"Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

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"Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby PeeBee » Sat Apr 22, 2017 14:42

It's well over a year since I embarked on this "project". Thanks to everyone's help the article is near enough done and can be found here:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BwzEv5tRM-5EQUhZbDNPdmV1bWc

It still lacks the "how-to" section - it's written up but needs some more photos. What I could do with is some comment on the short section at the end, which is entirely new, titled "Tweaks". Not content with dressing up my methods of dispensing a "Real Ale" style using CO2 :hmm: , I've introduced "Mixed Gas"! But it is a bit of a leap in the dark because I have no nitrogen mixes (and all my previous postings on "mixed gas" have been pretty disparaging).

As before I'd like to know if my assumptions seem sound, and any previous work on the matter (I've found none). If the wrong person reads it I'm expecting a roasting, but I'm fairly fire-hardened.
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby jaroporter » Sat Apr 22, 2017 16:14

couple of comments on the bits i've not seen before - the mixed gas bit is a bit muddled. the point of mixed gas is to be able to serve at a higher pressure and not overcarbonate the beer. so if you've got long runs of beerline, you can use 60-40 co2-nitrogen to push the beer through, but not have crazy fizzy lager. for "creamflow" or "nitro" beers, the high pressure through the restrictor is what gives the smooth feel and cascading effect. 60-40 would overcarb the beer though and you'd end up with foam, so 30-70 is used. some places even mix their own combinations on site to suit.

and although i agree with your position on sparklers :lol: you've asserted some personal preferences regarding handpumps as "fact". do you think we'd have handpumps if there wasn't a need to move beer from the cellar to the serving point? genuine question. maybe, but i'm not sure. i think they are more likely a dispensing tool primarily and flavouring tool secondary. personally i'm not a fan though so maybe that's clouding my thoughts..
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby PeeBee » Sat Apr 22, 2017 17:29

jaroporter wrote:couple of comments on the bits i've not seen before - the mixed gas bit is a bit muddled. the point of mixed gas is to be able to serve at a higher pressure and not overcarbonate the beer. so if you've got long runs of beerline, you can use 60-40 co2-nitrogen to push the beer through, but not have crazy fizzy lager. for "creamflow" or "nitro" beers, the high pressure through the restrictor is what gives the smooth feel and cascading effect. 60-40 would overcarb the beer though and you'd end up with foam, so 30-70 is used. some places even mix their own combinations on site to suit. ...


Thanks "jaroporter". You make the point for intended use of mixed gas. That's not what I proposed. Serving a "Real Ale" style with mixed gas is definitely not what anyone should propose unless they want their head on a spike adorning London Bridge. I see it as a way of getting sub-zero PSI (...G!) of CO2 which isn't normally possible with a "breather" or LPG regulator; it really is "Real Ale" only territory. Personally I'm happy with 1PSI (...G!) or so of CO2 but I'm tempted to try lower carbonation on strong, especially dark, ales, as might others, so I wanted to document possibilities. After all, if I'm trying to detail a complete home-brew solution with this article, it is better if I don't ignore any situations I can think of.

jaroporter wrote:... and although i agree with your position on sparklers :lol: you've asserted some personal preferences regarding handpumps as "fact". do you think we'd have handpumps if there wasn't a need to move beer from the cellar to the serving point? genuine question. maybe, but i'm not sure. i think they are more likely a dispensing tool primarily and flavouring tool secondary. personally i'm not a fan though so maybe that's clouding my thoughts..


I'll have a look at that and make any necessary changes. I wanted to give a reason to use hand-pumps now, not suggest a reason why they came into being initially. And I've tried (or that's what I thought) to put personal preferences aside for this.
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby PeeBee » Sat Apr 22, 2017 20:20

Oops. Small error in my "mixed gas" proportions (paragraph near end). Fixed now!
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby PeeBee » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:15

I appear to be slipping. My attempts to be "controversial" are not being met by the expected flaming. Well, give it time... meanwhile:

I drew this little graph to illustrate what I'm suggesting can be done with "mixed gas". Its not to scale (I just haven't got the data) but visually the lines are approximately in the right place:

Conditioning mixed gas.jpg
Conditioning mixed gas.jpg (15 KiB) Viewed 851 times


The graph suggests I might need to recommend 30/70 mixed gas (30% CO2 in nitrogen, the CO2 figure should go first apparently) to achieve what I'm trying to do.
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby jaroporter » Sun Apr 23, 2017 12:23

actually, people do already use 30/70 on "real ale" with the idea that it kinda replicates the composition of atmospheric gas, but replacing co2 for o2 to prevent spoilage. is this the kinda thing you are suggesting?

you want a flaming though? i guess i could try to get worked up about this statement of personal preference..
A hand pump isn’t just for show, it’s a major element in producing a great pint!


..but it's a lazy sunny sunday, and it just doesn't affect me :lol:

:cheers:
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby PeeBee » Sun Apr 23, 2017 13:47

jaroporter wrote:actually, people do already use 30/70 on "real ale" with the idea that it kinda replicates the composition of atmospheric gas, but replacing co2 for o2 to prevent spoilage. is this the kinda thing you are suggesting? ...


Exactly! Tracking down other efforts to do this means I'm not "going it alone" and can glean something from those efforts. Although the way I'm going about it is to pretty much freeze the beer (time-wise) at a preferred moment (much as I was doing with my "perceived as flat" ideas but expanding them).

jaroporter wrote:... you want a flaming though? i guess i could try to get worked up about this statement of personal preference..
A hand pump isn’t just for show, it’s a major element in producing a great pint!


..but it's a lazy sunny sunday, and it just doesn't affect me :lol:

:cheers:

Ah... I did do that on purpose, using "tabloid newspaper" techniques to try and rally some interest in what I'm trying to say. I'm aware of a lot of hand-pumps languishing about with home-brewers unused because they are perceived as a PITA.

Yes you're right, it is too warm for a flaming, but it's due to get colder next week.
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby PeeBee » Sun Apr 23, 2017 14:26

Didn't take much to modify that graph for 30/70 mixed gas. Interesting, so Guinness, the biggest user of 30/70, is carbonated at very low levels (0.7-0.8 volumes) and all that shaving foam is down to nitrogen. Wouldn't have thought that, but my quick calculations may turn out to be complete garbage.

Conditioning mixed gas 30-70.jpg
Conditioning mixed gas 30-70.jpg (15.4 KiB) Viewed 840 times


(I've calculated that 1PSI...G! of 30/70 gives about 4.8PSI...(absolute) of CO2)


ERRATUM: 16/5/17 "Complete garbage"? Very nearly! The equivalent of 0PSIG of CO2 with 30/70 mixed gas is around 35PSIG, not 50PSIG as in the graph. Having explained the difference tween PSI and PSIG I then mix them up myself. So Nitro Guinness is carbonated to about 0.9-1 volume of CO2 (no idea what it'll be expressed as in N2 - would that be nitrogenated?).

Last edited by PeeBee on Tue May 16, 2017 12:13, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby jaroporter » Sun Apr 23, 2017 15:25

indirectly - the shaving foam is the results of the high pressure pushing the beer through the restrictor (the perforated plate in the "stout tap"). the nitrogen just makes that high pressure possible without overcarbing the beer in the keg.
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby PeeBee » Mon Apr 24, 2017 13:28

I tidied those graphs into one. It's gone into the document now too.

Conditioning mixed gases.jpg
Updated 16/5/17
Conditioning mixed gases.jpg (16.54 KiB) Viewed 523 times


(EDIT: I should have included here, the graph is loosely based on the beer being about 14C).
(EDIT2: Graph replaced with one that better represents the "vagueness" of what's being illustrated here).

jaroporter wrote:indirectly - the shaving foam is the results of the high pressure pushing the beer through the restrictor (the perforated plate in the "stout tap"). the nitrogen just makes that high pressure possible without overcarbing the beer in the keg.

I'm going to argue with that. At the cold temperatures and through the roof pressures used by some "stouts" (etc.) the nitrogen does dissolve and IS responsible for the meringues of shaving foam. Just as nitrogen is difficult to dissolve in the beer, it's reluctant to come out of solution too, hence the "restrictor".

But thanks for helping me get some knowledge of "mixed gas".

(EDIT3: Strikethrough - see next post).
(EDIT4: Updated graph to fix error - see post above).

Last edited by PeeBee on Tue May 16, 2017 12:33, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby PeeBee » Mon Apr 24, 2017 23:35

PeeBee wrote:...
jaroporter wrote:indirectly - the shaving foam is the results of the high pressure pushing the beer through the restrictor (the perforated plate in the "stout tap"). the nitrogen just makes that high pressure possible without overcarbing the beer in the keg.

I'm going to argue with that. ...

Hmm, I might of read in more than you put there, so I'm arguing with myself?


On another slant, I did start looking about for 30/70 being used to dispense "cask conditioned" home-brew which you mentioned. Found a little bit, but not much. What I did find is reams of drivel about mixed gas. Seems my approach had me miss out on all the essential mysticism. Does this explain why I'm getting so little discussion on the subject? Are folk dismissing my thread as the rantings of a looney :party: ? Isn't it obvious that if I mess with 30/70 mixed gas I'm going to end up with clones of John Smiths, or Guinness, or some other fluff?

I might of started something I can't finish, because the re-education project goes way outside the brief for the article.
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby PeeBee » Wed Apr 26, 2017 11:32

I've been busy re-writing my article to anticipate potential confusion my comments on "mixed gas" might generate. I'll update the attached document shortly. Meanwhile I've added the following textbox...

A lot of hokum is written about “mixed gas”. It really is just that, a blend of gases. Here it’s nitrogen and carbon dioxide and nothing more mysterious. We are using the “Laws of Physics”, in this case “partial pressure”, to achieve the required end result – very low carbonation. Readily available gas blends are suggested. Using a blend of 30/70 (30% CO2) will not mysteriously create shaving foam headed “Guinness” or some other “Nitro-Keg” product – for that you also need frigid temperatures, eye-wateringly high pressures, and probably a special tap that includes a “sparkler... on steroids” (a “restrictor plate”).

There is even confusion about how the “shaving foam” head is formed: Is it the difficult to dissolve Nitrogen displacing the CO2 in solution as pressure drops, or is it the Nitrogen coming out of solution in naturally tiny bubbles, and being difficult to come out of solution continues to do so for a very long time thus maintaining the head? Or is it both?


(EDIT: 13:30 27/4/17 Attached document has been updated).
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby PeeBee » Fri Apr 28, 2017 19:44

No-one's picked me up on it, but the graphs above are pretty fanciful. The CO2 levels will drop at a much more leisurely rate under mixed gas and in a home (low turnover) environment. In fact I doubt CO2 levels will ever reach the illustrated bottom lines. But I've prattled on enough, so the fanciful graphs may stay and someone else may explain.

To quickly get down to such low levels of CO2 "cask conditioning" is the last thing you want to do (new beer will contain some 0.8-0.9 "volumes of CO2 anyway, and that's going to be too much) - now suggesting that might be a bit contradictory.

I shouldn't have started this "side-line". It's a bag of worms.

(EDIT: I've kept the section on mixed gas in the article as it serves as a warning for anybody thinking of pursuing this strategy. The graph has been made more "vague" - the one above has been updated to it too - along with the following "warning"...

... the “mixed gas” lines are intentionally vague. Would the beer be “primed” and conditioned with CO2 (there doesn’t seem much point)? Would the cask be purged with mixed gas at filling time (and so begin the decay of CO2 content from “saturation” levels)? Would the cask continue to be purged at regular periods ahead of the cask being tapped (to continue the decay of CO2 content)? Would anybody be bothered with all this?


Hopefully that puts a lid on this misguided side-line.)

(EDIT 2: Again! Well I wasn't happy with the negative sounding ending of the above paragraph, so added...
Probably a better approach is to just connect the “mixed gas” (60/40 or 30/70) and allow the carbonation to very slowly decay (it’s the very steadily increasing dilution of CO2 in the headspace with Nitrogen that’s driving the reduction in this case, not decreasing pressure). The beer will change subtly with time, but that’s what “Real Ale” is all about isn’t it?
)
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby cf2000 » Mon Jun 12, 2017 06:31

I have an Angram CO that I use to dispense my "cask" ale from a corny. The problem I am having is related to flatness. I feel my beer is more flat than would be expected. I first tried a LPG 150mbar regulator, but the beer was too flat (~1.2 volumes in theory). Then I used my normal CO2 regulator with a pressure gauge to get ~1.7 volumes in theory. Even this seemed a little flat, but it was close enough. When I say flatter than expected, I mean compared to other cask ales served from beer engines from legit pubs. This is measured by taste, head right after pour, head throughout pint, and also by looking at the bubbles in the beer when the glass is tipped a bit (like when you take a drink).

The other problem with having the beer at ~1.7 volumes, is that the beer engine doesn't work properly (it sucks back a little beer each time the handle is put back, which doesn't happen at high as ~1.5 volumes) as there is too much foam in the cylinder I believe. I am also not getting the full cascading effect that is typical of beers out of engines. Lastly, I tried serving a pint from the 1.7 volumes keg without going through the beer engine (to see if something on the system was knocking out all the carbonation), but the level of carbonation was very similar. This all leads me to believe that something is wrong, I just can't figure out what.

Is there something different about 100% natural carbonation, and adding additional co2 is messing things up? It sounds like it works fine for Peebee though. Does anybody have any thoughts why I am not getting the level of carbonation that is typical from a cask ale that in theory only has 1.1 volumes of CO2 (a level I am always very happy with at the pub)?

Thanks so much.
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby PeeBee » Tue Jun 13, 2017 09:37

cf2000 wrote:I have an Angram CO that I use to dispense my "cask" ale from a corny. The problem I am having is related to flatness. ..

Hi CF2000,

You might be better off posting this as a new thread as I've sort of made this one my own with all my babbling. I doubt many folk have the stamina to get this deep into the thread. But I can do my bit towards trying to give you answers...

Firstly, although you might of considered this: The likes of bitter in a "Real Ale" pub can consistently be nothing short of "fizzy". While I might get the CAMRA bunch damning my methods I find it annoying that they are happy to turn a blind eye to inadequate (even non-existent) venting, which is quite commonplace. So beware of your "legit" pubs.

Next; 1.7 "volume" of CO2 (10PSI at 14-15C) is way high and it doesn't surprise me the hand-pump (which obviously has a demand, or "check", valve fitted) struggles with this. My pumps draw a bit back but this will be due to "over-centring" the pump handle so the system's "springiness" creates a bit of return. But mentioning that tells me you are using "Northern pour" spouts - try "Southern pour" spouts (though they might be tricky to fit on a Angram CO) which can't be dipped in the glass and will mix in a lot of air. You can get extensions for "Southern pours" so as to fit a sparkler (you can fit sparklers directly to Southern pour spouts but that would be silly). I get the impression you are used to sparklers as you talk of "cascading" and bubbles in the beer. Have you tried sparklers? (Beware, sparklers can really trash some beers).

Finally, and this is my best stab at your problem: What kind of beer do you push through a hand-pump? I frequently go with Pale malt plus 7-10% crystal malt, English "herby" hops to 27-28 IBUs, and a "British" estery yeast like S-04. 4-4.5%-ish ABV. An American Pale Ale with Extra Pale malt, Munich malt, and a whole load of other speciality malts that the "craft brewing" bunch seem so fond of, plus New World "fruity" hops to 35+ IBUs, and a clean "American" yeast like US-05 and an ABV of possibly 5%+ is (in my opinion) going to be awful at 1.1-1.2 "volumes" CO2.

And you are not adding CO2 to the beer (not that it would make any difference if you were), the bottled CO2 is just the propellant that keeps the natural condition (from priming) from trickling away.
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Re: "Cask Conditioned" Home Brew - Final

Postby cf2000 » Fri Jun 16, 2017 04:57

Thanks for the response PeeBee. I guess the question as to what is proper for a pint of bitter will have to wait a few months until I am back in the UK. I just remember the pours having a bit of head on them that seemed to last most of the pint. Also, the one local place that specializes in British style cask ale that I recently visited seemed to have much more carbonation than my beers, and watching the beer engine in use, I did not see any suck back. That's what is perplexing.

I know 1.7 volumes is high, but that is what it took to get some sort of carbonation and head that I remember from my travels to the UK. Maybe my memory does not serve me well (nor is my local spot to style). I slowly upped the carbonation and it wasn't until around 1.7 that the beer engine had the suck back issue, but that is also where there seemed to be some slight carbonation. I do use a northern spout but do not use a sparkler and don't plan to, but even without one I feel like some cascading is typical (although I see why that would not occur with a southern style).

As for the type of beers, I love low abv english styles like bitters and milds, and the smoothness/creaminess that seems to accompany their serving with a beer engine. These are also the types of beer that I usually put on the beer engine, and are the types of beers I am referencing with my confusion. But, I also put pales on from time to time and love the added smoothness.

In the end I am a bit confused and probably just have to wait a few months to get some more first hand experience and possibly strike up some conversations at the pub to see if I can gain any insights.

Thanks again for your help.
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