Author Topic: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?  (Read 1043 times)

Offline curtism1234

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Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« on: June 30, 2015, 04:44:47 PM »
I am having a bit of a problem and am trying to diagnosis what's happening and find a solution. I have been brewing for 1 1/2 years with about 10 batches in.

The problem is about 1/3-1/2 of my batches are carbing very low and pouring with little / no head at all after 3 weeks in the bottle. It's an all or nothing situation - the entire batch is fine or the entire batch is flat.

This could happen with all-grain brewing as well as both of my extract brews. Sometimes wheat beers are not carbed (that was an extract) and sometimes 100% pilsner is fine. Bottle conditioning temp can range from 66-72, both with success and failure at both ends of the temp range.
I use carbonation drops but have also put cornsugar directly into each bottle, both with successes and failures. I have not disolved cornsugar into the entire batch and then bottled.

Yeast is generally Wyeast, though I have used dry. I do not do a starter but only do 2.5gal batches. Getting to my projected FG has not been a problem.

One thing that was brought to my attention by a friend is that I:
A. Handwash my fermentor with Palmolive dish soap, though before putting wort in I let 1step or sanstar soak for 30 minutes. I have not had off tastes nor problems hitting FG.
B. Clean my used bottles in the dishwasher (with regular dishes) with Finish powerball tablets, though I let them soak in 1step or sanstar before bottling.
Of course another friend of mine said since at least half of my batches are perfectly fine and my cleaning methods/materials are consistant so he didn't think it was the soap.

I don't use any sort of additives into my beer at any point during the process - just regular tap water.

Would oxygen in the beer cause any carbonation problems? I ferment in a MR BEER, pour the finished beer from the fermentor into a measuring cup, and then pour into the bottle. I've found it's less messy than trying to fill the bottle from the spigot. But I know I may have to alter how I bottle as it is unconventional (a cheap and easy fix but I just haven't done it). But does that contribute to the problem? Again, my process is consistant.   

What are some thoughts? Any help would be appreciated.
Thank you

Offline kramerog

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Re: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2015, 05:34:11 PM »
None of what I say below my be the cause of your problem, but represents deficiencies in your process.

- Some people have reported issues with carbonation drops
- You don't say how you measure the amount of dry cornsugar you add
- Dish soap can kill head.  The better procedure is to clean with a detergent like one step and then to sanitize with a product like starsan.
- Cleaning your bottles with the dishes in the dishwasher appears to me like a recipe for dirty bottles.
- Pouring your beer into a cup before pouring it into the bottle reduces the carbonation of the final beer particularly if you don't use a hose to introduce beer to the bottom of the cup or bottle.  You really should use hose and bottling wand to minimize loss of carbonation and oygen pickup.  Oxygen should not cause your carbonation problems, but could make your beer taste "flat" as in stale or non-vibrant.

What you haven't discussed is:
- how long your beer ferments before bottling. 
- whether you are seeing a yeast deposit on the bottom of the your bottles of flat beer
- are you shaking the bottles of flat beer to rouse the yeast?



Online dmtaylor

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Re: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2015, 05:37:55 PM »
Your yeast and your recipes and everything else should have very little if anything to do with the carbonation.  The Palmolive and dishwasher however are overkill and might even cause problems as they require so much rinsing.  Best way to clean your bottles and equipment is with hot water and no-rinse sanitizer as per one of the following:

A) If never cleaned before or containing dried beer or soap residue, soak in hot water then give a good scrub with a bottle brush.  Then sanitize with StarSan or OneStep.

B) If collecting bottles as you drink them, it's best if you always pour your beer into a glass and then IMMEDIATELY rinse the bottle in hot water 3 or 4 times while it still contains wet beer residue.  Then when it's time to refill, your bottles are already like 99% cleaned and can most likely go straight into sanitizer (StarSan or OneStep) on bottling day.  Same thing kind of goes for your fermenter -- once you have emptied it, IMMEDIATELY rinse with a lot of hot water before any beer dries up inside it, and it will be ready to sanitize next time.  Soap might not even be needed unless you have a lot of junk clinging to the sides (e.g., dried yeast near the top).

As for the priming, if mixed well, you'll never have a problem again with bulk priming.  This is the best way to go:

In a standard household glass (about 12-16 oz size), mix together about 1/2 cup water and a scant 1/3 cup cane sugar per 2.5 gallon batch, and boil in your microwave for about 2-3 minutes.  Ensure the sugar is fully dissolved, then allow to cool for about 15 minutes.  Then add to your fermenter in bulk right before bottling, being careful to swirl or stir it in so it doesn't all just sink to the bottom.

If you do all that, you really shouldn't have any problems.  Try the bulk priming.  You'll get more consistent results.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2015, 05:40:06 PM by dmtaylor »
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Offline curtism1234

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Re: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2015, 05:50:57 PM »
Thanks for the responses

None of what I say below my be the cause of your problem, but represents deficiencies in your process.

- Some people have reported issues with carbonation drops
- You don't say how you measure the amount of dry cornsugar you add
- Dish soap can kill head.  The better procedure is to clean with a detergent like one step and then to sanitize with a product like starsan.
- Cleaning your bottles with the dishes in the dishwasher appears to me like a recipe for dirty bottles.
- Pouring your beer into a cup before pouring it into the bottle reduces the carbonation of the final beer particularly if you don't use a hose to introduce beer to the bottom of the cup or bottle.  You really should use hose and bottling wand to minimize loss of carbonation and oygen pickup.  Oxygen should not cause your carbonation problems, but could make your beer taste "flat" as in stale or non-vibrant.

What you haven't discussed is:
- how long your beer ferments before bottling. 
- whether you are seeing a yeast deposit on the bottom of the your bottles of flat beer
- are you shaking the bottles of flat beer to rouse the yeast?

I have added 1tsp dry corn sugar to each bottle on 2 different batches. The wheat beer took and the amber ale did not. A couple occassions where I ran out of drops, I used cane sugar for a few bottles and they worked just fine in the batches that were good anyway.

As far as cleaning the bottles, I rinse/shake several times (right after pouring the beer) before placing them in the dishwasher with the goal of all of the sediment being gone prior to the dishwasher stage (though a couple specks may remain). I feel like I am getting them clean as I've never had a infection in a bottle.

I let my beer ferment in the primary for 3 weeks. I presently do not use a secondary.

There is a deposit on the bottom of my bottles, even the flat beers

I do shake my bottles a couple times during the 3 weeks. On the flat beers, I will shake them again and make certain to bring them upstairs for another couple weeks where the temp gets above 70 - sometimes it seems to bring the carbonation to an acceptable level, sometimes it doesn't.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2015, 05:59:31 PM by curtism1234 »

Offline kramerog

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Re: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2015, 09:55:29 PM »
I think your problem is your bottling procedure.  Follow the bulk dosing procedure of dmtaylor and use a hose and bottling wand to minimize carbonation loss during bottling.

Offline brewinhard

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Re: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2015, 10:18:04 PM »
Also be sure to leave your bottles in the fridge at least 24 hrs before pouring/drinking them to allow the beer to reabsorb the CO2 that came out of suspension while the beers were bottle conditioning and carbing up.  It takes some time for the beers to fully reabsorb the CO2 as they are chilled down. Not that that is your problem, but rather something to keep in mind...

Offline duboman

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Re: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2015, 10:34:15 PM »
Tried and true bottling: use a priming calculator and weigh out the sugar to the gram based on the finished volume of beer. Boil 1 cup water and stir in sugar to dissolve. Allow to cool and add to bottling bucket. Rack finished beer into bucket and the swirling action will mix. Use a bottling wand to fill cleaned and sanitized bottles and cap. Leave bottles to sit for two weeks at 70-80oF, place in fridge for a few days and enjoy.

For the bottles, if you thoroughly rinse each bottle after use with hot water, allow to dry and store safe all you have to do is sanitize prior to bottling. I suggest a Vinator and a bottle tree to make this process quite easy on bottling day.
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Offline flars

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Re: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2015, 11:14:33 PM »
Are you using a combination of twist off cap bottles and pry off cap bottles?  Twist off cap bottles may not seal well.

Offline curtism1234

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Re: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2015, 02:18:51 PM »
Thanks, I'm going to change my bottling process and see if that works.

Offline euge

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Re: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2015, 03:42:41 PM »
Bad caps or improperly fitting? Are you using import bottles?

Are you using a combination of twist off cap bottles and pry off cap bottles?  Twist off cap bottles may not seal well.
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Offline curtism1234

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Re: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2015, 04:35:50 PM »
Pryoffs mostly from the local homebrew store. I'm just too flat lazy to remove labels ::)

Offline curtism1234

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Re: Carbonation problems/inconsistencies?
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2015, 08:04:54 PM »
Just as a final update:
I did let this batch sit up at 70-71 degrees for an additional week (for a total of 4 weeks, 3 of which sat at about 68-69) and it seems to be nicely carbonated and a fantastic beer now!

That being said, I'll still change my procedures. Thanks again