Priming a cask...

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Liam.k.b

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Hey guys,

I've been searching the Internet and have found many, many different answers to this...

And I'm sorry if this is a topic that has already been spoken about, (I'm almost certain it will have been).

When brewing cask ale destined for a beer engine, is priming sugar added to the cask or does the beer engine give adequate carbonation ?

If you are adding priming sugar, what sort of quantity would a standard 9 gallon cask need ?

I also wondered, if you are not adding priming sugar and not getting that second fermentation in the cask, which eats up the oxygen in the cask... would this not stale the beer ?

Sorry to be a noob, this has just puzzled me!

Cheers guys! 🍻
 

peebee

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As @thegrantickle says, priming with sugar (white granulated will do) to get 1.2-1.4 volumes (v/v) of CO2 is perfectly adequate (and it is what I do). Before serving you can vent any excess carbonation or if not too carbonated, just allow it to decrease as beer is served: For homebrew retain 1.1 volumes (1-2psi) using a sensitive regulator (an LPG one usually) if drinking the cask over many days (a "breather" will allow carbonation to slowly fritter away).

Purists will cask beer with enough unfermented sugars left to drive carbonation, But this does require a bit of skill and knowledge to judge it right.

Hand-pumps do not create carbonation! But the turbulence they cause will "knock out" some existing carbonation to create a head.

Breweries have no worries about oxygen staling cask beer because they fill casks to the brim (the yeast - there is always a bit left - quickly scavenges any other oxygen that might get mixed in). Home-brewers can purge the head space above the beer with CO2 for good measure.

As a guide I use about 0.6-0.9g priming sugar per litre of beer (about 14-15g in a Corny keg gives me about 1.3 "volumes").
 

mentaldental

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The advice given above seems sound to me but...

I cask most of my beer and I usually find that priming is not needed. My last beer had aparrently fermented fully out (according to my iSpindel anyway) and I expected to prime it. After casking and fitting a spunding valve (with pressure guage) I gave it a chance carbonate before priming. After 24hrs it was clear that it was going to carbonate itself without any help.

If you do add priming sugar make sure to vent the cask carefully before serving as it may be very lively. Since I usually have a spunding valve and associated tubing attached I vent mine using a needle valve (a lot less messy than using a soft spile IMO.
 

peebee

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The advice given above seems sound to me but...
Ah, but in the OP the author is describing himself as a "noob" ... or I take this to mean "make it easy"! What you describes with "I usually find" and "I usually have" doesn't suggest "easy"!

I too use a needle valve to vent over-pressure. But have a "bubble counter" attached to easily see and regulate the speed, i.e. if you can't count the bubbles the beer is venting too fast. If the regulators are fixed into a "permanent" installation, the needle valves can be fixed too allowing adhoc venting anytime (I don't trust "spunding" valves and don't believe they work at such low pressures):

20191108_200206.jpg


A regulator on "cask beer"? My philosophy is use soft spiles if drinking the entire cask in 2 or 3 days, use "breathers" (zero psi(g) regulators) if drinking in 2 to 3 weeks, and use LPG regulators (1/2 to 2 psi(g)) if taking longer than 3 weeks to drink. As it always takes me more than 3 weeks to drink a 20L "cask" (okay, they're Corny kegs, but strictly speaking they aren't kegs either) then I always use LPG regulators for home-brew.



BTW, I use 2 bar gauges (like in piccie) to monitor cask pressure (they're cheap!). But it is inconvenient measuring 1-2psi with a 30psi full-scale-deflection gauge. Someone pointed out you can get relatively cheap low pressure gauges: They are for replacing gauges in blood-pressure machines. Must try them soon.

[EDIT: Blood pressure gauges read "mm of mercury" or mmHg. Dead easy to convert in your head! Roughly divide by 100 -- shift decimal point left two places -- and double it. So 100mmHg -> 1 -> 2psi. If you must have it precise (yawn) ... 51.7mmHg (at 0C) = 1psi.]
 
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mentaldental

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I hadn't thought of using LGP regulators. I normally use a cask breather and find that works just fine but occasionally, near the end of the cask the beer runs out of condition (a lot of head space, a little beer). A LPG regulator might be just the job.

Also blood pressure guages could be really useful. 👍
 

peebee

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I hadn't thought of using LGP regulators. ...
Aye, wish I'd figured them out earlier. Instead I had about 40 years drinking over carbonated homebrew 'cos I was just using loads of priming sugar or manually adding a little squirt of CO2 when the beer stopped coming out: Impossible not to add too much.

I did use the "fixed" (37mbar) LPG regulators (poor-mans breather) when I first got a hand-pump but like you with breathers found the beer lost condition after a few weeks (those regulators haven't enough puff to get all the beer out of a Corny keg without a pump), and they always seemed to be designed with unwanted "POL" adapters.

Those variable ones like in my piccie are fine (50-150mbar, or 3/4 to 2 PSI). Cleese (Novacomet) ones do not have POL adapters (or you can remove them) and have BSP threads instead. I've just switched mine for 20-300mbar variants (look identical) which we don't really need (150mbar is more than enough) but the extra puff might come in useful?
 

lancon

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Not mentioned here, so far, but fined/unfined? Would it make a difference? I don't fine my beer and never prime casks (36pt pin).
 

peebee

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I will fine and prime at the same time. Fining doesn't prevent carbonation but there are some that imagine it does. Some finings go in late for long storage beers (finings do decompose with time, at least the ones containing animal parts - the only ones that work reliably in my mind - generally I avoid beer laced with putrefying fish parts).

At the moment I don't fine 'cos I'm not sharing my beer and don't mind a bit of haze. Once this pandemic is over ... well, I won't be sharing my beer anyway. 😈
 

mentaldental

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Ok here we go. I package most of my beer in plastic pins, so bear that in mind.

1. After secondaty fermentation has completed I cold crash my beer to 5°C and (usually) add auxillary finings. I leave the beer for 1-2 days at this temperature.
2. When I prepare the cask for filling I hammer in the tap before filling. Fitting the tap after conditioning has completed has the potential to be a bit (or very!) messy and this gets around that problem.
3. Once the cask is filled I hammer in the shive and immediately fit a spile and stop tap. I do not typically prime the cask. I normally find that I have enough slowly fermenting sugar in the beer to get the job done (this was true for a mild I recently brewed which had a substatial amount of invert sugar in the recipe). Up to now I have used a plastic spile as you can see from the photo. Sorry about the quality, it's in a very inaccesible place and the other set up I have is at my son's house at the moment. The spile is quite big and doesnt fit well in the space available but it does have 1/2" bsp threads which is useful.

Spile and breather.png


I leave the cask in my "warm room" (ie the shed) and monitor condition by either gently cracking the spile's stop tap or drawing a little beer through the cask tap. I find that there is clear sign of condition within 24-48 hours. I am moving away from the plastic spile because it is inconveniently large, however, it is easily removeable if it proves necessary to prime the cask after filling or it is desired to fine the cask. I rarely prime or fine in cask and find that the auxillary fining used in the fermenter do the job for me.

2. Once I am ready to set the cask up for serving I vent the cask using a needle valve like this:

Bleed valve.png


One end is attached to the stop tap on the spile and I usually run a line from the other side to a container of water to help monitor the rate of venting. Once the cask is vented I position it and connect the stop tap to a cask breather (see the first photo) . I close the tap when not dispensing beer to prevent the loss of condition through the breather.

The above is what I do at the moment. I'll put up another post with images showing what I will use on my next batch.
 

mentaldental

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I am changing over to this set up.

New spile.png


The spile is much smaller than the plastic one I am using at the moment. It has a 6mm outlet so I have used a short length of 6mm tube and an adaptor to attach an 8mm Duotight stop tap. This arrangement is functionally the same as the one in my previous post.

Once the cask is full and it's in the warm room I add a spunding valve. I am using a cheap-as-chips Blowtie unit which seems to do the job. When I have the time I will set up a spunding valve at the serving point so that the cask may condition where it is going to be served. Obviously I will use longer lengths of tube so the whole contraption doesn't hang off the spile.

Spile & Spunding.png


The spunding valve can be detached when ready to serve and the cask vented using a needle valve:

Bleed valve in situ.png


I suggest putting the needle valve the right way round (and using the correct size of push-fit connector ;-) )
 

The magistrate

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Hey guys,

I've been searching the Internet and have found many, many different answers to this...

And I'm sorry if this is a topic that has already been spoken about, (I'm almost certain it will have been).

When brewing cask ale destined for a beer engine, is priming sugar added to the cask or does the beer engine give adequate carbonation ?

If you are adding priming sugar, what sort of quantity would a standard 9 gallon cask need ?

I also wondered, if you are not adding priming sugar and not getting that second fermentation in the cask, which eats up the oxygen in the cask... would this not stale the beer ?

Sorry to be a noob, this has just puzzled me!

Cheers guys! 🍻
I never prime a KK barrel. All my mashed beers go straight in after a secondary in another KK with an airlock fitted to the lid. I find that when I drink them the condition is good enough to ensure I rarely need to add external co2 unless of course I have friends round and the beer gets hoovered up so quickly!
 

Corbières

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As @thegrantickle says, priming with sugar (white granulated will do) to get 1.2-1.4 volumes (v/v) of CO2 is perfectly adequate (and it is what I do). Before serving you can vent any excess carbonation or if not too carbonated, just allow it to decrease as beer is served: For homebrew retain 1.1 volumes (1-2psi) using a sensitive regulator (an LPG one usually) if drinking the cask over many days (a "breather" will allow carbonation to slowly fritter away).

Purists will cask beer with enough unfermented sugars left to drive carbonation, But this does require a bit of skill and knowledge to judge it right.

Hand-pumps do not create carbonation! But the turbulence they cause will "knock out" some existing carbonation to create a head.

Breweries have no worries about oxygen staling cask beer because they fill casks to the brim (the yeast - there is always a bit left - quickly scavenges any other oxygen that might get mixed in). Home-brewers can purge the head space above the beer with CO2 for good measure.

As a guide I use about 0.6-0.9g priming sugar per litre of beer (about 14-15g in a Corny keg gives me about 1.3 "volumes").
What temperature is the beer when priming at your rate ?
 

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