uncarbonated beer

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tockeyhockey

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i am on my sixth batch of beer. i'm not quite a novice, but i'm certainly still learning.

i have had a recurring problem in my last two batches. both times the beers failed to carbonate.

i usually buy ready made kits from the local brewery supply store. brewer's best, etc. and the first several batches came out great. but these last two have been terrible. the flavor isn't right and they aren't carbonating.

i am using a plastic brew kit. two carboys, one for primary and one for secondary. i usually move to the secondary after about one week in the primary, keep them in the secondary for two weeks, then move to bottles for three weeks. this formula worked fine for me originally, but has failed recently.

it it possible that my carboys are getting old and are creating an environment in which yeast doesn't flourish anymore? i mean, i get a fine first fermentation. big krausen and the whole bit. nice drop in specific gravity. and i even get a good yeast cake even in my secondary. but once the go to the bottles, i get basically nothing.

should i go to bottles sooner? maybe after one week in the primary and one week in the secondary?

should i try a different strain of yeast?

any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

EricK The Red

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What temperature are you storing your bottles at? Did your successful batches happen to be during warmer weather?

It could be that the temp is too low for proper conditioning.
 
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tockeyhockey

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erohver said:
What temperature are you storing your bottles at? Did your successful batches happen to be during warmer weather?

It could be that the temp is too low for proper conditioning.
that's a good question. i'm not sure. i have been doing this for about a year and a half and while my latest batch has been stored during the winter, the one before it would have been kind of summer/fall.

one thing i've done recently is move to washing my bottles in the dishwasher. could that be putting in chemicals that are killing the yeast? i just didn't have the patience to hand wash all the bottles.
 

EricK The Red

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tockeyhockey said:
that's a good question. i'm not sure. i have been doing this for about a year and a half and while my latest batch has been stored during the winter, the one before it would have been kind of summer/fall.

one thing i've done recently is move to washing my bottles in the dishwasher. could that be putting in chemicals that are killing the yeast? i just didn't have the patience to hand wash all the bottles.
Check the temp of the storage area, you want it to be 60-70F for Ale. I'm not sure about the dishwasher. Even with no soap you may get Jet-Dry residue (if you use Jet-Dry).

I'd think that with poor sanitation your beer would still carb but taste bad.
 

PUD

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i'd say temp would be the problem with the carbing. maybe switch to a glass carboy or better bottle for your next batch. i switched to glass after one of my plastic fermenters had a yellow tint. it's made the world of difference for me or maybe i'm taking more time with my sanitizing. run your dishwasher without soap and bottles before you throw them in.
 
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tockeyhockey

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erohver said:
Check the temp of the storage area, you want it to be 60-70F for Ale. I'm not sure about the dishwasher. Even with no soap you may get Jet-Dry residue (if you use Jet-Dry).

I'd think that with poor sanitation your beer would still carb but taste bad.
jet dry... aha.

the beer has tasted different too. tangy. just not quite right.
 

malkore

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Dishwashers do a terrible job of cleaning bottles. They are NOT designed to clean the inside of a bottle through a .75" opening. A dishwasher heat dry cycle can be useful for sanitizing, and the bottom rack makes a great bottle holder, but that's it.

I'd say you're either conditioning at too cool a temperature, or your bottle caps are leaking. Do you see sediment in the bottom of the bottles? if so, then you had yeast and it ate the priming sugar...in which case I'd lean towards loose cap seals.

You can secure a balloon, or even a condom over one of your bottles the next time you brew, and see if it expands.

old bottles can become worn and won't seal as well. cheap wing-cappers can start failing to crimp tightly. boiling bottle caps can ruin the seals...just use sanitizer on them.
 
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I'd start at the very beginning and go over your bottling procedure. Maybe you've done something different on the last two you did or didn't do before. Did you add your priming sugar and give it a slow mix. Sometimes the simplest step is overlooked
 

SteveM

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It is unlikely that your big plastic fermenters are the problem. I have one that I've used for about five years and countless batches and it is fine.

I almost hate to ask this but when you bottle, are you boiling up a cup or two of water and putting the priming sugar in, then putting this into the bottling bucket before you bottle? I know that it is 99.9% likely that you are doing this but it is a step that can be (and has been) forgotten.
 

mountainrev

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I use my dishwasher exclusively for washing my bottles, and have never had any problems whatsoever. Of course, I always rinse my bottles very thoroughly immediately after emptying them, so that all the dishwasher is doing is basically sanitizing them. I don't use detergent, but the Jetdry is still in there, yet I have never experienced any off-tastes or problems with carbonation.

Since you say that there has been a tangy off-taste in addition to lack of carbonation, my guess is that you are not getting a good seal on your bottles, and that not only they not building up CO2, they are becoming infected. Do you use crown caps or swing-tops (Grolsch)? Use the balloon trick, as malkore mentioned, to find out if any CO2 is leaking from your bottles.
 

roder_60

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My guess would be temperature is the problem. I've done about 9 batches myself - the first 5 or so when I lived with my parents, the past 4 after buying my own house. One thing I noticed is that with my first few batches I wasn't getting low finishing gravities nor were they carbonating very well. After doing some temperature readings I found that where I was keeping the beer in my parents house was only about 65 degrees F. Needless to say the rest of the house was very drafty too, especially in the winter. The only really decent batch I made while living there was in the spring and I kept the bottles upstairs near a heating vent. The rest finished real sweet and did not carbonate properly, even in the summer, because my parents tended to crank the ac and the house was always cold, especially in the basement or rooms with lots of windows. In my new house, my basement stays really warm for some reason and I always keep my bottles and fermenter next to my furnace. It keeps it around 73 or so degrees and both carbonation and finishing gravities have been great. I've also been using 1 cup of priming sugar for 5 gallons every time and have been getting perfect head amounts.
 

DuPuma

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I would bet my latest batch that it's jet dry. For a couple batches, I simply used the dishwasher to sanitize. Those batches had very little carbination, and virtually no head retention. The likely culprit: JetDry.

Try this for your bottles: Run the dishwasher empty, with hot water and no soap, to get any food particles off of the racks. The when you are ready to bottle, run the bottles through on the heated dry/sanidry setting only. No liquid. This heats up the bottles, and helps kill any bugs. Then splash in an ounce or so of sanitizer/star san/whatever to each bottle, swirl it around, and dump the sanitizer out in the bottom of the dishwasher. Then put the bottle back on the rack, opening down, to let it drip out for a bit. Repeat for all 50 or so bottles. Voila, your bottles are sanitized, and now you're ready to bottle. This method has never failed me. Always get good carb, and beautiful head retention.
 

BobBailey

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Another possibility is that virtually all of the yeast sedimented out during secondary fermentation, leaving nothing to eat the priming sugar. I have a batch of a Fat Tire clone, using WL's Fat Tire yeast, that did that. It had been in the bottles for 5 weeks and was flatter than a pancake. I opened the bottles and added some Danstar Windsor yeast last week and hope to save the brew. I now purposely suck up some sediment when racking to avoid this problem. (both from primary to secondary and secondary to bottling bucket.)
I am going to try washing yeast from the primary to pitch when priming instead of sucking up sediment.
Anybody done this yet?

Primary - English strong bitter
Secondary - West coast pale ale
Next - Another experiment ith dry hopping a California common
 

erodstrom

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I don't mean to hijack here, but my first batch was slow to carbonate. When I opened a sample bottle after about 2 weeks, it was still very flat.

Reading this thread, I realized that I had moved my beer to a colder room after bottling to protect the bottles from light (the fermenters are covered in boxes).

After an extra week back in the 70 degree room, I just tried another sampler and my first batch ever is....REALLY GOOD!!! It's a nice red/amber ale, and I have this forum to thank. so...THANKS!
 

colonel_colon

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Temperature at bottling is definately a big deal. I live in NH and have noticed huge differences over a just a few degrees difference. It should still carb a bit at cold it should just take much longer, so try it in 3 weeks and see how it is.
Heres my problem. I used to be able to keep my carboys and bottles upstairs with the nominal 70deg temps, but ever since a carboy or two exploded, not to mention a few bottle bombs, i'm banished to the basement. What can you say to SWMBO in order to bring it back upstairs???
 

ArcaneXor

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colonel_colon said:
Temperature at bottling is definately a big deal. I live in NH and have noticed huge differences over a just a few degrees difference. It should still carb a bit at cold it should just take much longer, so try it in 3 weeks and see how it is.
Heres my problem. I used to be able to keep my carboys and bottles upstairs with the nominal 70deg temps, but ever since a carboy or two exploded, not to mention a few bottle bombs, i'm banished to the basement. What can you say to SWMBO in order to bring it back upstairs???
If you get bottle bombs repeatedly, you should look into your procedures to identify what might be causing this. From what I have read it's usually inadequate sanitation (gusher bugs), overpriming or bottling too soon.

Better yet, use Better Bottles for fermentation and PET bottles for bottling (or Grolsch-style bottles, or kegs). Those don't explode, or if they do, they don't cause nearly as much damage as glass.
 

colonel_colon

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nah, i only had one brew that had a few bottle bombs, and it was due to my impatience and the fact that i was just starting out and not listening to anyone.
i dont have that problem anymore, i'm just not allowed to keep my brews upstairs!
 

Darrin

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BobBailey said:
Another possibility is that virtually all of the yeast sedimented out during secondary fermentation, leaving nothing to eat the priming sugar. I have a batch of a Fat Tire clone, using WL's Fat Tire yeast, that did that. It had been in the bottles for 5 weeks and was flatter than a pancake. I opened the bottles and added some Danstar Windsor yeast last week and hope to save the brew. I now purposely suck up some sediment when racking to avoid this problem. (both from primary to secondary and secondary to bottling bucket.)
I am going to try washing yeast from the primary to pitch when priming instead of sucking up sediment.
Anybody done this yet?

Primary - English strong bitter
Secondary - West coast pale ale
Next - Another experiment ith dry hopping a California common
I think that's what happened to mine. There wasn't even the slightest residue at the bottom of the beer bottle. Other than being completely FLAT, the beer was good. I was going to try to save mine the same way.
 
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