RTFM: Using Your Brand New Manifold/Carbonator

Now that you’ve purchased your new champagne bottle manifold/carbonator you probably should learn to use it.

Let’s start with our safety disclaimer:

SAFETY DISCLAIMER: USE THIS HIGH PRESSURE PNEUMATICS PRODUCT AT YOUR OWN RISK. WE ARE NOT LIABLE FOR ANY INJURY INCURRED BY THE USE OF OUR PRODUCT. ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES WHEN USING THE MANIFOLD. USE ONLY BOTTLES RATED FOR THE PRESSURE YOUR REGULATOR IS SET AT. DO NOT SET YOUR REGULATOR HIGHER THAN 60 PSI OR RISK WILL ESCALATE. BEWARE OF OUR SEDUCTIVE DESIGN AND MARKETING, THIS PRODUCT IS DANGEROUS AND SHOULD ONLY BE USED BY THOSE THAT FULLY UNDERSTAND THE RISKS. DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE BEFORE YOU OPERATE THIS PRODUCT.

Please re-read the above disclaimer if you missed it.

The manifold can:
a. de-aerate
b. provide counter pressure
c. carbonate

a. De-aeration is the first technique that needs to be learned to use the champagne bottle manifold to its full potential. As a result of Dalton’s law, one dissolved gas can essentially displace another. CO² can displace oxygen in a process commonly known within industry as reflux de-aeration and NO² can displace both CO² and Oxygen in a process commonly known as nitro-sparging.

To de-aerate a liquid such as lemon juice, fill a champagne bottle with fresh juice and attach the manifold. Set the pressure on your regulator to 60 PSI. Shake for three seconds, rest for five seconds, then unscrew the top to vent the pressurized gas. Under pressure and with opportunity created by agitation, CO² should force oxygen out of solution where it fills the head space and can be vented by unscrewing the manifold. Repeat the process twice.

Successful de-aeration should leave lemon juice smelling fresh instead of piny which results from oxidation, even after many days. A visual proof of de-aeration can be performed with apple juice which turns brown within minutes due to oxidative processes. Apples can be juiced in a centrifugal juicer (which whips in lots of oxygen). If the juice is quickly de-aerated with the manifold, the juice will not brown. After de-aeration, we have aged our alcohol preserved sparkling cocktails (which incorporate fresh citrus juices) for eight months without noticing the effects of oxidation. Bottles can also be opened, partially used, then successfully de-aerated again and put back into storage.

b. Counter pressure is useful for preserving already sparkling beverages such as Champagne. At refrigerator temperature, it will take approximately 35 PSI to provide enough counter pressure for a bottle of Champagne to not loose dissolved gas. To provide counter pressure, set your regulator to 40 PSI, attach the manifold, then pressurize the bottle. Release the pressure to vent the oxygen that was present in the head space then re-pressurize. The Champagne will be provided with counter pressure to prevent de-gassing as well as be de-aerated. We have opened magnums of expensive Champagnes and then de-aerated and provided counter pressure after pouring each glass over a span of multiple days. The beauty of the manifold is that it can be put to use 24 hours a day. During the day it can be used to carbonate while over night it can be used to provide counter pressure and de-aeration for expensive sparkling wines.

c. Carbonation is the most popular use of the manifold. With a regulator set to 60 PSI and the manifold engaged, agitating a chilled liquid will allow it to absorb significant amounts of dissolved gas. The equilibrium pressure reached will be well less than 60 PSI, but the delta will help you get there quickly.

Many people think of carbonation in terms of pressure and temperature but carbonation can also be thought of in simpler terms of grams per liter (g/L) of dissolved gas. When we consider the weight of the dissolved CO², we can measure carbonation with equipment as simple as a commercial kitchen scale.

Cold bottles are simply filled with cold liquid, the manifold is attached and initially connected to the gas supply to fill the head space then disconnected (the head space can often hold a few grams of compressed gas), the bottle is dried then placed on the kitchen scale and zeroed. After zeroing, any weight that is added will reflect what is dissolved in the liquid. The gas supply can then be re-attached and CO² will be absorbed by the liquid as the bottle is agitated. The bottle can be periodically detached then re-weighed to see how much CO² has been dissolved in the liquid. Agitating the bottle facilitates the dissolving of the gas; basically you shake the bottle while it is under pressure and connected to the gas supply.

When the gas in the head space (which has a significant weight that can also be isolated by zeroing) is finally released by unscrewing the manifold, oxygen which was dissolved in the liquid is also purged allowing the product to be bottled essentially oxygen free.

To store the product, head space has to be accounted for. Bottles either have to be over carbonated to account for the gas needed to fill the head space if a bottle cap is to be affixed or the bottles will need to be topped up with de-aerated liquid.

Bottles must have enough head space to carbonate at an efficient rate. Head space correlates to surface area by which liquid can have opportunity to dissolve gas. A 750 mL bottle needs at least two ounces less than 750 mL to carbonate effectively and a magnum about four ounces. Bottles can either be topped up with de-aerated un-carbonated liquid or carbonated liquid depending on how the missing gas is accounted for.

Once the liquid has taken on significant dissolved gas, the manifold cannot be released immediately. Bottles need time to “bond” proportional to how carbonated they are otherwise liquids will foam detrimentally. This is a similar concept to the resting/decompression time scuba divers need before they can safely ascend from deep water. The deeper they are, and thus under more pressure, the more time they need to safely ascend. A resting time of 60 seconds is recommended for dissolved gas levels of 7 g/L and 120 seconds for dissolved gas levels exceeding 8 g/L.

A commonly asked what-if scenario:

What if I want to carbonate a small single serving volume to explore new recipes?

No problem. We carbonate 4.5 oz cocktails in 375 mL champagne bottles all the time. We simply create our cocktail and double strain then fill the chilled bottle. Gas is then applied at 60 PSI for 3 or 4 seconds. The bottle then gains approximately 3.5 grams of gas. The bottle is then agitated for 10 seconds to bring the bottle closer to equilibrium. Oxygen that was dissolved in the cocktail is forced out of solution by the pressurized CO² and will eventually be vented when the pressure is released. The bottle then needs to “bond” for 60 seconds which will prevent gas coming out of solution and foaming when the pressure is released. The pressure can be released slowly by gently unscrewing the manifold. The bottle will start to lose significant weight from the escaping gas. The gas that remains dissolved in the 4.5 oz. of liquid will likely be between 0.9 and 1.2 grams. For a 4.5 oz. cocktail, 0.9 grams translates to a very carbonated 7 g/L while 1.2 grams is a whopping 9.33 g/L!

If you want less dissolved gas, turn the regulator down from 60 PSI and experiment to generate the results you need. Some beverages we know foam significantly upon pouring. To explore the loss of gas due to foaming add your glass to the scale with the bottle. Zero then pour. When everything is re-weighed it will be discovered what was lost in the transfer from the bottle to the glass.

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