How to Make Priming Solution for Beer

For centuries, brewers have been working out how to make a priming solution for beer, and there are various approaches, some dyed in the wool, and some relatively new.

The key to understanding how to prime, or bottle condition, your beer, is to understanding what is happening beneath the surface, and why you would need to prepare your beer this way in the first place.

Brewing

One of the greatest things about beer is the frothy, slightly carbonated effect when you take those first few sips. In fact, most people don’t linger long over the same beer because it tends to warm up and flatten out rather quickly, at which point the flavors and complexities also seem to flatten out.

It’s not your imagination.

It’s chemistry.

In the early days of brewing, smaller batches were made and drunk relatively quickly so warm, flat ale was not really a concern.

But as production grew, brewers had to reevaluate their processes.

As the brewing process naturally creates that carbonation, it makes sense that we would want to keep it.

First, the grain is harvested, usually barley or wheat, but also oats or even rice and millet. Basically any fermented grain beverage is considered beer.

Then, the grain is malted, which is another term for roasted, or even “kilned.” The malting process allows for the conversion of starches into sugars, which makes the grain water to become more attractive to the yeast we need to ferment.

Next the grain is cracked open, or ground, to expose all the sugars in the grain to the water.

The cracked grain is then “mashed in,” which is when it is boiled and steeped in filtered water, kind of like when you make tea.

Finally, hops are added to cut down on sweetness. Hops can also be added before the boil, but that will add even more bitterness and may eliminate a lot of the great, fresh, hoppy flavors and aromas in the herbs.

The last step in brewing before bottling is the actual fermentation.

Until now, you have just made grain water, or grain tea with some herbs.

You cannot have beer. You only have “wort.”

To get beer, you need yeast.

Yeast

Yeast plays undoubtedly the most critical role in the fermentation process as no fermentation will take place without it.

It is a microscopic, single celled, living organism, with hundreds of varieties of strains.

It is present in virtually all environments, on all surfaces, at all times, except for in really hot locations like the desert where temps over 120 will kill it off.

Otherwise, yeast simply lingers around, looking for sugar to convert to alcohol and carbon dioxide.

That’s it.

It seems so simple, and yet it is so much more than that.

In fact, a lot of the flavors and aromas, even the textures and mouth feels, you get from beer come from yeast, and sometimes wild bacteria. The complexity is drawn out and added to the longer beer is allowed to ferment.

For the first two weeks, beer will actively bubble and froth, creating a thick, foamy head called a “krausen.” Then, that foamy head will fall or crash, and you know your beer is ready to rack, or drain into another vessel, while you harvest the yeast lying dormant in the vessel now that it has done its job.

But here’s the kicker – your beer has not actually finished fermenting. There are still residual traces of yeast in the beer you racked that will continue to “clean up” your beer, taking away any off flavors, smoother out harsher lines, and offering a more mellow effect. You can actually rack as many times as you like with beer to further draw out the complex flavors.

The only problem is the longer you wait to bottle your beer, and the more times you agitate and aerate it, the more carbonation will be released from your beer, so that you end up with a flatter product in the end that your consumers may like.

Priming or Bottle Conditioning

The solution to this problem is to prime or bottle condition your beer by adding either priming solution or by krausening your beer.

To krausen beer is to pitch actively fermenting beer (when it has that thick foamy krausen layer on top) to your finished beer right before you bottle it.

This tradition is a long one and by all accounts was begun by brewers in Germany; hence the German word.

Krausening is a great way to add carbonation back into your beer as well as to clean up any leftover flavors or smooth out rough edges in your beer as it gets all that natural yeast back to work.

However, not every brewer has an actively fermenting batch of beer on hand to pull from.

For those brewers who want to krausen anyway, you can always pull some of the beer from your batch while it is actively fermenting and put it in the refrigerator, pulling it out and allowing it to warm up right before bottling.

Or, you can make a priming solution.

A priming solution is just sugar water that will stir up all the stagnating yeast that has run out of sugar to ferment. Adding this solution right before bottling will create slightly more alcohol, and the carbonation you are seeking. Let the mixture settle for about 30 minutes so you don’t end up with a bottle blow out, and then bottle your beer as usual.

To make a priming solution, simply add 2/3 cups of cane sugar to 2 cups of filtered water. Mix well, and then gently pour into your fully fermented beer. You can mix it gently to get it fully activated.

This solution will meet the needs of a typical 5 gallon batch of beer, so you can adjust measurements accordingly.

Cheers!

Passionate about the beer and/or wine making process? So are we! If you’re interested in finding out how you can use our technology to control fermentation and monitor your yeast, save work hours and improve the cost-efficiency of your business, drop us a line at [email protected] or check out our product pages:

Also, you can now get access to a fully functional demo account to test our Web App. Completely free of charge and with no commitment to purchase.

Sources:

  1. http://howtobrew.com/book/section-1/a-crash-course-in-brewing/bottling-day

 

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