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It seems that bottle-conditioning is very standard in home-brewing. I have found some reference to force-carbonation of beer but at a glance I assume it is really only done commercially with filtered beer.

This answer seems to contrast the methods very well but both the question and answer are a little unclear of whether force-carbonating would always be done in conjunction with filtering.

Is force-carbonation ever used by home-brewers (particularly when not filtering, if that's ever done)? If so, why? What effect would force-carbonating have on an unfiltered beer, particularly with live yeast still present?

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Force carbonation is very common for homebrewers. I'd imagine any homebrewer with a kegging setup does force carbonation by default. I would guess, too, that it's much more often than not done without active filtering. Long primary, cold-crashing and careful racking will minimize the amount of yeast transfer for most styles and beers.

There is no signficant effect when force-carbonating beer with residual yeast. Once terminal gravity is reached, the yeast go dormant and simply don't contribute much to the beer going forward.

  • Interesting, I hadn't really considered kegging. Is force-carbonation ever used when bottling? – thesquaregroot Sep 29 '15 at 12:30
  • A common practice is to force-carbonate to the desired volumes of CO₂ in the keg, then fill bottles with carbonated beer from the keg, using a couple of tricks to make it practical without foaming beer all over the place. Blichmann makes a "beer gun" specifically for this, but it can be done without the Beer Gun. Counter-pressure fillers are a more elaborate version of the same process. – jsled Sep 29 '15 at 12:58
  • Interesting. What are the benefits to doing it that way? Is it mostly cosmetic? – thesquaregroot Sep 29 '15 at 14:21
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    Generally it's "easier". With force-carbonation, you can easily determine how much carbonation (in terms of the style-specific number of volumes of CO₂, usually low-2's for stouts/ales, high-2's for highly-carbonated belgians, very very roughly) by simply setting the regulator for the appropriate pressure at a given temperature. Then bottling especially a small number of bottles becomes a simple "sanitize, fill, cap" process. It's not really cosmetic, except that you won't have the sediment of bottle-carbonated beer. – jsled Sep 29 '15 at 14:43
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    It is also more reliable for high-gravity beers (barley wine, Russian Imperial Stout, etc.), that are aged in secondary log enough that the active yeast has all dropped out, and even fresh yeast added at bottling is a crap shoot because the alcohol is so high already. – jalynn2 Sep 29 '15 at 16:59
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Jsled covers it pretty much already. But I'd like to add that it's not uncommon to force-carbonate beer in standard PET bottles. A stainless steel "carbonation cap" is screwed onto the bottle. This allows the connection of the gas line directly to the bottle.

This is useful for carbonating small batches, or correcting the CO2 level of beers poured off a keg into the bottle - especially if sent in for a competition. Just connect it up, and leave it at serving pressure.

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