also, big props to OBK here in Canada as they immediately offered me my choice of a return or exchange at no cost to me. I'm posting this for a few reasons.

1) I want to gauge what others are experiencing from SSBT as I was planning on purchasing more from them in future. I am now obviously second guessing that. Once I receive my exchanges, I'll have a better idea on that.

2) I want to make sure that others in the community are aware of what I recieved. I believe you should have access to all the information (good and bad) before making a purchase. Stuff happens, and it's important to know what level of support you'll receive when that stuff happens.

3) I want to hear from the community if I'm making too big a deal out of this stuff. For example, is rust on welds inside a kettle a major concern, or an easy fix?

Here are the issues:

Infussion Mash Tun
Issue # 1 - Bottom Plate Screw
20240227_083824.jpg

As you can see above, one of the four screws that holds the bottom plate on had its threads totally sheared off during installation. I found this screw on the bottom of the box after I noticed the bottom plate hanging down a bit.

Issue # 2 - Warped Base
20240227_084401.jpg

This segways nicely into issue #2 (you can also see how loose the bottom plate is due to that missing screw from Issue #1). The base of the unit is heavily warped, especially in the top left corner in the photo above. This warping causes the feet to be out of level, and the whole unit rocks unsteadily. I doubt this is a safety concern given how short the legs are, but it certainly is annoying.

SSBT suggested the MT was dropped in shipping. I think that's fair enough, though I question why this is only spot welded. We will see on the second go around if this issue persists.

SS Brew Kettle BME
Issue # 3 - Rust on the Outport
20240227_084757.jpg

20240227_084759.jpg
This issue is the one that concerns me the most, as it will be touching the beer and will only get worse with time. The welds on the main port on the brew kettle are rusting. I followed the instructions and cleaned both of these units with TSP, and followed that with a soak in Star San, both mixed to the manufacturers recommendations. I scrubbed a lot of rust off this port, but without using something abrasive the photos above are the best I could do. The entire time, I couldn't help but think "why am I having to do this on a premium product?"

SSBT recommend using bkf to get this off. I want to know if that will solve this issue once and for all assuming that I acidulate afterwards, or if this is a more serious flaw.

Issue # 4 - Alignment
20240227_084911.jpg

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The final two issues with these products involve the alignment of the ports on and the levelness of the SS Brewtech logo. Starting with the ports, I left the ball valve on to demonstrate how out of alignment it is with the thermometer well. Secondly, the logo on the front of the kettle is off by about 1.5 degrees. It's enough you can tell just by looking at it. Though not an egregious issue, considering everything else that is wrong with these two units, it really does help paint a picture of poor manufacturing quality control.

Very curious to hear your thoughts and experiences with SSBT! Thanks you for reading.
 
I was going to post a TLA with a "Royal" addendum to it, but as that may be offensive and subject to deletion...I hope this expresses that.
Thank you for posting this as I had an infusion mashtun on my long-term shopping list and the rust alone, despite there being methods to remove it, makes that a total non-starter... I'd be demanding a refund or exchange with SSBT footing the bill!
As to the alignment; ......*@*$#$?!?!?!? Is something crossthreaded?
The only experience I've personally had with SSBrewtech was an entirely positive one.. I had built my keggle and wanted a lid for a steam condenser, so I discussed it with them and matched up their 7/14G conical/brewbucket domed 1.5"TC lid to my 303mm keggle opening..worked like a charm....engendered Trust. I wouldn't have expected to see crap like that. Maybe OBK had a returned unit mixed up with the old stock? What has OBK said about it? (I've had only good dealings with them too, and they've gone that mile to assist me more than a few times.)
Please post all the interactions you have with SSBrewtech as this unfolds.
 
I was going to post a TLA with a "Royal" addendum to it, but as that may be offensive and subject to deletion...I hope this expresses that.
Thank you for posting this as I had an infusion mashtun on my long-term shopping list and the rust alone, despite there being methods to remove it, makes that a total non-starter... I'd be demanding a refund or exchange with SSBT footing the bill!
As to the alignment; ......*@*$#$?!?!?!? Is something crossthreaded?
The only experience I've personally had with SSBrewtech was an entirely positive one.. I had built my keggle and wanted a lid for a steam condenser, so I discussed it with them and matched up their 7/14G conical/brewbucket domed 1.5"TC lid to my 303mm keggle opening..worked like a charm....engendered Trust. I wouldn't have expected to see crap like that. Maybe OBK had a returned unit mixed up with the old stock? What has OBK said about it? (I've had only good dealings with them too, and they've gone that mile to assist me more than a few times.)
Please post all the interactions you have with SSBrewtech as this unfolds.
I will be sure to update this thead if there is interest from folks like yourself. OBK immediately asked me what I wanted and suggested either a refund or exchange. Personally, I'm concerned that the next batch will be equally as bad and I spent a good couple hours cleaning and scrubbing these. I don't want to do that again, and put my brewing on hold for a month or more if I ultimately end up returning the next batch they send. I also love and rely on obk and don't want to put them out. For now I'm thinking exchange though.

To put to rest the idea that the ball valve wasn't installed correctly, see this photo. SSBT also suggested that I misaligned it but it's clearly the tri clamp fitting...

20240227_121451.jpg
 
Wow. Seems like their QC isn't doing a great job right now. I've had nothing but stellar customer service from them. My biggest complaint is you can't talk directly to someone - it's always by email.

My entire system is SSBT. Would I go that route if I was starting today? Most likely not. SSBT is very pricey, but all my equipment is very well made. So, I'm not mad I have all SSBT, but I would check out Spike or Anvil if I was just starting up.

Side note - what's your thought process on moving away from BIAB? Most brewers are moving toward a BIAB system. Personally, I would return all that SSBT stuff and get yourself a 15 gal Kettle and continue to BIAB. You can do 5 gal easily and 10 gal if you sparge a little. Way more flexibility and a heck of a lot less cleaning.
 
A while back, I wanted @KegLand and Perlick to both sign up here and sent them some emails in that regard (Owing to the still unresolved issue of some folks with Perlicks leaking when installed on Intertap shanks)..I included links to threads that involved their products..I don't know if I had any influence of not, but am very glad that @KegLand showed up here to interact directly with the large number of their consumers that collect here. I truly believe that part of @SpikeBrewing 's rise to prominence has not only to do with their excellent products, but by their public presence on this site. (I just wish their only 'official' Canadian distributor had a better website and proper details about custom jobs)
Maybe as this thread grows a bit with vicarious consumer outrage, you can send them a link and suggest they sign up and answer for this in the largest online group of their consumer base. Confidence once lost, will never be regained with second-hand defenses.
 
Wow. Seems like their QC isn't doing a great job right now. I've had nothing but stellar customer service from them. My biggest complaint is you can't talk directly to someone - it's always by email.

My entire system is SSBT. Would I go that route if I was starting today? Most likely not. SSBT is very pricey, but all my equipment is very well made. So, I'm not mad I have all SSBT, but I would check out Spike or Anvil if I was just starting up.

Side note - what's your thought process on moving away from BIAB? Most brewers are moving toward a BIAB system. Personally, I would return all that SSBT stuff and get yourself a 15 gal Kettle and continue to BIAB. You can do 5 gal easily and 10 gal if you sparge a little. Way more flexibility and a heck of a lot less cleaning.
I wanted exactly what you have - high quality purpose built products. I don't mind paying for that. I'm not interested in paying for a repurposed stock pot with some holes drilled into it. If that's the route I wanted to go I'd have done it myself. Unfortunately based on what I recieved, that option is looking far more appealing than it did a few weeks ago.

As far as why 3v? It just seems to work better in my mind than 1v. I can't around some of the limitations and issues with 1v brewing such as heat loss from an uninsulated MT and the hassle of needing to recirculate to make up for that. I also want to use Nat gas since I bought a house with that pre-installed and running 240v would cost a ton of money. Ultimately, I'm inexperienced and am probably wrong. But some mistakes have to be learned the hard way and with this being a hobby, I'm following my heart and not necessarily my brain.
 
All I can say, if I received something like that, I’d want to return it in person, to give those responsible the opportunity to wear it as their new hat. They owe you a massive apology and a lot more than a replacement.
I appreciate that!

I honestly didn't know what reaction this would get. For all I know, this is just the way it is. It's a tiny market and we collectively get used to some of the Econs of scale enjoyed in markets with a broader reach. So I discounted my frustration with that idea a bit.

But I also spent $1200 on two pots, and my $50 6 gallon stock pot was built with far more care and attention to detail than these. So yeah. I'm not stoked!
 
I would be wary of continuing with SSBT. They should be embarrassed with this showing. But I have one of their kettles I purchased second hand and it is pretty thick, well made stainless. So it really is a toss up.

Bottom line, you paid a lot of money for poor craftsmanship. Remember when stainless steel did not rust? That is an entire different conversation...

Personally, I stay away from these vendors in the homebrewing world that offer very expensive hardware. Brewers want a 'step up' in their experience but in my view, you can make great beer on lesser systems and save your money for other things.
 
I would be wary of continuing with SSBT. They should be embarrassed with this showing. But I have one of their kettles I purchased second hand and it is pretty thick, well made stainless. So it really is a toss up.

Bottom line, you paid a lot of money for poor craftsmanship. Remember when stainless steel did not rust? That is an entire different conversation...

Personally, I stay away from these vendors in the homebrewing world that offer very expensive hardware. Brewers want a 'step up' in their experience but in my view, you can make great beer on lesser systems and save your money for other things.
Yeah - there ARE lots of positives with the units I recieved as well. They weigh an absolute ton and are very solid. The engineering is also sound. Theres good reason why after 4-6 months of intensive research and consideration I decided to go with these products. It's just a shame they couldn't be put together properly. One of these flaws would be a bummer and likely something I'd fix and move on from. But all of them together is far too much to ignore. If I don't give them a second chance I'll wonder 'what if', but I also am coming around to "lesser systems". I DIY everything... This is one of the only times I have paid the piper for quality, but now I'm considering returning these and spending the money learning to weld so that I can rise from the ashes and just make my own equipment out of converted restaurant supply kettle's.
 
Bit of an update here. Acting on SSBT Advice I tried a bit of BKF on the rust and it came off super easy. I'm sure this isn't news to most but thought I'd share in the interest of full disclosure.
20240227_180901.jpg
 
I wanted exactly what you have - high quality purpose built products. I don't mind paying for that. I'm not interested in paying for a repurposed stock pot with some holes drilled into it. If that's the route I wanted to go I'd have done it myself. Unfortunately based on what I recieved, that option is looking far more appealing than it did a few weeks ago.

As far as why 3v? It just seems to work better in my mind than 1v. I can't around some of the limitations and issues with 1v brewing such as heat loss from an uninsulated MT and the hassle of needing to recirculate to make up for that. I also want to use Nat gas since I bought a house with that pre-installed and running 240v would cost a ton of money. Ultimately, I'm inexperienced and am probably wrong. But some mistakes have to be learned the hard way and with this being a hobby, I'm following my heart and not necessarily my brain.
I use a propane burner in the garage. It's not as perfect as some of these all in one brew systems, but it does the job. I built an insulation wrap with Reflectix and wrap my kettle during the mash (you do not need to recirculate the mash.) A sleeping bag would do the same thing! I even step mash!

Just trying to help you not think so hard. I love 1 vessel brewing. It's cool to use a 3V system, but there's an easier way, especially for you saying you're inexperienced. I would have started doing what I'm doing now, had I known the benefits.
 
It's a tiny market and we collectively get used to some of the Econs of scale enjoyed in markets with a broader reach. So I discounted my frustration with that idea a bit.
Being a tiny market may justify a higher price but not sloppy work and low quality.
 
I use a propane burner in the garage. It's not as perfect as some of these all in one brew systems, but it does the job. I built an insulation wrap with Reflectix and wrap my kettle during the mash (you do not need to recirculate the mash.) A sleeping bag would do the same thing! I even step mash!

Just trying to help you not think so hard. I love 1 vessel brewing. It's cool to use a 3V system, but there's an easier way, especially for you saying you're inexperienced. I would have started doing what I'm doing now, had I known the benefits.
I hear you loud and clear!

I've thought about jerry rigging a insulated vessel together myself. I figure I could buy a cheap SS pot, cover it with spray foam and then fiberglass the foam. or I could take that same pot and fit it into a slightly larger one and again fill the gap with foam. I know I could just use a cooler, and I know its probably safe and all, but I just don't like the concept of hot liquid in plastic. I could also keep doing what I have been doing and covering my kettle with my winter gear. Ultimately, I would rather pay a little more money and save the time building something myself, and I also want something more permanent and easy to use than the sleeping bag/blanket/jacket thing. I'm going ahead with an exchange here, and if the quality is up to par on round 2, I will be happy with these two pieces. Maybe in time I will come back to 1V, or maybe I will be the exception. Time will tell!
 
Bit of an update here. Acting on SSBT Advice I tried a bit of BKF on the rust and it came off super easy. I'm sure this isn't news to most but thought I'd share in the interest of full disclosure.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but that weld is going to continue to rust and eventually fail. Some of our competitors (we won't name names ;)) don't properly sanitary weld their fittings. You can see there is a crack because the weld wasn't fully penetrated. What they do is weld from one side and then grind it from the back side to make it look smooth.
 

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Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but that weld is going to continue to rust and eventually fail. Some of our competitors (we won't name names ;)) don't properly sanitary weld their fittings. You can see there is a crack because the weld wasn't fully penetrated. What they do is weld from one side and then grind it from the back side to make it look smooth.
This was my concern. That the rust was indicative of a bigger problem. I'll also factor in that your on here giving me feedback on a product that isn't your own. That's what I would expect from a company that stands behind their products and their manufacturing processes.

I'm personally not in the"if it's made in China it's automatically crap" camp because the fact is that some phenomenal products are manufactured overseas. But the evidence is pretty clear that at the least, SSBT has poor quality control. I'll leave the analysis of manufacturing processes to the experts. However my experience so far leads me to believe I backed the wrong horse...
 
I'm glad @SpikeBrewing said it first... I hesitated on reposting a zoomed in view of that gap..I was trying to remember the correct science to explain (but I lost that to brain-damage). There is still oxidized surface inside the crack and it will spread back out over time. Rust is "Steel Cancer" and if you don't remove every bit and 'cauterize' it by doing a proper passivation, it always returns. It needs to be completely ground back to the bead (assuming there is enough bead that you don't go through the other side) and passivated... it should really be ground out and re-TIG'd.
Exchange or refund on SSBT's dime (and maybe a free fitting or some such as an apology)!!
 
I'm glad @SpikeBrewing said it first... I hesitated on reposting a zoomed in view of that gap..I was trying to remember the correct science to explain (but I lost that to brain-damage). There is still oxidized surface inside the crack and it will spread back out over time. Rust is "Steel Cancer" and if you don't remove every bit and 'cauterize' it by doing a proper passivation, it always returns. It needs to be completely ground back to the bead (assuming there is enough bead that you don't go through the other side) and passivated... it should really be ground out and re-TIG'd.
Exchange or refund on SSBT's dime (and maybe a free fitting or some such as an apology)!!
This is invaluable information for the exchanged products! Thank you for sharing 🙏

I'll be happy if I just get what I paid for 😀
 
Wow. Seems like their QC isn't doing a great job right now. I've had nothing but stellar customer service from them. My biggest complaint is you can't talk directly to someone - it's always by email.

My entire system is SSBT. Would I go that route if I was starting today? Most likely not. SSBT is very pricey, but all my equipment is very well made. So, I'm not mad I have all SSBT, but I would check out Spike or Anvil if I was just starting up.

Side note - what's your thought process on moving away from BIAB? Most brewers are moving toward a BIAB system. Personally, I would return all that SSBT stuff and get yourself a 15 gal Kettle and continue to BIAB. You can do 5 gal easily and 10 gal if you sparge a little. Way more flexibility and a heck of a lot less cleaning.
There’s a lot of inertia involved when we start the evolutionary climb from extracts to BIAB to whatever. When I “graduated” from carboys and buckets, I started with SSBT and stuck with them over the years. I went from Brew Bucket to Chronical to Unitank and have had good support and am generally satisfied.

That said, over the years I think their quality control has suffered. Not to the extent that I wouldn’t recommend them, but the build of my Unitank (though not as “off” as your examples) was of lower quality than the earlier purchases. I suspect the foreign suppliers may have been the root cause. Nevertheless I’ve had good service from all the fermenters and accessories I’ve ordered from them over the last 8-10 years. My issues have been cosmetic like yours and haven’t been a cause for concern. In fairness I haven’t bought from them since before Covid, so I can’t speak to their present day QC or any supply chain issues.

I will say that if my Braumeister shoots craps I’ll be giving serious consideration to their AIO system as a replacement.
 
There’s a lot of inertia involved when we start the evolutionary climb from extracts to BIAB to whatever. When I “graduated” from carboys and buckets, I started with SSBT and stuck with them over the years. I went from Brew Bucket to Chronical to Unitank and have had good support and am generally satisfied.

That said, over the years I think their quality control has suffered. Not to the extent that I wouldn’t recommend them, but the build of my Unitank (though not as “off” as your examples) was of lower quality than the earlier purchases. I suspect the foreign suppliers may have been the root cause. Nevertheless I’ve had good service from all the fermenters and accessories I’ve ordered from them over the last 8-10 years. My issues have been cosmetic like yours and haven’t been a cause for concern. In fairness I haven’t bought from them since before Covid, so I can’t speak to their present day QC or any supply chain issues.

I will say that if my Braumeister shoots craps I’ll be giving serious consideration to their AIO system as a replacement.
My SSBrewtech stuff has been great. I was replying to the OP. He's the one with issues :)
 
The sentiment seems pretty clear that 1) SSBT makes quality gear and 2) what I recieved from them in this case is the exception not the rule, and should be replaced.

I really appreciate all this feedback. It's made deciding to give SSBT another shot the clear choice. The fact remains that I love the features of these products, and they'd probably still work great for me in their current condition. However, it would cost money and many hours to correct some of these issues that can be corrected, and I'd still have some others. That just ain't right to me considering the price I paid.

My thanks to all of you!
 
I hope it works out. I would give them a chance to correct the situation by replacing all of the products. If they fall down or balk and anything then it is time to move on.
 
Please update us as to how SSBT and OBK handle this issue with the replacement.
Both companies responded to me same day. Seems like SSBT is absolved once the products leave the US and reach their Canadian retailer OBK (as far as I can piece it together anyway). OBK offered to get the exchange started right away but I wanted to make sure nothing arrives while I'm out of town in the coming weeks. Still waiting to hear back on a timeline from them. This may take until the end of March to be put to rest
 
I'm glad @SpikeBrewing said it first... I hesitated on reposting a zoomed in view of that gap..I was trying to remember the correct science to explain (but I lost that to brain-damage). There is still oxidized surface inside the crack and it will spread back out over time. Rust is "Steel Cancer" and if you don't remove every bit and 'cauterize' it by doing a proper passivation, it always returns. It needs to be completely ground back to the bead (assuming there is enough bead that you don't go through the other side) and passivated... it should really be ground out and re-TIG'd.
Exchange or refund on SSBT's dime (and maybe a free fitting or some such as an apology)!!

If I remember my metallurgy course from eons ago, I think that a bad weld on ss can bring iron to the surface. Once it's there, it's there to stay, as @SpikeBrewing pointed out upthread. Removing the oxidation just means there's still exposed iron to rust again and again.
 
This is a concern. I'm hopeful that the kettle I recieved was a complete dud - maybe someone's first day on the job, or a resentful employee getting some payback. The Mash tun could have just been dropped as SSBT claims, but that didn't strip the screw. The reality I see is that SSBT is cutting some corners. Far too many spot welds, sharp edges, and half-assed solutions (the rubber legs in the infussion are pressure fit into the 18 gauge stainless steel plate on the bottom for instance) for me to think they don't end up with issues like mine regularly. Still. If everything was done correctly and the items were in good condition, I'd be happy with these.
 
If I remember my metallurgy course from eons ago, I think that a bad weld on ss can bring iron to the surface. Once it's there, it's there to stay, as @SpikeBrewing pointed out upthread. Removing the oxidation just means there's still exposed iron to rust again and again.
Yup... I can't remember the exact temperature, but Stainless steel ceases to be stainless when you weld it and must be passivated. That's why the only real cure is to grind it all out and passivate. That nice shiny finish we see is simply polished oxidized chromium with a very stable molecular bond that will not allow futher penetration of O2. The off-angle TC bung is yet another bit of major welding incompetence.
:mug:
 
Yup... I can't remember the exact temperature, but Stainless steel ceases to be stainless when you weld it and must be passivated. That's why the only real cure is to grind it all out and passivate. That nice shiny finish we see is simply polished oxidized chromium with a very stable molecular bond that will not allow futher penetration of O2. The off-angle TC bung is yet another bit of major welding incompetence.
:mug:
I'll just leave this here as well...
20240301_091817.jpg

I might have unrealistic expectations, and I might be highly tuned to details... But that's also why I spend $1200 on a couple pots 😅
 
The most disturbing thing in all this is the duck-and-cover, blame-the-shipper/customer(!?) responses from the manufacturer. How a company responds when things go wrong tells me the most about them.
To be fair, they haven't really done that in this case. Or atleast not outright... They did suggest that I installed the ball valve incorrectly (which is obviously false) and suggest the bottom may have been damaged in shipping. So they are definitely deflecting, but they still also stand behind their products. OBK has been especially helpful. They reply to my emails within the hr assuming it's business hrs and they've made it clear that I can receive an exchange and if the problem persists a refund after that, all at their expense. That alone gives me a ton of confidence to order blind online from them again in the future
 
The sentiment seems pretty clear that 1) SSBT makes quality gear and 2) what I recieved from them in this case is the exception not the rule, and should be replaced.

I really appreciate all this feedback. It's made deciding to give SSBT another shot the clear choice. The fact remains that I love the features of these products, and they'd probably still work great for me in their current condition. However, it would cost money and many hours to correct some of these issues that can be corrected, and I'd still have some others. That just ain't right to me considering the price I paid.

My thanks to all of you!
I agree that the features and fixtures offered by SSBT are among the most innovative, but often the kettles themselves are fabricated off-shore (China, perhaps?) and sometimes get shipped to U.S. as “good enough”. The other innovator is Spike. I’ve got a number of their products and they’re top notch, though I don’t have one of their kettles and can’t speak to their quality.
 
btw, Spike welds beautifully.
I've learned through this process that they're the no nonsense option.

I'm a sucker for features and I love 4 things about the SSBT units I bought.

1) tangential whirlpool port
2) domed bottom on the kettle
3) insulated stainless steel mash tun
4) centre drainage on the mash tun

I also liked that the SSBT stuff came without the things I don't want like a thermometer on the kettle.

If round two goes south I'll consider Spike. But I'd have to go without all of the above.
 
I've learned through this process that they're the no nonsense option.

I'm a sucker for features and I love 4 things about the SSBT units I bought.

1) tangential whirlpool port
2) domed bottom on the kettle
3) insulated stainless steel mash tun
4) centre drainage on the mash tun

I also liked that the SSBT stuff came without the things I don't want like a thermometer on the kettle.

If round two goes south I'll consider Spike. But I'd have to go without all of the above.
I'm not trying to sell you on Spike; I was just admiring their work while cleaning my fermenter.

You could use the InfuSsion tun and any desirable kettle: no rule against mix and match. Probably no need though. Chances are good that you'll get fine replacements and brew happily with them for many years.
 
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