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Carbonation issue - no head (please help!)

Hi All,

So I’ve made 5 extract batches now. Made them as fast as I could to get familiar with the basic process and nail down my temperature control. So far, the three beers I’ve sampled all taste WONDERFUL. I’m so happy with the flavors of all these NB kits. However, only my first batch (Caribou Slobber) carbonated properly and pours with a nice head. The latter two batches I’ve sampled (Brickwarmer and Cream Ale) are very under-carbonated and have literally no head. The Brickwarmer has been bottle conditioning at room temp, about 70*F ambient, for 4 weeks to the day, and the Cream Ale has been bottle conditioning 2 weeks. I’d expect SOME head on both of them, but my samples are almost flat. I can taste carbonation, so they’re pretty drinkable (not going to pour it out or anything), but there’s no head whatsoever.

The funny part… my first batch, which carbonated nicely, was a complete bottling catastrophe. I didn’t use a bottling wand. Just bottled straight from the spigot. I also didn’t let my priming solution cool at all and I forgot to stir in the solution with the beer.

The batches that aren’t carbonating at all have followed this exact process. Please let me know if I’m doing something wrong. There has to be some little detail that I’m forgetting or messing up:

  1. Mix 2/3 cup corn sugar with 16 oz. water and boil for 10-15 minutes
  2. Let the priming solution cool to room temp while I clean/sanitize everything
  3. Pour the priming solution into the bottling bucket
  4. Siphon beer from secondary into bottling bucket, getting a nice “vortex” going to mix the solution with the beer
  5. I then attach the sanitized hose and bottling wand
  6. Bottle 6-8 beers and cap them
  7. Gently stir the beer
  8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 until all is bottled

Am I boiling the priming solution too long? Or perhaps I shouldn’t be stirring and keeping the sugar in suspension rather than down by the spigot?

Any help is GREATLY appreciated. Once I fix this carbonation issue I’ll be making some damn good beer :slight_smile:

Ummm, okay. I’m thoroughly confused. I just popped open a second sample of the Cream Ale and it had a nice head and good carbonation. So it’s different from bottle to bottle. Wtf?

It would seem unlikely given your process, but the solution must not have been mixed thoroughly with the wort or… You just needed to wait it out?

Enjoy them all - if you get a flat one, mix it with a carbed one and have two!!

:cheers:

lol I like your thinking, ynotbrusum! Thank you :slight_smile:

FWIW, I’ve been thinking about what else I’ve done wrong and I don’t pack down the corn sugar when I measure the 2/3 cup. Do you think that could contribute? Maybe they mean 2/3 cup packed tight?

Or perhaps I should get a scale and start measuring ounces instead of cups…

You know, I don’t think you are doing anything wrong( other than relying on a volume measurement and not a weight). So RDWHAHB-yours, of course. Carbonation is an idiot-proof process, but the yeast take whatever time they want.

Two-thirds cups corn sugar would be about 2.5 to 2.6 volumes of CO2 if bottled at 70° for 5 gallons of beer. Not to high or not to low.
I don’t think poorly mixed priming solution is the problem.

Are you chilling the beers for several days before sampling? Chilling forces CO2 in the headspace into solution.
Are the glasses you are using free of soap residues and dishwasher spot remover? These will kill head formation.

THIS^^^^^

You did it all right. The yeast were probably not ready to “wake up and smell the coffee”. Clean, residue free glasses are also important, I admit.

If it’s the yeast just taking their time, should I leave the bottles at room temp or can I put them in the fridge?

Warmer is faster, but don’t go too hot! Room temperature is usually good, but I have heard others who use a warm closet or even a box with a small heater (like a reptile pet heater).

I had some of the same issues as you. I called and spoke to Steve at NB. After my second batch of bourbon barrel porter went flat he then told me that many of the high gravity beers require extra yeast before bottling. It worked. I added dry yeast to the bottling bucket and the beer came out perfect. The beer that was already bottled I uncapped, added additional yeast then recapped. Again, all with good success.

Hmmm… yeah, I wonder if my yeast died. Afterall, I did 2 weeks primary and 2 weeks secondary on all these beers, even the lower gravity ones. But Brickwarmer is slightly higher at 1.062 and that one is showing the least carbonation.

How much dry yeast did you add to the bottling bucket? A whole packet?

And how did you measure the yeast when adding it to the individual bottles? I’m a little hesitant to try that because of the potential for bottle bombs.

I’m interested in the NB rep’s comment about big beers taking longer to carbonate. My first assumption was that big beers take longer to carbonate so the yeast has more time to drop out, but the OP said all his beers followed the same schedule, so that assumption doesn’t work.

Then I remembered Denny commenting about high gravity beers stressing the yeast, which could affect the time required for carbonation.

Denny, give us some insight here.

Hmmm… yeah, I wonder if my yeast died. Afterall, I did 2 weeks primary and 2 weeks secondary on all these beers, even the lower gravity ones. But Brickwarmer is slightly higher at 1.062 and that one is showing the least carbonation.

How much dry yeast did you add to the bottling bucket? A whole packet?

And how did you measure the yeast when adding it to the individual bottles? I’m a little hesitant to try that because of the potential for bottle bombs.[/quote

Our brew supply store had these real small measuring spoons that used a whole packed of yeast for 48 bottles.

I’m also having carbonation issues.
I followed the directions to a T… I think. Question time. The Caribou Slobber extract kit came with that small bag of priming sugar. I assumed I would use that whole bag, but according to directions, I used 2 cups of water with 3/4 cup of sugar, which was not at all the whole bag.

I just bottled a different beer and it said to use 1 cup of water with the whole bag of priming sugar, the 5 ounces or whatever.

I tried the Caribou Slobber and it was completely flat. No head. Nothing. It tasted great, but it was dead. What should I have done differently?

I would assume the priming sugar / water mix should be the same for every 5 gallon batch…

[quote=“Shark”]I’m also having carbonation issues.
I followed the directions to a T… I think. Question time. The Caribou Slobber extract kit came with that small bag of priming sugar. I assumed I would use that whole bag, but according to directions, I used 2 cups of water with 3/4 cup of sugar, which was not at all the whole bag.

I just bottled a different beer and it said to use 1 cup of water with the whole bag of priming sugar, the 5 ounces or whatever.

I tried the Caribou Slobber and it was completely flat. No head. Nothing. It tasted great, but it was dead. What should I have done differently?

I would assume the priming sugar / water mix should be the same for every 5 gallon batch…[/quote]

Priming is not the same for every 5 gallon batch. Carbonation level varies depending on the type of beer and your particular taste for that matter.

Look at NB’s priming calculator ( http://www.northernbrewer.com/priming ) and you’ll see that beer is carbonated with vol levels depending on the type of beer. Of course you can tweak that to your preference. The amount of priming sugar used is based on the vol level at which you wish the beer to be carbed.

Hi everyone,

Just an update on my original issue with carbonation (and it’s good news!). Seems like it is mostly a matter of patience for me. I tried a sample of each of my brews again this past weekend on 12/14, which was one week since my last sample. Finally, my Brickwarmer poured with a head. And a nice one too! So that beer took 5 weeks to show carb, most likely due to the higher gravity. My wife and I also drank 3 Cream Ales, 2 of which poured with a beautiful head and the last one poured with about half the head of the other 2. So correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like different bottles might be conditioning at different speeds, and I just need to sit tight for another week or two and they should all be good to go :slight_smile:

@Shark: as DannyBoy mentioned, different style guidelines call for different volumes of CO2, so priming can vary from batch to batch. I’ve been using the same amount of priming sugar for all my batches though, since I’m just starting out and learning the basic process. You mentioned that your Caribou Slobber isn’t showing any carbonation yet. How long has it been bottle conditioning? And at what temperature(s)? I’m learning that if you followed the basic priming process correctly, it’s just a test of patience until that carb shows up.

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