What's the science of bottle-conditioning?

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IHN
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What's the science of bottle-conditioning?

Post by IHN » Wed Apr 01, 2020 9:48 am

I ask, as I found a couple of bottles in the garage at the weekend that I'd completely forgotten about. They've been in there for just over a year since bottling.

I tried one last night and it was absolutely chuffing lovely. Really smooth, really 'rounded', much better than the rest of the bottles that were drunk at about 6 weeks.

So what's going on in the bottle over that time? Should I start brewing a year in advance...?

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Re: What's the science of bottle-conditioning?

Post by f00b4r » Wed Apr 01, 2020 11:52 am

What was the beer? Some beers will benefits from aging, whereas others e.g. hefeweizen will not.

IHN
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Re: What's the science of bottle-conditioning?

Post by IHN » Wed Apr 01, 2020 12:21 pm

It was a fairly classic bitter, made from a mini-mash kit from Malt Miller

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Re: What's the science of bottle-conditioning?

Post by f00b4r » Wed Apr 01, 2020 1:01 pm

Bottle conditioning will allow things to change in the bottle as it’s still live beer. I would try and brew your beer and batch size then so that you can taste a bottle from a batch every couple of weeks and keep tasting notes against the brew, that way you will find when beer tends to peak for you and adjust similar brews accordingly.
You may also find though that as your process gets better you are making “better” beer with less faults that time is also helping remove or smooth out.
Making decent beer is easy but making really good beer is harder, one of the frustrations but also one of the rewards of this hobby when you get it right consistently (some brewers that I swap beers with I know I will always get something really good from). One of the reasons I like to brew with others is that you can learn faster from tasting twice the brews; some like to brew more often with smaller batches to achieve the same thing.

IHN
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Re: What's the science of bottle-conditioning?

Post by IHN » Wed Apr 01, 2020 1:34 pm

Thanks. This was, I think, my second ever brew so there were (and still are!) doubtless faults in my process. What's actually happening in the bottle that smooths out those faults though?

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Jocky
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Re: What's the science of bottle-conditioning?

Post by Jocky » Wed Apr 01, 2020 2:32 pm

IHN wrote:
Wed Apr 01, 2020 1:34 pm
Thanks. This was, I think, my second ever brew so there were (and still are!) doubtless faults in my process. What's actually happening in the bottle that smooths out those faults though?
Primarily I believe it's oxidation.

Oxidation can be a bad thing or a good thing, depending upon what flavours you are looking for. Hop flavours will become muted or non-existent, while malt flavours will head towards something in the direction of sherry.

More potent, noticeable flavour notes such as alcohols and esters tend to get rounded off and yeast drops out completely, giving you a smoother flavour. This is why some stronger beers (and many spirits) tend to get aged for a period of time - it rounds off the harsher alcohols.

In your case you've probably got some of those harsher alcohols and esters in your beer from a less than perfect fermentation (yeast health, temperature etc). With experience and practice brewing you can get your beer to be smoother more immediately by avoiding these issues.
Ingredients: Water, Barley, Hops, Yeast, Seaweed, Blood, Sweat, The swim bladder of a sturgeon, My enemies tears, Scenes of mild peril, An otter's handbag and Riboflavin.

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wanus
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Re: What's the science of bottle-conditioning?

Post by wanus » Wed Apr 01, 2020 6:48 pm

Is it me or are there a lot of people cleaning out their garages and sheds at the minute?
Spring cleaning right thats it #-o
FV 1:Warrior Queen IPA.
FV 2:Empty
Demi 1&2:Empty
Demi 3&4:Empty
Maturing:Wilko IPA&Evil dog.
Bottle conditioning:Abdij,Evil dog&Wilko IPA.
Drinking:Allendale Wolf (Clone)Elderflower champagne
Planning:Four Finger Jack

Keep yer pecker hard and yer powder dry.

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Eric
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Re: What's the science of bottle-conditioning?

Post by Eric » Thu Apr 02, 2020 3:12 pm

IHN wrote:
Wed Apr 01, 2020 9:48 am
I ask, as I found a couple of bottles in the garage at the weekend that I'd completely forgotten about. They've been in there for just over a year since bottling.

I tried one last night and it was absolutely chuffing lovely. Really smooth, really 'rounded', much better than the rest of the bottles that were drunk at about 6 weeks.

So what's going on in the bottle over that time? Should I start brewing a year in advance...?
A natural and best way to condition a beer. After a year the beer will have been lagered, a long established technique that applies to all beers.

I found the same as you a very long time since when my beers were not good, except for when I came across a few bottles under my in-law's kitchen sink that were a couple of years old.

Many breweries now gas their bottled and canned beers with CO2 captured from their fermenters. It contains many hop and wort components that are absent from the industrially produced product.

A great advantage of bottle conditioning is the avoidance of oxidation as yeast consumes all oxygen before changing sugars to alcohol and CO2.
Without patience, life becomes difficult and the sooner it's finished, the better.

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Jocky
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Re: What's the science of bottle-conditioning?

Post by Jocky » Fri Apr 03, 2020 3:07 pm

Eric wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 3:12 pm
A great advantage of bottle conditioning is the avoidance of oxidation as yeast consumes all oxygen before changing sugars to alcohol and CO2.
Perhaps in theory, but in practice I've had plenty of beers that were both bottle conditioned but also oxidised.

I'm sure quite a few were exposed before bottling, and the effects were only apparent after, but I also expect that many had the oxidation occur during bottling.
Ingredients: Water, Barley, Hops, Yeast, Seaweed, Blood, Sweat, The swim bladder of a sturgeon, My enemies tears, Scenes of mild peril, An otter's handbag and Riboflavin.

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Eric
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Re: What's the science of bottle-conditioning?

Post by Eric » Sat Apr 04, 2020 4:51 pm

Jocky wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 3:07 pm
Eric wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 3:12 pm
A great advantage of bottle conditioning is the avoidance of oxidation as yeast consumes all oxygen before changing sugars to alcohol and CO2.
Perhaps in theory, but in practice I've had plenty of beers that were both bottle conditioned but also oxidised.

I'm sure quite a few were exposed before bottling, and the effects were only apparent after, but I also expect that many had the oxidation occur during bottling.
Yes, we can find exceptions everywhere.

When all beer was conditioned in the vessels from which it was served, it was not without problems, but done properly, yeast consumed the oxygen. A hundered years ago, ways were found to remove yeast from beer and have since advanced in every repect. Today it is mostly with expensive and elaborate equipment outside of the remit of homebrewers, so many of us still naturally condition our beers in bottles as do some professionals.

Research into aerobic activity of different yeast strains has determined minimum oxygen quantities for satisfactory fermentation, while some homebrewers reduce oxygen contact to a minimum (LoDo) and claim improvement. However, I wonder if that concern is like those of a few years since when DMS and diacetyl became the great dangers to beer, now again appropriately deprioritised.

Dried yeast might come with all oxygen and lipids needed, but every new cell produced during fermentation will scavenge oxygen until needing no more. Problems of oxygen in bottled beers manifest themselves when there is no yeast or yeast in poor health with limited or no sustenance present. As well as after filtering or pasteurisation, it can be created by excessive periods in primary fermentation and artificial carbonation at low temperature.

I think the OP's beers were at their best, bottled in sanitary conditions with adequate nutrition and healthy yeast present which possibly absorbed all oxygen in the beer and headspace in the first 24 hours. Those healthy cells would go on to eat their fill, then clean up much of their own waste and anything else they could process, before snuggling up to one another in readiness for any new consumables that might come their way.
Without patience, life becomes difficult and the sooner it's finished, the better.

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