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Carbonation is created by dissolving carbon dioxide into the beer. This can be achieved in two ways: by adding extra sugar and yeast to the bottle, keg, or cask and allowing the yeast to create carbon dioxide through fermentation, or by forcing pressurized carbon dioxide into a container (usually a keg) and allowing it to dissolve into the beer (known as force carbonation.

Bottle conditioning

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Many home brewers choose to bottle their beers and let them naturally carbonate. This is done by adding a measured amount of priming sugar to the beer just prior to bottling. The residual yeast left in the beer will begin fermenting the sugar and the carbon dioxide they produce dissolves into the beer thus carbonating it.

Bottle conditioning typically takes a minimum of 3 weeks to occur at temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees F. Many beer styles benefit from longer conditioning times and most experienced home brewers state that their beers "peak" between 3 and 4 months in the bottle.

Cask conditioning

Cask conditioning is a process similar to bottle conditioning, but instead of a bottle the priming sugar is added to a cask. While the process is the same, the larger volume and contact with the cask lend a different character to finished bottle and cask-conditioned beer.

Keg conditioning

The term keg conditioning is sometimes used for cask conditioning beer in a standard home brewer's Cornelius keg. However, since a cask can be made of metal, there is no functional difference between cask and keg conditioning, except that a few additional steps must be taken to adapt the keg to keg conditioning:

  • Shorten the dip tube. Cornelius kegs generally have a dip tube that reaches to the bottom of the keg. Removing a small amount of this dip tube will prevent yeast sediment generated during conditioning from being drawn up when the keg is tapped.
  • Start conditioning at low pressure. Some home brewers prefer to leave a small amount of pressure on the beer while the conditioning process is beginning to ensure a seal until enough pressure builds up from the fermentation.

The beer can then be served from a hand pump or under low carbon dioxide pressure.

Force carbonation

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Many home brewers choose to force carbonate their kegged beer in order to achieve carbonation more rapidly, and to have better control over carbonation levels.

External Links

Force carbonating pressure calculator

Bottle priming sugar quantity calculator