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Technology, Nitrogen Generators

The Advantages of Onsite Nitrogen Generation for Brewers


The following is an excerpt from the article The Advantages of Onsite Nitrogen Generation for Brewers by Mike Robinson, product marketing manager, quality air solutions, Atlas Copco Compressors. The full version can be read online or in the October issue of Compressed Air Best Practices.

Made from various combinations of hops, grain, yeast and water, beer is a drink that has been produced for centuries. But while the ingredients are simple, the chemical processes behind the drink are anything but. Through various reactions, barley becomes fermentable sugars that are then digested by the active yeast to produce carbonation and alcohol. Although the basic principles behind brewing are little changed since their advent, the technological aspects are much improved. Today, large stainless steel tanks are used for fermentation and wort aeration, and complex, automated systems help with everything from temperature regulation to bottling. A price tag comes with these high-tech systems, and it’s not insignificant. By using onsite nitrogen generation, brewers can save significant amounts of money throughout the life of their operation.

The Brewing Process

To produce alcohol of any kind, sugars must be separated from a grain. This could be corn, wheat, barley or rye. In beer production, the yeast digests the sugars to create alcohol and carbon dioxide. The brewing process is broken down into four discrete steps: malting, mashing, boiling and fermentation.

First, the grain must be malted, or heated, dried and cracked to make certain necessary enzymes available. During mashing, the grain is steeped in hot water to break down the enzymes released by malting. The mash is then strained to remove leftover particulate. The resulting sugary liquid is called wort. In the boiling phase, bitter hops are added to mitigate the overly-sweet taste of the wort. Hops also act as a preservative. At this stage, other flavors can also be added. The wort is boiled, cooled and strained again. The wort can also be aerated, or injected with small air bubbles. This assists in the last step in the process, fermentation. Yeast is added to the wort. Fueled by oxygen, the yeast digests the sugars and release alcohol and carbon dioxide. The duration and temperature of fermentation depends on the type of beer being made. Each of these steps takes place in large tanks dedicated to different phases of the brewing process.

Nitrogen uses in brewery applications

Nitrogen or other compressed gases are used in various phases of the brewing process. Brewers use nitrogen to purge tanks between uses, ensuring residual mash, wort or beer doesn’t oxidize and pollute the next batch with harsh or sour flavors. It can be used to displace oxygen and carbon dioxide in tanks and to push beer from one tank to another. Nitrogen is also injected into kegs to pressurize them prior to shipment, storage and use.

Keep Reading…

You can read the full article on the benefits of onsite nitrogen generation for brewers in Compressed Air Best Practices’ October issue. To learn more about Atlas Copco’s line of nitrogen generators, contact our experts today or leave a comment below.


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