Using a Carbonation Chart to Serve Draft Beer the Right Way

When you are serving draft beer you will want to apply the right amount of CO2 pressure to the keg so that the beer remains properly carbonated. To determine that we will use a carbonation chart.

Different styles of beer have different carbonation levels and will require you to adjust the CO2 pressure using the adjustment on your gas regulator. Carbonation levels are measured as volumes of CO2. This measurement is a relative description of how much gas is dissolved in the beer.

Volumes of CO2 will be expressed as a number such as 2.66 volumes. This volume measurement can comprise any liquid volume. It is a relative way to say that for every one measure of liquid there are 2.66 of that measure of CO2 dissolved in that liquid.

Beer brewers will specify how much CO2 they want in their beer. It is up to you as the server of the beer to try to maintain that level and it all starts with the pressure you apply to the keg via your regulator.

To start you off we will use a carbonation chart to guide us. The chart shows the variables of temperature and pressure and what amount of CO2 will be dissolved at any given combination of temperature and pressure.

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Using a Carbonation Chart

To determine the minimum gauge pressure for serving your beer: #1 know the temperature at which your beer will be; #2 find the volumes of CO2 appropriate for your style of beer along the temperature row; #3 find the required gauge pressure above.

Click here to use a Carbonation Chart as a PDF in your browser, or right-click to download it.

The beer’s carbonation level (amount of gas dissolved in the beer) is measured in volumes. A carbonation level of "2 volumes" means that every cubic inch (or other relative volume) of beer has 2 cubic inches of CO2 dissolved into it.

Tradition and personal taste determine how much the beer is to be carbonated.

Un-pressurized, finished beer has between 1.2 and 1.7 volumes of CO2 (left over from the fermentation process) while most beer is packaged with 2.3-2.8 volumes of CO2. However, each beer style has a traditional carbonation level - a German Weiss, for example is usually conditioned to 3.2-4.2 volumes. Some beers like stouts and English “real” ales are barely carbonated at all.

Examples of CO2 volumes in various beer styles:

1.5 -2.0 Volumes - Irish Stout, Brown Ale, Barley Wine, Bitter

2.1-2.6 Volumes - White Ale, Bock, Porter, IPA, Lager, Marzen, Kolsch and Cream Ale

2.7-3.0 Volumes 3.1 and Higher Volumes - Weizen, Lambic

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