It is only when you attempt to home brew that you realize just how much time and effort goes into making beer for you to enjoy.
The carbonation process takes an incredibly long time, and it often feels like you could binge-watch the whole of Grey’s Anatomy, and still be waiting for your beer to be ready to enjoy. But this is all part of the process, and something that simply has to be done, right?
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Wrong! While carbonation will naturally take a long time, there is a way that you can speed this up, and that is by forcing carbonation. The saying goes that all good things come to those that wait, but waiting simply isn’t an option when it comes to beer.
So, if you want to speed up the carbonation process of your beer, you are in the right place.
You might expect there to be just one way that you can force carbonate your beer, but this isn’t the case. In fact, there are lots of different methods that you can use to speed up the carbonation process. All will work better depending on your needs, schedule, and budget.
In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at the different methods that you can use to force carbonate your beer, so that you can find the method that works best for you. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what force carbonation is.
What is Force Carbonation?
If you are new to this concept, then you might be wondering what exactly force carbonation is. As its name suggests, force carbonation is an action that an individual who is brewing beer can complete if they want to speed up the production process of their beer.
Generally speaking, the carbonation process of beer is very time-consuming. No matter what type of beer you are making, it will need to go through the carbonation process, and this is the period of time when you are often left waiting around for your beer to be ready to drink.
For bottled beer, the carbonation process will generally take around 2-3 weeks to complete, and during this time your beer will not be safe for consumption.
If you find that this is too long to wait, then you might be desperately looking for ways to speed up the beer production process.
The human race is generally very impatient, so it is hardly surprising that we have discovered a way to speed up time. In the case of speeding up time for beer production, force carbonation is the best way to have your beer ready to drink quicker.
Regular carbonation will take 2-3 weeks, but forced carbonation can take as little as 24-48 hours. So, if you were late preparing your beer for a party, or simply cannot wait this length of time to try your new creation, force carbonation is the best way forward.
How does Force Carbonation Work?
The idea of force carbonation can seem a little like magic. Of course, there have always been methods that you can use to speed up the process of something.
But the idea that a method exists which can speed up the brewing process of alcohol from 3 weeks to as little as a day is kind of mind-blowing. So how does force carbonation work?
Although new methods are constantly being discovered, when it comes to beer it is generally accepted that traditional is best. This is the main reason why the carbonation process still takes so long.
Yes, there are methods which you can use to speed up carbonation, but generally you cannot beat letting nature take it’s pretty time. Unless you are in a hurry, of course.
If you are in a hurry, then forced carbonation is probably a viable option for you. Traditional carbonation methods mean that you have to wait for your home brew to condition or for priming sugar to do its job, but force carbonation is a lot simpler.
To force carbonate your beer, all you have to do is inject CO2 directly into your beer. This is done using a line that feeds the CO2 directly into your keg, dissolving it straight into your beer. But what are the factors that play a major role in force carbonation?
Temperature of CO2
One of the biggest factors in force carbonation is the temperature of the CO2. For force carbonation to work, it is incredibly important that the CO2 is cold. This is because colder CO2 will dissolve into your home brew much quicker than hot CO2.
This will not only speed up the process, but it will also mean that you have to use less CO2, ensuring that you will have more CO2 to use for future force carbonation of home brew.
The hardest part of force carbonating your homebrew is calculating the right amount of pressure to achieve the speed of carbonation that you desire. Luckily, there are lots of different carbonation charts online which you can use to help you calculate this.
The other factor that will impact the force carbonation process is diacetyl rest. Of course, speed is top priority when it comes to force carbonating beer.
But, you also have to think about incorporating diacetyl rest into the process. Especially if you are home brewing lager. You might be reading this, wondering what on earth Diacetyl rest is, so let’s take a look.
Diacetyl is an active ingredient in beer that is produced by all yeasts. When it comes to producing beer, it is important to monitor the amount of diacetyl in your beer, as too much can give beer a funky and disgusting taste of dairy.
To avoid having too much diacetyl in your finished beer, it is important that you do not rush your beer from the fermenter to the keg for carbonation. Instead, you should have a period of rest of at least 2 days between these two stages, then chill it before moving onto carbonation.
This can be difficult to comprehend, as the whole point of force carbonation is to speed up the process of beer production. But, if you rush this stage, you will end up with thick beer that is almost undrinkable. So, don’t rush this stage. This is where you should take your time.
What You Need to Force Carbonate Beer
As we have said, force carbonation still isn’t considered normal practice. Due to this, you might think that you are hugely unprepared for force carbonation, and do not have everything that you need.
But, in most cases, you will have everything that you could possibly need to force carbonate beer scattered around your home.
Despite common disbelief, force carbonation isn’t magic, so you don’t need to worry about finding a wand or a wizard’s cape. Instead, you simply need everything that is on this list.
To force carbonate beer, you will need:
- A CO2 cylinder with plenty of gas
- A CO2 gas regulator
- A Keg refrigerator or Kegerator
- A chart for force carbonation
- A keg full of home brew (unpressurized)
- Proper gas line fittings for your type of keg
From this list, it is highly unlikely that you will need to use all of this equipment at once. But, it is best to have it all ready before you get started.
Once you have found all the equipment that you need, you can then move on and take a look at the different methods for force carbonation that you may want to follow.
Ways to Force Carbonate Beer
There are lots of different factors that will impact which method of force carbonation is best for you. If you want your beer quickly then one method might be better suited, or if you want quick beer and good quality, you might want to take a different approach.
Generally speaking, there are three main methods of force carbonation that you might want to consider. They are:
- Setting aside at a constant pressure
- Shaking under high pressure
- And, using an inline carbonator.
These methods all have different benefits and drawbacks. The first method is the most reliable, but takes the longest.
The second is the most risky, but fastest. The third is Goldilocks’s ‘just right’ option because it is the perfect balance of the two. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to force carbonate your beer.
Before You Start
No matter what method you choose, the beginning steps of this process are the same. The key to brewing your own beer is to start things off right, and this begins with sanitizing all of your equipment.
To do this, you should purchase a good quality brewing sanitizer. This will be able to do an incredible job at cleaning all your equipment ready for brewing. But, remember to do this in a clean and safe space.
It is pointless sanitizing your equipment if you do so in a messy environment. You can then begin preparing your equipment.
For two of the methods, the preparation is the same. So, let’s start with that. Here is what you need to do:
- Install a ball-lock fitting to your kegerator line to allow you to use ball-lock kegs to carbonate your beer. If you do not need this feature, skip this step.
- Fiddle with your Keg’s posts. Most kegs for homebrewing will come with 2 posts: one for adding gas, one for draining liquid. The draining liquid tube, or dispenser post as it is often known, is attached to a long tube that runs to the bottom of your keg. You will use this to push gas into your keg to force carbonate it.
- Remove the gas socket from the gas line and set it to one side. You can then remove the liquid socket from the liquid line, then fit it to the gas line. This allows you to push gas through the liquid line.
- Finally, turn on your gas and check for any gas leaks. To do this, dial your cylinder up to 5 psi. Check your keg, along the keg line, and around the dispenser post for any leaks. If you do not find any, you are ready to move onto the next step.
You are then ready to move onto force carbonating your beer. So, keep on reading to find out about the different methods that you could use to force carbonate your beer.
Method One: Slow and Steady
This is the safest option for force carbonating your beer. It isn’t the fastest method, but it is very reliable, and it is guaranteed to produce excellent beer. Instead of having to wait a couple of weeks for your beer, your home brew will be ready in just a handful of days with this method.
To do this, you should use the keg’s pressure release valve to bleed off the CO2. Listen carefully for the bubbling noise, and the hiss of gas, as this is a sign that the gas is working properly.
While this noise is happening, the gas will be working its way down the tube and rising through your beer to carbonate it.
When you hear this, set your gas regulator to the recommended pressure for your recipe. Let the keg carbonate for around three or four days, then give your beer a try. In an ideal world, this method will have you drinking your beer in just a handful of days.
But, it is important to realize that this doesn’t always happen. You may have to leave the beer to carbonate for as long as a week or more, depending on the recipe, so check out the recipe before you use this method of force carbonation.
Method Two: Shake it Up
Alternatively, if you fancy a risk, then you can shake it up. With the previous method, there was a level of intelligence to it, and careful planning.
But, with this method, you set all this to the wind and simply give your keg a good shake. If you are desperate to give your beer a try, then this might be the perfect method for you.
To begin with, follow the set-up methods that we mentioned earlier, then set the PSI to 30. Take hold of your keg, ensuring that you hold it firmly but gently, and then begin to give it a shake. Start off slow and gentle, listening carefully for the slosh of beer within the keg.
Shake it for around 20 minutes, stopping every 4 minutes to listen to the beer. While you are shaking, you are actively dissolving the CO2 into the beer.
Once you have finished shaking, set the keg down and reduce the PSI to 20. Leave your beer to stand for around 20 minutes, then give it a taste. With this method, your beer will usually be ready to drink within a couple of hours.
But remember, there is a risk of over carbonation with this method. So, if you are very fussy with beer, this might not be the perfect method for you.
Method Three: Use an Inline Carbonator
Finally, you can force carbonate beer using an inline carbonator. As we said earlier, this is the perfect happy medium when it comes to force carbonating your beer.
This is because this method finds the perfect balance between the speed of shaking your keg and the predictability of the slow approach.
To do this, you will need the aid of something called an aeration stone. This allows the CO2 to be incorporated into your beer quickly and efficiently.
These stones will help dissolve the gas quickly, ensuring that carbonation happens a lot quicker. For this method, skip the ‘before you start’ instructions that we gave you earlier.
Instead, simply add the inline carbonator to your set-up, and pump the beer straight through it. With this method, your beer will be fully carbonated in as little as 30 minutes.
This method is perfect because it ensures that your beer will be ready quickly, without the risk of being over carbonated.
The one downside of this method is that you will need to buy an inline carbonator to do the job. These pieces of equipment are not cheap, so they are an investment.
But, it is a great investment if you will be making a lot of home brews, and don’t want the long period for carbonation to occur.
In short, this has been a complete guide to force carbonating your beer. To some people, force carbonation is almost like magic because it can seem totally surreal that you can speed up the carbonation process by so much. But, it isn’t.
Force carbonation is a great way to get your beer ready to drink in a much shorter amount of time than the traditional methods of carbonation.
So, if you are desperate to get your hands on your home brew, then you are in the right place. In this guide, we’ve taken a look at three different tried and tested methods for force carbonating your beer, so read this to find out more.