Beer Becomes Too Carbonated

What went wrong? Was this supposed to happen? Should I throw it out? What do I do now?

Moderator: slothrob

Beer Becomes Too Carbonated

Postby Phoenix1 » Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:26 am

I'm trying to figure out why a couple batches of my beer have become too carbonated.

I am a relative novice. Over the last year, I have made 18 different beers, all extract and all from kits or extract recipes. My guiding light has been to try to be consistent until I get the full hang of things, then start playing.

Of the 18, all have been successful beyond my wildest imagination. Each has been flavorful, unique and as much fun to drink as to make. Only recently has this problem come up and is starting to affect my enjoyment of two of the 18.

After opening, it foams out of the bottle--although sometimes not. If not, it will foam excessively when poured. It sometimes takes five minutes or so to get the beer into the glass. Even when it settles down it is very gassy to drink.

This has happened to one batch and is starting to happen to a second.

My beermaking reading suggests that too much priming sugar or not enough fermentation time is sometimes the culprit. I keep very careful records, and I did nothing different with these that I can figure out than I did with the other 16.

The one with the largest problem was in primary for 2 weeks and secondary for two weeks. The other was in secondary for an extra week. Except for recipe, we handled both the same, used what appears to be a fairly common 5 oz of priming sugar and bottled in the same manner. Bottles were new, but of course we washed them before use.

The one with the problem was done in April-May, and the one with the emerging problem was done in June-July of last year.

Any clues about what is happening here? I have other data if you need it.

Rich
Phoenix1
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:56 am

too carbonated

Postby slothrob » Sun Jan 16, 2011 3:44 pm

Other than too much priming sugar, the most common causes of this are incomplete fermentation and contamination.

As far as fermentation, what you are doing is usually sufficient, until it isn't :)
A good way to increase your assurance that the beer has completed fermentation, before moving it out of primary, is to measure a constant gravity over three days. Check the gravity one day, then again two days later. If the gravity is not the same, leave it in the primary fermentor longer.

If you have temperature fluctuation, get a weak pack of yeast, or underpitch without making a starter, a beer can take longer to ferment completely or even stop without reaching FG. So, also make sure you are pitching sufficiently healthy yeast.

Contamination is a real possibility, since this beer has been in the bottle for a while and this often shows up as gushing fermentation (uric acid can be another cause, but that's a more difficult subject). You are at the point in your brewing career where you may have started to build up some bacteria or wild yeast in your dirty tubing or at valve connections. It may be time to replace soft plastic parts that come in contact with the beer after the boil. At least, you should give everything a very thorough cleaning and review your cleaning and sanitization procedures.
What sanitizer do you use and how do you use it and do you clean well before using it?

Personally, I think 5 oz of corn sugar is too much priming sugar for most beers (2.8 volumes of CO2 if the beer is 65°F when you add it). It certainly doesn't give you any lee-way if there is still a little unfermented sugar left in your beer. I never add more than 4 oz. (2.4 volumes of CO2) and usually stay around 3-3.5 oz (2-2.2 volumes of CO2). Big generalization: I think most beers taste better around 2 volumes of CO2.
BTP v2.0.* Windows XP
User avatar
slothrob
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 1760
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2006 1:36 pm
Location: Greater Boston

Too Carbonated

Postby Phoenix1 » Mon Jan 17, 2011 9:51 am

Thanks very much for your detailed reply. Sounds like there are a few things I might do differently.

I guess I could check the gravity at what I think is the end of primary. Question: Don't I increase the likelihood of contamination the more I handle it? I would think that the dangers of contamination would outweigh any benefits of being sure the primary is done.

My temperatures are very stable. I ferment in my basement, which has a year round temperature not varying much from about 67 degrees. The completed beer is stored there too. The only time it has varied is, of course, when I lager and one batch of raspberry wheat, when I added raspberry pulp to the secondary and stored it in my wine cellar at 56 (to avoid a second fermentation). None of the lagers or the wheat has been a problem.

On the yeast front, I could probably stand a lesson or two in "is this yeast any good?"

The two batches were both Wyeast smack packs. One was 1187 Ringwood Ale, the other 1056XL American Ale. The 1187 was the one giving us the larger problem.

With a smack pack, how do you know/test? Wr smacked both in advance of brewing and over the day both packs swelled up as expected. In both cases, we observed the customary bubbling in the few days after pitch. How else can you tell with these?

As an aside, only once have I proofed dry yeast. I know many beermakers do this, but the instructions that typically come with the kits I get do no mention it. I have not yet encountered problems with dry yeast, but I'm not sure what I'd do if, at 10:30 on a Sunday night, I come up with a dead package. Any thoughts?

Contamination does feel like the wild card in all this. We try to be as careful as we can and both clean and sanitize everything as completely as possible. We've used 1-Step as directed since beginning. I know many don't think this is good enough, and we do use Idaphor now for cleaning bottles. We changed over to that for the bottles before these two batches, and both were laid up in previously unused bottles, so bottle contamination from weak sanitizer seems unlikely.

You are correct that we have not replaced the tubing. We soak it in sanitizer, but it is clear you probably can't get everything. Replacing those might be cheap insurance against recurrence. (We siphon everything, so there are no valves involved.)

The priming sugar issue is interesting. The kits I get locally all come with 5 oz., but there's nothing saying I have to use it all. I have a supply of sugar for the non-kit recipes I've tried, and I can always cut back. I think I may try using less and see how it goes.

Of course, 2 out of 18 batches isn't too bad (and we drank most of one before it started happening). So radical changes may not be worth it, as long as we keep trying to be as sanitary as possible.

Thanks for the time you took to help.
Phoenix1
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:56 am

Re: Too Carbonated

Postby slothrob » Mon Jan 17, 2011 8:14 pm

Phoenix1 wrote: Don't I increase the likelihood of contamination the more I handle it? I would think that the dangers of contamination would outweigh any benefits of being sure the primary is done.

That's true, unless you bottle a beer that isn't finished fermenting and bottles start exploding!
Since you know you have a problem, you need to eliminate possibilities. Sanitize things properly and you should be OK, and beer is somewhat less susceptible to contamination after fermentation.
The 1187 was the one giving us the larger problem.

Sometimes British yeasts can cause this type of problem because they tend to leave a little extra sugar in the beer. Pitching a good amount of healthy yeast should prevent this from being a problem as long as temperatures remain stable. Remember that British beers are usually carbonated to lower levels, often only 1.5-2 volumes of CO2, which usually makes this a non-issue.
With a smack pack, how do you know/test? Wr smacked both in advance of brewing and over the day both packs swelled up as expected. In both cases, we observed the customary bubbling in the few days after pitch. How else can you tell with these?

Okay, you're probably not going to like this... liquid yeast supplies about half the yeast needed for an average gravity beer. That will work okay most of the time and sometimes it won't. If the yeast is a little old, for example.

Homebrewers are going to have the best results if they make starters, both to increase the yeast count and to know, for sure, that the yeast is fresh and healthy.
Dry yeast has about twice the number of yeast cells per pack as liquid yeast.
As an aside, only once have I proofed dry yeast. I know many beermakers do this, but the instructions that typically come with the kits I get do no mention it. I have not yet encountered problems with dry yeast, but I'm not sure what I'd do if, at 10:30 on a Sunday night, I come up with a dead package. Any thoughts?

I don't think you learn much from proofing the yeast, unless you get a truly dead pack. Pre-hydrating the yeast will improve the viability of the yeast over pitching directly into wort, though. Dry yeast is pretty reliable if it's kept cool and dry.
I always keep an extra pack of a good "all-purpose" dry yeast, like US-05 in my fridge in case my yeast stumbles, though.
Contamination does feel like the wild card in all this. We try to be as careful as we can and both clean and sanitize everything as completely as possible. We've used 1-Step as directed since beginning. I know many don't think this is good enough, and we do use Idaphor now for cleaning bottles. We changed over to that for the bottles before these two batches, and both were laid up in previously unused bottles, so bottle contamination from weak sanitizer seems unlikely.

1-step isn't the best sanitizer, and it requires a longer contact time to work and can fail if it isn't fresh. It's probably a better cleaner than it is a sanitizer. Iodophor is supposed to be a good sanitizer, but it isn't a cleaner, so don't suspect it to clean anything. No sanitizer will work well if the thing you're sanitizing isn't impeccably clean. I happen to like StarSan as a sanitizer, but Iodophor should be fine, if you use it correctly. Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW) is about the best all around cleaner, but you can come close to the same thing with the powder intended for dishwashers. I let it soak overnight to clean.

If you think you might have contamination in your system, washing with bleach diluted out to 1:20 with a 10-20 minute soak will virtually (but not quite) sterilize glass. But make sure you rinse the heck out of it and air it out, until there is no more trace of chlorine, or you will ruin your next beer.
You are correct that we have not replaced the tubing. We soak it in sanitizer, but it is clear you probably can't get everything.

I soak the tubing overnight in hot cleaning solution after each use, make sure I dry it completely before putting it away, then I sanitize it just before use. Every once in a while I soak it in near boiling hot water. If you use silicone tubing, you can go ahead and boil it.
The priming sugar issue is interesting. The kits I get locally all come with 5 oz., but there's nothing saying I have to use it all.

They come with 5 oz of sugar so you'll have enough for any beer, not because you need to use it all. I think some company must just package millions of packs of these. I use table sugar, myself, and try to tailor the carbonation level to the beer style, having found that most beers are better with lower carbonation. But then I'm also very fond of Cask Ale and German beer vom Fass.

These are pretty typical brewing practices. However, brewing is different things to different people. If you want to have some fun and make some beer and don't mind an occasional so-so batch, then you can get away with a more casual approach.

If it does turn out to be contamination, just beware that once it starts it often means something more insidious than usual has found it's way into your brewery and it may become a more common event. Most every beer is contaminated to some extent, but you select for things that can grow in beer the longer you brew.
BTP v2.0.* Windows XP
User avatar
slothrob
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 1760
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2006 1:36 pm
Location: Greater Boston

Postby jawbox » Wed Jan 19, 2011 1:32 am

Good info on Bottle Conditioning from the NHC this year in MN.

http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/a ... Helber.pdf
PowerMac G4 933 Mhz, 1GB Ram, 17" Studio Display, Mac OSX 10.3.9
MacBook 2.16 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1GB Ram, Mac OSX 10.6.2
IMac 2.93 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB Ram, Mac OSX 10.6.2
IPhone 5
IPad 2
I like macs ;)
User avatar
jawbox
Imperial Stout
Imperial Stout
 
Posts: 504
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 1:43 pm
Location: W. Dundee


Return to Brewing Problems, Emergencies, Help!

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron