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BULK PRIMING – Step by Step

Having proper carbonation in your beer is an aspect of brewing that can be quickly disregarded by brewers. However getting this process dialed in can take your beer to a whole new level.

Many styles of beer require specific carbonation levels to truly reflect the particular beer style.

English Ales: These styles can be benefit with lower levels of carbonation to allow the malt flavour to come forward.

Saisons: Higher levels of carbonation are typical of the saison style for proper mouthfeel and presentation.

To be able achieve these proper levels of carbonation, we need to better be able to control how much carbonation is produced in the final product.


If you’re currently bottle conditioning your beer, this article will take you through a step by step process of “bulk priming” to achieve accurate and controlled carbonation levels.


Bulk priming is a process used for accurately dosing your un-carbonated beer with a sugar source prior to bottling & conditioning. In comparison to a typical process of using single carbonation drops for individual bottles, the bulk priming process doses the total volume of beer with a sugar source prior to filling your bottles (hence the term “bulk”)


The main advantage of bulk priming is your ability to better control how much carbonation is produced in your beer.

Take for example the process of using carbonation drops to prime your beer. In this case you are locked into a set amount of sugar within those drops. Therefore you are locked into the amount of carbonation that is produced.

Bulk priming however, allows you to exactly measure how much sugar you add, which therefore allows you to control the levels of carbonation produced.


If bulk priming sounds like a process you would like to use, follow these simple steps:

  • 1 x empty (clean & sanitised) fermenter/bucket with appropriate tap for bottle filling
  • Beer transfer line or appropriate siphon – Enough length to reach from your primary fermenter into the bottom of your empty bottling bucket
  • Kitchen scales
  • Access to priming calculator (see Step 1 below)

First you need access to an appropriate priming calculator. One good resource to use is BREWERS FRIEND. This calculator can be sourced either as a free app on your phone or accessed online.

Once you have access to a priming calculator you will now want to determine the amount of carbonation you are aiming for.

Carbonation levels are presented in “volumes of co2”, not to get confused with volume ie – litres, millilitres etc.

Carbonation Guideline by Style:

British Styled Ales: 1.5 – 2.0 volumes

American Styled Ales: 2.0 – 2.7 volumes

Belgian Styled Ales: 2.4 – 3.0 volumes

*please note that you need to be very cautious when priming to levels of 3.0 and higher. To avoid risk of bottle explosions with lighter gauged glass, don’t exceed 2.7 volumes of co2


Once you have determined the level of carbonation you are aiming for, it’s time to insert some values into your priming calculator.

Different calculators may differ slightly, but typically these are the values you will be required to insert:

  1. The total volume of beer being carbonated
  2. Volumes of co2 you are aiming for, which was determined in Step 1
  3. Temperature of beer – This can be confused with the current temperature of your beer, however it is best to insert the warmest temperature your beer reached during active fermentation (typically 18-22 for ales)

Once these values have been inserted you will now see the calculated amount of sugar that is required to achieve your carbonation levels. Most calculators will give you a selection of sugar source options that you can use (dextrose, table sugar, DME). Choose which ever you have easy access to.


Now that you know the required amount of sugar, use your kitchen scales to weigh out the set amount into an appropriate heat proof container.

Using a small amount of boiling water (50-100mls) dissolve the sugar in your heat proof container.


Once dissolved, empty your sugar solution into the bottom of your empty bottling bucket.

Using your beer transfer line or appropriate siphon, transfer your beer from your primary fermenter into your bottling bucket that now contains your sugar solution.

*It’s important to make sure your transfer line is clean & sanitised.

It’s also important in this step to make sure the transfer line is sitting at the bottom of your bottling bucket to avoid any splashing during this process.


Once you have transferred the total volume of beer from your primary fermenter into your bottling bucket, give your bottling bucket a very gentle swirl to help distribute the sugar evenly throughout your beer.

At this stage you are now ready to bottle your beer as normal.

IMPORTANT: Be sure to NOT use any additional sugar drops into each of your bottles.

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