Forced Carbonation

Update: Since posting this, a number of friends in the bay area have asked me about this rig and where to obtain the parts. You can buy all the bits and pieces separately if you want, but for not much more money you can just get a kit that has all the parts + a cornelious keg.

I picked up the full tank, gauges, regulator, hosing, clamps, 5 gallon cornelious keg, and dispensing spigot for about $250 from Fermentation Solutions in Campbell. Again — great store, very supportive, nice people, know their stuff.

For CO2 refills, I’m going to Carbonic Services. Refilling the 5# tank will cost me $12. They sell tanks, many different gas mixtures (need nitrogen? no problem), syrups, etc.. You can also get your tank refilled at many welding supply houses, but “food grade” and “welding” are not generally compatible.

For “the carbonator” cap, you can mail order it from any of a number of places. Do a google search. I have found that shipping can be a killer when ordering brew stuff. Find someone relatively local.

For folks in the South Bay area, Seven Bridges Cooperative has The Carbonator, along with a pretty awesome selection of really high quality brewing ingredients and, even, coffee beans.

Carbonate-it-yourself Setup (With Lemonade To Be Bubbled)

I love carbonated beverages, as long as they don’t have a ton of sugar (including the various sugar substitutes). I find the scrubby bubbles are a bit of a flavor enhancer as well as adding a bunch of texture.

But, damn, it is an expensive habit! And painful to drag all those bottles of carbonated water home. Worse, any kind of fizzed flavored water is 3x more expensive or more. Ever price out those yummy “italian flavored bubbly water” drinks? Ridiculous.

Problem now solved, though.

I picked up a kegerator kit from our local homebrew store (Fermentation Solutions on Winchester — right next to Luigi’s extremely yummy italian restaurant).

The kegerator kit includes everything you need to, generally, produce, and/or carbonate, and then serve, about 5 gallons of beer (or other beverage).

However, you need one more piece of the puzzle. That blue piece at the lower right is “The Carbonator“. It is a bit of patented plastic that screws on to your everyday average 1 to 3 liter soda bottle and has a connection for the standard ball lock connection on the other end. Expect to pay about $14 for one. Get three to five while you are at it.

You can make it yourself out of a tire fill valve (search Google). I chose not too as “tire” and “food grade” are not remotely related.

Once you have your basic setup, it is time to carbonate some beverages!

Carbonating a liquid is simple; make the liquid really cold, pressurize the containment vessel with 30 to 50 PSI of CO2, and shake like hell. “It is all in the wrist”, most instructions say.

I have found the following to work well:

  • 1. fill plastic soda bottle — 1, 2 or 3 liters works fine — about 1/5th full of water.
  • 2. Place bottle on its side in the freezer and let it freeze.
  • 3. Remove from freezer and smash ice side of the bottle against something hard until the ice is broken up.
  • 4. Fill to almost full– 85% full or so, write about at the neck of the bottle where it starts the curve to the top — with whatever you want to carbonate.
  • 4a If the ice melted really quick, your liquid isn’t cold enough. Stick it in the freezer until ice crystals form.
  • 5. Loosely screw The Carbonator on to the top of the bottle and attach the ball lock hose end (gas off!!). Squeeze the bottle until all air is gone, then turn on the gas just slightly. Screw down the carbonator fully with the line attached. (This ensures that there is nothing but soluble tasty CO2 in the headspace of the bottle).
  • 6. Pressurize with 35 to 45 PSI of CO2. Don’t worry about bursting the bottle; plastic soda bottles are tough as hell and routinely see greater pressure when a full bottle is heated and/or dropped.
  • 7. Shake like hell. All in the wrist; high frequency, short stroke, shaka-shaka-shaka. You should feel the bottle feel like it is deflating! This is the CO2 being absorbed by the liquid.
  • 8. Goto 6. Repeat until the bottle remains firm during shaking.
  • 9. Stick the bottle in the fridge and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. You don’t really have to, but it’ll be better if you do.

Open and enjoy. If you want to move The Carbonator off the bottle and to a new one, you can put the carbonated liquid in the freezer. The colder it is when you make the transfer, the less CO2 will be released.

So far, I have force carbonated:

Homebrew Beer: Skip the bottle conditioning and go straight for forced carbonation into 1 liter bottles or into your corny keg.

Lemonade with and without Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice: Makes for a delicious additive to Gin or a refreshing drink on its own.

Persimmon Wine: Yup — I nearly froze one liter of the persimmon wine and carbonated the heck out of it. The end result was dry, fizzy, delicious and full of whoop-ass. The wine finished at about 12.5% ABV and, in fizzy/yummy form, it goes down terribly easy.

Water: Of course….

I’m going to carbonate a bunch more of the persimmon wine, will give carbonated coffee a try (why not) and expect to keep the fridge stocked with a fairly never-ending variety of carbonated fruit juices.

All in all, the kegging system has already proven quite versatile and will save money in the long run. And to think that I haven’t even got the corny keg involved yet; I think I’ll probably buy 5 gallons of whatever decent apple juice is on sale and ferment that in the corny.

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6 Responses to “Forced Carbonation”

  1. Alexander v. Below says:

    Excellent! For science’s sake we tried to turn wine into sparkling wine that way… Let’s just say we had lots of fun and smelled like bozos afterwards

  2. John C. Randolph says:

    I’ve noticed that just dropping dry ice into most drinks will carbonate them pretty quickly.


  3. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » Make: Persimmon Wine Finished! says:

    […] This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. Widgets « Forced Carbonation […]

  4. Pierre Bernard says:

    For plain water there is a much easier solution. The Soda Club Penguin.

  5. bbum says:

    Not really. The Penguin is more expensive than the base forced carbonation rig, you are limited to using their special containers (more money if you want more container, and CO2 refills are an order of magnitude more expensive than refilling a 5# tank.

    And, all things considered, the Penguin doesn’t really seem to be that much easier because using the forced carbonation rig is dead simple.

  6. Jans Carton says:

    Just got set up with a similar rig today (looks exactly the same in fact). You’re right, it’s ridiculously simple and works like a charm. Just fizzed up a bottle of my latest batch of mead. Yum.

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