Keg Carbonation - Forced vs. Natural

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Bubba Wade, Mar 10, 2020.

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Do you force-carb or natural-carb your kegs?

  1. Force

    11 vote(s)
    84.6%
  2. Natural

    2 vote(s)
    15.4%
  1. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    A couple of years ago I switched from forced carbonation to natural carbonation in the keg. I had force carbonated for about 20 years. The primary reason for the change was more consistent carbonation levels. By adding a fixed amount of sugar, the yeast generated a fixed amount of carbonation. I found that I had to fuss much less with the kegs to deal with over- or under-carbonated batches. I also found two bonuses of this method: less purchased CO2 and additional conditioning time.

    I was initially concerned about clarity. However, after pulling the first half-pint, the clarity is the same as force carbonated beer. keg carb.JPG

    According to the 2019 Brulosophy survey, only 2% of us non-commercial brewers use this method. I'm a bit curious about what other have experienced.
     
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  2. thunderwagn

    thunderwagn Well-Known Member

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    I'm lazy and have gone fermenting under pressure and then closed transfer to kegs. My beer is basically ready as soon as I'm done transferring to drink. The carbonation does improve after a few days and yes, some beers I do let sit and condition for a couple weeks. Some are good to go immediately and some better with time. I've found that this method does give a creamier carbonation similar to bottle conditioning which is something force carbing seemed to lack. If that makes sense.
     
  3. Trialben

    Trialben Well-Known Member

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    Gotta say bubba I've never given it a try yet! I will have to. I burst carb most my kegs before consumption and having only one regulator means a bit of mucking around with the pressure .
    I'm guessing you treat it like a bottle and leave it in a warm place to prime for two weeks?
     
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  4. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    Pretty much. Although I usually find the carbonation complete in a week.

    And that's a good point about the regulator. I only have one as well and I can keep it connected and set at serving pressure.
     
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  5. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    Do you a spunding valve during the pressurized fermentation? Or do you have some other relief device?
     
  6. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    Haven't tried it yet, but it's been the back of my mind as something to do. Think I'll do it the next time I have a queue for the kegerator.

    Do you have any preferences for styles that seem better force vs natural carbonation? I've been doing some testing of various packaging approaches for my imperial stouts. I find the force carbonated harsher than the bottle condititioned so next time I keg one of those I'll be conditioning both keg and bottle.
     
  7. thunderwagn

    thunderwagn Well-Known Member

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    I use a sounding valve.
     
  8. Yooper

    Yooper Administrator
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    I’ve done it quite a few times, when my kegerator is full and the keg is going to sit at room temperature. I have few beers that need any age though, so I try to get them in the keg and cold sooner than later and as a result I don’t normally prime them much.
     
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  9. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    I really had not tested forced vs. natural with regard to styles. I do change the carbonation levels though, by changing the amount of priming sugar. Less sugar for stouts and ESB's, a bit more for APA's and IPA's, and even more for saisons.
     
  10. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    All I've done is a limited test of force carbonation in a keg vs. bottle conditioning. Keg won due to oxidation in the naturally conditioned bottles. As to natural carbonation in a keg, I'd assume it would be slightly different than in a bottle because oxygen in the headspace is easier to control, with a spunding valve it's possible to control carbonation more accurately than in a bottle and you can always increase carbonation a bit if it were too low. Only disadvantage I see is the first pours would have some yeast from the bottom of the keg. CO2 is CO2, regardless of the source, so if your industrial gas is clean, I don't imagine there'd be any difference purely attributed to the source of the gas, although I've heard some beer lore that contradicts this. Yeast could take up most of the oxygen in a naturally conditioned keg and increase the beer's shelf life... Lots of knock-on effects from a change at this point.
     
  11. thunderwagn

    thunderwagn Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, it's strange and probably a mind over matter thing and taste wise I can't percieve a real difference in the carbonation. It's more of a visual, and maybe a bit of mouth feel. Sounds weird and hard to explain. But I totally agree c02 is c02. Go figure.
     
  12. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Having just started kegging, I'm amazed by the head and body I get from them. I've been a bottle-conditioner for nearly ten years now, just got the basic kegging setup. I've heard the beer lore about "finer bubbles" and such but I really don't observe it. It might be interesting, some day, to do some natural carbonation in a keg but for now, I'm happy with forced carbonation. Extra goodness: Less exposure to oxygen!
     
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