Carbonation issue - triage and fix needed

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BRbarfanTimmy

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Newer home brewer here. I made a Brewers Best red ale kit and the bottles are not carbonating as normal. Primary fermentation ran for two weeks in a carboy. I did not take beginning and after SG readings (I know...), but it at least appeared to bubble and move through the steps like other beers have done. I did rack to a secondary fermenter for another week as there was quite a bit of trub in the carboy and the beer was a bit cloudy. Both fermentation and bottle storage is in the basement which is a consistent 68 degrees. After a week in secondary I bottled as normal in both 22oz with cap and 1L EZ cap with 5oz of provided sugar dissolved and well mixed in the bottling bucket. After a week there was no carbonation. After two weeks only a marginal improvement. Now after three weeks it is still the same for both cap and ez cap bottles. There is little or no sediment in the bottles which is also unusual. This is the first time I've had carbonation issues so am looking for both thoughts as to the reason and possible solutions. My only thought is that after racking there wasn't sufficient yeast in solution by the time I bottled? Appreciate the help!
 
How are you assessing the lack of carbonation?

If by sound when you open them, then when filled up with less than a inch of head space, they don't make much noise compared to bottles with a larger headspace.

If by taste, then are you drinking them really cold out of the refrigerator? Let them warm up to the high 40's or even into the lower 50's Fahrenheit and you might perceive and see more CO2.

Lack of yeast in your beer probably wasn't a issue no matter how clean it was when you bottled. However if your beer is a very high ABV and well into or above the alcohol tolerance of your yeast, then you might should have considered a bottling yeast that has a higher tolerance.

And even though you think the caps sealed, you should make sure. I don't know about the screw tops or swing tops, but for crown caps, the sides need to be vertical to indicate a good crimp. If the side are angled out, I'd be suspicious.
 
How are you assessing the lack of carbonation?

If by sound when you open them, then when filled up with less than a inch of head space, they don't make much noise compared to bottles with a larger headspace.

If by taste, then are you drinking them really cold out of the refrigerator? Let them warm up to the high 40's or even into the lower 50's Fahrenheit and you might perceive and see more CO2.

Lack of yeast in your beer probably wasn't a issue no matter how clean it was when you bottled. However if your beer is a very high ABV and well into or above the alcohol tolerance of your yeast, then you might should have considered a bottling yeast that has a higher tolerance.

And even though you think the caps sealed, you should make sure. I don't know about the screw tops or swing tops, but for crown caps, the sides need to be vertical to indicate a good crimp. If the side are angled out, I'd be suspicious.
Thanks for the reply. I'm assessing by sound, mouthfeel, and bubbles (lack of) in the beer. It looks like and tastes like a flat beer. I was concerned that it might be a cap issue, but several samples were all the same and the EZ cap were also flat and I'm confident they were sealed. Is there a sound way to "re-carbonate" them or just chalk this up to bad luck? Other brews have all been bottled from primary and contained more sediment and I would say appropriate carbonation. I only use extract kits (for now).
 
You might consider measuring the SG of one of the bottles to see if it's close to the expected FG. It seems unlikely, but maybe the yeast crapped out early for some reason.
 
was the priming sugar solution mixed with the beer (gently so as not to introduce more oxygen than possible) prior to bottling? Is it possible to know which bottles were bottled first and might have more priming sugar?
 
was the priming sugar solution mixed with the beer (gently so as not to introduce more oxygen than possible) prior to bottling? Is it possible to know which bottles were bottled first and might have more priming sugar?
Yes I usually add the solution once there is around a gallon in the bottling bucket and gently stir to mix. I've tried samples from different bottles which would have been earlier and later with similar results. Besides the flatness of the beer the other red flag is the lack of any significant sediment. There was not much trub in the secondary at all and it spent 7 or 8 days there. Most of the time I bottle from the primary.
 
And if this is a kit, are you absolutely certain the sugar was for priming and not something like maltodextrin that is unfermentable and added for body?
 
Side note: I just looked at the recipe that @mac_1103 linked.

I like that it gives ranges for the numbers we look at in beer making. OG, FG, ABV and even IBU's.

To often I see posts where the OP seems distressed that their OG or FG is a point or two off from the value listed in most other recipes that is a hard number.

So if more recipes that put the numbers as a range might help save quite a few new brewers from ruining their beer and their own health from mental distress and anguish! (there is a little bit of sarcasm here so don't take this entirely as it's written)
 
Thanks all for your input. I'm going to check FG on a sample tomorrow. Assuming its close I'm going to let the bottles age for another few weeks and recheck carbonation. Should it still be flat, is there a method for reviving in the bottle or is this batch a lost cause?
 
Side note: I just looked at the recipe that @mac_1103 linked.

I like that it gives ranges for the numbers we look at in beer making. OG, FG, ABV and even IBU's.

To often I see posts where the OP seems distressed that their OG or FG is a point or two off from the value listed in most other recipes that is a hard number.

So if more recipes that put the numbers as a range might help save quite a few new brewers from ruining their beer and their own health from mental distress and anguish! (there is a little bit of sarcasm here so don't take this entirely as it's written)
Yep, I was that guy. Now, if I am in a close proximity I am good with it. And of course, if it tastes good, numbers don't mean much to me now. But, when I first started, well...........
 
Thanks all for your input. I'm going to check FG on a sample tomorrow. Assuming its close I'm going to let the bottles age for another few weeks and recheck carbonation. Should it still be flat, is there a method for reviving in the bottle or is this batch a lost cause?
Please take this for only what it is worth, a very novice brewer thinking out loud. Can you just get another set of bottles, add sugar to them and gently pour the "flat" bottles into the sugar and see what happens? Maybe use plastic bottles so that if they over carb you don't have to worry about glass breaking? I don't know if that is even possible at this point, but just thinking out loud to see what the masses say.
 
Should it still be flat, is there a method for reviving in the bottle or is this batch a lost cause?
Assuming that it is at or near the expected final gravity, you could try dosing each bottle with more priming sugar and a bottling yeast. But that could be dangerous if it's not at or near the expected final gravity.
 
Just to ask again, are you drinking them straight out of a cold refrigerator at a temp in the low 40's or less? That can make some beers seem flat.

Let it warm up to the lower 50's before drinking and you might enjoy it more.

Some do try to re-prime their beer and bottle again. I'm leery of that mainly because it'll be exposed to even more O2. But your's isn't a very hoppy beer, so maybe it'll go well.

You might consider inviting your friends over and after they've had a few good beers, slip these in on them to get this batch finished and in the history books.

Then hope for a better experience with the next batch.


Though curious if you know what the yeast was. Did it just come in a generic packet labeled "YEAST"? Or did you get to pick the yeast type.
 
I found myself in a similar situation not long after I started brewing. For my stepfather's birthday, I decided to make four different beers and bottle them into Mason pint jars with priming sugar (it was a lot of beer and jars just seemed so much easier to deal with). I was aware of the potential issues with Mason jar lids, but decided to try with the plastic screw lids, thinking they might seal in fine. I should mention that this was going to be a BIG beer themed birthday party. We had beer chips, beer cheese, beer movies, beer pong, beer bandoliers . . . so we needed good beer. The party date rolls around and the night before, I'm cracking open the beers and not one had any carbonation. They did prime, but all the CO2 escaped the jar lids (you could occasionally hear a light hiss if you shook one up, and there was no backsweetening). We panicked bigtime.

What saved my butt was buying a Soda Stream. It worked fantastic on the fly and the beer was saved. Bonus was, my stepfather had been wanting one, so he got to keep it as a birthday present. He's still using it to carbonate the tons of leftover beer months later and actually prefers the carbonation from the Soda Stream because he can tailor it to his tastes with each beer. I know there's a lot of stuff on the forum and the internet in general, mostly con on the Soda Stream option (not real carbonation, can make a mess, etc.), but I've been impressed with carbing beer this way and considered getting one myself before getting into kegging.

There's a little bit of trial and error involved: ideally, you would carbonate this way a little bit before you want to drink your beer and just let the bottle sit attached to the Soda Stream body so that the CO2 can incorporate better into the beer rather than letting some escape if you pull the bottle right off. As far as preventing messes, you just take the bottle off slowly to kind of burp the bottle. And it's going to take some practice before you hit on the right carbonation formula for you (how many pumps of CO2, how long to let the bottle sit or not, etc.). But my parents still occasionally bring me beer carbed this way sometimes days after doing it, having let it sit in the fridge, and I'm really pleased with the carbonation. Might be hard to justify buying a Soda Stream unless you like carbing this way, but I know some homebrewers do justify it as a way to sample beer at priming before carbonation. An option, anyway.
 
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