I have begun using sugar cubes to prime my beers. This seems to be the opposite direction that a lot of people go, starting by priming individual bottles before graduating to batch priming. I have had some carbonation issues in the past and my bottling procedure has evolved in a certain direction. Both of these things have caused me to look for a new process for priming and this is what I’ve landed on. I’m four or five batches into using this method and I’m very happy with the results so far.
Using twelve ounce bottles with one two and a half gram sugar cube should give you approximately two and a half volumes of CO2, which is a good, middle of the road level of carbonation. It may be too high for some British ales and on the low end of some Belgian ales and wheat beers, but in general, it works quite well.
I simply drop one sugar cube into each bottle before filling them with beer. The cubes seem to dissolve pretty quickly and the yeast are happy to have the snack.
My bottling process changed when I finally got an auto-siphon a while back. Racking into a bottling bucket started to seem like an unnecessary extra hassle as well as an extra invitation to infection and oxidation. The only issue then became mixing in my priming sugar. There is often sediment that I don’t want to disturb. Adding the priming sugar, which has been dissolved in water is likely to kick that up as it often brings some foam to the beer. In fact, in times that it doesn’t, I often got nervous that the yeast was no longer viable.
I used to rack my beer more frequently. A lot of people now advocate allowing your beer to stay in the same fermentation vessel from brew day to packaging. If it isn’t going through extended aging, off flavors from yeast autolysis are not really a threat and anything you can do to protect the beer from being exposed is a good thing. Why not extend that into bottling?
After giving this method a try, I looked online and found a lot people saying that they use sugar cubes when they have some extra beer after filling a keg. It is easy to bottle prime only a few bottles with this method, which makes it an ideal fit for that situation.
My experience has been positive for full batches as well, though. The sugar cubes are consistently sized and much cheaper with similar attributes when compared to products that are made specifically for this purpose. If you’re using other sized bottles, this is less useful, although two cubes in a twenty two ounce bomber bottle will work fine. I use almost all twelve ounce bottles.
My batches tend to be odd sizes sometimes. I do a lot of second runnings beers where I’m just looking at what gravity I’m getting, regardless of volume. I also split a lot of batches with different yeasts or extra ingredients. I often don’t know exactly what my batch size is, which makes it hard to get an appropriate amount of sugar for batch priming.
If you have had issues with carbonation levels or are just frustrated by the extra steps involved in batch priming, sugar cubes are a cheap, easy and most importantly, consistently effective method that you should try.