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Old 06-25-2012, 01:35 PM   #1
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Default Can a violent mixture of priming sugar cause a bottle of beer to overcarbonate??

I'm trying to figure out what's going on with our past 3 batches of bottled beer.

Our first 3 batches were great. Perfect, even.

The only things we have changed were....

(1) Went from ale pale bucket for primary to 6.5 gallon glass carboy.
(2) Went from pitching subsequent batches on the primary's already existant yeast cake [of an unknown yeast type] to washing US-05 that was given to us by a local brewery and always pitching the correct amount of 50ml "yeast slurry".
(3) Went from gently swirling priming solution & beer in the bottling bucket to violently swirling until there is a 6 inch vortex for at least twice the stir time as the first three batches.

What's intersting about these three changes are...

(1) For some reason, switching to a glass carboy at primary led to less beer in the secondary. There was much more headspace in the secondary when the glass carboy was used as primary vessel. Unexplainable to me, but it did happen. This could potentially explain how the pre-rationed individual napkins, each full of 5 oz priming sugar, could be too much this go around when just 4 oz of sugar would have worked great.
(2) I personally believe that this US-05 is a "super yeast" since it has likely been used a number of generations by this brewer under 110% super-ideal conditions. But others say this has no effect whatsoever on over-carbonation
(3) Gently swirling worked great our first three batches. I told my friend to create a vortex when swirling with the last three batches. He made one crazy vortex for a longer period of time than I personally would have. Perhaps this could be the cause??

Other notes:

- First three batches took 4 weeks to carbonate. Last three batches took ~2 weeks to carbonate, and some bottles did explode. Only problem is that the beer is not really conditioned, because it still just tastes like "regular old beer" until the 4 week mark.
- There is only one bottle that I truly got to enjoy the taste of, and that was the half-full 22-oz bottle of Amarillo hops. Only 10 or 12 ounces of beer inside a 22-oz bottle, yet that beer was ALSO overcarbonated!! This leads me to believe that just 4 ounces of priming sugar for 4 gallons, or even just 2 ounces of priming sugar for the whole ~4 gallon batch, would have still led to overcarbonation.

Could it be possible that a violent stir / mixture of priming solution caused our bottled beer to overcarbonate??

... Or did the violent mixture just kick up a dormant fermentation that somehow wasn't able to complete with a 7 day primary / 21 day secondary (as well as a 10 day primary / 21 day secondary for the 6th and final batch, due to timing constraints)???

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Old 06-25-2012, 01:47 PM   #2
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always pitching the correct amount of 50ml "yeast slurry".
this isnt necessarily bad, however unless you are actually doing yeast cell counts, you dont really know if 50ml is the correct amount to pitch. just keep that in mind. slightly underpitching isnt the end of the world, and most people wouldnt know the difference. ive even WAY underpitched before and the beer turned out fine. you are just at a greater risk for stalled fermentation, or higher terminal gravity / lower attenuation. however, if you underpitch AND neglect the beer for a few steps (maybe the temperature isnt ideal, or you didnt oxygenate enough), it could make some headaches. just dont have it in your head that 50ml automatically = the right amount. that 50ml of volume could have a wide range of yeast cell count in it.

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violently swirling until there is a 6 inch vortex for at least twice the stir time as the first three batches.
what this does is add a considerable amount of oxygen to post-fermented beer, which is very bad. tell your friend to stop doing this immediately.

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I personally believe that this US-05 is a "super yeast" since it has likely been used a number of generations by this brewer under 110% super-ideal conditions
its more likely the opposite. the longer you use a yeast strain, the more mutations you will get, and the more "tired" it becomes. breweries dont do anything different with their yeast than an attentive home brewer would. at any rate, this likely has nothing to do with overcarbonation. you have a set amount of priming sugar in the bottle, that is (or should be, if your fermentation was finished!) the only food available to the yeast in the bottle, and it only goes so far. it doesnt matter if it gets eaten fast or slow, it will produce the same amount of CO2.

do you know the difference between true 'overcarbonation' and an infection that causes a gusher? they are somewhat similar...
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Old 06-25-2012, 01:57 PM   #3
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No, it is not the violent mixing itself, at least not directly... Your yeast, assuming it is pure and free of contaminating organisms, will convert X amount of priming sugar into X amount of CO2 and ethanol each time, +/- a tiny bit of variability due to yeast condition. You didn't mention whether you were taking gravity measurements to ensure that the yeast were in fact finished in the primary. It's possible that your last 3 batches might have underattenuated (even just a bit), leading to bottle bombs once they "woke up" post-bottling.

The main issue I see with your procedure is the air/oxygen you're introducing when you violently mix in the priming sugar. That is a major no-no for a few reasons, the biggest of which is that you are introducing oxygen into your finished product, which will at that level quickly oxidize and degrade the flavor of the beer. But in this case, if the yeast underattenuated by even 1 pt (specific gravity on your hydrometer), all that oxygen could kickstart them again in the bottle. Add that 1 point plus your priming sugar, and you're about double where you want to be CO2-production-wise.

In your first 3 batches without the vigorous mixing, the yeast might have flocculated in the primary, then slowly converted the low-hanging fruit (i.e. priming sugar) to carbonate your beer, leaving the expected amount of carbonation.

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Old 06-25-2012, 01:59 PM   #4
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I'm interested in the answer to this as well. I bottle in 12oz brown bottles and use about 5 ounces of priming sugar (what comes standard in the brewers best kits) for my 5 gallon batches.
(1) Always use a secondary for a minimum of 10 days with my brews. The length it sits doesn't seem to change teh carbonation levels for me.
(2) The yeast I pitch is usually US-05 that I rehydrate around 20 minutes before I pitch.
(3) Instead of mixing the sugar manually, I rack from my secondary into my bottling bucket with the sugar solution already in there.

Since my beer always comes out a little less carbonated than I would prefer, I'd say it could be either 2 or 3. The amount of yeast I pitch is way under the cell count that is desired, so that seems to be more likely.

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Old 06-25-2012, 02:03 PM   #5
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The second, less likely in my mind, scenario that I could see happening, is that you introduced some superattenuating wild yeast strain during the violent mixing. (hey, there are all kinds of bugs floating around in the air). Along with all the oxygen that got mixed in, perhaps you're seeing that yeast metabolize some sugars that the US-05 didn't chew up, leading to overcarbonation.

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Old 06-25-2012, 02:08 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Getzinator View Post
I'm interested in the answer to this as well. I bottle in 12oz brown bottles and use about 5 ounces of priming sugar (what comes standard in the brewers best kits) for my 5 gallon batches.
(1) Always use a secondary for a minimum of 10 days with my brews. The length it sits doesn't seem to change teh carbonation levels for me.
(2) The yeast I pitch is usually US-05 that I rehydrate around 20 minutes before I pitch.
(3) Instead of mixing the sugar manually, I rack from my secondary into my bottling bucket with the sugar solution already in there.

Since my beer always comes out a little less carbonated than I would prefer, I'd say it could be either 2 or 3. The amount of yeast I pitch is way under the cell count that is desired, so that seems to be more likely.
A single pack of S-05 (assuming it's in date), should produce a cell count that is sufficient for ~5 gals of just about any beer up to 1.070. Wouldn't say you're underpitching at all, especially if you're rehydrating properly. Those dry packs contain a lot of cells.

With (3), you might be getting insufficient mixing of the priming sugar... In this case you could expect some bottles to be overcarbed, some about right, and others to be undercarbed. If they're all undercarbed, maybe you're not letting your bottles prime up long enough/warm enough, and the sugar is not being converted. Or perhaps you like spritzy carbonation? Try an additional ounce of priming sugar. One last idea is that once carbed you're not letting them sit long enough in the fridge to let the CO2 go into solution.
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Old 06-25-2012, 02:25 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by grndslm View Post
Could it be possible that a violent stir / mixture of priming solution caused our bottled beer to overcarbonate??

... Or did the violent mixture just kick up a dormant fermentation that somehow wasn't able to complete with a 7 day primary / 21 day secondary (as well as a 10 day primary / 21 day secondary for the 6th and final batch, due to timing constraints)???
Here's an additional question to the original questions....


Would it be possible to forgo the priming solution altogether? ... by just violently mixing the beer in the bottling bucket??

If all bottles of all three of the last three batches have done this, then I'm going to rule out sanitation, as well as fermentation issues. No, we did *not* take gravity readings, but in the timeframe given.... I do not see how 4 weeks of fermentation is not enough time, three times in a row... when the prior three batches fermented just fine.

I'm wondering if a violent mixture would be all that's required for bottle conditioning [... ignoring any oxygenated sherry wine flavor, of course]??
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Old 06-25-2012, 02:29 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by audger View Post
do you know the difference between true 'overcarbonation' and an infection that causes a gusher? they are somewhat similar...
I do believe that the infection would gush immediately after popping the cap off.

These do not actually "bubble" until one attempts to sip or pour the brew into a glass. Letting it sit until the bubbles revert into liquid only takes a number of minutes, and the beer tastes about as average as a beer could get... other than the 22-oz that was half-full -- the only beer I could truly taste the hops. Amarillo definitely has a grapefruit taste that I wish I could get some more of.
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Old 06-25-2012, 02:59 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by greenbirds View Post
A single pack of S-05 (assuming it's in date), should produce a cell count that is sufficient for ~5 gals of just about any beer up to 1.070. Wouldn't say you're underpitching at all, especially if you're rehydrating properly. Those dry packs contain a lot of cells.
There are a lot of people that insist it isn't enough unless you create a starter and pitch a slurry. I just rehydrate mine per packet instructions and it works fine for me.

Quote:
With (3), you might be getting insufficient mixing of the priming sugar... In this case you could expect some bottles to be overcarbed, some about right, and others to be undercarbed. If they're all undercarbed, maybe you're not letting your bottles prime up long enough/warm enough, and the sugar is not being converted. Or perhaps you like spritzy carbonation? Try an additional ounce of priming sugar. One last idea is that once carbed you're not letting them sit long enough in the fridge to let the CO2 go into solution.

I have worried about insufficient mixing, but hoped the natural "whirlpool" (more like gentle circulation) from the racking process would be enough to mix properly.
They all seem to come out undercarbed. It goes at least 2 weeks in bottle (at least 75F) and 2 days in the fridge before I judge the carbonation levels. It usually barely gives any head, and it all falls rather quickly. To the point that my friend commented it seemed a lot like a wine about 5-10 minutes after pouring.
Next batch I'll give additional priming sugar a try.
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Old 06-25-2012, 03:01 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by grndslm View Post
I'm wondering if a violent mixture would be all that's required for bottle conditioning [... ignoring any oxygenated sherry wine flavor, of course]??
usually i'm against violence, but you should try and post the results of not using priming sugar- just mixing and bottling. Nothing ventured... nothing ventured.
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