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Old 01-16-2013, 03:06 AM   #1
bobojuice
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Default Keg Carbonation Help

Alright, I've just about given up and finally decided to post and see if I can get any help. I haven't been able to get my beer carbonated properly so it seems and I really don't know what I should be doing or what I'm doing wrong.

To start off I've been brewing since July and Kegging since just about then. Every single beer that I've ever kegged at the "proper" psi for my temp and beer seems not to carbonate as it should.

First let me list my setup.

I have a GE Keezer set around 41 degrees with a digital Johnson Controls thermostat. I have my thermostat probe inserted into a small bottle of water. I have a 5# CO2 tank that was purchased brand new and has been recently filled and has been kept filled each time I keg. I have a Micromatic dual gauge triple body regulator. I have all firestone pin lock kegs that have brand new seals and show no signs of leaking.

Here's an example. I kegged a beer approximately two weeks ago and using the chart I set my CO2 to 12psi. I'm not worried about time so I've just been letting it sit at that pressure. I have continuously been checking it and it is still undercarbonated.

This has been the norm since I have been kegging. I find that the only way to get the beer carbonated is to crank up the pressure (to 25 for example) for a bit, but when I do this I end up with a beer that is slightly over carbonated. My beers end up having a tart taste which I've heard can be attributed to overcarbonation due to carbonic acid.

I've also tried the speed force carbonating by doing the whole shaking thing, but the result is the same. My beer ends up having that tart taste and seems to be overcarbed.

I really don't know what I'm doing wrong or what I should be doing. I'm still pretty new at this so I understand that there is some learning that goes along with this, but I really feel like I'm stuck.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

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Old 01-16-2013, 02:05 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobojuice View Post
I have my thermostat probe inserted into a small bottle of water.
Hey Bobojuice, just a quick question, why do you have the probe in a tiny bottle of water instead of attached to a keg? You could be having a problem with carbonation because you have a warmer temp inside your keg than you think you do, especially because you're using a temp controller.

The time it takes your fridge to cool that tiny bottle of water down is dramatically less than the time that it takes to cool down your 5 gallon pin locks. And because you're measuring the bottle and not the keg your controller shuts the keezer off as soon as the bottle cools down, but the keg has barely changed in temp. So my guess is that your kegs are substantially warmer than you think they are, and since you need a higher carb pressure to carb at higher temps, that's why you're seeing under-carbed beer.

Attach the probe to the outside middle side of one of your kegs with packing tape. Grab something like a padded envelope or an old mousepad and tape that over the probe. That will act as insulation so you are now measuring the temp of the keg, not the temp in the air. Now, if you have more than one keg, sandwich that taped probe between two of your kegs.

I have a hunch that if you do this, and keep following the chart, you'll have properly carbed beer on the next batch.
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Old 01-16-2013, 03:33 PM   #3
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I agree with Matterpro on the temp probe setup, that should get you on the right path. What is your flow rate out of your taps? Is your beer foaming when poured causing co2 to come out of solution? I would try moving the probe first and see how that works, if its still undercarbed I would raise my pressure up 1 or 2 psi and see if that gets it where you want it to be. It could be as simple as the gauge being off just a little.

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Old 01-16-2013, 03:44 PM   #4
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I don't agree with the temp probe statements above. It should all equalize with time.

You don't mention how long you let the beers sit at 12psi. I would figure 3 weeks minimum.

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Old 01-16-2013, 04:06 PM   #5
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Oh man, I just typed out a novel and wasn't logged in and it disappeared so I'll try to make this a bit quicker.

@matterpro
I don't have my thermostat probe hooked up to my new kegs because i have multiple kegs in the freezer as well as stored beer and I don't really want the temps to drop too significantly while it's trying to cool the new beer. Also, the reason I set it up like this was to keep the probe at liquid temp instead of the air temp in the fridge since it can fluctuate a bit faster.

Would it be better to maybe set the keg inside and wait a while before hooking it up to carb? Alternatively, could I just hook up a second thermometer in the fashion you described and adjust the CO2 levels accordingly?

@bmac
With this beer which I've just had sitting at 12 for two weeks it just seems undercarbed. I'm barely getting any head on it, and it does have some carbonation, but not nearly enough for what I was expecting. When I do it by cranking the pressure up, I do sometimes experience that, which is why I want to stop doing it that way. Also, this regulator set up is literally brand new. I just got them when I kegged this beer. Do you think they could be off already?

@grathan
I have been letting my beer sit at 12psi and testing it every once in a while to check the carb so it doesn't go over. I had read online that 2 weeks should be fine for this method, but does it really take another week?

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Old 01-16-2013, 04:55 PM   #6
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Putting the probe in a small water vessel is fine but you do have to realize that there will be a lag when you first put a keg in there. If it's room temp, it will begin to heat up the air surrounding the keg and then eventually it will start warming the water container enough to trigger a cooling cycle. When the air temp then cools to a low enough point to affect the water mass (not very long), it will shut the cooling off and your newly added beer probably only dropped another 3F in that cooling cycle. In other words, this isolation is probably making the new keg take at least 24-36 hours to reach set temp. OK, that's not that big of a deal in the grand scheme, but at 14 days, you're also not quite at set and forget equilibrium volumes.

Some other things to consider... is your controller calibrated such that it's 41F setpoint really is 41F? Have you put a standalone thermometer in there ever to check? See what the temp difference is at the bottom and top of the fridge.

Can you trust your pressures? If your gauges have scales of 0-60 or even 0-100, 12psi is hard to see perfectly and the accuracy of the gauge is reduced also. Maybe you have it set at 10.5 for real. I like the idea of setting up a disconnect that has a 0-15psi gauge on it so you can spot check kegs and troubleshoot later.

Lastly, how well is your system balanced? How many feet of 3/16" ID serving tubing do you have on each faucet?

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Old 01-16-2013, 05:08 PM   #7
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If 3 weeks is too long, you can do the 25 psi for a shorter amount of time. I really don't know much about carbonic acid tartness though. You could say, jack it up to 25 psi, shake it for 2 minutes and then bring it back down to 12 psi for a week? I have tried this, but I did forget to purge the keg and beer started coming back up the tube (keg was kinda full) towards my regulator. That reminds me of the time I hit the purge right after forcing 30 psi. Beer sprayed across my garage in 4 directions for like 20 seconds coating everything. You'll get a system down eventually. If you've got too much carb I heard that hooking the gas to the line out and blasting co2 up through the beer with the vent open would drive some co2 out of solution.

I use the quick reply function on the forum, if I spend more than a couple minutes typing something I copy the text to clipboard before I hit post on this forum.

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Old 01-16-2013, 05:46 PM   #8
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The way i set mine up was by reading what others have done as far as pressure and line length and also using the chart for temp/pressure as a guideline. I think my gauges say ~14psi, my temp is 41* and i have 6 1/2 feet of beer line running to perlick faucets installed in a "coffin" box on top of my freezer. As with most things in brewing each person will have different results using the same guidelines. It took me a few setups before i got it dialed in, but this is what works on my system. Just try going up a couple psi and let the kegs equalize before you make any other adjustments. Balancing a kegerator is a pain sometimes, but look on the bright side, all that beer has to be "tested" for proper carbination so your not over drinking, your just working hard!!!

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Old 01-16-2013, 06:25 PM   #9
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@bobby
When I first set up my system I had a secondary thermometer sitting inside recording temps and they all seemed to be fine. This was for about five months until I spilled beer on it and ruined it. I currently have it set up with around 5 feet of gas line. I also get that it's tough to tell some times what the pressure is going to be set at but this regulator has lines at ever two psi. I just did ten plus two.

@grathan
3 Weeks isn't too long for me to wait as I've always got beer on hand, I just didn't know if that was actually recommended more than 2 weeks. As for the carbonic acid thing it's just something that I was dealing with and asked a buddy about. He read something about the carbonic acid building up in overcarbonated beers and causing a tart taste. I confirmed it online after a bit of research. Thing is he also told me he cranks his up to 25 and it's ready after a few days. I guess it's just going to take more fiddling.

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Old 01-16-2013, 06:40 PM   #10
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When you put the "proper"in quotes, what do you mean by that? The proper level of carbonation is subjective, and ultimately comes down to what you prefer, not some arbitrary style guidelines. At 41F and 12psi you're going to end up with around 2.4 vol. Most commercial beers are carbed between 2.5 and 2.8 vol, so if that's the level of carbonation you want, you'll have to increase the pressure accordingly. And the head on a beer is much less a function of the carbonation level as it is about the speed and violence of the pour. If you want more head, hold the glass a little lower, or tip it vertical sooner.

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