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All batches are flat

I have now done 6 batches of homebrew and of the three that have bottled/conditioned every last one is just pretty flat. I still get the CO2 hiss when removing the top, but there is no head to speak of and I don’t know if there is a fix for that.

The first 2 batches were both 5 gallons, caribou slobber and a CDA of my own reckoning, but I followed the 5oz priming sugar water ratio and all went well.
The third one is the extract version of dawsons boat bitter and apparently after reading more stuff bitters are supposed to be undercarbed to a degree, so I used 4oz sugar in a 6 gallon batch before bottling and there is barely a ring of bubbles against the side of the glass when it is poured.

All the beers taste pretty good now they have sat for a little bit, but I should be ready to bottle the next 3 batches in a week or so (one is a cider so it doesn’t count) but I would like to have some head retention in future beers.

Is there a grain I could steep that would help or should I start pitching a tiny bit o yeast when I bottle just to make sure?

Please tell more about your process. How do you know the beer is ready to bottle, and how do you add the priming sugar? How do you make sure it is dispersed evenly to all the bottles? Once in the bottle, how do you store them and at what temperature? How long do you wait before opening to try?

To answer your questions, steeping a grain won’t make any difference when it comes to carbonation. Adding yeast at bottling is only likely to help if you’ve been storing your beer for at least a couple of months after fermentation is complete. Some people do this as a matter of course and consider it cheap insurance, but I’ve never seen the need.

The first couple of questions relate to temperature.

  1. What’s your fermentation temperature? If above 70 F, you will be generating fusel alcohols, which can kill your head retention. If mid-60s, this is not your problem.

  2. What’s your carbonation temperature? Are you keeping your bottles warm in the 60s or 70s for 2-3 weeks before drinking? If not, you need to do that. Don’t chill them at all until the bottles are fully carbonated. Don’t drink them in the first couple weeks. Carbonation takes a little time. Rarely it might take as long as 3-4 weeks, but typically only takes 10-14 days, at warm temperatures close to 70 F.

  3. How clean is your glassware? Dirty or soapy glassware will kill head retention. Your glassware needs to be cleaned/rinsed with very hot water ONLY – no soap, or if you use soap, it needs to be rinsed off thoroughly with hot water before pouring a beer.

Extra yeast won’t help at all. Extra priming sugar would help, at least initially, but you would most likely end up with gushers or possibly bottle bombs after a couple of months, so that’s not a good option either.

My guess is your problem is some combination of #1 and #2 above. Figure out which, and fix it, and you’ll be all better in the future. Not much you can do about what is already bottled unfortunately, except to warm them up even more and hope for the best.

So my process is as follows: drink beer, use bottle washer after said beer and put in a box until I have enough. Then get the labels off in warm baking soda water, pull off labels rinse all bottles off again in hot water, put in a box and wait til bottling day. I do a quick rinse of everything then sanitize with my vinator/sulfitor whatever its called and I do about six initially then while I’m filling beers with one hand I am sanitizing or putting caps on (loosely) the full ones until its done.

For the priming sugar I followed the steps on the caribou slobber kit 5oz to 2cups H2O boil add to bottling bucket rack beer onto sugar water. gently stirred etc then bottled them up. They were put in the basement around 60-62 degrees where they sat for about 3 weeks before I threw one in the fridge and drank it. Tasted a little funny like everyone else comments about with CS initially I think undercarbed for sure, then turned the cases upside down to rouse the yeast for a day and then back the normal way to hopefully get something a little more delicious, let them sit for 2 more weeks. It tasted better, but still no carb.

While that was going on I had already brewed and bottled batch 2 and did the same things for cleaning/sanitizing and still good beer just no carbonation.

My next one being a bitter is supposed to be low carbonation I guess so I’m not going to change anything, but the other is a dark hoppy delight and I would like to get some form of carbonation on it, but it still has to be dry hopped in a couple days.

I only clean with PBW and StarSan following the instructions on the containers, so I don’t know whats going on with my brews.

Are you located at a place with high altitude?

nope st. cloud, MN. pretty much just high enough to not be the first place that goes under if the ice caps melt

Altitude should not really make a difference with bottle conditioning. I’ve been brewing for years at 7,000’. I used to get inconsistent carbonation with the standard 5gallon priming sugar packets (usually too low). Started using a priming sugar calculator (temperature of beer, desired carb level, priming sugar by weight) and had much better and more consistent results.
Our host has a free one;

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Those bottles wouldn’t happen to be twist-offs, would they? If so, that would explain the problem. A capper will work on them, but won’t seal them properly to keep the pressure.

If not that, I’m stumped. It seems like everything you are doing is right.

Gotta agree with Dave on carbing temp. Try to keep the bottles as near 70* as you can for 3 weeks when carbing. Over the winter, my house stays about 65*. So I experimented and put half a batch in my house at 65 and the other half in my mother-in-laws appt(which is attached to my house) at about 74*. Huge difference. Batch at higher temp carbed 10-14 days faster than lower temps.

Ron

I will try the next couple batches in a warm room and see what happens. obviously this is a reason to get kegs, keezer, etc etc etc. excited.

I never use a priming sugar. I also add the conditioning tablets because I like to control the amount of carbonation (and I probably don’t know how to do this using priming sugar). I usually use 4 and it comes out perfectly each time.

I had a batch of cream ale that didn’t carb. After the first 6 were flat I decided to recap them. My capper broke and I tried to use it anyway. I very carefully sprinkled a little more us-05 in with about a quarter teaspoon in sugar.

A week later and the test bottle had a great pour!

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one thing I don’t think I saw mentioned is after a week or so in the bottles give each one a swirl or two. just enough to stir up the yeast a bit. may help as well

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