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Old 08-15-2012, 04:07 AM   #1
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Default Aging time in refrigerator vs basement

I'm starting to get really comfortable with the aging times on a few of my recipes. Most of my wheat beers for example are along the lines of a 2 week primary, then keg and put it in a 40 degree fridge on CO2 for about 1 month before the beer itself is nicely matured and has full taste. The patience is well worth it, albeit hard.

My current setup only allows 2 kegs in my fridge. I just kegged a third beer, which is an ESB that normally matures to its prime in about 6 weeks at 40 degrees. Since I'm out of fridge space, I'm aging it in my 70 degree basement. It's on CO2 permanently (I have 2 CO2 rigs) at about 10 higher PSI to make up for the temp difference (iBrewMaster calculated this for me).

I'm wondering if anyone has any experience or knows any equations that can help tell me when this will hit its prime. I'm assuming it won't take as long as in the fridge as the warmer temp will speed up any processes the beer is going through, but are we talking a 2 day difference or a 2 week difference?

Thanks!

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Old 08-15-2012, 04:14 PM   #2
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Just from experience, it is going to condition something on the order of 3X to 4X faster at 70F than it would at 40F. Honestly, at 40F, conditioning REALLY creeps along. I doubt there is a formula for this, as there are too many variables involved.

Honestly, I doubt your average gravity ales are "peaking" after a month of conditioning at 40F. Again, only from anecdotal evidence on this board and my own experience, most average gravity ales seem to peak after more like 6-8 weeks at 70F. At 40F, conditioning would really be barely creaping along. You would get alot of great benefits at these lower temps, like a quality cold crash and cold conditioning that would help with clarity, but lots of the actual processes that would be considered conditioning hardley take place at such a low temp. I think you would find that conditioning at 40F for longer than 4 weeks would give even more benefit, and the beers would "peak" after more like 3-4 months of conditioning at that temp.

Also, yeast do get a bit more sluggish when you have the keg on CO2. No reason not to just condition the beer without the CO2, especially at 70F where the CO2 isn't going to dissolve into the beer anyway. Just condition without the beer on CO2, then force carb once you can get the temp down to serving levels where the CO2 can dissolve into the beer.

Again, this is just for average gravity (1.05-1.06 OG) ales. Lagers, high ABV beers, wheats, etc. all condition differently.

I think 4-6 weeks at 70F gets you pretty close to the "peak" for an average gravity ale, and most experience on this board would bear that out.

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Old 08-16-2012, 01:26 AM   #3
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Thanks for the input...this all makes sense. I'll have to try avoiding the fridge until it's time to drink from now on, and leave my schedule the same.

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Old 08-16-2012, 01:52 AM   #4
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at 40F, conditioning REALLY creeps along..
If at all. I'd say it slows down so much that it doesn't condition at all. You might get a very miniscule amount of benefit from this, almost like lagering. Not enough to make it worth aging/conditioning in a fridge, though. (unless it is indeed a lager, of coarse).. 65F is what I consider ideal for aging/conditioning after initial carbonating occurs. IMHO..
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Old 08-16-2012, 07:31 PM   #5
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There are different ways to age/condition beer. You can leave the beer at normal fermenting temps so the yeast can get rid of some of the flavor compounds they made while fermenting. Beechwood chips optional. Putting your beer in the fridge will shut down the yeast and a lot of non-yeast-related chemical reactions, but the cold will help a lot of haze and whatnot to drop to the bottom of your beer. Some things get better with age, especially in high-abv beers. A lot of other things get worse, like fading hop aroma and bitterness and increased oxidation.

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Old 08-18-2012, 02:59 AM   #6
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Default Carbonating and conditioning

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There are different ways to age/condition beer. You can leave the beer at normal fermenting temps so the yeast can get rid of some of the flavor compounds they made while fermenting. Beechwood chips optional. Putting your beer in the fridge will shut down the yeast and a lot of non-yeast-related chemical reactions, but the cold will help a lot of haze and whatnot to drop to the bottom of your beer. Some things get better with age, especially in high-abv beers. A lot of other things get worse, like fading hop aroma and bitterness and increased oxidation.
I have a question about carbonating and conditioning. I have read that too much head space in the top of the bottle will cause the beer to over carbonate, whereas too little will make the beer under carbonate. Any ideas on this?
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Old 08-18-2012, 03:05 AM   #7
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.... or, perfect your receipes so that they will "peak" with no conditioning, that way you go straight from primary to keg. That's what I do, especially for wheat beers. Fresh is best. But I am also a backorder brewer, meaning I always put myself on backorder and need to expedite shipping, if you catch my drift.

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Old 08-18-2012, 12:45 PM   #8
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I have a question about carbonating and conditioning. I have read that too much head space in the top of the bottle will cause the beer to over carbonate, whereas too little will make the beer under carbonate. Any ideas on this?
Bottle carbonation is simply fermentation of added sugar.
That said, yeast will absorb sugar and create alcohol (in small %) and CO2. That CO2 will form in headspace as well as in beer, and after beer is chilled it will dissolve in beer.
So, the more headspace you have, the more CO2 forms there.

But it is only partially true since not all CO2 from headspace will be dissolved into beer (there will always be "pssst sound" when you open the bottle- that is escaping CO2), and if headspace is too big it will take up most of CO2 created by yeast. Try to do half-filled bottle and you will notice that there is nice amount of CO2 formed in large headspace (it will hiss) but the beer will be pretty flat.
So, the smaller the headspace, the less CO2 is lost from the beer to pressurize the headspace.

Temperature also play big role in carbonation since CO2 is more dissolved at lower temperatures.

I know this can sound a bit confusing but imagine it as Gauss curve (bell curve): the more you move to the edges of curve the more you are moving aside from optimal condition.
Your best bet is to stick with 1" headspace (as it is closest to upper end of curve), because there will be enough space for CO2 to fill, and not big enough that a lot of CO2 will be lost from beer.
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