What is Glycol and why is it Required in Brewing Beer?
In the brewing industry, glycol is a necessary part of day-to-day operations. It's used in chiller systems that run throughout fermentation tanks and conditioning tanks to control temperature during fermentation reactions. In the service side of the industry, glycol is also used for maintaining temperature of draft beer dispensing. To be clear, we're not talking about toxic ethylene glycol. And we're definitely not talking about adding any kind of glycol to alcoholic beverages, which was the center of a huge scandal in 1985.
Beer brewers only use propylene glycol, and not just any kind. Even though it's known as "food-grade antifreeze," there are many inexpensive, low-quality glycol solutions, most of which are not designed for a brewery's recirculation system and run the risk of causing equipment damage.
For compliance and superior performance, breweries use USP-Grade Propylene Glycol. USP (United States Pharmacopeia) is the official, standard-setting authority for medicines, supplements, and health care products in the United States. Propylene glycol with USP-Grade certification assures quality and safety for use in the food and beverage industry. In order to achieve the desired temperature, brewers must use the proper ratio of glycol to water in the chiller system. Too much glycol will cost more and limit efficiency of the chiller, while not enough glycol could lead to freezing and damage the chiller system if left unchecked. The average brewery uses an approximate 35% glycol to 65% water solution, but this can vary depending on the ambient temperature of the facility and the type of product being fermented. To maximize the efficiency and extend the life of your chiller system, keep up with annual inspections and consult with your equipment manufacturer for optimal glycol/water ratios and preventative maintenance.