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Old 12-09-2008, 02:37 PM   #1
BrewDey
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Default force carb vs. natural carb

So I'm just about convinced that I'm going to want to start kegging soon. They say that the avergae homebrewer quits after 3 years, and heading into year #3, I don't want to be a casualty of attrition. But if I have to keep dealing with the process and chaos of bottling every beer-that may be the case.

I think I'll still want to bottle the big beers, but kegging/force carbing seems brutally simple and you have less chance for exposure. I do really enjoy the feel of natural carbonation-and I've had force carbed stuff that is good as well. Overall though-how do you guys compare the 2? Is it a worthy trade-off? Any other comments on the issue are welcome too. Thanks!

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Old 12-09-2008, 03:05 PM   #2
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Since switching to 10 gallon batches I force carb one keg and naturally carbonate the second. I just put the correct amount of corn sugar in the second and let it sit in the house for a couple weeks, usually until the first one is emptied. The naturally carbonated one usually tastes a little better but I attribute that to its longer period of aging. For sh!ts and giggles I bottled a couple of beers off the force carbed keg to compare to the naturally carbonated one and there were just about even on the taste.
I'll continue this process until I get my hands on a gas manifold for the kegorator at which time I plan on just force carbing everything. SWMBO is getting tired of seeing kegs in the dining room.
As far as the three year thing.....meh. Keep going I really starting upgrading like crazy at the three year mark and see no end in sight.

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Old 12-09-2008, 03:07 PM   #3
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i've done both. advantage of force carbing is you're ready in 2-3 days (or hours if you're that impatient). advantage of natural carbing (other than using zero co-2) is (in some cases) the head is finer, and at least in my experience the carbonation lasts fully till the keg's empty. disadvantage is you gotta wait 2-3 weeks like when you bottle, and you'll get more junk than normal in the bottom of the keg - but you can always cut off 1/2" or so from the bottom your dip tube so you won't pick up any dregs. if you're consistently brewing and don't have a lot of fridge space, natural carbing is a good way to go.

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Old 12-09-2008, 03:46 PM   #4
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What are the cases where you see a bigger difference between force and natural?

Are there styles that make these differences more pronounced?

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Old 12-09-2008, 03:54 PM   #5
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I have a hard time believing that the carbonation would be any different between the two... science is pretty difficult to undo. If you force carb and allow the beer the proper amount of time to condition and stabilize (about 2 weeks) it will have the exact same amount of CO2 dissolved as will a naturally carbed keg with a corresponding amount of primer. The CO2 doesn't know that it is a yeast byproduct or not and the beer absorbs it exactly the same.

What can be different is the taste of the beer. When you naturally carbonate your beer, the entire fermentation process happens again in each individual bottle. That means that additional esters, phenols, alcohol, CO2 and other compounds are produced. This nanoferment can produce some unique flavors and that is why some breweries choose to do it. If the beer you are making tastes better naturally fermented, then do that. If not, force carb it.

IMHO it really is a horse a piece, I wait the same amount of time for my force carbed kegs to be ready anyway so natural carbing would not be an issue for me (time wise). I prefer to force carb because I feel I get a more accurate carbonation level.

Also, with a properly balanced system, you will maintain the exact carbonation you want to the last sip.

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Old 12-09-2008, 04:29 PM   #6
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I too agree that the difference in carbonation is a mental perception issue. Please explain the science... CO2 under pressure dissolves in liquids. That's it. The only thing I can imagine is that the primed carb level might be different than the force carbed version (at least in the first few weeks after tapping).

When folks hook up the gas at a certain pressure and let it sit it does take time to reach full equilibrium. Many people think it's carbed "enough" at the one week mark, but it's not quite at the volumes you'd see on the chart. In my experience, the carb level continues to increase up to about the 3 week mark given a steady pressure and temp.

Compare two scenarios: Prime keg #1 with sugar and let it sit away for 3-4 weeks, chill, tap and drink that same day. Put keg#2 in the kegger, chill, apply gas, wait, drink, wait, drink, impatiently wait, drink. You've got basically 3 weeks to wait before you're at the same carb level as the sugar primed beer. Yes, there are all kinds of hurry up carb methods and none of them are 100% fool proof. My compromise is a burst of 30psi overnight, then dialed down to equilibrium (planned) pressure.

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Old 12-09-2008, 05:35 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boerderij_Kabouter View Post
What can be different is the taste of the beer. When you naturally carbonate your beer, the entire fermentation process happens again in each individual bottle. That means that additional esters, phenols, alcohol, CO2 and other compounds are produced.
This is why I see force carbing as much simpler than fostering another 'nanofermentation' in the bottle. I know that I've had flat beer at bottling that tastes better then than it does after carbing and conditioning...this is frustrating. Force carbing cuts down several other factors such as bottle sanitation, conditioning temp control, yeast count in the bottle to ensure proper carbing, and priming level.

It does seem that only natural carbing gives you that smaller bead, and the nice lacing...but I think if I keg session beers and bottle bigger ones, it'll be a good trade-off. Hopefully Santa will be good to me this year!
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Old 12-10-2008, 07:57 PM   #8
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I haven't really noticed a difference in taste. I use both methods as I only have room right now for two kegs in the kegerator. So two go in for 3 weeks at equilibrium pressure and any others get primed.

I do like saving some gas by priming.

Mike

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Old 12-11-2008, 01:11 AM   #9
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Again, I don't know about this "smaller bubbles" with naturally conditioned beer. Here's a pour from my force carbed keg just now:

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Old 12-11-2008, 03:06 AM   #10
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The smaller bead thing can be attributed to the fact that many comercial beers that are force carbed are also filtered, removing the particles in the beer and lessening the number of nucleation sites for CO2. Unless you are filtering your beer you should have the same size bubbles whether you force carbonate or naturaly carbonate.

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