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Force carbonation

There are a few ways to do this - each with it's own pros and cons. I will try to give a bit on each of them.

Some of the benefits of force carbonation:
  • Faster time to get it to drinking state
  • Less sludge
  • Easier to control the amount of carbonation
  • Did I mention less wait time :)
  • Clearer beer

Some cons of force carbonation:(they aren't really negative, but differences to be aware of)
  • For some reason it has a different taste - the beer hasn't really aged or conditioned if you force carb right after secondary.
  • The bubbles are different - this may a personal thing, but I find natural carb to have smaller bubbles - but like I said that may be me.

Personally, I tend to force carb some and I prime some kegs with corn sugar - it depends on the beer. If I want a clear beer or it is light beer (colorwise) - I force carb. If it is something stronger or darker I will prime.

Here is my method of force carbing.
Keg the beer - if you can get the beer cold in the fermenter before kegging it - great - if not - no worries. Add CO2. Crank it up to about 30 psi. I tend to hook up the CO2 to the beer out side of the keg as it has the tube all the way down to the bottom. You want to get as much of the CO2 to touch the beer as possible so by using the beer out side the bubbles have to rise thru the beer to get to the top - more contact time. Once it gets to 30 PSI, sit down, put the keg on your lab sideways and rock it back and forth with the CO2 still cranked. You will hear the CO2 still going in due to absorption. Keep rocking it until you don't hear it anymore. Turn off the CO2 (you can leave it on, but I don't due to the unknown leak - not much worse than wanting to have a beer and the CO2 is empty) Toss the keg in the fridge/kegerator and let it sit, checking every so often to see if it can take any more CO2 - just turn it on and let it be for a min then turn it off again. I do this for 3-5 days then it should be good to go. My fridge can only hold 2 kegs so I have 2 in the fridge and am naturally carbing the 3rd keg while I finish the other 2. Works well.

Check the HBD's carbonation chart for the proper pressures for your desired level of carbonation. Also, if you use brewing software (Beersmith in this case) you can choose the force carb option and it will advise you what is appropriate for your style.

Option 2 - you can get a keg lid with a build in carbonation stone. This is like an airstone for a fish tank, but it is stainless steel. Supposedly this method is faster as it creates millions of small bubbles in the beer while the CO2 is going in - hence more contact with the beer. I have not used this method personally.

Note on naturally carbing kegs. You know if you bottle beer that you have sludgy bits at the bottom of the bottles right? Now if you naturally carb in the keg - you get all that sludge at the bottom of the keg. So you will need to pull off about a pitcher of sludge before you get to the good stuff. I do this over several days. With a naturally carbed keg I throw it in the fridge and let it sit for a day or so - I purge the CO2 from the keg (so not to have too much beer flying all over my kitchen) hook it up to my CO2 tank, then pull off a few pints of sludge and let it sit some more. I repeat this until I get clear beer. Then it is good to go.

Of course, as in most everything in homebrewing, there are many ways to accomplish the same thing, this is just how I do it.

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