Bottle Conditioning and Cold Crashing (Will it Cause Problems?)

Over time, discovering new processes will give a brewer the ability to brew a better, tastier beer. Since proper bottle conditioning will impact taste and cold crashing done after fermentation can change the look of a beer, brewers may wonder what happens if you do both to the same brew.

Combining cold crashing and bottle conditioning can improve the appearance of the final beer and improve the absorption of carbonation. While cold crashing on its own doesn’t improve the flavor, it can make the beer more stable by removing extra contaminants. Proceed with bottle conditioning once the beer has come back up to temperature.

Read on to learn more about cold crashing and bottle conditioning and how these processes can work together to achieve a much clearer and better-carbonated beer. 

What is cold crashing homebrew beer?

Once you’ve gotten some experience home brewing, you may want to consider cold crashing your beer.

Cold crashing is the process of chilling down a beer after fermentation. The drop in temperatures causes the yeast and other “floaties” to coagulate together, making it easier to filter out, giving a beer more clarity, and helping to improve its purity levels. There are no benefits to taste with cold crashing, but it helps improve the beer’s aesthetics.

Since murky beer can be a turn-off to some beer drinkers, brewers are adding the process of cold crashing to their brewing cycle. Cold crashing helps to remove impurities and other contaminants, helping to increase the clarity of a beer. It is done by reducing a brew’s temperatures to 33°F in the shortest amount of time after the completion of fermentation. 

The rapid drop in temperature encourages the yeast that hasn’t fallen to the bottom to coagulate (or go into survival mode). These “flocs” of yeast and other particles will be dropped out of suspension and filtered out of the brew. For best results, cold crashing needs to be done after fermentation is completed, and the beer should be held at the reduced temperatures for a couple of days.

Is cold crashing beer necessary?

Cold crashing is not necessary, but there are some benefits to it.

Although cold crashing offers no benefits to flavor, the process can help make beer more stable and longer-lasting due to the removal of extra contaminants. Brewers choose this process to achieve clarity over other methods, which require adding either kettle or cask fining.

Your beer will be cold eventually. Most times, beer will experience a temperature drop once the product is bottled and put in the fridge. Cold crashing your beer before packaging may help to ensure that your beer is more stable and maintains a longer-lasting taste.

Cold crashing allows you to remove excess yeast or other contaminants without adding finings, unlike other methods that require adding other finings, like kettle finings and cask finings, to help remove any impurities. If the goal is to remove particles, it will make more sense not to add any additional materials, which could risk ruining your beer.

Removing any excess yeast or other contaminants from your brew will lead to higher clarity and more aesthetic-looking beer. Plus, less yeast and more beer is always a good formula for a longer-lasting and more stable beer.

Can you still bottle condition after cold crashing your brew?

If you’re already bottle conditioning your beer, you may wonder if you can do it in conjunction with cold crashing.

You can bottle condition after cold crashing your beer. You would just need to wait a few days after cold crashing to allow your brew’s temperatures to increase. Allowing your brew to warm up will allow the yeast count to rise to levels needed for bottle conditioning.

Bottle conditioning is an important step to help ensure a quality outcome for your beer. Without the added carbonation, your beer will taste flat and thus not very appealing. Yeast plays such a valuable role in bottle conditioning, it is understandable to have reservations on cold crashing before bottle conditioning. Yeast is essential due to the CO2 produced by the yeast fermenting on the added priming sugars during conditioning. 

Fortunately, cold crashing does not remove all the yeast from the brew it just lowers the levels of yeast that are present. There is still enough yeast present after cold crashing to be able to multiply under the right conditions. Hence the reason why you would need a few extra days for your brew to “warm” up and allowing the yeast to rise to necessary levels to ensure proper bottle conditioning.    

Should you cold crash before bottle conditioning?

Now that we’ve established that it’s possible to cold crash and bottle condition the same brew, which should be done first?

Yes if cold crashing it would be better to do it before bottle conditioning. Once bottle conditioning is complete, it’s more difficult to time out when carbonation is complete. Any disruption of the conditioning process will ruin any chance of properly carbonating your beer. 

It is recommended to cold crash before bottle conditioning. This is due to being able to influence and work with your brew before the bottle conditioning process. Once bottle conditioning has occurred, any manipulation to the brew will risk ruining any chance for a properly carbonated beer. 

Usually, once the process of bottle conditioning has occurred and a brewer is happy with carbonation levels, the beer is ready to be enjoyed.

You will still reduce the beer temperatures after bottle conditioning when putting it in the fridge to enjoy later. But it may be more difficult at this point to filter out the impurities from the beer. Some brewers have stated that they don’t cold crash and can still produce a clear beer.

Will cold crashing affect bottle conditioning?

Does cold crashing your brew before bottle conditioning it affect the secondary fermentation or the carbonation you’re expecting from it?

Cold crashing does not affect the bottle conditioning process, it will only delay the time it takes before conditioning to allow the beer to warm up. Having appropriate yeast levels feeding on priming sugars is what allows for the carbonation to build in your beer. 

Cold crashing removes quite a bit of yeast during the process, but there is still yeast left behind. Giving time for your brew to warm up will provide the ideal environment to help increase yeast levels which will help improve carbonation during bottle conditioning.

Can you cold crash and carbonate at the same time?

Since we’ve established that you can cold crash them bottle condition, it begs the question: can you speed up the process and do both at the same time?

You can cold crash and carbonate simultaneously. Colder beer will absorb carbonation much easier than warmer beer, thus improving the process. The combination of colder temperatures held at higher pressure is ideal for maximum carbonation.

Carbonation refers to the amount of CO2 dissolved in a liquid. Carbonating at a lower temperature will also require less carbonation pressure compared to that of warmer temperatures. This is due to low temperatures helping to maximize gas absorption by the liquid.

Liquids held at temperatures between (36-41°F) and at high pressure are ideal for maximizing carbonation. The combination of low temps found in cold crashing and pressure found in bottle conditioning makes it suitable for successful carbonation.