Have just brewed up batch number 6. As numbers 3, 4 and 5 failed to meet good manufacturing practice - although they were - barely - fit for use - I am not optimistic. Anyway I've tried to address all factors that could go wrong - bad scientific practice but if it works, saves time and money - including silicone gel on the joints to eliminate air getting in, lots of disinfecting and rinsing and the starting temp is pretty bang on at 28 degrees. An early bad sign is that the specific gravity was at 1.035 rather than the 1.040 that the hydometer indicates it should be. Ah well, will just have to wait now. If it doesn't work again I will be very snaky.
Also I see I attracted a dissenting view on my last post. Good. All about conversations and the comment raised a very good point. But it was anonymous, so do I have a kind of troll or someone making a point/taking the piss?
Update 30 January: absolutely no sign of bubbling in the air trap. However specific gravity has fallen approx. 05 so some fermentation taking place. Not much fermenting smell, though. Damn damn damn.
Update 31 January. Specific gravity has fallen another .1. The sample in the hydometer smelt roughly beer-like. Might be OK. Actually, provided it's moderately alcoholic (and we'll be able to estiamte this from hydometer readings once fermentation finishes), after the first 2 it doesn't matter what it tastes like. Sort of.