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.