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Old 07-07-2011, 05:03 AM   #1
Ceejster
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Default Balancing a Keg System Boot Camp

Hey Everyone, this is my first thread post on HBT ever! I am starting it in hopes of helping other amateur brewers, like myself, to get the most out of their home kegging systems. I am going to create a format that others can follow, so that those out there much more experienced with kegging systems can share some remedies.

Dilemma:
Beer is under carbonated a.k.a. flat
Kegging System:
Converted G.E. Mini Fridge
2 long shank with faucets (mounted on door)
Johnson Control A419 Thermostat (set at 40.F)
2 5 Gal. Corny Kegs
10 lb. CO2 Tank set at 12psi (mounted outside of fridge)
Dual outlet air distributor with check valves (mounted inside fridge)
4'4'' of 3/16 ID Beverage Tubing
Measure Taken
Of these variable, I have read the most important are temperature, length/diameter of hose, and PSI. I used Crockett Brewing Keg Systems (http://www.iancrockett.com/brewing/i...gbalance.shtml) to determine what would work best.
To maintain 12 PSI, the site suggested that I would need roughly 4'4'' of 3/16 tubing (2.7 resistance). Due to mounting my taps on the door of the fridge, I have a clearance of about 1 inch from the tap to the center of the keg (the end of the shank may go directly above the keg once the door is closed. This causes me to let the hose either hang down / soft loop once of curl around the top of the corny [potential problem?]
After sitting at a week at 12 psi (set and forget), the beer has no real head, but there are some bubbles climbing up the side of the glass, which leads me to believe I am on the right track. The bubbles on top, I have heard in other forums as "soapy" in nature. Overall, the beer just does not taste carbonated. I have checked and observed no leaks from the CO2. There is also a decent flow rate which is also what is making this a pain to figure out.
At this point, I am deducing that I may need more pressure and turned my regulator to 15 PSI. I feel this is a pre-mature move, but due to lack of experience and not really finding any systems similar to my own in problem solving forums, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Also, I lowered my thermostat to 38.F. I read colder beer has an easier time absorbing CO2.
Goal
I want my beer to have around a .5''- 1'' of head that does not dissipate quickly / release all the carbonation. Approximately 2.5 - 2.7 volumes of CO2 if I could be a stickler. If anymore information or pictures are needed, please let me know and I can share. (Obviously with the length of this post, I tried to be as thorough as possible). Any tips from the pros are greatly appreciated.

Thanks and Prost!

- Clint

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Old 07-07-2011, 01:09 PM   #2
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Leave your fridge at 38*, and turn the pressure down to 13psi. This will give you 2.66 volumes of pressure. Patience is the key. Sometimes it'll take 7-10 days and the more you fiddle with it, the most off-track it gets. At 40 degrees, I'm not suprised it wasn't carbonated. It should take about 15 days at that pressure.

And no matter what anyone tells you...NEVER ever ever ever ever force carbonate by cranking it to 20-30psi for 24-48 hours and then back down. This is a horrible method and 90% of the time leads to overcarbonated beer.

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Old 07-07-2011, 01:24 PM   #3
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Nevermind, I read your post incorrectly.

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Old 07-07-2011, 02:14 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Suthrncomfrt1884 View Post
Leave your fridge at 38*, and turn the pressure down to 13psi. This will give you 2.66 volumes of pressure. Patience is the key. Sometimes it'll take 7-10 days and the more you fiddle with it, the most off-track it gets. At 40 degrees, I'm not suprised it wasn't carbonated. It should take about 15 days at that pressure.

And no matter what anyone tells you...NEVER ever ever ever ever force carbonate by cranking it to 20-30psi for 24-48 hours and then back down. This is a horrible method and 90% of the time leads to overcarbonated beer.
Bah, 99% of the time it works every time . Never shake though, down that road lies disaster....and of course now that you've done a week of set/forget, you don't want to try and burst carb with 30 PSI/48 hrs since you don't know how much carbonation is in there.

OP, do what he says, go back to 13 PSI and wait another week. 1 week is far too short for set/forget.
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Old 07-07-2011, 04:05 PM   #5
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And no matter what anyone tells you...NEVER ever ever ever ever force carbonate by cranking it to 20-30psi for 24-48 hours and then back down. This is a horrible method and 90% of the time leads to overcarbonated beer.
Just because it doesn't work for you doesn't mean it doesn't work for others.

I always put in a warm keg to my keezer and put it up to just under 60 PSI and leave 24 hours, then back down to 10-13 PSI for 3-4 days and everything is perfect.

I know a guy who takes a cold keg, puts it up to 16 PSI and shakes it until no gas goes in. Puts in back in the refridge and gives it a 24 hour rest. Says it is perfcect - I have had his beer and the carb is like a labatts, high carb but what he is looking for, not over carbed. I am not a fan of the shaking method though personally.

It is a preference on how you want to do it... just sayin'
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Old 07-07-2011, 05:19 PM   #6
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It's impossible to overcarb if you have your reg set at carb pressure, no matter how much you shake it. So the only time shaking is foolproof is when you are set at your desired carb pressure, (16 for this guy, apparently), at which point you can shake the living crap out of it and all you are doing is accelerating gas absorption UP TO your desired carb level.

So yeah, that would work too

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Old 07-07-2011, 06:07 PM   #7
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It's impossible to overcarb if you have your reg set at carb pressure, no matter how much you shake it. So the only time shaking is foolproof is when you are set at your desired carb pressure, (16 for this guy, apparently), at which point you can shake the living crap out of it and all you are doing is accelerating gas absorption UP TO your desired carb level.

So yeah, that would work too
Exactly. Nothing wrong with shaking, or going high pressure etc, once you get a reliable system down. I know he said waiting at least 8 hours is important after the shake method, for it to stabilize. Maybe the OP has not given a shake or high pressure carb 8-24 hours to "rest".
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Old 07-07-2011, 11:07 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Ceejster View Post
After sitting at a week at 12 psi (set and forget), the beer has no real head, but there are some bubbles climbing up the side of the glass, which leads me to believe I am on the right track. The bubbles on top, I have heard in other forums as "soapy" in nature. Overall, the beer just does not taste carbonated. I have checked and observed no leaks from the CO2. There is also a decent flow rate which is also what is making this a pain to figure out.
I want my beer to have around a .5''- 1'' of head that does not dissipate quickly / release all the carbonation. Approximately 2.5 - 2.7 volumes of CO2 if I could be a stickler. If anymore information or pictures are needed, please let me know and I can share. (Obviously with the length of this post, I tried to be as thorough as possible). Any tips from the pros are greatly appreciated.
When using the set and forget method it takes about 2 weeks to fully carb, especially if you're going for a higher level of carbonation. It will have bubbles in about a week, and be drinkably carbed by ~10 days, but full carbonation takes time. If you're in a rush there are ways to "burst carb" as described above, and while I'm personally not a fan of burst carbing it works well for some people. The amount of head is mostly dependent on the balance of your system, the glassware, and the pour technique, but you can really only guess at the balancing without carbonated beer to test it out with. IMHO you need to let the beer fully carbonate, and then balance your system to get the type of pour you're looking for. And if you're having head retention issues you need to look at your recipe or your glassware cleaning methods, not at the system balancing.
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Old 07-08-2011, 05:00 PM   #9
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Hey Everyone,

Thank you all for the information. Another reason for me developing this thread was to continue processing all the different methods of carbonating / kegging that are discussed on HBT. It has become the "great debate" of "To shake or not to shake", "To dial up the pressure, or not".

What I have taken from it all is that all methods work. The one advantage to "set and forget" is you have a higher probability of hitting your desired volumes of CO2 on the head, the only pain is it takes awhile. Shaking and dialing up pressure is quicker and once you have experimented with the amount of time to shake / pressure to use you have great results.

Moving Forward

In my personal case, I am going to take "Suthrncomfrt1884" advice and set the pressure at 13 PSI and give it another 7-10 days. A second for taking this remedy goes to "shortyjacobs" for pointing out how I am already at this stage. Hopefully when I re-post, I will have great news for the thread.
Response to JuanMoore
My Recipe was as follows:
Irish Red Ale (Fire Fight)
7lbs Maris Otter
2lbs Vienna (US)
.37 lbs. Roasted Barley
.18 Lbs Crystal (120 L)
1 oz. Fuggles 60 min.
1 oz. Kent Golding 15 min.
.25 Cascade 0 min. (.75 remaining dry hopped for 7 days in secondary)
Mashed at 154* for 75 min (the temp. held so I held; A+ Iodine test)
OG: 1.050 - FG: 1.012
I also used some Polyclar as a fining agent / cold crashed for 3 days

As for glassware, not a factor. I have very nice glasses (father is an "American Picker" and always gives me cool traditional beer equipment. I clean it properly and have over the course of years of drinking, I've learned and developed the art of the pour.

One thing that I can have better during my brew process is to get a better rolling boil for my all grain batches. I am on an electric stove, which just scratches the surface of a boil for approx. 7 gallons. I just made a reflectex jacket for my pot, so hopefully that will address some of the heat loss.

Well, I have done it again. 2 for 2 with the long posts. Let me know if any of the information I have shared is off and impacting my kegging. Since everyone has been so helpful, I can only imagine future threads being created on the brewing process itself! Let me know if there is anymore information that would help move forward.

Thanks and Prost!

- Clint

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Old 07-15-2011, 10:33 PM   #10
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Hey Everyone,

Great news! My Irish Red is carbonated and has a very respectable head retention. Thank you everyone for sharing your advice. It looks like two weeks in the keg at set and forget was the ticket for me.

For other fresh to kegging brewers out there, please share your kegging systems / dilemmas and hopefully this thread can help you move forward.

I have learned that set and forget tends to yield more accurate carbonation when you are paying attention to style; however, you need to allow for at least 10 - 14 days before enjoying your first pint. Also, that force carbonating is great too. It is much faster (5 - 7 days). It's one con is that you run the risk of over-carbonation.

Experiment and see what works best for you! Cheers!

- Clint

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