Your MiniBrew beer is primarily carbonated via CO2 Cartridges that connect to the Smart Keg via a CO2 Regulator. The User Actions should walk you through this process during the carbonation and serving states.
However, everybody has their own preferences when it comes to carbonating their beers, so you may wish to add a few bubbles. You may also find that your beer is flat. If you want to increase your carbonation or prevent your beer from going flat, please read the information below to help carbonate your beer to your liking.
Have I been doing it correctly?
If your beer comes out with little or no bubbles, be sure to first check the following:
- Is your CO2 Regulator correctly connected to the CO2 Keg Post?
- Is your tap correctly connected to the TAP Keg Post?
(the words 'CO2' and 'TAP' are written on the Smart Keg Lid for you to check whether each accessory is connected to the correct post)
If this is connected in the correct way, then you can proceed to check the CO2 in your Smart Keg.
How do I know if there is CO2 in my Smart Keg?
You can check whether the Smart Keg is filled with CO2 or not. Before you do this, it’s important to turn the CO2 regulator to 0 PSI. After closing the CO2 Regulator, check whether there’s pressure by gently pulling the Pressure Relief Valve upwards for a brief moment. Be sure to pull it carefully and shortly. You want to hear whether it makes a soundithout draining the Smart Keg of all its pressure.
- If you hear a hissing sound, it means your pressure is all right
- If you hear no sound, or a short/weak hissing sound, it means there is no pressure or the pressure is too low
When and how should I replace my CO2 Cartridge?
When first carbonating your beer, the instructions ask you to leave the CO2 Regulator attached, at maximum pressure, for 2 days (48hours). Once the keg is in serving mode, the instructions ask you to swap the CO2 Cartridge for a new one, since the old CO2 Cartridge will likely be empty by now.
But it doesn’t end there!
How do I maintain carbonation while storing my beer?
We recommend that you deliver at least 20 PSI to the Smart Keg via the CO2 Regulator to maintain carbonation levels. However, If you don’t drink your beer for a while, the CO2 will slowly and steadily dissipate while your CO2 regulator continues to pressurize your Smart Keg with replacement CO2.
For this reason, the CO2 Cartridge will slowly empty, and it would be wise to check the Cartridge regularly. Typically, a replacement cartridge is necessary once every 2 days if you want the beer to be ready to serve. However, if you just want to keep the beer fresh with lower carbonation, you could lower the pressure and swap the cartridge less regularly.
You may need to fill empty space in the Smart Keg if the CO2 level is low, especially if the beer level is also reduced. You can hear the gas entering the keg when there is space to fill. Please bear in mind that cartridges can fill approximately 8-9L in total when the CO2 is expanded on release, so if there is a lot of empty space, you may wish to check the cartridge again the next day.
How do I swap or check the CO2 Cartridge?
If the Smart Keg is in Serving State, you can click on the information (“i”) button in your app or Brewery Portal to ‘view previous instructions’. Here you can see one method of swapping the CO2 Cartridge. This simply entails the removal of the Cartridge by unscrewing it while the CO2 Regulator is still attached to the Smart Keg Lid. However, there may still be some CO2 left, so it would be wise to protect your hands when unscrewing (e.g. with a cloth) in case the cartridge begins to freeze when the CO2 rapidly escapes.
To be absolutely sure your CO2 Cartridge is empty, you can follow these steps:
- Ensure the CO2 Regulator dial is turned to 0 PSI
- Remove the Ball Lock Connector (with regulator/cartridge attached) from the Smart Keg Lid
Checking Cartridge for remaining CO2:
- Unscrew and remove the black Ball Lock Connector from the CO2 Regulator
- Slowly turn the CO2 Regulator dial until you hear CO2 escaping, then turn it off again.
If you hear gas escaping, the cartridge is not yet empty, and you can reattach the CO2 Regulator to your Smart Keg Lid via the CO2 Keg Post. Don’t forget to Sanitize the Keg Post and Ball Lock Connector using the sanitizer spray first. Then open the CO2 Regulator to the maximum. You should hear the CO2 refilling the Smart Keg. If you think the CO2 Cartridge is now empty, you can repeat the steps to check if this is the case.
If nothing is coming out of the CO2 Cartridge, even when you fully open the CO2 Regulator, you can swap the old CO2 Cartridge with a new one. To do this, follow the steps as you’ve seen in the User Actions before:
- Return the regulator dial to 0 PSI and unscrew the Cartridge.
- Then screw in a new CO2 Cartridge quickly and tightly. Make sure that the small safety hole for CO2 evacuation is pointing away from your face (don’t worry, if gas leaks from here, you can keep screwing the Cartridge in until it stops hissing).
- You can now re-attach the Ball Lock Connectors and secure the Regulator back onto the CO2 Post on the Smart Keg Lid after sanitizing appropriately.
How do I increase Carbonation?
Once you have checked all of the above to ensure there is pressure on the Smart Keg from incoming CO2, you can increase carbonation by setting the CO2 Regulator to maximum to continue, start or increase the carbonation. You will then need to wait for the CO2 to be absorbed by your beer!
How long should I wait before drinking?
If you are looking to increase the carbonation slightly, you could wait a day before your next beer tasting. You can always increase the carbonation again if it’s not to your liking.
If you are looking to increase carbonation significantly, you should wait 2 days, then replace the CO2 Cartridge by following the instructions mentioned above or in the User Action Steps.
How do I tap my beer effectively?
To serve your beer, set the PSI to 0 and release all CO2 from the Smart Keg by pulling up on the Pressure Relief Valve until the gas stops escaping. You can now pour your first glass by opening the tap fully. If the beer is not coming out very quickly (or at all), turn the CO2 Regulator dial to 5 PSI and try again. Feel free to adjust the dial to find the best level for you. You can see these instructions in the User Actions at the start of serving mode, or view them again by 'viewing previous instructions' via the 'i' button.
Alternatively, you might be able to get a feel for how much CO2 to release without emptying the entire Smart Keg. You might also wish to serve with higher pressures, but only opening the tap slightly (not fully). This should preserve more carbonation in your beer, but you may also see less foam on top. Remove the Tap for cleaning at the end of the serving session, and wipe and sanitize your Smart Keg Lid.
Other aspects that might affect carbonation and foam
In some very rare cases, you’re doing all of the above correctly, but you still feel like your beer is missing foam when you tap and drink it. In these cases, take the information below in mind or simply contact us to see if our brewers have some ideas.
Ingredients and processes
- Residual detergents and oils will quickly dissolve foam as it's forming. That means that all equipment should be properly rinsed out before use. This also applies to the glasses you pour the beer in.
- Proteins from the malt support the foam stability/retention of your beer. Some malts are low in proteins (for example, Maris otter or Cara malt). You could potentially add Carapils or other protein-rich malts to make sure there are sufficient amounts of protein to ensure a stable foam.
- Try bumping up your mash scheme to 68-71 °C and reduce the time of your 62-66 °C step. At this higher temperature, less convertible sugars are created, while at the same time, more dextrins (large sugar compounds) are formed in your mash. These dextrins support the foam stability of your beer.
Hardware and tapping
- Make sure the CO2 Regulator is set to maximum pressure (30 PSI) when carbonating.
- Verify that there are no leaks by pooling a small amount of soapy water on top of the Smart Keg Lid. If the soapy water is blowing little bubbles, you should take a video and send it to customer support!
- If you are mostly concerned about the carbonation rather than the foamy head, you could try tapping more slowly (instead of opening the tap fully). Tapping slowly won't give much/any head but more CO2 remains in your beer.
- You could also consider buying a tap with flow control which can give better handling.