Tag Archives: beer-gun

May 202122Sat

Pretty straight forward kegging / bottling session today; filled the 10 litre MJ mini keg and 14 x 330 ml Steinie bottles with black caps. I left Bag Thing attached from cold-crashing as I moved the 25 litre SS Brewtech bucket out of the fridge and plumbed in a T-piece so that I could feed in CO2 from the keg as it filled and wouldn’t need to keep topping up the bag from my cylinder in order to prevent oxidation. The plastic bag acts as a great buffer in this respect and prevents any vacuum locks – not that I think O2 elimination is particularly important for this brew, but good practice all the same.

Once the keg was filled I plumbed in the Beer Gun and started to fill some Steinies, 4 at a time primed with 2.5 ml of Dextrose using a baking spoon and putting on a sanitised black crown cap as soon as the final blast of O2 was deployed. I’m sure I had about 18 litres in the fermenter and as 10 of those were kegged there should have been 24 Steinies to fill, but I only got 15 from what was left. To add insult to injury I had to chuck one of those away between capping and warm-conditioning as I noticed cracks in the upper neck of the bottle due to a manufacturing defect. Best not to risk an explosion or internal injuries from glass shards. Tough call though.

On a positive note I did recoup some yeast using a sterilised (boiling water) spoon and a sample tube which was from a batch originally purchased for Geocaching purposes. There was easily enough for another 1 lb honey jar in the bottom of the FV but I only grabbed enough for a small vial, reasoning that I’d probably use all of that to make a starter so there should be enough.

Apr 202109Fri

Took just over 24 hours to get from room temperature down to 4.0 ℃ in the brew fridge. I had that dialled to ‘med’ for the first half and then just below ‘max’ for the second as I didn’t want to freeze the 19 litre keg of Golden Wave that was already in there, nearing the end of it’s conditioning phase. Three days later I’m ready to put this, my third extract brew, into final packaging.

I don’t want to tie up both 5 litre mini kegs and also put some bottles away to share, so it makes sense to try and guess the number of bottles I could fill while also using as much of one keg as possible. In the end I went for 8 x 500 ml silver crown-caps and hoped for a nearly-full keg to allow room for carbonation, but realistically kegged somewhere between 3.5 and 4 litres.

For the bottles I used the Blichmann Beer Gun again, and thinking about it this may have been it’s first outing with actual beer. I set the SS Brewtech Mini Bucket onto the lab platform (plastic palette over the bath) and relied on gravity to pull liquid through my Bouncer filter from the bucket’s spigot and into the beer gun. Even with this modest drop in elevation the flow was enough. Gas was routed to the beer gun via one ⅜ line with another feeding Bag Thing on top of the bucket behind a John Guest tap and T-piece. Absolutely no flaws in setup here; both gas and liquid being delivered efficiently even if I did forget to purge the filter with CO2 before starting. Oops. Each bottle was primed with 5 ml of dextrose – conveniently using a baking measuring utensil I found in the kitchen. Hopefully it’s near the 3.3g that I need for 2.4 vols, according to the calculator. She’ll be right.

Once bottling was done I was about to start rigging up the necessary equipment to fill a 5 litre mini keg with sanitiser and then flush it with CO2 when I realised that, actually, this is just a really big bottle which will get drunk as soon as it’s carbonated in a week’s time. I still had the beer gun set up for bottling so I just used that, giving the keg a decent blast of gas and then filling it until I started seeing bubbles coming from the bucket. I couldn’t remember how low the dip tube was set and was keen to try my new filter, so I gave the spigot a clockwise turn until it started drawing liquid again. One or two lumps could then be seen making their way towards the Bouncer but not beyond, so I kept fiddling with the spigot until no amount of turning would result in more beer. That’s eight bottles and almost a 5 litre keg. Nice one!

Mar 202131Wed

After spending a day in the cold I’ve decided that not much more is going to drop out of this beer, so it’s time to hit the keg and free up the fermenter for my next concoction. There being just under 22 litres in the Fermzilla I opted for a fully closed transfer to a 19 litre Cornelius keg and the rest into bottles, and it almost went without a hitch.

Starting a fully closed transfer was as simple as connecting the liquid out posts of the two pressure-balanced vessels with my newly rigged transfer line (2 bits of silicone hose and a large Bouncer filter) and then briefly popping the PRV on the lowered keg in order to start the syphoning process. As soon as beer is in motion the two gas posts were connected with a straight pipe between two disconnects – simple. Naturally the keg was purged of air beforehand by filling it with sanitiser and then pushing that out with bottled CO2, doing the same with the filtered beer line and also flushing the gas line in the process.

I initially gave both the Fermzilla and the keg just 5 PSI because I didn’t want to risk blowing the silicone hose off my filter’s barbs, but increased it to 12 PSI when I noticed that the piece of hose downstream from the filter was ¼ full of tiny bubbles which I first took to be an air leak despite the enthusiastically tightened plastic union. Seems that it wasn’t an air leak but carbonation escaping my beer as it rushed through the filter, and increasing pressure back to serving PSI fixed that.

Using the Blichmann Beer Gun was less successful, largely because even the slightest bit of pressure caused beer to squirt out of the muzzle due to the design of the silicone bead at the end. To get any level of control I had to purge the Fermzilla of pressure entirely and rely on gravity to dispense the already carbonated beer, which wasn’t nearly as clean as it sounds and resulted in just two bottles filled, barely justifying the amount of cleaning that was necessary afterwards.

Ending on a positive note, I rigged a clumsy arrangement of silicone and carbonation cap so that I could use the beer gun with the same transfer line as I’d used for the kegs, which was relocated from the floating pick-up tube to one of the posts on the Fermzilla’s collection jar. By a happy coincidence the level of settled trub was just below this post, and I was able to draw quite a bit more beer than the floating dip tube would have given me.

I’d like to say I’ll use this method again, but chances are that if I’ve used the Fermzilla then my beer will be at least partially carbonated by the time it’s ready to bottle, and unfortunately this really isn’t the beer gun’s strong side. Nice try though.

Mar 202115Mon

A late session today saw me putting away the S&B cider 7 days after starting primary. The flavouring was added 24 hours ago so it’s too late to worry whether or not I should have left it for another couple of days, time to get it packed.

I started by taking another gravity reading out of habit, although I suspected it might be invalid with all that flavouring in there. Wasn’t disappointed – she registered 1.013 which I’m taking as additional non-fermenting sugar (i.e. the sachet of pear and strawberry flavour concentrate) combined with no further fermentation of what was already in there. I’m therefore recording the reading of 1.013 on this log but using 1.011 from yesterday as the final gravity, producing 5.25% ABV against an expected 4.7%. Had we made it all the way to 1.007 we’d be looking at 5.78%. Yikes!

All Change

With the sample taken it was time to set up the racking cane / auto syphon as usual, and while doing so I decided to do two things differently this time: fill one of my small kegs and carbonate with CO2 in order to see if it impacts the taste compared to primed bottles, and try out my new Blichmann Beer Gun on its first bottling run.

I cleaned and sanitised a 5 litre mini keg but didn’t bother purging it with Star San and then CO2 as I would while doing a closed transfer from the Fermzilla, as there seemed little point in trying to keep oxygen out when racking from an open bucket. Instead I filled it to within a couple of inches from the top using the bottling cane and then cranked it to 30 PSI before popping the PRV a couple of times (may as well get some oxygen out) and putting it in the fridge next to my other 5 litre keg containing the last of my Bure Gold. Time to try out that Beer Gun.

A Small Error

A cursory glance at the new gadget showed it came with a black disconnect, so I started by racking the remaining cider into a clean 19 litre Cornelius keg using the still connected bottling cane. It looked to be around 17 litres and since I was almost out of carbonation drops I decided to weigh two of them, the recommended dose per 500ml bottle, and multiply the resulting 5g by 17 to tell me how much dextrose I need to add. That was around three hours ago, and it’s only now that I’ve pulled up the Beer Priming Calculator in order to see if my quantity of priming sugar tallies with Brewer’s Friend that I’ve spotted the mistake: there’s two bottles per litre not one. I’ve therefore added half as much as I should have, which explains why Brewer’s Friend recommends 160g of Dextrose for a fruit lambic – about the closest to cider in my opinion. Oh well, looks like it’ll be a slightly sparkling cider this time around.

That was three hours ago and I carried on in blissful ignorance, adding the sugar to the Corny keg as the bucket emptied. Once I had all the cider I was going to get from the bucket I capped the keg and hooked up the gas, again popping the PRV a couple of times in order to dump some oxygen from the top of the vessel. The beer gun was quickly taken apart for inspection and sanitation, and I saw the first problem: the gas line was designed to screw onto a male regulator post, which I didn’t have. I did have a John Guest T-piece and some more beer / gas line, so I used that instead of the gas line that came with the beer gun. Not ideal since it’s quite stiff and made the process unnecessarily cumbersome, but I was determined to try it out.

Ready … Aim …

Once back together the beer gun worked very well, letting me purge oxygen from each bottle before filling it to the top and purging some more while drawing out the nozzle, then capping straight away. I think it’s a very slick tool and once I’d cranked up the pressure to around 15 PSI I was able to fill bottles at a good rate, though doing this with partially carbonated beer straight from the Fermzilla might require a bit more experimentation as there’s bound to be some foam, whereas the cider was totally placid. Might end up using a fair bit of gas though, so perhaps reserve it for ultra-hoppy beers?

Then again, this is the first bottling run following my first kegging session, and I’m inclined to agree with everyone who sings the benefits of kegging thanks not only to the superior taste of draught, but also due to the simplicity and speed of the kegging process compared to cleaning bottles, filling them while watching out for oxygen, capping them, and washing up afterwards.

And if you cock up the carbonation it’s as easy as cranking up the regulator.