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No carbonation - possible solutions

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by jageraholic, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    I homebrewed the BYO - Founders breakfast stout, and when bottling, I tasted some out of the carboy and it was fantastic, and then tried some out of the bottom of the bottling bucket and it tasted like a lot of the sugar didn't get mixed into beer for bottling. So I tried some after 2 weeks and no bubbles and then the same after 4 weeks. Is there a way to save the beer because I'd really like to try it with some carbonation?
  2. Did you boil the sugar in some water before mixing it in?
  3. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    Yeah, i did it in a cup of water. Let it cool down, then poured it into the bucket and siphoned the beer into it.
  4. How much sugar did you use and what type?
  5. And did you stir?
  6. So, first a quick story. A looooong time ago for a batch of California Common I decided to conduct an ‘experiment’: I decided to just let the beer ‘swirl’ onto the sugar solution in the bottom of the bottling bucket thinking that this agitation was sufficient to adequately mix the beer with the sugar solution. This ‘experiment’ was a failure in that complete mixing did not occur. Some bottles were flat and some were carbonated (but strangely not overcarbonated).

    I went back to my original procedure of mixing after siphoning the beer into the bottling bucket. I use my racking cane as a stirrer.

    As to how to rectify the OPs problem of getting his bottles to carbonate the simple aspect is that more sugar needs to be added to the bottles; open the caps, pour more sugar (in a sugar solution) into the bottle, recap and wait a few weeks for the carbonation to occur. How much sugar needs to be added to each bottle is something I personally do not know. Hopefully somebody who has done this before can provide that input.

  7. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    I did not stir...never have before but i guess i will from now on. I always thought the flow of the transfer would mix it enough. I wouldn't want to stir to vigorously to prevent oxygen getting into it right? Also, would adding sugar still work after the bottles have been sitting over a month. Is the yeast dead or just dormant? I read on some other homebrew forums that some bigger beers need more time to carb, is there any truth to that or do all beers carb within the 7-21 day standard?
  8. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Savant (420) California Mar 22, 2011

    During bottle refermentation yeast will consume some oxygen (Quantitatively, no idea), so a little stirring won't cause any harm.
  9. You state: “I wouldn't want to stir to vigorously to prevent oxygen getting into it right?” That was exactly my motivation for conducting my ‘experiment’ for my batch of California Common many years ago. I have only not stirred once (that batch) and I got inconsistent carbonation so I resumed my stirring practice. For what it is worth I have never experienced any indications that my homebrewed beers have become oxidized from this stirring practice. I routinely have homebrewed beers for well over 6 months in the bottle and there are no flavors of: sweet toffey flavors, sherry, cardboard or any other flavors indicative of oxidation. Maybe the ‘trick’ is to stir slowly but conscientiously; that is what I do.

    Even though you beers are one month old I highly suspect there are adequate live yeast cells for carbonation. There is indeed a rule of thumb that higher gravity beers can take a bit longer to carbonate. I would have thought that one month would be of sufficient time.

    If you are truly interested in drinking your beer in a carbonated state I would encourage you to re-prime your bottles.

    Another option with re-priming is using carb tablets. I have used them so hopefully somebody else can provide input here.

  10. Since you did not stir, and tasted sweetness on the bottom of the bucket, I would think that the yeast is fine and there just was not any priming sugars in the bottles for the yeast to go to town on. Yes, bigger beers usually take longer to bottle condition, but in this case I doubt with the gravity of FBS that you are having that problem. And if it has just been a month or so, the yeast will wake right back up. I suggest rolling the bottles on their side to mix the yeast back into solution once the new priming sugar (tablets would work best I assume) is added and the bottles are recapped.

    I am having a similar problem with a barleywine that we left in the secondary for almost a year then bottled, so I feel your pain. I don't think the solution of the barleywine is as easy as your potential fix though.

    Good luck and Cheers!
  11. bgjohnston

    bgjohnston Savant (420) Connecticut Jan 14, 2009

    How much work do you want to do to fix it? You need active yeast and unfermented sugar to produce the carbonation. If you are in doubt about either, you could make up a simple syrup and add a couple of drops in each bottle, and do the same with a couple drops of hydrated yeast, too. Then re-cap.

    On the other hand, I had a very strong beer fail to carbonate due to the yeast crapping out, and I still enjoyed it as-is. Turns out, the 2012 Bourbon County Brand Stout I had over Thanksgiving weekend was carbonated at about the same level.
  12. inchrisin

    inchrisin Savant (480) Indiana Sep 25, 2008

    I'd set a 6er on top of the fridge for a month, or on a register for a week. If you heat them up a little, you might kick off a fermentation. Otherwise you'll have to pop the tops and add a scant 1/4 tsp to each bottle.
  13. I have almost the exact same situation going on with a recently bottled stout, though I haven't tried to add more sugar yet (plan to try it out this weekend).

    On a related note, I also happened to add a 0.75oz tincture of vodka that i had been soaking dry chipotle peppers on for about a week. This was added to the last ~1.5gallons as i was bottling. I observed with these beers that the carb level is even lower than the others. If i remember courses i took in surface science correctly, i was thinking the added alcohol could be destabilizing the surface tension that leads to bubble/head formation. Anyone experience this?

    edit: even flat, the chili pepper stout is so delicious. Just the right amount of heat and smokiness. I'd love to taste it carbed up!
  14. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    Thanks...I guess i'll add some sugar to it to get some carbonation. Am i putting the usual 2/3 cup of corn sugar to 16 oz water and just use a couple drops? Per the style, i dont want it to be overly carbonated.
  15. cmmcdonn

    cmmcdonn Savant (400) Virginia Jun 21, 2009

    I didn't notice if you mentioned what type of yeast you used or the estimated og/fg of the beer. You may be near/at the yeasts alcohol tolerance level. Again, without additional info that's just speculation.

    If there is a concern that the priming sugar wasn't properly mixed, I'd be just as worried about bottle bombs as I would flat beer.
    skivtjerry likes this.
  16. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    Definitely worried about bottle bombs too. Plus i want the beer to be just slightly carbonated to match that of FBS. I used Wyeast 1056 - american ale and did a yeast starter.
  17. MLucky

    MLucky Savant (400) California Jul 31, 2010

    If I were going to do this, I would probably use a lower amount of sugar, just to on the safe side. And before I did it, I would want to be sure that I'd ruled out low temperature as a possible cause of the lack of carbonation. (What is the temp in your storage space?) One thing to consider is that it may be difficult to add even this small amount of liquid to you already filled bottles--you may need to come up with a way to pour off a little bit.
  18. psnydez86

    psnydez86 Savant (470) Pennsylvania Jan 4, 2012 Verified

    I too recently found out on an experiment that stirring priming sugar into the beer is necessary... I did a bender clone, added sugar to bottling bucket, siphoned beer on top of sugar.... Some beers are nice and carbed some are flat as a board. Can't wait for Santa to bring me a keg and the blichman beer gun so I can put natural carbonation behind me!!
  19. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    I keep the beer in my closet in the dining room so it should be house temperature, so its between 65 and 70. I would think it's fine.
  20. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    I was thinking of getting one of the soda machines that add carbonation and just doing it to each bottle that I open that is flat as I drink it.
    skivtjerry likes this.
  21. MLucky

    MLucky Savant (400) California Jul 31, 2010

    It probably is. The reason I ask is because I've noticed that bottle conditioning takes significantly longer for me during winter when the temperature in my closet is more like 60-65F than in summer when it's 65-70F. Especially for bigger beers. But anyway you get my point: you wouldn't want to add more sugar to the bottles unless you're really sure that whatever sugar was in there before has been exhausted.
  22. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    Maybe my temps are off, i'm just guesstimating since i'm not there right now, but i'll check it out tonight.
  23. psnydez86

    psnydez86 Savant (470) Pennsylvania Jan 4, 2012 Verified

    Are you talking about those things they advertise on tv for making soda at home? I'm not sure how that works but that may be a brilliant idea ??
  24. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    yeah, i've been seeing the advertisements for it lately. Gotta do some research and make sure it's just putting bubbles into the liquid. But I'm definitely curious.
  25. psnydez86

    psnydez86 Savant (470) Pennsylvania Jan 4, 2012 Verified

    Yea I don't know how those works but if it only bubbles I would worry about oxidation
  26. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    True, but I'd only use it in a beer that I opened that didn't carb, i wouldn't re bottle it. But according to the reviews and experience of others, it doesn't seem worth it.
  27. ColForbinBC

    ColForbinBC Advocate (730) New Jersey Sep 9, 2005 Verified

    I bottled a saison recently in which I used about half of the recommended amount of priming sugar than I was supposed to (some kind of bug in the chart I was using that only existed for the 1 day I need to use it, but I digress). After 4 weeks, it was still undercarbed. So I roused the bottles by swirling a little bit, turned them upside down, and moved them to a warmer part of the house for 5-7 days and re-checked, and they were just about perfect.
  28. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (930) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009 Verified

    It sounds like the amount of priming sugar used was just about perfect then. Either that, or there were some residual unfermented sugars from the original wort that fermented in the bottle. You can't get more CO2 than the sugar allows, regardless of how you rouse or move the bottles. (I'm assuming no infections.)
  29. With saisons, typically increasing temps will cause the unfermented sugars left in the beer to carbonate. Depending on which strain of yeast you used, if your FG was above 1.002 or so, most likely VikeMan was correct.

    I have heard some horror stories about saisons being stored in high temps then shipped in the summer and having a bunch of bottles and kegs being over carbed for this reason. Unfortunately the kegs all needed to be drain poured.
  30. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Advocate (595) Vermont Mar 10, 2006

    OP: lots of good advice and ideas above. If none of your bottles are carbonated, the issue is more perplexing; then you need to look at the entire process carefully. Unfortunately, you will have to play a little Russian roulette to see how they all turned out. I really like the soda machine idea for carbonating flat bottles as they are served.
  31. ColForbinBC

    ColForbinBC Advocate (730) New Jersey Sep 9, 2005 Verified

    Actually, that makes sense, my FG was in that ballpark (don't recall off the top of my head and don't have my brewing notes at work), but I added some pears for the last week in secondary. Which probably added some sugars to the beer that didn't entirely convert until going in the bottles. I forgot about that. Carry on.
  32. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    Ok. So checked my closet temperature and it was around 62-64 degrees, so i moved the beer into a room near the heat vent. Temperature is now like 68-70 degress and gave the beer a stir. I'll check back in a couple weeks and crack open another. When i stirred the beer it had a few bubbles on top. Is that normal? Reminded me of when you first fill up a bottle of beer so i'm not too concerned.
  33. If you have to stir in the bottling bucket to get even carbonation you are doing something really wrong beforehand.
  34. VikeMan

    VikeMan Champion (930) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009 Verified

    Such as?
  35. i use the sodastream unit to purge my bottles just prior to bottling. i'll fill up a pet bottle and 'force carb' it this way, but there's no way to regulate the amount of co2. so i blast it with co2, pour and whisk until it's a palatable level of co2, mostly because i don't have a kegging setup and am too inpatient to wait for the rest of my bottles to condition.
  36. hood17

    hood17 Zealot (90) Minnesota Aug 6, 2011

    Are you bottling in bombers or 12 ozers?
  37. jageraholic

    jageraholic Advocate (500) Massachusetts Sep 16, 2009 Verified

    12 ozers.