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Thread: CO2 use for carbonating 10bbl to 2 volumes

  1. #1
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    CO2 use for carbonating 10bbl to 2 volumes

    I have a smaller 20 lb CO2 cylinder currently but will be stepping up to my 10 bbl brite tank this weekend and need to know if my current cylinder size holds enough to carbonate that much liquid to 2 volumes CO2.

    I know 2 volumes is 3.92 g/L so I could do the math and discover that (3.92*1173) is 4598 grams so a bit over 10 lbs, which is less than my full 20 lb tank. But I plan to vent the top and keep the stone bubbling for rapid carbing. What I don't know is how much CO2 is vented during this process. Double? Five times? Cash is tight so I'm hoping to avoid a 50 lbs tank for $250.

    I could just plan to run out and do an exchange real quick.
    Nat West
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  2. #2
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    Just get another 20Lb for a backup.

  3. #3
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    50 lb bottle of CO2 for $250? I fill a 20 lb for ballpark $30.

    My best recommendation is to "buy" the big tank and avoid paying "rent" per month. You can sell back the tank what you paid when you are done with it. Cost of usage $0.

  4. #4
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    To buy-in to the exchange program I need to purchase an empty tank. Yes fills are $25 but I need to buy the tank to begin with, at ~$250.

    I'm never going to be done with the tank so it's not something I'll sell back at some point.
    Nat West
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  5. #5
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    I've asked this question repeatedly on several threads: why are you venting? Nobody has given me an answer. IMHO It is totally unnecessary and a waste of CO2. Will somebody please tell me why cooling the beer to 2C, setting the head pressure to 1 bar, and then slowly carbonating through a stone WITHOUT VENTING will not work just as fast, if not faster than wasting CO2 and adding just a little bit more to global warming unnecessarily?
    Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--
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  6. #6
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    I'll happily hear more opinions about this Phillip, but it's important to note that it doesn't add to global warming. CO2 suppliers pull the gas from the air we breathe. Farting adds to global warming though.
    Nat West
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by revnatscider
    To buy-in to the exchange program I need to purchase an empty tank. Yes fills are $25 but I need to buy the tank to begin with, at ~$250.

    I'm never going to be done with the tank so it's not something I'll sell back at some point.
    Yes, but you avoid paying rent per month. After about 1 year you have paid for the tank.

  8. #8
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    Revnatscider, not to be a prick but I don't think this is how it's done. CO2 is a miniscule fraction of atmospheric gas--about 400ppm average. That's only 0.04%. Hardly enough to make (expensive) atmospheric gas distillation a viable option for retrieval, it seems. Praxair claims to be US's largest CO2 supplier. I quote this directly from their website:

    "Unlike atmospheric gases, air separation is not the primary source of carbon dioxide. Though sometimes it is derived from directly combusting a fuel, the most economical way to produce carbon dioxide is to recover it as a byproduct from other companies' manufacturing processes or from natural wells. Then it is purified and liquefied and sold to our customers worldwide."

    When I worked in the States, I've asked CO2 suppliers where they obtained it. Seems like more often than not, it was fertilizer production.

    Regardless of where it comes from, I don't think that venting CO2 is a professional option. Global warming aside, venting in a closed area is dangerous, wasteful, expensive, and I maintain that it is a slower technique and deleterioius to beer. Why? "Scrubbing" delicate hop and ester volatiles out of the beer, foaming the beer in the tank to lower head formation qualities, using the beer as a CO2 conduit thereby possibly imparting a CO2 taint--for examples. I don't know where this venting habit came from (my guess is homebrewing), but I challenge someone to show me this carbonation technique in a legitimate brewing textbook. I hope someone can. I may learn something.

    Otherwise, lower your beer temperature to around 3C, set your tank head pressure to just under 1 bar, and carbonate through a stone very slowly using a rotameter (or other flow meter) to carbonate. You're finished when the head pressure increases slightly. That's saturation. Consult a CO2 solubility chart and use your taste for fine tuning. That's my best practice--although not the only one, I'm sure. Also, when doing a calculation for CO2 used, don't forget to subtract the starting level of carbonation: I'm sure that your beer contains some appreciable level of CO2 that will add to the desired total. Good luck and happy carbonating.
    Last edited by gitchegumee; 04-12-2012 at 10:52 PM.
    Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--
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  9. #9
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    Sometimes a question isn't answered directly but via discussion and continued thinking, an answer is derived. Thanks to all.

    Interested about "making" CO2, news to me.
    Nat West
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  10. #10
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    I completely agree with Phillip on this one. I am astonished at how many brewers 'vent' their CO2 during carbonation. It is a waste of CO2 and generally is very bad for the beer. If you have a volatile off flavor like sulfur or DMS you can scrub out some of the flavor to improve an otherwise 'off' beer. But as Phillip said this is to the detriment of the other factors contributing to the beer aroma, and you will greatly be damaging the head retention properties and are adding shear forces which (some say) will result in a decreased shelf life. Also, 2 volumes is a really low level of carbonation. Maybe it is appropriate for the type of beer you are carbonating, but I always have over 2 volumes of CO2 at the end of fermentation. I carbonate to 2.5 on the low end, to over 3 volumes for Belgians and Hefeweizens. Most of my beers are at 2.7 volumes.

  11. #11
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    Hi Belgian - I should have been more explicit in the OP but this is hard cider, so no proteins to destroy, no hops. I do have some gentle aromas, but in this first batch I have some H2S/sulfurs I am hoping to vent out.

    The 2 vols level is due to terrible US laws regarding cider & wine production and taxation. Virtually no CO2 is in it, this stuff has been aging a few months and has already been through a filter which I think pretty well scrubs out CO2.
    Nat West
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by gitchegumee
    lower your beer temperature to around 3C, set your tank head pressure to just under 1 bar, and carbonate through a stone very slowly using a rotameter (or other flow meter) to carbonate. You're finished when the head pressure increases slightly. That's saturation.
    I do it this way: set the head pressure to zero, push CO2 gradually through the stone, turning up the regulator a bit each day such that it's pushing gas at about 5PSI over the wetting pressure of the stone. When the headspace reaches the equilibrium pressure for the desired amount of CO2, we know we're close to done.

    However, I like your way better. How long does it typically take to carbonate that way, with the headspace starting out at the saturation point? My way takes around 2 days.

  13. #13
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    I spund beer in the fermenter at about 1P from FG. I crash to 2C when fermentation is complete and my beer profile is as desired--ie; diacetyl reduced, acetaldehyde reduced, sulfur reduced, etc., and the flavors are where I want them. After crashing to 2C, the beer may be around 10psi, but it won't be saturated with CO2 at this lower temperature--there's not enough time to saturate a tank with a small liquid/gas interface. I set up to transfer to a 2C cold room tank at slightly higher pressure than the fermenter. Balance line to equilibrate pressures at a slightly higher pressure than the beer--just to make sure I don't foam during the transfer. I use a VFD driven pump to make sure that beer flows slowly and gently. Once transfer is complete, I raise the head pressure on the receiving tank (quickly) to saturation pressure at the carbonation level I want at that temperature. Then start carbonation slowly through a rotameter. Carbonation is done when the head pressure rises a tad and the rotameter slows to a trickle. I can carbonate 10hl in 3-5 hours this way. 20hl takes a bit longer and I let it go slowly over night. This is done without excess CO2, and with using the maximum amount of "natural" CO2. Your way seems to use the beer as a conduit to get CO2 into a solution, and then back out of solution just to fill the head space. You can possibly taint the beer with a CO2 bite this way. And you will carbonate much slower just to dissolve the gas into liquid, reliberate it as gas in the head space, and then raise head pressure. The CO2 also picks up volatile aromas along the way and washes them out of solution. And carbonating at a zero head space pressure also slows the transfer of gas compared to carbonating at full saturation pressure. Using higher pressure, the gas is forced into solution quicker, and you can increase the CO2 flow rate substantially without fear of foam. The rotameter also requires almost no adjustment during this "isobaric" carbonation method. It needs less attention, and avoids risk of overcarbonation and overpressurization. Furthermore, quick carbonation also leads to clearing of the beer faster as the carbonation currents won't be rolling the contents of the tank any longer than necessary. For me that's important because my beer drops bright in the serving tank a few days after carbonation. I don't know why this isn't standard practice everywhere (except of course with the use of open fermenters). I'm open to hear why this isn't the best practice possible. Hope this helps.
    Last edited by gitchegumee; 04-24-2012 at 12:47 AM.
    Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--
    Worldwide Brewery Installations
    www.GitcheGumeeBreweryServices.com

  14. #14
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    Gitchegumee, that is fantastic advice. I had a "lightbulb" moment when I read that "carbonating at a zero head space pressure also slows the transfer of gas compared to carbonating at full saturation pressure". Of course it does! If pressure is zero, the beer is saturated or even supersaturated with CO2, so the beer doesn't "want" to take up more CO2.

    Higher head pressure = further from saturation = more aggressive uptake of CO2.

    Can you explain how the rotameter works? Does it regulate the flow rate or just indicate it? What flow rate do you target? Where can I get one? How is it better than just using a standard regulator to control the flow of CO2?

    The only way I could see to improve on this is to spund sooner and finish fermenting under pressure, probably with a barby-type spunding device, so you could retain more natural CO2 during the ferment.

  15. #15
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    Cheers Woolsocks! Rotameters are a type of flow rate indicator. They do not regulate pressure, although some have a valve to coarsely regulate flow. I rarely use the flow control valve. They are inexpensive and fairly reliable. We don't need super accuracy, just something to show us that we're carbonating at about the rate that we're expecting. The scale on a rotameter is actually a bit irrelevant--most are calibrated for a certain pressure, temperature, and gas type--most likely not what your conditions are. With 10hl tanks of average build, I've had good luck with a cheap unit from McMaster: 5079K64. This unit at about half scale will add one volume of carbonation to my cold beer in a matter of a few hours. Without venting, or otherwise wasting CO2. Install it on the outlet of a good CO2 regulator to be able to adjust carbonation pressure. This pressure will depend on your rotameter, hose and stone resistance as well as head pressure in the tank. So it's also a soft number, but easy to dial in. Using this "isobaric" carbonation technique, you set the carbonation stone flow rate to half scale (with the regulator) with the pressure in the BBT at your final saturation temperature. Any flow into the tank beats this pressure + head pressure + hose & rotameter & stone resistance. The CO2 flow will gradually slow as saturation is reached and the pressure at the CO2 regulator comes to equal the tank pressure. Easy. And yes, you should spund to end up with as much natural carbonation as possible. I target 1 bar final pressure in a 2 bar fermenter--which is about 1.1-1.2P from FG. Most folks only have 1 bar fermenter and it is more tricky. You would be better served with a spunding device on 1 bar fermenters. Spunding point also depends on head space and temperature. So, go out and try it. You'll like it! Cheers!
    Last edited by gitchegumee; 09-08-2012 at 04:32 AM.
    Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--
    Worldwide Brewery Installations
    www.GitcheGumeeBreweryServices.com

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