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How can you tell if your beer is carbonating in the bottle?

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TasunkaWitko

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I thought this might be a "dumb question," but perhaps not....

I bottled my first brew, a chocolate maple porter, this last Sunday; since then, I've been keeping the bottles in a dark area where the ambient temperature is 68 to 72 degrees, which as far as I can tell from reading seems like an optimum temperature range.

I took a peek this morning, and it dawned on me that I really don't know any obvious signs that the beer is carbonating, other than perhaps shaking it up and potentially watching the cap blow off. There was some sediment on the bottom of the few random bottles I checked, and it seemed at first that this would be the most telling sign of carbonation - but what if that sediment is simply from the fermenter and got sucked up in the transfer from fermenter to pot, then to the bottle?

I'll wait the proscribed two weeks (perhaps three) before opening any bottles and finding out for sure, but in the meantime, I was wondering if there are any reliable, observable signs that I could be advised of.

Thanks in advance -

Ron
 

m1k3

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It is really hard to tell in glass. If you bottle a few in plastic beer bottles then you can squeeze them to get a sense of how carbonated they are.

Most people say just wait and don't waste them. But I don't mind chilling one and tasting them once a week. How else are you going to know what green beer tastes like.
 

WissahickonBrew

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Assuming you are using bottle conditioning method with priming sugar I suggest you wait 3 weeks to test your first bottle. Unless you did something along the way that makes you wonder... you will probably be just fine. Sediment on the bottom of a homebrew bottle is a good thing, but not an indicator of carbonation!

Waiting for bottle conditioning to finish is the reason I (and many others) switch to forced carbonation. Since this is your first bottling experience, savor the anticipation and learn grasshopper! :mug:
 

JMSetzler

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+1 to the comment on waiting 3 weeks. I also find that higher gravity beers benefit from letting them sit even longer. If it were my brew, I'd wait 4 to 5 weeks before popping the first bottle open.
 

chezhed

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ahhh the disappointment of opening a 3 week old bottle of beer to discover that you forgot the priming sugar evidently....:mad: I no longer talk to people while I bottle.
BUT, I opened each one and gently poured them into a keg I had purged with CO2 and force carbed from there.....turned out OK. A slow process but beat throwing out 2 cases of beer....luckily it was a low carbonation volume type.
 
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TasunkaWitko

TasunkaWitko

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Hi, guys, and thanks for the replies so far.

I definitely added the priming sugar, so I know that's not a worry, but my concern stems from a time that I made some "old-fashioned" birch beer from extract. I followed the directions and waited for a month, but out of 42 bottles, not a sinlge one was carbonated - it tasted great, but it was flat as a board. Looking back, I think that the issue in that case was temperature, but I guess time will tell!
 

aslander

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I usually will bottle one in a 20oz plastic bottle and the rest in the normal beer bottles. When the 20oz feels nice and tight, the rest should be about ready.
 

metanoia

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Even after 2-3 weeks you *might* not have the right carbonation level, so just wait until then (the beer itself will mature more over that time as well). The only time I get quick carbonation is with my hefeweizen; I opened a 4-day-old bottle yesterday night and got beautiful bubbles and head, but of course the beer was still underdeveloped (only did it this time to take notes on carbonation since I'm aiming high at 3.5 volumes CO2). So even if you do get carbonation early, the beer will taste better after 3+ weeks.
 

brewkinger

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If you bottle a few in plastic beer bottles then you can squeeze them to get a sense of how carbonated they are.

I don't mind chilling one and tasting them once a week. How else are you going to know what green beer tastes like.
Totally agree with the plastic bottle route.

Picked up that habit when I was carbonating cider to determine when they are ready for pasteuriztion and carried it over into my beer making as well.

The ol' tried and true 2-3 weeks at the right temps is not to be forgotten though. Still a safe and effective practice, but I have had blonde ales that were carbonated in around a week and then a week in the fridge and were delicious.

The part about knowing what green beer tastes like is true, but you only have to sacrifice no more than 3 bottles to this process. Once you taste green beer, it only gets better.....
 

cernst151

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I have a small stash of Grolsch style flip top bottles and I always fill a couple of those with each beer. Then it's a simple matter of opening it a little to hear the fizz. If it sounds right, it's probably ready. If not, let it wait and no harm done. You could certainly wait the 3 weeks but I'm impatient.
 

chezhed

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I usually will bottle one in a 20oz plastic bottle and the rest in the normal beer bottles. When the 20oz feels nice and tight, the rest should be about ready.
That's an idea I have not tried! Any special bottle/cap arrangement? Or do you just reuse some plastic bottle and cap? tell me more:D
 

dkevinb

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That's an idea I have not tried! Any special bottle/cap arrangement? Or do you just reuse some plastic bottle and cap? tell me more:D
Just clean and sanitize any old soda bottle and cap. You can reuse the bottles and caps over and over. I use PET amber beer bottles, but I started bottling in PET soda bottles. Very, very easy. Just make sure they're soda bottles, not water bottles. They need to have held carbonated beverages to start with to make sure they can handle the pressure.
 

dkevinb

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There are a few root beer and cream soda makers that make brown bottles. Those are good for beer. Don't use the clear bottles.
You can use clear bottles if you keep them out of the sun and fluorescent light. I generally put the bottled beer back into a cardboard box to carbonate/condition, then put it in the fridge, then drink it. The clear bottles work pretty well for knowing when your beer is clear as well as carbonated. But you're right in saying that amber's better in general. That's why I went to the amber PET beer bottles. But if you're only using one bottle to know when your beer is carbonated it doesn't matter too much either way.
 

DaNewf

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I've used Sprite bottles in the past and they work great. Just keep them out of direct sunlight (the darker the storage location the better). The green plastic supposedly blocks UV rays a little better than clear plastic but not enough to keep your beer from getting skunked if exposed for any amount of time.
 

timpoulsen

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Thinking of trying this unless someone else already has. Get a couple stainless bottles from Deep Wood Brew Products and tap the caps and install gauges. Bottle 'em up with the batch and have a visual indication and some carbonation level feedback to log for the batch.

test.JPG
 

dkevinb

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timpoulsen

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Obviously some of our minds seem to stray in similar directions. I think the stainless steel bottles would more reflect what you'd find in a glass bottle since they don't expand. Just wondering how much psi would be expected and what gauge scale would be most appropriate. Anyway, on my list to play with.
 

beerme70

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Assuming you are using bottle conditioning method with priming sugar I suggest you wait 3 weeks to test your first bottle. Unless you did something along the way that makes you wonder... you will probably be just fine. Sediment on the bottom of a homebrew bottle is a good thing, but not an indicator of carbonation!

Waiting for bottle conditioning to finish is the reason I (and many others) switch to forced carbonation. Since this is your first bottling experience, savor the anticipation and learn grasshopper! :mug:
Yeah, but waiting REALLY SUCKS! I bottle an oatmeal stout about two weeks ago, and there is still about another 2-4 weeks minimum left before it'll be ready to drink. I bottled this batch while I get my kegging setup done. I just finished it, tested everything, and no leaks. Once my amber ale I brewed last weekend is done, I'll be kegging it, and eventually keg the blonde ale that I'll be doing this weekend. The kegged stuff will be ready before the bottled.
 
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TasunkaWitko

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I am bringing this thread old back up to the top in light of a recent situation.

I brewed two porters and a Blue-Moon style beer (1 gallon each). All three were inadvertently cold-crashed for about 6 weeks (rather than a few days); additionally, they were actually frozen for a good part of that time, due to some sort of screw-up with the control of the refrigerator.

Because of the circumstances, I had serious concerns about whether any of the remaining suspended yeast in the fermenters was any good, so I re-hydrated some generic brewing yeast (a 5-gram packet) in a small bottle of water (16-17 ounces, I think) and put a couple of tablespoons of the "yeast water" in each bottling bucket as I bottled each batch. The porters, per directions, where batch bottled with maple syrup as a priming sugar (just a bit under 2 tablespoons for each batch), and the Blue-Moon-type was bottled using carbonation drops; the drops were each about the size of a cough drop and made of corn sugar, supposedly good for 12-16-ounce bottles. I visually verified that each bottle received a carbonation drop. If I would have been thinking, I would have reviewed this thread, and I could have remembered to bottle one bottle from each batch into a "flippy" (Grolsch-style bottle), but I forgot to, and instead bottled all normally.

Now, a few days later, the two porters "appear" to be carbonating; I say this because when I agitate the bottles a bit (I don't really shake, but jostle them around), I get large bubbles of foam that surface in the bottle and linger there for a while; I've noted this before with all other batches and am hoping that this means that carbonation is proceeding just fine. I could be wrong, but at least the circumstances are consistent with previous batches.

Unfortunately, the Blue-Moon-type batch is quite different. I'll give them at least a total of 3 weeks before even checking; but for now, I am concerned that there is no carbonation happening. Agitating the bottles brings up a skimpy scrim of very small bubbles that disappear very quickly, which is entirely different than any previous experience. This could mean nothing, or it could be that if any carbonation is in fact happening, it is just at a slower pace, so I am not too concerned, yet. Remembering back, I used 1 tablespoon of "yeast water" in this batch, and 2 tablespoons of it for each of the porters, so it is possible that it wasn't enough, or that it is just getting a slow start. Two weeks from now, they could be carbonated very nicely, but those are the observations as of now.

If it turns out that no carbonation has taken place, I can probably assume that the "yeast water" that I added was inadequate in some way, either in the amount that I used, or possibly in mixing the yeast into the bottling bucket. If this turns out to be the case, my current plan is to simply crack open each bottle and put an eye-dropper full of "yeast water" into each bottle. I'm at the point where I can't make things any worse, and this might help, so we'll see what happens - as noted above, it might not even be necessary.

I'm posting this mainly to remind myself to follow up on how things turn out, for future reference, but if anyone has any thoughts to add, please feel free to post them.
 

BikerMatt

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My first ever (extract) batch of HB is bottle conditioning as we speak, it fermented somewhat sluggishly and ended up being only 3,28%. They`ve been in the bottles for three weeks now and even though some of the bottles are getting hard (0,75L PET) there`s still practically no carbonation. I carbed half with sugar cubes and half with carb drops, the bottles seem to have varying amounts of carbonation happening although unrelated to which they were carbed with. Both versions have both stiffs and softs. The beer itself is still not finished after the three weeks. I`ve sampled one every week to study how it matures, the one I had just a moment ago had less of that musty slighty sour taste and more of the sweet amber ale notes than the previous ones but it`s clearly still developing, just taking it`s sweet time. Wonder if the low ABV is having a factor in this?
 
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TasunkaWitko

TasunkaWitko

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Update/great news -

As mentioned above, I had some concerns about whether my Blauer Mond was carbonating. I'm happy to report that I cracked one open last night and gratefully heard the satisfying hiss of carbonation.

I was going to just re-cap the bottle, but then figured, why not? and poured a few drops into a cup to sample...just enough to get a taste.

Well, there were definitely carbonation bubbles dancing on my tongue, which was good; however, the really awesome thing was...it tasted great! I'll hold judgment until I'm drinking a full glass of it, but I think this may be one of my best. :mug:
 

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I try to use one swing-top bottle in each batch. About two weeks, in, I'll crack the swing top and pour off a small sample, then re-seal. That way you can take progress tastings without ruining a whole bottle.
 
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TasunkaWitko

TasunkaWitko

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Mainer said:
I try to use one swing-top bottle in each batch. About two weeks, in, I'll crack the swing top and pour off a small sample, then re-seal. That way you can take progress tastings without ruining a whole bottle.
Hi, Mainer, and thanks ~ that's exactly what I'll be doing from now on! :mug:
 

petrolSpice

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I got a V8 Juice 12oz plastic bottle and tapped the cap with a 60psi pressure gauge, a couple washers, a 1/4 NPT nut, and some sealant.

I'll put some of the primed beer in this bottle and place it with the others. While the bottle does expand slightly, the pressure value itself is irrelevant, I'm just looking for when the pressure stops rising telling when when they are fully carbonated.

However, this does not mean they are done conditioning. Often they need several more weeks for certain flavors to mellow out.
 

Weezy

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Someone had recommended before to use one plastic bottle so you can just check that one for pressure by squeezing it.
 

r4dyce

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I've been told before that carb drops take longer and it can be helpful to invert the bottles every once in a while to help dissolve evenly. I would also guess the different bubbles are an artifact of the different styles... Seems reasonable that Just as different beers can have different heads when poured they have a different look when the bottles are shaken.
 

NSMikeD

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I try to use one swing-top bottle in each batch. About two weeks, in, I'll crack the swing top and pour off a small sample, then re-seal. That way you can take progress tastings without ruining a whole bottle.
keep in mind that this exposes the beer to oxygen and that the increase in head space can lower the carbonation equilibrium pressure resulting in off flavor and flatter beer than the beer in unopened bottles.
 

Mainer

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keep in mind that this exposes the beer to oxygen and that the increase in head space can lower the carbonation equilibrium pressure resulting in off flavor and flatter beer than the beer in unopened bottles.
Yeah, I know. But it's just my test bottle. I don't expect for that one to be representative of the batch, just an indication of how it's progressing.
 

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