Pouring Undercarbonated Bottles into Keg?

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Brushwood Brewing

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I brewed a Russian Imperial Stout following a clone recipe for Old Rasputin. I bottle conditioned them. Yeast was two packets of US-05. This was my first time measuring priming sugar specifically to carbonate "to style", and I targeted 2.3 volumes, which is lower than I usually target. For priming, I added 101 grams dextrose to 4.5gal beer.

That was back in April, 6 months ago. They are significantly undercarbonated. There is a little head if I pour hard (resulting in large bubbles that don't last too long), so it wasn't a complete fail. However, it tastes too flat to be enjoyable.

Looking back I think I used the amount of priming sugar recommended for table sugar, not dextrose. That may account for a small part of it. Or maybe I mismeasured. Perhaps though, I just prefer a higher carbonation rate. Either way, the end product is disappointing.

Had anyone tried pouring bottles off into a keg and force carbonating it? I know that will increase oxidation, but I'm willing to risk it at this point. Perhaps I could add some sulfites to the keg to minimize it, but I'd prefer some slight oxidation to this undercarbonation.

Any experience or tips?
 

VikeMan

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What temperture have the bottles been stored at? And what was the ABV of the beer?

Or maybe I mismeasured.

Or perhaps the priming sugar wasn't thoroughly mixed with the beer. Have you tried bottles from both ends, and the middle, of your bottling run? If you are convinced that the undercarbonation is the result of insufficient priming (in all the bottles) and that the yeast haven't reached their ABV limit, you could open each bottle, add sugar, and recap. Much less O2 than pouring the beer into a keg.

Looking back I think I used the amount of priming sugar recommended for table sugar, not dextrose.

That wouldn't really make a huge difference.

Had anyone tried pouring bottles off into a keg and force carbonating it? I know that will increase oxidation, but I'm willing to risk it at this point.

You are right, it would increase oxygen exposure and thus oxidation. You're going have beer with a very large, agitated surface area going down the side of that keg.

Perhaps I could add some sulfites to the keg to minimize it, but I'd prefer some slight oxidation to this undercarbonation.

You could try adding sulfites, but I personally wouldn't count on that to limit oxidation to "slight" unless you really have the amount of the addition dialed in.
 
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Brushwood Brewing

Brushwood Brewing

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The ABV of the beer is 9.3%. Is that high enough to limit the yeast?

They've been stored in my basement which hovers around 70 F during the summer, so I think it has been warm enough.

I've had ten of the bottles now over the course of the last few months, and they've all had about the same carbonation level. So I don't think it was just poor mixing in the bottling bucket.

I've thought of opening each bottle and adding sugar, but I have some concern with bottle bombs since I'm not confident on the original issue or current state of yeast. I'm also not sure how to determine the correct amount of sugar to add, since presumably some CO2 is released by opening the bottle itself.
 

VikeMan

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The ABV of the beer is 9.3%. Is that high enough to limit the yeast?

It might be. The published tolerance for US-05 is 9-11%. It's possible to go higher with a healthy pitch, but it may be that your yeast hit its limit.

I've had ten of the bottles now over the course of the last few months, and they've all had about the same carbonation level. So I don't think it was just poor mixing in the bottling bucket.

From both ends of the bottling run? Seriously, if it wasn't thoroughly mixed, undercarbonation and overcarbonation would be the result, and you can't determine that without sampling both ends.

I'm also not sure how to determine the correct amount of sugar to add, since presumably some CO2 is released by opening the bottle itself.

Not enough to worry about.
 
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Brushwood Brewing

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I bought some Brewer' Best carb drops from my LHBS this week. It says 3 drops for low carbonation, 4 drops for medium carbonation, and 5 drops for high carbonation.

I'm trying a test run before proceeding with the whole batch. To three bottles I added 1 drop each, and to three bottles I added 2 drops each. I'm leaving them at room temp (currently 70F), inside of a cooler to prevent damage from potential bottle bombs.

(I also added a chip of whiskey barrel to each, out of curiosity's sake.)

I'll update everybody in a couple weeks.

Still curious though, does anyone have actual first-hand experience with dumping undercarbonated bottles into a keg and force carbonating?
 

VikeMan

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I'm puzzled as to why you are ignoring the twice previously asked question: Have you tried bottles from both ends of your bottling run?

I'm trying a test run before proceeding with the whole batch. To three bottles I added 1 drop each, and to three bottles I added 2 drops each. I'm leaving them at room temp (currently 70F), inside of a cooler to prevent damage from potential bottle bombs.

If you don't know if the original priming sugar was evenly distributed, i.e. some bottles may have been under-primed and some over-primed, what do you hope this test will tell you? IMO you are attempting a fix without knowing the problem. Keeping these bottles in a cooler is probably wise.
 
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Brushwood Brewing

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@VikeMan : Sorry, didn't mean to ignore. Unfortunately I can't identify which bottles are the beginning and end of my bottling run. They've been moved around a couple times, from re-organizing and from labeling. But I've tried close to a dozen bottles by now, in what is presumably close to a random order, and they've all seemed to have the same level of carbonation.
 

z-bob

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Still curious though, does anyone have actual first-hand experience with dumping undercarbonated bottles into a keg and force carbonating?

I have experience with mixing severely undercarbonated beer with a can of Natural Ice to give it some fizz. That works really well; it's a fairly high alcohol beer (so it doesn't water the beer down) with no character of its own to clash with my masterpiece that didn't carb -- or the little bit left over at bottling time.
 

IslandLizard

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@VikeMan has already covered most of it.

A few more thoughts...
I'm leaving them at room temp (currently 70F), inside of a cooler to prevent damage from potential bottle bombs.
Although a small chance, if they explode, your cooler will likely be ruined, due to shards embedded into the inside walls and lid. How about using an old storage tote with a cardboard beer case inside? There's a good chance on a chain reaction, when one goes it may set the others off too, if they're already on the cusp.

Are you sure you measured the amount of priming sugar correctly?

There's a chance the yeast is not capable of fermenting the priming sugar anymore in a high alcohol environment, or there's simply not enough of her left. Usually it's either go or no go, not much chance for only partial carbonation.

Since it did carbonate a little, 6 months at 70F would have been more than plenty to fully carbonate, as long as there was enough priming sugar available. Adding a bottling yeast would have secured that process, recommended in high alcohol beer and beer that's been conditioned longer times, leaving less yeast in suspension.

Many of us will therefore fill a few soda bottles along with the glass ones to check up on the carbing progress (they get harder) without having to open bottles. ;)
 
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Brushwood Brewing

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Are you sure you measured the amount of priming sugar correctly?
I measured by weight with a digital scale, so I want to think it's unlikely but I suppose there's always that chance.

I had my first of the trial beers this past weekend, about a week and a half after adding the carb drop. This bottle only had one carb drop added. It seemed surprisingly similar to the original, both in taste and carbonation. Although a little disappointing, my hope is that might mean the yeast is active and digested the carb drop (since it didn't taste much sweeter) but the carbonation that was added from one drop simply offset the carbonation lost during the first uncapping, and (fingers crossed) that perhaps the bottles with two carb drops will be better.

I'll stick one of the two-drop trial beers in the fridge today, and will provide another update once tasted.

Thankfully, no bottle bombs yet.
 

hotbeer

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If your refrigerator you keep the beer in gets really cold, then that could be affecting the amount of carbonation you perceive coming from the beer. If your beer is one that you went for a really outrageous ABV, then you might should have used some other yeast at bottling time that tolerates very high alcohol.

As for it not making any foam or head, that can be a entirely separate issue unrelated to carbonation.
 

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If you'll be with a lot of people for Thanksgiving I'd go the keg route. Carb up and drink fast. Not ideal, but sure is simple. Re-priming and tinkering with a whole batch doesn't sound appealing to me.
 

CleanEmUpIves

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What is your definition of dump?

Carefully pour them into a bottling bucket. Maybe add a small amount of priming sugar and some new yeast. Siphon that mixture into your keg and proceed from there.

I'd hold the keg at an angle and pour down the side of the keg but I'm more of an adventerous soul. The keg could even be held at such an angle that you'd be pouring into liquid after the first couple bottles.

Really not that big of a deal. Nothing to get angry about and certainly not reckless IMHO.
 

VikeMan

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What is your definition of dump?

Carefully pour them into a bottling bucket. Maybe add a small amount of priming sugar and some new yeast. Siphon that mixture into your keg and proceed from there.

I'd hold the keg at an angle and pour down the side of the keg but I'm more of an adventerous soul. The keg could even be held at such an angle that you'd be pouring into liquid after the first couple bottles.

Really not that big of a deal. Nothing to get angry about and certainly not reckless IMHO.

Pour them as carefully as you'd like. The oxygen picked up will still be orders of magnitude higher than years through the cap of an Old Rasputin bottle.
 

patrick66

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I had an issue twice with a batch of beer not properly carbonating. Both were higher alcohol beers. The first was a Belgium Tripple. I shook the bottles and moved them to a warmer spot which got the yeast going again. The second time was on a Belgium Quad. The shaking and warmer spot did not do it. I got advice on this forum to add Lallemand CBC-1 for a higher alcohol beer. It meant opening up all bottles and carefully adding a few drops of yeast solution. This did the trick beautifully; the Quad is a great beer now and aging well.
 
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Beermeister32

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I have experience with mixing severely undercarbonated beer with a can of Natural Ice to give it some fizz. That works really well; it's a fairly high alcohol beer (so it doesn't water the beer down) with no character of its own to clash with my masterpiece that didn't carb -- or the little bit left over at bottling time
Done that before, good way to quickly use up the batch.
 

beerisyummy

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I got advice on this forum to add Lallemand CBC-1 for a higher alcohol beer. It meant opening up all bottles and carefully adding a few drops of yeast solution. This did the trick beautifully; the Quad is a great beer now and aging well.
Mix up yeast solution and use sanitized eyedropper?
 
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Brushwood Brewing

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The bottles with additional carb drops did not turn out any better.

I ended up kegging it. I poured the bottles off gently into a funnel which was attached to some small tubing that went down to the bottom of the keg. That was the best way I could think of to minimize the oxygenation while pouring. Then I purged the headspace.

It turned out great. Very happy with the result. It's surprising how much carbonation can affect the taste of the beer. The carbonic bite perfectly balanced out the sweetness I perceived in the undercarbonated bottles.

I'll keep it cold and drink it quick -- happily.
 
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