I recently got to experiment with Spike’s Oxygenation Kit for wort aeration. If you want a more in-depth primer on wort aeration purpose and techniques, you should read this post and this post first. Otherwise, I’ve hit the highlights below.
Yeast needs adequate oxygen to do its job well. More oxygen in your wort will lead to better overall fermentation and is also said to increase attenuation. Stressed yeast or subpar fermenting conditions will inevitably lead to off-flavors in your final beer. Commercial breweries usually aerate their wort with pure oxygen inline on its way to the fermenter. While homebrewers can replicate this process, there are simpler and more affordable ways to achieve the same results on a smaller scale.
What’s In The Box
Spike put together a really simple wort aeration solution with a few nice-to-have features. Just note, this product is geared toward conical fermenter owners. The Spike Oxygenation Kit comes in two styles. One is the standalone O2 Kit which strictly includes an O2 gauge, tubing, and ball lock quick connect. The other option (O2 Kit + Carb Stone) includes the actual aeration stone (Carb Stone), which is needed to diffuse the oxygen into the wort. If you already own a Spike Carb Stone, then all you need is the base O2 Kit.
Just to clarify, carb stones and aeration stones are the same thing and can be used interchangeably.
Using the Spike Oxygenation Kit
Aerating wort with the Spike Oxygenation Kit is as simple as hooking up your Carb Stone to your fermentation vessel (either the bottom dump or middle/sample TC port), attaching the O2 regulator/quick connect, and slowly starting the flow of oxygen using the turn knob on the top of the gauge. The dial should be turned until you hear oxygen start to flow. If you hear rapid bubbling at the top of your fermenter, too much oxygen is reaching the surface and you’re ultimately wasting excess oxygen (dial it back down until this slows down). I typically aerate for about 45-60 seconds. This is the recommended amount for most strains of yeast however you should always refer to the yeast manufacturer’s recommended ppm.
What I really like about the Oxygenation Kit is the quick connect system. My previous method for attaching my tank to my carb stone involved manually connecting very stiff tubing to a hose barb EVERY single time. I accept full responsibility for the lack of innovation on this part but I’d like to thank the Spike engineers for simply solving this annoyance for me. This makes setup and cleanup a snap.
The O2 gauge is nice because it’s designed specifically for red Bernzomatic 1.4-ounce oxygen tanks (or similar). These tanks can be found at most hardware stores and should last up to 200 gallons of beer if properly used. The oxygen level indicator gives you the oxygen level remaining in the tank so you never unexpectedly run out!
Lastly, the oxygen flow rate control knob is numbered in fractional increments so you can dial in the flow to the same set points on subsequent batches. Cheaper gauges rely solely on estimating flow. I really like how I can turn the knob back to the same known setting with each batch. This process requires a little trial and error, but once you’ve got the feel for it it’s easy to dial in.
Cleaning and Sanitizing Carb Stones
After using the carb stone (for either aeration or carbonation), I submerge it in brewery wash and hit it with a little O2 or CO2 to ensure any residual matter is pushed out of the stone. Spike recommends you let it soak for 24 hours. After soaking, rinse with warm water and again use CO2 or O2 to push out any remaining brewery wash from the stone. On brew day, soak the stone in sanitizer for a few minutes prior to using it again.
Having used just about every means of aerating wort, I’d have to argue pure oxygen is going to give you the most consistent results. Remember, high-quality homebrew is a matter of doing ALL of the little things right. Spike’s Oxygenation Kit is the best and simplest solution I’ve used so far. It’s not the cheapest, but the extra features and ease of use make it well worth the investment. The Spike O2 kit retails for $75, while the O2 + Carb Stone combination is $150.