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casebrew 02-23-2007 03:07 AM

High altitude carbonation?
My brother is moving to Colorado. He'll be between New Belgian* ,and Estes Park micros. So he's brought back some samples for me. All excellent. BUT, the stuff from Estes Park seem kind of less carbonated. The brewery is at 7500 feet elevation. I'm in San Diego. Do the folks at Estes Park do that on purpose, to prevent gushers at the higher elevation?

*is New Belgian a micro? Is Sam Adams? Where do you draw the line? $$$volume, or principle?

RichBrewer 02-23-2007 05:01 AM

I've never had a problem here but I never really thought about it. Wouldn't the pressure be less in the bottle if it was taken to sea level?

ColoradoXJ13 02-23-2007 04:06 PM


Originally Posted by RichBrewer
I've never had a problem here but I never really thought about it. Wouldn't the pressure be less in the bottle if it was taken to sea level?

I don't think it would change at all, the bottle is a sealed environment and doesn't feel a pressure difference between colorado and san diego, unlike a potato chip bag that can change volumes depending on inside/outside pressure.

The yeast in a bottle are going to ferment the sugar the same way and expel CO2 the same at high or low altitude.

Oh, and it is New Belgium, not Belgian. Microbreweries are considered those because of volume of beer produced, not sure of the cutoff but Red Hook and Sam Adams are certainly beyond that number, not sure about NBB. Tell your brother to bring you beers from Oskar Blues, Avery, O'dells, and Boulder Brewing Co.....better yet, get your azz out here and get it yourself.

IowaStateFan 02-23-2007 09:00 PM

I've been wondering about this. I live at 9,000 ft and took some perfectly carbonated homebrew to my Dad's in Texas. They were pretty flat, not totally flat, but pretty lifeless. I am new to homebrewing so I thought that maybe my bottles didn't get evenly carbonated or something else that I'd done. Needless to say I was dissappointed because I was trying to show off my new skill. Then I came back to Colorado and the same batches of beer had very good carbonation. Thought it might be altitude, but that really doesn't make sense either.

david_42 02-23-2007 09:38 PM

If you have carbonation of 2 volumes at sea level, this is 3 volumes at 7000 ft. because the local pressure is around 11 psi. Something carbonated to pour nicely at 8000 ft. seems flat at sea level. I suspect high altitude brewers make adjustments for their market. It's the difference between the bottle pressure and the air pressure that drives our perception of carbonation.

IowaStateFan 02-27-2007 05:57 PM


Thanks for the reply. What you're saying makes sense except for one thing. In my case I primed one of my beers with 3/4 cup corn sugar and the other with 1 1/4 cup dme. Shouldn't the volume of CO2 produced be the same at sea level as at 9000'? It seems to me that since the bottle is rigid and sealed (ie the volume inside the bottle is constant at sea level and 9000') the amount of CO2 dissolved into the beer would be the same in both cases and altitude wouldn't have any affect.

As I'm writing this response something occured to me that might explain it. Let me know what you think. There is residual CO2 dissolved in the beer from fermentation, before priming, right? This is about 1 atmosphere (give or take), right? Priming with 3/4 cup corn sugar brings the pressure up to about 2.5 atmospheres. Assuming that 1 atmosphere at 9000' is about .5 atmosphere at sea level, my final carbonation (.5 atmospheres at 9000) would be the equivilent of about 2 atmospheres at sea level because the residual carbonation is reduced by 50%. That would mean that my carbonation levels at sea level would be about 80% of what I have at home. Does this seem right? If so I would need to increase my carbonation level up to about 3 atmospheres if I wanted to take some good homebrew to my Dad in Texas?

david_42 02-27-2007 06:35 PM

Interesting point & probably a factor. But, I think the atmospheric pressure where you open the bottle will be dominate.

casebrew 02-28-2007 11:11 PM

IowaState, I think you are confusing atmospheres (pressure) with volumes of Co2. The ones and 2 1/2's. Otherwise, you are right about more sugar making more CO2 volumes. But I think the head is casued by pressure differentials betwen the atmosphere and what's in the bottle. So less prime would be needed at 7500' than at 0.

So, if I send my bro some homebrews from San Diego, they'll leap out of the bottle. I think I just saved on postage and beer.

Mikey 03-01-2007 12:33 AM

I've been on hundreds of high altitude commercial flights where the cabin altitude is maintained at the equivalent of 10,000 feet above sea level. I've never seen any beer, soda, or any carbonated drink act any different than at sea level other than a slightly bigger 'phsssst' when you first open the can.

The difference in air pressure between the two altitudes would affect the rate at which the CO2 ecapes from the liquid- the same effect as accelerating the rate of carbonation by turning up the setting on the regulator.

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