Bottling directly off the fermenter: is this the source of all my problems?

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clientsoup

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I brewed a NEIPA a few weeks ago, and in order to reduce oxidation I did not use a bottling bucket. Instead, my process was:

* Lower the temp of the beer to ~42F
* Weigh out the exact amount of sugar needed (2.14g in this case) on my 20g milligram scale which, theoretically, is accurate to +/- 0.005g
* Add sugar to a bottle
* Fill the bottle with a wand, cap, then invert a few times

What I have found is that bottles of this beer, when I try them (+1 week post bottling) will taste (and look!) completely different. In a "blind test" I can tell one beer from another, even though they're from the same batch. It's weird.

My question is: by bottling directly off my fermented (SS Brewtech brew bucket) using the racking arm, did I bottle different "layers" of beer which resulted in the difference in taste/appearance?
 

AJinJacksonville

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I can tell you that I when I would transfer from the fermentation bucket to the bottling bucket, there would obviously be some minimal oxidation but that is when I mixed it with the boiled water/priming sugar mix. I think that process of filling the bottling bucket gave it a nice, albeit smooth and not choppy, mix of the priming sugar mixture and beer. I can not tell the difference in taste of a same bottled batch.

I have also never tried pouring priming sugar into each bottle. You'll see some people use the Domino sugar cubes in individual bottles. I would have to assume that since there was no movement of the beer prior to bottling, you must be getting the layers. How long do you let it sit at 42 degrees prior to doing this process? Obviously with a NEIPA you're going to have more particulate in the final product. How soon before dropping the temp and bottling did you do your last hop addition? Maybe some of the hop particulate (especially if you went to bottle soon after dry-hopping) got tied up somewhere in the batch and maybe that's what you're sensing?
 

Vale71

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My question is: by bottling directly off my fermented (SS Brewtech brew bucket) using the racking arm, did I bottle different "layers" of beer which resulted in the difference in taste/appearance?
No, there are no layers. To get layers you'd have to step up to considerably larger sized fermenters, the kind that are several stories high...
My guess is, since you did not mention taking any measures to prevent oxygen ingress into the fermenter while it empties, that any difference is due to the duration of the exposure to atmospheric oxygen in the fermenter. This could conceivably result in the first bottles filled being hardly oxydized whereas the last ones could already have a good head start on oxidation.
 

AlexKay

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I bottled twenty or so batches directly from SS brew bucket -> bottling wand -> bottle (though I used carb drops.) Never had this problem.
 

Vale71

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I just realized I assumed you could tell the bottles apart by sequential position. If that is not the case but the problem appears at random then one other likely explanation is a secondaty infection, i.e. one arising from contamination of some bottles and not the entire batch. It would help if you could describe the differences as you perceive them.
 

MMX

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Layers could be the culprit, you didn't mention the length of time it sat at 42F. I've observed a discreet layer line move down over a couple days (at a constant cold crash temperature) when cold crashing. I've never sampled to see if there's a flavor difference however.

If using priming sugar I wouldn't worry much about minimal oxidation, the yeast will eat that oxygen exposure in their adventure to create carbonation.
 
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clientsoup

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I appreciate everyone's input here!

Unfortunately I filled my 2 cases of bottles in essentially random order so I don't know which were which. Fermentation profile was:
  • 6 days at 66
  • Ramp to 70f over 1 day
  • 2 days at 70f
  • "Crash" to 42f over 1 day
  • Sit at 42f for 19h (I realize this isn't very long, nor a particularly cold crash)
  • Bottled
I pulled a few more bottles and chilled them, once it gets to socially-acceptable drinking time (i.e not 11am @ work) I'll do side-by-side pours and post a photo here, along with tasting notes. But just watch, these ones will all be perfect.

Regarding the possibility of a secondary infection -- everything tasted & smelled fine, just "different".
 

MrPowers

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You're oxidizing the beer at filling. You need to cold crash (preferably under pressure to avoid oxygen suck-back), allow the beer to warm back up to room temperature, add your priming sugar directly to the fermenter, wait 1-2 hours (until you start to get a little airlock activity, and then bottle/cap. Using this method, you are transferring beer with actively fermenting yeast, which will scrub oxygen out of the headspace of the bottles much more quickly than adding the priming sugar to the bottles.
 

Vale71

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That won't make a bit of difference and also does not explain the inconsistency bottle-to-bottle.

Actually that could be even worse since you'll have the beer stading in the now-filled-with-air fermenter for a few hours and that alone will get you plenty of oxidation.
 

MrPowers

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That won't make a bit of difference and also does not explain the inconsistency bottle-to-bottle.

Actually that could be even worse since you'll have the beer stading in the now-filled-with-air fermenter for a few hours and that alone will get you plenty of oxidation.
There are a myriad of factors that could explain the variance bottle to bottle: fill level (headspace), chill time, storage temperature, storage location, bottle type (though I am assuming that they are using the same size bottles), slight differences in carbonation, sanitation.

Fermenter priming is definitely the better route to go. Yes, you are introducing oxygen into the headspace of the fermenter, but you are minimizing the effect of oxygen ingress during the bottle filling and capping process (swirling, shaking, general agitation, etc).
 

Vale71

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Fermenter priming is definitely the better route to go. Yes, you are introducing oxygen into the headspace of the fermenter, but you are minimizing the effect of oxygen ingress during the bottle filling and capping process (swirling, shaking, general agitation, etc).
Unless you're doing that under a modified, O2-free atmosphere you'll have exactly the same level of oxygen ingress during the filling process as yeast is no barrier against oxygen ingress and then it will do nothing to prevent it from oxidizing the beer. In the meantime you've left your batch exposed to oxygen for a few extra hours. The only way to really prevent oxidative damage is to keep O2 away from your beer.
 

MrPowers

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Unless you're doing that under a modified, O2-free atmosphere you'll have exactly the same level of oxygen ingress during the filling process. Yeast is no barrier against oxygen ingress and it will do next to nothing to prevent it from oxidizing the beer. In the meantime you've left your batch exposed to oxygen for a few extra hours. The only way to really prevent oxidative damage is to keep O2 away from your beer.
If you have the ability to purge headspace after adding the priming solution, that is absolutely the best practice (on my system I do).

You are correct that yeast aren't a barrier to oxygen, but ACTIVE yeast uptake dissolved oxygen incredibly quickly (in as little as 20 minutes) and once that DO level has been reduced to 0, as long as those yeast are active, they will uptake any subsequent oxygen very quickly (which is what helps protect your beer during the bottling process). By adding the priming sugar to your fermenter, you are getting significantly less oxygen ingress through surface diffusion than you would pick up through the agitation produced during the bottling process.

Source for yeast oxygen uptake/oxygen ingress protection (Deoxygenation Revisited - Low Oxygen Brewing).

Edit: Another key to making this process work is, agitate the beer as little as possible when you add the priming sugar. Don't splash, pour it in smoothly from a low height, don't stir (or stir very minimally).
 
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clientsoup

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Of course, I open 3 bottles pulled at random and they all look and taste exactly the same (yummy!)

:rolleyes:

I'm beginning to think I imagined the first pour...
 
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clientsoup

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Actually the one on the left is definitely a bit darker. They both taste the same. I'm not sure why they're this dark though, because this is the grain bill:

75% briess pale ale malt
17% briess white wheat malt
7.5% flaked oats
 

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MrPowers

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Actually the one on the left is definitely a bit darker. They both taste the same. I'm not sure why they're this dark though, because this is the grain bill:

75% briess pale ale malt
17% briess white wheat malt
7.5% flaked oats
The first sign of oxidation in NEIPA is color darkening. After that, you start noticing that the hops seem a bit more muted, then it takes on a candy sweetness, then you start to get to the more traditional signs of oxidation (ex. Cardboard).
 
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clientsoup

clientsoup

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The first sign of oxidation in NEIPA is color darkening. After that, you start noticing that the hops seem a bit more muted, then it takes on a candy sweetness, then you start to get to the more traditional signs of oxidation (ex. Cardboard).
Ah! I will keep an eye out for this. Thank you.
 

HopSing

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I just realized I assumed you could tell the bottles apart by sequential position. If that is not the case but the problem appears at random then one other likely explanation is a secondaty infection, i.e. one arising from contamination of some bottles and not the entire batch. It would help if you could describe the differences as you perceive them.
+1. Some contamination's take time to develop, especially if the bottles are stored cold. I've had the same issue when I bottle a few from the fermenter after filling a keg. I now mark the bottles that taste "off" with a paint pen so they can go through more intense cleaning. If the same bottle gets more than 2 marks, I toss it.

~HopSing.
 

Craiginthecorn

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I recently brewed a Uinta Dubhe clone which was heavily dry hopped. I used a Spike Flex+ fermentor with a sanitary sampling valve attached to my racking arm/butterfly valve. I tasted samples every couple of days towards the end of the lengthy dry hop period and it was wonderful. I kegged it and it's still wonderful, but after kegging, there was still a good half liter or more of beer after I lifted out the bag of hops. It smelled mind-blowingly good. I had to try a taste. Why let good beer go to waste? The dry hop burn was super strong in that sample, making it virtually undrinkable.

I'll never know if the last few ounces of the beer I kegged were like that or if it only happened because I lifted and drained the hop sack (my best guess), but it does suggest that the hop oils might not have been well distributed while still in the fermentor. Given that the OP's beer was an NEIPA and he didn't stir in priming sugar, something similar could have happened during bottling, particularly toward the end. I would think that would affect only a small percentage of the bottles, however.

But if I had to bet, I'd bet on oxidation.
 

Morgz

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I've had this before when I started using coopers carb drops for convenience. One batch was great and a perfect clean carb. (Brand new packet) next batch had the inconsistency like you explained ( using remainder of open packet).
It took me a while to work it out, but I'm sure its infection from the sugar thats not sterile from a used packet. Once I started only using new bags, my problem went away. Mind you I now have 3 opened bags, I plan on heating them up and using like normal sugar next brew after they have been sterilised.

I wouldn't get in the habit of inverting your beers, your adding oxygen right there. Especially with NEIPA, they are really sensitive to oxygen. As mentioned above, they noticeably darken easily. The yeast will find the sugar at the bottom. I still bottle at the moment and exclusively use the plastic bottles, I put carb drops in, fill, loosely place lid on top and squeeze the bottle until i get a little leak out the bottle, then i tighten lid and leave it to carb up. Overnight the bottles return to normal shape as fermentation kicks off again.

I hope this helps, I hate seeing good beer go bad, its so disheartening when you spend hours designing, creating and bottling, only to be disappointed. Oh well, what a shame, you have to do another batch, enjoy!
 

Kenmoron

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I don't have a link to the video, but I recall a guy on youtube testing immediately shaking vs no shaking an IPA when bottling direct from fermenter. I didn't expect a difference, but to my surprise, it was very noticeable! My guess would be that there is a much more immediate diffusion of oxygen into the beer at a rate that is quicker than the yeast can get rid of vs a slower diffusion that the yeast can more readily keep up with.

That being said, minimizing as much oxygen as possible that gets into the bottle is the best practice. I myself always bottle direct from the fermenter (I use Domino Dots sugar cubes, which are perfect for the vols of CO2 I like). Two things you can try, both of which I have had good success with are:
1) as you are removing your bottling wand, press it against the neck of the bottle in order to really top off that bottle (less headspace = less oxygen)
2) give the headspace a quick burst of CO2 if you have the ability. I've actually found a SodaStream works great for this!
 

Kenmoron

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Here it is:

Edit: In looking back at the video, I realized he did a shaken bottle vs a non-shaken AND purged headspace bottle. I would assume the difference is actually more due to the purging. But it still shows you how significantly oxygen can change your beer with that headspace!
 
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