Carbon Dioxide + Nitrogen = Beer Gas
There are only two types of gas that are used in beverage systems – carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2). Some might argue that there is a third called beer gas – a blend of carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
The most used gas – carbon dioxide. From carbonating soda to sparkling water to pushing beer for draught systems, CO2 does it all and it’s always used in beer systems when serving draught beer
All beer is carbonated. CO2 provides two purposes:
- it helps push the beer out of the keg and,
- in the headspace of the keg or the serving tank, it helps maintain proper carbonation levels.
Just keep in mind that carbon dioxide is very soluble in liquid. That whatever beverage you serve under carbon dioxide pressure, it will eventually carbonate and you will get a sparkling water, soda, tea, coffee. The purity level of the carbon dioxide is also very important. Tri-State Carbonation Service only sells beverage grade CO2. This ensures that with properly balanced equipment, the beverage you serve is how it was intended.
Now for Nitrogen (N2). Nitrogen is a gas that is very insoluble compared to carbon dioxide. That means it is hard to get a liquid to absorb the Nitrogen. Typically, you use nitrogen for one of three purposes:
- to allow high pressure when dispensing the beverage through something that’s restricted like a beer tap;
- to allow enough gas pressure or a high pressure to push the liquid over a very long length of beer line; or
- to serve nitrogenated beverages like Guinness.
Sometimes beer lines run up to 120 feet from the keg room to the bar. This is where nitrogen would be used in combination with carbon dioxide to push the beer. To do that without losing carbonation or over carbonating the beer, nitrogen is generally mixed or blended with carbon dioxide. This is considered beer gas, you’re third gas. The carbon dioxide-nitrogen blend or mix is what allows the beer to travel over great lengths. This “beer gas” also allows kegs to be connected to a draught system under higher pressure without over carbonating.
The correct blend (or mix) keeps the beer at the correct carbonation level throughout the whole keg, no matter how long it is on tap.
Blended or Mixed Gas will:
- Keep a “nitro” beer properly carbonated and nitrogenated
- Keep beers properly carbonated, no matter how long they are on tap
- Prevent beers from going flat
- Reduce foaming problems due to temperature fluctuations.
Blended or Mixed Gas will not:
- Give your beer the creamy head of a “Guinness”
- Fix Beer that is already over-carbonated
- Eliminate all foaming in poorly designed, balanced or maintained dispense systems
Nitrogenated beers like Guinness require 25% CO2 / 75% Nitrogen whereas all other regularly carbonated beers will require 60% CO2 / 40% Nitrogen and in some cases 70/30 CO2 to nitrogen. These last 2 blends cannot be achieved stable over any period of time pre-mixed in a cylinder which is why blending the gases on-site as they are delivered to the keg is more effective and reduces waste.
You can also get more out of your nitrogen with a nitrogen generator. Nitrogen generators basically just take the ambient air and produce highly purified Nitrogen. They can also be used for your draught system but also a nitro-coffee station.
All beers have CO2 dissolved into them. Nitrogenated beer has N2 dissolved into it also. To properly serve nitrogenated (nitro) beers mixed gas must be used.
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