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Why does bottle-conditioning improve life/stability?

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brewmonger

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Or does it? Is it just an urban myth?

It can't just be because of the CO2, because force-carbonated beers have that too, yet are supposed to have a shorter shelf life.
 

menschmaschine

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I think someone just touched on this in another thread. The key difference is yeast. When the yeast aren't filtered out and they ferment a few sugars (for carbonation), they can metabolize and stave off some of the flavor-active compounds that cause staling. But I'm just kind of taking a stab at the question.
 

pjj2ba

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By bottle conditioning, do you mean simply naturally carbonating or are you tallking about long term aging? When I hear bottle conditioning, to me that means the beer is going to be stored for a longer time than just that required to achieve proper carbonation. These generally also have higher ABV, which often need more time to mature, and by virtue of the extra alcohol, are less likely to stale.
 

Gordie

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There are a lot of opinions on the benefits or differences of bottle conditioning (which I'm assuming is natural carbonation, not just laying the bottle down for a while). For example, Jamil and a number of people on his radio show tend to think its a waste of time. I'm in the other camp. Other than anecdotal evidence from a history of both torturing and coddling wine and beer yeast, I'm of the opinion that bottle conditioning certainly has a beneficial impact on bottle life and stability.

The basic idea is that the oxygen trapped under the cap (wine types call it the ullage) is consumed and processed by the yeast in the condition process. Kind of like an army of tiny oxygen-absorbing caps. Initiating a fermentation in the bottle also may have other beneficial effects such as also allows the yeast an opportunity to clean up some off flavors.

Bottle conditioning is one of those things that I haven't found much in the way of actual science on, other than basic fermentation theory, so maybe someone else may be able to give you a more microbiologically informed opinion. In the meantime, from my own experiences I've become a believer and bottle condition everything - my impressions of stability and bottle life being one of the reasons.

Gordie
 

Edcculus

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By bottle conditioning, do you mean simply naturally carbonating or are you tallking about long term aging? When I hear bottle conditioning, to me that means the beer is going to be stored for a longer time than just that required to achieve proper carbonation. These generally also have higher ABV, which often need more time to mature, and by virtue of the extra alcohol, are less likely to stale.
interesting. I always take bottle conditioned to mean naturally carbonated. Just a different way of saying it. Just like all of the Belgian and Trappists like to say "re-fermented" in the bottle, or secondary ferment in the bottle.
 

pjj2ba

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interesting. I always take bottle conditioned to mean naturally carbonated. Just a different way of saying it. Just like all of the Belgian and Trappists like to say "re-fermented" in the bottle, or secondary ferment in the bottle.
That's why I commented. I believe for quite a few of the commercial bottle conditioned beers, they are aged for an extra length of time before being released for sale. To me, this is an extra step above and beyond simply carbonation. I naturallly carb. most of my beers in kegs, but right now I am doing a test to see if the hop aromas in a dry hopped IPA last longer when force carbed (my theory being the yeast will break down the aroma compounds, so the lack of yeast will lead to longer aroma life - if the keg lasts that long)
 

z987k

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Remember that force carbonation has nothing to do with filtering. I force carb my beers and they are not filtered. The yeast is still in there to clean up anything should it need to after 6 weeks. Also, I as most people do, purge my kegs of air with co2 before carbing. There is no O2 left, and if so no more than is in a bottle.

Further, I have never heard anything about force carbed beers lasting less time than a bottle conditioned beer.. unless as said above you are talking about a 4% beer vs a 10% beer. Also force carb != filtered.
 

menschmaschine

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I force carb my beers and they are not filtered. The yeast is still in there to clean up anything should it need to after 6 weeks.
I think there is a slight difference. With force-carbed beer, the yeast are virtually done and dying/dead. Dead/decaying yeast cells can affect flavor. With bottle-conditioned beer, some of the yeast undergo a secondary (or tertiary) fermentation in the bottle, prolonging their life and resulting in less dead yeast cells in the beer... for a while anyway.

Even better is to filter out the yeast and add new yeast at bottling. This is what most Belgian breweries do.
 

z987k

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I think there is a slight difference. With force-carbed beer, the yeast are virtually done and dying/dead. Dead/decaying yeast cells can affect flavor. With bottle-conditioned beer, some of the yeast undergo a secondary (or tertiary) fermentation in the bottle, prolonging their life and resulting in less dead yeast cells in the beer... for a while anyway.

Even better is to filter out the yeast and add new yeast at bottling. This is what most Belgian breweries do.
I don't know.. it doesn't seem like it would really matter (significantly)either way. There are many far more important factors that will contribute to the shelf life of a beer over bottle conditioning. Proteins and soluble nitrogenous compounds to name a couple.

Anyone have a study in which to reference on the topic? After all this is the brew science forum :)
 

yeoldebrewer

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Can anyone comment on the effect of carbonation pressure on yeast in bottle conditioning?
Does the CO2 pressure just slow down the action of the yeast, or have other effects as well?

Sometimes I could swear my beer has a cleaner taste just out of the fermenter before bottle conditioning.
 

z987k

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Can anyone comment on the effect of carbonation pressure on yeast in bottle conditioning?
Does the CO2 pressure just slow down the action of the yeast, or have other effects as well?

Sometimes I could swear my beer has a cleaner taste just out of the fermenter before bottle conditioning.
actually increased pressure makes the yeast work cleaner, but slows their growth.
 

Poindexter

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Hey guys, I have not tasted this beer in over a year, but judging by the stacked reviews it isn't getting any worse:

https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f38/ris-swap-poindexters-brews-62424/

I brewed it Nov-07, racked off the yeast in Dec 08 after I think six weeks, then I drove it from LA to Dallas in Jan 08, continued bulk aging to Mar 08 when I bottled.

I am really looking forward to cracking one of these in a couple more months; but I don't age session beers I can barely keep in stock.
 

rocketman768

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There was a thread quite a while back about a guy who found his dad's old brewing stuff and a few bottles of beer that had been sitting there for about 15 years. He cracked it open, and said it tasted ok.

Here goes my crack at the explanation with a 100-level knowledge of food science:

"Staling" reactions in beer consist of the breaking down of lipids into short-chain fatty acids that smell and taste rancid. These reactions are caused by free-radicals (in a runaway chain reaction) and oxygen. There was some study by Oregon State University that concluded that beer with live yeast had significantly more sulfite and antioxidants (which halt the runaway free-radical reaction).

As far as the difference between bottles w/ priming sugar and kegs w/ yeast sludge, who knows. Why don't you keg half a beer and bottle the other half and tell us which lasts longer? W00t experiment!
 

coyote

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Even better is to filter out the yeast and add new yeast at bottling. This is what most Belgian breweries do.
what yeast do they use for bottling high gravity Belgians?

I have one that bulk aged for over a year. I primed and capped a few six packs about 5 weeks ago and no carbonation yet...temps still a little cool at about 65 F.

thanks.
 

menschmaschine

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what yeast do they use for bottling high gravity Belgians?

I have one that bulk aged for over a year. I primed and capped a few six packs about 5 weeks ago and no carbonation yet...temps still a little cool at about 65 F.

thanks.
Some of them crop yeast from primary for bottling, others use a different yeast. Any yeast with a high alcohol tolerance should work.
 

SumnerH

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what yeast do they use for bottling high gravity Belgians?
Most Belgians bottle with the same yeast they brew with. Chimay, Rochefort, and Westmalle all do so (presumably Westvleteran and Achel do as well, but I'm not sure).

Orval adds additional bugs (and maybe another yeasting) to their bottles but doesn't filter out the regular yeast--you can culture up Orval dregs but you'll get a mix of the yeast and bugs. I dunno about de Koeningshaven.

Most of the commercial breweries would probably bottle with the same yeast they ferment with, since they have tons of yeast around and there's no point in maintaining another strain. I'm sure there are exceptions (mainly at places that already keep multiple fermentation strains around).
 

coyote

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appreciate the replies.

I guess I was just concerned with pitching yeast into such a toxic environment (OG=1.103, FG=1.014).
 

menschmaschine

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appreciate the replies.

I guess I was just concerned with pitching yeast into such a toxic environment (OG=1.103, FG=1.014).
You could probably get away with something like Nottingham, which has an alcohol tolerance of 12-15%. If you really want to play it safe, you could pitch something like White Labs WLP099, which has an alcohol tolerance of over 15%.
 

coyote

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I have a package of Notty on hand! (for some reason, that doesn't sound good)

anyway...Thanks!
 
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