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Ongoing Carbonation problems

I have been extract brewing off and on for a few years now. I started out using Mr Beer kits which brew in 2 gallon fermenters. I had developed a nice oatmeal stout recipe with lots of fermentables, and I would use two packets of yeast in the fermenter per batch. My ABV usually ended up around 8% or so (I think). I would add sugar to each bottle and almost never had carbonation problems.

I recently switched to a 5 gallon kit through Northern Brewer. I did my first batch of Caribou slobber and had trouble with inconsistent carbonation.

For my next batch, my wife wanted a Christmas beer, so I googled recipes and decided to add some spices and extra fermentibles to a Caribou slobber kit. I added a crazy amount of things, including extra DME, a pound of Honey, a pound of brown sugar and a Can of cherry puree purchased from Northern Brewer. I added two packets of yeast and off we went.

This time when I bottled, I decided to add measured sugar to each bottle individually, as I used to when brewing the 2 gallon batches. Unfortunately, even though I bottled the beer back the first weekend in November, the bottles are still coming out flat. They are delicious, and I’m drinking my way through the batch by mixing each bottle with a bottle of Nut Brown Ale to give it some carbination, but

I’m afraid that my problem is that I had too many fermentables and that it overwhelmed the yeast, and that I will have to try using a yeast starter going forwards.

While I was waiting on those bottles to age (before I found out they were all essentially flat), I brewed another batch of Carribou Slobber. I upped if from 1 lb of DME to 3 lbs of DME, but didn’t make other changes. I used two packets of yeast.

Now I’m worried that, no matter how I put sugar in the bottles (either batch priming or individually), this batch will also turn out flat.

The batch was in the primary fermenter for 3 weeks and has been in the secondary for 2 weeks.

I guess my question is, would it be possible to add more yeast to the batch before going into bottling, or should I just cross my fingers and hope for the best?

I have many packets of the standard brewing yeast that I got from Mr. Beer kits, and I was thinking about pitching a couple in and giving them a stir a few days before bottling.

I know that I’m frankensteining this thing all up.

Any suggestions?

Well as you know for bottle conditioning, you need:
1-Yeast
2-Some form of sugars
3-An appropriate temp to condition at

They do make yeast that you can mix into your bottling bucket along with the priming sugar, but you have to be really careful with that stuff because you don’t want to overdo your yeast count and over carbinate your beer… at least from my experience. It’s kinda hard to judge why YOUR beer isn’t carbonating without being part of the other processes.

At this point, I would suggest inverting your bottles in an attempt to rouse the yeast from the bottom and then place them in a warm place.

After that, if they still won’t carbonate, you may have to open them up and add some yeast to each bottle(that sucks!).
If you can rule out sugar(which you have) rule out temp issues(which you have or will) the only other possible issue I can see is the yeast IMOP

What was the original gravity and final gravity for your Christmas beer? What temperature have the bottles been held at for conditioning? The bottles are designed for pry off caps, not twist off caps?

I’ve always had issues bottle conditioning beers over about 8%. I think they need to be kept a bit warmer, and given even more time than lower ABV beers. And even then they’ve turned out very lightly carbed.

Have you done many 6% and under beers, and how did they carb?

For the higher ABV, maybe some champagne yeast in the bottles…

You mean some undercarb’d and some overcarb’d after adding sugar water to the 5 gallon batch in a bottling bucket ? If so, a likely cause is insufficient mixing in the bucket. I add the boiled sugar water to the bucket first, then siphon the beer into the bottom of the bucket for good mixing. You can also stir, but do so gently so you don’t expose the beer to too much oxygen.
If some bottles are carb’d well and some flat, check that your bottle caps are tight, not allowing CO2 to leak out.

For individual bottle carbing, I’ve heard some people say they like Fizz Drops. I have not tried them. Be careful if you have unfermented sugar in the bottles already however - you could end up with bottle bombs.

As long as you had good yeast and a successful fermentation in the first place, you shouldn’t need to add yeast at bottling unless you have aged a very long time. For long aged beers, I’ve had good luck with a yeast intended specifically for bottle conditioning.

If you made a high gravity brew, the yeast you originally used may not be able to tolerate the high alcohol level it fermented to, in which case primary fermentation may not have completed. In that case, adding a high alcohol tolerate yeast and more sugar to the bottles could lead to bottle bombs.

What temperature are you keeping them at? Mid 70s is best. People sometimes try to condition an ale in a 55deg basement. Gonna take awhile. If you’re worried next time add a half pack of dry to the bottling bucket.

This question is probably unnecessary, and so obvious you may be offended; if so, I apologize. I’m asking because I had this problem on my first batch.

Did you see any fermentation activity in the primary? If the yeast was left over from some Mr. Beer kits it may have been dead. If you didn’t see activity in primary and bottled unfermented beer (as I did), and if you add yeast to the beer as you have been considering (and as I did) you will get bottle bombs (as I did) which can send you to the ER (yep, did that too).

In the end, I opened the bottles, poured the beer back in the fermenter (didn’t know about the problems of post-fermentation oxygenation then) and bottled when fermentation finally finished - the beer wasn’t good, but it was drinkable and better than the commercial stuff I’d been drinking.

[quote=“23152, post:2, topic:23806, full:true”]They do make yeast that you can mix into your bottling bucket along with the priming sugar, but you have to be really careful with that stuff because you don’t want to overdo your yeast count and over carbinate your beer.
[/quote]
Yeast count won’t over carbonate your beer. Adding too much sugar will. Yeast will only turn the available sugar into alcohol and CO2. If you don’t have enough healthy yeast it won’t ferment the priming sugar resulting in flat beer.

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So I only bottle, and have gotten pretty good at hitting my desired carb level, if I do say so myself, and go kind of all across the board with it in terms of carb level. Most important question for me, and I couldn’t figure it out from your post… which yeast did you use for your primary ferment? It can make all the difference in the world when it comes to bottle conditioning.

Did you not read the portion where I said “At least from my experience”…?

You’re partially correct, but not for the right reason. I think that’s the part that loopie wanted to clarify.

Some bottle conditioning yeasts have higher alcohol tolerance than the primary strain that may have been used. And they can absolutely lead to over-carbonation, but not because of cell count. They may attentuate existing sugars in the beer that the primary strain could not ferment, and when you add priming sugar, it can be a big problem. But it’s not because of cell count, it’s because of the metabolism of the specific strain. An even bigger problem if you bottle with brett, as it can consume almost everything in the beer.

I ALWAYS use champagne yeast to bottle condition high gravity beers, because it cannot touch maltose, and any higher sugars. It only consumes simple sugars, glucose, fructose, sucrose… so it will consume the priming sugar, and nothing else. But if you use something like wlp099, you can get into trouble because it’s happy to attenuate all kinds of residual sugars in the beer.

I would guess that you’re talking about using CBC-1, and it’s pretty safe. By some accounts, it’s a wine strain, and should perform similarly to champagne yeast. But if your primary strain konked out because it hit its alcohol limit due to too high of a starting gravity, it’ll give you problems as there may be too many residual sugars.

TL;DR - it can certainly over-carbonate, but not from cell count. :beers:

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I wasn’t trying to be a d!€k. But yeast will only ferment the available sugars. As @porkchop points out, if you use a bottling yeast that ferments more sugars you could be in trouble.

Next time bottle one single beer adding just the same yeast you fermented with and another adding no yeast and the correct amount of sugar. Tell me which one carbed and which one didn’t.

This leads me to believe that the caps are leaking. Put a towel around the cap and try to rotate it. If it moves it leaks. You may need to try a different cap. I had a set of caps that I could only get 1 in 4 to seal, changed to a more expensive (better) cap and have had zero problems.

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I only have minimum experience. One thing I do with my beer is, when it’s 3 or 4 days before fermentation is complete, I raise the temp up 3 or 5 degrees. I do this to wake the yeast up to help clear it up by eating any leftover fermentables. But I think it would help the yeast be active for bottle conditioning.
I never have off flavors from this. And have never had flat or over carbonated bottles.

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