How To Force Beer Carbonation – Step-by-Step
As a home brewer, you know that beer carbonation can take a while, and this can be inconvenient and time-consuming, especially if you’re dying to try your brew. Did you know that you can actually force beer carbonation to speed up the preparation process? So, how do you force beer carbonation?
You can force beer carbonation using the standard method, shaking method, burst method, or in-line carbonation. Additionally, you can simply set your keg aside at a specific pressure and wait a few days. Carbonation results from trapped air being forced back into the beverage and creating that sweet, sweet fizz.
Bottle conditioning is the most common way to carbonate beer after fermenting. The remainder of this article will walk you through the other methods of forced carbonation that are shorter and faster than bottle conditioning and how they work. Let’s get started!
How To Prepare for Forced Carbonation
It’s important to prepare to carbonate your beer before you get started, which means preparing your work station and tools.
Forced beer carbonation happens inside a keg; a keg is the only vessel that can handle such pressurized CO2 levels with larger volumes of beer. There are several devices you need to acquire before you begin.
To force beer carbonation, you’ll need the following tools:
- A keg with accompanying gas and liquid lines
- Fermented brew, unpressurized
- A CO2 cylinder
- A gas regulator
You should also sanitize your equipment before starting. Remember– any bacteria on your equipment can contaminate your brew and ruin it, meaning you’ll have to toss the batch if it’s unsalvageable. So, thoroughly clean and sanitize everything you use as the first step to forcing beer carbonation.
You should also sanitize the containers that will be holding your brew. For tips on how to sanitize your bottles, check this article out. Ensure that you have all the appropriate connecting lines to your regulator, as well.
1. Standard Carbonation Method
Standard bottle conditioning is the primary method of beer carbonation, but it takes much longer (several weeks) than forced carbonation does. If you’re happy with the wait, follow these steps to complete bottle conditioning (if not, skip to method number 2):
1: Mix in the Priming Sugar
Bottle conditioning refers to the carbonation process that happens after your beer has been bottled and capped. To ensure you reach the level of fizz you want, you must add priming sugar before the bottling. For other ways to increase beer carbonation, read this informative article.
Priming sugar is added to the fermented beer, which starts a second fermentation that adds taste and carbonation to your finished product.
Depending on the type of priming sugar you use, you’ll need to measure the appropriate amount to reach your target carbonation levels. The following measurements are standard per every 5 gallons of brew:
- Corn Sugar: ¾ cups (150 ml)
- Table Sugar: ⅔ cups (134 ml)
- Dry Malt Extract: 1 ¼ cups (250 ml)
Boil the sugars with approximately 2 cups (400 ml) of water and let them cool before mixing them into your fermentor. Let thirty minutes pass before you continue to the bottling phase.
2: Bottle Your Brew
To bottle your beer, you’ll need to transfer the beverage from the fermentor to your bottling bucket. A bottling bucket has a spigot that conveniently allows the beer to flow into the bottles as necessary. You can also use a funnel if that’s easier.
Lid the bottles immediately after filling them up. When they’re full, place them in a relatively warm location (out of sunlight) to finish fermenting and create carbonation. This could take 2 to 3 weeks in total.
The bottle conditioning method for carbonation is one of the most accurate methods discussed in this article, and it’s the most natural way. While a few weeks is still a little long to wait for your beer, it will give you the tastiest results if you’re willing to wait.
2. The Shake Method
The shake method is one of three forced carbonation methods you can try to speed up the final fermenting process. These methods force carbonation to happen within days versus the weeks or months from other, more common methods.
Below are the steps to follow for the shake method:
1: Sanitize and Turn the Gas On
To begin, sanitize your equipment as usual and prepare your keg and lines for pressurizing the gas.
Prepare your keg by switching the gas and liquid lines so that you can force gas through the liquid line and into the keg from the bottom of the machine. The gas will rise up through the liquid, attempting to escape– when it can’t, the carbonation begins!
Turn the gas on when the lines are correctly connected, and look over your work. Take note of any leaks or strange sounds and readjust if necessary.
The shake method to carbonation has varying levels of accuracy and may not always give you the results you want.
2: Shake the Keg
To start the shake method, turn the gas up to 30 psi and lightly shake the keg. You can hear the fizzing and bubbling inside the keg if you listen closely, so every four to five minutes, pause the shaking to listen. After twenty minutes, proceed to step 3.
Shake the keg like this for twenty minutes. If it’s too big to pick up, have a strong friend or family member help you. If that isn’t possible, lay down a mat or towel, lie the keg on its side, and roll it back and forth.
After fifteen to twenty minutes, let the keg rest for two to three days before testing the beverage. Compared to the weeks-long process via bottle conditioning, keg conditioning is better for those with sensitive time restrictions.
Voila! You’ve just shaken your beer to carbonation!
3. Burst Carbonation Method
Burst carbonation involves turning up your CO2 cylinder’s pressure for a while and then lowering it for a further period of time. Most people turn the psi up to thirty or above for fifteen to twenty-four hours before lowering it for another twelve.
The cylinder’s high pressure forces the gas to carbonate quickly inside the keg, and the serving pressure (or the lowered gas levels) helps the brew settle before serving.
To complete this method, complete all the steps from the bottle conditioning method. Sanitize your equipment, disconnect and reconnect your gas and liquid lines as needed, and test the cylinder for leaks.
Here are the steps you need to follow:
1: Turn Up the PSI
As mentioned above, the first thing to do is crank the psi up to a high number. Depending on how long you want to give to the forced carbonation, your psi number may change. Examine the below numbers to determine the appropriate psi and time for your brew:
- 50 psi: 8 to 20 hours
- 40 psi: 12 to 24 hours
- 30 psi: 16 to 45 hours
2: Turn Down the PSI
After the desired length of time at the desired psi level, lower the CO2 to serving pressure (10-12 psi) and wait thirty minutes before serving.
Why This Works
Burst carbonation works because it’s a faster and more forceful way of forcing the gas to:
- Attempt to escape the keg
- Be forced to move back into the brew
Turning the psi down for a while afterward is helpful because the force reduction lessens the carbonation, allowing the beverage to be perfectly carbonated– not fizzing up into your face, spraying all over the table or ruining your date’s outfit.
The burst method is relatively accurate, but you may have to give it a few tries before getting it down right.
4. The Set and Wait Method
Finally, one of the simplest methods to force beer carbonation is the set-and-wait method. This method takes up to three days to complete, which is significantly faster than the weeks that bottle conditioning takes.
After thorough sanitization, open the keg’s pressure release valve and let some carbon dioxide escape. If you hear the valve bubbling and hissing, your keg is good to go. There’s only one step to follow for the set-and-wait method:
Set the CO2 Cylinder to the Appropriate psi
Each beer brewing recipe has different psi requirements for the final carbonation step. To start the set-and-wait method, consult your recipe to determine its psi requirements. Then, set the gas regulator to the stated psi, and leave the keg to do its thing!
This differs from bottle conditioning because the beverage continues to ferment and carbonate inside the keg and isn’t transferred into the bottling bucket. The gas is regulated to a set temperature and psi for longer, allowing carbonation to build in the brew.
5. In-line Carbonation Method
In-line carbonation is a slightly more complicated way to force-fizz your beer, only because it involves some extra tools and instructions.
This method results from transferring the brew from one vessel to another via tubing that injects small amounts of CO2 during the process. Because of this, you’ll need the following:
- A diffusion stone– this is a perforated piece of stainless steel
- A pump
- CO2 cylinder
- A CO2 hose, and a saturation hose
- A keg with brew
- Two ball locks
In-line carbonation takes about forty minutes and should be completed at a frigid or near-freezing temperature to function properly. For DIY experts, you can easily make your own DIY in-line carbonation system by following online guides.
For those with their own, such as the Blichmann QuickCarb, follow these general steps to use an in-line carburetor:
1: Sanitize Your Hoses
As always, when brewing your own beer, sanitize your equipment before starting. This should include the hoses attached to your carburetor. You can do this by filtering food-grade sanitizer through the hoses by placing both into a cleaner container and turning on the pump to circulate it.
To finish the cleanse, connect the CO2 hose to the CO2 tank to clear out any remaining cleaner for five to ten seconds. Now, you’ll start preparing:
2: Attach the Connections
Now, you can connect the pieces necessary to process the beer. Start by connecting one ball lock to the saturation hose and de-pressurize the keg. Attach the ball lock (the same one connected to your saturation hose) to the top of the vessel, turn on your pump, and allow liquid to filter through the hose completely.
Once done, attach the second ball lock to one end of the saturation hose and attach it to the other side of the keg. Now, the machine is fully prepared to start the carbonation process.
3: Set the Psi
As mentioned, psi is based on temperature and recipe, so consult your recipe and your psi carbonation chart to determine what psi you should set for your regulator.
Many brewers recommend setting the regulator at least two notches above your target carbonation level.
4: Turn It On and Let It Run
Once the regulator is set, turn the pump on, open the keg’s valve and let the beer circulate inside the carbonation system for up to forty minutes. You can drink your newest brewed beer in less than an hour!
In-line carbonation systems are the quickest way to force carbonate your beer at a steady pace with the most accurate results. However, they can be pricey and challenging to build, especially if you aren’t handy.
There are certain carbonation system accessories you can purchase online for an inexpensive price, such as carbonator caps and diffusion stones. In fact, the Carbonation Cap Diffusion Air Stone comes with both at a reasonable price.
You can try a few different methods to force beer carbonation and speed up the brewing process. Aside from typical bottle conditioning, you can try shaking the keg, burst carbonation, in-line carbonation, and the set-and-wait method. All of these will help to quicken the carbonation process so you can get to drinking your delicious brew!
After reading this article, you should have a better understanding of how to force beer carbonation.