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I am brewing a batch of Hard Lemonade. The gravity started at 1.090 in mid September 2011. I pitched Lalvin EC-1118 as the yeast. It is now down to 1.029 and tastes good and is sweet. If I bottle and carbonate the traditional way, I will have bottle bombs. I don't own a keg or have the money to buy equipment for one.

Is there a way I can carbonate a brew that doesn't involve either a keg or yeast?

An alternative that I thought of if a commercial one doesn't exist:
I have been considering experimenting and using the existing citric acid in the lemonade and adding baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Hopefully they would react to create to create C02, but I am not entirely sure what it would do to the taste. It would be the same reaction that Alka Seltzer uses to carbonate water.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you happen to have access to a CO2 tank and just not the keg, you can use something like The Carbonator. It will go on the top of a 2 liter soda bottle and you can hook the CO2 up to that. My roommate has done this with great success, and I actually carbed a bit of my first batch of beer using this method because I was impatient.

Another option would be to hunt down an old seltzer bottle. Then you could use some of the small CO2 cartridges to carb your lemonade.

In any case, I would avoid the baking soda route. Not knowing entirely what all will happen, it might affect the taste of the citric acid, since it is neutralizing the acid. Also, I know from experience that it will leave a slightly salty taste in the liquid, with not too much carbonation. (Unless you do it under pressure; that might work, but be careful. As a kid, I did mix vinegar and baking soda in a poor attempt to make carbonated water.)

*I do not work for Midwest in any way, I just happen to use them for stuff my LHBS doesn't have.

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you could build your own carbonator, see homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/6308/… – mdma Mar 19 '12 at 14:07
Thank you for the response. I will look into this idea. – Wulfhart Mar 20 '12 at 3:49

Firstly, be sure fermentation has completely finished before bottling. 1.029 is a high FG - from a SG of 1.090, that's about 8% abv. I would rouse the yeast, maybe even add additional yeast.

You can use potassium sorbate to halt the fermentation, but at a relatively low 8% abv, you will need a lot of it, more than the 0.18g/l taste threshold. Better to let the yeast consume the available sugars to increase the abv a little, and then add the sorbate.

I can't recommend the baking soda route, since I've not tried it. But I thought I'd try to work out how much you might need and what this might do to the beverage.

Depending upon how much carbonation you want, the target carbonation is around 2 to 3.6 volumes - representing the scale from lightly carbed beer to soda. Assuming the hard lemonade has been fermenting under an airlock, you'll end up with around 1 volume of CO2 already dissolved, so we need to produce an additional 1-2.6 volumes of CO2.

Baking soda and citric acid react in water:

3NaHCO3(aq) + C6H8O7(aq) --> 3CO2(g) + 3H2O + Na3C6H5O7

That's 3 moles of baking soda, plus 1 mole of citric acid produces 3 moles of CO2, 3 moles of water and 1 mole of trisodium citrate. Trisodium citrate is food additive E331, and is common in citric soft drinks. It has a tart, slightly salty taste.

So, how much carbonation will that give? 1 mole of CO2 produces 24.4 liters of gas at STP. To produce 1 volume of CO2 in a 19 liter (5 gallon) batch, we then need to produce 0.78 mol of CO2. The reaction formula above shows we need 2.33 mol baking soda, and 0.78 mol citric acid to produce 0.78 mol of CO2. Baking soda has a molar mass of 84, while citric acid is 192, so that's 195g of baking soda and 150g of citric acid to produce 1 volume of CO2. For higher CO2 volumes, simply multiply the additional volume required with these values.

For example, if you were going to carbonate to soda levels (3.5vols co2), then you'd need to produce an additional 2.5 vols CO2, which requires 2.5*195=487g of baking soda and 2.5*150=375g of citric acid.

Trisodium Citrate has an RDA of 2.5g per day. Assuming you bottle into say 50 or so 12oz bottles and a paltry consumption of one bottle per day, then the maximum carbonation level you can achieve is:

2.5 x 50 = 75g of produced sodium citrate, or 75g/258g/mol = 0.29 mol, which means we can only produce 0.29 mol of CO2 or 0.29/0.78 = 0.37 additional volumes of CO2, giving a final carbonation of 1.37 volumes at STP.

To sum up: using the RDA of 2.5g for the trisodium citrate, we can produce an additional 0.37 volumes of CO2, to give a total of around 1.37 volumes in the beverage. This would require 73g of baking soda in the entire batch, which seems like a lot of baking soda for not a lot of CO2.

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Wow. +1 for breaking out the stoichiometry. – fire.eagle Mar 19 '12 at 16:03
But you didn't calculate the change in pH as a result of adding baking soda, only partial credit. – brewchez Mar 19 '12 at 20:46
I didn't think pH nor stability needed to be discussed once the primary goal of producing CO2 and keeping the beverage drinkable was shown to be unfeasible. Had we got more CO2 and less sodium citrate, then I would have continued the pursuit. – mdma Mar 19 '12 at 23:48
Wow, Thank you for the response. That is a lot of baking soda. I think I will have to look into others means of carbonation. – Wulfhart Mar 20 '12 at 3:45

Alternatively, you could bottle with a control (plastic 20 oz soda bottle), then wait until the bottle is good and stiff, and pasteurize, as this guy did with his cider.


That'll prevent the bottle bombs, and should allow you to carbonate cheaply and easily.

Naturally, you'll want to be VERY careful with every stage of this process, but it's proven to work with cider, and it should work here.

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Dry Ice
Couldn't you pour your liquid into a pressure safe container, add some dry Ice and seal the container.

I don't know how much dry ice to you, I imagine a little, otherwise congratulations you've just made a bomb, good luck finding your fingers.

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I presume you will wait until the fermentation stops, then proceed to carbonate.

You can force carbonate pretty cheaply with one of these http://www.amazon.com/Planet-Bike-Kiss-Tire-Inflator/dp/B000IQEAMA, and make a cap with a tire stem http://www.byo.com/stories/projects-and-equipment/article/indices/20-build-it-yourself/1085-make-a-mini-keg-and-in-line-aerator-projects

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