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Author Replies
John A
11/29/07 02:41 PM  
750 ml bottling question
I bottled a dubbel in 750ml bottles 2 weeks ago and I noticed about half of the bottles had little dried bubbles of beer that escaped around the cork. The corks were steamed for 10 minutes. I primed the beer with corn sugar to 3.5 vol c02 and pitched 1/8 of a cup slurry of fresh yeast(same strain). I turned the bottles on their sides after 2 days and they are in a warm room at 75 degrees. The corks have mushroomed under the hoods but I have not opened a bottle yet to check the carbonation. Did I do something wrong?

John

Cisco
11/29/07 02:55 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
Sounds like the corks were not large enough in diameter. Where did you get the corks? Morebeer.com is the only place I know that sells the proper sized corks for the Belgian 750ml bottles.

As far as sanitizing the corks, just put them into a bucket of iodophor or star san and stir every so often.

John A
11/29/07 04:26 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
I got the corks, hoods and bottles from more beer.
Brian Richards
11/29/07 04:32 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
Let us know how the CO2 worked out because I was going to do the same thing with my 750 ml bottles. I too was going to order those same corks from b3
SebastianP
11/29/07 04:39 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
<<Brian Richards

11/29/07 04:32 PM

Let us know how the CO2 worked out because I was going to do the same thing with my 750 ml bottles. I too was going to order those same corks from b3>>

I wouldn't worry about the corks, as Cisco touched on the corks from Morebeer are quite good. Between the two of us we have amost gone through 1000 of these corks without any carbonation problems.

I'll admit that I don't store my bottles on their sides though. Upright, for me, has worked out just fine so far.

Cisco
11/29/07 05:23 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
So it looks like you have the correct corks. I have never stored my bottles on their sides so I have not experienced the weeping around the bottle mouth. In the future I would recommend not laying down the bottles until after a few weeks to give the corks time to properly expand and seat and for a decent level of carbonation behind it.
John A
11/29/07 05:59 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
I wish i posted here in the first place before I bottled it. I followed direction from another brewer and he said to treat it like a wine bottle. Leave it upright for two days then turn it on its side. So in the future, I'll keep it up right to carbonate it but do I need to turn it on their side for storage.

Thanks

John

Ross
11/29/07 10:49 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
I'd say not being able to store your beers on the side is a bunch of bunk!

I've bottled and corked two batches, the green 750's and regular brown 750's, stored on their sides, 3.5 vols, and have not experienced any trouble yet.

I think steaming the corks may have damaged them. I would just follow what Cisco does and soak 'em in Iodophor for about 30 minutes.

Also, when you insert the cork in the corker, give it a "squeeze" with the jaws before placing the bottle under the mechanism. This sqeezes out the excess sanitizer so it doesn't end up in your brew.

mallace
11/30/07 07:38 AM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
I bottle 750s with corks regularly, and even though my bottle necks vary somewhat in width, I haven't had this problem. What type of corker did you use?

Regarding storing beer upright v. on its side, I've been under the impression that it's a matter of where your flocculated yeast swill settle; bottles stored on their sides will collect yeast along the side of the bottle, rather than at the bottom...when upright the bottle, you stir up yeast and cloud the beer, unless you plan a couple days ahead so it can settle back down (the same reason aged bottles of wine should be uprighted before service).

John A
11/30/07 12:56 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
I just opened a bottle and the cork was a little stuck at first. About half way out, it shot out and traveled about 20 ft. Great carbonation and the beer is so much better then the kegged version. This was my 110 all grain batch and it just may be the best. Next time I'll carbonate it up right and try and avoid this. I still wish WitSox would post because he was the one who told me to steam the corks. I wonder if this has ever happened to him?

Cheers

John

WitSok
11/30/07 02:08 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
Hey John, I haven't observed the problem you are decribing; but, I haven't stored me beer on it sides either. I do notice that the corks get a little stuck, just like you observed.

My Biere de Garde wasn't primed to a high level, roughly 2.5 volumes. So the corks don't shoot off. I haven't opened the dubbel yet, I was shooting for about 3.5 with it. Maye I'll pop one tonight.

I haven't had any funk/infection issues with these corks.

Cheers, Dan

Al B
11/30/07 02:43 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
I'm hoping to get a corker for x-mas so I can join in the fun.....I suppose sanitizing is recommended - but I definately do not want to soak them (hate the idea of sanitizer in the cork for leaching into beer). Does anyone not sanitize them? Steaming the outside looks like an option I'd prefer.

Al Bottlehead

Ross
11/30/07 02:51 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
Brothers-

I paid a visit to Brewery Ommegang and observed that they do not sanitize their corks. The corks come out of the bag, into the corker then into the bottle. However, I wouldn't take it for granted that the corks are not sanitized at the the manufacturers facility and packaged to 3A standard.

Al B
11/30/07 02:54 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
Thats what I do with my caps. Thanks Ross.
SAH
11/30/07 03:24 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
I haven't had problems not sanitizing, but until now I've just used standard corks placed all the way in the bottles and only done this a few times. I recently got Champagne style corks and cages and will be trying them soon. I don't like the idea of soaking them either Al B, for the same reasons you mention. However, I have recently decided to take sanitization more serioulsy when bottling so I'd like to try something.
WitSok
11/30/07 09:38 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
No "pop" on the dubbel either. Definately lower than 3.5 volumes, but still had nice carbonation. Tastey!
SebastianP
12/01/07 10:13 PM  
Another Sanitation data point
<<Ross Wrote:

I paid a visit to Brewery Ommegang and observed that they do not sanitize their corks. >>

As another data point, I have yet to bother with sanitizing my corks and have not had any sanitation issues (three or four years now of doing this) in my corked bottles.

I have steamed once or twice when using older, dried corks to give them a bit more spring, but made sure to not do it too long, lest I dissolve the glue holding the cork together.

Cisco
12/04/07 10:08 AM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
It really amazes me that you folks go to extreme measures (including me) to insure that everything in the brewing process is sanitized yet some of you would just put on a cork or bottle cap without proper sanitation.

It is true that cork manufacturers use a peroxide wash for sterility followed by SO2 filled bags, BUT most homebrew shops then repackage the corks and just throw them into plastic bags without any proper sanitary handling considerations. Little bugs in the air love to hitch rides. I would rather intentionally infect my beer with bugs rather than take a chance when I wanted a clean beer.

Ross
12/04/07 10:43 AM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
<<It is true that cork manufacturers use a peroxide wash for sterility followed by SO2 filled bags, BUT most homebrew shops then repackage the corks and just throw them into plastic bags without any proper sanitary handling considerations.>>

Here! Here! My feelings exactly.

Al B
12/04/07 11:33 AM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
Well that does sound ironic, but sanitization isn't sterilization (i.e. most homebrews I would think excluding yeast, are not sterile). I would prefer to steam the corks and at times I do wash the caps with hot water. You still have to handle them with yer hands (hopefully washed).

Most beer contaminants do not do well on dry, clean, unscratched surfaces for an extended period of time (Pedio + Lacto included). Xanthamonas for example is water related and will only survive in moist environments. So don't bottle around your mill (lactic acid bacteria), and definately don't bottle in my basement (night of the living brett).

SebastianP
12/04/07 11:34 AM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
<<Cisco Wrote

It really amazes me that you folks go to extreme measures (including me) to insure that everything in the brewing process is sanitized yet some of you would just put on a cork or bottle cap without proper sanitation.>>

The other side of the coin though is that you can't ever be sanitary. Everyone pushes the boundaries a bit in some way (cough, cough, Cisco), doing things that others consider poor practices or just plain stupid. If you are so worried about bacteria flying on to your caps & corks, then I want to see the aseptic, zero oxygen, HEPA filtered environment that you all bottle your beer in :-)

If I were counter-pressure bottle filling I would never, not sanitize corks & caps. Neither of these things is a great nutritive base for bugs that might infect beer. As to the cork, you are just kidding yourself if you think you can effectively sanitize one of these things.

I have never had an infected beer that could be tracked to the cap or cork (other than TSA, but that is another issue) that was put on the bottle. I only use the oxygen barrier caps (these shouldn't be wetted before putting on the bottle or you lose their effectivity). & I am more worried about the chemicals leaching into the corks and contributing off flavors than some minuscule chance that a significant level of bacteria is coming along for the ride.

It all comes down to your comfort level, I have found that even the most super anal brewers out there have some practices that are, at the very least, less than ideal (and sometimes downright shocking). We have all found things that work and we tend to stick with them.

mallace
12/04/07 03:43 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
Sebastian--My brother is a microbiology professor who works with yeast cultures, and when I helped him brew his first batch of homebrew, he shuddered at how unsterile the standard santitation practices are. He was later amazed at how good the beer was.

FWIW, I steam my corks for 10 minutes before bottling, and have recently taken to heat-sanitizing (sterilizing, dare I say?) my bottles in the dishwasher.

And here's a practical question that's been bugging me--does anyone here who uses a Ferrari floor corker have a decent method of partially inserting Reference corks and then getting them out of the corking device easily? Mine always get stuck and have to be twisted out, which sometimes roughs up the cork, not to mention my patience.

ErikH
12/04/07 07:14 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
I have been happily using a Ferrari floor corker for about 2 years now. My success rate has been around 99%. Every once in a while I will get a bottle that weeps a little beer around the cork (a few tiny spots usually) and sometimes that bottle will have reduced carbonation. I chalk that up to the vagaries of using a (semi)natural material.

I love the classy look and the experience of working a cork out to the point where it releases with a 'pop' and shoots some distance, and the resulting 'gunsmoke'. People dig it and it helps change their frame of reference in terms of seeing craft beer as an artisanal product.

Al - I agree on the sanitizer thing and have heard in the wine world that using it can lead to cork taint. I usually steam for about 10 min. and let them cool/dry but am still annoyed at the presence of the liquid that gets in to the corks. For any beer above 6% ABV or so, I sometimes just go without steaming. No infections yet.

Mallace - What do you mean by 'reference cork'? To judge depth? To calibrate the cork insertion depth it is possible adjust the washer on the threaded part of the corker's pusher-prong thingy. However, having done this I have found that it doesn't reliably stay in place afterwards so I would recommend leaving it in it's (painted-over) original position and just eyeing it. I find that stopping just when the top edge of the un-threaded part of the prong is level with the top surface of the brass of the cork squeezer is about right. I sometimes sacrifice a cork in a spare bottle just to confirm the depth, but have also had a number of 'user error' bottles (usually sunk too deep) that need to have the cork pulled and re-done. In any event, having some spare corks around for the bottling session is always advisable.

Ross
12/04/07 10:04 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
Bros-

The only reason I cork my brews is because I mostly brew saisons and need the higher rated bottles and closures for the higher carb levels these brews are bottled at.

I would be very interested in seeing if someone would plate a few corks out of the package and see what grows 'cause I definetly don't feel right taking a dry cork and plunking it in the bottle without at least waving it over my bucket of sanitizer first. Who knows what these corks have touched since they were manufactured.

Also, as I mentioned further up, I'm using a champagne corker and first place the cork in the jaws and give it a squeeze. This actually removes a ton of liquid from the cork. I then release the jaws and place my bottle under the cork and "pull". Works real well.

mallace
12/05/07 07:40 AM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
ErikH-by "Reference", I at least think I mean the brand...the bag I buy says "Reference Belgian corks" or something like that, and there is an "R" on the cork itself.

I just eyeball how far I insert them--by the top of the unthreaded part, just as you say. But once I raise the lever up and the cork decompresses, it's kind of annoying to get the rest of the cork out of the chamber. Do you just twist it out, or do you have some slicker method?

Cisco
12/05/07 10:25 AM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
mallace - Put a #7 stopper over the plunger rod of the corker so that only 1 3/4" of the rod is exposed. This will stop the cork from going into the bottle too far. A wire hood can then be fastened over the remaining 6/8" - 7/8" of cork sticking out of the bottle. You'll probably have to clean paint out of the threads to allow the screw to move farther back.
John A
12/05/07 10:29 AM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
I tightened the nut as low as it would go with a wrench. Then I placed a quarter under the nut after I closed the jaws around the cork but before I pushed the cork into the bottle. It was the perfect height for the cage and none of the corks got caught/stuck.

John

ErikH
12/05/07 11:19 AM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
Oh right - now I remember seeing the 'R' on the corks.

When I raise the lever on my corker up after partial cork insertion, the 'iris' squeezing mechanism also opens, and I just push down on the bottle (and spring-loaded platform below) and it comes right out. No muss, no fuss.

Am I perhaps missing something? Does the mechanism in your corker not release the exposed portion of the cork?

TedJ
12/05/07 01:11 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
I've had similar issues with my Ferrari champange corker. My first bottlings were done with a borrowed corker and there were no problems, handle up and bottle removed without the cork hanging up in the mechanism. Based on the good experience I bought my own, same make and model.

However, in using mine, when the cork is set right for the cage, then it tends to hang up on the edge of the bottom hole below the jaws. This results in some "tearing" of the cork. The less cork sticking out, the less the problem but then the cages aren't tight on the corks.

I want to borrow my friends corker to to a side-by-side comparison to see if the holes are different sizes or if the alignment of the jaws is different, but haven't had the chance yet.

As far as corks go, at most I'll mist the corks with some StarSan when I get started but sometimes I even skip that. Most of the corked beers are already wild or are bigger belgians with higher alcohol levels so i don't worry about it.

I think steaming or boiling the corks for 10 minutes will cause the corks to lose some elasticity such that when they are compressed, they will not re-expand quite as well as un-heated ones and the seal might not be quite tight enough as least not initially.

Al B
12/05/07 01:43 PM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
Erik - <<For any beer above 6% ABV or so, I sometimes just go without steaming. No infections yet.>>

As far as I'm aware (as a QC Microbiologist myself), there really are only a few bugs that do well under that environment: pH, higher alcohol, CO2 - especially when one adds fresh yeast). Typical human skin organisms are not associated with beer infections (Staphylococcus, Micrococcus, Corynebacteria, Proprionibacteria). Typical water-borne organisms after fermentation will not bother (Enterobactericae, Pseudomonads). Acetobacter, spore-forming Bacillus, and mold are strict aerobes. I could spit out more Latin (not much else use for Latin), but you get da picture.

Ted said it best I think : <<Most of the corked beers are already wild or are bigger belgians with higher alcohol levels so i don't worry about it.>>

Ryan
12/27/07 10:28 AM  
Re: 750 ml bottling question
Ooh

Got a floor corker for Christmas but it didn't have instructions. Can someone give me a rough "how to" especially with reference to setting cork depth? How much do you leave out of the bottle for caging?

cheers

ryan Cork

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