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Old 11-19-2010, 12:05 PM   #1
BrookdaleBrew
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Default Bottle carbonation theory

I have noticed when I bottle carb that the beer generally stays hazy for about 24 hours and then drops completely clear. I can only assume that this means the yeast is done eating the priming sugar at that point. Also, most of my starters ferment out in 24 hours (granted, with a lot more yeast... but also a lot more sugar.)

I'm no scientist, but I've always assumed the reason it takes a standard gravity beer at least 3 weeks to carbonate is because that is the amount of time it takes for enough CO2 to be absorbed into solution at room temp.

So, assuming that yeast generally ferment out my priming sugar in 24 hours and knowing that CO2 absorbs into solution more quickly at colder temps (kegs generally carb after 1 week in the fridge at serving pressure), would it stand to reason that if I let a beer stay at room temp until it clears, then throw it in the fridge for a week, it would come out perfectly carbed since the CO2 is already in the headspace of the bottle and just needs to be absorbed into solution?

I decided to test this theory with my latest batch and will report back with results. If anyone else has tried anything like this, I'd love to hear your experiences.

NOTE: I am in no way saying you can speed up CONDITIONING time this way. I would only attempt this method with smaller, low ABV beers that can condition in a few weeks time. I am only attempting to speed up the carbonation process.

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Old 11-19-2010, 12:09 PM   #2
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It's an interesting experiment. How many yeast (i.e., did you get any trub in there) would also have an effect on your results. Let us know how it goes.

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Old 11-19-2010, 12:24 PM   #3
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I don't secondary but I am very careful not to disturb the yeast cake when I rack from primary to my bottling bucket, so I don't generally end up with a lot of sediment in my bottles.

That being said, it does not take much yeast to prime a 12oz bottle. Sierra Nevada is filtered then bottle conditioned (after adding more yeast of course) and the sediment layer in their bottles is barely noticeable.

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Old 11-19-2010, 12:38 PM   #4
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No, traditionally you speed carb, by warming the beer up, not chilling it. Put your beer above your referigerator or near the furnace and you will have your beer carb faster than the 3 weeks @ 70 we recommend.

Chilling actually RETARDS the process of conditioning and carbonating.

And just because a beer appears to be dropping clear, doesn't mean what it is dropping is yeast, OR that just because some yeast may be falling that the ALL the fermentables needed to produce enough co2 to max the headroom and force the co2 into solution, has yet been generated. That is what truly causes a beer to carbonate, NOT the cold drawing the co2 into solution. Maxing out the headroom and not blowing the bottle up forces the co2 to take the path of least resistance and go into solution. Cold just later locks it in, it absorbs the rest of it, but not the brunt of it that truly carbs the beer.

All you will be doing is drawing out a natural process by slowing the yeast down and forcing them to dormancy in the fridge.

Don't forget there's other things in the solution that are also dropping out, and that too is what you are seeing. Not just yeast.

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Old 11-19-2010, 12:48 PM   #5
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My guess is that it won't work. I tend to need about 7 days for normal gravity beers that spent less than 2 weeks in the primary and more time under other circumstances.

I believe Boulevard and Sierra Nevada both do one week warm and in their case they are repitching extremely vital/viable yeast. They do that storage at considerable expense and both are positioned at the low end of the craft beer price range. If you could do one day warm, they would be doing that.

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Old 11-19-2010, 01:07 PM   #6
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Remilard's right about repitching, that's another way to speed up carbonation, OR to insure carbonation in higher grav beers.

I think "normal" grav beer is subjective. My normal beers tends to have a starting gravity of 10.60 or above. Where other folks normals could be milds, or things in the 1.040-1.060 range.

We tell folks 3 weeks @ 70, because that seems to be the average for beers around 1.060. Plus most folks keep their houses around 70 degrees year round. But beers take less or more time depending on several factors, mostly grav and carb temp.

For me, I'm not out to win a race, I don't care if my beer takes 3 weeks, or 8 weeks to be drinkable, so I don't try to do anything special. For the most part I brew relatively regularly, so I have a fairly deep pipeline, of stuff at all levels of maturation, from things bulk aging for 6 months or more, to stuff that I pitched yeast 2 weeks ago, to stuff that I bottled 3 weeks ago, to stuff I bottled over the summer. So I'm not necessarily rushing to drink everything I make. I wait 3 weeks minimum before trying ANYTHING I make these day...if it's ready, great, if it's not...back in the closet.

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Old 11-19-2010, 01:58 PM   #7
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Would carbonating the bottles in warmer temps create any off flavors as it would during primary fermentation? Afterall, carbonating the beer in bottles is just a small scale fermentation in a sealed environment, is it not?

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Old 11-19-2010, 02:00 PM   #8
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My closet where I am fermenting and carbonating is staying right at 64 degrees, is that too cold for ale? Should I warm it up or simply adjust my time.

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Old 11-19-2010, 02:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkUncle View Post
Would carbonating the bottles in warmer temps create any off flavors as it would during primary fermentation? Afterall, carbonating the beer in bottles is just a small scale fermentation in a sealed environment, is it not?
I think the bigger danger at that point is bottle bombs, not off flavors.

Although freshly bottled beer tastes much worse than the flat beer that went into it the week before, I've observed many times.
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Old 11-19-2010, 02:06 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkUncle View Post
Would carbonating the bottles in warmer temps create any off flavors as it would during primary fermentation? Afterall, carbonating the beer in bottles is just a small scale fermentation in a sealed environment, is it not?
It's too small a scale of fermentation, but too high may affect long term storage of the beer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by billf2112 View Post
My closet where I am fermenting and carbonating is staying right at 64 degrees, is that too cold for ale? Should I warm it up or simply adjust my time.
Just adjust your time...expect it to take longer. I have that issue in the winter in my loft.
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