Carbonation

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Carbonation

Postby brewhaha » Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:46 pm

OK, my first brew was an American Bock, a kit from Marcello's. Brew day was January 3rd. I still had fermentation on January 24th (3 weeks). So I waited another week, and bottled on January 31st. I then put all of my bottled beer out in my garage, as a precaution in case of bottle rockets. As of yesterday it had been 11 days in the bottle, so I decided to try one. I was very disappointed, no carbonation at all, it was flat. The color was very pleasing, dark and clear, no sediment. But the taste was not what I expected, I was hoping for a rich full flavor, what I got tasted very watery. As an experiment, I brought four bottles into the house to warm up. My thought was maybe it is to cold outside for the bottles to carbonate, the sugar and yeast may have shut down. If I am correct after a couple of weeks of having these bottles inside I should get carbonation, but I don't think I will get rid of the watery taste.

Any thoughts from the collective?
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Postby yeastmeister » Fri Feb 12, 2010 5:36 pm

Agreed. that the garage may be too cold for them to carbonate. Was there any hint of a hiss when you opened it? If they don't carbonate in the house, don't give up yet.

We have plenty of keggers here that can help you out. Its relatively easy to pop open all the bottles, pour them into a keg, resanitize the bottles, get some new caps, force carb it in the keg, then bottle it out of the keg using a counterpressure filler. Its not hard, just a little time consuming, but it can be accomplished in a couple of hours if the bottles are brought over as cold as you can get them.

CO2 will give an impression of more mouth feel, so that may be the watery taste you mention.
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Postby brewhaha » Fri Feb 12, 2010 11:15 pm

No, there was no hint of hiss. I purposely listened very closely. Now, admittedly I only opened one bottle. But I want to try the in the house thing before I give up on it.

Thanks for the reply.
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Postby aleguy » Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:25 am

You can't expect too much from the beer kits in terms of flavor. I found I could make much better beer from extracts and specialty grains than I could from a kit. For one thing the specialty grains you buy at Marcello's aren't pre-milled. You can follow someone's recipe or make up your own, but you will end up with better beer. Hint: make at least part of your recipe formulation with DME. It keeps better than an opened can of LME, so you can make up any differences between the full cans and what you want or need with the DME then just keep what's left in an airtight container.
As far as carbonation, I assume you added the correct amount of priming sugar, so the problem may be that there was not enough yeast left in suspension to fully carbonate, even in a warm house. Give them enough time and you will eventually get there.
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Postby Mob_Barley » Sat Feb 13, 2010 11:38 am

Maybe a little more information might help. First of all, what temperature were you fermenting at? 3 weeks is OK for a lager yeast at 48 deg, but not OK if you were fermenting at say 55 deg ie. it should have fermented fairly quickly at that temp and be done in a week or two. When you say you still had fermentation, were you judging that by the airlock? Sometimes the act of moving the carboy, disturbing the beer, or raising the temperature can cause some of the entrained CO2 to come out of suspension and cause the airlock to bubble, even though fermentation is finished. The best way to check to see if the fermentation is actually finished is to check the specific gravity. If it stays the same for three days in a row, then primary fermentation is probably complete and you can then rack to a bottling bucket, secondary, or a keg. If you didn't cold crash the beer and cause all the yeast to drop out, then you are probably ok and have plenty of yeast in suspension to carbonate the bottles. Give it a couple of weeks at room temperature and it should be carbonated. Look for the sediment at the bottom indicating the yeast have finished and settled out, then open a bottle. If still not carbonated, move them to a warmer place, like near a water heater, where the beer can get a little warmer, say 72-74 deg. Then open one bottle each week for a few weeks.

If after say four or five weeks and still no carbonation, you may have to try some tricks,like opening all your beers and pouring them back into a bottling bucket or fermenter, then adding more healthy yeast that will finish the job. I don't know if you can taste the amount of sugar you primed with, but you can probably assume it is still there since none of the bottles were carbonated. Just picth about a fourth of a packet of yeast into the bucket, re-bottle and keep it in a warm place. Check with someone that knows more about bottle conditioning beer as to if you primed with the correct amount of sugar in the first place.

Or, someone with a kegging setup and bottle filler will probably let you pour your beers into a keg and force carbonate them. You will still have a little residual sugar left from the priming though. It may be best to transfer to a carboy and lager for about six weeks, then decide if you want to force carbonate or re-prime and bottle condition.

As for the watery taste, it sounds like your volumes may have been a little off. How was the gravity prior to pitching your yeast? Did you hit the pre-boil gravity? I haven't made a kit in a VERY long time, so I don't remember what kind of instructions the kits have. Both of my kits had steeping grains in them and were pretty thorough. Let us know how it turns out, or if you have any more comments or questions.

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Postby brewhaha » Mon Feb 15, 2010 9:51 pm

OK guys, thanks for the comments and good suggestions. I appreciate your response to my conundrum. I shall try to give you a little more background in the areas that you mentioned and questioned, as they are valid concerns.

Aleguy: Regarding the priming sugar, I assume I used the correct amount. The kit came with 5 oz. of priming sugar and the instructions called for heating 1 cup of water and mix priming sugar until dissolved and bring to a boil. Admittedly I didn't sanitize my saucepan as I was bringing the water to a boil, I thought this to be sufficient. I also waited several minutes after removing the dissolved priming sugar from the heat before I added it into the bottling bucket. I waited until I could touch the saucepan with my bare hands, I figured it would be cool enough as to not damage the beer, but it was still warm.

Mob_Barley: Regarding gravity, I don't know what is meant by pre-boil gravity. I did measure the specific gravity as the kit instructed, their terms are Beginning and Final Gravity. According to the kit the range for Beginning is 1.052-1.054 and Final is 1.012-1.014. My BG was in range at 1.053 my FG was out of range at 1.020 assuming I read the hydrometer correctly. I discussed with Gene at our Feb. meeting my methodology in testing the gravity. See the kit tells you to measure the SG but the instructions don't advise how this is done. I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't know that I was supposed to take a wine thief and siphon a sample of beer into a cylinder and then put the hydrometer into the cylinder. I took a piece of string, sanitized it and the hydrometer, tied a clove-hitch on the hydrometer and suspended it into the carboy. Granted the weight of the string may have influenced the reading, not to mention the refraction of the glass carboy and the level of scum on the surface. OK, so go ahead and laugh. Chalk it up to a rookie mistake. But you have to agree that the instructions could be more forthcoming with, well... instructions.

Regarding fermentation and how I determined it had finished: The instructions state "fermentation will last for 48-72 hours and then cease as settling begins. Allow beer to settle 3-4 days after fermentation ceases (no more bubbles in airlock). Generally, you'll be ready to bottle a week after beginning fermentation. Gene advised don't go by the instructions to determine the end of fermentation. He advised me to give it three weeks before proceeding. Additionally, I didn't use the yeast that came in the kit. I used what is referred to by those with more knowledge then me, as the good stuff (Fermentis Safale US-05). At the end of one week I had one inch of foam on the surface and the air-lock was bubbling once every 10 seconds. At the end of two weeks I had two inches of foam and it was bubbling once every 3 seconds. At the end of three weeks I had a half inch of foam and it was bubbling once every 30 seconds. By the end of the 4th week it had a thin layer of scum on the top and no visible evidence of bubbling. So I proceeded to bottling.

If you have taken the time to read this far, I thank you. This is probably more information than you wanted to see. I just wanted you to understand that I followed the instructions to the best of my ability as my comprehension would allow.
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Postby aleguy » Tue Feb 16, 2010 7:48 am

I think I see the problem. First off, let me say that 1 cup of boiling hot priming sugar will not make any significant dent in the temperature of 5 gallons of beer. So in the future, just go ahead and pitch it into your bottling bucket then siphon the beer in on top of it.
You appear to have had a very delayed fermentation. Using Safale 05, you should have completed primary in 3 days or less, and the beer should have cleared within a week after that. The long fermentation with that yeast leads me to believe you did not properly aerate/oxygenate your wort. Again this information should help you in the future, but not with this batch. I suspect you will find your beer has fully carbonated within 3 weeks of being conditioned in an appropriately warm place. (70-85 degrees.)
Perhaps you should attend a more experienced member's brew session so you can observe and ask questions. The best way to learn is not just by doing, but also by watching others who know what they are doing.
Better luck next time, and you might want to buy or borrow a good basic book on brewing. How to brew, or the complete joy of hombrewing, etc. Both of which are available from the club library.
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Postby alms66 » Tue Feb 16, 2010 12:43 pm

I don't see anywhere that you've stated what temperature you fermented at. The only time I've had fermentation last longer than a week is when I found myself fermenting too cold, and with a three week fermentation period, I suspect that was the cause of your slow rate.

As for the carbonation, it sounds like all you need to do is warm them up for a couple of weeks.
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Postby brewhaha » Tue Feb 16, 2010 3:52 pm

Indeed I didn't mention my fermentation temperature, and this could have been a factor also. I fermented in my office, which is kept cooler than the rest of the house, as it is not used on a daily basis and I can heat or cool it independently from other rooms. With the cold weather we have had over the last month I would venture that the average temperature range was around 60 degrees, maybe cooler on occasions.

I have been reading in home brewing for dummies several items that caught my attention. The copyright is 1997, so I don't know if the age of the material changes it's validity with current accepted practices.

Regarding fermentation: Their rule of thumb for determining if fermentation is complete, if the bubbling in the air-lock is one minute or more between bubbles it is ready to rack. Also the book recommends proofing the yeast by pouring it into warm water to wake it up before pitching it into the wort. I waited until all air-lock activity had ceased and I did not proof the yeast, I just pitched it. Also the book states that a Bock beer is a Lager, which is meant to be a bottom fermenting beer. I actually thought I was doing an Ale. The yeast I used was the Safale US-05, which appeared to be a top fermenting yeast, because all the activity that I could see was happening on the surface. So is the yeast that I used another contributing factor to my ALE-ments? (That's called humor incase you didn't recognize it).
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Postby aleguy » Tue Feb 16, 2010 8:02 pm

The safale 05 will not recognize the Bock wort as a lager. It will ferment anything you pitch it into. I do not "wake it up" either. I pitch directly into the wort and I usually have activity within 20 minutes to an hour. 60 degrees is a bitt cooler than that yeast likes, but it still shouldn't have taken three weeks. As far as determining when a beer is ready, Mob Barley is correct. When the gravity stops dropping over a three-day period, it's ready. Once you get a little experience, you can tell by looking at it, otherwise, it's probably best to test it.
I still think your wort was probably under oxygenated, but it finished eventually in any case. The fact that it finished so much higher than the recipe called for leads me to be concerned that it may not have been finished and you may end up with some over-carbonated beer, or worse, bottle grenades. I would condition them in a warm room that can be hosed out if necessary.
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