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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Closed-system pressurized fermentation technique!
View Poll Results: What do you guys think about pressure fermentations? Time for a poll.
I've done it and I liked it just fine! 82 11.25%
I've done it, nothing wrong with it, but prefer normal fermentation techniques. 20 2.74%
I've done it, hate it, and never will do it again! 4 0.55%
I've never done it, but it is on my list! 544 74.62%
I've never done anything. I only brew beer in my mind. 79 10.84%
Voters: 729. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 11-09-2007, 06:59 PM   #1
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Default Closed-system pressurized fermentation technique!

EDIT: Hey guys, I know I know... big thread and you don't want to read the whole thing, so basic information is on the Wiki of this thread. Click here! I still suggest reading the thread though for more up to date discovery/discussion/debate. Lots of good information to help you choose the best approach for "you"! Oh look, SankePankey went and wrote a very encompassing summary of this technique, and what most of us are doing at present (9/19/11). Here is the skinny according to SankePankey... and us as well!

I've been doing the following technique for the last couple of beers and I have really enjoyed drinking them, so I figured I would share my experiences with them for your entertainment. I have also had more good comments from my roommates and others (most around me hate anything except BMC) than I ever have before.

About 3 brews back, I finally decided that I was going to brew exactly what I wanted and not what everyone else would drink. Researching one night on the internet I came across Ray Daniels responding to someones query about fermenting under pressure in a HBD post. I read a couple more prompting hints and whispers on other sites as well about closed systems and had the equipment to try it so I did.
First, a little bit about the equipment I use so you can follow. I have a normal, gravity fed, three-tiered brewing setup.


All of my tuns (HLT & MT) and kettle were Sanke kegs. I use a pump/lauter grant combo for transferring chilled wort to my fermenter. I ferment in a sealed Sanke keg (with 3/4" cut off the bottom of the dip tube/spear) placed inside my Lagerator with a Sanke type "D" tap that has been modified (the gas one-way valve has been removed and a spunding valve incorporated to release excess CO2 pressure). Now that you've seen my equipment, let me show you how I have been using it to accomplish a closed system that can take .

The first was a 12 gallon test batch of blonde ale that was not very tasty (due to the recipe), but I was still impressed by everything else with that beer so I marched on. Then came an APA. This was a beautifully, lighter colored wort. Removing the ball-lock back-flow prevention on the “normally” beer-out side of the Sanke tap, I tapped the keg and then attached my transfer hose from my pump and started transferring the chilled wort into my Sanke fermenter. The pump really pushes a lot of wort into the keg and pressure built up to about 5 psi quickly. My spunding valve released the pressure way too slowly, so I simply kept pulling the pressure relief on the keg tap. I aerated my chilled wort inside my lauter grant and also pitched my yeast there on its way to the fermenter.

After filling the keg inside of my Lagerator, I reinstalled the back-flow prevention and attached a cleaned and sanitized serving/testing spigot and line (not pictured since it is a new thing for me). The yeast was pitched at 10:00PM and checked later at 9:00AM, but nothing seemed to be happening. Afraid of a stuck fermentation, I untapped and opened the keg and looked in to see the start of an active fermentation. Resealing the keg, I decided to let it just build up pressure. The next day (36 hours after pitch) I came back to re-tap with my modified tap, and was impressed by how fast pressure had built up during the night in the sealed Sanke keg primary fermenter. Achtung!!! Please believe me!!!!! Leave the fermenting keg tapped and on controlled back-pressure relief until it is done. It needs to stay as controlled as the pressure release is allowing.)!!!!! I twisted the tap and ended up with a freezer full of fermenting beer. I laugh now, but man was I livid. The keg finally released all the pressure and I cleaned and re-sanitized everything.

This gave me time to check the gravity and I was over 50% attenuated. So, I replaced the spunding tap and set it to release anything higher than 15 psi. I came back to check a couple hours later to hear it releasing and to see the pressure maintaining around 15 psi. The next morning I noticed a lack of pressure compared to the day before, so I untapped and waited until a complete week had passed from when I pitched.

Taking into account pressure change with temperature drop, I used crash cooling to clear my beer and get me into the range of my pressure gauge on my spunding valve. My valve only works to 20 psi and the gauge reads 30 psi maximum. According to Beer Smith, for carbonation level of 2.8 volumes of CO2 at 65*F (fermentation temperature), you would need 30.46 psi. I could never do this without crash cooling with my system’s limitations, not to mention, it is just easier to not worry when the beer is at 35*F and I can set my pressure relief to 12.71 psi (Beersmith calculation). When the crash cooling week at 35*F is done, I transfer into a cleaned/sanitized/CO2 purged serving keg. I use the same tap setup on my serving keg as I did when filling the fermenter initially, and a regular Sanke tap setup on my fermenter to do the transfer. Then, I roll the serving keg to right beside my Kegerator door for another week at room temperature (65*F-75*F depending but constant). After that, I pop it in the Kegerator and start drinking when it is cool.

Now, I don’t know if all the retarded fusel alcohols and esters are true or not, as well as the increase in diacetyl. All I know from tasting during the crash cooling phase, is this beer was ready to go right then it only needed more clarity. After sitting a week at room temperature and serving, it was fantastic and cleared completely within a week cold.


I really love how now my beer never sees an unpressurized CO2 environment from the time it is pitched to the time it hits my glass. I also feel much better about using the fermenter a second time and re-pitching on the previous yeast cake. Yeast collection for washing was easy this last time, as I released all the pressure and filled the fermenter with pre-boiled distilled water. I took the keg out of the Lagerator to do this, and shook “the phooey” out of the trub on the bottom. I let it settle for about 10 minutes tapping it with a regular serving tap setup during the wait. Then I filled my cleaned and sanitized yeast washing big jar and started washing via the great instructions found searching on the Home Brewing Wiki and this forum.

When it is time to clean this gunked-up bad boy, 160*F hot water and a scoop of oxyclean does the trick for me (search the numerous threads about oxyclean on this community). Then, I open up the keg and rinsed well with cold water and inspected the keg. I then resealed the keg, and filled with no-rinse sanitizer that I will explain about later and refer to as "NRS". When it is time to dump the NRS, I tap with a modified sanke tap (everything removed where all ports are full open) that lets everything drain out the tap's gas-in port. After the first time cleaning the fermenter, I started leaving the keg to clean longer (one week as opposed to the couple of days before).

I also started using a popularly discussed NRS (1oz bleach/5 gallons water/1oz vinegar), directly after a good rinse with cold tap water. I looked in the keg after rinsing the oxyclean out and letting it dry, and I saw a slight powdery film. It wiped off with my finger, but I wondered if the no-rinse I was using was going to remove it. I would, under normal procedures, not reopen the fermenter after filling and dumping the NRS. However, I needed to see if the white powdery film was gone after drying, so I reopened the keg and was pleasantly surprised it was gone.

Now, I purge the fermenter with CO2 immediately after emptying the NRS so nothing wants to grow inside and wait for my next brew day. I really like this way of fermenting and wanted to share it with the community. I hope it keeps working well on all the beverages I produce in the future.
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Old 11-10-2007, 07:13 AM   #2
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You have my attention.

Any pics of the my modified sanke taps?

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Old 11-10-2007, 07:38 AM   #3
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Thanks for sharing.
Pictures would be good.

I really have reservations about cleaning sanke kegs.

I'm going to put this thread in the hall off fame so it is not lost.

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Old 11-10-2007, 12:12 PM   #4
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Very interesting...I too would love to see pics of your setup. Wiki worthy.

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Old 11-10-2007, 03:05 PM   #5
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I tried to link the keywords to pictures but after writing they didn't seem to work. I have all the pics in my gallery if you would care to see them there. I am checking today to see if they are all labeled. I don't know why they didn't work. I highlighted the word I wanted click able on my write up and then hit the insert link button. I had more than 4 so I didn't want it to be cluttered up with pictures. Let me do another test real quick. Three-tiered brewing setup. Ok, you have to click Insert Link and then change from http type to file type and then completely paste over with your pictures URL. I am starting to get this thing. Now I will go back and re-edit the OP to make it the way I wanted (I had to remove all the links after I posted originally ).

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Old 11-10-2007, 03:58 PM   #6
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Ok, should have all working links to picture now, enjoy.

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Old 11-10-2007, 04:28 PM   #7
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Default Closed-system pressurized fermentation technique!

Quote:
Originally Posted by orfy
Thanks for sharing.
Pictures would be good.

I really have reservations about cleaning sanke kegs.

I'm going to put this thread in the hall off fame so it is not lost.
Sorry I didn't have the pics working earlier for you Orfy. I had huge reservations about fermenting inside a sanke and then cleaning it. I actually discounted the idea some years ago as a no-go-ever. After joining this community, and reading everything I have read, I tried oxyclean and fell in love. I have no worries about a keg now. Wow, I actually made it into a hall of fame. I will keep writing about my experiences using this setup, as I haven't ventured into lager country yet and the only beers produced that the recipe tasted good was roggenbier, APA, and a newly brewed Rye-PA that is waiting through it's first week.
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Old 11-10-2007, 08:43 PM   #8
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I'm going to get some better and more up to date pictures on my next brew session and maybe I can get Wiki worthy. I know the system works great. I just would like for others to try it or have a few more under my belt before something more permanent like the Wiki goes up.

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Old 11-12-2007, 03:02 PM   #9
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Ok, my last little experiment is going to be ready to crash cool tonight. I can't wait until next week to see how clear she dropped and transfer. SG last night (est by refractometer) says 1.017 and I am looking for 1.014 so I will retest before I drop, but it should be done. I can't even describe how happy I am with the flavor so far. My last beer with rye was a roggenweizen and had a cloying sourness that took a couple of weeks to blend into the rest of the beer. It was like the only ingredient that I could taste all on it's own. This time, it is a roggenbier type of thing without any wheat. Yesterday's test glass had trub and hop residue (I was a little messy at the first and last of the transfer from kettle) and was very foamy (15 psi at 65*F,lol), but cleared very quickly and had excellent flavor. If I could have filtered it right then it would be ready in my opinion. I have to remind myself, "This is what the next week at 35*F is for. Don't touch the beer until then.

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Old 11-19-2007, 11:37 PM   #10
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I CANNOT wait to brew with you again. It seems like your beer knowledge has jumped a level. Wish I had a sample of that "Big Lebowski" to share with you .

Anyhow, keep me appraised of the situation.

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