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Can altitude have an effect on carbonation?

I was at the in laws last week and discovered all of the homebrews I brought (about 6) were foaming over when opened. However, all those from the same batch at home are fine. I know I stirred in the priming sugar consistently, and even if I didn't, the odds that those 6 alone, randomly selected, got over carbonated. The only difference between here and there is about 1000 feet in altitude (in laws being higher). Could that be the cause of the foam spewers?

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Apparently the lower pressure can cause the beer to lose carbonation faster, causing foamers. http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f35/effects-altitude-carbonation-1523/

It might also be an infection. Did you notice any change in flavour?

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  • I didn't notice any flavor difference. And again, what are the chances that those few, randomly picked all had an infection. +1 for finding both similar stories and some science – CDspace May 26 '14 at 13:16
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    You are right, the odds of grabbing all the infected bottles are slim. Bad News: you will have to go visit your in-laws again to test if it is an altitude thing. Good News: Get your other half to drive and open a new beer for every 100 ft that you rise. Do aroma, taste, visual and mouthfeel tests for every beer (with notes). Now you are a (drunk) scientist! :) – Atron Seige May 27 '14 at 13:27
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    Actually, I think I just over-carbed the whole batch. They have been starting to foam over at home now, too. My guess is it just took a while to get to this carbonation level, and altitude had nothing to do with it in my case. As for the question in general, this answer seems the best explanation. – CDspace May 27 '14 at 14:31
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I know this is an old question, but yes, altitude definitely does have an effect on carbonation, both actual and perceived. I have a home brewing shop in South Africa, with customers living at altitudes varying from sea level to about 8,000 feet.

First off, at altitude the amount of residual CO2 in the beer under ambient pressure as a result of fermentation is lower, so you have a different amount of residual CO2 to begin with.

Secondly, the fizziness of the beer when you pour and drink it is a factor of the vigor with which the CO2 comes out of solution, and at altitude this is much higher, causing beers with the same volume of CO2 to be more fizzy and foamy at altitude than at sea level.

The absolute amount of CO2 produced from a certain amount of priming sugar, on the other hand, is the same both at altitude and at sea level. It's just the effect that this similar amount of CO2 has that is different.

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