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Three Pint Stance - FTHBQ: Use the Force … carbonation

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And we are back!

For those of you just tuning in, this is sort of an ongoing thing we have here, and while I am usually the inclusive type, at this point you’re too late. Go back to the beginning of the series and catch up. Maybe see you next week? I’ll wait.

(Editor’s note: No. No, you won’t.)

Kidding of course! This is America, you do you.

Enough wasted ink, on to business. Last week we discussed the process of carbonation beer the old-fashioned way, priming your finished beer with a small amount of sugar and letting the yeast do the work for you. It’s a time-tested and true process, but there is some variability in it and it takes time.

Being American impatient, you’ll inevitable want your beer to be drinkable faster! Who can blame you?

Here is my lightly researched primer on how to ditch the priming sugar. Always remember to do your own research and be sure to talk to the people who know what’s what at your local homebrew shop.

(Alternatively, if you live in downtown Bangor, just yell “JOSH” as loud as you can out an open window and you’ll probably get some help, along with many confused looks)

Let’s talk theory. When we are carbonating beer (or any liquid for that matter), we are literally dissolving CO2 into the liquid. CO2 is a cryogenic gas, meaning it is actually frozen in the bottle and boils as needed into a gas form and then it goes through the regulator and into our pressurized container at the PSI level dictated by said regulator. That last sentence makes sense to me because I spend 35 percent of my life in a walk-in keg cooler these days; I get it, this stuff can seem intimidating at first. Just remember that I figured it out and I am pretty dumb.

(Editor’s note: Can confirm.)

So you have a draft system and you have finished beer, but you don’t feel like adding priming sugar to your keg because it just seems foolish. You are right, it is! (And take it easy, real ale/natural carbonation snobs - this one isn’t about you and nobody likes it when you make everything about you, so stop!)

The time has come for you to use the force … carbonation!

(DISCLOSURE: The following info is pretty much my synopsis of this very informative article: https://learn.kegerator.com/force-carbonating-beer/. Click that link to learn more and give these people some internet money via your advertised-to eyeballs.)

To pour beer from your kegerator, you usually set your regulator to 10-14 PSI and enjoy. 10-14 PSI (this is a range because every beer has a different optimal dissolved CO2 rate, and the size and length of your beer lines will affect flow (refer to the owners’ manual or one of the many online resources for guidance here). Long story short, the pouring pressure is set so that the keg will maintain the CO2 dissolved in the beer, but not introduce any more into the beer and over-carbonate it. When force carbonating, you WANT to introduce CO2 to the beer, so we turn the gas up!

Here, you can do one of two things depending on how impatient you are.

If you set the keg to 20 PSI, double check the fridge temp to make sure it is around 34-36 degrees and go away for five or six days. That should give the beer enough time to dissolve that mass of CO2 that has been sitting on top of it.

Alternatively, you could set the keg to 20 PSI, pick it up, (carefully!) shake the living hell out of it, put it down, walk away and maybe come back and do that every hour or so for like a day and you’ll have carbonated beer! By shaking, you are just increasing the amount of beer that is making contact with the pressurized CO2 thus helping it dissolve into the cold beer.

There you have it! Carbonated beer, and you didn’t have to feed billions of microorganisms to do it. Remember to set your regulator back to your pouring pressure and bleed out the excess head pressure in the keg using the pressure relief valve.

If this seemed overly complicated, it sort of is! Kegging and force carbonating beer is definitely not for everyone, but if you are looking for the next step in your home brewing adventure, this might be it!

Cheers to fizzy beers!

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 March 2018 16:47

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