Competition Carbonation?

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Competition Carbonation?

Postby GuitarLord5000 » Thu Apr 16, 2009 7:43 pm

This is a question for the folks that enter competitions regularly.

What is your preferred means of carbonation for a beer competition? Do you prime with sugar, and bottle condition? Krausen? Do you force carbonate and bottle with a beer gun or some such? Does it depend on the beer style? Which method do you prefer, and why?

Thanks a lot! If I ever get the hang of this brewing thing, I'd like to have a few of my better beers evaluated in a competition, so I'll probably have plenty more competition questions over the next couple months. All comments and links are appreciated.

Cheers,
Dave
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Postby yeastmeister » Thu Apr 16, 2009 7:50 pm

I krausen everything. After its done, I put it in the kegererator to cold condition it. It has initial carbonation, but I hook it up to c02 once it gets down to serving temp. Co2 pressure is set as per BJCP guidelines. That way, even when I pour some, pressure remains at what the guidelines state. I use a counterpressure filler.
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Postby aleguy » Thu Apr 16, 2009 7:53 pm

Are you not entering anything in our club competition? As to carbonation, Natural conditioning is nearly always best. However, Bottle conditioning is not ideal because of the chance the yeast will get roused and ruin the flavor of your beer. Not something you want in a competition.
Your best bet is to condition your beer in a keg, then bottle after the yeast is blown off the bottom. This will give you the fine bubbles that can only be had through natural conditioning without the yeast sediment. You may have to hit it with some gas to get it in the bottle with the correct carbonation, but if you bottle for competition with the first pours, you should retain the tiny bubbles. The bottle gas will take a little while to dissolve in the beer.
Bottle gas makes larger bubbles and tastes a little tinny, so you don't want it in your competition bottles.
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Postby Imakewort » Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:13 am

I carbonate in the keg and when I have it where I want it i bottle it. on one of Jamil's shows about carbonation he says there is no difference between bottle conditioned and forced carbonation, CO2 is CO2. Check out brew strong see link http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/shows/Brew-Strong
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Postby ragin_cajun » Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:23 am

I keg the beer, and then taste it as it gets close to the expected carbonation level. I know, in general, how many "volumes" of CO2 I need in the beer for the temperature of my kegarator, by looking at one of those beer carbonation charts on the Internet. So I put the gas to it, trying to achieve that amount of carbonation, and I start tasting it until it "tastes right". Everybody can tell when it's too flat. The hard part is learning when it's too much carbonation, and all I can say is I've learned to identify a flavor and mouthfeel that occurs when there's too much--kinda steely off flavor in the glass, and a funny smell in the glass, too. It's very consistent across beer styles, too. My regulator right now is set at the perfect pressure to carb and consistently pour Hefeweizen. I put a Dunkel on it, and it was way too much, so I backed off the pressure and tasted for weeks until it was "right". It had better mouthfeel, the steely flavor went away and it tasted more malty, it smelled alot better in the glass, so I bottled it. That's how I do it. If you're really interested, I now have a second regulator, so I can overcarb a keg for you and you can come over and compare it to a properly carbed beer of the same style, batch, etc.. I think you'll be able to identify the signature "overcarb" taste I'm talking about.

So I force carb in a Corny keg, get it right where I want it, then I bottle with "back pressure counter-filler" thing I got off morebeer. I like this way because I can very precisely control the carbonation level of the beer. I have a score sheet from a judge in Colorado that commented on "nice carbonation level", so I think that this is a very important thing to beer judges. They probably taste alot of flat beers all day and notice one that's done right?
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Postby aleguy » Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:49 am

Imakewort wrote: on one of Jamil's shows about carbonation he says there is no difference between bottle conditioned and forced carbonation, CO2 is CO2.


That is absolutely untrue. Bottle gas gives quite different results from natural conditioning. Not only in the size of the bubbles, but in the flavor profile. I have long mistrusted Jamil. Now I have proof of why he should not be taken too seriously. He never tells the whole truth, but this is an out and out lie!
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Postby Imakewort » Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:58 am

have you tried some of my beers especially lagers, they have nice small bubbles and great head. The bubbles size and head is caused more by the brewing process than the carbonation process, any way 99% of all commercial beers are forced carbed. And listen to the show :D
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Postby ragin_cajun » Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:12 am

I don't believe that bubble size is affected by CO2 source. I think it's more likely affected by properties in the fluid--perhaps concentration, size, and quality of fine-solid nucleation sites. I believe that CO2 from yeast cells or from Airgas would be affected exactly the same and result in the same bubble size.

Flavor profile, though, could very well be different. All I use is industrial gas, there is unquestionably a flavor and smell to that CO2. Fill a clean, empty, Corny keg with industrial CO2, and there's a smell. Overcarb a beer with it, and there's a taste. I've never bottle conditioned, or naturally carbed, so I don't know if yeast produced CO2 produce that same flavor and smell. If someone could figure a way to capture a large enough volume of yeast produced CO2, I could tell you, though. I am keenly aware of the taste and flavor of CO2, as I explained earlier.
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Postby aleguy » Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:39 am

If you don't believe there is a difference in bubble size, try a bottle conditioned beer side by side with a force carbed beer. If that doesn't convince you, nothing will.
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Postby GuitarLord5000 » Fri Apr 17, 2009 11:50 am

First off, thanks for all the replies! Now, I have a few questions:

yeastmeister wrote:I krausen everything.

I've seen your other articles and posts saying that you krausen everything, and how it's done. What is the flavor difference of krausening vs. priming with corn sugar? Would I, with my inferior palate, even be able to taste a difference?
aleguy wrote:Your best bet is to condition your beer in a keg, then bottle after the yeast is blown off the bottom.

When you say 'blown off the bottom', what exactly do you mean? Do you just mean pouring a couple glasses until the yeast clears, or is there some other method you're talking about? Would it be a good idea to modify my kegs by removing an inch or so from the dip tubes, so that the dip tube is always above any settled yeast?
ragin_cajun wrote:If you're really interested, I now have a second regulator, so I can overcarb a keg for you and you can come over and compare it to a properly carbed beer of the same style, batch, etc..

Thanks for the offer! I'll have to take you up on that sometime! I'll wait until I have some kegged beer of my own to take to the party!
aleguy wrote:That is absolutely untrue. Bottle gas gives quite different results from natural conditioning. Not only in the size of the bubbles, but in the flavor profile.

Okay, I'll concede that the flavor profile would be different. After all, the priming vessel (bottle or keg) would capture not only CO2, but esters and phenols given off from the yeast during fermentation, which will produce a different flavor versus force carbonation.
What is your argument for bubble size? If you're dismissing the idea of nucleation sizes, then there must be some difference either in the CO2, or the process of force carbonating itself, that would change the nature of the bubbles. I'd be very interested in hearing your take on it.

Cheers,
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Postby ragin_cajun » Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:10 pm

I'd love to try a bottle conditioned beer side-by-side with a force carbed beer. I've never bottle conditioned, so I don't really know how. How about next time I get ready to keg a beer, after fermentation is over, I get a case of bottles and you come over and do whatever to bottle condition, then I'll force carb the rest of the batch. Let the keg and the bottles set for a week, month, however long, and then we'll compare. I'd love to see the difference.
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Postby aleguy » Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:15 pm

Okay, by blowing yeast off the bottom I did mean pour a glass or two until the beer runs clear, then bottle. DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT cut down your dip tube! As far as the science behind the smaller bubbles, your guess is as good as mine. I do know that naturally conditioned beer (or sparkling wine) always has smaller bubbles. Maybe it's because the yeast produces it in smaller quantities over a longer period so it dissolves better. I don't know why.
As far as kreusening, I can't see that it holds any advantage over priming except that you have fresh, active yeast as well as fresh sugars. Sometimes the yeast in your fermenter gets "tired," especially after making a big beer. It's not a bad idea to add fresh yeast when you prime. Corn sugar can make a very slight taste difference, so for competition, you may want to use DME instead. Though conditioning will take a bit longer, you don't risk even a hint of cidery taste., (Most people can't really tell the difference anyway, so use what you want.) DME does require more to achieve the same levels of carbonation.
If you really want a laugh, try force carbing with Nitrous Oxide. Might not be good for competition though.
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Postby ragin_cajun » Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:18 pm

I'll tell you what else I'd be interested in hearing--what exactly goes into making this CO2 that we get in tanks from Airgas. Is it truly clean? Pure? Is it even intended to be used for food and beverages for human consumption. I never thought to ask them, but what if we're slowly poisoning ourselves with impure gas meant for welders to use in industrial applications? What level of "impurity" in the CO2 we buy would be detectable by the human palate? I know that human taste is an extremely sensitive thing, so how do we know that the CO2 doesn't produce a flavor that yeast produced CO2 would not produce. I think I'll try and find someone at Airgas who gives a shit to give the club a satisfying answer to these questions. Next batch of beer I make, I'll split it into 2 kegs and overcarb one until I notice a taste, then we'll get some others to come over and taste the beers and determine if they too can detect the taste I was talking about in overcarbed beer. How bout we try to bottle condition part of the batch, too?
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Postby GuitarLord5000 » Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:48 pm

ragin_cajun wrote:I'd love to try a bottle conditioned beer side-by-side with a force carbed beer.


I think the more informed experiment would be to naturally carbonate one keg, and force carb the second, using identical beers. This would eliminate the variability of bottle vs. keg, and would make the experiment specific only to the type of carbonation. You could also bottle condition a few bottles from the same batch, and see if there's a difference between naturally carbonated keg, and natural bottle conditioning. I would be very interested in the results from this experiment!
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Postby Imakewort » Fri Apr 17, 2009 3:06 pm

All the CO2 we buy is for human consumption we went thru this debate about a year ago, not sure how its made could do a google search on it. The bubbles in my beers are pretty fine and seem to last a while well till i finish the glass, All I can say is CO2 is CO2,if your getting some flavor from your CO2 try putting a carbon filter in line, easy to make, the big difference is the brewing process and how clean your glass is and the type of soap used to clean it. I still believe the pope (Jamil) is right. There has been numerous blind test done on this subject and no one can tell if its bottle conditioned or not except by the dregs in the bottom of the glass, I will stick to how I do it but all I can say is if it works for you stick with it, there is more than 1 way to do this.
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