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Beer engine with corny setup questions

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Ajdpilot

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Hi Brewers,

So I've just bought myself a nice new beer engine and was wondering about peoples experiences.

My goal (as probably with most of us) is to mimic that perfect pub pulled pint as closely as possible but trying to prolong life for normal home drinking rather than the high turnover of a pub.

I know I require a demand valve in place to stop constant flow, but I have a few questions when it comes to carbonation of the beer.

A traditional cask ale would be secondary fermented in the cask to naturally carbonate it followed by tapping it and possibly fitting a cask breather to prolong its life.

So that leads me to my actual question of should I / would it work to secondary in a corny keg?
Or should I force carbonate? If so what pressure would equate to a naturally cask conditioned ale? (ESB style)
Either way, should additional pressure be vented before applying a small CO2 head pressure of say 1-2 psi be beneficial before drawing off with beer engine?
Or would keeping the natural carbonated pressure / force carb pressure work / is this likely to blow something?
Should some sort of additional check valve / breather valve be used in addition to the demand valve inline prior to beer engine?

Also what are peoples thoughts and experience with sparkler nozzles? Does anyone recommend or condemn their use with ales?
Is there any other type of nozzle that could or should be used or is it ok to just use a swan neck with no nozzle fitted, and in this case, I've heard theres a higher chance of infection because of microbes buildup on the tap. Anyone had experience of this?

Thanks for any info and help on this.
Any additional information would be much appreciated.

Cheers,
Andy.
 

Mavroz

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I am slowly given up on bottling completely now since I bought and refurbed my beer pump/engine.

All my brews go into 10 litre bags, in turn then go into boxes. No need for kegs, corny kegs etc etc, no faffing venting them etc.
The bags inflate slightly with Co2 in the first couple of weeks of conditioning. No air gets back into the bag during draw off, they collapse under vacuum. Ale always has a head of Co2 around it.
This is without any priming sugar for extra carbonation.
This is vented off by either removing the tap slightly or opening the tap and lightly pressing to let the excess Co2 out. I have 8 X boxes stored now plus one one the tap for drinking.
Taste, appearance is as good as anything that I have had in a pub. (Recipe, brewing skill dependent). Will probably never go back to bottles or any other method other than bags in boxes.
I use a sparkler nozzle,if not i will not get a head or a decent looking pint out of the pump.

Not sure about microbe build up? New one on me. Hygiene is the same process as any other food hygiene in your kitchen. Clean it!
My pump stays on for maybe a week at a time before rinsing through, then with line cleaner every 4 weeks.
I remove the sparkler every night and clean the swan neck with water and sanitiser..... Never had microbe problems. 😆

The pump I have has a non return valve built in and the bag connector has a shutoff valve when removed from the box. I have had no need for inline valves etc.

Good luck
 

peebee

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Fffrrrriiiipppp ... eh, what's going on? Where am I?



That's a lot of reading to do, and my partner is breathing down me neck to remind me I'm going out. I'll be back later.

Gulp, hairbrush ... incooommmiiinnggg ...
 

Ajdpilot

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Meanwhile: My infamous "treatise": (It's on me Google drive). It has a section on hand-pumps too.
That would be very helpful, thanks.

I read an article from an experienced cellarman, heres a little extract from it...
..."equipped with a screw-on nozzle attachment known as a “sparkler.” Think of this as a cask version of a Guinness tap, as it accentuates a creamier body and head."...
..."
In my opinion, however, sparklers should only be considered for certain styles (like stouts) where this is a desired characteristic, or if a brewery specifically asks for it to be used. Sparklers reduce CO2 in the beer, resulting in sweeter flavors and a softer palate. Hoppy pale ales typically lose hop aroma and flavor as a result. A good comparison is to nitro-pour beers. Nitro IPAs were a trend for a while, but thankfully we all came to our senses!

There’s another reason I don’t like sparklers: they can be used as a “cover” for poor conditioning if a cask has been over-vented or under-primed by the brewer. You should never have to rely on a sparkler to artificially froth up your beer if your cellar regimen is correct. It should be a matter of taste, not necessity. And if you’re serving via gravity, you’re out of luck."

For the reasons mentioned in his article is why I ask people opinions on nozzles. Are there different types for different aeration?

My thinking is that CO2 does certainly change a profile of a beer and airating via a nozzle will be done with air and oxygen rather than CO2 will it not?
 

DixeySJ

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I am slowly given up on bottling completely now since I bought and refurbed my beer pump/engine.

All my brews go into 10 litre bags, in turn then go into boxes ...

Good luck
This looks like the sort of set up I would like - but where do you get 10L bags? I've not been able to source a decent bag / polypin even 5L. Advice gratefully received .. :)
 

peebee

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Thanks very much for that article. Interesting read and answered all of my questions right there. Hopefully I can put that all to good use on my next brew. Now to set up all my equipment properly 🍻
Thank you. It was written to be none too self-opinionated and has the input (peer review?) of many (including Graham Wheeler, who would not like to be linked with if he was still with us, but I always like to think his "restrained" abusiveness aimed at the developing article did suggest maybe I was on the right track?).

As for "nozzles: I think there is only two basic designs, short as preferred down south, and long or "swan-neck" as preferred up north. I switched to short, but being a from northern manufacturer (Angram) they haven't completely let go of the swan-neck:
20200928_095603_WEB.jpg

"Sparklers" should only be attached to swan-necks so they can be inserted beneath the surface of served beer. As such they do not aerate the beer, they only knock out CO2 to create head. Ironically it's the short type (no sparkler) that introduces most air because the beer pours a distance into the glass.

You must not have a fixed opinion of sparklers. Some beers they work for and create fine heads, some beers are trashed by them with flavour and body vanishing. If using a sparkler, always test first! Always repeat the test every few days because beers change. I never use sparklers but always have good heads, though my pumps do have solenoid valves fitted (to preserve the beer in the pump, which would otherwise spoil) and they create a tight restriction that might be knocking out CO2?

Maintaining such low CO2 "top pressure" is very difficult because commonly used regulators simply will not hold to low pressures (you are doing well to get them to 10PSI). I advocate these:
20200928_095152_WEB.jpg

Look the same? The left-hand one (even BES sell them) regulate 50 - 150mb (about 3/4 - 2PSI). They are quite adequate. The right-hand one (rare, but available from some chicken and game bird breeders) regulate 20 - 300mb and might be useful at times (I haven't started using mine)? Note no despicable "POL" attachments, all BSP.

(EDIT: I always forget to add: Those regulators must be "secondary", or second down the line, because they only handle 1-16BAR input: DO NOT connect them directly to a gas cylinder.)
 
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peebee

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… I read an article from an experienced cellarman, heres a little extract from it...
..."equipped with a screw-on nozzle attachment known as a “sparkler.” Think of this as a cask version of a Guinness tap, as it accentuates a creamier body and head."...
..."
I have come across someone using "stout taps" (they have built-in sparklers - restrictor plates) instead of hand-pumps. He "carbonated" the beer to about 2PSI, but then upped the pressure for serving to 5PSI as it takes some force to get the beer through the restrictor plate. He was very happy with the result. The 5PSI should be reduced back to 2PSI after the session to avoid over-carbonation.

I was initially sceptical. But thinking about it, that's what a hand-pump does; when pulling the handle the pressure pushing out the beer climbs much higher (and pushes it through a sparkler if fitted).
 

Ajdpilot

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Thank you. It was written to be none too self-opinionated and has the input (peer review?) of many (including Graham Wheeler, who would not like to be linked with if he was still with us, but I always like to think his "restrained" abusiveness aimed at the developing article did suggest maybe I was on the right track?).

As for "nozzles: I think there is only two basic designs, short as preferred down south, and long or "swan-neck" as preferred up north. I switched to short, but being a from northern manufacturer (Angram) they haven't completely let go of the swan-neck:
View attachment 33345
"Sparklers" should only be attached to swan-necks so they can be inserted beneath the surface of served beer. As such they do not aerate the beer, they only knock out CO2 to create head. Ironically it's the short type (no sparkler) that introduces most air because the beer pours a distance into the glass.

You must not have a fixed opinion of sparklers. Some beers they work for and create fine heads, some beers are trashed by them with flavour and body vanishing. If using a sparkler, always test first! Always repeat the test every few days because beers change. I never use sparklers but always have good heads, though my pumps do have solenoid valves fitted (to preserve the beer in the pump, which would otherwise spoil) and they create a tight restriction that might be knocking out CO2?

Maintaining such low CO2 "top pressure" is very difficult because commonly used regulators simply will not hold to low pressures (you are doing well to get them to 10PSI). I advocate these:
View attachment 33346
Look the same? The left-hand one (even BES sell them) regulate 50 - 150mb (about 3/4 - 2PSI). They are quite adequate. The right-hand one (rare, but available from some chicken and game bird breeders) regulate 20 - 300mb and might be useful at times (I haven't started using mine)? Note no despicable "POL" attachments, all BSP.

(EDIT: I always forget to add: Those regulators must be "secondary", or second down the line, because they only handle 1-16BAR input: DO NOT connect them directly to a gas cylinder.)
Thanks for all that. It will be put to good use.
I've been kegging for a while, but have tended to have issues with my normal typical "kit" tap, even after calculating hose length to balance the keg. That's why I wanted to go to a proper pub beer engine....plus it looks the part too.
Just bought these beauties:

Screenshot_20200926-163452_eBay.jpg


Plan is to split them up though, will probably sell 3 and keep 2.

I'm always looking to get as close to a proper "cask real ale" as possible as can be done at home without the 3 day spoil.
Most likely will do a setup similar to what is suggested in your document with the trap/bubble counter so I can naturally prime rather than force carbonate and fit a lpg regulator. But will check out the ones you suggested there. What are the name of those regulators?
And any chance you have a link to a sellers website?

When you say you have solenoid valves on your taps, are you talking about the demand valve or are you using additional valves to isolate?
I was thinking of setting up an isolated system with a 3 way connection so I can pump line cleaner through the tap without having to disconnect the keg.
Would like to know more about the setup you have though
 

MickDundee

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I have come across someone using "stout taps" (they have built-in sparklers - restrictor plates) instead of hand-pumps. He "carbonated" the beer to about 2PSI, but then upped the pressure for serving to 5PSI as it takes some force to get the beer through the restrictor plate. He was very happy with the result. The 5PSI should be reduced back to 2PSI after the session to avoid over-carbonation.

I was initially sceptical. But thinking about it, that's what a hand-pump does; when pulling the handle the pressure pushing out the beer climbs much higher (and pushes it through a sparkler if fitted).
That’d be me. Not allowed to talk about though am I Peebs? ;)

I used an Intertap stout spout. To get it to work there’s a second plastic restrictor plate that needs to be removed as that plate only works if you’re pushing it out under a lot of pressure from nitrogen. I’m happy with the result, knocks a bit of CO2 out on the pour although I don’t like having to burp the keg and set back to 2PSI at the end of each session. I also needed to buy a replacement gauge for my Kegland inline secondary regulator (£2 off AliExpress) in order to be able to set it to 2PSI properly.

All-in-all it made a cheap and cheerful rough approximation to real ale (total outlay £7 for the tap and the regulator gauge although I already had the in line regulator) which has worked pretty well on this keg.

Having said that, we have kicked off the process of converting our garage into a family room with bar and SWMBO has given me permission to get a hand pump setup so I’m exploring my options again.
 
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peebee

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This stuff also got a running over last July:
Cask ale in a corny?

… Just bought these beauties: …
Five pumps! Wow, that'll keep you amused. They look like Angram pumps?

And when I said "solenoid valves" that is what I meant. See:
Locking your taps closed
Note I also replace the silicon nozzle connection tubing with PVC. The silicon lets loads of oxygen in. That took a while to figure out!

Note the built-in aquarium "bubble counters" on the hand-pump regulators for ad-hoc "venting" of casks (slow, you can't hurry it).

I'm using these:
RLBS Check Valve with Cleaning Lever
… so I can quickly switch to "cleaning" mode (by-passes the "demand" bit without taking them off). But just flushing hand pumps does allow "things" to accumulate. Do not use smelly cleaners (sulphite, bleach, etc.) or hot cleaners in hand pumps. I occasionally remove connection hoses (annually?) and brush them out. I've not found the best for pump yet. The made for purpose caustic soda cleaners (diluted) seem okay, especially for flushing. Warm, strong, "oxy" cleaner used recently did cause some tainting (from seals?). Taints take ages to clear but they do eventually.
 

peebee

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I am slowly given up on bottling completely now since I bought and refurbed my beer pump/engine.

All my brews go into 10 litre bags, in turn then go into boxes. No need for kegs, corny kegs etc etc, no faffing venting them etc.
The bags inflate slightly with Co2 in the first couple of weeks of conditioning. No air gets back into the bag during draw off, they collapse under vacuum. Ale always has a head of Co2 around it.
This is without any priming sugar for extra carbonation.
This is vented off by either removing the tap slightly or opening the tap and lightly pressing to let the excess Co2 out. I have 8 X boxes stored now plus one one the tap for drinking.
Taste, appearance is as good as anything that I have had in a pub. (Recipe, brewing skill dependent). Will probably never go back to bottles or any other method other than bags in boxes.
I use a sparkler nozzle,if not i will not get a head or a decent looking pint out of the pump.

Not sure about microbe build up? New one on me. Hygiene is the same process as any other food hygiene in your kitchen. Clean it!
My pump stays on for maybe a week at a time before rinsing through, then with line cleaner every 4 weeks.
I remove the sparkler every night and clean the swan neck with water and sanitiser..... Never had microbe problems. 😆

The pump I have has a non return valve built in and the bag connector has a shutoff valve when removed from the box. I have had no need for inline valves etc.

Good luck
I don't advocate polypins, but only because they impose a "best before" (about 4-6 weeks) and my brewery kicks out 45L a shot and I don't drink that much in a couple of months!

But when talking about 10L bags and not having other poly bags lurking about past "best before", they do have the advantage of being cheap and simple!

They got some discussion recently here:
Polypin alternative

(EDIT: Ah, @DixeySJ, you were asking about this too. Here go … )
 
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Ajdpilot

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This stuff also got a running over last July:
Cask ale in a corny?


Five pumps! Wow, that'll keep you amused. They look like Angram pumps?

And when I said "solenoid valves" that is what I meant. See:
Locking your taps closed
Note I also replace the silicon nozzle connection tubing with PVC. The silicon lets loads of oxygen in. That took a while to figure out!

Note the built-in aquarium "bubble counters" on the hand-pump regulators for ad-hoc "venting" of casks (slow, you can't hurry it).

I'm using these:
RLBS Check Valve with Cleaning Lever
… so I can quickly switch to "cleaning" mode (by-passes the "demand" bit without taking them off). But just flushing hand pumps does allow "things" to accumulate. Do not use smelly cleaners (sulphite, bleach, etc.) or hot cleaners in hand pumps. I occasionally remove connection hoses (annually?) and brush them out. I've not found the best for pump yet. The made for purpose caustic soda cleaners (diluted) seem okay, especially for flushing. Warm, strong, "oxy" cleaner used recently did cause some tainting (from seals?). Taints take ages to clear but they do eventually.
Wow, that's an impressive setup. I think your level of attentiveness/ OCD is something I seem to be heading for. Would love to know more about your setup. I feel you have lots to teach.

What do you use for brewing?
I imagine you have some self contained setup for racking?

I'd like to aim for a setup that eventually emulates a commercial setup in terms of brewing and then is as close as can be done to match a real ale cask setup but with the longevity of a keg.
 

Ajdpilot

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Also, what's your thoughts on priming in the keg?

Just wondering your experience and personal thoughts.
Do you force carbonate?
Or do you prime?
If you prime do you use sugar or DME?
And do you use finings?
 

emerson909

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I've just bought a beer engine and was about to ask the same questions athumb.. . Going the corny keg route with LPG reg
 

peebee

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Wow, that's an impressive setup. I think your level of attentiveness/ OCD is something I seem to be heading for. Would love to know more about your setup. I feel you have lots to teach.

What do you use for brewing?
I imagine you have some self contained setup for racking?

I'd like to aim for a setup that eventually emulates a commercial setup in terms of brewing and then is as close as can be done to match a real ale cask setup but with the longevity of a keg.
You don't want to be anywhere near what motivates me! 🤪 If you think my example is what you're heading for, I suggest a good crash helmet; no skimping on it!

Anyway, less of that. I have a plumbed-in-place 3V system (actually being expanded to four vessels!) which churns out 45 and 65L batches. I have managed to get it to produce 28L, but the old conical fermenter is far too big for such pokey batches. The recent addition of a 30L Grainfather system (with GF conical) fills in for "experimental" brews and some contemporary "New World" style brews. The GF is completely turned over to emulated "BIAB" brewing (full-boil volume mashing, no sparge; I am completely bemused why folk get these "one-pot" systems then go out and get another pot to work with it - effectively an "HLT" which gives a two-pot system).

Also, what's your thoughts on priming in the keg?

Just wondering your experience and personal thoughts.
Do you force carbonate?
Or do you prime?
If you prime do you use sugar or DME?
And do you use finings?
All of them! … Okay, I never use DME for priming. I always ferment out (about 7-14 days in conical fermenter, primary fermentation completes in 2-3 days) and always add sugar priming at about 0.5 - 1.0 grams per litre. But some fast drinking ales may be on hand-pump within just a few days (3 or 4) of being casked (kegged), so are subject to 150mb of CO2 top-pressure which I guess may add a bit of "force carbonation"?

I'm a very CAMRA orientated drinker … in a Pub! There is no place for CAMRA sentiments in brewing home-brew ales. I used to think there was (a place) and so spent some 40 years brewing beer that was 2nd class to what I'd expect bought in a decent Pub.

The "contemporary" keg beers are now often fast-tracked and fermented in the kegs (carbonated through primary fermentation under pressure). I have tried to fast-track "Real Ale" styles in a similar manner … but it doesn't work!

I'll fine some beers (Isinglass), mainly the fast drinking ones, otherwise I don't bother as they all clear in time. Isinglass is hazardous because it will impose a "use by" date to the beer (commercially, these finings might be added with just a few days left before serving). Although, can't say I've ever had a beer spoiled by going off finings (I've had the finings go off before they can be used - poo, right stink - an experience which probably ensures I don't leave Isinglass finings fining in contact with beer more than a couple of months).

I've tried to dispense with finings, but it often results in drinking foggy beer. Cold-crash? 🤣



(I've been asked for my personal thoughts, not my considered thoughts. So anyone disagreeing with what I've put … hard luck, you're not changing my mind so don't bother arguing!)
 

Ajdpilot

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You don't want to be anywhere near what motivates me! 🤪 If you think my example is what you're heading for, I suggest a good crash helmet; no skimping on it!

Anyway, less of that. I have a plumbed-in-place 3V system (actually being expanded to four vessels!) which churns out 45 and 65L batches. I have managed to get it to produce 28L, but the old conical fermenter is far too big for such pokey batches. The recent addition of a 30L Grainfather system (with GF conical) fills in for "experimental" brews and some contemporary "New World" style brews. The GF is completely turned over to emulated "BIAB" brewing (full-boil volume mashing, no sparge; I am completely bemused why folk get these "one-pot" systems then go out and get another pot to work with it - effectively an "HLT" which gives a two-pot system).


All of them! … Okay, I never use DME for priming. I always ferment out (about 7-14 days in conical fermenter, primary fermentation completes in 2-3 days) and always add sugar priming at about 0.5 - 1.0 grams per litre. But some fast drinking ales may be on hand-pump within just a few days (3 or 4) of being casked (kegged), so are subject to 150mb of CO2 top-pressure which I guess may add a bit of "force carbonation"?

I'm a very CAMRA orientated drinker … in a Pub! There is no place for CAMRA sentiments in brewing home-brew ales. I used to think there was (a place) and so spent some 40 years brewing beer that was 2nd class to what I'd expect bought in a decent Pub.

The "contemporary" keg beers are now often fast-tracked and fermented in the kegs (carbonated through primary fermentation under pressure). I have tried to fast-track "Real Ale" styles in a similar manner … but it doesn't work!

I'll fine some beers (Isinglass), mainly the fast drinking ones, otherwise I don't bother as they all clear in time. Isinglass is hazardous because it will impose a "use by" date to the beer (commercially, these finings might be added with just a few days left before serving). Although, can't say I've ever had a beer spoiled by going off finings (I've had the finings go off before they can be used - poo, right stink - an experience which probably ensures I don't leave Isinglass finings fining in contact with beer more than a couple of months).

I've tried to dispense with finings, but it often results in drinking foggy beer. Cold-crash? 🤣

(I've been asked for my personal thoughts, not my considered thoughts. So anyone disagreeing with what I've put … hard luck, you're not changing my mind so don't bother arguing!)
Haha, I think in my head I'm not that far behind you. I like to obsess over my process and get things right before I even start for fear of damaging a brew weeks down the line. Hence why I'm grilling you for your experience.

I was actually thinking of getting a grain father. I'm still at the point of mashing in a home converted picnic cooler and boiling on the hob. Had a bit of fun last brew, my extractor fan is fairly low and barley allows room with my kettle to get the spoon in to stir, had a massive boil over last time. Haha.

So do you have pumps or something set up to go from one vessel to the other?
Quite interested in the make and model of things your using up to racking stage (think you've cover everything post.)
Always looking for future upgrades to my brewing. I'm moving house in a few months....double garage! Was hoping to at one stage out fit with inbuilt vessels and things for easy brewing. But I haven't decided exactly how to do it just yet.

So do you rack out to another vessel for a conditioning secondary or drain off your trub? Or just leave it in the primary for a few days to settle out and complete fermentation?

Do you have any trouble with yeast / trub in the bottom of your corny or blocked pipes etc?
I've only ever forced carbonated in my keg before, but considering priming on my next batch now, just thinking about potential problems before they happen.

That's my aim too, the perfect ale draught at home. I've already accepted itll never be perfect "cask" real ale, but looking for the best possible way to mimic it in a keg for better lifetime of the beer. No way I'm getting through a keg in 3-4 days, if I do, probably have other problems to deal with.

Interesting about the finings, I didn't realise the inisglass had a short shelf life. Theres another type of fining isnt there? Can't remember its name though. Have you tried any others?
I've tried irish moss in the boil along with a cold crash, that did wonders for clearing the beer. But interested to explore the other options pros and cons
 
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