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Old 05-31-2012, 03:11 AM   #1
EliW
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Default What's wrong with my carbonation? (Cold, Kegerator, Low Pressure)

So, I can go into lots of detail, but basically here's my issue:

I recently did like 5, 5 gallons batches of beer, and this was my first time with a kegerator, so that I could chill the beer to force carb it.

And not a single one of my beers seemed to work well. Every single one, I followed the procedure (that I'd read from lots of places)

* Kegs sitting at 45 degrees in the kegerator.
* Hooked up pressure at varying PSI, using the carb charts you can find online
* 7 PSI for a porter. 12 PSI for a blonde, etc
* Leave for 1 week+

Everything comes out flat. Now I can do the 'high pressure and shake method', and it works just fine (beyond the lack of control).

But doing the 'low and steady', everything comes out flat.

Now, one interesting side note: On the blonde specifically, I noticed that when I tapped it through the kegerator that it was coming out with 'just a little' carbonation. Like what I would have expected the Porter to be at.

I wondered if my pressure gauge was wrong, so I took it out of the kegerator and hooked it up to another tank, and no, it seemed to be reading that there was 12PSI. Well then.

I hooked up a picnic tap to try it, and it came out with more carbonation. Not 'perfect' carbonation, but much better. Then again I note that my picnic tap seems to 'spin' the brew as it comes out, while the kegerator tap just lets it gently flow.

This leaves me with questions:
1) Is there a 'problem' with my kegerator somehow? That the taps are 'letting the carb out' / 'killing the carb'?
2) Is the fact that my CO2 canister is inside the fridge & also chilled, somehow effecting the pressure?
3) Am I just doing something wrong?

Honestly at this point I'm feeling like I should just chill the kegs, then do the 20 PSI and shake for 1 minute method. Since that seems to work perfectly within an hour. But there's a lack of finesse with that.

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Old 05-31-2012, 04:50 AM   #2
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As far as your 3 questions, I would say no, absolutely not, and probably not.

It takes longer than a week to fully carb using the set and forget method, usually 10-14 days, sometimes longer. Your pressure gauge could be wrong, and maybe I'm not reading it correctly, but your "test" seems like it wouldn't tell you anything, and certainly not whether the gauge is calibrated accurately or not.

Is it possible that you're not familiar with what different carb levels actually look/taste like? You're only carbing to 1.84 and 2.25 vol, which while technically "to style", are significantly lower than the vast majority of commercial beers here in the US.

Your comment about the picnic tap providing better carbonation leads me to believe that maybe you're equating carbonation with head, when they're actually two separate things. If anything, pouring through a picnic tap that provides more turbulence and thus creates more head, the beer itself would be flatter since it will have lost carbonation to create that head.

Mu suggestion would be to turn up the pressure a couple psi, wait a week, and try it again. Keep doing this until it pours the way you want it to. IMHO whether the gauge is calibrated correctly or you're carbed "to style" don't really matter as long as the beer is pouring the way you like it.

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Old 05-31-2012, 11:59 AM   #3
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I couldn't tell from your description whether you are maintaining CO2 pressure from the tank on all your kegs, or if you are pressurizing each keg to the desired pressure, and then disconnecting from the CO2 tank and letting them sit. If it is the latter, then that might also be contributing to the low carbonation level. The pressure needs to be maintained over a two week+ period to achieve the desired carbonation level.

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Old 05-31-2012, 01:29 PM   #4
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at 45 degrees, 7psi is 1.7 volumes, and 12psi is 2.2 volumes of carbonation. if you are used to most store bought beers, which are in the range of 2.5-2.7 volumes, you might just be over estimating how much fizz the beer should have at those pressures.

that being said, you also have to let the beer equalize for 2 entire weeks, or more, at a given pressure. so if you check the beer after a week at 12psi and its not carb'd enough and you increase the pressure, you need to wait another two weeks for it to equalize again. or else its not going to be the final carb level.

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Old 05-31-2012, 02:24 PM   #5
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I echo what the others said. I usually shoot for 2.5 volumes, so at 45° and 7 or 12 psi, you're low. You need something like 15 psi for 2.51 volumes.

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Old 05-31-2012, 03:41 PM   #6
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Yeah, I'm now thinking that I was just getting some bad advice from my recipe books and charts implying otherwise. And that I should just aim for higher carbing for now, get picky later.

I was keeping the pressure on fulltime. However from "What the internet had told me" beforehand, it only took a 'few days to a week' to force carb. Not 2+ weeks.

Honestly, I can start to see why so many people use the shake method, and just practice, getting good at it. I did see where some people talked about doing 'safer/easier' versions.

Like where instead of doing the 1 hour at 30PSI with lots of shaking. They pressurized at 20PSI, and shook for one minute, left for 1 hour, then reduced pressure to 15 (or 12) and left it alone for a few days.

But they talked about having to learn the '1 minute, vs 2 minutes, vs 1.5 minutes', etc to get what you want.

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Old 05-31-2012, 04:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EliW View Post
[...]
Like where instead of doing the 1 hour at 30PSI with lots of shaking. They pressurized at 20PSI, and shook for one minute, left for 1 hour, then reduced pressure to 15 (or 12) and left it alone for a few days.

But they talked about having to learn the '1 minute, vs 2 minutes, vs 1.5 minutes', etc to get what you want.
Those folks invariably start lots of "Help! My beer is all foam!" threads...

Cheers
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Old 05-31-2012, 10:11 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EliW View Post
Like where instead of doing the 1 hour at 30PSI with lots of shaking. They pressurized at 20PSI, and shook for one minute, left for 1 hour, then reduced pressure to 15 (or 12) and left it alone for a few days.

But they talked about having to learn the '1 minute, vs 2 minutes, vs 1.5 minutes', etc to get what you want.
This vvv

Quote:
Originally Posted by day_trippr View Post
Those folks invariably start lots of "Help! My beer is all foam!" threads...

Cheers
If you really don't have time to use the set and forget method, I suggest using Yoopers burst carb method instead of any method that requires shaking or agitating the keg. Chill to serving temp, set pressure to 30 psi for ~36 hours, turn gas off and vent excess pressure, turn gas back on at serving pressure. This usually works fairly well, and takes ~4 days instead of 10-14.

The other option is to buy an airstone/carbonation stone. You secure it to the gas diptube with a length of tubing long enough that the stone rests on the bottom of the keg. It breaks the gas into millions of super tiny bubbles, which due to the increased surface area and time in contact with the beer, cause the gas to be absorbed much faster/easier. Full carbonation can be achieved in under 24 hrs, and there's absolutely no risk of overcarbonation since the pressure never exceeds the serving pressure. This is how the vast majority of breweries carbonate.
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Old 05-31-2012, 10:17 PM   #9
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One other thing worth mentioning (as the other stuff has been covered pretty well!) is that short serving lines cause seemingly flat beer. If your beer lines are less than about 6-10', it seems like the beer is undercarbed.

The reason is that the turbulence of the carbed beer "knocks out" the co2 in suspension on the way out since there isn't enough resistance so the beer may have a head, but be seemingly flat. If the serving lines are at least 6' line (3/16" line), then that shouldn't be as much as an issue. I started with the "standard" 5 feet or so, went up to 8 feet, then finally changed over to all 10' serving line. What a difference it makes!

So in addition to turning up the regulator a bit (to 15 psi for 45 degrees), make sure your lines are long enough.

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Old 06-05-2012, 04:26 AM   #10
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Thanks everyone

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