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April 02, 2020

The brewing of beer has become a traditional process, from malted barley and hops, to fermentation and carbonation, but why might breweries need CO2 detection? This is all down to the distinctive element in beer which is associated with the beverage, bubbles! Carbon dioxide is needed to form the bubbles in beer, these bubbles are formed through a process called carbonation!

Beer bubbles 

What is carbonation in beer?

Carbonation, in simple terms, is carbon dioxide gas absorbed into beer which gives the beverage its fizzy consistency. The process of carbonation can be completed in two ways, natural and forced.

Natural Carbonation

Natural carbonation occurs due to the fermentation process which is the stage where both alcohol and CO2 gas is formed. At this stage a lot of the carbon dioxide gas will escape, however some breweries may choose to seal the beer in containers just before the fermentation process has finished. This causes the excess carbon dioxide gas to naturally dissolve into the beer, leaving you with a naturally carbonated drink. When the beer is opened, the pressure is released which allows the CO2 to escape which also explains the bubbles you see rising to the top of the bottle or glass. 

Forced Carbonation

Forced carbonation is when the brewer allows the fermentation process to fully complete and will let most, if not all, of the carbon dioxide gas escape at this stage. In order to force carbonation, the beer is transferred into a sealed container which is then pumped with carbon dioxide to force the gas to dissolve into the liquid. Within a few days you will be left with fully carbonated beer. 


The dangers of CO2 in breweries

CO2, at increased levels, can be extremely harmful to humans, especially in confined spaces. An increase as small as 0.5%, over an 8 hour period, can start to have negative health implications on humans, and as levels rise, those exposed may experience symptoms even quicker such as drowsiness, headaches, nausea, loss of consciousness and in worse cases asphyxiation.

Brewers may be exposed to CO2 during both the fermentation and the carbonation stages. Throughout the fermentation process, the CO2 escapes naturally. As brewing tanks are usually stored with little or no space around them, it is important that CO2 levels in the area are monitored to ensure the safety of your staff. For forced carbonation, a supply of cylinder stored carbon dioxide gas must be used which could cause a dangerous leak in the area, threatening the lives of those who work there. If high levels of CO2 in the air is left undetected, the results could be fatal, which is why CO2 detection so important in breweries.

So to answer your initial question, YES you should install a CO2 monitoring system in your brewery in order to  keep yourself and your staff safe from dangerous levels of CO2 and comply with local health and safety legislation.

You can view our fixed CO2 monitor here, or for further guidance please get in touch.

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