"I thought Brewballs was something that you got when you didn't brew for awhile." - Ken Lenard
Do You Have the Balls to Brew to Perfection?™
BrewBalls (patent pending) are "Floating Fermentation Monitors" designed for use in the home-brewing of Beer and Wine. You can now constantly monitor the progress of fermentation without opening the carboy and extracting samples. Each ball is precision manufactured to a specific density and will remain floating until the gravity of the wort reaches the density of each BrewBall. Sanitize and drop them in your carboy right before or after you pitch your yeast. BrewBalls float on the surface of your wort, will not interfere with your blowoff tube, and are clearly visible after the Kraeusen settles down. The colored dots always point up, making them easy to see from the top of your carboy. One by one each ball will sink and the ones remaining determine your current specific density range.
So I haven't bought this product so I can't give an absolutely proper review but they seem pretty straight forward so I can just imagine that I used them and they worked exactly as they are described.
Scouring the internet I have seen a few posts about these things and how they are going to save you from the "horrors" of using a hydrometer to monitor your progress. I am going to be honest here, when I brew I don't constantly take readings to make sure that it is going at a good rate. I know it has started when the yeast start making moves in the carboy and I just have a sense when it is done...After it has been a week to a few weeks and I feel by educated guess (experience, yeast used, starting gravity, etc) that it is done I go ahead and pull a sample and see where it is sitting. This works 98% of the time so I really don't think there is a benefit of adding all 5 balls into your fermentor to monitor the progress. So for the typical all Ale brewer I really don't think there is much of a reason to buy these things. The Brewballs people do say however that they would take emails asking about custom balls. If they could make a set that was like 1.020, 1.018, 1.016, 1.014, and 1.012 I think this would be something that I could get on board using. These would be the typical final gravities I am looking for so if I undershoot or overshoot I could swear at myself without even having to take a hydrometer sample.
However, I think there are definitely brewers that would benefit from a product like this.
1. The sanitation nazi - Why risk infection issues taking samples when I can just put these things in there and know by looking?
2. Lager Brewers - I have brewed a few lagers and I can see why these would be helpful. Lagers ferment at a lot lower rate and there isn't really that "sense" of when one is finished or not. If you just threw these balls in then you wouldn't have to waste half the beer by taking gravity readings every few days. It would also be helpful for determining the right time for a diacytel rest
3. Mead/Wine/Big Beer Brewers - These kinds of ferments are chock full of sugar for yeast to eat through and can take a long time, same with the lagers it would be useful to just look rather then taking 10 hydro samples.
So in conclusion I think these balls are a good thing (thanks Martha).
Here is another guy who thinks they are a good thing. (not Borat)