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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Bottling/Kegging > Natural Carb Newb Question
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Old 08-12-2009, 01:56 PM   #1
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Default Natural Carb Newb Question

Two nights ago I kegged an English Bitter. It is my third kegged batch.

For my first two kegs, I force carbed and I was very disappointed with the results. I'm not sure whether it was that I rushed the beer or maybe my setup, but if I have to age the beer anyway, I'd rather natural carb at room temperature and leave my fridge emptier.

Anyway, I used the full 5 oz. of priming (corn) sugar. (Not knowing better at the time).

I have 3 questions:

1. Am I totally screwed since I've heard you're supposed to use 1/3 to 1/2 the amount of priming sugar when kegging? Can I wait for the beer to carb up and then simply release pressure to compensate?

2. How do I know when the keg is carbed? When bottling, I could simply try one of the 50 bottles I'd produced to determine when the batch was ready. Since I want to serve my kegged beer chilled, but I don't want to chill the keg only to find it's not ready and have to warm it up again, how do I know when it's time? Would I simply draw some off at room temp and check the carbonation level?

3. I'm assuming that something like 2.5 to 3 weeks at room temperature is sufficient to carb and condition an English Bitter in a keg. Is that correct?

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Old 08-12-2009, 02:27 PM   #2
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1) You're never totally screwed (well, almost never). At worst you have a limited edition. As you know, on this board, you'll get a lot of different answers. I've always used 3/4 cup to prime bottles and 1/3 cup to prime kegs. When I first started kegging, I used 3/4 a couple of times. It was a little over carbed but once you chill it down, you can bleed off the excess.
2) It's always better to wait a little longer and be sure. After I keg, I typically leave it alone for a month. I've never been disappointed in the level of carbination.
3) same answer as above.
This is just the way I do it. I don't like force carbing. Others on here do it all the time or exclusively with no problems. However, I have never had a problem leaving it for a month. Good Luck - Dwain

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Old 08-12-2009, 02:27 PM   #3
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First off, I've never heard anything about using less priming sugar when using kegs. The one time I did it, I used my normal amount and it turned out fine. You're best bet is to leave it for about three weeks then chill.

As for force carbonating...I've heard people describe force carbonating as both ways...but my thoughts on it is you crank it to 30psi and shake it for a few days (basic principle). I've used this method a few times and I hate it.

I usually set my psi to what I'm going to serve the beer at, then let it sit for a week. For most beers that's 12-15psi depending on the temp of my fridge at the time. Try this method... It's easier and fullproof.

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Old 08-12-2009, 03:17 PM   #4
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The only reason I like to force carb is...with no secondary fermentation in the keg...there's less (like zero) sediment in the glass. When I finish a keg...and go to wash is out...there's rarely much more than a dime sized spot of sediment. Of course this may be true of natural carbed beers too...because the sediment will get washed out the spout when you dispense. I've never given it too much thought. It is nice to be able to dispense it carbonated the same day you keg though. I get it good and cold with 30psi...and then take it out and roll it on it's side, back and forth...then disconnect it and let it sit for a few hours. And then dispense. When I dispense...I reconnect the CO2, backed off to 12psi...and leave it for the duration.

Absolutely, if you wind up with too much carb, or too little carb, you can fix it...just by bleeding off gas pressure, or adding more.

English Bitters are traditionally low carbonated beers. The true "cask conditioned" ales are stored in Firkins (sp?) and drawn to the tap through a beer engine (piston type pump)... I'd love to try that someday...but the pesky devils are downright expensive to purchase. Anyway, I find that my English Bitters have to be consumed quickly...as they loose flavor quickly. I usually brew IPA's since they have enough expression in them that you won't notice the flavor fading with time.

BTW...Howdy to Roswell, GA. When I was college age...I worked at a Handy City Store in Marietta, and we used to play softball with the Store in Roswell. Wow...that takes me back. I think we consumed twice as many beers as there were runs.

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Old 08-12-2009, 04:25 PM   #5
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Quote:
BTW...Howdy to Roswell, GA. When I was college age...I worked at a Handy City Store in Marietta, and we used to play softball with the Store in Roswell. Wow...that takes me back. I think we consumed twice as many beers as there were runs.
I used to live in Alpharetta and worked at the TGIFs around town (mostly Prado/Buford Hwy/P'tree Ind locations) when I was attending GT. We had a beerball team too. You guys scored runs?

<<<<<<<chuggs is just a bit south of me now.
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Old 08-12-2009, 05:11 PM   #6
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I don't mind a little sediment, and I've heard that the first glass or two gets rid of what's there anyway, so that seems like a non-issue for me.

I've got to say that I'm really struggling to see the benefit of force carbing. When I did it for my first 2 kegs, I realized that it's hard work! Also, even if you do it, you are still supposed to age the keg for an additional 2 or 3 weeks, so it's not like it hurries the process along (unless you're satisfied drinking sub-par beer, which I'm not).

Also, I've heard some say that force carbing allows greater control over carbonation levels, but can't you adjust the CO2 saturation level after priming if necessary?

Finally, I've heard some say that natural carbing affects the flavor (although others have told me there's no way). I'm hoping this is true and my tests will give me some better data.

Here's my data so far:

1. 20 batches of beer brewing.
2. 15 batches bottled.
3. 2 batches kegged and force carbed.
4. 1 batch kegged and natural carbed (or on its way).
5. 2 batches in process.
6. A handful of 'skunked' bottles.
7. 0 (zero) bottles fully carbed and bland.
8. 2 kegs fully carbed and bland (even after drinking on them for 2+ weeks)

Essentially, every batch I've done and bottled has turned out great except for a few skunked bottles. Both kegs I've done weren't BAD, but I'd liken their quality to say, Budweiser or something; It's drinkable and doesn't taste spoiled, but it's not the quality I expect from a home brew.

Now, in a couple of weeks, I'll have another keg to test and I'll see whether I notice a difference in the final product.

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Old 08-12-2009, 06:50 PM   #7
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Priming sugar adds absolutely no flavor to beer. It's a nuetral sugar.

As for greater carbonation control...yes and no. If you calculate the amount of sugar you'll need for a given style of beer...you'll have the same control. The only control I like in kegging is that you can adjust it if it happens to not taste right.

As I said above...I don't see the benefit of cranking it to 30psi, shaking, and waiting 24 hours. It's never tasted right to me. Keeping it simple has always helped with my beers. Next time you keg... just set it between 12-15psi and wait for a week. Your beer will be carbonated, and it should taste great.

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Old 08-13-2009, 01:23 AM   #8
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No offense, but I've heard people I trust adhere to both sides of this issue.

I agree that the chances seem slim that priming sugar does much, but here's some anecdotal evidence (for what it's worth):

I've always tasted my beers at pretty much every stage of the game: prior to primary, when racking to secondary and when bottling. I know what a beer tastes like going into the bottle. I know the difference between that beer and a fully carbed and bottled beer.

Although I played all over the range with my keg, finally discovering the right settings to pour a good, carbonated beer with the right amount of head, those two beers never made the transition from the thin, watery, flat taste of un-carbed beer to the full and rich flavor. They tasted right going in to the keg, and then didn't change even when carbed.

I know that CO2 is supposed to be the same regardless of the source, but my mileage has varied.

Other small factors can greatly affect the flavor of beer; maybe this is one, too.

Thanks!

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Old 11-15-2009, 05:36 PM   #9
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So Roswell, what was the verdict? Do you think the natural carbing was different than your force carbing experience? Just curious.

tom

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Old 11-17-2009, 02:49 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tommyc View Post
So Roswell, what was the verdict? Do you think the natural carbing was different than your force carbing experience? Just curious.

tom
Guess we are on our own on this one Tommy.
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