Close up of red carbonated drink

Carbonating Know-how: How to Carbonate Drinks

Why are carbonated drinks in general so alluring?

It seems that the lure of consuming drinks with bubbles isn't solely down to "the sugar" or "the alcohol", if present at all. There is deeper neuroscience and psychology at play when drinking any naturally or artificially carbonated drink. The bubbles in themselves add an amount of acidity, which when combined with the sugars in the drink, are purported to intensify the euphoric ‘reward’ feeling* in our brains. In addition, cravings can follow because the sweet taste (whether from natural/added sugars or even sweeteners) is blunted just enough by the acidity to make you want more [sugar]. Other physical sensations increase the pleasure-factor of imbibing fizzy drinks. On entering our mouth, the higher temperature in the mouth causes a further rapid release of dissolved CO2 to bring that characteristic tingling feeling. Taste is also optimised by naturally produced dilute carbonic acid** which apparently is at its highest level when the bottle or can is just opened (more on this below) – this brings about a very slight burning sensation on the tongue [the sourness or ‘bite’] and this is thought to go some way in explaining why fizzy products taste so much better when fizzy than flat. So, whether you are producing sodas, sparkling wine/cider/pressé, kombucha, mixers, RTDs, beer, or any other bubbly drink, the CO2 bubbles should work their magic.

Carbonating to reach a new market

Bubbles in soft drinks, mixers, wines, cider, beer and water beer bring unique texture and flavour characteristics to their still equivalents or to what are otherwise relatively simple beverages. As the market continues to demand premium sparkling drinks, carbonation, whether artificial or natural, allows you entry into this niche market – giving your product the chance to stand out and compete with some of the larger brands currently dominating both on and off trades.

What is force carbonation and how does it work?

Force carbonation is the quicker and more repeatable alternative to natural carbonation. Rather than sealing residual sugar and yeast into a keg or bottle and allowing CO2 to be naturally created, force carbonating is directly saturating CO2 into the product under pressure from a CO2 cylinder.

The variables to be considered when carbonating are:

  • Temperature – the colder your product, the faster CO2 will dissolve into it and the better the CO2 will remain in solution. The minimum target temperature is 4 degrees C, but lower is more beneficial.
  • Surface area – the larger the contact area between the CO2 and your product, the faster the CO2 will dissolve.
  • Pressure – the higher the pressure of CO2 gas, the more quickly and completely it will dissolve into your product, dependent on the above factors. Higher pressure of CO2 will also increase the level of carbonation within the product.

Different levels of carbonation (light/semi-sparkling/high) can be achieved by changing some of the variables above.

What happens inside the bottle/can & when it’s opened?

Once filled in the vessel (bottle, can or keg) and sealed adequately the carbonated product is airtight. The vessel should maintain enough pressure to prevent the CO2 molecules from escaping. The CO2 is present in two forms – some is dissolved in the product and the rest sits in gas form between the top of the vessel and the liquid. When the vessel is opened the gas form of CO2 escapes, so the vessel is no longer under pressure. As a result, the dissolved CO2 starts coming out of the product in the form of bubbles which rise are released into the air.

How do I force carbonate my still product?

There are various options, and the right option for you will depend on a few key factors:

  1. Your batch size - are you looking to carbonate a very small volume or thousands of litres at a time?
  2. The speed you require - how much time can you allocate to carbonating and filling?
  3. Your budget - how much money do you have available to invest in carbonation equipment?

What types of setups can Vigo offer for carbonation?

Depending on your batch size, speed and budget, there a variety of different methods with which you can achieve carbonation, some of which are listed below. We can supply all the necessary equipment - see 'How can we help' below.

Method 1: Manual Carbonation

Manual carbonation can be achieved by filling a bottle with still, cold product and carbonating using an in-bottle carbonator. This unit transfers the product from the bottle into a pre-pressurised sphere under gravity and turbulence and, in turn, carbonating the product. Equipment required includes:

  • A fridge or chilling unit
  • Manual bottle filler
  • In-bottle carbonator
  • CO2 regulator with heater
  • Capper

This process would typically achieve up to 250 bottles per hour.


  • Allows you to carbonate product on a small scale to ‘test the market’ prior to a larger investment
  • Cost effective on a small scale
  • Ideal for light levels of carbonation


  • Double handling of bottles so quite labour intensive
  • Carbonation level is less than would be achieved through counter pressure filling due to pressure constraints

Method 2: In-line system

In-line carbonation is achieved by passing cold product through an in-line carbonator under pressure. When carbonating in-line, product is sprayed into the CO2 filled pressure vessel in order to increase the surface area. This saturates the product with CO2 and the carbonated product is stored within the pressure vessel until released to the filler, whether a bottle, can or keg filler. The following equipment is necessary:

  • In-line chiller or tank with glycol chilling capacity
  • In-line carbonator
  • CO2 regulator with heater
  • Suitable manual / semi-automatic / automatic filler

Depending on the equipment supplied, achievable outputs are from 200 to 10,000 litres per hour.


  • Single handling of bottle, can or keg
  • Higher carbonation levels can be achieved
  • More consistent carbonation results
  • Designed for more automated production – higher flow rates

Method 3: In tank method

In-tank carbonation is achieved by chilling down the product to the relevant target temperature within a pressure tank and slowly forcing CO2 into the tank via a sinter (carbonation) stone which gradually increases the product pressure. When under pressure the CO2 saturates into the product. The tank can be pressure regulated in order to achieve the desired carbonation levels and pressures. The results are a bulk batch of carbonated product which can be fed to a filling machine, whether manual, semi-automatic or automatic; bottle, can or keg. The equipment required includes:

  • Glycol Chiller Unit
  • Pressure rated tank with adequate glycol jackets & sinter stone
  • Thermoregulation control system
  • CO2 regulator with heater
  • Suitable manual / semi-automatic / automatic filler

The amount you can carbonate is limited by the size of the pressure tank/s. Pressure tanks are available from 120 litres to 15,000 litre capacities.


  • Single handling of bottle, can or keg
  • Higher carbonation levels can be achieved, subject to tank pressure rating
  • Guaranteed consistency of carbonation levels across the batch


  • Batch size limited to the size of tank (the tank needs to be full to be able to carbonate)
  • The carbonation process is longer than with the other methods

Carbonation is just one step of a production process and the equipment can be integrated alongside many other types of processing (i.e., pasteurisation/filtration, etc.) and packaging equipment.

How we can help

We have extensive experience of supplying carbonation equipment and chilling systems to producers of all scales in many different sectors. We also manufacture our own range of carbonation equipment, entirely designed and built in-house at Vigo by our Engineering Team in our workshops [namely the Vigo Carbonator / Counter Pressure Filler; the Vigo 1000 & Vigo 2000 Litre Per Hour In-line Carbonators]. We work with our customers to design suitable systems for their product and can manage full projects from concept to completion. Our team of 9 engineers (Vigo employed engineers; all based here in the UK) provide comprehensive services and support, including installation of equipment, the training of your operatives, on-site and phone support should you have any issues, servicing, maintenance and repairs. See our Case Studies for some examples of how we help and support producers across all sectors.

Next step?

If carbonation is something you want to explore further, please call us today on 01404 892 100 and we will be happy to discuss what will work for you.



(*) CNN Health, article by Lisa Drayer: Why soda is so addictive

(**) Let's Talk Science, article by Patrick Clarke: The Chemistry of Pop

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