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Old 02-02-2011, 07:52 PM   #1
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Default Belgian Bottle Bottling

Ok, so I got my belgian style bottles, corks and wire hoods. Just a couple of questions:

1) the bottles I'm using are the amber 750ml cork belgian styles from a brew store. I am assuming that they will handle 4 volumes of CO2 without a problem. Anybody have experience on this to tell me otherwise?
2) If the cork was pushed too far into the bottle so that it didn't really fill our the space in the hood am I thinking correctly that the CO2 will push the cork out into the hood? Am I missing something there? How important is the tightness of the cork against the hood at bottling time?
3)I'm planning to add yeast at bottling time since I'm looking at a 10-12% ABV (don't have a FG reading yet) and am going to secondary and crash out the worn out yeast. I want healthier yeast for conditioning as it will be aged for years. The question here is should I do a small starter for the bottling yeast or just pitch my vial in the bottle bucket as I rack into the priming sugar so it mixes well? I froze a cup of wort when I brewed for this starter but am wondering if that is a waste of time to make a starter as a vial of yeast should have way plenty for bottling.. right?

I'm just really paranoid about the whole corking process. As it is I'm probably going to rent a big corker from LHBS. just paranoid I'm going to screw it up and kill an expensive/time consuming batch. I know.. relax.. have a brew etc.

I do have supplies to cork a bottle or two before I commit by racking to my bottling bucket... but have to wait till bottling day as I won't have the corker until then. Would it be wacky if I showed up at the LHBS with a bottle and a cork and asked to try it out there a while before I was ready to bottle?

I have at least a couple of weeks to finalize my corking plans as I'm giving the beer a bit more time to settle etc. then will be cold crashing for a few days.. then allowing it to raise back to about 68deg before bottling.

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Old 02-03-2011, 03:29 AM   #2
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1. If they're really belgian bottles, they should hold considerably more than that. Not that you'll need it, just saying.
2. I should think so. The cork only really seats itself once pressure builds up behind it. Ask the denizens of your LHBS.
3. Most belgian breweries seem to add 1-2 million cells/mL for bottling. So for a 20L (about 5 gal) batch, you would need 20-40 billion cells (check that in case I'm displacing a decimal somewhere). White labs says their vials have 75-150 billion viable cells, so you should be quite safe there.

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Old 02-03-2011, 07:44 PM   #3
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thanks.. 20-40 billion cells works out by my math as well so 1 vial should be plenty. That makes things a little easier.. I was getting worried about the starter and timing of it. Now all I need to do is rent the corker and get the yeast at the same time and I can bottle that night.

Still wishing I had a big corker sitting around instead of renting. Maybe if this batch turns out very good I'll convince myself to invest in a corker... maybe pump out a batch or two of wine as well.. what the heck.

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Old 03-01-2011, 11:59 PM   #4
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Doing my first Belgian and I have a tripel sitting in secondary right now. It was in primary for 2 weeks, just transferred to secondary a few days ago. It is now starting to settle out with a yeast cake on bottom and slightly darker bands developing as you get higher. OG was 1.086 and RG was 1.010, so I figure this yeast is spent. How long would you let it sit in secondary? I'm thinking until it has darkened and cleared. That makes sense. But then the concept of bottle conditioning is there- should I simply have bottled it straight from the primary once fermentation was complete?

Further questions: I've never added yeast when bottling. It sounds like one vial of White labs will be sufficient. How do I ensure each bottle will receive sufficient yeast? Add it to the bottling bucket with priming sugar, right?

Then the corking. How do I sanitize the corks? Can I use vodka? Do I have to soak them first? Star San? I was lucky enough to borrow a portuguese floor corker from friend who is an ex-wine maker. I don't want to f this thing up.

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Old 03-02-2011, 04:41 PM   #5
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Using a secondary perhaps wasn't strictly necessary, but it's no bad thing with a bigger beer like a tripel. Is it in the cold? Belgians benefit from a period of bulk cold aging - near freezing temps if you can manage it.

You could add the new yeast with the priming sugar in the bottling bucket, yes. I would dump it in right after the transfer starts to get it as well distributed as possible.

I wouldn't count on vodka to sanitize corks. Alcohol stays sterile itself, but doesn't necessarily kill on contact. Star san would be a better bet. Soak it in that for a while, but not too long; don't want to drench the corks all the way through.

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Old 03-02-2011, 05:07 PM   #6
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I've been using StarSan to soak my corks before putting them into the Belgian bottles. I haven't tried one of the bottled brews yet, since they've not been in there long enough. I did let the corks sit in the StarSan while I was getting everything ready, then drained them when I racked the brew onto the priming solution. They were drying to the touch, but you could see some moisture when they were compressed during the corking process.

I would check the depth you're pushing the corks in (set it with the first couple) to make sure the cage goes on properly. I've been leaving as close to 1" head space under the cork as I can with these bottles. Which means the corks go in 3/4"-1" then the cage goes on top. Sometimes I need to hold the cage down as I wind the wire on it, but that's ok.

I would also highly recommend getting one of the wire winding tools for the cages. I didn't the first time I used them, going with a Philips screwdriver instead. A few bottles in, I was bleeding from the metal cap on the cages. Those suckers are SHARP! I would also hold the two vertical wires closest to the loop you wind, to make sure they stay straight. Put the bottom of the cage under the bottom lip of the top (not in the groove) and you'll be fine.

For adding yeast, I would only do that if you've had it in secondary for an extended period (over a month) and there's nothing on the bottom of the carboy. You can always grab a bit of the bottom yeast while you rack, to have some more in suspension to munch on the sugars you'll be adding. Unless your brew has hit the limit of the yeast's ABV tolerance, it will wake up when you introduce more sugar to it. I'm pretty sure that you'll even get carbonation if you don't grab any of the bottom yeast (again, unless it's been flocculating for an extended period of time).

I hit my old ale with some fresh yeast (packet of EC-1118) before racking it over to the bottling bucket. I had it in a corny keg for about 5-1/2 weeks (sitting on oak chips) and I did a really good job of not pulling any trub over from primary. I made sure the new yeast was still in solution when I racked over (the bottom of the corny was CLEAN) to the bottling bucket. The brew has been in bottles for just over a week now. I'm planning to chill one down after the 2 week mark to check on it. At 8.1% ABV, I don't see myself drinking more than one of those an evening...

I'm using the Belgian bottles for my bigger brews. More due to the coolness factor of having a cork to pop when you open them. Plus, I've been able to get them pretty cheap from the LHBS. Until I started buying the Belgian's, they had not sold any in over 5 years (since getting them in)... I'm slowly buying up their inventory. I think I've already purchased about half of what they had in stock...

I would do a dry run with one bottle to see how you need to set your corker for the correct depth. That's probably one of the more important steps. I don't think I'd use more yeast in the brew, unless you're over the original yeast's ABV tolerance level, and it's been sitting for more than two months. I bottled up a big brew (9.7% ABV) that carbonated just fine. Of course, the yeast I used was tolerant up to 12%... Basically no yeast was visibly transferred into the bottling bucket, but it still had enough in suspension to carbonate.

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