Can you smell a CO2 leak?

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whovous

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I've noticed a burning sensation if I stick my head into my fermentation chamber while I am brewing. My understanding is that CO2 causes it.

But what if I am using the same chamber to carb up some beer instead of fermenting it? If I have a CO2 leak should I get the same sensation? My CO2 tank showed up empty sooner than I expected, but I could not smell a thing when I stuck my head in the chamber.
 

TexasSpartan

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I've noticed a burning sensation if I stick my head into my fermentation chamber while I am brewing. My understanding is that CO2 causes it.

But what if I am using the same chamber to carb up some beer instead of fermenting it? If I have a CO2 leak should I get the same sensation? My CO2 tank showed up empty sooner than I expected, but I could not smell a thing when I stuck my head in the chamber.
CO2 is odorless. It would be a heck of a lot easier to notice a small leak if a scent was added like with natural gas.
 

alexnova

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Yep, that burn in your nostrils is CO2. Burns your eyes too. It'll get your attention.

I suppose you could "smell" a leak, but the leaks tend to be small. You've got to have your nose (or ear) right on top of it. Much easier to use soapy water or star san and look for bubbles. Less painful too. ;)
 

kh54s10

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If your chamber is a chest freezer, it will fill with co2. Stick your head in and take a big whiff, but don't pass out with your head in there.....

Light a match and hold it near the bottom, if it goes out easily then you have co2.
 
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whovous

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The guy that fills my CO2 tank insists that CO2 is completely odorless and that you can blast yourself in the face with it without smell or "burn". I am trying to make sense of this.

I read somewhere that the "burn" in the fermentation chamber is actually from carbonic acid. It forms from CO2 and water. The CO2 comes from fermentation and a closed chamber naturally gets moist during the process.

But if all I have in the chamber is a carbonating keg and a CO2 cannister, then I don't think there is a natural source of moisture from which to form carbonic acid. If this thinking is correct, then I could have a high level of CO2 in the chamber and not smell a thing.

So, I could have had a CO2 leak and the lack of a "burn" does not tell me much. If it happens again, and I hope it won't, I'll need to try the match test to see if I have a leak.

Does this make sense?

In the meantime, I need to study up some more on detecting leaks, and generally improve my process. I now have the ability to change the settings on my Gov Reg valves, and I persist in believing that using them will magically reduce my risk of leak by simply reducing the number of connections where leaks are possible.
 

VVbrewery

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I used to get my tanks filled at a place that did a lot of CO2 commercial tanks. The last time I was there a big, about 3 feet in diameter, tank on the loading dock blew its over pressure valve which stuck. They had no choice but to let it vent and we never smelled anything. I have smelled and felt what you're describing in a chest freezer when using it for fermentation so the carbonic acid acid theory sounds possible.
 

50calshooter

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Mix up some soapy water in a spray bottle and spray all the fittings and connections. It will suds up if you have a leak. If you are using hose clamps instead of Oetiker clamps you are asking for a slow leak.
 

Talgrath

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Generally speaking, no, CO2 does not have burning smell or sensation unless an additive is added to make it so. It is certainly not good for you and can knock you unconscious, but that wouldn't cause a burning sensation. Keep in mind that fermentation produces more than just CO2, the smells you get from your beer fermenting include things like acidic gasses including (as some folks mentioned) carbon-based acidic gasses and hydrogen sulfide which might irritate the eyes and throat. Those gasses, in large enough amounts, can be fatal and in small amounts will irritate your eyes and throat, in short you stuck your head in a mixture of gasses toxic to human life and wondered why it hurts; I suggest not doing that in the future. If you do have a CO2 leak in your carbonation setup, as others have mentioned, your best bet to find it is probably by using soapy water and looking for bubbles while the system is in operation.
 

Lefou

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hydrogen sulfide gas maybe?
Sulfides will smell like rotten eggs. Believe me, even a light concentration of that will make stink.
From time to time, I use a mixture of hot water, baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar poured into an aluminum foil lined container to clean silver or sterling items. It removes sulfides rather well and you do notice the smell as the gas is produced.
 

brewswithshoes

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I had that same burning experience once when I took a big whiff inside my keezer. I’m not sure if it was just CO2 or if it mixed with something else, but I sprayed everything down with Star San and did find a leak. Fixed it, then stuck a fan in there to clear the air. Haven’t had that burn since when I do smell checks.
 
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