Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

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Kingfisher4
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Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by Kingfisher4 » Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:53 am

I exclusively bottle rather than keg and plan to continue. My fermentation temperature control is currently somewhat limited, with hot water bottles and ice bottles within an insulating jacket with a FastFerment. However, I am getting reasonable control of between 18 and 20° C, stepping up to about 22 for the last couple of days to ensure as full an attenuation as possible. Once final gravity is stable over three days I attempt a degree of cooling, though usually only managed to get down to 12 to 14° C for a couple of days. This has improved clarity by dropping out much of the yeast.
I brew predominantly English bitters and aim for a low carbonation of approximately 1.4 volumes of CO2.

Using the Brewers friend priming calculator, if I use the end fermentation temperature of 22° C or the last 48 hours of 12 or 14° C, it produces very significant differences in values for priming dried malt extract.

I appreciate that more CO2 dissolves in colder finished beer, but I’m not sure quite how much CO2 will be produced or available to dissolve whilst cooling and therefore what the actual effective volume of CO2 really is at bottling stage.

Any advice would be really helpful, though I appreciate many of you will keg and have much more controlability. I am very keen to avoid both over carbonated bitter in my bottles and potential bottle bombs!

I am also just about to move to a Grainfather conical with glycol chiller, so will magnify the effect many times when I can chill much cooler before bottling. I am also wondering whether there will still be enough active yeast in suspension to bottle prime if I have chilled to 4° or 6°C for a couple of days pre-bottling.

Bottle conditioning is currently in a warm room in the house for a couple of weeks, then in the garage, where temperature varies between about 6°C and 18°C. It is usually between 10 and 14.

Apologies for the long post, but any help would be invaluable.

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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by orlando » Mon Mar 25, 2019 12:12 pm

Once you have reached FG and are confident there is no more fermentation bottle bombs are very unlikely. There will always be enough yeast left to condition, it is extraordinary how much yeast is in "clear" Beer. 50-80g of table sugar (save your DME for starters) dissolved in the full volume of Beer, to ensure even distribution, fining or not, your choice. That should give you the carbonation levels you are looking for, experiment at the two extremes to refine it. As long as the Beer is left in the warm for a week or two it will carb up. The colder you can store the Beer the quicker it will absorb the CO2 so make a judgement based on what that temperature is at any given time. Can I suggest you get yourself a plastic Beer bottle, like a Coopers, and stick some of the Beer in that. Give it a squeeze over the first week of carbonating to gauge how firm it is getting. Don't worry about anything else, it will all be fine. RHAHB.
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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by Kev888 » Mon Mar 25, 2019 1:16 pm

Yes, some priming calculators try to account for there being different amounts of CO2 retained in the beer after fermentation (and before priming), according to the beer temperature. It does make a difference, but the amount depends on things like times/durations and whether there was an airlock causing back pressure, and IMO some yeast types are more prone to residual activity than others and so on. None of which the calculator asks about of course, so it can only offer a generic approximation.

So it is a useful start to account for it in a general way, but subsequently the key thing for me is trying to make things consistent and narrowing down what works optimally for my own particular process (and preferences in carbonation) in practice.
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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by Kingfisher4 » Mon Mar 25, 2019 2:33 pm

Great, both helpful and reassuring replies.

Thanks. I will continue to try to control the controllables, understand the variations in my processes and not sweat the uncontrollables like my longer term garage storage temperature!

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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by MTW » Mon Mar 25, 2019 5:19 pm

I agree with the comments above; developing your judgement based on your own, repeatable process, is the best idea. I would add that I have never made a regular British style ale that I considered to be undercarbonated, and I've gone as low as 12g sugar in 20L of beer in priming a (theoretically) fully fermented beer. The yeast always just seems to find a smidge more to chew on, even after stable gravity readings within the expected range, and often a bit of a stand in secondary too. I try to allow for it, slightly based on the overall finishing gravity of the beer, the recipe, mash temperature and yeast - though it is a bit finger in the air. All my beers end up around 22-23C by the end, deliberately, and I know that if I were to add anything upward of 50g sugar in 20L or so, standard ales would be fizzier than I would like in a few weeks time.

Storage is a factor, and while it's nice to think that a stable gravity reading means it's all over for the yeast, a cool cellar is going to hide any residual fermentables better than a warm shed in summer, for example.

For greater control, there's always the option of a forced fermentation test to get a better idea of what the beer may have left in it. I sometimes get a delayed version of that as a byproduct of harvesting 500ml of yeasty wort at the 24hr mark or so, destined for a starter for the next batch. By the time that has completely stopped (after the event), it is usually a couple of points lower than the gravity at which the main batch appeared to remain stable for a couple of days.
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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by Kingfisher4 » Mon Mar 25, 2019 6:46 pm

Thanks again. I have found advice on this forum massively reduces my learning curve and potential for mistakes.

No cellar available, the garage has to do! I hadn’t a clue where the beer found the extra fermentables during last summer’s heat wave, but gravity seemed to carry on dropping and a couple of batches were significantly over carbonated. One of which was a copy of a previously successful recipe, had no priming sugar whatsoever and had already attenuated as far as the yeast was expected by final gravity.

I managed to save them by easing off the edge of the Crown Cap, allowing the fizz out and then re-crimping with the same cap. The principle that releasing the excess CO2 would prevent oxidation or any other contamination seemed to work in practice.

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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by orlando » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:12 am

Brett can do that.
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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by Kingfisher4 » Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:45 am

orlando wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:12 am
Brett can do that.
I read that possibility elsewhere when trying to work out what had happened. Understand it could be an airborne accidental contaminant, but have never used Brett intentionally and it was isolated to a couple of batches during the heat wave when garage (ie “conditioning “) temperature was up to 26 or maybe even 28°C.

The beer also tasted exactly as it had before and after release of CO2 excess. I would guess Brett would change the taste as well, But have no experience of deliberately using it?

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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by orlando » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:03 am

Not Brett then or indeed anything else if it tasted the same. If not that it has to be a measurement problem. If the Beer was truly done raising the temperature shouldn't make any difference. Did every bottle behave the same when opened? Do you batch prime?
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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by ben034 » Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:59 am

I think the advice above is good. For a low carbonated bitter at 1.4 you are unlikely to produce exploding bottles of fermentation has finished.

I do always use a calculator for priming and use the highest temperature after fermentation has completed. So if an ale and it stayed at 21c for a few days after the end of fermentation, even if it was dropped in temperature to 4c before bottling, enter 21c into the calculator. If on the other hand you made a lager at 12c and didn't raise the temperature for a diacetyl rest, you should use the figure of 12c. If you raised the temperature to 19c for a few days after fermentation, then use that figure. This has worked for me well. The explanation on the Brewersfriend calculator is quite helpful - https://www.brewersfriend.com/beer-priming-calculator.

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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by Kingfisher4 » Thu Mar 28, 2019 2:31 pm

orlando wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 10:03 am
Not Brett then or indeed anything else if it tasted the same. If not that it has to be a measurement problem. If the Beer was truly done raising the temperature shouldn't make any difference. Did every bottle behave the same when opened? Do you batch prime?
Sorry for the delayed reply, I was checking my notes for those two batches.

I have always batch primed, gently stirring the priming solution into the fermenting vessel, To minimise oxidation potential. The sugar is dissolved in 500 mls and poured gently over the stirring paddle. All the bottles behaved the same, initially absolutely fine then became overgassed.

Both used Mangrove Jack Liberty Bell, which I have regularly used since starting just over a year ago. Attenuation was 76 and 80% at bottling, which is in the expected range. It was before I cooled at all pre bottling, so there will have been a lot of yeast left in suspension. They were both bottled in late June and early July during last summer’s heat wave. The only other explanation I could invent, with no sound basis, was I wondered if the yeast might have autolysed and fermented further from its own breakdown products, but again, the beer flavour remained consistent and good.

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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by orlando » Thu Mar 28, 2019 2:48 pm

It would appear you have eliminated everything.
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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by Kingfisher4 » Thu Mar 28, 2019 3:08 pm

orlando wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 2:48 pm
It would appear you have eliminated everything.
Thanks for everyone’s help again. :)

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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by Kev888 » Thu Mar 28, 2019 3:38 pm

I doubt we'll ever know for certain, there don't seem many likely causes left. But fwiw my best guess is residual yeast activity being a tiny bit more than normal - for some reason which isn't obvious. It can catch even pro brewers out sometimes.

One thing which may reduce the chances (though can't recall if you were already) is to bulk mature for some weeks before bottling. Though this might not suit every beer style or brewing schedule.
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Re: Beer priming for bottling ; temp & residual CO2?

Post by Kingfisher4 » Thu Mar 28, 2019 4:27 pm

Kev888 wrote:
Thu Mar 28, 2019 3:38 pm

One thing which may reduce the chances (though can't recall if you were already) is to bulk mature for some weeks before bottling. Though this might not suit every beer style or brewing schedule.
Good idea, but with only one fermenting vessel at the moment and having found a workaround i’m happy to risk having to release some of the pressure if it happens again in future. I know bottles are a hassle to fill, but I find the variety of choice and flexibility for my storage space suits rather than kegging at the moment.

I would also run out of beer too quickly or have to adjust the space that brewing takes up even more to let it rest in secondary phase. Not likely to go down too well as the creeping expansion has already been noticed recurrently!

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