Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

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Matt in Birdham
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Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by Matt in Birdham » Fri Jan 06, 2017 11:24 am

I would like to keep a low pressure on my FV (Chronical) during the last stages of fermentation and crash chilling, to eliminate any possibility of oxidation at this stage. I've got a hunch that, even though I am not getting obvious oxidation flavours, I might be losing a little hop vitality during this stage and the beer is not as good as it could be. I have also suffered oxidation in the past between FV and packaging and it is part of my process that I want to improve.

One solution might be a sodastream setup, which has the advantage of being small enough to contain within the fridge, and not too expensive (about £50 for the whole rig). Obviously it's not great for gas costs but the amount used should be fairly small. What I want to do is get the sodastream cylinder, one of the converters that goes to a standard reg thread (are these any good?) and then run a normal reg to a splitter where I would mount a low pressure gauge and run the other leg off to the fitting on the top of my FV.

Questions:

Can you run a normal "horizontal" regulator vertically? Any issues here?
How would the splitter/gauge arrangement be configured? If anyone knows the JG fittings required, that would be great!
Has anyone tried blanketing with CO2 in this way (with pressurised transfer) and did you notice a difference in the quality of the beer?

cheers!

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Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by orlando » Fri Jan 06, 2017 4:24 pm

If you can seal your chronical 1 or two points above FG the yeast will effectively do this for you. However it will also start to carbonate the wort, particularly if you start to chill. I don't see it as a major issue, don't think commercial brewers worry about it other than to ensure their beer isn't being oxygenated at this final stage. I have done pressurised transfers though. The point for me is if I want to transfer from my conical to a 23l cornie I am asking the beer to go uphill so gravity is not an option once they have equalised. The other advantage of course is less risk of contamination and or oxygenating. Did I notice a difference in quality, no? However, there are stability advantages so still worth doing.
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Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by Jocky » Fri Jan 06, 2017 5:21 pm

I fitted an s30 valve to the top of my fermenter for similar reasons. Works a treat.
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Matt in Birdham
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Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by Matt in Birdham » Fri Jan 06, 2017 7:32 pm

orlando wrote:If you can seal your chronical 1 or two points above FG the yeast will effectively do this for you. However it will also start to carbonate the wort, particularly if you start to chill. I don't see it as a major issue, don't think commercial brewers worry about it other than to ensure their beer isn't being oxygenated at this final stage. I have done pressurised transfers though. The point for me is if I want to transfer from my conical to a 23l cornie I am asking the beer to go uphill so gravity is not an option once they have equalised. The other advantage of course is less risk of contamination and or oxygenating. Did I notice a difference in quality, no? However, there are stability advantages so still worth doing.
Yeah - I have thought of just doing this, and I have the fitting for my chronical with release valve @ 2-2.5psi. I have even thought of just sealing the whole thing up with that on for the entire ferment (and doing away with the airlock), since 2 psi should present no problems for the ferment. I wonder how much of that 2psi would be absorbed back into the beer during cold crash? There would also be a slight shrinkage of beer volume (1% ?) which would add to any vacuum.

I think the best breweries (e.g. Sierra Nevada) go to extraordinary lengths to keep their beers oxygen free after ferment, and I am slowly coming round to the idea that relatively minor (pre-cardboard) oxidation is present in nearly all homebrew and that real attention to process post-ferment (and indeed pre, if the low oxygen brewing noise is to be believed) might make a noticeable improvement to my beers - especially brightness and longevity of hop flavour. We'll see.

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Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by Matt in Birdham » Fri Jan 06, 2017 7:33 pm

Jocky wrote:I fitted an s30 valve to the top of my fermenter for similar reasons. Works a treat.
Did you notice any improvement in your beer Jocky?

BenB

Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by BenB » Fri Jan 06, 2017 8:17 pm

Jocky wrote:I fitted an s30 valve to the top of my fermenter for similar reasons. Works a treat.
That's a really good idea! Simple but effective- love it! Going to have to copy that one :)

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Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by Jocky » Fri Jan 06, 2017 11:24 pm

Matt in Birdham wrote:
Jocky wrote:I fitted an s30 valve to the top of my fermenter for similar reasons. Works a treat.
Did you notice any improvement in your beer Jocky?
My beer has been on a gradual regular improvement before and since doing it, and I haven't done a side by side test, so honestly I have no idea.

But I've won three medals in 2016, all for hoppy beers, since doing this including the highest placing Double IPA in the London and South East (it came third on the table behind two American Strong ales), and I think that any element of oxygen removal is going to help.

You do need a fermenter that can seal up tight though. The Speidel fermenters I use can take quite a lot of pressure as they're designed to also be used as kegs.
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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Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by Matt in Birdham » Sat Jan 07, 2017 12:09 am

Jocky wrote:
My beer has been on a gradual regular improvement before and since doing it, and I haven't done a side by side test, so honestly I have no idea.

But I've won three medals in 2016, all for hoppy beers, since doing this including the highest placing Double IPA in the London and South East (it came third on the table behind two American Strong ales), and I think that any element of oxygen removal is going to help.

You do need a fermenter that can seal up tight though. The Speidel fermenters I use can take quite a lot of pressure as they're designed to also be used as kegs.
Agreed. I am increasingly of the opinion that, for hoppy beers in particular (esp dry hopped), negative effects on flavour/aroma due to oxygen come in to play long before the more obvious signs of oxidation. It's a part of my process I am really going to try and tighten up this year.

Further along those lines, have you been following the drama of Low Dissolved Oxygen brewing over the last year? Snake oil or not, it is intriguing enough that I might just give it a try.

BenB

Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by BenB » Sat Jan 07, 2017 9:45 am

I've got to look at oxygenation in my beers also. They're nice beers but almost completely lack hop aroma even when I dry hop them. I'm good on maltiness and I'm certainly getting bitterness at the end of the taste but the hop aroma fades within weeks in the bottles. And supposedly the caps are oxygen scavenging....

When syphoning do people really do as Palmer suggests and start the syphon with a small height differential to prevent too fast a syphon / splashing until the end of the syphon is under beer? I'm trying to work through my process to work out where oxygen can get in- I think it's pretty sorted but my tastebuds say otherwise.

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Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by Matt in Birdham » Sat Jan 07, 2017 12:49 pm

The thing that really got me thinking more about oxidation was reading about some of the more subtle effects, especially in hoppy ales; loss of hop brightness and fading of aroma/flavour in a short time, slight "metallic" bitterness, crystal malts becoming more toffee like/cloying, beer tasting better going into the keg than coming out a couple of weeks later. To a greater or lesser extent all of these descriptors hit a chord with me, particularly a couple of recent beers with the crystal malt becoming much more prominent. Not terrible flaws always, but room for improvement is there. Apparently it takes only a relatively small (minute) amount of oxygen to bring on some of these effects, which become apparent a long time before the more commonly cited cardboard/sherry etc. I was reading a Q&A with a Sierra Nevada brewer the other day (the gold standard in APA process, IMO), and they said that will only dry-hop once, with 1 plato remaining, because to do more (or later) introduced too great a risk of oxidation. Obviously there are other great breweries who might do things differently, but it was interesting to read nonetheless.

I have ended up going for one of these regulators:

Image

A bit pricey (£50) but a simple and very neat solution to store in the fridge. A sodastream cylinder is £20 from Amazon but should last a while if it is only serving to provide a blanket of CO2 at the end of fermentation.

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Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by donchiquon » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:00 pm

I've used the sodastream cylinders for a while now to dispense at parties and blanket co2 after dry hopping. I've been thinking about trying something like this with my 14 gal Chronical to prevent suck-back when cold crashing.

Is there any risk in just relying on the pressure valve to get rid of excess pressure from the cylinder and fermentation?

Would a cask breather be an alternative?


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Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by Matt in Birdham » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:08 pm

donchiquon wrote: Is there any risk in just relying on the pressure valve to get rid of excess pressure from the cylinder and fermentation?
To be honest I don't know, but I do have the attachment and intend on using it that way. The PRV is very simple, just a spring loaded cover, so very easy to test that it is moving freely at least. Hopefully I will get my kit within the next day or so (soon enough to crash the beer I have dry-hopping now), so I will report back. The plan is to try and adjust the CO2 to just under the vent pressure of the chronical, and leave it there whilst crashing. Hopefully its reasonably gas-tight otherwise I'll be getting through a lot of sodastream cylinders..

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Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by Jocky » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:15 pm

donchiquon wrote:I've used the sodastream cylinders for a while now to dispense at parties and blanket co2 after dry hopping. I've been thinking about trying something like this with my 14 gal Chronical to prevent suck-back when cold crashing.

Is there any risk in just relying on the pressure valve to get rid of excess pressure from the cylinder and fermentation?

Would a cask breather be an alternative?
It depends what pressure the PRV vents at. If it's too high then it's possible you could damage your chronical before it starts venting.

To prevent suck back the ideal is probably a cask breather, as it will only pull in CO2 as you get a negative pressure. The down side is that they're quite expensive.

A cheaper option would be to use a propane regulator (that provide a very low - 1psi I think - constant pressure). Your chronical shouldn't have any problem taking the pressure, but if there's a leak anywhere you're going to drain your CO2 tank.
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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Re: Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by Matt in Birdham » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:59 pm

Jocky wrote: Your chronical shouldn't have any problem taking the pressure, but if there's a leak anywhere you're going to drain your CO2 tank.
This is the bit that worries me slightly, since the fitting for pressurised transfer is more geared towards temporary use than permanently holding pressure. I'll monitor it carefully at first, but it might be possible in any case to just give it an occasional squirt to ~2psi and turn it off in between.

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Sodastream CO2 setup for pressurised crash chilling

Post by donchiquon » Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:53 pm

Matt in Birdham wrote:
donchiquon wrote: Is there any risk in just relying on the pressure valve to get rid of excess pressure from the cylinder and fermentation?
To be honest I don't know, but I do have the attachment and intend on using it that way. The PRV is very simple, just a spring loaded cover, so very easy to test that it is moving freely at least. Hopefully I will get my kit within the next day or so (soon enough to crash the beer I have dry-hopping now), so I will report back. The plan is to try and adjust the CO2 to just under the vent pressure of the chronical, and leave it there whilst crashing. Hopefully its reasonably gas-tight otherwise I'll be getting through a lot of sodastream cylinders..
I think I'm probably being a bit over-cautious....all those pressure warning stickers on the Chronical! I suppose a very low pressure (1-1.5psi) during cold crash should pose any risk.

I've just received the low pressure (15psi) gauge that I needed to fit onto an existing secondary reg (which currently has a 80psi gauge). I've just tried to get the bugger off and it won't shift! doh!
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