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Catalyst Semi-conical Fermentor

As I may have mentioned before, I’m a dedicated gadget geek. I love trying out new things and ideas and am quick to seek out the latest new thing.

So it was with Craftabrews Catalyst Fermentor.

I normally do my fermentation in either my DIY Tri-Clamp Carboy, or in a sanke keg. Stainless steel is easy to clean, impervious to light and oxygen, can handle boiling wort and is sturdy. The downside is that you can’t visually monitor the fermentation process.

The Catalyst is made of Tritan, a crystal clear plastic that’s sturdier and more scratch resistant than PET. I ordered two when they were still in the Kickstarter phase and eagerly awaited their arrival.

Once they arrived, I immediately set about trying it out.

I made an IPA using Maris Otter LME and some Centennial hops for a simple SMASH beer.

Since I had my in-ground spa removed and filled in, and could no longer direct my plate chiller water into it, I’ve been using a modified no-chill method, where I would add a small amount of bittering hops at the start of the boil, and reserve the majority of my hops for a hop-burst / whirlpool session. Normally I used one of my stainless steel fermentors, but since the Catalyst material was touted to handle boiling wort, I simply dumped my wort into the Catalyst, placed it into my fermentation chamber, set the pitching temp on my temp controller, and let it sit overnight while I made a yeast starter. The next day I would oxygenate the wort, pitch the yeast, and let it take its course.

One of the features of the Catalyst is the massive three-inch valve at the bottom of the Catalyst, which accepts standard wide-mouth canning jars for accumulating trub and flocculating yeast. The Catalyst comes standard with a one-pint jar. This was not nearly enough to catch all of the trub and yeast that accumulated in my brew. I laid down some towels, a catch tray, removed the one-pint jar and replaced it with a one-quart wide mouth jar. It was a little messy, but not excessively so. The only downside was that wen I re-opened the valve, a large bubble of air made its way through my beer on its way to the top of the Catalyst, which is never a good thing.

I cold-crashed the beer, moved the Catalyst to a table, and replaced the canning jar with the bottling attachment. I keg my beer, so the bottling attachment tubing was inserted into a cleaned, sanitized keg. When I opened the valve, another large bubble of air coursed through the beer (sigh). A large amount of yeast that had settled onto the sides of the Catalyst also made it into my keg (double sigh).

I carbonated the keg, and after dumping a couple of glasses of truby/yeasty beer, the result was actually quite good.

While I was impressed with the ability of the Catalyst to withstand the hot wort, and the fact that I could watch the progress of the fermentation, I wasn’t crazy about the introduction of air when removing trub and kegging, nor did I care for the amount of crud that entered my keg.

I thought I’d give it one more try.

Since hazy New England-style IPAs are all the rage, I decided to make a Heady Topper clone.

I mashed the grains, boiled the wort, added the hops, and after whirlpooling, dumped the wort into the Catalyst. Into my fermentation chamber it went.

The next day, after the wort had cooled, I started to remove the lid in order to oxygenate the wort and pitch the yeast starter. To my dismay, the silicone seal that sits in the lid separated from the lid and dropped into my wort!!! I used a sanitized rod to retrieve the seal, re-sanitized the lid and seal, reassembled the lid and seal, carefully sanitized and wiped down the lip of the catalyst to clean off any possible sticky wort, oxygenated, pitched the yeast, and replaced the lid.

The fermentation proceeded uneventfully, and then it came time to dry-hop. I carefully released the lid and lifted up one side of the lid. It was obvious that the seal was once again going to separate from the lid and drop into my BEER. I carefully removed the seal from the lid, added my dry hops, and place the lid loosely back onto the Catalyst.

The oxygen and seal problems are deal breakers for me, as far as using the Catalyst as a fermentor. I am inclined to use the Catalyst as a cooling/trub collector for my wort, but in the future, I’ll be going back to stainless steel for fermentation.

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