Data Labs: Carbonation Vol. 1

CASK DATA LABS

This is a multi-part series combining data and customer experience stories to address the questions and curiosities we hear most frequently from craft beverage makers.

We’ve worked with exciting customers all over the world for the last 20+ years to help them start canning their beverages and growing their businesses. But in no other year has anyone seen as drastic a shift to packaged product as 2020 – and it’s only gaining speed. Whether it’s adding new product types to their lineup, diversifying revenue streams, expanding new beverages categories,  people have been asking – what about high carb beverages?

Volume 1 of the Carbonation series explores the landscape of commercially available Hard Seltzer and RTD products to offer a benchmark for CO2, mouthfeel and balance to craft beverage creators that might look to develop new products or just gain more insight into the market.

CHALLENGE

Over 21% of craft breweries in the US already make products other than beer according to the Brewers Association. Most small businesses don’t have access to lab grade CO2 testing equipment – so what’s the carb landscape of these fast-growing non-beer beverage categories?

OUTCOME

Commercially available Hard Seltzers and RTDs we tested never exceeded 2.8 vol CO2 in-can, in fact most were significantly under. Mouthfeel and sweetness contrasted with carb level data of familiar products provided helpful benchmarks for beverage experience and flavor perception.

TESTING EQUIPMENT

The Anton Paar CboxQC integrated CO2 Data Logger function enables continuous measurements – it’s ideal for checking the production process of beverages and verifying CO2.

 

COMMERCIAL LANDSCAPE

Just as temps plummeted to -35°C/-31°F in Cask Canning HQ, Calgary, Canada, we were trekking to the liquor store to create something akin to a Miami spring break mix-pack to start testing and compiling in-can CO2 data.

“Commercially available canned seltzers are typically carbonated to about 2.8 volumes—they should have some zip to them,” says Joe Stange, Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine. We found 2.8 was actually the upper threshold for the commercial products we tested, and in fact most were well under 2.8.


Considerations:
1. Most industry guides recommend hard seltzer makers carbonate their beverages to anywhere between 2.8-3.0 volumes of CO2, including Briess Malt & Ingredients Co.Vine PairFirst Key Consultants, and Craft Beer & Brewing’s Industry Guide.
2. You can expect to lose between 0.1-0.3 volumes of CO2 during the packaging process, regardless of whether you’re packaging on small, medium, or commercial sized fillers.

In ascending order of carb volume, here’s what we found:

 

 

 

 

 

TAKEAWAYS

The carb levels of commercial Hard Seltzers and RTD cocktails were surprisingly low. But, when contrasted with mouthfeel, perceived sweetness and acidity, the data makes sense.

White Claws, aside from the bubbles that pop when you initially crack the can, giving off a fruity scent of lime or black cherry, are not all that bubbly. Sweeter, fizzier, and more acidic beverages like the Dos Locos Margaritas were markedly more carbonated (and advertise themselves as such).

It’s clear carbonation is an integral part of the artform of product creation – not just for Hard Seltzers and RTDs, but Beer, Cider, Mead, Kombucha, and many other craft beverages. Stay tuned for Volume 2 where we share data from some truly high carb craft beverage makers, their carbonation theory, and insights from packaging multiple beverage types.

 

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