Carbon dioxide

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Carbon dioxide (chemical formula CO2) is a naturally occurring chemical compound. It is a gas at standard temperature and pressure and exists in Earth's atmosphere in this state, as a trace gas at a concentration of 0.04 per cent (400 ppm) by volume, as of 2014.

CO2 use in food and drink


Carbon dioxide is a food additive used as a propellant and acidity regulator in the food industry. It is approved for usage in the EU (listed as E number E290), USA and Australia and New Zealand (listed by its INS number 290).

A candy called Pop Rocks is pressurised with carbon dioxide gas at about 4 x 106 Pa (40 bar, 580 psi). When placed in the mouth, it dissolves (just like other hard candy) and releases the gas bubbles with an audible pop.

Leavening agents cause dough to rise by producing carbon dioxide. Baker's yeast produces carbon dioxide by fermentation of sugars within the dough, while chemical leaveners such as baking powder and baking soda release carbon dioxide when heated or if exposed to acids.


Carbon dioxide is used to produce carbonated soft drinks and soda water. Traditionally, the carbonation in beer and sparkling wine came about through natural fermentation, but many manufacturers carbonate these drinks with carbon dioxide recovered from the fermentation process. In the case of bottled and kegged beer, the most common method used is carbonation with recycled carbon dioxide. With the exception of British Real Ale, draught beer is usually transferred from kegs in a cold room or cellar to dispensing taps on the bar using pressurised carbon dioxide, sometimes mixed with nitrogen.

Wine making

Carbon dioxide in the form of dry ice is often used in the wine making process to cool down bunches of grapes quickly after picking to help prevent spontaneous fermentation by wild yeast. The main advantage of using dry ice over regular water ice is that it cools the grapes without adding any additional water that may decrease the sugar concentration in the grape must, and therefore also decrease the alcohol concentration in the finished wine.

Dry ice is also used during the cold soak phase of the wine making process to keep grapes cool. The carbon dioxide gas that results from the sublimation of the dry ice tends to settle to the bottom of tanks because it is denser than air. The settled carbon dioxide gas creates a hypoxic environment which helps to prevent bacteria from growing on the grapes until it is time to start the fermentation with the desired strain of yeast.

Carbon dioxide is also used to create a hypoxic environment for carbonic maceration, the process used to produce Beaujolais wine.

Carbon dioxide is sometimes used to top up wine bottles or other storage vessels such as barrels to prevent oxidation, though it has the problem that it can dissolve into the wine, making a previously still wine slightly fizzy. For this reason, other gases such as nitrogen or argon are preferred for this process by professional winemakers.

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