Hi friends, glad you could make it! This post is going to highlight a very important lesson we learned over the weekend. The homebrewers that read this blog will react in one of two ways; 1) with a “no shit.” or 2) with an “oh shit!” If you’re in the “no shit” category, good for you but if you’re in the “oh shit!” category, hopefully this post will help you before you experience the same things we did.
To explain this lesson, I’m going to have go way back to the beginning of the 2016 brewing season. 2016 was a massive brewing season, we brewed an almost illegal amount of homebrew. Easy killer, I said ALMOST illegal, we didn’t break any homebrew laws, came damn close, but didn’t cross that line. So anyway, we brewed a lot, but something was wrong…intermittently. We’d brew, ferment, sometimes secondary ferment, filter, keg, carbonate, and bottle just as we had for the last few years. The process hadn’t changed, but our beer was under carbonated…intermittently. we wouldn’t notice it right away, but as we were pouring beers for ourselves or loved ones, one glass would be perfectly carbonated and the other would be dead flat. Mind you, this was undoubtedly from the same batch. Needless to say, frustrations were rising.
Personally I spent countless hours reading blogs, scouring forums, searching websites, and collecting information from other homebrewers about their process of force carbonation. You wouldn’t believe what I found out! We were doing everything exactly the same as everyone else. So what’s the difference? Why does everyone seems to have perfectly carbonated beer, except us? Also, why wasn’t this an issue in 2015? Frustrations continue to climb.
Now I’m going to fast forward to this past Friday. This winter’s weather has been really strange. One day it’s 5 degrees, the next week it’s 50 degrees. This in mind, we moved our brewhouse clean up forward just in case we can take advantage of a couple of warm winter evenings to get in an early batch or two. Just some general straightening up, a little gadget adjustment/fixes, no big deal. Earlier in the week I had picked up a new deep well socket that would be used solely for removing the gas and liquid posts of the corny kegs, I was planning to disassemble all nine of our kegs and give them a thorough scrubbing. This became the ah-hah! moment.
So, the kegs are disassembled, each component soaking in hot cleanser. I start scrubbing and inspecting the post holes in the kegs, everything looks normal there. I move on to the dip tubes, shoving a brush through, (no gunk inside btw, yay!) I notice a couple of the rubber gaskets are in bad shape. We have extra, so they get changed out. Moving on to the posts, I’m scrubbing and inspecting and notice that a few of the rubber gaskets are in bad shape as well, we have extra, so they get changed out. Do you see a pattern forming here? Check all the short gas-in dip tubes, and wouldn’t you know it? Some of the seals were in bad shape. What’d we do? We have extra, so they get changed out. You guessed it! So now we have all nine of our kegs with fresh gaskets, all lubed up, and reassembled. We decided to chain them together and push cleanser through them. Not only to clean them up, but also to see if the kegs were holding pressure. I’m happy to report that through a little cannibalization we were able to get seven out of the nine kegs to hold pressure. The other two need some new posts, no big deal.
Will the keg maintenance be the solution to our carbonation problems? We won’t know the answer until we start carbonating beer again, BUT we will have at least marked a possible issue off the list. We are hopeful anyway.
Does the lack of keg maintenance make us gross?
No. I have been diligent in the cleaning of our kegs since that one time we put an APA in a new (to us) keg that still had soda residue in it, that I did not clean thoroughly and our beer tasted like a bizarre soda beer. Lack of keg maintenance is an oversight. All of the internal components were spotless, this was not a cleaning issue. Who looks at those little gaskets any way? We sure as hell will now!
To finish up here, if you inspect your gaskets on a regular basis, I applaud you. If you DO NOT, start doing it now before an issue arises. If you’re already having carbonation issues, but you haven’t been able to put your finger on why, inspect your gaskets. WHATEVER THE SITUATION MAY BE, INSPECT YOUR GASKETS!
Like I said before, we won’t actually know if the gaskets are the culprit, but it’s a good place to start and I’ll keep updating the progress as we start using the kegs again.
Until next time…