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Old 10-04-2012, 12:00 AM   #1
tj218
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Bottle conditioning: I know the standard advice is to wait 3 weeks for carbing at 70F. But why? Looking for more of a scientific answer.

If the yeast can chew threw a 1.050 OG in a couple days, why does a very small (by volume) amount of corn sugar take 3 weeks? I mean I could see maybe a week to allow clean-up of off flavors but still...is there a reason?

 
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:02 AM   #2
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There's also the time it takes for the CO2 to be forced into solution. Some beers are carbonated sooner, but three weeks is a safe estimate.

 
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:23 AM   #3
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It only takes a week or 2 for the yeast to eat the priming sugar. The rest of the time allows the gas to be absorbed into the beer. Sort of like force-carbing a keg. You pressurize the keg and put it in the fridge, but you still have to wait a week or 2 for that gas to become carbonation. During the first part of bottle conditioning, the yeast eat the priming sugar and make CO2. Then, during the second part, that gas absorbs into the beer and becomes carbonation. In general, the whole process takes 3 weeks for most average beers. Some beers will be done in as little as a week, and some higher alcohol beers may take months to carbonate properly.

I guess what I am saying is: it takes so long because it is a 2 step process and you need time for both steps to be completed.
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:28 AM   #4
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Wouldn't just cold crashing it for a few days force the CO2 into solution?

 
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:32 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tj218 View Post
Wouldn't just cold crashing it for a few days force the CO2 into solution?
Its not only about carbing but how the beer mellows and ages into its "prime"

If you were able to tell when all sugars were fermented and "cold crashed" in the fridge im sure you could cut off maybe 5 days of your 3 weeks but for me its really when the beer is in its prime that i will open it. Makes it that much better!

Your also looking at A LOT less yeast to chew thru said sugars, just like an under-pitched batch takes longer to ferment...
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:59 AM   #6
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If you go through a timeline, usually within a few days you'll get a gas relief when you pop the top(about the same as a regular beer or even more aggressive), but your beer will still be flat. It takes time to absorb that pressure into the solution to carbonate the beer.

Also a good bit of yeast drops out of the solution and you rack on top of it. Thus there is a lot less yeast to eat the sugar, resulting in a longer time to ferment out your prime.

Just like everything with home brewing, there is a lot of inconsistency. Ive had a beer ready in about 10 days, or take a month. I usually try a beer every 7 days until I call it good to go.
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Old 10-04-2012, 02:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
If the yeast can chew threw a 1.050 OG in a couple days, why does a very small (by volume) amount of corn sugar take 3 weeks?
Also, remember that the yeast slow down in an alcohol environment. In any wort fermentation, the yeast go through the most active part of fermentation rather quickly, like you state, waxing off like 75-80% of the fermentables, but they always slow down once they start swimming around in their own alcohol byproduct. If you were to chart the gravity of a fermentation, the first 75-80% takes about 24-36 hours, but the last 20% or so always takes 3-5 days or so. That last 20% or so is so slow and subtle that it doesn't even typically tik the airlock.

Same thing in carbing. The yeast are working slowly in an alcohol environment. Everyone is right that a good bit of the 2-3 week guideline is letting the carbonation absorb into the beer, but also your yeast are just working much more slowly compared to the most active part of a new fermentation.
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Old 10-04-2012, 02:38 PM   #8
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I think, in addition to the much lower yeast counts and the higher alcohol concentration, it's also to do with the lower concentration of fermentables. During primary fermentation, you have a huge concentration of sugar. A yeast cell can't float very far before it encounters a bit of sugar to ferment. As the sugar is consumed, it takes longer and longer for a yeast cell to "find" more sugar. This is why fermentation is not a linear process: as the amount of sugar drops, so does the rate at which it is fermented, giving you a (roughly) exponential gravity vs time curve. You are not adding much sugar per volume when you prime, so you're not going to ferment 3-4 ounces as fast as you would ferment the first 3-4 ounces of the sugars in your wort, even if the alcohol were not present and you roused all the yeast back up.

 
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Old 10-04-2012, 03:56 PM   #9
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There are a LOT fewer yeast cells in a primed bottle than in a fermenter full of fresh wort.

There are a LOT fewer fermentable particles for the yeast to eat.

It takes longer for those fewer number of yeast to find those fewer number of fermentables and eat them.

 
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Old 10-04-2012, 04:07 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tj218 View Post
Bottle conditioning: I know the standard advice is to wait 3 weeks for carbing at 70F. But why? Looking for more of a scientific answer.

If the yeast can chew threw a 1.050 OG in a couple days, why does a very small (by volume) amount of corn sugar take 3 weeks? I mean I could see maybe a week to allow clean-up of off flavors but still...is there a reason?
Yeast act very differently in a sugar rich, alcohol free environment that's not under pressure than they do in a alcohol rich, low sugar, pressurized environment. Then there's the fact that in the fermenter, a few hundred billion cells are at work, in the bottle, maybe a few dozen million.
Not very scientific, I know, but that's the basics of it.
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