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SOS! Crown caps not sealing. What to do?

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PitBull

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I have made hundreds of gallons of wine/mead but make only a batch or two of beer each year. I often put wine/mead into beer bottles.

About three weeks ago I bottled an encore batch of bourbon barrel porter. It is absolutely delicious again, but totally flat this time. I used only USA (as opposed to European) crown top bottles, oxygen barrier crown caps (USA size, flag design), and a Super Agata Bench Capper. I filled one 24 ounce PET bottle to test for firmness, along with two cases of 12-ounce glass bottles. The PET bottle became rock hard after two weeks, indicating good carbonation, and proved to be perfect upon opening/drinking. The capper left a dimple in the bottle caps, as before, which had never caused a problem previously. Sediment in the glass bottles indicate the natural carbonation progressed as it should. The capping process also felt “normal”. Does this appear to be a bad batch of crown caps?

More importantly, what to do at this point? Right now I am planning to purchase some “carbonation drops” (just sugar) for re-carbonation and slowly decant two 12-ounce beer bottles into each 24-ounce PET bottle, with one "drop" per 12 ounces. The Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale yeast should be able to handle ABV of up to 12%. Right now the brew sits at ~ 7.1% and the re-carbonation should add about 0.5% ABV. I also plan to use six 12-ounce glass bottles with different colored bottle caps to test if it is capper problem versus a bottle cap problem.

Please provide insight as to if my plan to “Save the Beer” is sound. If you have a better solution, I would love to hear it. Thanks and “cheers”!
 

danr

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I am definitely not an expert on this, but my only concern with your strategy is that if the glass bottles just did not carbonate yet for some reason, adding more sugar could lead to bottle bombs when fermentation restarts. Maybe you just want to try the PET bottle first before you try glass with new caps?

I do not know if you can get a balloon over the neck of a bottle, but if so, you could re-prime a bottle with the original caps to try and detect leaks during carbonation.

Another way that I have carbonated in PET bottles before is with a "carbonation cap" and CO2, but this requires the equipment and would be very tedious for a whole batch.
 

PitBull

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danr, Thanks the post. I might try the balloon trick to test for leakage, especially on a new 12-ounce bottle with a new flag cap.

But there seems to be little chance of bottle bombs. As stated "Sediment in the glass bottles indicate the natural carbonation progressed as it should.' It appears that the CO2 escaped, especially since the beer in the original PET bottle from that batch was fully carbonated.

Also "It is absolutely delicious again, but totally flat this time." If the natural carbonation (mini-fermentation) had not taken place, the beer would be sweet from the priming sugar. The beer in the glass bottles tasted just like the previous batch, except flat.
 
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Kansas Mead

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It seems to me that the bench capper did not seat the crown cap well. Have you tried to cap a bottle with only water in it. Then turn it upside down and check to see if it was leaking?
 

mannye

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Yep. There is something wring with the capper or perhaps it's a bad batch of caps? i have beer that's over 20 years old (for the sentimental value) and still tightly sealed. Can you maybe get someone to send you a keg and Co2 tank? Empty everything into the keg and force carb the whole thing. While you wait get hold of 30 empty Grolsch bottles.
 

PitBull

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It's never given me problems before but I had previously capped only 4 batches of beer, and quite a bit of still wine. The bottles do not leak when turned over and the caps do not move when twisted. It must be a very slow leak. After I get the beer transferred to PET bottles, I'll conduct an experiment with sugar water and yeast. I should get a good idea of what's happening for a couple of bucks worth of supplies. Hopefully it was just the bottle caps.

I'll post the results of the transfer re-carbonation results in a couple of weeks.
 

JayH

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Easier than that, just fill the bottom 1 inch with water, Chill all of it, then cap it and turn the bottle upside down and slowly heat it (don't want to break the bottle) the rise of air pressure should mimic the pressure from carbonation a lot easier and quicker.

jay
 

Shelley

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Sep 13, 2013
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FWIW: I had a batch of sgain dubh porter that took at least a month before I got any fizz. I didn't have a PET bottle to compare it to; I just let it sit and it gradually became well-carbonated.
 

PitBull

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Save My Beer Procedures.

I cleaned and sanitized the 24-ounce PET bottles and screw caps. Upon opening the glass bottles, a slight hissing sound emanated from some of them, indicating a small amount of pressure. Inside was that wispy cloud that normally accompanies a fully carbonated beer. I interpreted this as a good sign since the glass bottles’ head space is likely full of CO2 rather than air (no oxidation). A few of the bottles exhibited a small amount of carbonation, “confirming” that the most of the CO2 escaped from the other bottles.

Employing a small funnel, I decanted two 12-ounce glass bottles into each of the 24 ounce PET bottles, allowing the beer to run down the side of the bottle instead of splashing. Hopefully this reduced the potential for oxidation. Into each PET bottle I dropped two Cooper's Carbonation Drops (100% sugar). I used the drops since this method provided the beer with minimal air contact and ease of use compared to other methods. I inverted the PET bottles a couple of times to help the sugar to dissolve. Upon completion, I loosened each cap slightly to “burp” the bottles of residual CO2 from the previous priming (bottle bomb prevention). I stored the beer in a darkened room and anxiously await the results.

I’ll keep you posted. Capper and crown cap testing will be conducted at a later date.
 

PitBull

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It could be your capper attachment is worn which is why its making a dimple, is it detachabel so that you can just order a new one from the manufacturer? WVMJ
It really is not very old, and has been making the dimple since Day 1, with no previous adverse effects. I wonder is the attachment is a bit crooked. The last time I used it I bottled some still wine. I have turned a few of those bottles upside down, standing them on their cap, They did not leak.

It looks likes l'm going to have to conduct some pressure testing.
 

WVMJack

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Feb 12, 2013
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THere should not be a dimple on caps, I would replace the capper end and not keep messing around waiting for it to happen again, is any batch worth loosing over simply replacing the cap end? WVMJ
 

JayH

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The dimple depends upon the capper. Mine has been leaving dimples for the last 10 years with no problems. From you descriptions that you can't twist the caps and that they appear to be sealed I suspect that the capper worked just fine. My guess is the problem is either with the caps themselves, or possibly something in the bottles that kept the fermentation from happening as planned. Did you take a SG of one of the bottles and compare it to you SG before adding the bottling sugar? This will tell you if the yeast actually ate any of the sugar or not. Tasting and trying to remember what it tasted like before as a comparison is an imperfect way at best to determine if the yeast did their job.
 

PitBull

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I have googled “dimpled crown caps” and a few have stated that the dimple has not been a problem for them. Several others had no experience with the dimple and could not offer any first hand advice.

I did not take a SG after adding sugar as I have never experienced this problem before. I have always used the single PET bottle to determine how the carbonation was progressing. When the PET bottle gets rock hard, the carbonation is complete. However, the initial PET bottle and the 48 glass bottles were cleaned and sanitized in the same manner and filled with the same beer from a bottling bucket that had priming sugar added to the batch, as opposed to the individual bottles. Everything was identical.

The taste comparison was with the fully carbonated beer in the PET bottle and flat beer in a couple of glass bottles. The glass bottles also showed sediment from the priming process.


P1010023.JPG


I have posted a photo of the dimple above. It is a very thin arc about 1/8 of the way around the top of the bottle, positioned at 9 o’clock in the photo. It appears that the dimple is being produced by the top of the capper’s bell after the bell's spring is fully compressed by the bottle cap during the capping process. Sometimes the arc is slightly longer or shorter, but always in the same position.
 
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JayH

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Yes, but you know what the SG was before you added the extra sugar and how much sugar you added, you should be able to come up with an approximate SG from that. Compare your current SG and see what it is, it should be back in the range of the original. If it is, then the yeast did there job, if not then something happened to the fermentation.

Most sugars give you around 40 points per pound per gallons (honey less, DME around 46)
So figuring about 4 ounces for 5 gallons that means you probably raised you SG about 2 points or so.

Cheers
Jay
 

JayH

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Just one last note.

I bottled a bunch of mead today and noticed that I have caps from two different batches, some are silver and some are brass colored, so easy to tell apart. At the end of the bottling I noticed that none of the silver ones have dimples in them, but all of the brass colored ones do. You would never notice the difference, but when measured, the crown of the brass caps are just a wee bit taller than those of the silver.

Cheers
Jay
 

PitBull

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JayH, The little dimple appears to be a result of the tiny “lip” of the hole through which the little magnetic cap holder retracts. Since the lip is at the top of the inside of the bell, the dimple seems to indicate that the capper is functioning properly, i.e., the capper arm is providing the maximum stroke while seating the cap. The dimple is located inside the barrier ring of the bottle cap (see photo previously posted).

I tend to get dimples with all caps, most likely because my capper self-adjusts for height. I have eight different colors in all so that I can color code my brews. All caps have been purchased from reputable home brew sites. Only the US Flag caps have caused a problem, so I’m beginning to think that particular batch of caps are defective. But I still plan to test before bottling another carbonated beverage.
 

mannye

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JayH, The little dimple appears to be a result of the tiny “lip” of the hole through which the little magnetic cap holder retracts. Since the lip is at the top of the inside of the bell, the dimple seems to indicate that the capper is functioning properly, i.e., the capper arm is providing the maximum stroke while seating the cap. The dimple is located inside the barrier ring of the bottle cap (see photo previously posted).

I tend to get dimples with all caps, most likely because my capper self-adjusts for height. I have eight different colors in all so that I can color code my brews. All caps have been purchased from reputable home brew sites. Only the US Flag caps have caused a problem, so I’m beginning to think that particular batch of caps are defective. But I still plan to test before bottling another carbonated beverage.
Maybe get a bunch of coca cola or similar soda in glass bottles and after making them really cold, recap them with the suspect caps. See what happens when they warm up.


Sent from my TARDIS at the restaurant at the end of the universe while eating Phil.
 

PitBull

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Maybe get a bunch of coca cola or similar soda in glass bottles and after making them really cold, recap them with the suspect caps. See what happens when they warm up.
Great suggestion. That seems like the simplest way to conduct a test.

BTW, Most of the PET bottles seem to be firming up nicely. I am cautiously optimistic that the batch will be salvaged.
 
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