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esheppy

Priming Sugar Sanitation

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The Mr. Beer instructions make a HUGE deal out of making sure EVERYTHING that comes in contact with the beer should be sanitized. But, nothing is mentioned about making sure no nasty micro-orgs are in the priming sugar for carbonating the beer.

A quick search here did not not yield anything on the topic either. It is certainly possible that I missed it in the search results.

Is there some reason that priming sugar (just regular white table sugar) does not merit as much attention? I'm not sure exactly sure what could be done other than boiling it.

Any comments on what to do to ensure clean priming sugar?

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First, at the very least, I would agree there's an inconsistency.

It seems that contamination due to priming sugar is rare. I think there are two reasons for that. One is that the sugar refining process involves lots of heat and boiling. My guess is that refined sugar is pretty "clean". So, as long as it's stored properly, it probably contains very few microorganisms that like beer. Of course, if you use the sugar bowl on your kitchen table that your 3-year old likes to stick his wet thumb into to lick off the sugar, you might be in for some trouble. The other thing you have going in your favor is that the beer at this point has a pretty low pH and has a significant alcohol content. It is a little less susceptible to a stray microbe than when it was unfermented.

To ensure clean priming sugar? Many of us do the "batch priming" that is discussed in numerous threads. Essentially, you boil all the priming sugar in solution for a few minutes and add the solution to the bottling vessel along with all your beer. Then you bottle the mixture. It not only ensures sanitary priming sugar but also more even carbonation. Mr. Beer recommends the bottle priming because it is so much simpler. And as I said, the risk does seem pretty small.

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Good question esheppy. I've wondered the same thing.
I think another reason one doesn't have to worry very much about the priming sugar is because it's sugar, pure sugar, which is a very harsh environment. Microorganisms that may wander into your sugar bowl and try to live on the sugar crystals will quickly encounter extracellular conditions that are so powerfully hypertonic that all moisture within their cells will immediately be osmotically sucked out through the membrane and they'll die (yeah). This is why high concentration of sugar is a great food preservative. I've had the same bottle of squeezable grape jelly in my fridge for months (if not years) and it's fine.

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About a year ago (before this forum existed) I called MB about this and spoke to someone about it. They said they had not encountered contamination issues using table sugar. She told me that I could use a fresh, unopened bag if I was concerned.

What BigDave & Seabass said makes a lot of sense.

I use carb tabs myself, much easier than trying to measure sugar for each bottle. Plus I get much better carb consistency and better head retention.

:chug:

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Thanks all for the responses. I feel a little better about my first batch (which I will try Super Bowl Sunday).

Big Dave, back to the batch priming, I have seen mention of it, and I think it is probably the "safest" method. Plus, I will want to try to prime with other sugars which will need boiling. One thing I do not quite understand, and again I might have missed the discussion specific to this, but anyway:

I do not understand how the sugar will be evenly distributed through the beer unless you stir the water/sugar mixture in. If you mix it in, how do you keep all the stuff at the bottom of the keg (trub?) from also being mixed in?

Also, what do you use as reference or rule of thumb or whatever to know how much water to dissolve your sugar in?

I'm sure I am asking rookie questions, and I apologize for my ignorance ... but on the other hand ... I am a rookie, and I probably won't figure it out on my own :blink:

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Yes, you have to stir. For that reason, I never do it in the primary fermenter. That is, I always bottle prime (with all its apparent "risks"!) if I'm bottling directly from the primary fermenter (with all the trub at the bottom.) Others just stir then let the trub settle (doesn't take all that long, I'm told.) I'm sure they do fine, but I just can't really believe it, so I don't!

I usually siphon the beer from the primary fermenter to a secondary fermenter, then to a bottling "bucket" (actually a Mr. Beer keg) so the trub is long since left behind. One can skip the secondary and go from primary to bottling bucket (but that's not what I do - that's when I bottle prime.)

Is this as confusing as I think it is?? :huh:

It takes like, a very small amount of water to dissolve the sugar. The beer won't get "watered down" unless you go way overboard.

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Are you saying that some people add the sugar to the Mr. Beer, stir, then let it settle before bottling? This is an interesting notion. One would assume that since it takes a week or two for fermentation to take place in the bottles you would be safe in using this technique and allowing 8 hours or so for sedimentation to reoccur before bottling without loss of much sugar..... hmmm.

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Here is what a serious homebrewer friend of mine does.
At bottling time, he measures out the proper amount of sugar and pours it dry into the bottom of his "bottling bucket". Then he siphons the beer from the fermentor into the bottling bucket. The influx of siphoned beer is apparently enough to dissolve and mix the sugar into the beer. He then immediately bottles it. The major pitfall here is that one must take great care to conduct this transfer procedure without any splashing or bubbling or anything beyond the most gentle stir. At this stage you don't want oxygen getting to the beer.

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Ok, so I don't have to worry about the sugar, but what about the utensils when bottling? Do I have to sterilize anything that comes in contact with just the sugar, like the measuring spoon? And if so, how do you dry it without contaminating it so the sugar doesn't stick all over it?

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I just set the measuring spoon and funnel aside and they air dry. If their is some moisture left, not enough sugar sticks to make a difference.

:chug:

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I am only on my second batch, but just to be on the safe side I sanitized my measuring spoon and funnel. I then used a clean, fresh paper towel to dry it. So far it's carbing up really nice but I haven't tasted it yet, so I'm can't tell you for sure if the taste is OK. I'm confident that everything should be fine.

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Ok, so the sugar should be ok, but what about the things that touch the sugar? Do you have to sterilize the measuring spoon? And if so, how do you dry it without contaminating it so that the sugar doesn't stick to it?

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I get tired of turning the bottles in circles. It takes forever for the sugar to dissolve on the bottom of the glass/plastic bottles and its tiring. Is there any faster trick to this?

I use regular white sugar. Are there other sugars that are better to use?

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I bottle prime with granulated table sugar. My PET 16oz bottles are fresh from sanitizing, therefore they have a bit of water in the bottom and when the sugar goes in, through a dishwasher-sanitized funnel and measuring spoon, it immediately begins to dissolve at the bottom of the bottle.

As soon as they're all primed, I start at the front of the ordered bottles and use a draw-straw on the LBK to fill each bottle, the beer coming in at the bottom right on top of the sugar. When the bottle is filled and capped, I grip it by the neck roll it back and forth in my other palm with any sugar residue on the high side of the bottom. What's left dissolves in seconds.

Every bottle of every batch has been evenly carbonated. Call me lucky, I guess, but the method has worked reliably for twenty-odd batches of beer.

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Ok. here is what I found and it works. Put all the priming sugar for all 8 bottles in a clean sauce pan add 1 cup water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Cover and let cool or it will kill your yeast if you add it hot. Add all of it to your keg and stir well. fill bottles and cap per instructions.

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Why dissolve all the sugar right away? It'll do it by itself eventually. You have way more liquid than needed to dissolve the sugar so overtime it'll just happen. All I do is dump the sugar in the bottle, fill it, cap it, and turn it upside down once to get any sugar at the top. Never had any carb problems.

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Agreed. When I do bottle prime (left over after filling a keg for example) I don't worry about the swirling the bottles or inverting them. The liquid WILL dissolve the sugar and the yeast WILL find it.

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"Kealia" post=288159 said:

Agreed. When I do bottle prime (left over after filling a keg for example) I don't worry about the swirling the bottles or inverting them. The liquid WILL dissolve the sugar and the yeast WILL find it.

Me too. :cheers:

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I turn the bottles upside down a couple times (gently, not aerating the beer) and then let them sit for the full 4 weeks (three for IPA).

This is on advice from those in here who have said, the yeast will find the sugar and do what it does best.

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