Carbonation Drops vs Priming Sugar – Which is Better?

And finally bottling day has arrived. As a homebrewer there is nothing better than knowing you are getting one step closer to being able to crack the top on one your delicious fresh new brews.

In today’s post we are going to look at using carbonation drops vs priming sugar and I am going to help you make sure that when you go to pop that top you get the perfect “popping sound”, carbonation and head when you pour it into your glass.

Because there is absolutely nothing worse than grabbing a bottle of your beer, popping that top and having a massive beer gusher come flying out of the top of the bottle because you over carbonated it; or almost as bad pouring it into your glass and the beer has no head and is flat because you under carbonated it.

Both of these have happened to me in the past and they both result in some choice words being said… never a good thing.

So to avoid these two catastrophes from happening to you we are going to discuss how to carbonate perfectly every time.

The Traditional Way of Carbonating Beer

For years how most home-brewed beer was carbonated in a bottle was by adding priming sugar individually to each bottle of beer using a spoon; or by batch priming which is adding sugar to all of the beer before putting it in the bottle.

Priming sugar (dextrose) is manufactured using corn, which reacts with the yeast still in the beer resulting in a natural carbonation. Most people recommend that you add the priming sugar to water and then boil it before adding it to the beer.  carbonation drops vs priming sugarPin

There are a few problems with using priming sugar instead of carbonation drops.

It is messy. Trying to add the sugar directly into the bottle can be tricky and most times results in more than a few spills of sugar down the side of the bottle.

It takes time. Adding sugar directly to each bottle takes time. It can be a tedious task and it is one of the reasons people complain about bottling beer verses kegging it. Even batch priming takes quite a bit more time than using carbonation drops.

It is not accurate. Using priming sugar can be tricky to get the right and same carbonation level between each bottle. Some will be just right, others over carbonated and some under carbonated. It’s just the nature of carbonating with priming sugar.

Thank God for Carbonation Drops

In my books carbonation drops were a game changer when it comes to naturally carbonating in beer bottles. And I actually prefer drinking a naturally carbonated beer verses one carbonated in a keg with C02, they just taste better and have a better mouth feel to them.

But I use to hate having to add sugar to the bottles and I did not like batch priming any better. Carbonation drops made it a whole ton easier to bottle beer and once I started using them I never turned back.

Bottling homebrew becomes an incredibly easy thing to do when you use carbonation drops. All that you need to do is add 1-2 drops to your beer bottle before filling them with home brew. Then simply pour the brew into the bottle. Be sure to leave around one – two inches of space at the top. Let the bottles sit for 7 – 10 days and voila you have perfectly carbonated beer ready to be enjoyed.

So what is a Carbonation Drop?

Good ol’ sucrose AKA sugar!

That’s it sugar. I tend to prefer the Coopers Carbonation drops and the exact ingredients for them are 73% dextrose and 27% glucose. They also do not have any additives or preservatives in them.

So why use them verses priming sugar… well the main reason people use them is if they want to make their bottling process simpler and less time-consuming, as well as keeping the mess and clean up time down.

The other great thing about them is that using a carbonation drop like Coopers ensures that each bottle of home brew is provided with the exact same amount of sugar. This provides for a consistent carbonation across all of your brews and prevents the gushers from happening.

Gushers = equals beer erupting out of the top of your bottle like a volcano when you open one due to over carbonation.

As well because these drops are made up of 73% dextrose and 27% glucose I have found that you do not get any of the off flavors you can get from some of the other sugars people use to carbonate their beer. This ratio of dextrose to glucose adds a nice mouth feel and carbonation with no change in the taste of how the beer is supposed to taste.

How You Use the Carbonation Drops

No question that using these drops is the simplest part of the whole beer making process. The same cannot be said for priming sugar.

Once you have cleaned and sanitized your bottles, all you do is simply drop 1-2 into each bottle and fill them up with your homebrew. Again be sure to leave about 1-2 inches of space at the top of each bottle. This allows room for the C02 that is going to be created and makes sure you do not have any exploding bottles. Which is far less likely to happen with drops vs priming sugar.

Put the caps on the bottles and Bada Boom Bada Bing you are done! Easy peasy!

How Many Drops Per Bottle

OK a few times in this post I have said add 1 – 2 drops to the beer bottle. So which is it, 1 -2?

Of course that depends on the size of the bottle you are using, so let’s get into that shall we?

This is not rocket science so don’t over think this. I have never had a problem with my beer being over carbonated or under carbonated using Coopers Drops.

So use one drop for bottles that are 350 ml (12 oz)

I also use one drop for bottles that are 500 ml (16 oz). Some people recommend using 1.5 drops. Up to you if you want to cut them in half and do so. First maybe try 1 and if you don’t think it is carbonated enough, next time around use 1.5.

For 750 ml (25 oz) bottles I use 2.

And for 1 liter bottles I also use 2, but again I have heard tell of people using 2.5. So up to you.

It’s not an exact science but those figures have worked great for me.

Frequently Asked Questions about Carbonation Drops

FAQ #1: Do you have to sterilize them before using.

Unlike priming sugar where it is recommended to add it to some boiling water you do not need to sterilize the drops.

Simply make sure your hands are clean and remove the drop directly from its bag and put it into the bottle and you will be fine.

FAQ #2: Do I add more or less drops depending on the style of home brew?

This is Make Beer Easy so the quick answer is no you do not need to worry about it. And I would recommend not worrying about it. The carbonation will be just fine for all styles if you follow the previous instructions on how many to add per bottle.

The technical and more advanced answer is that different styles can call for different levels of carbonation. But when you start to get into varying levels of carbonation between styles of brews you are really over complicating things and the average home brewer would not only never worry about such things, but would most likely never be able to tell the difference between the carbonation levels between the different styles.

FAQ #3: How long will it take for my home-brewed beer to carbonate?

There is no difference in time between using Coopers drops or any other brand as compared to using normal priming sugar.

My answer is always let your beer age as long as you can stand it. Most styles taste much better with age.

Your brew will have some decent carbonation within 7 days, and be pretty much fully carbonated in 14 days. But again if you can wait at least 4 weeks you are going to have a great tasting beer on your hands.

And again this is not just a trait of these drops but of any carbonating methods including using C02; the longer the beer ages and conditions the better. The exception would be super hoppy beers like NEIPA’s as they do better fresher.

A Few Quick Tips for Carbonating Your Home Brew

Tip #1: Watch the temperature of the room that you are carbonating in. Carbonation occurs because the yeast in the beer comes back to life as you add more sugar to it. As the yeast eats the sugar it produces C02. So just like when you are fermenting your homebrew; if the room is too cold the yeast will go to sleep and not carbonate the brew. If the room is too hot you can get off flavors. A good rule of thumb is to keep the space you are carbonating in at around the same temperature that the room you fermented in was. Typically, I shoot for a room temperature between 65 – 70 Degrees F (18 – 21 C).

Tip #2: For any of you cider home brewers out there, yes you can use the drops to carbonate your cider as well and the measurements would be the same.

Tip #3: Although these drops are very inexpensive to use they are slightly more expensive than just using normal priming sugar like dextrose (corn sugar). So my advice is when ordering them online order in a few packets at once at it will cut back on your shipping fees.

Tip #4: And lastly if you decide to use dextrose (corn sugar) then be careful of over carbonating the beer or you can end up with exploding bottles or gushers. The rule of thumb is ¾ a cup of dextrose for a 5 gallon batch. And I have found if I am adding the sugar directly to the bottles, that 1 tsp works great for the 1 liter bottles.

Additonal Resources

If you need help bottling your beer you can check out the following post as it is a full instructional guide on how to bottle homebrew.

If you want to order some drops check out my top 5 favorite online vendors here, the support is appreciated:

To Sum it Up

In the end deciding whether to use carbonation drops vs priming sugar comes down to what you prefer and how you want to brew.

Choose the methods that is better suited for you. Carbonation drops are quick, easy, simple, and less messy. Whereas priming sugar takes more effort, is messier but is a bit less expensive.

Give them both a try if you are torn between which is best suited for you.

And again my recommendation and experience has been that Coopers makes the better of the sugar drops on the market.

If I can answer any questions you have add them in the comment section below and I will be sure to get back to you.

Cheers and happy bottling!

Big Robb is out!

Big Robb with a pint of home brewed beerP.S. Check out my free recipe give away on the side of the blog or bottom if you are on a phone.  Get my top 5 all time favorite recipes today.

45 thoughts on “Carbonation Drops vs Priming Sugar – Which is Better?”

  1. I have the Cooper’s carbonation drops. They weigh approximately 3.6 grams each. Would I use one drop in a 600cc plastic Coke bottle? Or would I find a way to cut them in half and use 1.5 drops in the same Coke bottle? Thank you for your help.

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    • 600cc is the same as 600 ml I believe? If so then no need to cut the drops in half. I use 1 drop in 500 ml bottles and they work great. Should be good to go. Cheers.

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      • I used two (7.2 grams) in a 1000cc bottle on April 29. They plastic bottles are still kind o’ soft after three days of conditioning. There is trub on the bottom of the bottles. I think for the next batch I’ll use common sugar cubes. 3.6 grams x 2,5 carbo drops is 9 grams of sugar per liter bottle. Anybody know if carbo drops are common sucrose, or some sort of sugar beermakers use to avoid a cidery taste?

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        • Hi David,

          I recommend the coopers carbonation drops. Simple, easy and work well. Here is what they are made of:

          27% glucose & 73% dextrose

          There is no sugar to avoid a cidery taste. Time will take care of that. Let the bottles sit for at least 2 weeks. If you are brewing from beer kits I would let them sit loner if you are looking to avoid the cidery taste. Also leave the beer in the fermenter longer then the 5-7 days the kits call for. Again at least 2 weeks and 3 is evern better for kit beer. Helps age and condition the beer which helps to get rid of that home brew taste.

          Trust that helps. Cheers

          Reply
          • Conditioning began April 29; my bottles are losing the softness as exhibited o/a May 1. I think the carbonation process is going to work quite well with 2 carbo drops per liter. I had the wort in my conical for sixteen days; the krausen looked quite good after less than 24 hours. I let the beer ferment until all bubbles had disappeared off the surface of the wort. I had a satisfying bed of trub, the upper surface of which was a bit more than two inches below the bottom of the spigot. I saw no trub go into my bottles. Conditioning continues in my living room; the A/C is set to 71 degrees. One bottle will go into my icebox on May 13; will be refrigerated until May 20.

          • Taste test is getting closer man!! Sounds like things are on track. Keep us posted. Cheers

  2. Yes; 600 cubic centimeters is the exact same measurement as 600 milliliters. Have decided to use two each 3.6-gram carbo drops in each one-liter bottle. Should ideally use 2.5 drops, but I’d prefer an under-carbed beer versus one that shoots-out 50% of the bottle upon opening…

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  3. Safale US-05 is out of stock at Seńor Cerveza. Please recommend an alternative for American Porter. Gracias!

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    • Hey David how goes the battle man. There would be lots of liquid substitutes, however I am a dry yeast guy and I interchange US-05, Nottingham Ale Yeast and US-04 all the time. Give Nottingham Ale yeast a try. Cheers

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  4. Have decided to extend conditioning until May 20 or so. I’ve read that the longer a beer conditions, the better it gets. To extend this step from two weeks to three certainly can’t hurt. Thank you for suggesting Nottingham Ale as a substitute for US-05.

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    • Happy to help David. Yup longer you condition it the better it will be for most beers. Hoppy beers are the exception, they are better fresh. Cheers

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  5. Four more days until the 27th, then we crack the first bottle of beer I’ve made since Spring of 2001. Nineteen years. Where has it gone? My 20-ounce test bottle is in my icebox. It gets illuminated every time I open the door, but I doubt such a brief period is going to affect the flavor of it. I expect it will taste pretty good. We’ll let you know…

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    • 19 years old! Wow man… do keep us posted on how it turns outs.

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  6. It appears the server is seven hours ahead of where I am ( Pacific Time Zone). Would the server be in London, England, by chance? Inquiring minds want to know…

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  7. I’d like to increase the volume of a two-gallon beer kit to ten quarts. I’m guessing I’d need to add some dried malt extract; I’ll try a pound. Is there such a thing as dried malt extract that is also hopped? Instead of dried and hopped, would it be a better idea to dry-hop the wort with its increased water & malt content? Thank you…

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    • Sorry for the delay in getting back to you on this one David, so you are looking to take the batch up to 2.5 gallons? How did you make out with the DME? I have never heard tell of DME having hops with it, but you never know, lol. However even if there were such a thing I can tell you that dry hopping or adding hops yourself to the process verses using the LME that has hops in it (most beer kits) produces a much better brew. Keep us posted on how you make out. Cheers man.

      Reply
  8. Have had two bottles of the beer under conditioning since April 29. It has a good, “Stouty” taste, but the carbonation is almost non-existent. The bottles are hard as a rock, but no head at all about which to speak. The carbonation is more just a slight “buzz” on the tongue than any we know about from having drunk commercial craftbeers. My next batch will be four gallons of American Porter, which I will carbonate by priming with the boiled water & priming sugar method. How many dry ounces of priming sugar should I use for four gallons?

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  9. Hi guys. I was putting down a brew last night finished and cleaned up. Started to pack up and noticed an empty pack of carbonation drops. After much deliberation it appears my helpful son has ripped the pack of 60 drops open and deposited them into the mix. I should have noticed..How will this affect my brew ??

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    • wow just read this Terry, how did it effect the beer? Probably just added some extra alcohol percentages to the ABV?

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  10. I still have not brewed the four gallons of American Porter that’s next on the agenda. It’s been blazin’ hot where I live for weeks, and I’ve been working six days a week for maybe two months. I don’t remember when I started the six-day weeks; two months is just a guess. But Fall is coming; outside temperatures will drop and my brewing room will have acceptable temperatures for ales in about three weeks.

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    • Nice man, same here, temps just getting right again. Happy brewing!

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  11. My brewing room (my spare bathroom) has its long wall facing south; gets warm in there during the Summer and Fall months. The weather has finally turned from “a bit too warm” to “gettin’ chilly.” I have a Max-Min thermometer in the brewing room. Max temperatures are getting up to the middle 70s. That’s still a bit too warm, for my way of thinking. I’m still working six days a week, which leaves little time to husband a batch along the way.

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  12. Bottled the four gallons of American Porter on November 28, 2020. The bottles are definitely cabonating; they’re harder than we see when they were filled with fresh Coke. Not expecting much of a product. I dry-hopped with two ounces of pelletized hops directly into the brew; the floating slime on the surface of the wort required that I forsake at least a gallon or more of it. Had my priming solution previously mixed-up for four gallons, so I added a gallon of filtered water to avoid over-carbonation. I’m expecting a weak, watery, low-tasting beer. I shall NEVER dry-hop again. Might try it with a hop bag, so I can’t say never. Looking to sample the first bottle around January 1.

    Very close to surrendering to buying one of those 8-gallon conical fermenters from BrewDemon. I want one very badly. Have a 2-gallon one; wish I’d had one when I started brewing twenty years ago. So much better than a flat-bottom tub. No siphoning required; possible to bottle right from the fermenter.

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  13. Have had the four gallons of American Porter conditioning since November 28. I mixed-up a priming solution for four gallons, and had that ready for action on bottling day. I prosecuted my first dry-hopping (pelletized hops directly into the wort four days into the first stage of fermentation), and the floating crap atop the wort required I leave a gallon of beer behind. I had to add a gallon of water to make the priming solution correct for the volume. I’m expecting a weak, thin, low-tasting final product. If I ever dry-hop again, I’ll use a muslin bag or a hop strainer to keep the hop sludge from going into the fermentation vessel.

    I saw on the web that very fine-mesh nylon bags are available to strain-out the trub before the wort goes into the fermenter. Can these bags be set into the five-gallon bucket, the cooled wort poured in and then the bag lifted out to leave behind a strained beer, free of trub? The idea sounds feasible to me. Is such procedure a common practice for brewers of greater expertise than me? Thanks for your help…

    Reply
    • Hey Man, in theory I see nothing wrong with what you are suggesting, just make sure to sanitize the bag first, boiling it should be fine. Give it a try and let us know how you make out. Cheers

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      • Have seen strainer bags that fit into the brewkettle and fill it out quite nicely. My concern is that the top overhangs the sides of the kettle, and I fear they’ll be melted by my gas stove. Have also seen strainer “buckets” that fit into the brewkettle. Just tonight bought a 4″ x 10″ x 300-micron hop strainer/spider to keep that bothersome trub out of the fermentation bucket. Will get that in the mail around January 21.

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  14. Have had two bottles of the watered-up Porter. It’s got a good Porter flavor, but the carbonation is non-existent. Have over a dozen bottles of it yet to kill. Having no carbonation makes it easy to drink– no belching after a liter bottle of it. Was wondering if small amounts of Star-San solution (1/2 an ounce in two gallons of filtered tap water) in the bottles is why the beer isn’t carbonating. I shake the water out of the bottles, but they are not dry when the beer goes in. I’m wondering if the anti-bacterial powers of the solution are killing the yeast that’s supposed to carbonate the product. I have so little time that getting a brew day and the bottles dry at the same time is almost as much work as Sisyphus pushing the stone up the walls in Hades.

    My next effort will be a Sierra Pale Ale. Six gallons of it. Going to add blueberry flavoring to the second half of the bottles to be filled. I have everything to get that one going except the time; still working six days a week with one day off. After the Pale Ale, I have an Amber on the slate. I’m hoping I find out why my beers don’t carbonate. Such a bummer to wait 30 days for conditioning, and then it’s flats as Kansas upon opening…

    Reply
    • Great analogies David, got a kick out of them. hmmm no do not think it would be the star san. Perhaps the bottles are the problem, what type of bottles are they and do they have a good seal? What did you prime the beer with and how did you do it? Give me some more details of the process you followed and I can try to help you pin point the problem. Here is a post on bottling that might help: https://makebeereasy.com/bottling-home-brew-beer-everything-you-need-to-know/

      Cheers

      Reply
  15. The bottles used are the one-liter Diet Pepsi bottles; same bottle as found containing Dasani drinking water. They are a bit thicker than the common, garden variety, plastic bottle. I use the white plastic tops as found on the two-liter bottle of Sam’s Diet Cola; the sugar-free & caffeine-free stuff. These caps have a small, tapered ring inside that is forced into the mouth of the bottle when fully screwed into place.

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    • It’s not the bottles for Dasani water. I use the bottles for Aquafina drinking water; same bottles for Diet Pepsi in the one-liter size. They’re thicker than most soda bottles. I have a friend whom consumes one bottle (sometimes two) of Diet Pepsi every day; he saves the bottles for me. I have about 70 of them.; plenty to bottle two five-galleon batches.

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  16. Brewed my rip-off of the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, today. I went 1000% gangbusters on boiling it. Evert last second of the 60 minutes, and I kept it stirred the whole time. I used 5 drops of Fermcaps-S anti-boilover agent in 2.5 galleons of wort. Water boils at 204 degrees at my altitude of 4100-plus feet ASL. The wort achieved a boil at very near that temperature, the “boil” being an energetic simmer. No massive bubbles, no huge and messy boilovers. I was even able to go do other things for a few minutes while the pot was boiling away. The Fermcaps-S stuff is worth every penny of its $6 cost for a tiny bottle. Cooled the hot wort in a 22-quart ice chest (with ice); temperature of the wort was 60 degrees once it made it into the fermentation vessel and was topped-up to 5.5 galleons. Waiting until the wort reaches 62-64 degrees before I pitch the yeast; don’t want the wort to be to cold and the yeast doesn’t get started right away. Used my hop strainer. Those things are awesome! They must catch and contain 99.98% of the hop sludge in the wort. I’m very pleased with it. I stirred the wort and stirred the small bit of the wort within the hop strainer while the boil was going on. I wanted the hop essence to get into the wort, and I think I succeeded. I can’t wait to taste this batch, come about April 1.

    The American Porter I made in late November is dam-ned good these days; it’s been conditioning since then. It has a very strong Porter flavor, very little carbonation and very little head. I like that I can drink a one-liter bottle and not belch like an uncultured redneck after a while. Don’t have too many bottles remaining. Such a pity…

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  17. I have a hydrometer; can’t find it because I have not used it for twenty years. Wondering if there isn’t a digital electronic hydrometer to be had for our purposes…

    Reply
    • Hey David, I’ve only ever used the old fashioned ones, keep it simple here at Make Beer Easy!

      Reply
  18. May 30, 2021

    Have seven pounds of amber malt in my icebox since January 2021. Want to make something like a Fat Tire; have two ounces of Tettnanger hops. Just wish I had the time to brew this batch; still working six days a week.

    Reply
    • Finding the time is always the problem, I’ve been a bit slack also David, although firing up the burners this week coming.

      Reply
  19. Is there a way to post-up a .jpeg picture on this site?

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    • What do you mean? In the comments? Really not sure, will have to take a look.

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      • I would really like to post-up a short cellphone video (about 20 seconds) I made of the way I intend to stir my next batch for its entire sixty-minute boiling time. I’m sure someone else has thought of it before me, but I’ve never actually seen a video of it being done.

        Reply

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