most important source of unwanted oxygen?

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mac_1103

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Apologies if this has been asked and answered already, but I've read a number of threads on the topic and don't really see a definitive answer.

I bottle condition all of my beers. I am not set up to keg or do true closed transfers. So in trying to avoid adding oxygen during bottling, is the headspace in the bottles the biggest problem? If so, does it outweigh other factors to the point where things like attaching a CO2-filled balloon to my bottling bucket is a waste of time and effort? Would I be better off just using the balloon to try to purge the bottle headspace, or should I do both? I guess it's just a matter of having enough balloons, right?

Thanks.
 

hotbeer

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most important source of unwanted oxygen?​


Siphoning your beer and letting it splash into whatever you are putting it in. Next is probably getting a air bubble in your transfer tube and the beer bubbling through it.

Headspace in your beer probably isn't a big issue. You beer is probably foaming up some as the dissolved CO2 comes out of solution when it gets agitated by the filling of the bottle and you cap that bottle before it all subsides. Bottle cap seals are said to be oxygen scavenging. But how much they scavenge was the subject of another thread earlier this year.

Highly hopped, especially highly dry hopped beers will probably need more worries about O2 avoidance than other beers.

All IMHO of course!
 
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mac_1103

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Thanks. Second beer I ever brewed was a 5 gallon DIPA kit. Friends and family liked it so much that it was mostly gone in a month. So I tucked a few away for later personal use. The last couple of those were definitely a bit off, but it had been almost a year. Whatever other mitigations I eventually adopt, part of my solution for IPAs going forward will be to drink them fast.
 

Teufelhunde

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I just drain into the bottling bucket without splashing, then into the bottle with a bottling wand and cap the bottles. I have never noticed any significant oxidization, but then, my beers only make it to 2 months in the bottle at the most....usually, they are gone by 1.5 months...

YMMV

Lon
 

AlexKay

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Drinking them fast is probably the best approach!

Also, once they're carbonated, store them cold.

I'd be inclined to point the finger at headspace oxygen, unless you're making an effort to cap on foam (i.e., agitate the bottle to get it to foam up, and then cap while it's foaming over.) Solvation is a slow process, so while you're exposed to lots of air during transfers, not too much will dissolve. Meanwhile, anything trapped in the bottle with the beer has all the time it needs to dissolve and react.

If your fermenter has a spigot, you can hook up the bottling wand to it directly and omit the transfer to the bottling bucket completely. You add the sugar to the bottles first (carbonation drops are convenient.)
 

hotbeer

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So I tucked a few away for later personal use. The last couple of those were definitely a bit off, but it had been almost a year. Whatever other mitigations I eventually adopt, part of my solution for IPAs going forward will be to drink them fast.
A bit off in what way? O2 ruining things is going to be a cardboard taste. However beer can and will change tastes over time anyway. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for worse.

You can just leave a millimeter or two of head space if you feel that O2 in the headspace is an issue. But you won't get that satisfying phfffft sound when you open them. Your first instinct will be fright that your beer is flat. I know, I use to fill my bottles to the top.

If you haven't had a problem with cardboard tastes, then don't get too worried about solving an issue you don't have.
 
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mac_1103

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A bit off in what way? O2 ruining things is going to be a cardboard taste.

Not sure I could say that I tasted cardboard, but they had definitely lost some of the hoppiness and just seemed a bit stale. OTOH, a tripel that I held onto a six-pack of actually seemed to get more bitter over time, and not necessarily in a bad way.
 
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Some observations:
  • commercial DIPAs seem to have a 3 (or 6 month) shelf life. commercial IPAs seem to have a 6 month shelf life. Personally, I leave IPAs on the shelf beyond about 3 months.

  • Refrigeration - might double shelf life. An anecdotal I told a couple of months ago: there's a store that claims to get their inventory fresh and store it refrigerated all the time. They had a beer that I enjoy that was near the end of it's shelf life (5 months). The beer tasted like it was two months old.

  • CO2 flush bottle head space. I haven't tried this, but there are anecdotal stories where people use wine preserver to flush the head space when bottling.

  • Anecdotal stories suggest that plastic bottles (with the head space reduced by squeezing) help and it can be safe (no broken glass).

  • Anecdotal stories seem to suggest that antioxidants (e.g. ascorbic acid / vitamin c) help.

  • oxygen scavenging caps: opinion on effectiveness varies between the the various forums. Might be one of those 'cheap insurance' things.
None of this will fix an invisible leak in an auto-siphon or other bottling process / equipment faults.

For larger batches, maybe the solution is to use multiple bottling techniques. For just the bottles you want to store longer, consider using CO2 flush, antioxidants, plastic bottles with no head space, store them in the fridge, ...
 
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