How breweries succeed with nitrogen and on-site generators

July 8, 2022

Nitrogen: the winning ingredient of breweries

Glasses with different sorts of craft beer on wooden bar. Tap beer in pint glasses arranged in a row. Closeup of five glasses of different types of draught beer in a pub.
Beer is better with nitrogen. From preserving the valuable raw ingredients to purging tanks and bottling the final product, nitrogen is hard at work in breweries. But why does beer need protection in the first place? As brewers say, “oxygen is beer’s worst enemy.” It creates the ideal environment for bacteria and enzymes to wreak havoc on the quality of beer. Before the days of nitrogen generators, we let nature take its course. Carbon dioxide (CO2) - a natural by-product of the fermentation process - also serves as a protective, blanketing gas that prevents oxidation. However, beer fermentation doesn’t release nearly as much CO2 as is necessary and brewers have to purchase additional CO2 for this purpose. Enter nitrogen for breweries. This inert gas makes up 79% of the atmosphere and – thanks to on-site generators - offers a cost-effective and reliable alternative to purchased CO2.

Superior results at every stage

Both N2 and CO2 are inert gases that can be used to flush, purge, infuse and package beer. However, for many processes (except for carbonation requirements), nitrogen for breweries is the preferred solution. Some breweries prefer N2 over CO2 to nitrogenate their beer, as it creates a smoother texture with fine bubbles. In addition, as CO2 is highly soluble in beer, it could introduce excess carbonation.

From a business point of view, nitrogen can offer huge cost savings. It is much less expensive than CO2 and it is not subject to CO2’s volatile pricing. CO2 also tends to experience supply chain issues, leaving breweries without the inert gas they need. An on-site nitrogen generator eliminates this production roadblock. 

Nitrogen for breweries

Nitrogen can be used throughout the entire beer production process:

  • Purging of tanks between batches
  • Transfer of beer between tanks
  • Pushing beer through filtration
  • Pushing beer to drain counter pressure on bottling machine filler
  • Storage tank pressurisation with nitrogen
  • Blanketing tanks of beer
  • Kegging and bottling

It must be noted that nitrogen for breweries must comply with European and global standards for food grade nitrogen to prevent oxygen contamination. Pneumatech’s nitrogen generators allow you to set the the high nitrogen purity beer production requires.

Advantages of on-site nitrogen generation

An on-site nitrogen generator removes most of the oxygen from air supplied by a compressor (which breweries already have) using Pressure Swing Adsorption or membrane technology. It offers a cost-effective and reliable alternative to purchased N2 or CO2. 

  • Produces right nitrogen: Nitrogen generators produce the nitrogen flow, purity and quality beer production requires.
  • Lowers cost: Capital investment in on-site nitrogen generators are recovered quickly. That's because nitrogen is cheaper to produce compared to purchased gas.
  • Improves safety: High-pressure cylinders present an occupational risk and are subject to rigorous protocols. Nitrogen generators are far safer.
  • Saves time: Coordinating supply and deliveries of CO2 or N2 takes time. A nitrogen generation eliminates these logistics.
  • Limits wastage: With third-party nitrogen tanks, unused nitrogen is usually ‘blown off’ to prevent the risk of explosions. This results in gas wastage. With on-site gas generation, nitrogen is produced only as required.
  • Benefits sustainability: Eliminate the transportation emissions associated with gas deliveries.

A tailored solution

The requirements of a large production facility are much different than those of a small craft brewery. Pneumatech’s product range is extensive and flexible, allowing us to present every brewery with a solution that meets its specific needs. We can also provide food grade compressed air and process filters. Contact your local Pneumatech representative today for more information!

PSA Nitrogen Generators Application Food and beverage Membrane Nitrogen Generators