Thursday, July 29, 2010

Paulaner Hefewisen Problems and Solutions

I ordered a 13.2 gal keg of Paulaner Hefewisen from DaveCo Liquors with a few days to spare until our annual Block Party.  Enough time to hopefully work out any kinks I might have with it.  This isn't the first keg I've purchased for the new Kegorator (version 2 - the previous chest freezer died on me), but it is the first Hefewisen in the beast.  I've been mostly keeping Guinness, some sort of home made soda, and seltzer on hand as of late. Onto the saga.

So, I unloaded the keg and stuffed it into the new kegorator to settle down and acclimate to its new home.  Knowing that wheat beers are fickle with dispensing, I decided to let it sit until the next day.

In the morning, I attached the German Slider Type 'A' coupler to the keg and turned up the gas to 17psi (yes, this is its correct pressure here in the land of 5280 - I live just outside of Denver, CO). I'll explain the pressure setting shortly.

Now to the issues. Foam!  Of course you are going to say I'm gonna get a ton of foam because I have the pressure set so high.  Everyone and their brother was telling me to lower the pressure and that will fix it.  They just don't understand kegging is all.  If that is your reasoning, your wrong as well.  Keep reading.

There are a few principles that once met (and kept constant), you will get a perfect pour (and thus won't get foam).  I just had to figure out which one wasn't being met.  Considering I thought this all through previously, my problem was in how to find the one (or ones) that I had wrong. And something has to be wrong.

Lets list everything that needs to be considered:

Correct Pressure for the particular beer/altitude
Temperature of the BEER (not the air temp of the kegorator)
Length of draw / Length of beer line
Proper pour technique 
There are a few others like cleanliness of the coupler, lines, faucet, etc... but this is a given; who wants to drink beer (or anything for that matter) that isn't clean.  Always keep anything that gets in contact with the beer clean.

Now that we know what the potential problems could be, lets go through each one-by-one and see where I screwed up (cause I did screw up... kinda big time too).


As per Paulaner Brewery in Munchin (Munich), Germany, there should be about 2.7 volumes of CO2 dissolved in the this Hefewisen. I want my beer dispensed at 38 deg F.  This equates to around 13.5psi to be applied at Sea Level (to keep the beer from going flat).  I live just outside of Denver, CO, so I need to add an extra 2psi.  I add 1psi more to compensate for the open faucet and line expansion (also called 'push').  This leaves me with 16.5psi (or there abouts).  I rounded up to 17.  

Looking at the Beer Chart, we can see how I got to the above.  We then add 1psi for every 1000 ft above sea level (and I added the extra 1psi for push as well). 

I know for sure that my pressure is good as per my calculations and I have no leaks.  The only way I could be off would be if the beers second fermentation on the way over from Germany was way more than expected.  If that were the case I'd be dispensing at too low of a pressure.  I don't think this is the case as the beer does not seem to be over carbonated.

As we can see, my pressure setup is good.

Beer Temperature:

Like I mentioned I keep my beer at 38 deg F, or I try to.  I have been having some problems with this since Kegorator Version 2.  This chest freezer is bigger than my last one (and that one wasn't small by any means).  I keep having to adjust the external thermostat due to liquid temperature being too warm and/or air temperature being too cold.  Wen it comes down to it, the liquid (beer, seltzer, soda) is on the warmer side and my lines have been freezing.... at the same time! And when I adjust things I screw it up even more to one extreme or the other.  This has been very frustrating at the least.  I admit, this has GOT to be my problem, but how can I fix it.... every time I try I make things worse.

Beer Line Length:

Beer line length.  This could be at least part of my problem.  The shorter the beer line, the faster the pour and inversely, the longer the line the slower the pour.  According to all the calculations I have run into, this should be enough.  5 ft should be good for about 12 - 14 psi, and 6 ft should be just about good enough for my 17psi setting.  So, my 8 ft should be plenty, but my beer is coming out like a rocket!  Honestly, I wasn't surprised.  I tend to keep my lines longer than "recommended" and have always thought about making them longer.  I've never had a problem with too slow of a flow. I'll be getting even longer line to slow the pour down some.

Pour Technique:

Here are some references on how to pour a beer properly.  And here is how to properly pour a Guinness. And a properly poured Guinness should take 119.5 seconds from start to finish.  Enjoy the wait, I know I do.  Basically, don't ever touch the faucet to the glass...ever. 


Everything is clean, I had seltzer running through the beer lines just prior to hooking up the keg, so I know that the lines are clean.  I keep my faucets scrubbed down every few days (I keep the kegorator in the garage so this is necessary).  So, everything is clean.  Even my glasses are clean.  There is such a thing as beer-clean glasses (also check out how to test for a beer-clean glass).  I am not going to discuss this here, but it could be a factor.

Admitting the problem:

Now that I know that I have possibly two problems, one that is easily resolved and the other, not so much.  I decided to start with the easy one first.  I grabbed my credit card and headed off to the nearest home brew store for some beer line (and maybe some advise).  I decided on 15 ft of beer line.  Figured that that much would absolutely slow down the flow to a reasonable rate and if it were too slow, again easily fixed with a snip until it flows correctly.  As for the advise, "they have no clue about kegging".  They may know how to brew beer, but dispensing they need some re-education.   To say their suggestions were useless is a drastic understatement.

Got home, swapped out the line and wow, what a difference.  This is how beer should pour... perfect rate of flow.  But still a glass full of foam (maybe a tad better, but not much).  Damn, the temperature is off again...WTF.

I opened the top of the freezer and grabbed the bottle of water where my external thermostat probe is and.... oh no, it was frozen solid.  No wonder the rest of the kegorator was warm, the probe won't register warm when in a block of ice.  I cracked open the bottle and broke off the ice and decided to leave it in open air in the same corner (instead of in a bottle of water). I then promptly went inside and looked up my model of thermostat.  Low and behold, this model is NOT submersible.  I always thought they all were.  This means the bottle of water it was in was screwing up the reading.  Well shit.......

I waited until the next day before testing again.  I checked the kegorator a few times to make sure the air temp and my seltzer was consistent which they seems to be.

The final test.  Now, to test the beer, we need to first get that beer-clean glass and a second glass (unless you like to chug beer).  Open the faucet all the way and pour a beer (make sure you do it properly).  Then pour the beer out (this is what the second glass is for).  Then immediately, pour another beer in the same glass.  This is the glass you need to stick the calibrated thermometer into to determine the temperature.  At this time, you can also look to see it has the proper head instead of being a glass of foam.

My test went perfect.  I could tell right away.  The first pour was just under half foam (still not to great), but the second pour was 38 deg on the dot and a nice 3/4 - 1 inch head.  Not to mention it tasted good too.

To sum everything up.

Make sure the temperature is constant!
Calculate the proper pressure and don't listen to anyone who says to turn it down.
Screw the beer line length calculations and use what you need to pour the beer at the proper flow rate (about a gallon per minute).
Make sure everything that comes in contact with the beer is clean (including the glass).
Pour the beer properly (don't touch the faucet to the glass!)

Doing these 5 things should ensure you have a perfect glass of beer every time.  Enjoy!