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Old 09-14-2012, 02:43 PM   #1
Bobak
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Default Scaling up carbonation

Hey, I've learned a lot of info on this forum as to how to get started, but now I'm a little stumped on what's the best way to scale up and get consistency for carbonating/bottling.

Background

I started developing alcoholic beverages (spirits) but the costs of licensing in my state is still very prohibitive. It made more sense to instead start with non-alcoholic beverages.

I did some homework, learned from here and other sources (but mostly here) on how to force carbonate, bought a corny, equipment (I live the Twin Cities so very close to both Midwest Brewing and Northern Brewers), a freezer, temp regulator, BeerGun, etc. So it's allowed me to run experiments on and off for a while now, including trying some bottling for shelf-life tests. At this point I have a flavor I like and want to try testing on a larger scale.

The term "soda" might be a slight misnomer: this isn't really like a cola, but rather a flavored, clear seltzer (with a couple of proprietary tweaks but nothing that would affect the carbonation profess).

Issue

My present issue is with the right approach to scaling up a bit to a start-up level. Right now it takes a good while to force carbonate a batch in my corny (sodas require a higher PSI and take a while longer). I've also noticed it's hard to get the different batches to match on carbonation--though maybe it's because my system could be better. I often seem to run out of CO2 mid-batch but there are no leaks in my system (used the diluted dishsoap/sprayer test). Basically the issue is a combination of speed and efficiency.

Question(s)

What would be the best method of carbonation for a start-up beverage business? Do I stick with force carbonation, tweak my set-up and get more cornys and CO2? Is there an option between force carbonation and large scale carbonation systems (i.e. the ones in the tens-of-thousands range)?

I know most motorized carbonation systems (McCann, etc) are aimed at bag-in-box systems (e.g. bar-guns, fountains,etc) but is it possible to use one to mix my own syrup with carbonated water and bottle it or is it just for immediate dispensing?

I appreciate feedback. At worst I figure this will end up being another thread that gets Google hits by folks wondering the same thing (which is how I found this forum to begin with).

Thanks!


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Old 09-14-2012, 06:20 PM   #2
MrFoodScientist
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There is a thread here somewhere showing that someone was able to hook up a carbonator to a corny keg to keep the corny as a sort of reserve tank in the fridge, so they always had cold seltzer on tap. That way you could just bottle with syrup and you'd be just fine.

I've been able to carbonate a cold keg of water in less than an hour by shaking. Have you tried doing that?


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Old 09-14-2012, 06:50 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrFoodScientist View Post
There is a thread here somewhere showing that someone was able to hook up a carbonator to a corny keg to keep the corny as a sort of reserve tank in the fridge, so they always had cold seltzer on tap. That way you could just bottle with syrup and you'd be just fine.

I've been able to carbonate a cold keg of water in less than an hour by shaking. Have you tried doing that?
Hey, first off, nice website--I just checked yours out. I've got several open tabs from it I need to go through but before I get totally distracted I wanted to follow up:

You've got me thinking that maybe I've been making this harder than I need to: I started from infusing hard alcohol using a method I'd been working on and thus, when I moved to nonalcoholic drinks (and sodas vs. infused liquor) I assumed that I needed to first infuse the water & syrup and then carbonate the mixture for bottling. So that might explain this dumb question: Would I be able to mix the syrup with the carbonated water in the bottle and have the same effect? Wouldn't they separate?

It would certainly speed up the carbonation to not have the syrup in the water. Another dumb question: one you pressurize the keg do you ever disconnect it or do you continue to leave it on the line (thus temporarily removing it to roll/shake)? Right now I leave it on the line at the required PSI.

EDIT: Would I be able to take a sanitized bottle, put the syrup in first, then use a BeerGun to fill it up with carbonated water and top of with CO2?
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Old 10-08-2012, 06:33 PM   #4
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Bobak,
Sorry for the long wait on a reply.

As long as everything in your syrup is water soluble, it shouldn't separate. Spices or fruit pulp will settle out, but flavors and sugars will mix just fine. I do the same thing you're considering when I bottle my sodas. Syrup in the bottle, top w/ cold carbonated water, cap, shake.

When I shake or roll a keg to speed up carbonation, I usually leave the gas on. That's always the fastest, and eve if you tip it upside down so that the liquid is in contact with the gas in post, water doesn't creep up the line until the pressure is equilibrated (meaning fully carbed). Once that happens you may have some trouble, but as long as you have positive pressure going into the keg, then you'll be fine leaving it connected.
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Old 04-03-2015, 10:16 PM   #5
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Hi Bobak,
I just stumbled across this 2012 thread, as I've been having the exact same issues. Seeing as you've had over two years to perfect your carbonation methods, I'm wondering if you were able to figure the problem out. Are you still using corney kegs. and if so are you mixing in syrup before or after carbonating? Also, how do you bottle without losing carbonation? I'm wondering if there might be something akin to an industrial grade SodaStream that would expedite this entire process.
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Old 04-09-2015, 09:15 PM   #6
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+1 for being interested in this as well. I have a small business making craft soda and am trying to scale it up. Right now doing the 'rock back and forth' method of forced carbonation but that's starting to be a lot of kegs every week.

Here are the options that I've been able to figure out:
1. Rock back and forth
Doing this manually is a lot of work. I've heard through the grapevine of another craft soda maker constructing a machine to do this with about 6 kegs at one time. Haven't actually seen it in action though. Anyone made something like this? This would be my preference just because I have a good understanding of how to manage carbonation this way. And it's also very fast and on demand

2. Hook up CO2 line and let sit
I've experimented a little with this, don't like how long it can take. I use fresh fruit juices so the shorter the time from breaking down ingredients to selling the better. I also find results seem to vary quite a bit.

3. Brite tank
To me this looks just like #2, but in a nicer package. Is there any functional difference between these two options?

4. Mechanical carbonation of just water, add syrup/concentrate. This only works when your ratio of water to flavour is sufficiently high (85% or more water). Otherwise it seems like you can only get the water so carbonated and adding the flavour knocks the carbonation level down too much.

5. *Mystery way*
I stumbled on this video where they describe their production steps (start @2:05)- https://youtu.be/pHK7bE2SKX0?t=2m5s
They say - "fill the kegs, carbonate the kegs, chill the kegs". I would expect the chilling and carbonating steps to be reversed. Anyone have any idea what's going on here?


Right now I'm leaning #1, although I would really like the know what the heck is going on with #5.

Any other means to scale up carbonation?
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Old 04-10-2015, 01:49 PM   #7
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#4 is not necessarily exclusive to post mix. I have mixed up my flavor ingredients in the keg, added carbonated water and then set to my desired psi. It speeds up the carbonation process significantly because a portion of the water is already carbonated. That way you can keep kegs of carbonated, chilled water on hand and not worry about how long it takes them to carbonate. It also speeds up the process of chilling the entire keg.
I hope that helps.
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Old 04-11-2015, 05:54 AM   #8
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Thanks for the reply.

I tried out a little proof of concept tonight. Chilled a keg of water then over carbed it. Let it chill again then opened the top and added in my flavour. My recipe is about 75% water.

It was all going fine then suddenly it exploded out of the keg! Made quite a good mess to clean up. So the ratio is totally screwed up as I didn't get all the flavour in but I figure it's still good enough a proof of concept for the carbonation. Carbed the head space and then back in the fridge.

I'll update tomorrow to see how the carbonation turned out. And next time I'll add the flavour more slowly :-)
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Old 04-13-2015, 04:27 AM   #9
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Results - definitely has potential. Pretty close to how I would normally carbonate it.

Question now is how many volumes of CO2 concentration are most mechanical carbonation systems capable of pumping out? If any out there can get into the high 4s/low 5s this is most certainly an option.


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