Airlock Fermenter

Why Anaerobic for Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation, fermentation that requires lactic-acid bacteria, is the transformation of fermentable carbohydrates to lactic acid and carbon dioxide (CO2) in an anaerobic environment (i.e. without oxygen). Allow oxygen to enter the picture, and mould and yeast are sure to develop in time, which can spoil the ferment and burden the body. Anaerobic fermenting vessels, such as Fido jars adapted with an airlock and Harsch crocks, allow CO2 that is created inside the vessel to escape, while preventing air from entering. The absence of oxygen in the vessel prevents mould and yeast growth, thus, ensuring safe and healthy ferments.

Fido jars are wire-bail (clamp-lid) jars made by Bormioli Rocco, a reputable company in Italy, with glass that has been annealed (i.e. heat-set). After glass is set in a mold, it is heated to a very high temperature and cooled slowly. Annealation toughens glass and reduces its brittleness. Other wire-bail jars are non-annealed, thus, have weaker glass than Fido jars.

Fido jars were originally intended for canning and food storage, not fermentation. Though the glass of Fido jars is tough, pressure from CO2 production by active lactic acid bacteria stresses the glass and weakens the jar over time. Without an airlock system added to the jar, CO2 and any remaining oxygen would be pushed through the rubber gasket. It has to escape somehow or else the jar would explode – take my word. Pushing CO2 through the gasket requires pressure high enough to exceed the pressure holding down the clamped lid, which is a lot of pressure. Here is where an airlock comes to the rescue. Rather than weakening the glass or risking an explosion, airlocks allow gas from inside the jar to freely escape while still keeping an anaerobic environment with an airtight seal.

Harsch crocks are an alternative to airlock jars. These have a built-in airlock though it looks different than that of a Fido jar. Instead of using plastic airlocks, similar to those used for alcohol brewing, these crocks have a gutter at the rim that is filled with water. As pressure from CO2 inside the crock exceeds pressure holding down the lid, CO2 passes through water in the gutter to the outside environment. This is the same principle used in airlock jars.

Of course, many people use fermenting vessels without airlocks, such as crocks without a water gutter, mason jars, or plastic pails.  Periodically, opening the lid slightly relieves pressure inside the vessel. Some refer to this as “burping.” Each time the lid is opened – however slight the opening is – oxygen enters the vessel. This is not a problem when the ferment is active, producing high amounts of CO2, such as the first three to four days. Any oxygen that enters the vessel is pushed out as pressure from CO2 exceeds outside pressure. Although once the ferment slows down, oxygen that enters the jar stays there, and will promote yeast and told growth. All jars with threaded lids are aerobic (i.e. let in oxygen). Even fermenting methods that use a mason jar with a modified airlock lid are not truly anaerobic.

Many fermentation books and blogs that support vessels without airlocks respond to inevitable mould and yeast growth by recommending to remove any visible growth, promptly. This would be reasonable if there was guarantee of 100% removal. Sadly, there is not. Moulds send extensions, or hyphae, down into the ferment, which are often invisible and tasteless. For all people, and especially those with weakened immune systems, eating foods with mould is not beneficial. Of course, some mould, such as those used to make Brie and Camembert cheese is harmless; whereas, other types, the types found on spoiled food, are harmful. Mould intoxication burdens the body, yet it can be prevented in ferments by using an anaerobic fermentation vessel.

When inexpensive anaerobic fermentation vessels exist, doesn’t it make sense to use these instead of aerobic vessels that allow mould and yeast to grow? Airlock-adapted Fido jars offer health, safety, ease, and convenience at an affordable price.

Swing Top Bottles

Airtight anaerobic vessels are not only essential for the fermenting phase described above; storing fermented beverages is best done in swing top bottles. Beet kvass, carrot juice, and kombucha should be stored in these bottles to prevent oxidation, thus preserve nutrients and probiotics during storage. These bottles also keep fermented beverages carbonated. Depending on the type of fermented beverage, these drinks usually last 1-2 months stored in swing top bottles.

Once again, these bottles are sourced from Bormioli Rocco due to the their reputation for quality glass and airtight seal. Other than storing fermented beverages, these bottles are good for

  • Preserving oils and vinegar.
  • Serving summer beverages on the patio or at a picnic.
  • Creating a vintage-themed celebration, such as a wedding

Jar and Bottle Prices

1All airlock jars come with Redmond Real Sea Salt to get you started, one 3-peice airlock, and one plug.

Bundle Specials

If you are from outside the Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul area, contact me here. Almost monthly, I drive to Edmonton, and would be happy to drop off jars along the way or set up a meeting place in Edmonton. Shipping is possible, but the cost would be passed on to the customer.