If you’re getting into brewing draft beer at home, and have recently come across the subject of beer gas, you may be a little confused looking at the different options on the market. For the perfect draft pours, you need to have a keen understanding of how to apply the correct gas at the correct pressure. Here’s a look at some of the most common choices, and their individual nuances.
CO2 is a naturally occurring gas, that’s highly soluble in beer. Even without the artificial use of gas, CO2 is a natural reagent of beer, being produced in abundance during the fermentation process, along with alcohol. Carbon dioxide is what gives draft beer its head, and adds that subtle, bitter twinge to its taste. Furthermore, CO2 helps along the bubbles (or “effervescence”) that lift the various aromas and notes of beer into the drinker’s nose.
Like carbon dioxide, nitrogen is a naturally occurring gas but is fairly insoluble in beer. It has two common purposes when it comes to brewing draft beer: allowing high pressure dispensing through narrow, restrictive apparatus as with stouts, and allowing a pressure high enough to overcome the resistance inherent in long beer lines. In both these scenarios, you’re aiming to channel the beer with sufficient pressure, but not affect the brew’s carbonation as it’s sitting in the keg. This is best achieved by using the right mix of nitrogen and CO2, which brings us onto our next gas.
Beer gas or draft Gas
This is a pre-blended gas designed specifically for use with stouts and similar beers, usually one part CO2 to three parts nitrogen. This gas is mixed in order to produce the high pressures needed when forcing beer through a restrictor plate in a special faucet. The result is the thick, frothy pour characteristic of Guinness and other stouts. It’s important to remember that this mix is not appropriate for serving standard lagers and ales, though it’s still present in the long-line system used in many restaurants and bars. Unfortunately, beer gas is often the only pre-blended gas available for home brewing, leading to disappointment for many connoisseurs!
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