Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

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Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby David » Sat Sep 06, 2014 7:22 am

Hi

I am just putting the fermentation / conditioning side of my brewing set up together. I keep alternating between different hardware solutions. The primary fermentation is likely to be plastic (Speidal plastic 2x30 litre or 1 x 60 litre) as I cannot afford SS at the moment.

The issue is really with secondary fermentation and later conditioning. It seems to me an elegant and effective approach is to use Cornelius keg(s) for secondary fermentation. Later it also lends itself to transfer to a second keg for conditioning and carbonation.

My impression is that I can dry hop in the secondary (keg) using a bag/cage etc., I can cold crash in the secondary also when the time comes – though I wonder how people deal with the sediment/dropout that is likely at the bottom of the keg that will be drawn into the beer dip-tube? I think I have read that some people cut the dip-tube to sit a bit higher in the bottom of the keg. Does this work? What I aim to do is transfer to the second (conditioning) keg with as much clarity as possible. I am interested to hear how these problems are addressed.

Also, in secondary fermentation – do I have to prime the keg with sugar? Or can I skip that and rely on C02 carbonation from a cylinder (assuming I have achieved my target final gravity). Recommendations for good practice around secondary FV processes and conditioning of any sort welcome. Thanks.

David
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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby dinnerstick » Sat Sep 06, 2014 8:11 am

i dry hop and condition in corny kegs a lot. there are many ways to approach it, most of them you already brought up. first, if by 'secondary' fermentation you mean the old homebrewer thing of transferring the beer to a new vessel when fermentation is done, i personally think it's pointless. i say, let it ferment, and when it's done transfer it to a serving keg or bottles. but there are endless, often heated, online debates about this issue. regardless, as you point out, for dry hopping this is a very useful concept, to get the beer off the yeast first, especially if you are reusing the yeast. some people use a hop sack weighted down (large marbles, stainess steel bolts, etc) and tied to a piece of dental floss, i have done this but find it a bit of a faff, so i prefer to dry hop with pellets, and just throw them in the keg 'free range'. cold crashing at as low a temp as you can get it after the dry hop time will send those pellets to the bottom of the keg in a nice compact layer. then, as you noted, you can either cut or bend the dip tube and transfer under pressure, great as it keeps the beer away from oxygen, but not great as it's tough to avoid getting hop pellets in the keg fittings, or siphon to a new keg (purged first with CO2), i prefer the latter despite the higher risk of exposure. once the keg poppets are clogged with hops it's a real pain to get them unclogged, and if this happens while your beer is under pressure you are in trouble; you need to get the fittings swapped out without the beer ending up on the ceiling (ask how i know). once transferred you can either prime the keg with sugar, or force carbonate from a cylinder. the beer is cold from the cold crash, and if it's a dry hopped beer it's not something i'm going to age or leave around warm, so i usually force carbonate straight away. if you prime with sugar, and i've never understood the rationale behind this but agree that it is for some reason the case, you use about half of the recommended amount of bottling sugar for the CO2 level you want. no idea why but it seems to work. if the final CO2 level is low you can always bump it up from the cylinder before serving. last note, if you are using the corny to condition for a while, or to lager, where some yeast and particulates are coming out of suspension but not loads, i wouldn't worry about transfer to a new keg after that, just serve from that keg. unless you move it around a lot, the first glass with have a bit of yeast and it will pour clear after that.
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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby David » Sat Sep 06, 2014 8:27 am

Dinnerstick

Thanks for your advice. One thing you mentioned:

dinnerstick wrote: Once transferred you can either prime the keg with sugar, or force carbonate from a cylinder. the beer is cold from the cold crash, and if it's a dry hopped beer it's not something i'm going to age or leave around warm, so i usually force carbonate straight away.


I am curious, do i have to keep the beer cold/cool to preserve the benefits of dry-hopping? I ask, because, to complicate things further, I want to transfer the conditioned beer under counter pressure to bottles to distribute. Thoughts?




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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby BrauTim » Sat Sep 06, 2014 8:28 am

I've moved on from cornies to sankey s type with micromatic connector and PRV. Cornies are good but Sankey is better IMO.

You have options for conditioning, I usually cold crash for at least a week in primary before dropping to keg, I use gelatine or isinglass during cold crashing to speed up flocculation so most of the yeast has dropped in the primary before it reaches the keg. Once in keg I then force carbonate for a day or two until it's reached the right level of carbonation, carbonation improves as time goes by, but depending on style I can be drinking almost straight away (especially wheat beers). The longer in the keg the clearer the beer will get. I get approx 200ml of waste on the first pour and then it clear until the very last drop. The design of sankeys means that there is around 100ml of waste in the keg when it's finished. I wouldn't worry to much about dip tubes in a cornie they are similar to sankey, there isn't much waste. Maybe some people don't clear there beer before dropping into keg and need an extra gap, I don't with my process.

You can prime in keg and leave to carbonate naturally, same result just takes longer.

If you want really clear kegged beer for travelling then just carbonate very lightly and leave it for week or two, then transfer to second keg to carbonate properly, clear beer bottling can be done this way also, just prime the beer as you are filling the second keg and bottle straight away. I use a Blichmann beer gun for bottling, although I haven't bottled from sankey yet as I've only just switched and been serving from keg for the last 3 months. In the case of the beer gun you don't need to prime you can just force carbonate.

For temps I normally crash close to zero, once kegged I carbonate at 4c until right then for English styles move it to 10-12c for serving.
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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby David » Sat Sep 06, 2014 8:52 am

BrauTim

Thanks for your response.

BrauTim wrote:I've moved on from cornies to sankey s type with micromatic connector and PRV. Cornies are good but Sankey is better IMO.


Sankey S - nice idea but they do not seem so available. I will dip my toes with the Corny keg for now, but should I ever ramp up production then yes, the decision would need revisiting.

BrauTim wrote:You have options for conditioning, I usually cold crash for at least a week in primary before dropping to keg, I use gelatine or isinglass during cold crashing to speed up flocculation so most of the yeast has dropped in the primary before it reaches the keg.


This is something that had slipped past me - could be a solution if i do not want to re-use yeast. Will an extra week on the trube impact the flavour negatively ? Yet another contentious brewing issue!


BrauTim wrote:If you want really clear kegged beer for travelling then just carbonate very lightly and leave it for week or two, then transfer to second keg to carbonate properly, clear beer bottling can be done this way also, just prime the beer as you are filling the second keg and bottle straight away.


To clarify, when you say prime, do you mean with sugar , or as i think, you mean force carbonate, then transfer to bottles?

One last thing when you fill your keg with beer - do you fill it 100% or how much head space do you leave in the keg, if any (obviously purged and made up of CO2)? I have not read/seen a clear explanation of this. Thanks
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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby dinnerstick » Sat Sep 06, 2014 9:43 am

David wrote:I am curious, do i have to keep the beer cold/cool to preserve the benefits of dry-hopping? I ask, because, to complicate things further, I want to transfer the conditioned beer under counter pressure to bottles to distribute. Thoughts?



exactly, cold preserves the delicate flavors longer. but also cold liquid dissolves more CO2, so force carbonating is easier when the beer is cold. bottling from the keg is great, i use a beergun (love it!) but counter pressure is also fine.
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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby dinnerstick » Sat Sep 06, 2014 9:52 am

David wrote:This is something that had slipped past me - could be a solution if i do not want to re-use yeast. Will an extra week on the trube impact the flavour negatively ? Yet another contentious brewing issue!


but, the answer is... no! it won't. many people leave (like me) often leave beer on the yeast cake for 4-6 weeks. there is no problem!

David wrote:One last thing when you fill your keg with beer - do you fill it 100% or how much head space do you leave in the keg, if any (obviously purged and made up of CO2)? I have not read/seen a clear explanation of this. Thanks


i fill it as high as i can. sometimes the 'in' dip tube is submerged in the beer. you can hear CO2 bubbling in. no problem. as long as you can get the lid on you're good! although, i suppose if you're force carbonating by the 'set and forget' method, where you turn up the pressure and leave it, you might want the maximum surface area at the beer/gas interface, so probably a filling it to the tippy top is ill advised. if you're doing the 'quicky carb' method, where you roll the keg back and forth with your foot for 20 minutes while you watch youtube videos, then i think it doesn't matter much.
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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby David » Sat Sep 06, 2014 10:27 am

Quick follow up to this point Dinnerstick. I have seen some people attaching a 0.5 micron air stone to the gas in tube. Submerged into the beer in the keg and allegedly to improve diffusion and also mouthfeel of eventual product.

Worth trying?

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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby dinnerstick » Sat Sep 06, 2014 10:40 am

if i'm not mistaken that's what big breweries use in the bright tanks to carbonate. i do have 2 micron stone but i use it for oxygenation of wort, so i have no experience using it for carbonation. but from what i've heard it should make a 2 week carbonation happen in mere minutes! i guess you will want it at the bottom of the keg, so the fine bubbles dissolve as they travel up through the liquid. i'm sure you can find info online for that.
i can't see how it will change mouthfeel; dissolved CO2 is dissolved CO2 no matter how it got there.
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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby BrauTim » Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:02 am

David wrote:BrauTim

Thanks for your response.

BrauTim wrote:I've moved on from cornies to sankey s type with micromatic connector and PRV. Cornies are good but Sankey is better IMO.


Sankey S - nice idea but they do not seem so available. I will dip my toes with the Corny keg for now, but should I ever ramp up production then yes, the decision would need revisiting.


Check out Crusader Kegs if you're in the UK, the 20L kegs are cheaper than used cornies and hold a bit more Crusader Kegs

BrauTim wrote:You have options for conditioning, I usually cold crash for at least a week in primary before dropping to keg, I use gelatine or isinglass during cold crashing to speed up flocculation so most of the yeast has dropped in the primary before it reaches the keg.


This is something that had slipped past me - could be a solution if i do not want to re-use yeast. Will an extra week on the trube impact the flavour negatively ? Yet another contentious brewing issue!


The longest I've gone is around 3 weeks, I have no experience of autolysis but I think it could be much longer than you would ever need to keep it in a fermenter for, especially at lower temps.


BrauTim wrote:If you want really clear kegged beer for travelling then just carbonate very lightly and leave it for week or two, then transfer to second keg to carbonate properly, clear beer bottling can be done this way also, just prime the beer as you are filling the second keg and bottle straight away.


To clarify, when you say prime, do you mean with sugar , or as i think, you mean force carbonate, then transfer to bottles?


Priming with sugar or carbonating will work with a beer gun, carbonating only will work with a beer gun. I do whatever is most convenient given my brewing schedule and work/life/brewing balance :wink:

One last thing when you fill your keg with beer - do you fill it 100% or how much head space do you leave in the keg, if any (obviously purged and made up of CO2)? I have not read/seen a clear explanation of this. Thanks


With cornies it was just under the IN tube, with Sankey it's up to the top seam of the keg providing surface area for CO2 absorption (as Dinnerstick mentions).
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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby Dicko » Sat Sep 06, 2014 12:22 pm

HERE is a nifty lid for carbonating corny kegs with a stone.
It is a tad expensive in my opinion but you could make one a lot cheaper if you wished to do so.

:cheers:
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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby David » Sat Sep 06, 2014 1:23 pm

Dicko wrote:HERE is a nifty lid for carbonating corny kegs with a stone.
It is a tad expensive in my opinion but you could make one a lot cheaper if you wished to do so.

:cheers:


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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby Luis Coentrao » Sat Sep 06, 2014 2:59 pm

Hi guys,

Nice posts here!
Here it is my procedure. Hope to hear from you your critics:
1. Primary in a Glass Carboy 6.5 gallons
2. After primary ends, transfer to keg at fermentation temperature (I'm doing lagers, 12C finishing fermentation temperature). At the moment with a simple siphon, in the near future with a Siphon Starter (from MoreBeer) under CO2.
3. Dry hop with musselin bag suspended in the keg lid (in a near future with chads hop sieve) at 12-14C during one week.
4. Remove hops, replace the keg lid, cold crash at minus 2.
5. Begin forced carbonation (let it, and forget it method), 8 PSI, for 7-10 days.
6.Transfer to serving keg under CO2 and bottling with Beergun.

:beer:
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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby David » Sat Sep 06, 2014 5:45 pm

Luis Coentrao wrote:Hi guys,

Nice posts here!
Here it is my procedure. Hope to hear from you your critics:
1. Primary in a Glass Carboy 6.5 gallons
2. After primary ends, transfer to keg at fermentation temperature (I'm doing lagers, 12C finishing fermentation temperature). At the moment with a simple siphon, in the near future with a Siphon Starter (from MoreBeer) under CO2.
3. Dry hop with musselin bag suspended in the keg lid (in a near future with chads hop sieve) at 12-14C during one week.
4. Remove hops, replace the keg lid, cold crash at minus 2.
5. Begin forced carbonation (let it, and forget it method), 8 PSI, for 7-10 days.
6.Transfer to serving keg under CO2 and bottling with Beergun.

:beer:



Luis, thanks for your reply: interesting. I hope to graduate to lagers at some point if all goes well. It's interesting that on this thread respondents appear to prefer the beer gun for bottle transfer. I heard the BG can be a bit lively and have opted for counter pressure bottle filling (despite its unwieldiness) - practice will make perfect!.

http://morebeer.com/search?search=under+counter

David
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Re: Secondary fermentation and conditioning in kegs.

Unread postby Nesto » Sat Sep 06, 2014 6:37 pm

David wrote:Luis, thanks for your reply: interesting. I hope to graduate to lagers at some point if all goes well. It's interesting that on this thread respondents appear to prefer the beer gun for bottle transfer. I heard the BG can be a bit lively and have opted for counter pressure bottle filling (despite its unwieldiness) - practice will make perfect!.

http://morebeer.com/search?search=under+counter

David


I have both the Beer Gun and a MoreBeer CPBF (this one). I MUCH prefer the Beergun. I've sprayed a lot more beer around with the CPBF! (Which I've had longer). As long as you follow their instructions, the Beer Gun is an absolute breeze to use. I've relegated my CPBF to bottling only my sour beers and use the Blichmann on all my regular beers - the majority of beer I bottle.
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