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The Correct Way To Use Priming Sugar (Bottle Beer Perfectly)

If you have learned how to ferment beer then you’ll be aware that the last step is priming the sugar in order to give it that extra crisp flavor. Knowing how to prime your sugar will mean that you can create the perfect beer.

Bear in mind that it may take you a few times to get it right but once you manage to get the proportions correct, you won’t be able to stop making your own beer.

Not only is it a great skill to have but you can also bottle it and give it to family and friends whilst also reducing costs on having to buy beer on a regular basis.

In this guide, we’ll be taking you through everything you need to know about priming sugar to make the perfect bottled beer, running through a variety of different options that you should consider. 

Priming sugar helps to better condition the beer when it is bottled. This is because it helps to carbonate the beer which will ensure that the flavors are pushed through. When the sugar is added, the yeast will eat it up which then creates carbon dioxide and adds the bubbles to your beer.

This means that when your beer ages in the bottle, it will never lose its intensity or flavor. Depending on what kind of sugar you choose, you can add even more flavor to your beer if you wish. Whatever you decide, priming your sugar and knowing how to apply it properly in the correct proportions will mean that you can make the perfect beer for you. 

When brewing your own beer, it’s important to make sure that you have purchased the correct equipment and materials to do so. Ensuring that you purchase good quality materials will mean that you have a better chance of brewing beer that has a better taste overall.

Whatever you use to prime sugar is up to you and your preference but the most common choices are table sugar (which is known as sucrose), corn sugar (which is known as dextrose) and dry malt extract (which is known as DME).

Although their function is the same, the amount that you have to add differs depending on which one you use and what kind of beer you want to have. Another great alternative is honey which is a natural sugar and we also discuss how you calculate your proportions should you wish to use it. 

How To Level Up The Grain

So how do you make the perfect beer? The first thing you need to do is level up your grain which means that you need to ensure that your proportions are accurate and well balanced.

Knowing how to do this requires perfect calculations which we will delve into. Here are what you will need to know:

How To Use Numbers To Prime The Sugar

Knowing how much sugar to use exactly means that you will create the perfect blend. These are known as priming numbers which take the form of formulas so you will know how much sugar to put in depending on how much volume you want. 

Calculating A Target Carbonation

There are certain things you need to know before you calculate how much sugar you will need for your brewing. These are:

  • How much residual carbonation is still in your brew once you have done a round of fermentation which is calculated by what temperature you are fermenting your brew at. 
  • What the target carbonation is for whatever style of beer you are brewing.

What makes this so important is that the level of residual carbonation and the prime carbonation levels equate to your target carbonation level. 

There are some easy ways to calculate this which include a carbonation priming chart that can assist in giving an estimation on how much carbonation you should add to your solution. 

Corn sugar

Corn sugar is known as dextrose which is a highly fermentable sugar that is ideal for beer fermentation thanks to its natural carbonation properties. Corn sugar can also help to increase the original amount of gravity which in turn provides a higher ABV. 

How To Calculate Carbonation Levels Using The Internet

Another great method that you can use to calculate your carbonation is the internet. For those who don’t want to rack their brains and get confused by the exact numbers.

Homebrewing requires a certain degree of science with the slightest calculation mishap causing the entire quality of the brew to suffer. Using priming sugar calculators on the internet is a quick and efficient way so you can see how much you need to use depending on how much beer you want to brew. 

Using Carbonation Tablets

If you are wanting to make your brew extremely quickly to meet a deadline then you can use carbonation tablets. As expected from their name, these tablets help to create that carbon reaction when it is brought into contact with the beer.

This creates the bubbles and helps to add the flavor. There are two different types of carbonation tablet that you can choose from with the first choice being straight priming sugar tablets which are known as carbonation drops and the second option is conditioning tablets which are full of DME and heading powder which is made from a mixture of dextrose and gum arabic to enhance the head retention and corn sugar.

The instructions to use both options are incredibly easy by just following the instructions provided in the packaging. 

So what benefits do carbonation tablets provide? Whatever option you choose, you’ll be able to witness the advantages almost immediately as they can improve the look and taste of the beer depending on what choice you go for.

Here are just some of the benefits that carbonation tablets have:

  • More Convenient

The first advantage that comes with carbonation tablets is that they are more convenient thanks to their nature. This means that they are also easier to store so you can purchase them in bulk without worrying about running out of space.

The convenience is also beneficial to the amount of time that they take to react with the beer and on average work three times faster than other options. 

  • No Errors

Following on from the convenience aspect of carbonation tablets, they also help with those who want to reduce the amount of calculation time by eliminating the need for any calculations which in turn means that there is no space for errors. 

  • No Risk Of Over Priming

There is also no risk of over priming which means that you won’t have to worry about any bottle bombs as you can’t add too much sugar. This is because you’ll have the right amount in the tablet itself. 

  • Don’t Have To Move The Brew

Another hugely convenient benefit is that you don’t have to move your beer to the bottle from the fermentation vessel. This means that there isn’t as much of a risk when it comes to oxidation meaning that there is less yeast collected at the bottom of the brew. 

  • More Flexibility

There is more flexibility when it comes to the bottling process meaning that you don’t have to sterilize the sugar and spend more time in the fermentation process. 

Even though carbonation tablets have a wide array of benefits, there are some disadvantages that you need to look out for. This will mean that you can know what to expect. Here are the disadvantages that you need to know about:

  • Compromising Precision

The main disadvantage that carbonation tablets pose is that you are compromising the precision for convenience. This means that the flavors may not be exactly how you want them to be as you don’t get to provide the calculations that you want. 

Important Formulas To Know When Priming Sugar

If you want to have the perfect tasting beer then you are going to have to calculate the amount of priming sugar you’ll need.

You can do this by using some faster solutions such as a calculator or the internet but if you want to oversee every single step, you can do the calculations yourself. However, knowing the right formulas is the first thing that you need to do. 

Here are some of the basic rules if you are working with five gallons of beer:

  • If you are using corn sugar then use 113 grams which is equivalent to 4 ounces or ¾ cups.
  • If you are using table sugar then use 150 grams which is equivalent to 5.3 ounces or ⅔ cup.
  • If you are using light dry malt extract then use 181 grams which is equivalent to 1 ¼ cups.
  • If you are using honey then use ½ cup to 1 cup depending on what kind of honey you have. 

It goes without saying that the measurements can differ depending on what kind of beer you are wanting to make as well as how much you plan on making per batch.

However, knowing how to tweak the formula to suit your personal preference is something that will come with time. Whether you use the metric or imperial systems, you’ll be able to make the perfect beer for you. Here are some conversions that you should know about:

  • 1 gram is equal to 0.035 ounces.
  • 1 liter is equal to 1.06 quarts.
  • 1 gram per liter of CO2 is equal to 0.5 volumes of CO2.

Corn Sugar

The most common priming sugar used is corn sugar thanks to its cellular structure that makes it perfect for beer fermentation. Corn sugar is made from 9% meaning that the other 91% of its content can be added into the carbonation calculations.

The formula used to calculate this is as follows:

CF + .5 x (.91D)/VB = CB

This may look confusing at first but we, here break it down in terms of what it all means:

  • CF

The CF determines how much CO2 is in the brew and is calculated in grams or liters in the metric system and is calculated as volumes in the imperial system.

  • D

The D is the total amount of corn sugar that has been added and is calculated in grams.

  • VB

The VB is the total amount of volume that is in your brew and is calculated in liters.

  • CB

The CB is the total carbonation level of your completed beer and is calculated in liters in the metric system or calculated in volumes in the imperial system.

Table Sugar

Table sugar is different to corn sugar in that it doesn’t have any water in its structure. Table sugar is fantastic as it helps to increase the total of gravity which is ideal for bottle conditioning.

Therefore, when performing your calculations, you need to apply a 50% rule which means that you need to multiply how much sugar you have by a half. Here is the formula you should follow:

CF + .5 x S/VB = CB

Here is a breakdown of what each portion of the formula means:

  • CF

The CF determines how much CO2 is in the brew and is calculated in grams or liters.

  • S

The S is the total amount of table sugar that has been added and is calculated in grams.

  • VB

The VB is the total amount of volume that is in your brew and is calculated in liters.

  • CB

The CB is the total carbonation level of your completed beer and is calculated in grams and liters.

Dry Malt Extract

If you are making a darker beer then using dry malt extract is an ideal choice. However, it can be a bit trickier to do your calculations as you need to know the fermentability of the dry malt extract before you add it.

This amount is known as a limit of attenuation. A light dry male extract is ideal for those who want to increase their total gravity which in turn will increase the ABV and is ideal for a natural carbonation which in turn is great for bottle conditioning.

A lot of DME that is sold will state its fermentability on the label so you don’t have to do an extensive amount of research. Here is the the formula you should follow:

.82FA = FT

Here is a breakdown of what each portion of the formula means:

  • FA

The FA determines the total amount of the apparent fermentability.

  • FT

The FT determines the total amount of the true fermentability.

Calculating The Target Carbonation

Once you have calculated the true fermentability, you’ll be able to combine your knowledge and apply it to the target carbonation formula which is as follows:

CF + .5FTx (X/VB) = CB

Here is a breakdown of what each portion of the formula means:

  • CF

The CF determines how much CO2 is in the brew and is calculated in grams or liters.

  • FT

The FT determines the total amount of the true fermentability.

  • X

The X is the total amount of dry malt extract that has been added and is calculated in grams.

  • VB

The VB is the total amount of volume that is in your brew and is calculated in liters.

  • CB

The CB is the total carbonation level of your completed beer and is calculated in grams and liters.

Using Honey

If you want to use a natural sugar then honey is a great addition thanks to its unique flavor and history as a primer in historical brews.

Honey’s relationship with alcohol spans centuries as it has often been used throughout the brewing and fermentation processes of beer in order to enhance the characteristics of the quality as well as being a key ingredient in other alcoholic beverages such as honey wine, mead or melomel. 

As expected, the priming process is completely different to the other options thanks to its thicker consistency and varied density. There are two rules that you need to follow if you are planning to use honey:

  • Darker Beers

Honey is best used for darker beers. The darker the beer, the darker the honey should be. Not only will it create a more attractive coloring but the tastes are more complimentary when paired together. 

  • Use A Small Amount

Thanks to the thickness in consistency, you don’t need to add a lot of honey to the mixture. For every five gallons of beer that you are fermenting, you should add between ½ cup to a full cup of honey depending on its thickness and coloring. 

Priming The Sugar Using Natural Carbonation

Calculating how much you will need for your priming is only the first half of the process. Once you’ve figured out your calculations, you’ll need to actually make your brew.

The preparation portion doesn’t require a lot of your time or effort but in order to create the perfect brew, it’s important to follow the subsequent steps as closely as possible:

  1. Preparing The Saucepan

The first step is to prepare your saucepan by bringing around 16 ounces of water to the boil. 

  1. Adding The Priming Sugar

Now add your priming sugar and mix it in with the water until it has been completely dissolved in the solution. 

  1. Covering The Saucepan

When you have finished mixing your water and priming sugar together, cover the top of the saucepan and place it to the side in order to prepare your bottling bucket. 

  1. Double Check Your Setup

The step in between covering your saucepan and preparing your bottling bucket should be spent double checking your overall setup. This is in order to maximize your chances of a successful brewing experience while you are ensuring that you are safe.

Simply check over your equipment by ensuring that it has been thoroughly sanitized before adding anything. 

  1. Secure The Bottling Bucket Spigot

Before you add anything to your bottling bucket spigot, make sure that it is securely closed in order to prevent any spillage or accidents. 

  1. Add The Priming Solution

Once you have ensured that the bottling bucket spigot is closed, pour your priming mixture into the bottling bucket slowly and carefully so you can make sure that you get as much in there as possible. 

  1. Siphoning The Brew

It’s important to make sure that you are careful when siphoning the beer from the fermenting vessel to the bottling bucket which is then mixed with the priming sugar solution.

By being careful, you will be able to avoid any of the sediment at the bottom of the brew from being poured into the bucket spigot. The sediment can negatively affect the clarity and overall flavor which in turn renders your hours of hard work useless. 

  1. Moving Your Bottling Bucket

Now you need to move the bottling bucket into the correct bottling position after you have set your carboy to the side. 

  1. Transfer The Beer To Your Bottles

Once you have fully mixed the brew together, it’s time to transfer your beer from the bucket to the bottles and make sure that you fill them all the way up to the top in order to get the most you can per portion. 

  1. Remove The Bottle Filler

Now you need to remove the bottle filler which will then leave a gap that is between ¾ of an inch to an inch meaning that it has the appropriate amount of space for correct carbonation. 

  1. Cap The Bottles

Using a handheld capper, cap the tops of the bottles and make sure that you place them in a room temperature place meaning that the yeast will stay active and generate the carbonation process as they will consume the sugar that is in the brew. 

  1. Wait For Two Weeks

You are now up to the waiting period which can take approximately two weeks for the fermentation process to be fully completed. This means that the brew has had plenty of time for the yeast to consume the sugar and enhance the overall flavor and characteristics of the brew. 

  1. Enjoy Your Beer!

Now it’s time for you to reap the rewards of your hard work. Open one bottle and try it to begin with so you can gage whether the batch needs a little bit longer to ferment. The best things to look out for are how the beer smells, looks and tastes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Do You Boil Priming Sugar?

Boiling priming sugar needs to be done correctly in order to create the perfect beer. The first step is to add around ¾ cups of priming sugar to a cup of water before bringing it to the boil.

The second step requires you to bring your mixture to the boil for approximately two minutes. The final step is to remove the pot away from the burner and wait for it to cool down to room temperature. 

Can You Prime Beer With Table Sugar?

As we have delved into in the guide, you can indeed prime beer using any kind of table sugar. Some examples of table sugar that you can use include brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses and white cane sugar.

The great thing about table sugars is that they won’t affect the overall look of your beer while also ensuring that the beer is perfectly primed and carbonated. 

Does Priming Sugar Add Alcohol?

If you add too much sugar then you will find that your beer is at risk of over carbonation which means that it will develop more alcohol and carbon dioxide which can cause the quality of the beer to suffer.

Too much carbon dioxide can cause over bubbling and will negatively affect the body of your beer. This is because there isn’t enough yeast to feed on all of the sugar so the excess sugar will simply dissolve into the beer and create a lot of bubbles which will make your beer even more bitter. 

Can I Add More Sugar To Secondary Fermentation?

If you have completed the first round of the fermentation process but feel that you haven’t added enough sugar to the brew, you can add a little bit more to add more flavor and consistency to the characteristics of the brew.

However, make sure that you are only adding a little bit so as not to overwhelm the brew with too much sugar which can then lead to the brew developing too much carbon dioxide as mentioned in the question above. 

Does Adding Sugar To Beer Make It Stronger?

Adding more sugar to your brew will make the beer a lot stronger as the yeast will consume the sugar which in turn generates more alcohol and creates more bubbles in the brew.

A lot of people will add sugar to store bought alcohol if they don’t think it is strong enough making it an affordable method. 

Conclusion

Overall, knowing how to use the priming sugar in the fermenting process will mean that you will generate the skills needed to start creating your own beer and make the perfect brew that is right for you.

The tips given in this guide will ensure that you are equipped and prepared to make the brew in a way that suits you.