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Old 11-30-2011, 10:29 AM   #1
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Default Foaming up?

So here's the problem. I've Never kegged before, and put two batches in kegs the other day. They've just been sitting under 12 lbs of pressure for 2 days, and i know they won't be fully carbed or even close yet, but i tried to pull a sample and all i got was foam. Is this simple because it's not fully carbed (similar to how bottles not done conditioning will be fizzy) or is 12 pounds of pressure to high of a serving pressure?

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Old 11-30-2011, 01:14 PM   #2
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In my experience, neither of those are likely reasons for foam.

What ID, and how long, are your beer lines?

Cheers!

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Old 11-30-2011, 02:11 PM   #3
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How cold is the temp the kegs are in. My guess is that the CO2 hasn't been forced into the solution yet...so it's just filling the head space causing all foam. Colder temps result in faster absortion of the CO2 into the solution.

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Old 11-30-2011, 02:39 PM   #4
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I'm new to kegging as well, still trying to figure it out, and glad you posted the question.

I could be wrong, and I certainly welcome comments and corrections, but I think the foaming comes as a result of the play of a few things: over-carbonation of the beer, warmer beer temperature, and high line pressure. From what I gather:

  • The amount of carbonation in the beer will determine how that carbonation will play with the other two factors. The more CO2, the more foam depending on the other factors. I suspect carbonation needs to be on the low side for most beers (draft served). I'm not sure what I would do with wheats and others that are normally carbonated at higher levels.
  • Beer temperature seems to be a big factor. The warmer the beer, the easier the CO2 comes out of solution. So if you have a lot of CO2 in the beer, and on top of that the beer is warm, you'll get a lot of foam. By warm I mean higher than low 30s. I now keep my beer at 34F, which means it probably comes out at around 38F, which allows for a more gradual de-carbonation as the beer gets warmer. If I keep the beer at high 30s or low 40s, I get a tremendous amount of foam.
  • The higher the line pressure, the faster the beer is being pumped out, and this seems to lead to faster de-carbonation. It also affects the carbonation that goes into the beer, over time.
My forced carbonation procedure now is to:
  1. Cool the the keg down to 34F
  2. Set the line pressure to 10 psi
  3. Shake the cooled-down keg for 10 minutes or so until I no longer hear gas going into the keg
  4. Wait 24 hours for it all to settle
This has resulted in carbonated beer that comes out in a nice flow with some, but not a lot of, foam and that gives me a nice carbonation bubbles show as I drink it.

You mileage, of course, may vary.

Comments? Corrections? Insults?
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Old 11-30-2011, 03:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edb23 View Post
Is this simple because it's not fully carbed (similar to how bottles not done conditioning will be fizzy) or is 12 pounds of pressure to high of a serving pressure?
No, neither should have impact as long as your system is balanced. How long was the serving line and what diameter?

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By warm I mean higher than low 30s. I now keep my beer at 34F, which means it probably comes out at around 38F, which allows for a more gradual de-carbonation as the beer gets warmer. If I keep the beer at high 30s or low 40s, I get a tremendous amount of foam.
Low 30s is too cold for most ale styles if you go by the book. It sounds like your beer line isn't long enough for the proper carbonation level.

Below is a good quote from another thread. Granted, there are a two other factors that have some influence on the line pressure - vertical run and diameter of the beer line. Smaller diameter and a vertical run provide increased resistance that needs to be overcome.

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Originally Posted by audger View Post
there are two variables to carbonating beer (temperature and pressure)
there are three variables to balancing your system (temperature, pressure, and line legnth)

if your line legnth is not adjustable, then you can adjust your temperature and pressure to match it (but obviously you can only adjust temperature so far before you are drinking warm beer or sucking on a beer ice cube). having a certain line legnth means you will have a certain pressure that will give you the best pour. you can then look on a carbonation chart to determine what temperature your kegs should be, at that pressure, to get the desired carbonation level.

if your lines are too short, you wont be able to set the pressure high enough to maintain the proper carbonation level because the beer would be exploding out of the tap (so you would have to decrease temperature to make up for that, but you can only go downto 32 degrees). also if your lines are too long, you will need to use a lot of pressure to push the beer thru them, and have to increase the temperature of the kegs to match that pressure, to prevent over-carbonation. if your lines are wayyyy too long, the temperature required will be too high to enjoy the beer at.
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Old 11-30-2011, 03:53 PM   #6
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It sounds like your beer line isn't long enough for the proper carbonation level.
This is excellent info. It is entirely possible the lines are not long enough and I'm having to drop the temperature to compensate.

So, if I understand it correctly... Beer lines too short require that pressure be dropped because the lines represent resistance to the flow of beer and if they are too short there isn't enough resistance, so the pressure must be lowered so beer doesn't come shooting out. If pressure is dropped, beer carbonation at any given temperature drops. So in order to compensate for the lower carbonation, the temperature must be dropped so more CO2 is absorbed by the beer at any given pressure.

This makes sense to me and explains a lot.

I agree that my temps are too high for the serving of draft beer. I believe that in most cases I should be in the low to mid 40s. But those temps were resulting in too much foam. Through experimentation I arrived at the lower temps.

Again, great info. I feel like I've seen the light. Maybe there is a line change in my future. But the Beermeister I have doesn't have much space inside for longer lines... It's gonna be tight.
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Old 11-30-2011, 04:38 PM   #7
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So, if I understand it correctly... Beer lines too short require that pressure be dropped because the lines represent resistance to the flow of beer and if they are too short there isn't enough resistance, so the pressure must be lowered so beer doesn't come shooting out.
Yep. Happened to me the other day when I used a picnic tap for the first time on my corny. Great pours in my kegerator w/ 8' lines. With a short picnic tap, it was a foam firehose - just too much pressure and not enough resistance. After relieving the headspace and dialing it to just a few psi, I was getting good pours.

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But the Beermeister I have doesn't have much space inside for longer lines... It's gonna be tight.
Mine is really tight as well (Frigidaire 4.4 minifridge converted). I keep the beer lines coiled on top of the cornies.
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Old 11-30-2011, 05:54 PM   #8
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After relieving the headspace and dialing it to just a few psi, I was getting good pours.
Doesn't this work just for a little while? I'd imagine the dialed down pressure would ultimately result in the beer losing carbonation in order to equalize.
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Old 12-01-2011, 01:26 PM   #9
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Doesn't this work just for a little while? I'd imagine the dialed down pressure would ultimately result in the beer losing carbonation in order to equalize.
Yes, eventually the beer will reach equilibrium with the pressure being applied to the headspace. This was for serving at Thanksgiving via a picnic tap, so I wasn't concerned about that in such a short period. The remaining beer (bunch of lightweights!) went back to my place and back on 12psi afterwards.
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Old 12-01-2011, 02:17 PM   #10
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I believe you need to determine your desired volumes of CO2 and desired serving temp, for most ales I think the range is somewhere between 2.2 -2.6 volumes of CO2. From there look at a force carbonation chart, which will give you the amount of pressure needed to achieve the desired carbonation level. Then you can balance your system by adjusting the length of your beer line.

I had some similar issues with my system when I first started kegging until I read up and got it all dialed in, this article helped me quite a bit:

Keg Line Length Balancing - The Science of Draft Beer | Home Brewing Beer Blog by BeerSmith

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