Tag Archives: Carbonation

Why Draft Beer Temperature Matters

micromatic_logo_stacked_300xToday’s post is a Guest Post from Micromatic a company that specializes in beer dispensing equipment.

When you think about draft beer, you’re most likely thinking about the enjoyment of drinking it. What you’re less likely to be aware of is how the temperature of beer systems is absolutely critical for maintaining the perfection of your pint. Here’s an overview of how temperature affects the quality of your beer before it ever reaches your glass.

One of the best parts of beer is the carbonation—those perfect bubbles that fizz on your tongue and give beer part of its distinctive taste. Those bubbles—the natural result of fermentation—are comprised of carbon dioxide gas, which like all gases expands and contracts in relation to temperature. Because the bubbles in beer expand in warm temperatures and contract in cold temperatures, beer whose temperature hasn’t been controlled properly will have bubbles that behave oddly.

If the beer in the keg becomes too warm, the beer will foam, releasing the carbon dioxide in the bubbles which will then affect the taste and the appearance of the beer once it’s served. Because foam is about 25% beer, allowing beer to foam in the keg basically means that ¼ of the beer in the keg is going to waste—a tragedy for both your tastebuds and your pocketbook. If the beer in the keg is too cold, on the other hand, then the carbonation will remain inside the beer, not expanding until it reaches your stomach, giving you a stomachache.

To make sure that the beer is the right temperature so that the bubbles behave properly, you need to make sure that your keg goes through as few changes in temperature as possible.  You might not be able to control the keg’s temperature while it’s being transported between the brewery and your front door, but you can control the refrigeration once it reaches you.

The ideal temperature for draft beer is 38°F, so you should make sure that your cooling unit is properly maintained and capable of remaining at a constant temperature. Since it takes more than twice as long for a keg to cool down from 48°F to 38°F as it does for that same keg to warm up the ten degrees from 38°F to 48°F, it’s in your best interest to make sure as much as possible that the keg never has any reason for its temperature to increase.

In addition to temperature changes inside the keg, you should pay attention to temperature changes in the rest of the system.  The lines that carry the beer from its point of origin in the keg to the tap that dispenses the beer into your glass are prime places for beer to warm up and go bad.

To prevent this from happening, insulate your beer lines. Wrap the lines with aluminum foil followed by a layer of foam, and your beer should stay nice and cold. To make sure, have a thermometer inside of the beer cooler (or taped to the keg) and another one at the tap. If they both read 38°F, you’re doing things right.

If you pay attention to the temperature of your draft beer system, you’ll never again have to worry about your beer going flat or otherwise being inappropriately carbonated. Now that you know to keep your system at a cool and constant 38°F, all your pints should be perfect!

Diana Carlton is a writer for Micro Matic, the world’s leader in beverage dispensing equipment solutions.  For restaurants, bars, and pubs across the nation, Micro Matic has supplied the highest quality equipment and expertise for their beverage dispensing systems.  With decades of experience in draft beer systems, Micro Matic is also an innovator in the wine on tap industry.

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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Beer, Beer Education


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Firkin tapping at Dahlia’s tonight


So, what’s so special about a firkin? These smaller casks have become a proving ground – a playground of sorts – for the American craft brewer. Firkins have become synonymous with specialty; cask-conditioned ales sometimes called “real ale.” Often, but not always, a firkin is created of an established beer brewed by a craft brewery with additional flavors added to it. These flavors can range from fruits, nuts, or berries to herbs, spices, and liquors. A firkin, then, is a place for a brewer to experiment with new flavor combinations.

But, that’s not all there is to firkins. Cask-conditioned ale is beer that is naturally carbonated, since the beer is put in the sealed cask before fermentation is complete (this is sometimes referred to a secondary fermentation). The gas produced by the fermentation is then absorbed in the beer; the continued fermentation produces a gentle, natural carbonation. The resulting beer is flatter than the beer most of us are used to, but what it lacks in carbonation, it gains in flavor characteristics.

Firkin beer, unlike regular kegged beer, is not pasteurized and therefore is much less stable product. Again, this is not a bad thing. It means that the beer is always fresh and that the pasteurization process has not killed the yeast. The fact that firkin beers still have active yeast in them means that the beer continues to evolve, causing interesting and complex flavors to develop.

What should you expect when you taste your first firkin beer? First, you should notice that the beer, depending on its style, has a deeper than normal color to it. This comes from the cask and the aging process it may have been through, particularly if the firkin is a wooden cask. Next you should smell deep, rich hops and malt notes. The lower level of CO2 brings out natural aromas that higher carbonation masks. Firkin beers are also best served a cellar temperature, which is between 54 and 56 degrees. To many American palates this will seem warm, but to truly appreciate the flavors of a firkin, the beer is best served cool, never cold. The beer will present itself a rather flat on your tongue, but you should notice subtleties of flavor you may never have noticed before. Again, the lower carbonation allows you to experience more of the beer and less of the carbonation. Depending on how the firkin was brewed you may find the beer fruity, or piney. But, what you should really notice is the smooth and mellow flavors of the hops and malt. A well made firkin should be cool and refreshing as well as packed with pleasant flavors.

As a style, firkins are unlikely to catch on in a big way. But, as a delightful diversion they are highly sought-after by beer aficionados who are savvy to the pleasures they can provide.

Tonight you will the opportunity to try a firkin created by Blue Point Brewing and meet representatives from the brewery at Dahlia’s Pour House beginning at 4:00 p.m. and running until the firking thing runs out.

The gang from Blue Point will also being hanging around to answer questions and give away cool Blue Point schwag. Be sure to swing by and see what the firk is going on at one of the best beer bars in the city.

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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Beer, Beer Styles


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Coming to a Head

An interesting article about the science of bubbles in stout beers.

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Posted by on March 15, 2011 in Beer, Beer Styles, Imports


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