Tag Archives: over-carb

Mar 202118Thu

After eight days in the chiller it’s time to put this one away, and I decided to fill one of my 5 litre kegs with the rest going into bottles, hopefully letting me form a comparison not only between this brew and my first extract blonde, but also between keg and bottle versions of the same batch.

Eliminating Oxygen

Keg or bottle regardless, I was keen to prevent as much oxygen from getting at the beer as I possibly could. Bag-Thing was already rigged up to the mini bucket while it cold-crashed in the fridge (used between ¼ and ⅓ of a filled bag over the week, for the record) so it was just a matter of topping up the carbon dioxide bag as I drained the beer. This was easily achieved by fitting a John Guest splitter between the bag and the bucket and splicing it to the CO2 regulator so that it could be manually topped up as needed.

Using Bag-Thing as a CO2 buffer while bottling / kegging

Before I started drawing off beer into the keg I wanted to make sure that my dip tube wasn’t about to suck up dead hops and other trub, which took some leap of faith since I had no way of telling how much was in there and nor any means to filter the output. In the end I decided that cold-crashing should have settled everything as much as it was ever going to be settled, so I rotated the dip tube to its highest setting by turning the spigot clockwise – a neat feature to have.

But I still didn’t know if the tube would be clear of the sediment, so the only way to find out was to fill a cheeky tumbler. Immediately I started getting bits of hops but the stream soon cleared up, must have just picked up some random particles while adjusting the tube. The beer wasn’t anywhere near as clear as Bure Gold – the first one I ever cold-crashed – but then again that was too was cloudier during kegging than nearer the end. This did however taste wonderful, not as bitter as the first extract attempt and with slightly more hop punch. Time for one last check of the bag setup and let’s get it done.

Kegging from the SS Brewtech Mini Bucket

Once I was confident that no oxygen would enter via the top, putting this into a sanitised & purged keg was as simple as connecting a piece of silicone hose from the elevated bucket’s spigot to a barbed beer disconnect and popping the pressure relief valve now and then. That last step grew old very quickly so I fitted a gas disconnect as well and just kept topping up the CO2 at the bag end while the keg vented it to atmosphere. I realise now that with the bag being such an effective buffer I could easily have used the extraneous gas from the keg to top up the bag and made for a truly closed loop – definitely something to try next time.

I used the “cold finger” method again and left the keg with about 2 inches of head space before pressurising it to 30 PSI and putting it in the chiller. I’ll reduce this gradually after 3 or 4 days to 10 PSI serving pressure, hopefully that should then be ready to sample.

… and now Bottling

I really wanted to use my Blichmann Beer Gun to continue the oxygen-free theme but there was one small problem: I needed the JG 2-way splitter in order to provide the gun with gas, but that piece was in use by Bag-Thing. (sorted for next time: an adapter is on the way)

To overcome the equipment shortage I temporarily borrowed the CO2 supply and crudely purged some clear flip-top bottles by flushing them with carbon dioxide after I’d dropped in two carbonation drops in each, targeting 750 ml. Yes, overdoing it a bit there, but those drops were all I had left and I couldn’t be arsed to mess about weighing out loose dextrose for the sake of a couple of bottles. Once they were gassed and carbed it was easy to rest the flip-top stopper on the mouth of the bottle until each could be filled via the same silicone tube I used while kegging, just without the disconnect attached.

All this went fairly well until I started drawing bubbles halfway into the first bottle – guess that dip tube must be quite long after all. Seeing bubbles during filling is never good, but I kept telling myself that it should be OK since the bottles were filled with CO2, and it’s better to splash some gas about than set the tube too low and draw in unwanted rubbish. This method of constant adjustment saw me filling four 500 ml clear flip-tops while lowering the dip tube gradually before I hit the hops on the fifth bottle.

While cleaning the vessel after bottling I noted that the trub-line was roughly equal to the conical part. Obviously this will vary wildly depending on what’s added to the brew during fermentation, but it’s good to have this guide and reassuring to know that there’s quite a bit of adjustment on the dip tube – the guys at SS Brewtech have clearly done their homework.

In closing, one thing’s just occurred to me: by cold-crashing before bottling I may have removed the yeast that I need to turn my carbonation drops into carbonation. If these turn out to be flat then I need to learn from this, and draw off that part of the batch which is to be bottled before cold-crashing. As always, fingers crossed …

#wisdom: cold-crashing the mini bucket for a week uses between ¼ and ⅓ of a filled Bag-Thing, no need to worry about having to refill it partway.

#wisdom: if filling a purged keg from the brew bucket, use the gas that’s being driven out of the keg to refill the bag on top of the bucket.

Mar 202116Tue

Thanks to a mix-up at bottling time yesterday, the 31 mixed bottles only have 50% of the priming sugar that they should, and today I corrected that by cracking some of the bottles open again and adding the last of my carbonation drops. The 31 bottles of Mangrove Jack’s Strawberry & Peach Cider now look like this:

  • 10 metallic red crown caps: 85g of dextrose per 17 litre batch, so around 2.5g per bottle – roughly 50% of what’s appropriate. I left these alone from yesterday because I’m curious to see how ‘flat’ they are, and because I’ve never diddled with recently capped bottles and need an insurance policy.
  • 11 clear flip-tops: same 2.5g from batch priming, plus one Fox’s carbonation drop. Two of these are recommended for a 500 ml bottle and together they weight in a smidge over 5g, so these flip-tops should be perfectly carbed.
  • 10 non-metallic red crown caps: these also have 2.5g per bottle from yesterday, but to each I added one Cooper’s carbonation drop, aimed at 375ml and weighing in at 3.04g. This means the non-metallic red crown caps are technically over-carbed by 10% but I don’t expect it’ll make much difference – in truth I used the Cooper’s drops because I’d run out of Fox’s.

Looking back over the process of re-opening these I don’t think there’s very much to worry about. Each bottle was treated to a good dose of sanitiser before I popped the cap, and as soon as I did so I dropped in a carbonation drop and added a fresh, sanitised crown cap – or flipped shut the still wet flip-top. I did the flip-tops first and noticed that adding in the carbonation drop resulted in a fair bit of fizz, but because the flip-top was within reach I was able to cap it before anything boiled over. The first couple of crown caps I treated subsequently did eject some foam, but then I nailed the procedure and the rest were OK. No spinners or obviously leaky caps.

All 31 bottles were moved to the server room which is bouncing between 21 and 25 ℃ depending on the amount of sunshine that day. In around a week’s time I’ll put these out to the garage for conditioning.

#wisdom: ending with a positive, and I hear that cider isn’t too bothered about oxygen since it’s the hop oils in beer which cause oxidisation when exposed, so unless it’s a dry-hopped cider there’s nothing to worry about. Oh well, was fun playing with the beer gun all the same.

Jan 202118Mon

Absolutely no change here since I checked two days ago, let’s get this bottled. Total yield is 7 x 500 ml flip-tops, each with one Cooper’s carbonation drop and one Easybrew carbonation drop (total target = 600 ml) as well as 5 ml Erythritol. There was a good amount of fizz as the sweetener was added but things soon settled down a few seconds later.

Like the Blueberry variant also bottled today there’s a bit of a synthetic aftertaste that may calm down with conditioning and when that Erythritol kicks in, though both brews will likely be better when they’re carbonated and chilled – much like myself.

Off to the server room @ 25.7 ℃ for a couple of days and then out into the cold.

Jan 202117Sun

Having imbibed the precious portion of hops over the space of 3 days it was time to stuff this, the last of our 2020 cider, into clear 500 ml flip-top bottles. I took a quick gravity reading before commencing the ritual and was surprised to find 1.003, a whole 3 points higher than when I added the hops, but then again there was very little greenery on the surface (compared to a dry-hopped beer) so I suppose all that organic matter must have some impact. 1.003 from 1.046 translates to 5.64% ABV which is just fine with me. As always there was some experimentation at bottling time:

  • 01 – 15 got 3 carbonation drops (target = 750 ml) and 10 ml Erythritol
    • 01 and 02 (stopper marked ’R’) were bottled un-hopped 3 days ago
  • 16 – 25 got 2 carbonation drops (target = 500 ml) and 10 ml Erythritol
  • 26 – 30 got 3 carbonation drops (target = 750 ml) and 15 ml Erythritol
  • 31 – 35 got no carbonation drops and 5 ml Erythritol
  • 36 & 37 nothing at all

There were also two (unnumbered) green Heineken crown-caps, one 275 ml and one 330 ml, which received 2 carbonation drops (target = 500 ml) and 10 ml Erythritol. Watch out for those two!

Jan 202115Fri

Checked the gravity again today as it’s been 48 hours since hops were added, and she’s moved up a point to 1.015, possibly due to the inclusion of those hop pellets, which had well and truly broken up and dispersed.

Cause for minor concern are what looks like a very thin film of mould on some of the bubbles covering the top of the brew. I took care to leave these as undisturbed as possible but a large cascade of trub was visible through the side of the FV as I placed her on the window sill for syphoning. Let’s hope that the cleansing power of the hops is enough to prevent infection.

Bottling went otherwise OK and I took the opportunity to try some more over-carbing by giving 10 bottles 3 carbonation drops aimed at 750 ml, capping these with yellow crown caps. The remaining 29 bottles each received 2 carbonation drops (target = 500 ml) and a red crown cap. One solitary 275 ml Heineken bottle at the end was filled with dregs and received 2 carbonation drops, so almost double the recommended dose. Careful with that one.

All bottles were moved to the server room for two weeks, present ambient temperature 25.4 ℃.

Jan 202114Thu

I decided that this cider needed some hops before bottling, because I was impressed by the Mangrove Jack’s Dry Hopped Cider and wanted to see if I could do it too.

Before adding the 50g bag of Citra pellets I’d sourced via Amazon I racked to a new FV because there was a very slight layer of something on top, and because I’d noticed a tiny amount of airlock activity since I measured gravity yesterday. I got to just below 20 litres and was impressed how clear the cider was, and how little sediment was visible on the bottom. To be fair we did rack the vessels we transferred from Port Erin back in November, but still. Very nice. Ambient temperature in the brewery was 19.9 ℃ and I didn’t bother measuring SG again since it won’t have changed much from yesterday.

Almost as an afterthought I filled two 500 ml flip-top bottles before the hops were dumped so that we’d have a comparison, adding 10 ml of Erythritol and three carbonation drops (target = 750 ml) per bottle. I know, over-carbing again, but I really think that two drops isn’t enough for half a litre when it comes to cider, and hope that three drops won’t put us into gusher territory just yet.

Jan 202113Wed

SG is still sitting at 1.020 (maybe a smidge below) so I decided to go ahead and bottle this brew today, filling 24 of my newly arrived 330 ml ‘Steinies’. I added 2 carbonation drops (target = 500 ml) since I want a bit more fizz with this one, hopefully none will go bang in the night.

Must remember to update the forum thread with the results when I open one… and to clench my teeth while drinking, because I forgot to fit the gauze net to the bottling wand. 🤭

Storing these in the server room at 22 – 25 ℃ for 10 days, then the garage for ‘ripening’ over 6-8 weeks!

Jan 202111Mon

This is pretty sharp. Not acidic or bad, but you have to be in the frame of mind for a tart (fnar-fnar) or a Sour, otherwise this will disappoint. Based on this I think we’ll keep producing unsweetened ciders in future but we may try to stop them sooner in order to retain some of the natural sweetness rather than adding it back in with non-fermenting sweeteners. But will it be possible to carbonate them if fermentation is stopped before bottling? Need to research that one.

More Carbonation?

Speaking of bubbles, I see from the notes that each bottle had 2 carbonation drops aimed at 500 ml and while this cider is certainly sparkling it’s nowhere near the level of a sparkling wine. Might be worth paying attention to other stuff we’ve bottled and tagged as over-carb in order to get a feel for how far we can push it – maybe 3 drops would have been possible without risking explosions?

Jan 202106Wed

Tastes luv-a-ly and weighs in at 6.5% ABV – huzzah! To think I was only expecting 5%. Just seven clear flip-top 500 ml bottles on this batch, all with 2x Cooper’s carbonation drops (target = 750 ml) and no sweetener. As with the Type 25b I’m gambling a little with the carbonation but I don’t want it to be perfect for beer, I want it a tad more sparkly. Hope they don’t blow up in the server room, where they’re staying for the next 4 days before moving out to the garage for 10 days of conditioning.

Jan 202106Wed

Rocketfuel. The experiment to see how high I could push our own apple juice by adding yeast and sugar has yielded eight bottles of highly delicious, moderately debilitating fruity beverage – and that’s just an early sample from the trial jar. Crucially I neglected to get a gravity reading after adding the last batch of sugar at the start of December, but I have faith in my calculations at the time. Either way she’s at 0.996 at time of bottling. Going to write this one down as a conservative 8%, definitely to be repeated.

Another small hiccup was when I realised that the bottling wand doesn’t fit into the narrow hole on this demijohn. Instead of fudging something with a spare piece of tubing I decided to carefully decant into another vessel and syphons from there, with the risk that there will be some aeration and sediment in the bottles as a result. I briefly considered leaving the decanted brew to settle in the garage overnight before bottling, but the aeration was giving me doubts – better to put up with a small amount of sediment and get it bottled. Hope I’m right.

Anyway, we have eight clear flip-top 500 ml cider bottles, individually numbered:

  • Bottles 1-4 have 15 ml Erythritol and 2x Cooper’s carbonation drops (target 750 ml)
  • Bottles 5-8 have 10 ml Erythritol and 2x Easybrew carbonation drops (target 500 ml)

I realise I’m playing with fire by carbing so high on half my precious batch, but whenever I’ve used a target of 500 ml on my beer brews they haven’t been what I would call fizzy. OK for beer, but not what I’m hoping for with high-percentage cider. I’m storing these in the server room at 20.5 ℃ for 5 days and then moving to the garage for conditioning. Fingers crossed.