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Sucking up sanitizer while lagering

 
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Homeshaker



Joined: 20 Apr 2011
Posts: 7



PostLink    Posted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:17 am    Post subject: Sucking up sanitizer while lagering Reply with quote


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Two questions for the forum. I'm in the middle of fermentation/aging on my first lager in my two 7-gal SS Brew Buckets with domed lids and 3" triclamps. Each Brew Bucket is in its own beverage fridge, each has a 1" blowoff tube running down to a mason jar filled with sanitizer. I've brewed 5 or 6 ales and ciders in this setup without issue.

1-
During primary fermentation, one fermentor had normal bubble activity coming out of the blow off, and the other vessel barely bubbled. I use Tilt Hydrometers to track fermentation, and can see the gravity drop. There just wasn't much bubble activity from the second fermentor. I'm suspecting this is because I have a leak somewhere, and the CO2 is not being forced through the blowoff tube. I did miscalculated my boil volume on this batch and while I was able to fill one fermentor to the usually 6gal mark, the other only got 4.5gal of wort. And of course I was rushing to finish at the end of a long day and didn't mark which fermentor is the short one and which is the full one. But even if the short one is the one with a lack of activity, the extra head space is still full of gas that would need to be pushed out when the CO2 is created by the yeast, right? You can't fill the headspace with C02 and not see any activity, right?

2-
Got through primary fermentation and am in the middle of lowering the temp of the beer gradually down from 52, to my aging temp of 43. One fermentor (the one that had normal bubble activity), is sucking up sanitizer as I lower the temp. I typically cold crash my beer just before I transfer to my kegs (usually moving from 65 degrees to 41 as quickly as possible), and am used to a little sanitizer being sucked up. II've alway assumed this was from a pressure change created by reducing the temp inside the fermentor. But in this gradual lagering process I'm losing a full mason jar every two degrees. I've probably got 32oz of sanitizer in the fermentor now. I'm assuming this batch is toast, but any suggestions on how to prevent this in the future?

Thanks
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 10567
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Creamsicle, London Pride, Kolsch, German Pils, Belgian Dubbel, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter

Working on: Weizen, Belgian Quad, Belgian IPA


PostLink    Posted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 12:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Sucking up sanitizer while lagering Reply with quote

Quote:
But even if the short one is the one with a lack of activity, the extra head space is still full of gas that would need to be pushed out when the CO2 is created by the yeast, right?

Correct. If there's less wort the total amount of CO2 that will be produced will be less of course but you should still see activity. You likely have a leak/poor seal somewhere as you mentioned.

Quote:
Got through primary fermentation and am in the middle of lowering the temp of the beer gradually down from 52, to my aging temp of 43. One fermentor (the one that had normal bubble activity), is sucking up sanitizer as I lower the temp.

If the other one isn't this is pretty much proof that you have a leak somewhere.

Note that this leak (at the end of the day) will likely do nothing to affect your beer. While it's always best to ferment in a sealed environment and control where CO2 escapes (to avoid any nasties getting in there), some brewers have been brewing completely open for years.

Quote:
I typically cold crash my beer just before I transfer to my kegs (usually moving from 65 degrees to 41 as quickly as possible), and am used to a little sanitizer being sucked up. II've alway assumed this was from a pressure change created by reducing the temp inside the fermentor.

Not really the pressure change, but the difference in volume. Colder liquid takes less space so it needs to replace that space with something, in this case whatever fluid you have in your airlock.

Quote:
But in this gradual lagering process I'm losing a full mason jar every two degrees. I've probably got 32oz of sanitizer in the fermentor now. I'm assuming this batch is toast, but any suggestions on how to prevent this in the future?

Don't cold crash until you're in the keg on CO2 pressure. That's what I do.

As an aside, in my 30 years of brewing I've never used sanitizer in my airlocks ( either s-shaped, 3 piece, or when I use a jar like this: https://www.instagram.com/p/ByP8okmHKFx/ ) and while my conditions are a lot cleaner now, where I'd ferment back in my engineering school days was far from 'clean' (living with 7 guys Wink ) and never had something find its way in through the airlock into the beer and spoil the beer. Knock on wood! I just don't see how it's probable or possible. Nothing wrong with using it of course, I just don't see the point especially if your process is prone to sucking airlock fluid into the beer. Not that you'd want lots of water getting into your beer either, watering it down, but a little bit won't be noticed.

Not sure what sanitizer you used but supposedly starsan mixed to the 'correct' usage concentration is ok to consume, but not sure I'd want to. Not to mention too much may throw off the beer flavour. The manufacturer does mention to call poison control if ingested but they mean ingesting straight from the bottle (concentrated): https://www.fivestarchemicals.com/wp-content/uploads/StarSanTech-HB2.pdf

Cheers!

Kal

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Homeshaker



Joined: 20 Apr 2011
Posts: 7



PostLink    Posted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for replying Kal.

Quote:
Not really the pressure change, but the difference in volume. Colder liquid takes less space so it needs to replace that space with something, in this case whatever fluid you have in your airlock.

This makes sense. What doesn't is the amount of volume. I can't imaging that 6 gallons is changing volume by 16 oz every 2 degrees. I did a little bit of math, and the volume change for 6 gallons of water dropping from 52 degrees to 43 degrees should only be about 5oz. Thats why I was initially thinking about a pressure change, suddenly reversing the blowoff and turning it into a syphon. Wish I could figure out a fix for this.

Quote:
Don't cold crash until you're in the keg on CO2 pressure. That's what I do.

Interesting. Are you transferring to a keg, crashing, reversing your lines and then moving to a new keg to serve? A cold crash had been described to me as a way to clarify beer. So if I crashed in a serving keg, wouldn't I suck up everything that fell out of suspension in the first few servings? And if I crashed in a serving keg, aren't I really just chilling to serving temp?

Quote:
As an aside, in my 30 years of brewing I've never used sanitizer in my airlocks

Thats a good idea. When I was fermenting in glass carboys, I used cheap vodka in my S locks, and Starsan in a bucket when I needed a blowoff tube. When I switched over to the Brew Buckets and decided to stop messing around with bungs and S locks, I didn't think twice about using anything other than Starsan in mason jars. But, now that everything is tucked away inside a clean fridge, I may as well just use water. I've never gotten sick from drinking a little Starsan, but it does change the flavor, water would be better. One the plus side, I've read a little Starsan can help with head retention.

Charlie
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 10567
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Creamsicle, London Pride, Kolsch, German Pils, Belgian Dubbel, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter

Working on: Weizen, Belgian Quad, Belgian IPA


PostLink    Posted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Homeshaker wrote:
A cold crash had been described to me as a way to clarify beer.

It can help, yes, but isn't required. i.e. beer will clarify without cold crashing. Also helps with chill haze, but that will go away normally too.

Quote:
So if I crashed in a serving keg, wouldn't I suck up everything that fell out of suspension in the first few servings?

Yes. Dump the first pint. Or just use a brite tank first (I'll sometimes use 5 gallon carboys for this). Let stuff settle out there and then rack off and cold crash. Over the years I tend to do this less and less, going more and more from fermenter to keg as it's less steps, less chance of oxidation (even though I do purge all vessels first). And it's simpler.

Every beer is different. For hop forward beers I tend to do less steps. If it's a lager that I want to condition for ~2 months I'll usually use gelatin in a brite before kegging.

Quote:
And if I crashed in a serving keg, aren't I really just chilling to serving temp?

And conditioning, clarifying, etc.

If you need to travel with your kegs then that's a whole other story. Other than going from my 6-keg conditioning fridge to my 8-10 keg keezer or 2-3 keg kegerator they don't go anywhere. I fill growlers from the taps for beer that I take with me. If you want to take a whole keg, I'd transfer from one keg to the next (closed) and be careful near the end as you don't want to suck up any sludge negating the whole transfer.

Cheers!

Kal

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johnpbuckles



Joined: 18 May 2020
Posts: 11
Location: Denver, CO

Drinking: Juicy J NEIPA


PostLink    Posted: Wed May 20, 2020 5:59 am    Post subject: Sanitizer suck-back Reply with quote

I had my first experience with sanitizer suck-back recently. I cold-crashed my SS brew bucket fermenter inside my kegerator, with my blow-off tube still in my bucket of sanitizer solution. When I checked on the beer, I noticed the sanitizer solution was almost entirely gone from the blow-off bucket! Obviously, there was nowhere for it to have gone except into my chocolate coffee stout! Sad
Fortunately, Star San is entirely edible, and mostly tasteless. I could detect a strange flavor at first, but after a week or so, a few ounces of Star San solution in a 5 gallon batch quickly became unnoticeable and the beer ended up great after all.

As Kal mentioned, suck-back is due to the ideal gas law. Cold gas occupies less volume than warm gas. When you cold crash, the head space in your fermenter reduces its volume and creates a minor vacuum. If you have rigged a blow-off tube, this is basically like slowly sucking on a straw, and it will take your sanitizer up the tube into your beer! An S-shaped traditional airlock should not present this issue, because it allows ambient air to freely flow into your fermenter (as well as CO2 blow-off to escape). A blow-off tube is one-way, and only allows CO2 blow-off to escape, albeit much more volume at once than an airlock might.

I have read and seen all sorts of crazy and complex ideas online, but I came up with a simple solution. When you are ready to cold crash, simply take your blow-off tube out of your sanitizer solution and insert a rubber stopper with a hole. I use a 1/2" blow-off tube with a #2 stopper https://www.morebeer.com/products/rubber-stopper-2-hole-1.html?a_aid=theelectricbrewery. My SS brew bucket came with exactly the stopper needed. Insert a traditional S-shaped airlock into the stopper, and hang it somewhere convenient. I poked a small hole in the manufacturing span, and used a paperclip to hang mine on my CO2 manifold inside my kegerator. This way, you don't have to open your fermenter to change the type of airlock, but you can still rig a blow-off tube and later avoid sanitizer suck-back!
Worked great with my recent NEIPA!
https://flic.kr/p/2j3MbWT

Cheers!
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 10567
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Creamsicle, London Pride, Kolsch, German Pils, Belgian Dubbel, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter

Working on: Weizen, Belgian Quad, Belgian IPA


PostLink    Posted: Wed May 20, 2020 12:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Sanitizer suck-back Reply with quote

johnpbuckles wrote:
Insert a traditional S-shaped airlock into the stopper, and hang it somewhere convenient. I poked a small hole in the manufacturing span, and used a paperclip to hang mine on my CO2 manifold inside my kegerator. This way, you don't have to open your fermenter to change the type of airlock, but you can still rig a blow-off tube and later avoid sanitizer suck-back! Worked great with my recent NEIPA!

Except that this method introduces atmosphere into the fermenting vessel which we don't want as the O2 is detrimental to the beer, especially delicate beers like a hop forward NEIPA. Part of the reason you're seeing so many crazy/complex ideas is because people want to avoid any oxygen contact.

This is why I never reduce temperature (including crashing after fermentation) until I'm in the keg on CO2 gas. I make sure the wort temperature is only ever going up from the moment I pitch the yeast into aerated/oxygenated wort until I keg. The good news is that yeast like an increase in termperature from start to end. How much and how fast depends on the strain so I do different things depending on the strain and recipe. Some examples:

Electric Creamsicle (WY1318): 68F ferment then 70-72F for the last ~5 points until stable for at least 3 days.
Witbier (WY3944): 68F ferment then 72F for the last 1/3 of fermentation until stable for at least 3 days.
Tripel (WY3787): 64F ferment at start then raise 1F daily, allowing it to go as high as 75F if needed until stable for at least 3 days.
Super Saison (WLP565): 66F ferment at start for 3 days, then raise 3F daily, allowing it to go as high as 85-95F if needed until stable for at least 3 days.

More in my recipes: https://shop.theelectricbrewery.com/pages/recipes

Kal

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johnpbuckles



Joined: 18 May 2020
Posts: 11
Location: Denver, CO

Drinking: Juicy J NEIPA


PostLink    Posted: Wed May 20, 2020 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wasn't suggesting my solution did not introduce O2; it will. I was merely presenting a solution to the problem of suck-back. Anyone who rigs a blow-off and cold crashes in the fermenter will need to do something to avoid this. My solution does not require removing the lid of the fermenter.

I think the amount of O2 introduced is rather negligible. It will also mix with any remaining CO2 in the fermenter head space. It should only be in contact with the beer for ~24hrs, after which you should rack the beer into a CO2 purged keg or other packaging.
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kal
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Joined: 12 Dec 2010
Posts: 10567
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Drinking: German Lager, Electric Creamsicle, London Pride, Kolsch, German Pils, Belgian Dubbel, Russian Imperial Stout, Black Butte Porter

Working on: Weizen, Belgian Quad, Belgian IPA


PostLink    Posted: Wed May 20, 2020 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gotcha!

Kal

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