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Battling the foamy pour

Pyrexic

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Dec 29, 2023
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I'm a bit of a born-again-brewer so feel like a newbie with dejavu. After not brewing for over 23 years, I decided to get back into the hobby with my son and have been having a blast. Our first batch was a NEIPA, which although we had some first batch issues, has turned out to be a nice beer. 20+ years ago, I primarily bottled but had kegs for the planned parties, but would typically carbonate with corn sugar in the keg, then use a hand pump when we were poor or CO2 to dispense. We we able to get a free kegerator when we started and we force carbonated for the first time. Initially, the beer was too flat, went through a short period of time where we had the perfect pour, and for the remaining 75% of the keg it has been too foamy - like 1/2-3/4 glass of foam. Now we let it sit, pour again and still enjoy it. I have been following a bunch of advice on the internet and have been changing things but nothing seems to help. Forgive the detail of how I carbonated and what I have been doing, but I just kegged a pale ale and hoping to get this figured out. Or maybe I just need to stop messing with it, but I assume it should re-equilibrate in a few days and after some more beer was removed.

- Kegged ~4.8 gal of beer at 68 deg, purged keg 3 times with co2, then sealed with 30 psi of CO2
- shook keg for ~ 2-3 min with CO2 at 30 psi - keg was still vert ( read later about rolling on side) until I did not hear CO2 flow
- Disconnected CO2 and set in kegerator. Next day, connected CO2 and set to 15 psi - let sit for 5 days then turned down to 12. For first 3 days would manually turn on and off CO2 from keg about 3 times per day, - just paranoid i guess. Then read about leaving it on so turned on CO2 and lowered to 12 psi.
Had first glass after 6 days and was a little flat still, so bumped up CO2 to 20 psi
- Next day pour was perfect. Left at 20 psig.
- Next day pour was too foamy - but not horrible. lowered to 12 psi
- Foamy pours continued to get worse. Turned off CO2. Even when pour was very slow it still was very foamy, turned on CO2 back to 10 psi
- When I got the kegerator, I completely cleaned and rebuilt it with new gas and beer lines, new keg connectors, and disassembled the taps and cleaned and replaced the o-rings. Before hooking up the keg, the new lines were cleaned and sanitized. I heard that dirty lines can cause this but can this be caused in 2 weeks? I star-san the tap every night after use.
- I used 3/16" ID beer lines and from what I read they should be between 6-10' long. I started with 10'. I have cut twice now a foot at a time, so now to 8' and have seen no impact on pour or foam.
- I checked for kinks in the beer lines and have them neatly coiled on top of the keg before going up into the tower to the tap. I get that the tower might be warmer and there might be an initial burst of foam because of that, but with glass tilted, and cold beer flowing, foam, foam and more foam.

Again, sorry for all the detail, but I really can't find much in the way of a step-by-step for force carbonation. I understand the CO2 partial pressures we want to be at for specific beers, less carbonated for English bitters, more carbonated for German pilsners, but keg to glass seems to be my struggle at the moment.
 
This is one reason I dislike the 'start with high psi... shake... then reduce psi' method. The best method I have found and the one I use religiously is the set-it-and-forget-it method. Fill and hook up your keg and set the regulator to serving pressure and then just leave it until carbonated.

Foamy pours however are a classic symptom of an unbalanced system. I assume when you say "from what I read" about beer line length you are speaking of a beer line length calculator or from posts on other forums? I suggest ignoring posts from others. It's great that @mashmaster078 gets perfect results with X feet of beer line but that is his/her system not yours. Use a calculator. A balanced system is the product of beer line ID + beer line length + beer line rise + keg pressure + beer temperature + beer line temperature. Brad Smith has written about balancing a keg system: https://beersmith.com/blog/2011/07/14/keg-line-length-balancing-the-science-of-draft-beer/
A simple calculator can be found here: https://www.kegerators.com/beer-line-calculator/
 
Great advice from @Kevin58 . Assuming your faucet(s) are mounted on a tower, even with a balanced system you can expect the first pour to be foamier due to the warmer temperature of the tower. Best solution for this is to keep a 4 or 5 ounce taster glass handy and fill it before your first pint. You can drink it once the foam settles so no beer will be wasted. Depending on the ambient temperature you may need to repeat this on subsequent pours if there's a lot of time between them. For me, that's more than 45 minutes to an hour. YMMV
 
I fixed 90% of my foam issues using the same tactics as Kevin. I set and forget pressure and used a calculator to get line length. I had to go longer than the calculator by a few feet to get it balanced for some reason.

British bitter is tough to get the cask mouth feel. I use a low pressure to carbonate and then turn off the gas. I only turn the gas on to pour then turn it back off again. It works quite well.
 
Great resource and based on the calculations I cut my line too short / had my pressure too high. I’m also guessing the messing around with the pressures didn’t help.

A couple of questions for you folks who set it and forget it - which is right up my alley.

- do you carbonate in your kegerator (cold) or at room temp?
- about how long does it take until you are happy with it?
- do you leave the CO2 on all the time? Or just when pouring? I’ve left mine on except when lowering the pressure but once stable, I just leave it on. Is that part of the problem?
- since I have a 2 tap system and a single pressure regulator, I have 2 options, re-tube the side I cut (the original length was what is needed for 12 psi) or get a regulator for that shorter line. Any pros/cons to either approach. If I retube that line I would switch to the evabarrier tube with duo tight fittings as I’m seeing the value in being able to easily disassemble and sanitize and reassemble.

Planning to get a small fan to have a more uniform temp in the kegerator and hopefully keep the tower a little cooler. Are there any other suggestions for improvements?

Thanks for the great information!
 
Great resource and based on the calculations I cut my line too short / had my pressure too high. I’m also guessing the messing around with the pressures didn’t help.

A couple of questions for you folks who set it and forget it - which is right up my alley.

- do you carbonate in your kegerator (cold) or at room temp?
- about how long does it take until you are happy with it?
- do you leave the CO2 on all the time? Or just when pouring? I’ve left mine on except when lowering the pressure but once stable, I just leave it on. Is that part of the problem?
- since I have a 2 tap system and a single pressure regulator, I have 2 options, re-tube the side I cut (the original length was what is needed for 12 psi) or get a regulator for that shorter line. Any pros/cons to either approach. If I retube that line I would switch to the evabarrier tube with duo tight fittings as I’m seeing the value in being able to easily disassemble and sanitize and reassemble.

Planning to get a small fan to have a more uniform temp in the kegerator and hopefully keep the tower a little cooler. Are there any other suggestions for improvements?

Thanks for the great information!
I carbonate in the kegerator at serving temp - also set and forget. It usually takes at least a week, sometimes 2 before it is stable. Of course, it is sometimes nearly gone by then :)
Typically I leave the gas on all the time. I have 2 keezers at different temps and pressures for e.g. Ales vs lagers. I only turn the pressure off between pours for British bitters if I'm trying to simulate a cask beer. My 2C. - Steve
 
Great resource and based on the calculations I cut my line too short / had my pressure too high. I’m also guessing the messing around with the pressures didn’t help.

A couple of questions for you folks who set it and forget it - which is right up my alley.

- do you carbonate in your kegerator (cold) or at room temp?
- about how long does it take until you are happy with it?
- do you leave the CO2 on all the time? Or just when pouring? I’ve left mine on except when lowering the pressure but once stable, I just leave it on. Is that part of the problem?
- since I have a 2 tap system and a single pressure regulator, I have 2 options, re-tube the side I cut (the original length was what is needed for 12 psi) or get a regulator for that shorter line. Any pros/cons to either approach. If I retube that line I would switch to the evabarrier tube with duo tight fittings as I’m seeing the value in being able to easily disassemble and sanitize and reassemble.

Planning to get a small fan to have a more uniform temp in the kegerator and hopefully keep the tower a little cooler. Are there any other suggestions for improvements?

Thanks for the great information!
- do you carbonate in your kegerator (cold) or at room temp?

In the kegarator cold

- about how long does it take until you are happy with it?

I don't pretend to know the science behind this but my person observation is... It depends.
Pale, low ABV beers seem to carbonate to a satisfactory drinking condition in as little as 7 days while darker and higher ABV beers take as long as 14 days. All however benefit from an extra week conditioning after that point. The bubbles in the head become smaller and more condensed, the head retention gets better and the mouthfeel smoother.

- do you leave the CO2 on all the time? Or just when pouring? I’ve left mine on except when lowering the pressure but once stable, I just leave it on. Is that part of the problem?

I leave mine on all the time. As beer is poured the keg more CO2 will need to enter to equalize the keg. No, that is not the problem.

- since I have a 2 tap system and a single pressure regulator, I have 2 options, re-tube the side I cut (the original length was what is needed for 12 psi) or get a regulator for that shorter line. Any pros/cons to either approach. If I retube that line I would switch to the evabarrier tube with duo tight fittings as I’m seeing the value in being able to easily disassemble and sanitize and reassemble.

I have four faucets and a single regulator. All my line lengths are the same. The only drawback to a single regulator supplying multiple lines is that all of those kegs have to be carbonated and served at the same PSI. There are a couple of ways around this... one is to get a dual gauge regulator which would work for your two keg system - or - run your gas line to a manifold that has small regulators for each branch. I have re-done my keezer recently with EVA Barrier line and Duo Tight fittings for all of my beer lines but I haven't changed out my gas lines... yet.
 
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