Bottle carb rarely working

Brewed about 10 extract kits over the last two years, all bottled, and maybe two of the batches were sufficiently carbonated. Of the two, one of those had some champagne yeast added at bottling (had sat in secondary for 4 months). All kits were brown or irish ales, porters, and stouts. The one that carbed on its own was a St Paul Porter. Not sure what I’m doing wrong.

After the first couple partial boil batches I’ve used a starter, full boil, and bottled water. Ferment in the basement at 65-70 degrees, wait for clearing (racked to secondary when needed) and bottle 4-8 weeks after brewing. Bottles are 12 oz brown glass, washed in the dishwasher (though tried once by hand in case rinse agent mattered), capped with silver no-oxygen caps and red baron capper. Priming is corn sugar solution gently stirred into bottling bucket, usually the 2/3-3/4 cup from the recipe (check-pointed with beersmith calculations), though I’ve gone up to 1 cup to try and get more carbonation. Bottle carb time is in the living room at 70-73 degrees.

Tend to get some hiss from the bottle cap within a week or two. Let each batch sit, trying a bottle every couple of weeks. While none of the batches have stayed completely flat, it’s usually 2-3 months before any head will develop and it usually goes away fairly soon after the pour. Bottles do have a bit of sediment as expected, and the taste is good, just not as carbed as the store-bought beers of a similar style.

Anyone have ideas on what I’m doing wrong?

Are you sure you are pitching enough yeast initially? I have had better luck once I started using a room that was 75+.

Are they actually poorly carbed, or are you just getting bad head retention?

Dishwasher rinse agent in bottles and on glassware will destroy your beer’s foam.

No need to run them through the dishwasher with soap. Just soak them in hot water and oxyclean and rinse. You said you do an extended secondary which will drop out the yeast. Save a little slurry and add it to the bottling bucket. Or just don’t do a secondary, your bottles are your secondary.

On the yeast pitch rate-- been making 1.5-1.7 qt starters usually, as I like porters and stouts. Primary fermentation has been good, with a couple inch krausen in the carboy. But it’s usually done with airlock bubbling after 7-10 days. I think I have it right, but concerned there’s not enough residual yeast at bottling time.

Fermentation is in the basement, which is 65-68 degrees usually. Bottle condition upstairs which is 69-75 depending on time of year.

Beer is poorly carbed-- little to no effervesence in the bottle for months. Then some bubbles but weak head typically. Thought about the rinse agent which is why I tried a batch by hand-washing bottles and sanitizing but didn’t seem to make a difference. And the time to clean was an extra hour that I didn’t really want to spend.

Tried one batch of stout skipping the secondary but I think I left it on the yeast cake too long. Had some nice plastic off-flavors.

So I’m thinking for the next brew I’ll make the following changes:
– hand-wash the bottles
– skip the secondary (but make sure primary is done)
– aim for 75 degree conditioning temps
– and be a little less careful siphoning into the bottling bucket so I get a little bit of the yeast in with the beer for better carbonating.

Anything else I’m missing?

What kind of yeast are you using for primary fermentation? Have you used multiple strains or mostly the same? I’ve noticed some English strains really take a long time to carb in the bottle.

I have yet to see a bottle that started to carb that didn’t finish due to yeast issues. My money would be on either you arent warming them up enough (which can make them take painfully long sometimes but will still fully carb) or you aren’t using enough sugar or aren’t measuring your bottling volume accurately.

I would first suggest getting a scale to weigh your priming sugar. Measuring cups aren’t nearly as accurate. Then be sure you are bottling the exact volume you punched into your carb calculator. If all these things are accurate as can be you should have little problem reaching the proper carb level.

If you are having trouble keeping them in the mid 70’s you can do what I do and buy a heating blanket and set it on low and stick it in the box that the bottles are carbing in. Most beers are fully carbed within a week. I had a tripel that I know I measured everything accurately but it still was terribly undercarbed after a month. I stuck a heating blanket in with the bottles and they were fully carbed a week later.

Yeast depends on the recipe, but all are Wyeast smack packs with starters for the last seven batches. The yeast packs are often a few months old, but I give them 6 hours or so to swell then 24 hours in the starter to finish that out. All the brews are NB extract kits so far.

Been keying the NB recipe into beersmith to calculate volumes. Usually have a little under 5 gals to bottle – 48-52 twelve ounce bottles when done. I’ll use a scale to measure the corn sugar from now on.

I’ll try warming the rubbermaid tote that I put the bottles into (just in case of a bomb). Have a honey porter that’s been in the bottle two weeks now that I can try. Opened one yesterday and the cap was under pressure but no bubbles in the beer. Maybe a week or two will wake up the yeasts. Thanks!

I think Matt nailed it. It sounds like you’re pretty much doing everything right, and hopefully all it takes is a little bit of a bump in temperature. Unless you’ve been leaving your beer in secondary for several months to a year, there should be plenty of yeast in suspension to carbonate. As long as it’s warm enough for the yeasts to get active again to use up the priming sugar, you should be OK.

Experiment with ruling out leaking caps. Shake up a couple of bottles from the latest batch of beer. Tip the bottles upside down in a container with paper toweling wrapped around the cap. Check for moisture in four hours.

It does seem like you are doing everything right.