Ok, I am going to open by saying this is not a true review. I do not own this product. I have not used this product. This is nothing but my thoughts on this product based on what I’ve seen about it online. Disclaimer over…
This device is a white plastic disk with a hole in the middle and a rubber ring just big enough to fit a standard one-way airlock sold in every homebrew store in the country. The purpose of the airlock is that, once filled with water to the correct line, it will allow air to exit the device but not enter the device, which keeps your ferment (no matter what kind of ferment it is) free of oxygen. In fermentation, oxygen promotes mold and bacteria that convert alcohol to acetic acid. Neither of which are something you want in many kinds of ferments.
The plastic disk is the right size to go over a ball jar and be screwed down with the standard metal threaded lid to hold it tight to the jar. The photo in this post is actually the photo from Amazon showing the device.
This is a neat concept because fermenting in ball jars is very popular for people who are not doing massive batches. When i do sauerkraut or kimchi, I do large batches in my fermenting crock. If I needed even more, i would use a plastic food safe fermentation container from a home brew shop. Some people have some concerns for plastic and acidic foods, but pickles are stored in these containers from the manufacturers as are banana peppers and other brined and acidic foods. So if they are good enough for commercial industry, they are good enough for me to use for a few weeks of fermentation. But for small batches, nothing beats widemouth ball jars. They are glass, sturdy, and there’s a variety of sealing options for them. Plus, who doesn’t have dozens of them around the house? You don’t? well, you should. They are great.
This leads me back to my original point…. which is the price of this product. Why would I possibly play $14.95 + S&H for half of a jar lid, an airlock and a rubber gasket? Let’s break it down. It’s a plastic lid. I can buy a set of 8 plastic lids for Ball Jars, made by Ball, for less than $5. It’s an airlock. Airlocks cost somewhere in the vicinity of 50 cents to 2 dollars each. If you find them locally at your home brew store, it’s going to be on the cheaper side of that. If you have to mail order them, the price goes down the more you buy but can run as high as $2 each. The bungs for the airlocks (the rubber stopper that the airlock is inserted in to) cost less than 2 dollars each. Now, how do you put that together? Simple. You cut a hole in the plastic lid about the size of the bung… it doesn’t even have to be perfect because the bung is tapered. If you’re close, it will fit. then, you put a tiny bit of sealing material around the OUTSIDE of the lid (probably bathroom latex calk… again, ONLY THE OUTSIDE. You do not want this inside of the jar. This should just provide an airtight seal around the outside of the lid.. the cork or bung provides the inside seal. Don’t let this come in contact with the food inside). Now, insert the airlock in to the bung/cork. Congrats, for less than 5 dollars, you’ve just made a one way seal for a Ball jar that doesn’t even require the threaded metal lid to fasten down tight. And since you bought in bulk (you did, right?) you have the materials to make 5+ more of them for under 20 dollars.
But let’s say you’re not very crafty and this sounds like too much work. Well, you’re in luck. Because here’s a guide from NorthWest Edible Life for turning a product called the reCAP in to a fermentation lid. Her guide has the advantage that it doesn’t require destroying a ball jar lid (the lid already has a hole in it that is the right size for a #9 bung) and doesn’t require any cutting or sealing. The disadvantage is that you have to buy the lids (which look to go for about 6-7 dollars on Amazon for a single or $5 if you buy in bulk). Even if you buy individual re-cap lids and the airlocks and bungs, you’re still cutting your costs in half and at the end of the day you have three products (the lid, the bung and the airlock) that you can re-use (the bung and airlock will fit beer and wine fermentation vessels too!). Let’s say you’re too lazy to buy the three pieces individually… well, here’s someone who will even do that for you. Farmcurious will sell you the three pieces together for $10. While you’re at it, pick up a copy of Wild Fermentation or Art of Fermentation, two of my favorite books on the topic of fermentation. For 2/3 the price you get a better product with more re-usability.
I have to tell you… from spending 15 minutes researching this reCAP product… it’s a smart product that I wish Ball had thought off and was selling at their mass produced price point. Being able to turn any ball jar in a pour spout glass container would be handy for storage and travel. Heck, even just using it to measure out rice and beans would be nice. This should be about a 2 dollar product, but because it’s probably made in small batches and sold by a small seller, it’s priced higher. And I am OK with that.
And I haven’t even addressed the fact that you probably don’t even need an airlock for most fermentations. Lacto fermentations (the kind done with yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, sour pickles, kombucha, etc) are submerged so that the mold only forms on the surface of the liquid and not on the vegetables or solids in suspension. The mold is harmless, but not very tasty, so you just skim it off the top before storing. The mold cannot survive beyond the surface of the ferment, because there is no oxygen. Using an airlock just means you don’t have to skim the mold off. Which, I prefer, but you know, I’ve had to skim plenty of mold off of krauts and they were all fine.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my hobbies it’s that for every niche hobby out there, there’s a niche product looking to take as much of your money as possible. And until the hobby reaches a stage of mass acceptance (and fermentation is headed there! 3 years ago, fermentation crocks were hard to find. Today, they are everywhere!) the niche products that serve that crowd are grossly overpriced. But when the hobby explodes and hobbyists start producing DIY solutions, you see those prices drop. Don’t get tricked in to buy inferior products that don’t even do the job as well as something you can make yourself. Take the time. Do it right. You won’t regret it.