Uses of nitrogen in food and beverage

Nitrogen as an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas is an additive for food and listed in the functional classes of packaging gases and propellants. It neither dissolves in water and nor is it flammable. With a share of about 78.1 %, nitrogen is the most essential element in air.

Nitrogen for food processing

As a packaging gas, nitrogen is often used in combination with carbon dioxide to displace oxygen from the food packaging. In the field of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), the protective atmosphere is added as a packaging gas with the product to be packaged in the usually gas-tight packaging. Degradation processes are inhibited and the product retains its colours, structures and flavours. Protective gas also makes it more difficult for oxygen-dependent bacteria to grow. In contrast to many other types of preservation such as heating, fermentation or the addition of preservatives, the product itself remains unchanged in this way without affecting the quality or taste.

Nitrogen also plays a role in cooling in the food industry. As it evaporates, it cools the product considerably. For this reason, nitrogen is used as a contact freezing agent. Flavours and nutrients are largely preserved by this gentle type of drying.

Nitrogen for wine and beverages

Nitrogen is also used by winemakers both in the production process and for the preservation of wine. Nitrogen prevents unwanted oxidation, the latter of which can lead to colour changes, loss of aromas and flavours and problems with preservation. Thus, nitrogen is used in pressing, racking, aeration, evacuation of the tank, clarification, transfer or bottling.

The gas is also being used more and more frequently in beer brewing to prevent the beer from spoiling and to keep it fresh for a long time.

Several process steps in the brewing process take place under exclusion of oxygen and with the use of protective gases. After the beer has been stored, any contact with oxygen must also be avoided here and the beer is further processed under a protective gas such as fermentation carbon dioxide. Often, however, and especially in smaller breweries, not enough carbon dioxide is recovered during fermentation for further use as a protective gas and expensive CO2 often has to be bought in. Nitrogen is an alternative here.

Nitrogen is present in the ambient air in both application industries of wine production and beer brewing. Instead of purchasing liquid nitrogen, in-house production in the required quantity is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly. When nitrogen is used as a CO2 substitute, CO2 supply bottlenecks can be circumvented and production losses avoided.

SEPURAN® N2 membranes for efficient on-site nitrogen generation

Evonik's SEPURAN® N2 membrane has been especially developed for nitrogen generation combining low air consumption at all temperature levels with high nitrogen capacity. Efficient air separation and nitrogen generation with SEPURAN® N2 is especially suitable when spaces are being blanketed to achieve an inert atmosphere. They combine low air consumption with high nitrogen capacity. The benefits for you: you need a small compressor, only a few modules, and operational costs are low. 

NITROGEN CALCULATOR BY SEPURAN®

Use Evonik's SEPURAN® N2 calculator to learn how much nitrogen you can make. Estimate the number and type of membranes you need by inputting the nitrogen flow, temperature, nitrogen purity and pressure. If you need more information, please call or email your local contact. 

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