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How to use carbonation drops for brewing beer and cider


Once your home brew has fermented, you need to carbonate it.

The most common way to do this is by bottling the beer and adding sugar with it.

Many brewers use carbonation drops.

You may have heard of Coopers Carbonation Drops? They are pretty well known and are they are a reliable brand. Mangrove Jacks drops are also pretty popular.

Once the beers have been sealed, the process of secondary fermentation begins as the yeast eats the sugar in the carbonation drops.

What are the ingredients of carbonation drop?


Sugar.

That's it, sucrose is the only ingredient.

The reason for using them is simply ease of use.

You can try other methods of adding sugar to the beer - such as 'priming' the whole batch of beer or by adding sugar to each bottle using a funnel or spoon. That can be a bit messy though!

So, you should use carbonation drops if you want an easy process and wish to safe some time and keep things nice and clean.

Using drops also allows you to ensure that each bottle is given the same sugar dose - this will allow for a consistent brew and also will help prevent 'gushers' from occurring (more on avoiding beer gushers later on).

So how do you use carbonation drops? 


It's actually probably the easiest part of making beer!

Once you have added the beer to your sanitized bottles, all you need to do is literally drop a carbonation drop into the bottle. Instantly, you are done. Easiest instructions you will follow all week!

You then cap the bottle so that carbonation can occur.

You might now be thinking, how many carbonation drops do I add to each bottle? It depends on how big the bottles are. 

It's not an exact piece of maths but here's the standard practices:
  • 1 drop for a beer bottle that is around 350 to 375 mls or 12 OZ
  • 2 drops for a 750 mls bottle (your standard crate size bottle) or 25 OZ
  • If you're doing anything bigger like a litre, you may wish to consider 2 and a half drops or possibly 3 but you're risking over sugaring your beer.
  • Another rough rule of thumb is one drop for one pint which is possibly on the light side if an Imperial pint equals 540 mls but prob OK for an American pint of 473 mls.
Once you have added the drops, give them a chance to dissolve. When they've had long enough after capping, give the bottle a firm shake to ensure each drop has dissolved completely.

You really shouldn't have any problems with drops dissolving so you can feel free to skip this step. 

Do I need to sterilize carbonation drops?


No, you do not need to take such a step.

If you take the drops straight from a freshly opened packet and use clean hands, you should be absolutely fine.

No one ever sterilizes their sugar when brewing so we don't see any reason to do this. 

Not sure how you would either, maybe dissolve them in boiling water? ...

Do different beer styles affect my use of drops?


Ales generally need less sugar than lagers however we really don't think you should worry too much about it when you are this stage of home brewing.


How long do carbonation drops take to work?

The same amount of time as simply adding sugar does! Basically carbonation will take place fairly quickly, a matter of days. Real time is needed to let your beer condition properly and we recommend a minimum of 2 weeks for that. At three weeks your beer should be beginning to become quite drinkable.

Can I use carbonation tablets instead of drops? 


You can also use 'carbonation tablets' for bottling which is a different way to carbonation glory.

The tablets usually contain tablets contain dextrose, dry malt extract and heading powder which is clearly different from using sugar for fermentation.

Carbonation tablets work in the same way as sugar in that the more you use, the more carbonation occurs. In that sense they are an equivalent product but given the ingredients, they will add more flavour and body to your beer.

This is important to keep in mind as some beers are better with more bubbles (lager) and others are more enjoyable to drink when they have less (heavy ales, bocks etc). The usage  is 3, 4 or 5 tablets per 12 ounce bottle (350 mls) for low, medium or high carbonation.

Popular brands are Muntons' 'Carbtabs' and Brewer's Best Conditioning Tablets.

Remember that after carbonating your beer, it's essential that you store the bottles properly so that optimal conditioning can occur.

Tips and tricks for when using drops:

  • You can use drops to carbonate apple cider. The measurements are the same. just be wary of over carbonating the cider. 
  • Once you have added the drops and bottled the beer, it will take about 7 days to condition. This is the bare minimum before which you can drink your beer. The patient beer brewer should wait about 3 weeks before sampling their brew.
  • Beware over priming your beer. If you add too much sugar, too much CO2 will be produced by the yeast and it will have no where to escape. It will escape in the form of a 'gusher' when you open your beer and it will gush out the next of the bottle like a geyser and go bloody every where - and ruin that beer experience you were about to enjoy!
  • Different temperatures will affect the carbonation process as well (the yeast generally enjoys a warmer temperature) - so if you are questioning whether the drops didn't produce enough CO2, bear in mind there are other factors at play.
  • If you do choose to not use drops and just wish to add granulated sugar to the bottle, we recommend the use of an ordinary kitchen funnel as it speeds things up and helps reduce the mess of sugar going everywhere.
  • We once tried using jelly beans as a substitute for carbonation drops. The results were quite interesting! Basically you can use any form of sugar lollies for carbonating beer - as long as it it fits down the neck of the beer you'll be right!
  • We've used Mangrove Jack's drops many times and had no problems so are very happy to recommend their use.
  • 60 carbonation drops, will be enough drops for one 23 litre brew.
  • You can use carbonation drops with your ginger beer as well!
  • If you are buying drops online, say Coopers Drops from Amazon, we suggest you order at least a couple of packets - that way the cost for delivery becomes more effective by price per unit.

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