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Beer (extract-based English bitter) has been in bottles for 3 weeks at cellar temperature (~60-70 F) with very little carbonation occurring.

I can think of a few things I might have screwed up to get here:

  • Under-primed. I used the low end of the recommended amount of corn sugar because I do want this to be only lightly carbonated.

  • Old caps. Some of the caps I used were a few years old. Possibly they couldn't hold the pressure (but the plastic liners didn't seem any stiffer than the ones on some new caps I have).

  • Didn't allow my bottles to dry sufficiently after sanitizing in bleach solution and killed the yeast.

I'm thinking I'll have to pour all this beer out back into my fermentation bucket and let it sit for 24 hours to de-chlorinate. Then re-prime and re-bottle with new caps.

Is there any easier way to recover from this problem? Is there any other possible cause of the problem I didn't think of?

Update two weeks later:

  1. It seems that some bottles have better carbonation than others. I guess this points to I might not have mixed the priming sugar syrup into the wort well enough before bottling.

  2. There is enough carbonation in most bottles to cause some dramatic foaming if you drop in a carbonation drop.

  3. After adding carbonation drops to a couple of bottles and waiting another week, there is still not much carbonation there (but maybe this is due to increased headspace in the bottles after adding the carbonation drops).

  • Important to know: How many gallons did you brew, and how much corn sugar did you use to prime? – dmtaylor Jun 2 '19 at 12:20
  • I think the caps are not a problem, but does it seem like the bottles are well sealed? Does the crown bend most of the way around the lip of the bottles, or does it seem so loose that you might pop it off with your own thumb? If so, perhaps you are using the wrong style bottles? Or there might be a malfunction with your capper, which happens occasionally, especially with really old cappers that have seen much abuse. – dmtaylor Jun 2 '19 at 12:26
  • What was the strength of the bleach solution you used? 50%, 20%, 10%?? – brewchez Jun 3 '19 at 12:00
  • You also say "very little carbonation". Does that mean there is some carbonation? and is that more than what it was like at bottling if you tasted it then? If so it sounds like perhaps you under calculated the priming sugar. – brewchez Jun 3 '19 at 12:02
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    If worst comes to worst, put "cooking with beer recipes" in your favorite search engine. – Robert Jun 3 '19 at 17:52
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Bleach-water has to be rinsed off well before filling bottles. Allowing it to dry is not adequate. The bleach probably killed the yeast. The bleach will also introduce a chlorine and/or chlorophenol flavor which could taste like medicine or Band-Aids. For this reason it is more often recommended to try using no-rinse sanitizers such as StarSan or iodophor.

You might have lost this batch. You can still attempt to carbonate, if it doesn't taste off, by uncapping, pour all into a bucket, add ~2 grams new yeast, re-prime using 5/8 cup sugar per 5 gallons, or 2 tablespoons per gallon, then re-bottle. Personally I think it would be simpler to just add 1/3 tsp sugar to each bottle then recap, rather than going through the entire bottling process again; however, in this case, since the yeast might be dead, it's better to add more yeast and priming sugar in bulk and re-bottle... and hope that the new yeast somehow manages to survive.

I don't believe the caps are the problem. I've bottled ~150 batches in the past 20 years, used many old caps, and I think I only had one or two leaking bottles total in 20 years, probably due to some deformation in the glass more than the caps. However, I suppose it's possible you could have a bad capper, that happens occasionally, but if yours is new, this is unlikely.

Good luck, and better luck next time.

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  • The flavor is fine, just flat. But my tap water is pretty well chlorinated, so I may be de-sensitized to bleachy off flavors. – The Photon Jun 2 '19 at 13:40
  • I don't think residual bleach solution would have the kill power to knock out the yeast. Unless there was a significant of solution (an ounce of more) in the bottles still. It would get diluted pretty quickly by the incoming beer and render the potency fairly nil. – brewchez Jun 3 '19 at 12:03
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Best way would be to keg it up! (if feasible) Under-priming the sugar is the usual culprit for no conditioning. If it was caused by your sanitizer, you'd taste it. (look for the note on the back end of the taste, not initial) It seems unlikely it could be old caps. I've had caps over 20 years old work fine.

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