When I first started brewing, I picked up a copy of a well known publication containing dozens of beer recipes…

I can only imagine the amount of time spent on compiling all those recipes… and while the recipes were phenomenal, they had one minor flaw… all recipes instructed to carbonate the beers to the one size fits all carbonation level…

Just add 5 oz of corn sugar…

I was not surprised to find this when I started noticing that many home brew supply stores, if not all, follow the same practice…

… and this is wrong!

Carbonation levels are NOT one-size-fits-all… carbonation will either propel your beer towards excellence or bury it in the ‘OK’ stash…

Rather than using the standard 5 oz of corn sugar for every beer, start playing around with the amount of carbonation you want in your different styles of beer…

Here’s how you have to think about it…

Yeast eat sugar and convert it into alcohol, CO2 and other by-products… 5 oz of sugar will yield roughly about 2.7 volumes of CO2

One volume of CO2 is essentially one liter of CO2 dissolved into one liter of beer…

So when C02 is produced, it goes into the headspace of the bottle and over time it starts to dissolve back into the beer (that’s why it takes about 2 to 3 weeks for beer to carbonate)…

Different beer styles go better with different levels of carbonation…

If you want the malt to stand out, for example a lower carbonation level is better… so a brown ale for example is better with about 2 to 2.5 volumes of CO2 which is achieved with about 3.12 to 4.46 oz of corn sugar if you finish fermenting your beer at 70 F…

Other beers like hefeweizens go better with up to 3.5 volumes of CO2 (about 7 oz of corn sugar)… not all bottles can handle that much carbonation, by the way…

Now… another thing you need to keep in mind is that temperature affects how much CO2 gets dissolved into the beer… Lower temperatures increase the saturation point of the beer, which means it allows more CO2 to dissolve into the beer… higher temperatures allow less CO2 to dissolve into your beer…

So, when you go to bottle your beer, you have to remember that a certain amount of CO2 from fermentation has already been dissolved into your beer… so depending at what temperature your beer finishes fermenting, you have to account for that carbonation already dissolved into your beer when deciding how much sugar to prime with…

You still want to let the bottles sit at about 70 F to get the yeast to produce CO2 during bottling, but then serving temperature affects how much carbonation you’ll get in your finished beer, which affects how much foam you get in the glass… more carbonation usually leads to more foam… (there are other variables, but this is the one that affects it the most)

To figure out how much priming sugar you should use based on desired Volumes of CO2, use our Priming Sugar Calculator:

https://brewbeeranddrinkit.com/priming-sugar-calculator/

One reason why I like kegging is because I can play around with the carbonation levels of my beers to figure out what’s the best carbonation level for the specific recipe…

With a keg, I can leave the beer hooked up to the CO2 tank starting at about 9 psi… and over time raise that up to 12, 15+ psi… depending on the beer style… and I taste the beer along the way…

The beer usually improves as carbonation goes up, but there comes a point at which carbonation starts to cut into the body of the beer or the maltiness… and and that’s how I figure out how much carbonation I should have on my beers…

Cheers!


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