Easy Force Carbonation
There are as many procedures for force carbonating beer as there are brewers. Ask any brewer how to force carbonate your beverage and they'll give you an answer preceded by, "the best way to do it is....". Often these involve complex procedures of setting the CO² regulator to high pressures, shaking, bleeding, lowering the pressure, more fussing, etc. In all honesty, there is no "best way" to force carbonate and complex methods do work but they are a lot of effort and often fail. Two methods I endorse are easy with no fuss and don't require any more equipment than your basic kegging system.
Force Carbonation: Method One Standard
This is by far the most trouble free and easiest method of force carbonating. Simply rack the beverage to your keg. Apply CO²** to your keg to seat the lid. Purge the air sitting above the beer by opening the pressure relief valve in the lid in short bursts three times. Leave the CO² connected and on and chill the keg to serving temperature. Let the keg sit undisturbed for 10 days and at the end of the 10 days you'll have a nicely carbonated beverage.
** The amount of CO² you apply depends on two things. First, how many volumes of CO² you want in your beverage and second the temperature of the beverage to which you are applying the CO². At the bottom of this page are two charts. The first is a list of beverage styles and their typical carbonation range. The second chart shows correlation between temperature, volumes of CO², and pressure. There is also a handy calculator to help you determine all three variables.
Force Carbonation: Method Two - Easy Shake
The "Standard" method produces nice carbonation in 10 days with no extra interaction on your part but what if you need beer quickly carbonated? Say you kegged your beer on Wednesday but you have people coming over on Saturday, what then? The "Easy Shake" method is what you want. Rack your beverage to the keg, apply CO², and purge as you would in the "Standard" method. Now chill the keg to your serving temperature, 12 hours is enough time but overnight is better.
After the keg has reached serving temperature make sure your regulator is set to the desired pressure. It is now time to shake the keg. You can do this any way you like but you should keep the CO² regulator above the keg to prevent the possibility of your beverage backing up into it. Since CO² only dissolves into the surface of a liquid you'll want the keg oriented to create the most surface area inside. Placing the keg nearly horizontal on its side so that the gas-in post is on the bottom, lower than the other end of the keg causes the CO² to bubble up through the beer and aides in carbonation. I find it easiest to place a towel and the keg across my knees and roll it back and forth. You could also place it on the floor and roll it with your feet. However you decide to position yourself and the keg you will need to continue shaking the keg for 20-30 minutes. As you shake the keg you'll hear the CO² regulator gurgle as well as the bubbles coming up from the in post of your keg. You may be tempted to stop when you don't hear the gurgling anymore. If you do, your beverage will only be about 3/4 carbonated. An easy shaking is all that is necessary so don't feel like you need to violently shake the keg the whole time. Twenty minutes may sound like a long time but it goes by very quickly if you sit down in front of the TV or listen to your favorite radio program.
After you've completed shaking the keg, re-chill at your serving pressure. Leave the gas connected, on, and set to the same pressure as before. Let the keg rest overnight. After the rest you can hook up your faucet or tap and enjoy a perfectly carbonated beverage.
The following chart shows typical carbonation levels for various styles in volumes of CO².
|American Ales||2.4-2.8||American Lagers||2.5-2.8|
|European Ales||2.2-2.7||European Lagers||2.3-2.7|
|Belgian Ales||1.9-2.5||Wheat Beers||3.0-4.0|
|Belgian Lambics||2.5-4.5||Belgian Wits||2.1-2.6|
This chart shows the relationship between temperature, volumes of CO², and pressure in pounds per square inch (PSI) in the most common range for home beverage carbonation. To use, simply find your beverage temperature on the vertical axis and your desired volume of CO² on the horizontal. The point where they intersect is the PSI (rounded to nearest whole number) to set on your regulator.
Force Carbonation VTP Chart