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Old 08-15-2012, 01:46 PM   #1
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Default Gas question - oh my!

So not a home brew rookie here - I am not worried that the gas created in fermentation is going to kill me and my family horribly.

We are all aware that regular fermentation releases CO2. It's great and I'm very happy for that.

SHOULD a beer become infected in its fermentation process - will it produce any other gas that could be detectable?

Here is why I'm asking - I work with electronics, programmable micro-controllers, gas sensors, etc... (I am currently working on a fart detecting robot... well - it wasn't originally going to be a fart detecting robot - but I was ordering parts for a small robot I am working on building and needed to place a large enough order to get free shipping and discovered the methane sensor would tip me over just enough to get that free shipping... and the very mature side of me thought that if the robot could detect methane it would be an added level of humor watching people let er rip on my robot in an effort to trigger the sensor.)

OK - back story complete, you are almost all up to speed.

I was brewing beer on Sunday night - everything is going great - wonderful bubbles flowing through the airlock by the next night when I got home from work. So I thought - hey - I know CO2 is being released - but wouldn't it be neat if I could make a small device that could I put on the top of my air lock that would sit and read the gasses passing through and if something was amiss I could be alerted to it!? Essentially saving me the time of waiting for the ferment to finish, transferring to the keg, carbonating the beer, only to take that first sip and endure the great disappointment of contaminated beer. (Albeit a very small likelihood - as I am very careful with my brewing.)

So - back to my question - if a beer becomes infected - will it release other gasses than CO2?

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Old 08-15-2012, 01:57 PM   #2
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Interesting question. Try contacting White Labs or Wyeast. I suspect that yeast will produce gases other than CO2 even when everything is fermenting properly. We just don't care about the others or it's insignificant quantity. Look at us, producing CO2 with normal respiration, and some bonus methane production as well.

Now if the robot would indicate who released the silent ones, that would be a fun feature.

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Old 08-15-2012, 02:11 PM   #3
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Now if the robot would indicate who released the silent ones, that would be a fun feature.
Actually a methane sensor in everyone's seat with a "He Dealt It" light and an arrow above the chair could be a simple solution to this dilemma as well!

Thanks for the suggestion to contact the actual yeast companies... I hadn't thought of that!
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Old 08-15-2012, 05:27 PM   #4
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Plainly you have never brewed lager or wheat beer. In the former case there is often a strong sulfur (can be sulfitic or sulfidic or both) smell in the room where the fermentor is located and in the latter the aroma of bannana (amyl acetate). Carbon dioxide can be quite dangerous and has killed a fair number of brewers. Hydrogen sulfide is extremely poisonous but smells so strong that you aren't likely to enter an area with enough in the air to kill you. Other gasses from other organisms: don't really know but as I have never seen this discussed as a brewery safety issue I'll say very probably not a problem.

In my extensive experience with this I have found that the real problem lies not with the gasses produced by the yeast but rather by one's endogenous flora during the final phases of the beer's life cycle. This is particularly exacerbated, I have noted, by simultaneous consumption of hard boiled eggs.

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Old 08-15-2012, 05:35 PM   #5
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This is particularly exacerbated, I have noted, by simultaneous consumption of hard boiled eggs.
I'll have to try that. With this:

A toy gas-fired missile and launcher assembly ... the operator places the inlet tube with its valve open adjacent his anal region from which a colonic gas is discharged... The ignitor is then activated to explode the mixture in the chamber and fire the missile into space.

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Old 08-15-2012, 05:40 PM   #6
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Plainly you have never brewed lager or wheat beer. In the former case there is often a strong sulfur (can be sulfitic or sulfidic or both) smell in the room where the fermentor is located and in the latter the aroma of bannana (amyl acetate). Carbon dioxide can be quite dangerous and has killed a fair number of brewers. Hydrogen sulfide is extremely poisonous but smells so strong that you aren't likely to enter an area with enough in the air to kill you. Other gasses from other organisms: don't really know but as I have never seen this discussed as a brewery safety issue I'll say very probably not a problem.

In my extensive experience with this I have found that the real problem lies not with the gasses produced by the yeast but rather by one's endogenous flora during the final phases of the beer's life cycle. This is particularly exacerbated, I have noted, by simultaneous consumption of hard boiled eggs.
No - I stick away from wheat and belgian beers... I like pretty much ANY OTHER beer there is... just cannot stand Belgian beers... I really do not like any in my beer.

While yes - CO2 can in fact kill a person if it completely substitutes the oxygen within the room - I posted that at the start as I just didn't want you to think or jump to the conclusion that I was saying that I'm worried about brewing beer cause of the CO2 in my house!!! AHHH!!!

And again - I don't care about the safety of brewing... it's just fine - I care more or less about identifying if there are gasses that are not supposed to be there - that could be indicative of an issue with the beer that is fermenting.
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Old 08-15-2012, 05:42 PM   #7
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I'll have to try that. With this:

A toy gas-fired missile and launcher assembly ... the operator places the inlet tube with its valve open adjacent his anal region from which a colonic gas is discharged... The ignitor is then activated to explode the mixture in the chamber and fire the missile into space.

Google Patent Download (PDF)
You sir are the champion of this thread... holy cow that patent is unbelievable!
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Old 08-15-2012, 08:31 PM   #8
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And again - I don't care about the safety of brewing... it's just fine - I care more or less about identifying if there are gasses that are not supposed to be there - that could be indicative of an issue with the beer that is fermenting.
Well clearly if you drew fermentor headspace gas into a GC/MS you could gather all sorts of interesting info probably to the point of being able to tell not only that there were spoilage organisms present (if there were any) but which strain. Practically speaking sensors of less capability have been developed for doing this sort of thing. There was some buzz a few years back about an 'electronic nose' that had been developed specifically for the brewing application. I don't think you can buy the parts from DigiKey, however.
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Old 08-29-2012, 12:54 PM   #9
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It sounds like you need a personnel area monitor. Co2 I believe would be a simple asphyxiant. Once you start dropping below around 18% o2 in air you can get into trouble. It doesn't seem like other gases released would be enough volume to really be of concern, unless your brew starts dumping out agent orange or something. Maybe a fruit must that was heavily treated?

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Old 08-29-2012, 01:32 PM   #10
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CO2 has is a powerful cerebral vasodilator and can lead to respiratory collapse though it is is likely that you will be asphyxiated before those other effects can kill you. It's interesting that the MSDS says that less than 19% oxygen can lead to asphyxia but that's nonsense. 20% O2 means a partial pressure of about 200 mB at seal level. I used to fly around in unpressurized aircraft a lot and while it's true that a pilot's ability to see at night begins to be impaired at about 8,000 ft corresponding to approximately 150 mB partial pressure of O2 corresponding to 15% at SL this level is easily tolerated for hours. People also spend hours at places like Haleakala at 10,000 feet where the partial pressure of O2 is nominally 140 mB equivalent to 14% at sea level though you will certainly be aware that things are not normal and, if you spend enough time up there, you may suffer from altitude sickness.

If you have ever inadvertently stuck your head into a fermentor which has not been drained of CO2 you will know that the effects go much beyond deprivation of air. A lungfull of CO2 is a very unpleasant experience.

Hydrogen sulfide is as poisonous as hydrogen cyanide. Fortunately the powerful smell drives is enough to warn at levels well below dangerous ones and as noted the amount of H2S produced by fermenting beer or a beer drinker doesn't approach those levels anyway.

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