Ss Brew Tech – FTSs

Recently, I reviewed both the Ss Brew Tech Brew Bucket and Half Barrel Chronical Fermentorhigh end stainless fermentation vessels put out by Ss Brew Tech.  In both of these pieces I detailed the upcoming release of something called the FTSs or Fermentation Temperature Stabilization System and guess what, it’s finally out!  Check out the review and find out why you may want to get your hands on one now or add it to your holiday shopping list.

KWBarnes_SSBrewTech_FTSs__0045Ss Brew Tech (Recap)

A small start-up out based out of Irvine, CA aims to change how home brewers think about fermentation.  Relatively new to the scene, Ss Brew Tech has been in operation for over a year, shipping its first round of products in late 2013. Their goal: to bring innovative, affordable, and high efficiency fermentation gear into home breweries.

The team at Ss Brew Tech sells 7 & 15 gallon “Chronical” Fermentors and 7 gallon Brew Buckets using 304/316 stainless steel.  Recently, the fermentation expert launched their most sophisticated piece of gear, the FTSs or Fermentation Temperature Stabilization System, which acts as a thermostat during fermentation.  Ss Brew Tech will soon be launching a full line of Brew Kettles along with updated versions of their core line-up of fermentors with new accessories.

Ss Brew Tech: FTSs

The FTSs is like an advanced wort chiller with a robot butler attached.  This is more of an accessory as it’s designed to be added to your Brew Bucket or Chronical and comes complete with a new lid with pre-drilled holes. In order to function it needs a water reservoir, which it uses to maintain the temperature in your fermentation vessel.  The thermostat is attached to both a thermowell thermometer and a small submersible pump which activates when the temperature rises above your preset threshold.  The pump draws cold water from the water reservoir (I used a Coleman cooler full of ice) and cycles the fluid through a large stainless coil heat exchanger that sits on the underside of your brew bucket lid.  On the surface it seems complex, but setup and operation are incredibly easy and intuitive – one of those gadgets you can easily figure out without reading the instructions.

This is an interesting device and has a lot of potential to be tinkered with in terms of set up.  You could easily set this system up with a glycol generator and use it to maintain your fermentation temperature just like the pros.  You could hook it up to a cheap cooler and restock it with ice packs regularly to keep it nice and chilly.  You could even put a water reservoir in a fridge and draw through insulated lines.  Depending on how much space you have to work with in your home brewery, you’ll need to figure out what works for you, as some of these options may be more space intensive than others.

Get Ready to Chill!

Packaging: The FTSs comes as a set of two boxes.  In one box is a custom fitting neoprene sleeve designed to insulate your fermentor, an impressive piece on it own, and in the other box is the FTSs hardware with a predrilled lid.  Everything is packaged nicely, securely, and it’s very easy to unpack.

Price:  The FTS clocks in at a cool $250, which isn’t cheap by any means, but very worth it when you see all that’s included.  Neoprene sleeve, thermostat, sump pump, vinyl tubing, thermowell thermometer, lid, and stainless coil – $250 seems just right.

Stainless: 304 Stainless construction.  The stainless coil and fixtures are robust and very substantial.  The coil is beautiful, and I found myself tearing up as I watched it disappear into the brew bucket.

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Weight: The FTSs is light weight.  Fully constructed it can easily be held in one hand, though at $250, you may want to use two hands just to be safe.

Lid: Coming packaged with a pre-drilled extra lid is a big plus.  You’ll find two holes that act as the in and out for the coolant line, one hold for the thermowell, and a final hole for your airlock (4 holes total).

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Thermowell: Thermowells are fantastic, and the fact that you can upgrade your old brew bucket with a new thermowell is a big plus.

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KWBarnes_SSBrewTech_FTSs__0049Thermostat: The FTSs glows a cool blue when it’s turned on.  The readout is vibrant and is easy to see from afar.  From the get go it’s easy to set up and operate.  Pressing the Set button once allows you to set the temperature with the arrow buttons and pressing it a second time locks it in.  You are also able to calibrate the device along with a few other advanced settings typical of thermostats, like delay protection.

Efficiency & Noise: The system works quickly.  I was able to drop the temperature from 75 degrees to 60 degrees in a little over 13 min.  The pump is whisper silent.  I couldn’t tell that it had turned on until I heard the tell tale swish of water being pumped through the coil.

 

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Cleaning: Because assembly is pretty straightforward, cleaning is also easy.  You’ll want to use TSP to remove machine oil before the first use, and from then on it’s just soaking it in a cleaner like PBW.  Everything can be disassembled so you wont run into any issues.

Customer Service: The team at Ss Brew Tech is incredibly responsive.  If you have an issue or question, the solution is only an email away.  Add in that these units ship for free and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Possible Improvements

Adjustable Coil Depth: Sometimes I brew a large batch and take the second runnings to make a smaller batch.  I would love the ability to adjust the coil depth so that it could be used for smaller than average batches.  This would take some engineering though, and I’m not exactly sure how it could be done…cleanly.

External ReservoirThe external reservoir isn’t really an improvement per say, but having an out of the box option that doesn’t involve buying extra equipment would be nice. I’m a big fan of out of the box solutions.  Thankfully, coolers are inexpensive so this is one extra piece of equipment that should be available to everyone.  Just keep in mind that whatever cooler you use, it’s best if you drill holes in it to feed the tubes through to minimize temperature fluctuation.

This is nice to have, but I would love to hook this thing up to a food grade glycol generator.  They are very expensive though so I’m waiting for Ss Brew Tech to release a cost effective version of their own that’ll do the trick.  The ability to recycle coolant and limiting the manual intervention of adding ice or cold packs regularly is something that is needed.

Verdict

The FTSs is a beautiful piece of equipment, and it works like a charm.  Its sturdy construction and easy-to-assemble/easy-to-operate nature makes it a slam dunk for anyone wishing to take their brew bucket or chronical to the next level.  It’s especially handy for home brewers that are limited on space and refrigerated fermentation capacity.  I have several dedicated refrigerators large enough to house my fermentors, but being able to increase my production by utilizing an FTSs when my fridges are full is a great option.  I know I mentioned that not having the reservoir/cooler included is a possible improvement, but it’s also an extra layer of flexibility.  If you’re in a confined space with limited room, you’ll more than likely be able to find a cooler that fits your needs at the hardware store rather than having to make do with whatever is provided.

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The FTSs is very well made and is the perfect addition to any gadget-loving home brewer’s repertoire.  You will, however, need an Ss Brew Tech fermentor to take full advantage of this device.  The 7 gallon Brew Bucket and Chronical FTSs devices are available now.  Expect the 14 gallon and Half Barrel Chronical to go live in December.

Check out my review of the Ss Brew Tech Brew Bucket and Half Barrel Chronical Fermentor here!

About Kristofor Barnes

Kip is the founder of Bierkast and co-founder of Los Angeles Ale Works. Picking up home brewing after college, he has since become an accomplished award winning home brewer, LA Beer Blogger, and author of the Beer Lover's Guide to Southern California. Kip is a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of Cinema Television. He lives in Inglewood, CA with his sciency wife Katie. Follow him @bierkast or #FollowTheLAAW @laaleworks

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11 Comments

  1. Steve:

    Kris, I understand your frustration about an external reservoir.
    Changing ice bottles constantly during primary fermentation is a PITA.
    Has anyone you know considered something like this device?
    http://www.chillsolutions.com/products/csxc-1-aquarium-chiller
    If the price was more reasonable I think it would be a hot seller for the homebrewing community! Even glycol could be used instead of water.

    Great write up.

    • Kip:

      Hi Steve,

      That’s pretty cool. I did see a guy that rigged a glycol reservoir he put in his serving Keezer. Basically utilizing it’s refrigeration temperature to cool the glycol down and them recirculating it through the FTS. I think glycol or some sort of refrigerator is a must, but then it depends on how long the individual beer is fermenting and at what temp. I wonder how efficient this aquarium cooler is?

      Cheers,

      Kip

      • Steve:

        Their web site states a 10+ degree pulldown for 10 gal of water. My guess is if you had 5 gal of water in a cooler, the pulldown would be more than sufficient for ale ferments.

        • Kip:

          I would agree. Definitely depends on what you are using to cool the water and the ambient temperature outside. By using crushed Ice, I was able to keep a consistent temp over about 8-10 hours overnight during the summer. Obviously commercial refrigerated glycol is the best option, but glycol chillers are expensive and bulky.

  2. Preamble:

    I’m curious how the system deals with the scenario of chilling AND heating both being needed within a single fermentation. It’s highly possible that in a cool basement (such as mine) that chilling would be needed during the first part of the fermentation, and when the temp drops heating would kick in. Or even a repeated cycle fluctuation?
    The SS website states that a simple aquarium heater could be used but I can see contention with using that and ice in the same cooler.

    Thanks for the nicely done review of this product.

    • Kip:

      Hi Paul,

      I haven’t actually used it for heating in my setup though with it getting colder, it might be a good idea to get the aquarium pump. That being said, it’s just a heat exchanger stainless coil, so whatever temp fluid is going through the coil will be transferred to the beer touching it. If you want to pass warmer water through that shouldn’t be a problem. I saw a few pics of guys that set up glycol chillers and thermostat devices to heating/cooling reservoirs that pumped through the FTS to maintain temp. It was a pretty sophisticated setup from what I remember.

      But just going back to your question, I think the FTS will work with whatever temperature you give it. Ice or Aquarium pump, it’ll be the same result. Does that help?

      • Steve:

        What I use(which I think is easier) is a 40W fermwrap on the exterior of my conical for heat control. The caveat being your controller needs to be dual relay. Separate for heat and cool.

        • Preamble:

          Thanks guys for your replies. That’s pretty much what I’m doing now using a carboy in a small fridge with a heating pad and a ST1000 controller.
          I plan on putting my conical next to my fridge and use a glycol reservoir in the freezer as a cooling source for the pump. I’ll let you know how it works out.

  3. Kip:

    I think that’s a good idea steve. You have the benefit in this instance of having a single walled fermentor. So you can heat things up or keep them at the right temperature pretty easily by just strapping the fermwrap on the fermentor. I don’t have a fermwrap, but I think I should probably grab one sometimes soon.

  4. Larry:

    I just ordered the Ss Brewtech Brewmaster 7 Gal Connical fermenter and I wanted a way to mitigate the need to refill ice/water in a cooler. Regrading the FTSS pump do you know if it can operate in a non-submersible capacity? If so do you know the fiting size for the input. I ordered (but don’t have) mine yet to measure the submersible input size. For example taking in a feed from an aquarium chiller, pumping through the coil and going back into the chiller? The chiller style I am looking at is the following: http://www.amazon.com/Active-Aqua-Chiller-Refrigeration-Unit/dp/B0048IVBT4?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cd_al_qh_dp_t.

    Basically I am looking at putting a chiller in-line to mitigate the need for a cooler w/ ice needed looked after. I am assuming that the FTSS takes a reading from the thermometer and then when it gpes/approaches set temp it provides power to the pump which starts the cooling process….the pump controls cooling. Any insight is greatly appreciated.

    • Kip:

      Hello Larry, I’m not sure if the pump can operate in a non-submersible fashion. It’s traditional mini sump pump with a guard over the inlet. https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0239/5187/products/DSC_9210_1024x1024.jpg?v=1450754852. I’m guessing you could remove the guard and attach tubing to inlet, but you’d need to make sure to prime the pump before hand – not that it would be a big undertaking. I’m not sure on the input size, I could measure it when I get home, but I’m guessing it’s 5/16 or 3/8. That’s a pretty standard size. If you got 3/8 silicone tubing you’d probably be good either way as it’s flexible enough to stretch over a larger OD barb. There isn’t a lot to attach it too though and there is no ribbed barb so you’d definitely need to figure out a way to either extend the tubing or securely fix it to tubing that is there. I could see it detaching pretty easily if it got jostled.

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