Tuesday 12 July 2022

Cheeky Peak Nano-X Fermenter - Impressions after First Brew

We finally got our first brew (fermentation) done with our Cheeky Peak Nano-X Fermenter and wanted to share our thoughts so far.

This first fermentation was the Alfajor Biscuit Ale fresh wort kit from All Inn Brewing Co - we love fresh wort kits and find them a really quick way to get a keg full of freshly brewed beer without the fuss of a full brew day which we don't always have time for.

Most of our previous fermentations have been done in our FermZilla All Rounder from KegLand. We love our All Rounder and have made some great beers in it, but there are a few pro's and con's we've noticed even after just a single brew with our stainless steel Nano-X fermenter that we felt were worth highlighting.

Firstly, with our Rapt Pill in the stainless fermenter situated inside our brewing fridge - we essentially had it in a type of faraday cage that prevented the Pill from reliably connecting to our WiFi network and was very intermittently able to transmit data - sometimes going for several days without being able to connect which was disappointing. One possible solution to this problem would be to replace our InkBird temp controller with the KegLand RAPT Temperature Controller which can connect to the Pill via Bluetooth, then update the telemetry to the cloud from it's own WiFi connection. This feature was only recently enabled after a firmware update for the Pill. Alternatively we could use a WiFi range extender in our garage to help boost the WiFi signal, so long as it works for the older 2.4GHz network which is what the Pill uses.

We also missed the ability to watch the action inside the fermenter like we can with the clear plastic All Rounder. We installed our sight glass ball valve on the Nano-X fermenter so that the wort is visible in the sight glass, which gave us some insight into what was happening, but by the end of fermentation it had mostly filled with trub as you can see in the photo below.

Nano X Fermenter sight glass full of trub

Stainless steel is better at transferring heat than plastic, so we noticed our Nano X was a little more susceptible to temperature changes compared to our FermZilla. Not a particularly big deal as we had a heating option sorted for our fermenter fridge which worked well in conjunction with borrowing our insulation jacket from our FermZilla and loosely wrapping it around the Nano-X. A little crude, but it worked! The Nano-X neoprene jacket is definitely on the hit list for a future upgrade.

Our Nano-X Fermenter with heat pad and FermZilla insulating jacket

The Nano-X with the pressure rated lid has a significantly higher profile than the FermZilla so we had to remove an extra shelf in our fermenter fridge to allow it to fit.

We were also pleased with not having any issues with pressure leakage from any of the Nano-X ports or the lid itself. Not surprising with tri-clover fittings as they're relatively small, have new seals and are fairly easy to deal with and fit correctly. The large pressure lid though has a large surface area which means more area to seal and potentially leak from. The trick is definitely to use some food grade lubricant on the seal/gasket which gave us a leak free seal.

The conical shape of the Nano-X was also a big benefit. Our fresh wort kit was a total of 20L and we managed to fill our 19L keg and still had some beer left over in the end which was really surprising. There's definitely more beer lost in the trub in the non-conical All Rounder. It was great having the trub settled nicely into the cone at the bottom of the Nano-X, which separated it nicely and left more of the fresh beer on top.

Trub settled into the bottom of the Nano-X cone

Cleaning was also quite easy with the Nano-X - being made from stainless steel it's a bit more durable and the risk/worry of scratching the fermenter surface is much lower than when you're dealing with plastic fermenters. It was a little more time consuming compared to the All Rounder though since did a full tear down and removed all tri-clover fittings for cleaning as well. Ultimately not a big deal, but certainly not as quick/easy to clean as the All Rounder.

Our Alfajor Biscuit Ale didn't call for any dry hopping, but expect that this will be a piece of cake as well by using either the 3" or 1.5" openings on the lid of the Nano-X. We may even look at fitting a Hop Bong in the future to allow for completely oxygen free dry hopping, though dumping hops through the lid without any of this fancy stuff has never posed a problem for us previously.

Pressure transfer from our Nano-X to our fermenter

Transferring under pressure was also much the same, however it was nice not having to worry about tilting the fermenter on an angle like we do with the All Rounder to orient the floating dip tube to maximise how much beer we're able to extract out as it nears the trub cake at the bottom. We did however miss the visibility of seeing how much was left in the fermenter during transfer, but much of the guess work was taken out by viewing the weight of our keg being filled in real time using our Plaato Keg.

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