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Thread: Dry Hopping In A (accidentally) Previously Sealed Fermenter

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN
    Posts
    4

    Dry Hopping In A (accidentally) Previously Sealed Fermenter

    One of our fermenters was sealed accidentally before our IPA could be dry hopped. Not 100% when it was sealed but looking at the notes we know for sure it wasn't sealed before the 8th, so looks like it was sealed for about 4 days before it was caught. There wasn't a ton of head pressure built up (forgot to get a reading) and the beer was pretty much terminal a few days before the 8th, so the CO2 buildup that was released seemed pretty minimal.

    We've been letting it vent since we opened it and it seems pretty calm, but I wanted to see if anyone has dealt with the same issue and how you were able to fix it/how long you waited to let it finish venting. Trying to avoid creating a geyser but also can't not dry hop it since it kind of kills the whole DDH IPA thing. Any advice on the matter is appreciated, thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Conroe, Texas, USA
    Posts
    27
    You don't mention if your normal procedure is dryhopping towards the end of fermentation, but it sounds like your plan should be fine. We stopped dryhopping during fermentation a few years ago. We saw way too many geysers, and figured that a lot of the hops were being trapped in the yeast, not allowing their aromas and flavors to be released. It was also very hard to plan on when the beer would hit the sweet spot, meaning it may be overnight or over the weekend and we'd miss it. This created some lack of consistency of our flavors, which we didn't want. Our procedure now is to finish fermentation out, and cool the beer to 50 F, with some head pressure to help push the yeast to the bottom. At least 24 hours prior to dryhopping, we remove the yeast from the cone, and slowly bleed out the head pressure into an airlock bucket. Once the water in the bucket is still, that's about as good as you'll get, unless you try something else to break out all the carbonation, like recirculating the beer. This isn't a great option, since you'll be driving off aroma. Typically when we dryhop, the first 5-10 lbs. of hops will start breaking out CO2 (basically like pounding a Coke bottle on a table, causing it to foam up), then it will calm down, and the rest of the hops can go in safely. Unless you keep you beer very warm, or don't bung (seal) it at all, there will always be some dissolved CO2 in the beer, which will want to come out once you start putting hops in (agitating it).

    The key is to be safe, especially if you have to be on a ladder. If the gas starts rushing out quickly, put the PRV or cap back on, and bleed out the pressure through another opening. It may take awhile, depending on your tank size, but 20 minutes or so is enough time for our 60 bbl fermenters to calm down to where we can then safely add hops and not have a geyser. But if you try to save five to ten minutes, it won't be worth either the potential injury or massive clean up.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN
    Posts
    4
    Thanks for the insight, and sorry I didn't specify that.

    So we have two different procedures, any of our standard IPAs are dry hopped once terminal and after they've been dropped to 50 or 60 (depending on a few factors), but when we do DDH IPAs we do the first round of dry hops mid-fermentation, about 2-3 days in, and then the second addition once the beer is terminal and the temp had been dropped for a day. The big difference between our procedure for our standard IPAs & second round of dryhopping for DDH ones and your procedure is that we don't seal the tank prior to dry hopping, so that's where I was really not sure what to expect. My primary concern was making sure that any CO2 that had been absorbed into solution had properly been purged, as you mentioned. I figured it couldn't have too much in solution since it wasn't sealed before being very close to terminal, but still, any pickup before the dry hop is risky. Sounds like you are fine, though, with letting it purge for 24 hours so that definitely puts me at ease. Thanks again for the info.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Conroe, Texas, USA
    Posts
    27
    I wouldn't put too much faith in there not being much CO2 still being dissolved if it only raised a few psi after being sealed. Even if it only built up 3-4 psi of CO2, there's a lot dissolved CO2 in the beer. From our experience, there's still enough in the beer to be dangerous, even after being allowed to vent for 24 hours. There will be less, but still enough to make a geyser if not treated carefully. While geysers are messy, my main concern is the rush of CO2 coming out right at someone's face, and having them pass out on a tank. I had one very bad experience at a brewery I used to work for, where the person who was supposed to be monitoring me had walked away, and I had to make a choice between using my energy to yell for help, and trying to reach up to the ceiling I beam and holding on, keeping my head well above the rushing CO2 vent. Not an easy decision when it's hard to breathe. Needless to say, we changed our safety procedure after that. And I ended up ok, though rattled for an hour or so afterwards.

    Anyway, I haven't had any geyser or asphyxiation problems since we started venting the tanks prior to dryhopping. The main thing is to make sure if the pressure starts to build while dryhopping, ensure the person dropping the hops in is safe, and that the exhaust gas has somewhere to go, preferably around ground level. Good luck!

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