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Old 06-28-2012, 09:19 PM   #1
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Default My Beer is Flat!

Help! Of the last five batches I've bottled, three have turned out essentially flat. To the best of my knowledge and (poor) record-keeping, my process did not vary notably between the two successful batches and the three failed ones.

I'm hoping the good people of HBT will help me to identify
a) ideas on what I need to change to avoid this problem in the future
b) whether or not anything is salvageable from what I have already bottled

Here's my process:

1) Boil ~4-5 gallons of wort. Chill and transfer to a fermentor without trying to filter out break or other solids.
2) Primary fermentation in a 6.5 gallon bucket for ~1 week
3) Secondary fermentation for 2-3 weeks split between a 3 gallon carboy and a 1 gallon carboy. I don't want to get into the "secondary" debate, but the main reason I do this is to free my sole bucket for other uses (ie bottling or more brewing).
4) Siphon the contents of both carboys back to the bucket for bottling. I use 3.5 oz of dissolved corn sugar and add it in stages to the beer to encourage reasonable mixing.
5) Beer is in bottles for at least two weeks before I sample it.

Some more-specific details:
1) Batches 1, 4 and 5 are the ones that are flat. Batches 2 and 3 are good.
2) Much of batch 1 was accidentally exposed to oxygen during siphoning into the bottling bucket because I didn't notice that a cracked racking cane was aerating the beer. Until the failures of batches 4 and 5, I assumed that this was responsible for the problems with #1.
3) The successful batches were both dry-hopped, and both had higher gravities than any of the failed batches.
4) Batches 4 and 5 were bottled 2.5 weeks ago, so there's still the potential for more carbonation. But batch 1 was bottled over two months ago and hasn't showed any signs of improving.
5) Most of the beer goes into 12oz bottles, but I usually fill 2-3 20oz bottles as well. For batch 1, the 20oz bottles seemed to have much better carbonation than the 12oz bottles.


Any ideas?

Thanks!

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Old 06-28-2012, 09:27 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CurtHagenlocher View Post
4) Siphon the contents of both carboys back to the bucket for bottling. I use 3.5 oz of dissolved corn sugar and add it in stages to the beer to encourage reasonable mixing.
Add your priming solution to the bottling bucket prior to siphoning. Have your siphon tube curve around the bottom of the bucket and you'll get a nice mix just by racking into your bucket.

What temp are you storing your bottles at while they carb up?
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Old 06-28-2012, 09:28 PM   #3
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The filled bottles are being stored at ~68-70F.

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Old 06-28-2012, 09:31 PM   #4
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What's the OG of the beer? Bigger beers can take longer - even significantly more so - than three weeks (which you haven't reached yet for batches 4 & 5).

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Old 06-28-2012, 09:39 PM   #5
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I don't have my notes handy, but I seem to recall that the "failures" were all under 1.050 while the "successes" were both over 1.050.

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Old 06-28-2012, 09:41 PM   #6
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I typically use 5 ounces (by weight) of corn sugar for 5 gallons to prime the beer.

Are they totally flat (like from leaky caps), or just undercarbed a bit?

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Old 06-28-2012, 09:46 PM   #7
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They are almost totally flat. I do get a very slight hiss when I open the bottle, and I'm using batches of caps (and a capper) which have previously produced the expected result -- so I'm inclined to think that nothing is leaking. But is there a good way to confirm that?

EDIT: As I typically end up with about 3.75 gallons of finished beer, 3.5 ounces of corn sugar seems reasonably equivalent to "5 ounces for 5 gallons".

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Old 06-28-2012, 09:50 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CurtHagenlocher View Post
They are almost totally flat. I do get a very slight hiss when I open the bottle, and I'm using batches of caps (and a capper) which have previously produced the expected result -- so I'm inclined to think that nothing is leaking. But is there a good way to confirm that?

EDIT: As I typically end up with about 3.75 gallons of finished beer, 3.5 ounces of corn sugar seems reasonably equivalent to "5 ounces for 5 gallons".
Yes, that does seem like a good amount of sugar - that's why I"m puzzled.

How long do you chill the bottles before opening?
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Old 06-28-2012, 09:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CurtHagenlocher View Post
They are almost totally flat. I do get a very slight hiss when I open the bottle, and I'm using batches of caps (and a capper) which have previously produced the expected result -- so I'm inclined to think that nothing is leaking. But is there a good way to confirm that?

.
immerse upright bottle in a bucket of water and check for bubbles
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Old 06-28-2012, 10:11 PM   #10
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I chill for at least 24 hours before opening. I understand that this may not be long enough for an optimal experience, but I find it hard to believe that it would make such a dramatic difference.

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