The Importance of Measuring CO2 in Wine Production

Image Credit: Lukasz Szwaj/

Fermentation, the chemical process that uses yeast to convert sugars to ethanol, is at the heart of the winemaking process. Conditions and temperatures in wineries are controlled precisely to make sure fermentation does not happen too quickly, which would distort the alcohol content and flavor of the wine.

The variety of yeast utilized to make a certain wine is also picked for its effect on the fermentation process, which includes the concentrations of chemical side products from fermentation that impact the final flavor profile.1

As a natural part of the fermentation process gaseous carbon dioxide is produced in addition to ethanol. CO2 can pose some serious health and safety risks as wineries are usually built in small, enclosed spaces. CO2 is heavier than air, so the CO2 will pool on the floor and displace oxygen, causing an asphyxiation risk, especially in areas which are ventilated poorly.

It is odorless and colorless, so CO2 leaks can stay undetected until concentrations are high enough to cause symptoms such as a raised heart rate, headaches, and dizziness. These leaks can potentially be fatal.2

CO2 has been classed as a ‘substance hazardous to health’ in Great Britain, since 2002. So it is a legal requirement to have CO2 detection and alarm systems3 and it is advised to have concentration monitoring in place to ensure workplace exposure is not required to exceed the safety limits.4

Most states in America have comparable rules on short- and long-term exposure to CO2, with the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety stating that CO2 levels of 40,000 ppm (4%) are immediately dangerous to health and life.5

Safety First

The fermentation rooms, barrel cellars, storage tanks, and bottling rooms are all areas of the winery which are especially hazardous in terms of CO2 production. The utilization of open fermentation vessels during production presents a particularly higher asphyxiation risk because the headspace over the tank can reach CO2 concentrations of 100%.6

CO2 concentrations are not only a safety hazard in winemaking though. The dissolved CO2 concentration is of clear importance for sparkling wines, it also has a big effect on how the wine hits the palate.7 The concentration can change quickly given the sensitivity of CO2 production to the other variables, such as the frequency of racking and temperature, meaning online process monitoring is also of interest as a method of assurance and quality control.

This is the reason why multiple wineries are looking to Edinburgh Sensors instruments to permit continuous, online observation of CO2 levels.8

CO2 Detection Range

Edinburgh Sensors provides a wide scope of instruments which are ideal for CO2 gas detection and monitoring. The company has expertise in designing non-dispersive infrared sensing instruments and offers products that are ideal for utilization in winemaking premises.

The GasCheck CO2 sensor is one of the low-cost solutions.9 There are three varieties of instruments possessing different specifications to meet the specific customer needs, but each one is capable of detecting CO2 concentrations ranging between 0 – 3000 ppm. This sensitivity permits detection of small leaks, at concentrations lower than the short-term exposure limit which is 5000 ppm over an eight-hour period.4

The GasCheck can be relied upon to run with minimal interference, it has a robust design which is based on analog electronics and zero-stability of ± 3% over 12 months. It is suitable for utilization in all areas of the winery as its measurements are also unaffected by 0-95% relative humidity.

Online Detection

In addition to the GasCheck, Edinburgh Sensors also supplies the IRgaskiT and Boxed GasCard for your CO2 sensing requirements. Every one of these monitors has the capability to be connected to logging software and alarms which makes them capable of continuous, online monitoring.

This removes any requirement for employees to carry out time-consuming manual checks, plus ensures that there are no gaps between gas measurements. The continual data logging also makes it much more simple to observe that the CO2 concentrations are adhering to the lower, long-term exposure limits.4

The IRgaskiT provides advanced integration possibilities into other systems.10 These systems could include the ventilation, so if the CO2 concentration exceeds a threshold which has been predefined the ventilation will open to exhaust CO2 automatically and retain the oxygen levels.

It is also able to measure up to 0 – 100% concentrations of CO2 and up to 95% humidity operating at atmospheric pressure, with no negative effects on measurements. It is a small device, weighing in at 125 g.

IRgaskiT Infrared Sensor

IRgaskiT Infrared Sensor

Edinburgh Sensors has developed the GasCard NG, their very popular CO2 detection instrument, into a new robust and convenient desktop unit, the Boxed GasCard.11 Similar to the IRgaskiT, there are a number of interfacing and logging choices, including an RS232 connection for external control. It provides unrivaled measurement accuracy of ± 2% over ±<0.015% of range per mbar even at pressures as low as 800 mbar.

All that is needed is a sample gas and a power supply to start. The boxed design makes it simple to employ as a remote sensor, possibly in lower regions of the winery such as basements where CO2 accumulation is a particular risk. The excellent detection range for CO2 from ppm to tens of percent makes sure that worker safety will not be compromised.

All of Edinburgh Sensors products include access to their technical advice and support both before and after purchase.

References and Further Reading

  1. P. J. Chambers and I. S. Pretorius, EMBO Rep., 2010, 11, 914–920
  2. N. J. Langford, Toxicol. Rev., 2005, 24(4), 229-235
  3. Law on Hazardous Chemical Substances,, (accessed February 2019)
  4. HSE on CO2,, (accessed February 2019)
  5. NIOSH Guidelines,, (accessed February 2019)
  6. Monitoring Gases in the Wine Industry,Gas Measurement Instruments Ltd. (accessed February 2019)
  7. Carbon Dioxide in Wine,, (accessed February 2019)
  8. Gas Sensors for Winemaking,, (accessed February 2019)
  9. GasCheck,, (accessed February 2019)
  10. IRgaskiT,, (accessed February 2019)
  11. Boxed GasCard,, (accessed February 2019)

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Edinburgh Sensors.

For more information on this source, please visit Edinburgh Sensors.


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