Foaming beer

Discussion in 'Home Bar' started by sfc19120, Nov 27, 2019.

  1. sfc19120

    sfc19120 Initiate (37) Aug 9, 2015 Oklahoma

    i apologize if you're all tired of hearing about this, but I've reached wit's end. I have done extensive research, endured trials and tribulations, but still cannot nail down what's going on. Most of my research helps the common kegerator owner, particularly those dispensing commercial kegs. My problems also reach into carbing kegs of homebrew.
    My equipment is a standard fridge converted with a tap on the front door. The beer line is 3/16" ID vinyl (approx 10 ft). I have ball lock adapters secured to the end of both the gas and beer lines. I have a 3 gallon corny keg and 5ish gallon sanke keg. The sanke tap is converted with ball lock fittings for quick line disconnect. I have sprayed the entire system with Starsan in search of gas leaks, with none reported.
    My first attempt was using the 3 gal corny. I was obviously all over the place and only had 3 gallons to experiment with, so I obviously didn't expect perfection there.
    My main concern is with the second batch, using the 5 gal sanke. It was a Bock, so I lagered it for two weeks on 12 psi at 38 degrees liquid temp (measured in cup of water in fridge. Not completely accurate, but close enough). Two weeks to the day, absolutely no carbonation. Flat as a board. After tinkering with pressure increases over the next few days, I finally lost my cool and cranked it up to 20 psi. 24 hours later, I have a perfectly carbed beer with 1" head!! That unfortunately didn't last long; the next day proved to be too much pressure and poured too fast, causing wild beer. I slowly dropped the pressure to find the right serving pressure, but never found it. The beer, obviously carbed, was coming out flat with lots of head.
    I know this is long. If you've made it this far, thanks and I look forward to you thoughts. I'm beginning to think I need a new regulator, but want to rule as many of my process faults as I can.
    Happy thanksgiving all. Cheers!
  2. sfc19120

    sfc19120 Initiate (37) Aug 9, 2015 Oklahoma

    Long story short, I've since discovered that my beer line might be too long. One of the fancy system balancing calculators I've been using says 10 ft. As recently found, simple calculator says 5 ft.
    Thoughts before I chop up my line? My LHBS is over an hour away...
  3. billandsuz

    billandsuz Devotee (411) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    try 6.5'. That is going to be 12 to 13 psi, depending on the specific brand of choker. i assume this is actual beverage line, 3/16" ID and not just any old no name vinyl tube.

    you can always shorten a bit but adding line length is not possible.
    also, maintain 38F. not sort of 38, 42 etc. 38.

    the problems you are having are probably not related to your choker though. 10' is too much but it has no effect on the dissolved carbonation.

    my first guess is that your regulator is wonky.

    what brand kegerator? is the regulator name brand?
    sfc19120 likes this.
  4. PortLargo

    PortLargo Devotee (465) Oct 19, 2012 Florida

    This Forum gets these type questions all the time but no it doesn't tire us. Short answer is your balance is out of whack. Suggest you read these two links as they discuss most all the parameters and how to adjust:

    A few quick points while you try to digest the above info: It takes time for temps and pressure to reach equilibrium, we're talking days not hours. Too long of a line is rarely a problem, but you should always have extra. Next time shopping buy 25+ feet, you will end up using it over time. I would not trust measuring temp in a cup of water, the links above give a better method. Your description of carb levels makes no sense. Two weeks at 12psi giving zero versus one day at 24 making it perfect does not equate. Don't confuse foam with carb level and vice versa. Either your sensory receptor is screwy or the reg is FUBAR or you had a valve in the wrong position. To confirm you aren't leaking gas try cutting your master valve off overnight and see if pressure holds.

    After reviewing the above links get back with us on your symptoms. The good news is once you get balanced it is virtually maintenance free until the equipment goes tits up.

    EDIT: What you want is Bevlex 200 3/16 x 7/16 beer line ... the better stores carry this for about 50 - 80¢/foot.
    #4 PortLargo, Nov 28, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2019
    billandsuz and sfc19120 like this.
  5. sfc19120

    sfc19120 Initiate (37) Aug 9, 2015 Oklahoma

    Not quite sure on the beverage line vs plain vinyl tubing. I expressed my issues with my LHBS and they gave me the 3/16" tubing. I'm leaning towards your answer on the length, with validation from the recently found calculator. I know balance is probably the first issues I face. The kegerator is just a plain fridge with a hole/tap through the door; I bought it secondhand. I agree that the line length has no bearing on the gas pressure. I'm thinking I need to solve the balance first. The previously experienced carbing issue might've been a product of bad line length/balance. The regulator brand is Kegco, so somewhat trusted? I'll have to make sure the temperature is consistent. What's your go to calculator, if I may ask?
    Thanks for your reply!
  6. sfc19120

    sfc19120 Initiate (37) Aug 9, 2015 Oklahoma

    I've been doing some extensive research but will check out the links for sure. I thought I had the balance thing solved with 10' through online calculators, until one essentially cut that length in half. I know improper balance will make carbed beer flat, but those calculators caused me to think that I was on the right track lengthwise.
    The subsequent calculator find also proves the 20+ psi theory, as that would balance the length in the system at 10' tubing. I was just worried that using the sanke keg for the first time meant I would have to change force carbing procedure.
    Thanks again for your time and I'll surely report back any new findings.
  7. billandsuz

    billandsuz Devotee (411) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    3/16" beverage line is needed for one thing. It is important, but it only does one thing. Increase resistance.

    The other two variables are applied pressure and temperature. that's it. There are no more. 3 variables.

    Note that somewhat obviously but also mysteriously, of the three things required none of them do anything other than there one thing. Temperature. Pressure. Resistance. They need to be in balance. Most of what you will read on these fancy computer forums is written by schmucks who don't understand and it just makes things more complicated. Changing line length will not change the temperature. Changing the temperature won't fix the applied pressure, etc.

    So, verify beer temp is 38F. With a good thermometer. Liquid temp not air temp. 38, not 40. A good thermometer is not optional either, because the cheap supermarket thermometer is good enough for medium rare but does not have 1 degree of tolerance.

    Set the regulator to 12 psi. And wait...

    About 6.5' of beer line. Though others may like anywhere from 5 to 10 even.

    The resistance supplied by the beer line will slow down the rate of flow, and that will limit turbulence, and that will allow for a controlled pour. If the beer pours violently it will hit the glass with too much turbulence and you will get to much foam.

    If any of these three things are messed with and you aren't sure where the ship is headed you can't steer the ship. And your beer will suffer. All three need to be balanced.
    38F. 6.5'. 12 psi.

    Scrapss likes this.
  8. sfc19120

    sfc19120 Initiate (37) Aug 9, 2015 Oklahoma

    I guess the mention of a different "serving" pressure is where things got confusing along the way. That's the only reason I was chasing pressure, although I didn't really understand the err in my ways. I understood the carbonation/temperature chart, but people would talk about dropping their pressure to 8-10 psi "serving" pressure. I obviously tried that spike up to 20 out of frustration. I now know that balance means leaving the same pressure, so you can carb and serve at the same pressure.
    The beer line length variable is where I was led astray. The first one I used is where I got the 10' measurement from. The second one is much simpler, and more in line with your recommendation.
    I had a constant temperature, although it wasn't the beer temp. I measured that to be 36 degrees out of the tap and made the adjustment to 38. I also adjusted the beer line length to 6.5. I unfortunately blew my last leg, but kegged an amber ale just last night. It is currently sitting on 12 psi, where it will stay for the next two weeks.
    Thanks again. Cheers.
    billandsuz likes this.
  9. DougC123

    DougC123 Disciple (330) Aug 21, 2012 Connecticut

    People who talk about serving pressure don’t have control of their systems. For short draw systems you really don’t need to fuss with the lone length calculators. Use a force carb chart based on the volumes of CO2 and a line in the 7-10’ range. A longer line will slow the flow of properly balanced beer. Start at 10’ and you will never have foam, but you will have slow pours. Cut it back for the pour speed that makes you happy. I started at 10’ and have been there for 7 years. I’ve got time to watch a nice pour.
    billandsuz likes this.
  10. sfc19120

    sfc19120 Initiate (37) Aug 9, 2015 Oklahoma

    I believe the 10' of line is what lead to me chasing pressures. The 12 psi want enough to keep the beer in the beer line, causing air pockets. This caused the carbonation to break out in the line and make for a heady pour. I'm all for slow, but nice pours; I'm not looking to clock beer flow at professional levels. I just want a nice draft beer in my glass.
    Thanks to everyone for helping me understand some of the intricacies of balance. I'm going to focus on stabilizing the variables and honing in on that perfect pour.
  11. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (1,574) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    If 12 PSI was enough to push the beer (I didn't read all the details) out of the faucet, then it was enough to "keep the beer in the line."

    Just know your beer temp and how much CO2 pressure you need at that temp at equilibrium for the volumes of CO2 you want. The line length needed then follows directly from the pressure.

    If you're getting excessive foam, the line isn't long enough for the pressure, i.e. is not providing enough resistance.
  12. matthewp

    matthewp Initiate (189) Feb 27, 2015 Massachusetts

    Being over 38 will increase foam but being below 38 will not. Colder temperatures will affect taste, in that colder beer mutes the flavor, but won't increase the amount of foam. The other issue with the temperature at the tap being too cold is that you run the risk of the lines freezing if the temperature in the kegerator gets too cold. Its no fun waiting for your lines to melt. So to be perfectly balanced you need 38 but before being too focused on being exactly 38 are you positive that you are using a quality thermometer that has been calibrated? I tend to believe most issues are more temperature related than anything else. I also tend to believe that most people are not using good thermometer's when they claim their beer temperature is 38F.