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Old 03-06-2013, 02:26 AM   #1
ArcLight
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Default filling carboy headspace with something other than marbles

I've read that people use marbles to help fill carboy dead space for long term aging of beer. Are there other (less expensive) objects that can be used to fill a better bottle, other than marbles?

Obviously something that won't react with the beer, nor scratch the better bottle. Someone mentioned giant marbles at pet stores.
Any suggestions as to items at online pet stores? I checked Pet Smart and didn't see anything.

Would sand work?

Then there is inert gas, like Argon or CO2 found in products like Wine Preserve.

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Old 03-06-2013, 02:28 AM   #2
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I wouldn't put sand in my carboys. Especially if there's beer in them

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Old 03-06-2013, 02:37 AM   #3
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How about inert gas (argon, co2, nitrogen) with a solid stopper fixed into place? If you totally replace the headspace with inert gas and use a solid stopper that's fixed into place then you don't worry about oxygen or too much pressure (since BBs can flex a decent amount). Just an idea.

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Old 03-06-2013, 04:09 AM   #4
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Don't use sand, I don't think you could ever get it sanitized. Put a layer of Co2 on top of it and you'll be fine.

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Old 03-06-2013, 04:12 AM   #5
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Make a bigger batch to max out the carboy (i.e. fill it with the best thing possible: more beer!). Seriously, use a larger carboy for fermentation and switch it to a smaller carboy for long term again (based on a 5 gallon batch, use a 7gallon carboy for fermenting and switch to a 5 gallon for the long term aging).

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Old 03-06-2013, 04:13 AM   #6
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Crazy idea...maybe bottles?

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Old 03-27-2013, 12:50 PM   #7
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I had a similar question and was happy to see a recent thread so I could piggy back on to.

I'm very new to homebrewing and had the same question. Since my next batch will only be my second, I don't have a whole lot of equipment and want to do some expirementation. My current list of equipment is the 6.5G primary from my NB set, the bottling bucket, a 6G Better Bottle, and 3 Mr. Beer 2G fermenters. I'd like to make a 5G batch of stout and then split it 3 ways to try several different varieties.

If possible, I'd like to split the 5G batch 3 ways and with my current set-up, it makes the most sense to me to try the following.

Primary all 5G in the 6G Better Bottle.
3G in the 6.5 bucket (using something to fill the extra headspace) with some bourbon soaked vanilla beans
1G in a Mr. Beer fermenter (same idea as above) with some toasted coconut
1G in a Mr. Beer fermenter (same idea again) with some peppermint leaves

I was thinking about sanitized, unopened 1G water jugs to fill 3G of the headspace in the 6.5G bucket and using unopened and sanitized 1L bottles in the Mr. Beer fermenters. I'm sure there are numerous downsides that I haven't considered yet, but it made at least some sense to me.

Does that sound reasonable? Is it overkill for a 2 week secondary? Any advice/feedback is very much appreciated.

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Old 03-27-2013, 01:01 PM   #8
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Most of the people on here don't do a secondary. I always just leave my beers in primary until they are done, usually 14-21 days at the most, this way there is no need to worry about headspace as CO2 will create a protective blanket over the beer. I don't peek on them until around the 14 days mark and if they are done, i'm bottling within 3 days. The CO2 produced by fermentation will keep oxygen out and your beer safe.

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Old 03-27-2013, 02:38 PM   #9
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I only fill my primary with enough water to reach batch volume, usually 5 gal. And secondaries are not generally done though many use them with great results. I use them only to dry hop some additional ingredient (hops, fruit, peppers, etc). The decision to use a secondary comes with the added burden of a risk of infection during the transfer.

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Old 03-27-2013, 03:37 PM   #10
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I did my first batch (Irish Red Ale kit) in a primary only after reading up on things here even though the directions called for a secondary. To my relatively untrained eye, it ended up quite clear. The bottle I had last night after 10 days of conditioning had essentially nothing left in the bottom of the glass even though I emptied the bottle into the glass. The only reason I'm considering secondary for this batch is because the recipes that I'm interested in call for additions to be added after primary is complete.

I'm all for reducing the amount of work required and potential avenues for contamination, but isn't a secondary used for the styles of beer I'm interested in trying? I've read about using extracts only at bottling for certain styles, but it sounded to me that using the additions I listed above would be well suited for achieving the taste I'm interested in.

Would I be better off doing a number of smaller brews? Could I do a 3 gal batch of stout in the 6 gal Better Bottle and then quickly toss in the bourbon soaked vanilla beans after fermentation is done? Would that be too much headspace, even with the CO2 'blanket'? Would opening it up to toss the beans in allow the CO2 to escape or would it stay in place since it is heavier than O2? Would something similar work to do a 1 gal batch of stout in one of the Mr. Beer bottles and tossing in the coconut after primary fermentation is done?

I guess a follow-on question would be if I could add the yeast to the wort in the fermentation bucket and then immediately split it up between the 3 containers for primary? Essentially I'd end up with 3 gal in the 6 gal Better Bottle, 1 gal in one Mr. Beer, and 1 gal in another. I'd open each up after primary fermentation ends to add the additions and then let it sit for the amount of time indicated in the recipe and then bottle.

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