Do Not Overlook This Vital Item of Beer-Brewing Equipment

The art of the brewer provides one of the oldest beverages produced by man and can trace its origins as far back as seven thousand years, and perhaps even earlier. There is ample evidence to support that, during the 5th millennium BC, the labours of workers in the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk were rewarded not with coin, but with beer, confirming that brewing was already established, even if the equipment used may have lacked the sophistication of that in use today.

That the brewer’s art has long been revered is confirmed in a poem written in Mesopotamia, some 3 900 years ago, to honour the patron goddess of the art, Ninkasi. The work also contained the oldest surviving recipe for the preparation of the golden brew from barley. The tradition has continued to expand across the intervening millennia and has given rise to a billion-dollar, worldwide industry with a range of products that would have been unimaginable to those who engaged in the earliest attempts at beer brewing with only the limited equipment of the time at their disposal.

Once dominated by a just a handful of multinationals, the industry has undergone some major changes in recent decades. One of the most exciting must surely have been the rapid rise of the micro-brewery. Today, one can select from thousands of products with sufficient diversity to suit every palate. One can choose a brew with anything from around 3% to 10% or more of alcohol by volume, and in shades ranging from that of pale straw to pitch black. While these preparations may display a wide range of individual characteristics, all beer brewing employs equipment with which to conduct the fermentation of a suitable source of starch.

Although the process is complex and involves a number of stages, ultimately, the starch is broken down by the action of enzymes in yeast to form alcohol and carbon dioxide. Where once the gas was simply allowed to disperse resulting in what is termed a flat beverage, most consumers today prefer it to be carbonated, so steps must be taken to retain or to reintroduce the gas. In addition to bottling products, it is frequently supplied in metal kegs, which are attached to a source of compressed CO2.

Because both brewing and dispensing its products involve carbon dioxide, safety equipment is vital. The gas is toxic and is a hazard both to brewery workers and to those responsible for maintaining the cellars where kegs are stored. The gas is odourless, colourless, and heavier than air, so when inhaled in sufficient quantity, it can cause unconsciousness and death. Exposure to an atmosphere containing just 5% of the gas can cause irreversible health problems. In order to ensure the safety of all concerned, it is therefore essential to install carbon dioxide alarms.

When the sensing component detects a significant increase in atmospheric CO2, it activates an audible alarm, thus drawing attention to the need for some corrective action. Available from IEPSA to brewers and landlords in South Africa, these alarms are an important item of beer-brewing equipment.

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