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Bottle fermentation woes

Hello - been a loooong time since I’ve been around here. I used to brew a lot, kegging up to 20 gallons a month. I quit brewing for a while and returned recently to the world of bottling and I’m limiting myself to high gravity stuff.

Anywhoo, I’m having some issues with a batch of triple I made a few months ago. It went from 1.090 to about 1.014 in about 3 weeks, and then it spent a LONG time in secondary, about 2-3 months. That wasn’t really on purpose, just got really busy. Anyway I bottled it with 5oz of maltodextrin and did a really meticulous job carefully but thoroughly stirring it in the bottling bucket. Bottled it all in 22oz bottles.

It was late summer and was at least 70F in my basement, and I waited 4 weeks to crack open #1. No carbonation whatsoever. I drank it anyway, and waited another two weeks. Second one nothing. Waited longer, tried #3 and still no carbonation to speak of, so I pretty much figured the whole batch was shot and left it alone for a while. I consulted with a fellow member and we came to the conclusion that the yeast had probably petered out because of the high gravity and extended secondary.

After probably 8 weeks in the bottle I tried another one, and WAH LAH it was perfect. I was stoked. Still a little confused, but figured it just needed a little more time. Thought all was good. Wrong… the next one was a dud. I recapped it and put it away and opened another one and it was fine. What I’ve come to find out is that about 1/3 of the bottles carbonated just fine, the rest, basically nothing. There’s no middle ground.

I’ve been recapping the duds and wondering what, if anything, I can do. Sprinkle some dry yeast in? Put some carbtabs in? I don’t know what kept these from carbonating in the first place so I’m not sure what to do. But I’d really like to salvage these babies cause this stuff is so delicious. I’m willing to risk bottle bombs… I’d put the “fixed” ones in a sealed box for sure. Any ideas on what I should do?

Thanks so much in advance. You were all really helpful in the past. Looking forward to responses.

Dave

Did you really prime with maltodextrin? It’s non-fermentable, so it wouldn’t give you any carbonation. Or did you mean corn/cane sugar?

Regardless, if you have inconsistent carbonation it’s usually caused by not mixing the priming sugar enough. You can fix the flat ones by adding the correct amount of sugar and a little fresh yeast, then re-capping and starting over.

Ha… no, it was definitely corn sugar. I don’t know why I called it maltodextrin. Wow, been out of the game too long.

I struggle with the insufficient stirring theory since I (gently) stirred it for so long (basically put the corn sugar/water mix in the bucket and stirred the whole time I racked in the beer) and since there is such a stark difference between the carbonated and non-carbonated bottles. But I also realize that it’s the only plausible answer. Ugh.

The carbtabs I have call for about 7 for a 22oz bottle. Would you go the full monty or maybe go with 3 per bottle? Seems impossible that some bottles have the correct amount of sugar and some have none, so I’m a little scared to go all out.

Thanks for the response!

I would not say that it is the only plausible answer. You say that the bottles are either perfectly carbonated or not at all. If the sugar you put in to bottle conditioning process truly ended up in just 1/3 of the bottles because of bad mixing, they would be very much overcarbonated, and the remaining 2/3 would be very lightly carbed if at all. If on the other hand you have something wrong with your capper, or your bottlecaps, or your bottles, or any combination of the 3 not liking eachother for some reason, then you could very well end up with the situation you are in, which is some bottles that were sealed, and ended just right, and the rest that had a leak, went through a small bottle fermentation, but all the pressure was lost and you got no bubbly.
Something to think about?

I agree with ^^^^^. More likely the caps than the sugar if you have perfect bottles and zero-carb bottles (you could still find an over-carbed bottle, though). If you have the ability to keg, you could just gently pour the un-carbed beer into a 1L plastic bottle and use a carb cap to force-carb the bottles as needed (takes almost no time at all if you get the beer cold while hitting it with 30psi and shaking every now and then).

You know, this makes sense. I would say it has to be it. No ability to keg though… I guess I should assume that all the priming sugar was in fact consumed and the yeast is probably all but gone… so carb-tabs and a few sprinkles of yeast is probably my only shot.

I’m using a bench capper - this is only the second batch I’ve used it on, but I didn’t have a problem with the first batch. I guess I should get some new caps.

Thanks for the help!

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