How to Carbonate Home Brew: A Brief Introduction

How to Carbonate Home Brew

To be honest, I’ve been avoiding making the leap to kegging my home brew.  Do a quick search for, “how to carbonate home brew,” and you’ll be pommeled by differing results.  If that doesn’t scare you into submission, then the vast amount of pressure from other brewers to make the leap will.

Learning how to carbonate home brew doesn’t need to be such a terrible experience.  Through my reading, online research, and from asking other brewers, I believe there are three techniques that will accomplish force carbonating your beer.

Each method has it’s pros and cons.  For the most part, you’re always weighing the time aspect versus the risk of over-carbonating.  The more quickly you carbonate, then the greater your risk of over-carbonating.

(Not quite ready to keg?  Learn how to properly bottle condition your beer first.)  

Set and Forget Method

The set and forget method is by far the safest route possible.  Of course, that means it takes the absolute longest.  If time isn’t an issue, then this is a great way to go.

After transferring your beer to a keg, hook up the gas to serving pressure.  This is usually around 12-13 psi.  That’s all you need to do.  Now walk away and wait for a week.  Equilibrium will eventually take over and carbonate your brew.  When learning how to carbonate home brew, this is often the first stop for many brewers.

Force carbonating using this method is supposed to take around a week.  I can usually bottle condition my homebrew in a week or two so this was really an appealing option. 

48 Hour Method

With this technique, you can expect carbonated beer in just two days.  For many, this method strikes a fair balance between risk and reward.  This is also the technique I’ll be using first in testing the different styles of how to carbonate home brew. 

I began by transferring my beer to a keg and hooking up my gas line.  I then set the pressure to 30 psi and walked away for twenty-four hours.  This heavy pressure quickly forces CO2 down in to the beer to carbonate.

After twenty-four hours, I set the pressure back to a reasonable serving level (about 12-13 psi).  I’ll let it rest at serving pressure for another twenty-four hours to settle before attempting to serve.  This should result in well carbonated beer in just two days with only a small chance of over shooting your targeted carbonation.

Carbonating Home Brew
Setting the CO2 to serving temperature. Keg currently at 35F.

10 Minute Rock and Roll

Do you like living on the edge?  Do you need your beer carbonated now?  This may be the method for you.  Keep in mind, this is your strongest chance of over-carbonating your final product.   However, this is also the quickest method for carbonating home brew.

Hook up your gas line and set the pressure to 30 lbs.  Then rock the keg back and fourth for ten minutes to agitate the beer and CO2.  This will force the CO2 to quickly dissolve in to the beer.  Ensuring that the beer is cold will help with this method.  Then bleed off the extra CO2 and set your pressure to a serving level.

(Burst Carbonating is another popular quick carbonation technique worth researching)

Bonus: 1 Hour Blichmann Quick Carb

You can get the best of both worlds by using a Blichmann Quick Carb.  The catch is you’ll need to purchase another piece of equipment.  The Blichmann Quick Carb can give you the perfect carbonation, every time, and in about an hour.

This equipment circulates the beer and uses a carbonation stone to quick dissolve the desired amount of CO2 into your beer.  For under two hundred dollars, you can purchase the ability to quickly and perfectly carbonate your kegs.

Blichmann QuickCarb available for less than $200.

Summary

Learning how to carbonate home brew can be a matter of trial and error.  Understanding your time frame, desired outcome, and risk tolerance can help you decide which technique is best for you.

I intend to try every method to find what works best.  My first keg will be using the 48 hour method because this is the method I’ll likely be using the most.  It’s not only the most suggested on social blogs but it strikes a balance between time and risk.

How do you typically carbonate your home brewed beer?  Let me know in the comments below.

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