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Old 05-22-2013, 11:30 AM   #1
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Default Advice Needed: Bottle Bombs

Last night, shortly after I had gone to bed, I heard a loud "pop/thump" from downstairs. I thought something might have fallen off the kitchen counter. I went downstairs to check it out. It was my first ever bottle bomb.

First off, I know what I should do per standard advice: don protective gear and carefully open and re-cap my bottles. But before I do that I want to check with the boards to make sure it makes sense given the situation or if there are any other thoughts.

This is a Pliny the Elder clone (big and hoppy IPA) that spent 2 weeks in primary, just under 2 weeks in secondary, and as of Monday 3 weeks in the bottle. The gravity never changed after about the first week in primary, so fermentation was complete.

I opened a bottle for the first time on Sunday (a day before it was technically done in the bottle) and it was the most carbonated beer I'v ever brewed. I assumed it was because I mishandled the bottle and then poured too excitedly, but this thing had HEAD. And it was delicious. Definitely not infected.

I had them bottle conditioning in my kitchen because it had been too cold in my basement, but as of Monday I probably should have put everything down in the basement because it HAS been getting warmer and earlier in the week it started consistently hitting the 70s and even the 80s outside, so the bottles definitely got warmer than was ideal but I wasn't thinking about it.

Part of the reason I wasn't thinking about it was because I made this batch with a friend who lives 4 hours away and was going to split it up and bring him half this Friday, so I was going to put his in the car and put mine downstairs at this time. The trip will probably also involve a car ferry for about an hour (this is option but makes the trip a lot easier).

I used the amount of priming sugar per Beer Smith, although I did have one SNAFU: I bottled 5 bottles before realizing that I forgot to add the priming sugar. I opened the ones I had done and poured them back in, covered the bucket with some sanitized foil, boiled the priming sugar at that time, let it cool, and then got on with it. Because I was flustered and pissed at myself and now in a bit of a rush (because I had some place to go and this was wasting time), it's possible I could have mis-measured the sugar, but the bag of corn sugar that I had was only 5oz total, so I couldn't have gone that far overboard.

So here are my case-specific questions:

  1. Given how much money we spent on hops for this one, will the lovely hops aroma be sacrificed if I open and re-cap? My friend is a huge hop-head so I woudl really like to avoid losing that aroma upon opening the bottle. As I said if this was one of my Session Bitters I would just pop and recap, no worry.
  2. What are the chances that I might be OK by throwing the beer in a cooler and moving it to my basement to take 10-15 degrees off the temperature? Fridge is not an option at this point.
  3. How much of an added risk is the car ride / possible ferry ride? I don't imagine any shaking is good for the situation?
  4. Any other ideas?
I DON'T want to give my friend any potentially dangerous bottle bombs but I also want to preserve the hop quality of this beer he is so excited for. If it weren't for creating a risk for him and his wife I would probably chill the bottles, put them in a cooler in the basement for now, put that in the car on Friday and go and roll the dice on losing some during the trip. I'd rather lose quantity than quality on this one because he is so excited about it. But I can't give him bottles knowing they might blow up.

I'm eager to hear any creative ideas, or to hear that opening and re-capping won't risk losing the hoppiness. If I do go through that process, how long do I have to leave the cap off before re-capping? As I've seen with the one I drank, there is plenty of CO2 in suspension so I'm not worried about it being flat.

Thanks!
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Old 05-22-2013, 11:51 AM   #2
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If it is just one, might just be a weak bottle. I have had a couple do that

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Old 05-22-2013, 11:52 AM   #3
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I'd chill the lot for 24 hrs min then check another bottle before messing with them.


The "over carbed" bottle could have been really a not done carbing bottle where the co2 was in the head space and not really absorbed back into the beer yet. I know you were at almost 3 weeks, but it could have been a slow carbing beer due to high ABV. Don't know but maybe even all thos hops could stress the yeast and slow down carbing.

The bottle bomb could have been a single infected bottle.

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Old 05-22-2013, 02:23 PM   #4
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UPDATE: I moved the bottles to the basement about 3.5 hours ago. I just went down there and now there is a second bottle bomb.

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Old 05-22-2013, 03:31 PM   #5
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So everything is now on ice. Tomorrow I'll open one up as a test case and see how over-carbonated it is. I now plan to truck them to my friend's house on ice in the cooler, but still have concerns about the road shaking them up, and I need to check with my friend to see what type of storage he has. If he has no way to keep them adequately cool (I had told him his basement would be OK) I guess I have no choice but to re-cap before I leave? What impact will that have on the hoppy-ness? May basement is a bit of a sticky mess right now from the second bomb, but at least it smells AMAZING!

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Old 05-22-2013, 05:05 PM   #6
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What was the final gravity of the beer? A second bomb is not a great sign. You may want to open these and re-cap...

Chilling will help I think either way.

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Old 05-22-2013, 07:00 PM   #7
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Chilling will definitely help. It'll put the yeast to sleep to prevent further overcarbonation, and it'll drastically reduce the pressure.

Attached is a graph I made real quick. If you're at 5 volumes of CO2 (just a random guess) you'd be at 90 psi at 80 degrees, but only 32 psi at 32 degrees. So chilling them down and keeping them cold will bring it back into the safety zone.

pressure.gif  
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Old 05-22-2013, 07:11 PM   #8
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Bottle bombs are the one thing that as a new homebrewer I haven't experienced yet, but that I personally wouldn't want to mess around with.

It might be an overreaction on my part, and many with much more experience than yours truly might tell me that it is, but...

If I had two verified bottle bombs in one batch? I'd don a pair of safety glasses, gloves, and extra clothing, chill those bottles down to just above freezing, uncap and dump.

Yeah, I might waste a really good beer that others with more experience than I might think could be saved, but if someone got hurt from my homebrew? Well, that's one risk I just can't imagine ever wanting to take.

Cheers!

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Old 05-22-2013, 09:25 PM   #9
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So I'm gathering from this thread that moving them around can sometimes set off bottle bombs? I am looking at my first beer, almost 2 weeks carbonating, I just moved the bottles cause I figured at this point I would've gotten a bottle bomb by now. Wrong, I moved them to a cooler darker spot in my apartment last night. Come 10:30pm last night I hear a loud pop, glad I looked cause two bottles bottle bombed.

I'm inclinded to think its the bottles, since they were part of the first bottles I bottled (bottles previously had Alaskan amber in them) I figured they were the least likely to bottle bomb. When you add priming sugar does it tend to instantly sink to the bottom? If I chill the other ones in Alaskan bottles, will this basically stop any more from bottle bombing?

Edit: Clarification I bottled out of primary.

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Old 05-22-2013, 09:56 PM   #10
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While I get that the packet said 5 oz of sugar it matters as to the actual final volume of beer it was used to prime. Ideally .75-1 oz per FINISHED gallon of beer is a benchmark. If you bottled less than 5 gallons and used the full 5 oz then you over primed the beer.

Over carbonated is over carbonated and while chilling the bottles will help the beer will still be over carbonated. Yes, you can uncap, release pressure and re-cap but you may then ultimately wind up with flat beer

Also, just because the first bottle you originally tasted was fine doesn't mean that an infection hasn't taken hold in the bottles. There is also the risk of oxidation since you emptied the first 5 bottles back into the finished beer and resumed the process of bottling, not a huge risk but a risk none the less.........

Even if you place the bottles in a fridge they should still be in some sort of container as they can still potentially explode. A properly carbonated beer should not explode just because you moved it around. If this were the case there would be warnings on every bottle of commercially produced beer that is bottle conditioned

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