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Ross Lunato
12/06/06 10:33 AM  
Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditionin
Reading Dbear's post got me curious about cold conditioning in kegs. The way I see it, there are many options to conditioning beer:

1. Transfer from primary/secondary to keg and condition by adding priming sugar/malt to keg, store warm until carbonated then chill.

2. Keg from primary/secondary and force carbonate for a few weeks chilled.

3. Bottle from primary/secondary and condition warm then chill.

4. Keg or secondary condition cold then bottle condition warm and chill.

5. Keg or secondary condition cold then force carbonate.

6. Keg or secondary condition cold then add primings to keg.

I'm sure there are many more options however, I'm curious as to what most of you do out there regarding conditioning. Right now, I've been kegging and force carbonating because I believe I've been getting off flavors during bottle conditioning and have decided to keg and force carbonate as a test more than anything else. So far I've been getting clean beer by kegging and force carbonating, but I'm not sure if force carbonating is the way to go for best taste and quality. I have heard other brewers state that after aging a brew in the keg for a month or so they cannot tell a difference to bottle conditioned beer. Any thoughts out there???

SteveG
12/06/06 10:46 AM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
I pick door #5! At least for 90% of what I make.
Ross Lunato
12/06/06 10:54 AM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Steve;

Do you condition the beer cold; say a week or two and then force carbonate? Do you keg condition or condition in the fermenter? If you keg condition, do you pressurize the keg first to make sure the lid seals? Questions, questions and more questions!! :)

Thanks!!

N8
12/06/06 01:14 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
I'm in the #5 door as well. I let most beers sit in primary for about 4 weeks, then rack into a keg, cold condition for another couple of weeks, then force carb. If there is reason to suspect a larger then acceptable amount of sediment in the keg I will rack off of that into another keg. But with the 4 week or more primary, that's usually not a problem.
SteveG
12/06/06 02:55 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Ross, looks like N8 and I are on the same page. I prefer to condition the beer for a little while, then transfer and slowly carbonate. Transfering carbonated can be a problem, when you transfer with kegs you need to vent the CO2 coupling (the receiving keg must have lower pressure). If the beer is foamy the coupling will start spitting foam!!
Al B
12/06/06 03:15 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Interesting on "I believe I've been getting off flavors during bottle conditioning "

What off flavors are ya getting - oxidation, autolysed yeast, or other? (contamination, sanitizer residue?)

I use fresh yeast for bottling, racking with CO2, and avoiding splashing of hot priming sugars/malt. And of course rinsing out bottles wery well

Ross Lunato
12/06/06 03:36 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Thanks for all of your responses!!! To Al's question; the off flavors I get vary from beer to beer. Sometimes I get a touch of oxidation in the flavor profile, other times I've gotten a very phenolic aroma, like an infection, almost band-aid like. I do believe that is definitely an infection. Other times, the beer doesn't seem infected, just that the estery or phenolic qualities are greatly magnified but not in a good way. Most of the time, I notice these problems AFTER the beer has been bottled. I always taste my beer at bottling and haven't noticed anything alarming. So, I've been trying many different things to get a handle on it such as closed system transfers, fermenting cooler, using a temperature controller for my fermentations, kegging, washing and then sterilizing my bottles in the oven at 300*F for several hours, not using a starter etc. So far the biggest impacts I have seen in a positive direction have been not using a starter (pitching 2 packs of Wyeast in a 3 gallon batch), making all transfers under closed condtions if possible and kegging directly out of the primary. The last beer I brewed was a Scottish ale that was as clean as can be. I just put a Saison in the keg last week and so far that beer seems pretty clean too. I think the oxidized flavor was coming from my starter. I usually make the starter the night before brew day and pitch the whole liter about 18 hours later. Probably stale by then... I'm not sure what the other off flavors are caused by yet. By the way, I use PBW and Star San exclusively.
Ross Lunato
12/06/06 03:39 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
By the way, what does autolysed yeast taste like in a brew??
Steve
12/06/06 03:43 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Ross, it tastes like meat.

So let me ask, you have a good sized collection of bottles that you draw from? How do you store them and how do you prepare them?

Ross Lunato
12/06/06 05:42 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Steve;

I definetly am not getting a meat like taste in my brews. That sounds horrible really :)

I do have quite a good sized collection of bottles that are on hand. I use the left over Champagne style bottles from commercial Belgian beers that either I or friends of mine save. This is how I prepare them:

1. Soak in PBW for at least a week.

2. Scrub them with a bottle brush.

3. Soak in PBW a few more days.

4. Drain and rinse well with hot water.

5. Drip dry on bottle tree for a day or two.

6. Wrap necks/openings with aluminum foil.

7. Bake in the oven @ 300*F for at least three hours.

8. Slowly cool down in oven over night.

9. Bottle the brew the next morning.

Also, I do not cork the bottles but instead use 29mm bottle caps which I soak in Star San before use.

Ross Lunato
12/06/06 05:51 PM  
Re: One more thing
I just realized something.......two of the brews I bottled that I believed were infected were primed with Coopers Drops. I'm not saying for sure that's the root cause as I'm sure people would be screaming about these if they caused infections. However, I do need to investigate this. I always thought it was strange that you just add the sugar drop straight to the bottle with out some sort of sterilization. Doesn't make sense to me. Hmmmmmmm......

By the way, I always use CO2 during bottling and back fill both the bottles and fermenter during the process.

Al B
12/06/06 06:26 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Thats a thorough bottle cleaning......I reckon those are STERILE rather than sanitized!

"I usually make the starter the night before brew day and pitch the whole liter about 18 hours later" Are you making 5 gallons? 1 Liter is a bit high (especially if its oxidized).

Personally, I prep multiple starters. I feel that yeast cultures can be old, cold, stalish, sluggish, perhaps stressed. Stressed yeast taste bad. They can exude some of those strange flavors depending on the strain.

1-2 smaller starters at first with lots of O2 (1-2 days)giving the yeast time to consume the O2 and get healthy. After that you will see vibrant activity - more like in 18 minutes! I do this with high gravities before bottling too. Healthy yeast, healthy beer, I always say....

I doubt Coopers drop itself causes infection - infection occurs more likely if mishandled while adding them.

Al Beer

Ross Lunato
12/06/06 07:09 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Al;

I brew 3 gallon batches. I normally make a 1 liter starter and put it on a stir plate until I am ready to pitch. I was suspecting oxidation and that's why I started to eliminate the starter and pitch WYEAST packs instead. Results have been encouraging.

I'm curious on your technique using multiple small starters. Would you mind elaborating on your starter usage techniques? One thing I'm curious about is making a starter(s)on a stir plate, let it ferment out and then pitching the slurry without pitching the wort thus foregoing oxidative effects of the wort.

Thanks for your advice!

Al B
12/06/06 08:41 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Similar technique.

I bottle up 300ml bottles with starter wort and freeze until ready (bottles are thick glass). I pitch yeast into one bottle with stir plate and oxygenate for 2-3 days. Depending on the OG + batch size (I brew 3 - 6 gallons) I'll repeat in larger bottle.

After oxygenating, I'll let it settle for 1-2 days or so, decant off spent wort (although there are healthy yeast suspended, there's many left). The day before brewday, I'll add the slurry one more time to fresh starter without the stirplate. Activity will be strong (sometimes it seems within minutes!). This has been working nicely - very clean and fast fermentations.

The Wyeast Activator packs work well too, but again, sometimes I can't brew when I would like to (delays, delays) so those packs get older each passing week.

Al

Ross Lunato
12/06/06 08:54 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Al;

Wow! I've never heard of freezing starter wort! That's a cool idea! No pun intended :)

"The Wyeast Activator packs work well too, but again, sometimes I can't brew when I would like to (delays, delays) so those packs get older each passing week".

Talk about delays.....I was going to brew a German Hefe two weeks ago; I had popped the activator pack the night before on a very fresh pack of WY3068. In the middle of the night I awoke with a horrible pain in my abdomen. The pain was soooooo bad. I mean I was "dubbeled" over!!! It got so bad I went to the ER. Turns out I wound up having an emergency appendectomy. Been recovering ever since! I cannot lift anything over 10 pounds for another two weeks. Guess I'm not brewing for awhile. I can't wait to get back at it again!

Anyway, I think the next time I decide to make a starter, I'll follow your lead and ferment it out and just pitch the slurry after freshening it up a bit with fresh wort.

Al

Ross
12/06/06 09:00 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Check out my sign off name: Al?? guess I did that on the old cut 'n paste! Sorry 'bout that.
Al B
12/06/06 10:03 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Yikes. Good thing ya got that in time.

Well, at least you can lift a beer or two.....good luck.

Baums
12/07/06 10:49 AM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Here's a great way to minimize both effort, and the risks of oxidation and infection, during bottling:

1. The night before, prime bottles with a measured amount of table sugar. (We use a slightly heaping 1/2 teaspoon for a 12 ounce bottle--if you want to be more precise, there are many ways to do so.)

1a. We also cover the bottle tops with little squares of foil, but don't know if this is necessary.

2. Sterilize the primed bottles at 300 degrees for 2.5 hours in an oven, per the dry heat sterilization chart in John Palmer's "How to Brew". (At this temp, at least in my oven, the sugar stays loose and granular. In a test bottle at 350, it melted. Given variations in oven temp, etc, it's probably best to test bottle or two in your oven before doing whole batch. BTW, corn sugar has water in it, starts "melting" at a lower temp, and thus may not be suitable for this kind of thing.)

3. Turn off the oven and let the bottles slowly cool overnight with a closed oven door.

4. Bottle directly out of your fermenter into these bottles.

No cleaning a "bottling bucket" before and after bottling. No boiling and mixing a priming sugar solution. No racking of the beer with the potential for oxidation/infection.

We made a racking cane and bottling wand out of copper tubing and sterilize these in the oven along with the primed bottles. So all we have to sanitize are the transfer hose and the bottle caps. If we had a silicone transfer hose, we could sterilize that in the oven too.

Done it on a lot of batches and it works great.

Ross Lunato
12/07/06 02:16 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Baums;

Now this is what I'm talking about!!! What a great way to bottle. One thing that will work out great is that I use the Better Bottles with the racking outlet ports. All you have to do is attach a bottling wand to the outlet port and start filling! I can accurately pre-measure sugar with my gram scale. Can't wait to give this method a try. Thanks for the wonderful suggestion!

orangudan
12/08/06 10:42 AM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
I have had the same problem. Many of my bottle conditioned beers have a phenolic, astringent, or maybe even a wine-like flavor, a couple of things I have noticed:

1.Beer tastes fine at bottling, no matter how old the beer is.

2.It seems to be more pronouced in hoppy beers, but this could be perception... the hops magnify the off flavors, but it would seem that should be the opposite, right.

3.It doesn't affect kegged beer. In batches that I have bottled half and mini-kegged the other half, I have had off-flavors in the bottles, but not in the kegs.

3. The batches I make with my father at his house don't have this flavor. But often those batches are kegged.

4. It could be an infection, but it never really seems to get worse, if anything I think it gets softer over time (but maybe I am getting "used to" the flavor).

My theories:

1. Sanitizer residue- possibly, I generally use iodine on my kegs, and bleach on my bottles. But I (think so anyway) I rinse very well. I don't always follow that though.

2.Too warm of temps during bottle conditioning. Temperature is difficult to controll in my old house, and living in Alabama doesn't help... it can be quite warm one day and really cold the next(yesterday's high was 60F and the low was 19F), consistant temps can be difficult so I normally put the bottles in the warmest part of the house, on a warm winter day it could get really hot so the bottles experiencing temps in the 80's wouldn't be out of the question. Although iI haven't really read it anywhere, it makes sense that during conditioning esters, etc are formed just as they are during primary fermentation.

Baums
12/08/06 10:50 AM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Yeah, my fiance came up with that one, so I'm just the messenger.

There are some finer points you can certainly figure out for yourself--but here's a few things we noticed:

If you fill bottles fast, the sugar seems to dissolve right away. But if you fill very gently, there won't be much turbulence and it won't and you may want to swirl the bottles.

Also, weighing sugar is one way to get very precise carbonation levels--but an easier way might be to make or find a measuring spoon that holds what you want. By both calculation and experience, 2/3 cup table sugar in a 5 gallon batch should give a nice high level of carbonation without risking explosions (2.9 volumes, if I recall). This comes out to 2/3 teaspoon sugar per bottle. We just use heaping half-teaspoons and don't notice any variation.

Finally if the bottles are too close to a heating element and unprotected by foil or something, the direct heat might take them over 300F. In this case the sugar might melt (or the bottles might even break)--so find a way to protect them from direct heat. (Actually we have found that a "melted" bottle will still carbonate, but I'm not sure they always would.)

Ross Lunato
12/08/06 03:48 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Orangudan;

All four points you make above are exactly what I'm experiencing. My bottles are thoroughly rinsed and then oven baked so it can't be left over sanitizer. However, reading what Al B posted about yeast causing off flavors got me thinking. It makes sense to me that stressed out yeast from fermenting could cause some trouble during bottle conditioning especially at warmer temps. I'm thinking the best approach is to cold condition the beer for a week or two to encourage yeast settling and then adding fresh yeast at bottling. Also, Vinnie Cilurzo and Tomme Arthur both use a wine yeast at bottling and condition at warmer temps. Vinnie says that warm conditioning was key. That might be an option also. Right now, I'm going to continue to keg and bottle a couple of bottles here and there and experiment until I feel confident about what I'm doing.

Ross Lunato
12/08/06 03:51 PM  
Re: Keg conditioning, cold storage, bottle conditi
Baums;

I performed a small experiment yesterday. I put about 10 grams of sugar in a pastry dish and baked it in the oven at 300*F for about two hours. No melting. I'm definitely gonna give this a try in a few weeks on a German Hefe. Thanks again!

 
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