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Carbonating your beer, cider, or soda in kegs can be simple, easy, and quick. There are a few things to know in advance, and a few different methods. This guide will go over them for you. Most carbonation in kegs is done using pressurized CO2 from a gas cylinder, a process called force carbonation. The fastest results can be achieved when the beer in the keg is at a cold temperature. This will let the CO2 diffuse into the beer more efficiently and at a faster rate.
The most accurate and easiest method for force carbonating is often referred to as the “set it and forget it method.” On page 2 of this document, select your refrigerator temperature and your desired carbonation rate, set your CO2 regulator to that pressure, and wait 5-10 days for the beer to carbonate.
A more accelerated method of force carbonation involves putting 30-40 PSI of CO2 into your chilled keg of beer, and shaking or rocking the keg to diffuse the gas at a faster rate. Depending on how cold your beer is, and how much you agitate the beer, you can have your beer carbonated in anywhere from 12 hours to 3 days. Once it is carbonated, dial your CO2 regulator down to serving pressure, and vent excess CO2 out of your keg. It is advised that you wait an hour or two for the beer to settle down before serving.
Another way to carbonate in kegs is with priming sugar, or any other fermentable sugar. For a 5 gallon batch, just go by the same amount of sugar that you would for a bottle conditioned batch, typically 5 ounces for priming sugar. This will take 2-3 weeks for carbonation.
For more information, read our Kegging Overview or watch this short video: