Over a year ago, an interesting new product came up on Kickstarter that piqued my interest. The Plaato digital airlock aims to give you access to real-time estimations of the specific gravity of your brew, any fermentation activity, the alcohol content, and even the current temperature. The idea behind the airlock is that it gives you a unique analysis report on each of your fermentations. As someone that is into gadgets and homebrewing, this seemed like the perfect piece of kit for me.
Whilst it was still in the early stages, it cost me around $109 to back the project and wait for my product to arrive.
And wait I did! There were constant delays from the Plaato team with promising updates and new delivery times, but in the end the final product was delayed by over a year. Sad times, but I guess it serves me right for buying something off Kickstarter!
Nevertheless, my Plaato did finally arrive. It came packaged in a neat box along with a 3 meter long USB cable that you use to power the device.
In order to get the airlock up and running, it is simply a case of plugging in the USB cable and your Plaato should spring to life immediately. The setup involved in this product is really easy and straightforward. In this article, I am going to take you through my first thoughts of this digital airlock and how it performs.
Before you get started using your Plaato airlock, you'll need to download the Plaato app which is used to collect the details of your fermentation. It works on both Android and iOS, and once you have downloaded it, the app will take you through the steps to get the device up and running and connected to your WiFi.
Once the app and device are up and running you are ready to start using the airlock. On order to test the device, I used this on a batch of Mead that I recently brewed. The image below shows you the details of the Mead in full swing.
I have to admit that it was really cool opening the app at work and watching my brew bubble away! It is exciting to track the process of your homebrews from a distance.
One of the strengths of the Plaato airlock is that it allows you to see the health of your fermentations. For example, if your fermentation is stuck, you'll be able to pick up on this. It is also really useful for determining when your fermentation is complete and has reached final gravity.
The two images below are from the same batch of Mead.
In these images you can see when the fermentation activity has slowed down and is ready for the next stage. I also really like that it gives you a temperature reading - I was able to determine that one of the cupboards in my house has a pretty constant reading throughout day and night!
Before you go out and purchase one for yourself, I would recommend considering the following things:
- Are you able to get a reliable WiFi signal? I have a fermentation chamber in the garage and my WiFi doesn't reach. Unfortunately I can't use this on every brew :-(
- Are you near a power source? Depending on where it is in the house / garage, you might not be able to reach a plug.
- Will it fit in your fermentation chamber? While it fits most fermenters, the airlock itself is quite tall and takes up space.
All in all, the Plaato digital airlock is a great bit of kit. As a homebrewer, it's not essential to making better beer, but it can give you insight as to what is going on with your fermentation. I think the Plaato team have got a gem of a product on their hands and with a few improvements to the app, it could be an even better product.