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General Category => Kegging and Bottling => Topic started by: jwaldner on August 08, 2010, 09:15:16 PM

Title: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jwaldner on August 08, 2010, 09:15:16 PM
I just spent several weeks building what appears to be a very nice looking keggerator but may turn out only to be a very nice boat anchor! 

I kegged my first beer (Hefeweizen) 6 days ago and carbonated it to 2.7 vol. at 38F and am now only getting a lot of foam (spraying out!) and a flat beer. I even compensated for my elevation since I'm at 4,300 feet and added an additional 2 lbs of pressure from 13.34 to 15.34 psi. I'm using 5 feet of 3/16 ID tubing so I thought the system would be fairly balanced with 3.0 of loss per foot but it seems not.

I've read some say you need to dispsense at a lower CO2 level and others say you need to leave it where it is because that's the style otherwise I'll lose carbonation over time. In addition, I've also read it only takes 3 days to force carbonate and others say it takes 7 or more and that's just the set it and forget it method.

I would greatly appreciate it if anyone can shed some light on my situation and provide some troubleshooting tips so I can get this corrected before my next fishing trip.

Thanks,

Jay
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: beerocd on August 08, 2010, 09:20:11 PM
What's your line length? What PSI are you pushing at?
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: tschmidlin on August 08, 2010, 09:30:35 PM
You need longer lines.  You're not going to lose 3 psi per foot in 3/16 id tubing, it's more like 2-2.2.  Since you carbonated at 15 psi, start with 8 feet of line.  If it doesn't pour, cut off a few inches and try again.  Repeat until you like the pour.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jptheelder on August 08, 2010, 10:17:09 PM
Are you pouring @ 15psi? way too much. once carbonated, i turn mine down to about 5. each system is a little different. over time you do lose some carbonation if the psi are turned down like that but it's not that bad and slower than you may think. I try to carbonate for a week or sow, but i'm not sure why. it's just the way I have done it from the start.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jwaldner on August 08, 2010, 10:38:10 PM
Thanks for the quick responses.

I'm using 5 feet of line and pushing about 15 psi.

Regarding the line loss, I was going by the Draught Beer Quality Manual put out by the Brewer's Association which stated for 3/16" diamater vinyl tubing there should be 3.0 lbs/ft of restriction. Maybe that's just in theory but not practical.

Dialing down the pressure helps with the dispensing but the beer still remains flat. Will it take another full week to carbonate?

Thanks again
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: tschmidlin on August 08, 2010, 10:42:32 PM
15 psi is the right range for pouring a hefeweizen at 38F, my chart says that's 2.8 volumes of CO2.  You just need to extend the lines.

I carbonate and serve at the same pressure, no worries that way.  I just use a longer line for higher carbonation beers.

If you want to speed up carbonation, you can rock the keg to get it to go into solution faster.  You can also buy a keg lid from morebeer that has an carbonation stone attached, it's great for carbonating kegs quickly.  I don't recommend going with higher pressure to carbonate faster, you usually just end up with overcarbonated beer.  The other thing is, if it is pouring too fast you'll lose a lot more CO2 so it may seem flatter than if you had a smoother pour.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: blatz on August 09, 2010, 02:41:26 PM
you can look into building a flow gate which will allow you to use a standard length for all carbonation levels and have perfect pours. 

I have three of them and even hefeweiss pours just right.

I know one of the brew clubs out there has a 'how to' on the flow gate - will have to do some digging to find it.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: narvin on August 09, 2010, 02:57:27 PM
Foam spraying out?  Are you sure you don't have a hop leaf clogged in the poppet on the liquid out post?  15 psi is somewhat high for serving with 5 feet if 3/16 tubing, but it's not THAT high.

I also wouldn't recommend turning down the pressure for serving.  This will work if you empty the keg in a week or so, but otherwise you're going to get CO2 coming out of solution and other problems related to having an unbalanced system.  Carb at serving temperature.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: tschmidlin on August 09, 2010, 05:51:23 PM
I know one of the brew clubs out there has a 'how to' on the flow gate - will have to do some digging to find it.

The Falcons have this one:

http://www.maltosefalcons.com/tech/resistive-gate-draft-beer-flow-control

That looks pretty cool, I might have to give it a try for my nitro beers.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: blatz on August 09, 2010, 06:37:05 PM
That's the one - thanks!!
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jwaldner on September 01, 2010, 11:23:08 PM
Ok, I'm officially going crazy on this one.

I've changed the temp several times, waited days and tested and still get foam. I've lengthened the hose from 5 to 10 feet and still get foam!

I'm at a lost here on this one and would appreciate anymore suggestions on how to get the right pour from a hefeweizen or clues as to what I've done wrong.

Thanks,

Jay
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: dhacker on September 02, 2010, 12:15:23 AM
I'll ask some basic questions, and please I'm not trying to insult your kegging knowledge.  ;)

Are you opening the faucets full with some authority and not partially pulling the tap handle open?

Are you sure the keg was absolutely clean with no debris in the pickup tube that could be causing the foam?

Are you getting an aggressive stream of foam even with 10 ft. of line? If so, your regulator pressure gauge may be deceiving you.


Just a few thoughts . .   
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jwaldner on September 02, 2010, 12:54:57 AM
Don't worry about the insults, this is my first keg so I just want to figure it out before I waste my next two or three kegs as well.

Are you opening the faucets full with some authority and not partially pulling the tap handle open?

      Yes. We considered that as well being we were newbies and thought maybe we're just pouring it wrong. We downloaded the draught manual and read up on pouring techniques and hold the glass at a 45 degree angle untill about half full (with foam of course) then stand it up to finish the pour.

Are you sure the keg was absolutely clean with no debris in the pickup tube that could be causing the foam?

     I believe so. I cleaned the the keg by soaking it and it's parts in PBW for a day and then sanitized it. I didn't have anything to scrub the dip tube with but it appeared cleaned after the PBW soak.

Are you getting an aggressive stream of foam even with 10 ft. of line? If so, your regulator pressure gauge may be deceiving you.

     Not as much now that I have 10 feet of tubing but still 3/4 glass of foam. I also thought maybe my regulator wasn't working properly but it's a brand new one. Is there anyway to cheaply measure the pressure it's putting out to see if it's even close to what it should be?

Thanks for the help
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: dhacker on September 02, 2010, 01:06:46 AM
Two more questions . . .

Are you getting the foam on the first pull, or are are successive pulls (in a somewhat rapid fashion) getting the same amount of foam?

How much line from where the beer exits the refrigerator to the faucet?
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: tschmidlin on September 02, 2010, 01:42:52 AM
I would turn the gas off at the regulator and vent the keg.  Then seal the keg and try to pour.  Slowly turn up the pressure at the regulator until you get the pour that you like.  Check what the regulator says the psi is at that point and report back.

It's possible that your regulator is wrong, but it's also possible that your hose is not as restrictive as you think it is.  Are you sure it's 3/16" and not 1/4" or 3/8"?  That will make a huge difference in how long your line needs to be.  Or it could just be that the line you have is unusually less restrictive than normal for that diameter.  Once you figure out the psi that gets you a nice pour with 10 feet of line, you can figure out how many feet it will take to get a nice pour at 15 psi.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jwaldner on September 02, 2010, 02:09:59 AM
We get foam on the first pull and in succession. I'm using a chest freezer with a collar for my keggerator so the 10ft of lines leaves the keg and goes directly to the shank and then the tap.

Thanks again
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: rabid_dingo on September 02, 2010, 10:37:04 PM
I wonder two things, If it may just be overcarbed. Possible. But...you mention that it comes out
fast. As if the keg may be empty, maybe? I ask because I now wonder if there is a hole in
your dip tube. Or there abouts, small enought to allow beer to be pushed up the line but
large enough that it is pushing gas into the line on its way out. Above the beer line. Kind of
like getting a straw for a soda with a hole in it. You don't find it until the soda level is below the hole...

Something worth checking, probably a last resort though. I would hate to have you ruin
your beer to find out there is no hole... :-\
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jwaldner on September 02, 2010, 10:45:27 PM
Thanks I'll try that and let you know.

I just looked at one of my other taps that's not connected and noticed I'm using a 1/4" shank with a 1/4" tail piece with 3/16" I.D. tubing for all of my taps. Would going from 3/16" tubing to 1/4" bore on my shank have any effect on the beer?

Thanks again
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: dhacker on September 02, 2010, 11:52:30 PM
It would just mean you'd need more line length to keep the restriction the same. 3/16" line on 1/4" tail pieces probably accounts for 99% of the systems out there. So you're good on that front.

Quite a mystery ya got goin' on!  ;)
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: MrNate on September 03, 2010, 03:04:07 AM
I did a bunch of calculations for line length, but I still had crappy pours. I ended up throwing out the calcs and just running 10' of line, and it works a lot better now.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: lyleerickson on September 03, 2010, 02:33:00 PM
Do you or a friend have another keg of beer you can hook up to your gas line?  If so, you might be able to isolate the problem by hooking both kegs up in your fridge for a week.  If both kegs foam, might be the regulator or some other shared component.  If only one does, then you can start switching parts of the system (e.g. the tap lines, etc.) to see what part is causing the problem.

I had a similar problem, and for reasons I don't understand ended up having to replace the output poppet.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jwaldner on September 03, 2010, 07:48:59 PM
I vented my keg last night and dialed down the pressure to 4psi and the beer seems to be serving pretty good today. I still get a little more head then what I would like (about more than half head of beer) but I'm not sure if there's anything else I can do.

The problem still remains though that I don't know what's causing this and I don't want to always have to serve my beers at this level because I would like to serve them to style and because I bought an expensive 3-way regulator to accomplish that.

I guess I'm thinking like someone suggested either there's something wrong with my dip tube or poppet but won't know until I crack the keg. I don't have anyone I know locally with a keg to test so that's not an option. I guess it could also just be overcarbonated but not sure how that would have happened.

When I carbonated the beer I just did the set it and forget it method and didn't exceed the 13.34psi for the style. Can you overcabornate your beer in this manner?

Thanks again to all
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: tschmidlin on September 03, 2010, 08:11:44 PM
The only way you could over carbonate the beer the way you did it would be if the temp was colder than you thought or the regulator is wrong.  It could be a problem with a dip tube or poppet, or the line.

Still, the way you tested it is flawed. 
Quote
I vented my keg last night and dialed down the pressure to 4psi and the beer seems to be serving pretty good today

By venting the keg you released some pressure, but overnight the gas will come out of the beer and you will have pressure in the keg again.  You set the regulator to 4 psi, but that is not indicative of the pressure in the keg, just in the regulator.  It's likely that all you did was remove some of the pressure in the keg, but it is probably still above 10 psi depending on how much beer is in it.

My advice is to vent it and begin pouring immediately.  It shouldn't pour at all without pressure, so then you start adding pressure until you like the pour.  As it sits though, more gas will come out of solution so even if you like the pour at 8 psi you might not like it tomorrow if enough gas comes out of the beer and raises the pressure in the keg above that.

While you are doing it look at the lines - where does the foam start?  If it is foaming coming out of the keg even at very low pressures then I'd lean toward the dip tube/poppet as the problem.  If it is liquid in the line but foaming at or partway to the tap, it is most likely that there is too much pressure at the tap, meaning your line diameter/length isn't restrictive enough.

Once you know at what psi you like the pour you can vent the keg repeatedly to get it down and stable at that psi, or just extend your lines to make up for it.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jwaldner on September 04, 2010, 08:33:05 PM
All,

I get a pretty decent pour at about 6psi. However, I'm seeing bubbles in my line starting from my keg or poppet. Does this mean my beer is overcarbonated or perhaps there's something wrong with the keg?

Thanks
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: tschmidlin on September 04, 2010, 10:25:14 PM
Bubbles or foam?  And is this while you are pouring or when you've stopped?

Personally I would vent the keg, take off the post, pull the dip tube and poppet, clean/inspect everything, sanitize, then put it back together and see if it helps.  The keg will be fine while you do it, just cover the hole with some sanitized foil while it is open to keep anything from falling in.

If you have a spare poppet you could swap it out - if not, consider switching the gas in and liquid out poppets and see if it helps.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: dhacker on September 04, 2010, 10:51:49 PM
Is it possible that by setting the serving pressure at 6 PSI the beer is out gassing before it equalizes back to its original carbonation level and he's picking up bubbles in the line from that?
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: tschmidlin on September 04, 2010, 11:47:06 PM
Crap, good point.  I think that's totally possible.  It still shouldn't be foaming, but I think that could definitely be the source of the bubbles right at the keg.

How does it taste - over carbonated, just right, something else?
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jwaldner on September 05, 2010, 02:59:05 AM
All,

It was bubbles and I think you're right about the out gassing as well. Because if I increase the pressure I can see the bubbles move and it appears like the line is clearing.

The beer does taste good at 6psi. I just hate to have to always vent my keg before serving and turn down the pressure. I would like to meet whomever came up with the formula to balance a kegging system because it sure doesn't seem to work at this point.

I think I need to take Tom's suggestion next and just crack it open and see if there's something wrong with the poppet or dip tube. I really have nothing left to troubleshoot except the keg itself and believe it or not I'm getting tired of drinking pints of Hefeweizen every night :-)

Thanks again
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: tschmidlin on September 05, 2010, 05:45:25 AM
You're probably tired of talking about this too (not just tired of drinking the beer), but to me it really sounds like your line is just too short for your serving pressure.  So IMO either your line isn't as restrictive as it should be, or your regulator is off.  But who knows at this point.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: stlaleman on September 08, 2010, 06:10:52 PM
I had this problem in my converted freezer also. I found that the tempeture varied greatly with the distance from the bottom of the freezer. Placing a small fan on the compressor hump equalized the temperature from top to bottom, so now my beer flows nicely as soon as the faucet cools down (about a third glass of foam, subsiquent pours don't have this problem).
One other thing it could be is a dirty faucet, bit of hops stuck in there.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jwaldner on September 08, 2010, 11:52:56 PM
I had this problem in my converted freezer also. I found that the tempeture varied greatly with the distance from the bottom of the freezer. Placing a small fan on the compressor hump equalized the temperature from top to bottom, so now my beer flows nicely as soon as the faucet cools down (about a third glass of foam, subsiquent pours don't have this problem).
One other thing it could be is a dirty faucet, bit of hops stuck in there.

Thanks,

I recently swapped out my dip tube and ball lock with poppet to rule those out. I'm going to try putting in a 20ft tube next. A bit drastic but we'll see if that does anything.

I thought it also may be the temp but I'm reading about 38F on top of my keg and you're right about the temp being colder at the bottom, about 32F from what I can tell. The fan sounds like the next step though. What type of fan are you using? Does it run all the time and how do you have it wired in?

Thanks again
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: Robert on September 09, 2010, 12:19:38 AM
As far as a fan, go get a cheap computer fan. Should only run about $3-4. They take up very little energy, pretty much a cell phone charger's worth. I have two mounted inside my collar, screwed onto the sides.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: jwaldner on September 09, 2010, 02:35:33 AM
With what and how are you powering the fans?

Thanks again
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: Robert on September 09, 2010, 02:43:35 AM
I had an old lava lamp (don't ask) 12V adapter. I just cut the lap end of the cord and spliced it into the fans and also got a nice on/off switch in the deal. Main thing is to not pump too many volts into the fan as you'll overload it and pop the circuit. The fans should have a rating on them. Most cell phone chargers will run the fans, but you need a bit more juice then they put out to get nice airflow. Just search your junk drawer for any adapters and try to get as close to the max voltage without going over.

Alert: I'm not an electrician by any means and my verbiage and terms may not be correct, but I hope this gibes you the idea.
Title: Re: Keggerator Anchor!
Post by: animaldoc on September 11, 2010, 08:35:03 PM
I thought it also may be the temp but I'm reading about 38F on top of my keg and you're right about the temp being colder at the bottom, about 32F from what I can tell. The fan sounds like the next step though. What type of fan are you using? Does it run all the time and how do you have it wired in?

So if the beer is 32 F at  the bottom of the keg, you likely have a more carbonated beer than you are anticipating based on calculations ...... then it's hitting warmer line on it's way out and outgassing in the line causing foaming ......

I had some similar issues when setting up my system.  I didn't struggle with it for too long ...... just put 2-4 more feet of line on than calculations said I needed and the problem pretty much went away.  Not a scientific solution but got me pouring nicely more quickly.  Try your 20ft line as you said ...... you will probably be pouring very slowly but with less foam.  Then you can start shortening the tubing a foot at a time until you get the right pour.

-- Scott