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Bottle conditioning inconsistencies

I’m still quite new to brewing with just 4 batches under my belt but my last 2 batches have given me some trouble with carbonation. My 3rd batch was an altered Petite Orange dubbel extract recipe. I forgot to add my priming solution to the bottling bucket before transferring the beer, so I poured the solution over the beer in the bottling bucket. Halfway through racking to bottles I realized I had never stirred in the solution. When I began drinking the conditioned batch over the next few months I had extremely carbonated brews and then as I got into the last 3rd of the bottles I had completely flat beers. I attempted adding fizz drops to the bottles and recapping but I found that by that point most of what I had left was indeed carbonated so my fizzdrops were creating volcanos. Anyway, I digress. I have popped open a few of my latest batch, a chocolate milk stout from extract. My first 2 were again super carbonated, like it was taking me over 5 minutes to pour into a glass, allowing head to settle and continue pouring over and over again. Then I had another and it was just the slightest bit carbonated, almost not at all. The thing is, I did not make the same mistake on this batch. I added the priming solution first and allowed it to mix in as I transferred the beer into the bottling bucket. So, I’m thinking maybe I was wrong about the cause of my vastly inconsistent carbonation levels in my beer. Could I be doing something else wrong? What steps can I take to try to ensure more consistent carbonation levels in my bottle conditioned beer?

Upside is, at least a semi-flat stout is drinkable, unlike the dubbel which was just horrid without the bubbles.

I should also mention that I have been double checking all the caps to be sure they are all seated and sealed properly. Just to rule out that as a possibility.

Flars will weigh in soon I hope… He uses domino sugar cubes, or advocates for them. One cube per bottle… I was also going to suggest mixing your priming sugar solution… figure how many bottles your going to be capping, then use like a syringe type gizmo to put the right dose in each bottle… Sounds tedious, yet, for all the effort you put into brewing, wouldn’t it be nice if every bottle was very close to the same carbonation degree?Sneezles61

I’ve never had good luck adding the priming sugar to the bucket and relying on the swirling during racking to mix it. It’s just not consistent. Instead, I put the priming sugar in a glass measuring cup, microwave it for 2 minutes 30 seconds, and then pour it on top of the beer in the bottling bucket. However, I take a sanitized ladle, submerge the bowl so it’s just underneath the surface of the beer, and pour the priming sugar (still hot) into the bowl of the ladle to prevent splashing. This does a great job of mixing in the sugar, but then I give it a good 30-second very gentle stir with the ladle, using an up-and-down motion to really get the stuff mixed in without splashing.

No need to stir half-way through using this method, it really mixes it well. Over 100 batches bottle conditioned, no issues yet…

I’ve taken some advice from Flars and others on this list, but I still have inconsistencies as you describe. I rack my beer to my bottling bucket and measure exactly how much beer I have. Then I use NB’s priming calculator to figure out exactly how many grams of corn sugar I need, boil that in a pint of water for 5 minutes and add that to the beer. Then I take my sanitized brewing spoon and mix it in gently. After every 12 beers, I do another gentle stir since sugar will settle to the bottom due to its density. Yeah, you’d think since it’s a solution, it would stay mixed in the beer, but it doesn’t. Then you need to be very patient with bottle conditioning waiting a good 3+ weeks at 70 degrees. I think the only way to have 100% consistent carbonation in an entire batch is to keg it. I’m going to try bottling from a keg this fall. I’m far too busy in the summer to brew, but fall is coming! Can’t wait to get back into it.

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I guess I have been one of the lucky ones as so far have never had gushers or bombs. I can say that I have had a few that I considered slightly under carbonated but still good enough to drink, never anything flat. But I have also had some beers bottled from local craft breweries that were not carbonated right. I had one where every bottle was a gusher. I always rack to bottle bucket to get a measure of beer and then add primer accordingly whether it be corn or brown sugar. I stir it in and again stir halfway through. Have never used sugar dots but will have to try it some day. Its interesting to read about other methods. Like I would have never thought you could add the primer to bucket when still hot.

Haven’t used the Dots in a while. No longer available around here. Always forget to include them in an Amazon order. Here is a little math I made up if you want to try them.

Domino Dots™
1 pound = 454 grams
198 Dots per pound
2.29 grams per cube
……
2.3 volumes for 5 gallons at 68°F = 100.32 grams of sucrose
48 bottles from 5 gallons = 2.09 grams of sucrose per bottle

2.4 volumes for 5 gallons at 68°F = 107.23 grams of sucrose
48 bottles from 5 gallons = 2.23 grams of sucrose per bottle

2.5 volumes for 5 gallons at 68°F = 114.15 grams of sucrose
48 bottles from 5 gallons = 2.38 grams of sucrose per bottle

Northern Brewer carbonation calculator

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Good info @flars using the Dots puts the carb level right in the ball park without much work. I may have to buy some just for the few bottles I fill.

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