Monday 2 May 2022

FermZilla - Hints, Tips and Tricks

Looking at purchasing, or have recently purchased one of KegLand's popular FermZilla PET fermenters? Here's a quick list of some helpful hints, tips and tricks from our time using them.

Do Use Lubricant

Use some food grade lubricant on the O-ring seal of the main opening. This will help ensure a leak free seal when closing your fermenter. We use this one, but any food grade lubricant will work, including vaseline if you don't have anything else.

Don't Overtighten the Collar

When tightening up the collar that covers the lid and holds it in place, don't overtighten it. Do it up firm, but not tight. You should be able to undo it with your hands. Note that you won't be able to (nor should you) undo it whilst there is any pressure inside the fermenter. Even just a few PSI could see the lid fly off with great force and potentially cause injury.

If you have accidentally done it up too tight and can't get it off, you can try a special tool like this to help try and remove it.

Remember, the collar doesn't actually seal anything. It simply holds the lid in place - this lid with the O-ring around the outside is what creates the air tight seal at the opening.

Don't Overtighten the Steel Handles

Be careful not to over tighten the stainless steel handles that go around the neck of the fermenter. Doing these up too tight can cause the neck and opening to warp and lead to damage and/or leaks.

Don't use Hot Water

The FermZilla instruction manual clearly states not to use water hotter than 55°C (131°F) within the fermenter. Water exceeding this temperature can deform and damage the plastic. Even when cleaning, we've always used cold tap water which has worked well for us.

Don't use Abrasive Sponges and Cleaners

Speaking of cleaning, when wiping out the inside of the fermenter, don't use any abrasive sponges or cleaners. Anything that is too abrasive can cause scratches on the inside of your fermenter which are ideal places to harbor unwanted bacteria which can lead to infections in future brews. We've always used powdered brewery wash (PBW) and a soft chux-style dish cloth when cleaning and wiping the inside of our FermZilla.

Do Check your Spunding Valve

(Thankfully) this isn't one we've actually done ourselves, but we've read plenty of horror stories of others who have. Make sure you put your spunding valve on the gas post/carbonation cap on the lid of the FermZilla. If you attach the spunding valve to the liquid/beer post/carbonation cap, as soon as any pressure starts to build in your fermenter, the beer/wort will begin vacating your fermenter via the spunding valve, leading to a messy cleanup and lots of wasted beer.

FermZilla with Spunding Valve attached

You can get yellow and red coloured carbonation cap to help differentiate which one is gas and which one is liquid, or otherwise you can make markings with tape or a permanent marker to help easily identify which is which. Of course, you can also see which post has the dip tube attached to it by looking into the fermenter - one of the many benefits of a transparent plastic fermenter!

Do Get the Pressure Kit

Seriously, get it, and use it. This is probably the best feature of the FermZilla (it's ability to be pressurised). Even if you're still bottling, you can still utilise the benefits of pressure fermenting and fill your bottles and purge them with CO2 using a bottle filler beer gun. Yes, there is a bit more of a financial outlay for a small gas bottle and regulator to accomplish this, but you will notice the difference by doing it this way. In our experience, bottling using a bottling wand always lead to oxidation developing in our bottles, plus, it will mean you already have some of the equipment required if you decide to go down the path of kegging your homebrew in the future.

Filling bottles using a beer gun

Do Use the Plastic Carbonation Caps

KegLand provide options for stainless and plastic carbonation caps. Both will work fine, however the stainless ones are a little more prone to leaking. As they have a rubber seal inside of them, overtightening them can cause the seal to warp and then leak. The plastic ones don't have an additional rubber seal inside and are much less prone to leaking. People often think that plastic is inferior, but it certainly isn't in this case.

Do use the Jacket & Webbing/Strapping/Tie Down

KegLand make an insulated jacket for the FermZilla. This can help to regulate the temperature of the brew inside it to make cooling/heating it easier. It can also help prevent damaging UV light (ie. sunlight) from skunking your beer (after fermentation is completed).

There is also a bridle/tie down strap to secure the FermZilla fermenter to it's steel base. This makes transporting/moving the fermenter much easier (especially when full) as the round bottom means it can't be set down on the ground without the steel base.

FermZilla tie down/strapping is a must have accessory

Got any other hints and tips for the FermZilla? Let us know in the comments below.

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