Quick Tips for Beer Carbonation at Home
Proper carbonation is essential to both head retention/formation as well as the flavor and aesthetics of a finished beer. Even with all of the hard work that can go into making a beer, if it isn’t properly carbonated it may as well have been infected, because nobody like flat beer. Yet, next to sanitation, it can be one of the hardest things for a homebrewer to manage from a technical standpoint, especially from a consistency perspective. Here are a few simple tips to help you be on your game when it comes time to bottle/keg your beer:
-If carbonating with a Cornelius keg, the easiest way to carbonate is to connect a quick disconnect to the “Out” on your keg that is attached to a CO2 tank. This means that the CO2 is forced through the downspout and forced to bubble up through the beer, it is also important to purge the headspace before doing this so that there is minimal oxygen in contact with the beer.
-When carbonating beer, it is measured in Volumes of CO2, which means it’s the volume that the CO2 would occupy at STP (Standard Temp and Pressure) if it were removed from the beer, taken from here: http://www.meheen-mfg.com/tankcarb.html
-Make sure all of your lines, connections and regulators are sealed nice and tight, you don’t want to have to refill your CO2 tank every week because of a slow leak, to check for leaks, turn the CO2 on and listen for any slight hissing OR use a sprayer with soap and a little bit of water on all connections, if CO2 is leaking, the soap bubbles will undulate.
-CO2 is best absorbed into beer at 32 F, since the beer has alcohol in it it will not freeze at 32 F and also will make the process of force carbonation go quicker, a keg freezer/fridge works well for this
-Buckets with spigots connected to a hose with bottling wand are the ideal way to bottle naturally carbonated homebrew, siphon beer into bucket, add yeast and priming sugar while mixing and bottle away
-Most beers are carbonated at between 2.5-3 volumes of CO2. Some wheat and specialty beers however can be carbonated as high as 3.5-4 volumes of CO2, or as low as 1.5 Volumes.
-If using a counter pressure filler, make sure that the pressure coming in from the CO2 tank is the same or only slightly more than the pressure being exerted by the CO2 dissolved in beer, this is critical to preventing foam-overs, also bottling at near 32 F will also help. -If doing natural carbonation, let the beer sit in a dark place at room temp for about 2 weeks for full carbonation, most people will generally inoculate with ale yeast, but if you wish to finish with lager you may have to wait longer.