Bottling and me; a hate, hate relationship

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Bottling and me; a hate, hate relationship

Since I have started doing "stuff" with my beer that I brew, I have begun to notice the need to revisit one of the more basic aspect of brewing; bottling. For me it's a rather contentious relationship. When I got into brewing, it was to have beer on tap. Nothing more.

With my recent misadventures in actually drinking the beer that I was bottling, I have noticed a significant difference in the product I get out of the tap and what I get out of the bottle. At first, I realized I had problems with oxidation. That was easy enough to solve, but now I appear to have problems with carbonation and with a metallic off taste.

First off, the way that I bottle is I take the brew from out of the secondary and put it into the keg. I add my 3/4 cup dex at this point. Once it's all filled up, I put some CO2 pressure on the keg to make sure it's sealed and shake enough to mix the dex and the brew. After this I use a party tap with a filling wand to fill the bottles. Easy enough.

There are a few holes I was able to locate in my process that may have caused the problems I am having;

1) Too much dex- For my latest brew, I dialed it down to 1/2 cup
2) Not rinsing - I use one-step and supposedly you are supposed to be able to do everything in "one step", but this might not be true as I have been doing that and I have flavor problems
3) Party tap - There might be something between the party tap and the wand that is causing an off flavor. I think the way to test this would be to resort to the bottling bucket

I am open to suggestions on anything that might be causing me problems here. I am going to slowly address each of these issues and see where I stand. Hopefully it's nothing serious because the beer I have been kegging has been good. Technically the bottled beer should be no different.

While so far it appears that I am the "loser" in this battle, the guys at MNB were kind enough to share their credit card information on their video so that I can get some of the parts that I need to make my brewery complete; it's mighty big of those guys to do that.


grove said...

Make sure that you purge all the oxygen out of the keg before you shake the keg. I usually close the lid, then let some CO2 in and quickly release the pressure through the release value. I do this three times. At that point the head space should be pretty much without any oxygen in it. :)

Travis said...

Good call, I'm not too sure if I do that as an item of 'I must to this' but it can be arranged going forward.

David said...


I thoroughly enjoy reading the blog. Sorry for your recent slaughtering by the MNB boys, and as a fellow northerner, I'd like to offer my .02 on your bottling issue.

First thing's first - cut out the keg. Go back to the good old bottling bucket. Works much butter, plus you can stir in your primer and not have to shake the keg, which is probably where your getting your metallic taste/oxidation. Number two, switch your primer to DME. Boil it through the hot break and add to your beer as you're siphoning into the bottling bucket. Just my opinion. Let me know what you think.


Brad Warbiany said...

When I bottle off a keg, I'm usually bottling maybe 10-12 bottles, not the whole keg. And typically, like you, I'm doing it with flat beer before I've done anything to carbonate. Because I typically force-carbonate, then, there's no reason for me to worry about adding sugar.

So what do I do? I buy the Cooper's carbonation drops, put one in each bottle before filling, and don't worry one bit about shaking or mixing in sugar.

Not sure it will solve your issue (as I just recently started filling bottles from a keg at all), but it might be easier.

Kevin LaVoy said...

Ted and I talked about oxygen when we last met up. It wasn't something I'd really given any thought to, but he freaked me out. Now when I'm tasting my beers, I'm compulsively sipping trying to pick that out of it. The problem is that after I've compulsively sipped my way through 7 beers, I can pick just about any taste that my deranged Polack mind can think of. Metallic? Sure! Diacetyl? Coming right up! Jenkem? Why the hell not! My solution to that is that I'm having a friend who is a trained chef/beer lover taste my stuff for me for some objectivity. Also Ted, since he seems to know what he's doing and I don't have to pay for shipping.

The thing is, when I go back and look at How To Brew, Palmer said that oxygen is a sherry/cardboard like taste. Do you think oxygenation is really the issue? He says that metallic flavors could be caused by the way the malts are stored. Do you grind your own malt?

Also, how do you bottle? Is it a regular bottling wand type situation? I am also from the north, and therefore not flush with the cotton harvest money, and therefore do not have shiny new Blichmann toys, so I'll have to be snaking the credit card video info as well to upgrade things. No more using a bottling bucket as a hot liquor tank for me!

Angry Ogre said...

I agree with you that oxygenation doesn't sound like the culprit for metallic tastes. Still, the idea of shaking beer after secondary, even if it's in a purged container sounds a little scary to me. Maybe try boiling your priming sugar (or extract if you want) in a cup of water, let it cool and then add that to your keg and give it a gentle stir.

Angry Ogre said...

Just wondering, do you have well water or municipal? I read that higher iron levels can lead to a metallic flavor. I say try doing your secondary in glass next time, then bottle a few from there before you transfer to your keg, that way you can tell if it's coming from the metal in the bottling wand.

Travis said...

Wow, awesome response on all of this. Here we go:

David - That's a good call and I will throw down on that next time around. It crossed my mind before, but I never did anything about it. Glad you like my blog and I appreciate the feedback.

Brad - I like the idea of those drops. A guy in my brew club has a homemade mix that he uses with a syringe, but it sounded a little sketchy to me. I'm willing to give these drop things a try.

Kevin - I use the grinder at my brew shop so I'm sure if there were a problem, there would be all sorts of ornery brewers up in arms. I use the wand with out the spring thing on the end just for measuring. I say have a ball with that credit card money, it's about time we northerners got our fair shake.

Angry - I never considered that shaking might be problematic, but I'm willing to put it all on the table at this point. I'll sanitize the spoon and stir the old fashioned way. I use municipal water and it's pretty decent water. I always secondary in glass, but I do primary in buckets. The thing that's odd about all this is that the brew from the keg is great. It's just the stuff in the bottle that has problems.

Thanks everyone for the responses. I'll be sure to post up some more on this as I investigate further.


Brad Warbiany said...

You know, now that I think of it, I do have a use for sugar in the keg...

I'm starting to brew more often, and may be storing beer outside the kegerator before actually tapping the new kegs. I think if I had the beer naturally carbonating while it's outside the keg, it would definitely help me to make sure that when a keg is rotated in, it's actually carbonated and it'll save me a few days.

Travis said...


Thats basically what I do. A key is to put some C02 on the keg to make sure it seals up properly. I usually let it set at serving carbonation for a week too, but that personal preference.