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Is oxidation really that big of a threat?

I have a question regarding the threat of oxidation during transfer. I’ve spoken to several fellow brewers and read a few articles regarding the threat of oxidation while transferring from fermentation vessel to keg. In each conversation/article, the threat of oxidation is always a major concern and people are downright anal about not oxidizing their beer while kegging. Over the past few years, I’ve gone as far as to rack my beers under CO2 (I ferment in a keg with tri-clamp adapter for 10 gallon batches) and remove O2 from my corny kegs by pushing sanitizer with CO2 until the corny is empty. It tedious and time consuming but apparently the “right” way to do things. However, I still ferment most of my 5 gallon batches the typical way. I ferment in 6 gallon carboys and use a racking cane to transfer into the corny with a blanket of CO2 at the bottom of the keg. A lot of brewers will tell you that the carboy/racking cane method has a high risk of oxidizing your beer because you will inevitably pick some O2 in the transfer.

Here’s my question: I’ve brewed close to 70 beers over the past 5 years and not once have I had an oxidation problem using either method. Is the issue of oxidation more hype than reality and has anyone ever done a study/experiment using various transferring techniques to see if one is better than another in reducing oxidation? I ask only because I’d love to save myself some time and energy if the data shows CO2 transfer isn’t really necessary.

My firm answer is “I’m not sure.” I’ve been kegging for years. I don’t purge w/ CO2, I’m just careful not to splash and then I purge with CO2 right after I put the lid on. My beer tastes good, so I don’t worry about it. There’s plenty of other things that will definitely affect flavor to worry about.

Oxidation can be that big a threat, but becasue it’s also easy to avoid many people don’t think it’s a threat at all. I have tasted enough badly oxidized beers to know that careless beer handling can oxidize a beer. But I also know that with a modicum of care and common sense, it can just as easily be avoided. I haven’t found a need to go overboard with my procedures. I just rack carefully, avoiding slashing, and make sure to urge the keg before pressurizing. That’s about all it takes for me.

That’s pretty much what I do as well. Oxidation can be a threat to the beer, but only if you let it and it really doesn’t take much to avoid it. I get a bit more particular and even more careful when dealing with my longer aged (1 year or more) beers like my Burtons/Barleywines, Porters, and IPA since they’ll get a long bulk aging with a percentage getting bottled after the aging and conditioning (mostly for holiday and other gift giving).

I make the co2 purge of the receiving vessels (be they secondaries, cornies, or whatever) a high priority and the same goes for bottles when i transfer finished, conditioned beer from keg to bottle. The extra steps are not at all difficult, take a minimum of extra time, and have allowed me to enjoy bottles of rich Burton/Barlywine ales with no hint of oxidation 5 years or more after bottling, and very little hint after even 10 years.

I still bottle my batches and found that any bottles of beer that seem to succumb to oxidation is due to extreme carelessness or just general not paying attention. To pretty much summarize what Denny said, common sense and careful procedures should be enough to significantly reduce the threat of oxidation. As long as there is not an abundance of bubbles being produced you should be in the clear.

It can be a threat. It can manifest in several ways too. Not just the typical cardboard flavor, but also like a number of other compounds that are typically re-absorbed at the tail end of fermentation.

See my post here, and purge your kegs :mrgreen:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=116205

I am with most of these guys. Oxidation can happen - and sucks, but it is not some great boogie man.

Best meathod: figure out the most effective ways to oxidize your beer. Then don’t do those things. Done!

Like sanitation, it’s easy. So why chance it?

From time to time, though, I’ll purposely oxidize small ales that have a significant amount of C-120 in their malt bill. C-120 seems to mesh nicely with mild oxidation flavors.

Have I had the guts to try this strategy on a larger ale that will mature for months on draft?

Nope.

[quote=“Cangrejo”]Like sanitation, it’s easy. So why chance it?

From time to time, though, I’ll purposely oxidize small ales that have a significant amount of C-120 in their malt bill. C-120 seems to mesh nicely with mild oxidation flavors.

Have I had the guts to try this strategy on a larger ale that will mature for months on draft?

Nope.[/quote]
No kiddin’? Can you explain this?

In 100s of batches I have not had a problem with this with one outstanding example. Back when I still bottled I forgot the priming sugar (I did not use the individual things just sugar water like most folk). I had done this once before and had let it ride hoping for the best. No carb and not good to drink was what I got so this time I cursed a bit and then uncapped the 3/4 of the batch that I had in botttles by the time I realized my error, and poured them back in the bottleing bucket (might should have just added the sugar to the bottles but hindsight and all…), added my sugar and rebottled. It was a Brown ale of some type and it tasted quite clearly of wet cardboard. It was not “undrinkable” but it was not enjoyable either.

So my conclusion is that in the normal brewing situations for my brewery it is not a problem, but if I end up in an upset situation it can become a problem.

Barry

Oxidation is currently on the top of my mind. Allow me to elaborate on the idiot move I made three weeks ago. The fermentation of my NB all-grain Bourbon Barrel Porter went very fast at 68 degrees; maybe 48 hours using a starter. I was concerned it had stalled so I measured the gravity and sure enough… 1.035… stalled! I tried raising the temp to 72 but nothing after several days. I decided to pitch some 1052 and after several more days… nothing. I began to think O2 content was an issue, as I relied on the initial pump into the fermenter to oxygenate the wort. Therefore, in a panic after pitching the 1052, I stirred the heck out of the wort for several minutes hoping that additional oxygen would help it complete fermenting. Punchline: The gravity reading of 1.035 was using my refractometer! After realizing I am a complete idiot, I took a hydrometer reading of 1.012. It was done after the first 48 hours. Given all the time and money invested in this brew (1/2 bottle of Makers Mark included), I am terrified I ruined it with all that stirring post-fermentation. What do yall think? Provided I did everything else right, do you think it’ll be drinkable in the near-term (3-5 months)? This is definitely a beer that should get better with age (6-12 months). Sucks that probably won’t be the case for mine.

Probably not a good storer. One thing you can try is to add fermentables to help the yeast reconsume the O2.

[quote=“Loopie Beer”][/quote]
Probably not a good storer. One thing you can try is to add fermentables to help the yeast reconsume the O2.[/quote]

This. Or add a few vials of brett trois and some fruit. That stuff will scavenge every molecule of oxygen.

Josh, what would be the appropriate type and quantity of fermentable to add to this 5G batch of BBP now that it’s been in the secondary for 3-4 weeks? Would the oxygen have already impacted flavor? Thanks for the input!

I would add probably add a about 1/2 to 1 lb light DME. You want to add just enough to restart fermentation. 3-4 weeks hasn’t helped so there his been some damage. At this point I would take the stance that you have nothing to lose.

When I first moved to my current locale, I bought a new racking cane and tubing setup. The tube was a touch too big for the cane and the subsequent batches I racked, I could see a lot of tiny bubbles where the cane and tube met, I imagine sucking air in and mixing with the narrow diameter tubing.

All of those batches had a noticeable cardboard stale aroma.

I bought smaller tubing for the racking cane and problem fixed.

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