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I know some people make nitro stouts, but has anybody ever heard of a "whipped cream" stout using nitrous rather than nitro? I think this could be tasty, but I'm not sure of the legality or practicality.

EDIT: I was thinking of the flavor the nitrous would impart on the beer (much like whipped cream), I don't think you'd actually get a buzz from it.

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Technically you're not "carbonating" if you're not adding CO2 –  arnemart Nov 19 '10 at 17:41
    
@arnemart: Thanks, good call. I updated the title. –  PMV Nov 19 '10 at 18:39
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6 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

So you want the flavor and mouthfeel of whipped cream? Bad news: the nitrous isn't really responsible for those. It's mostly the fats in the cream.

Also, to set the record straight, nitrous oxide is NOT flammable. Not that it matters here...

In the end, your best bet is to use nitro gas like Guiness. It will give you the closest results without requiring a radical approach.

EDIT: and oatmeal and lactose can both contribute to the mouthfeel and body, which should also help significantly.

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Not the mouthfeel, but the flavor. Whipped cream definitely gets flavor from the N02 though (try making whipped cream with C02, it's gross). –  PMV Nov 19 '10 at 21:31
    
Thanks for the correction regarding the flammability. I made yet another correction :) –  chrislarson Nov 20 '10 at 3:12
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@PMV: N2O does not really contribute to the flavor of whipped cream. It's the cream and sugar (and possibly vanilla) responsible for that. Nitrous oxide is used for whipped cream instead of other gases for several reasons-- 1) it displaces oxygen and will not oxidize the lipids in the cream, so it won't go rancid in the can; 2) it dissolves readily in fat and oil, so when pressure is reduced, the dissolved nitrous oxide expands, causing the whip; 3) it does not affect the pH of water when it is dissolved therein. CO2 will acidify the water, causing the cream to curdle. –  Tristan Nov 20 '10 at 20:06
    
I disagree that N20 doesn't contribute to the flavor of whipped cream (the flavor from whipped cream chargers is suprisingly similar to whipped cream, "or so I've heard"), but the oatmeal/lactose/nitro recommendations are good suggestions to avoid the radical approach of trying to acquire a tank of laughing gas. Thanks Brandon. –  PMV Nov 22 '10 at 2:01
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I've poured sweetened/cooled heavy cream in to a whipped cream charger that used nitrous oxide, and also made the same recipe by just putting the same heavy cream in a bowl and beating it with the mixer. Tastes the same. –  Dale Sep 10 '11 at 18:38
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Nitrous oxide does cause your tongue to become slightly numb (Nitrous is used in larger quantities as a anesthetic , so that makes sense) Therefore gives a smoother mouth feel. Also like Nitrogen (or Argon) it comes out of solution slower than CO2. This gives smaller, smoother bubbles in the head. I think Guinness uses Argon to get this effect.

For small batches you can use an isi whip.isiwhip

(What they use in star bucks to whip cream). Which uses small canisters of Nitrous oxide. (See here for more things you can do with an isi whip)

You could also do this on a large scale with a larger tank of Nitrous oxide. How ever you need to provide documentation to show what you are going to use it for. (I.e., you are a medical practice, you use Nitrous for drag racing, you are a large bakery etc)

So unless you can ask a friendly petrol head to borrow some (make sure it is food grade though), it will probably be difficult to do more than one litre (isi whip) without going up to commercial scale.

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Nitrous oxide is a non-flammable oxidizer. If you've ever seen someone blow nitrous through a cigarette, the ember gets a bit bigger and brighter, but no bursts of flames occur and they dont explode. It also has a long shelf life, and can be put to good use even when not brewing ;) i live in douthern california and i can easily get 90+% pure n2o for $4.75 a pound (food grade needs to be at least 90% pure)

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Practicality:

  • NO2 will inhibit bacterial growth
  • It's really expensive
  • You'll have to worry about ventilation.
  • EDIT: I was incorrect in my statement saying that NO2 is extremely flammable. Thank you for the correction, Brandon! But the fact remains that a static discharge can cause a violent decomposition of the molecule when under pressure. And a static discharge will be more likely in a non-certified container (your keg). Source

Legality:

Via my grandfather who is a dentist: Nitrous oxide is legal to own under federal law, but state law varies like Brandon mentioned above. Recreational use is most likely a misdemeanor. I'm not sure if the bubbles in the beer being ingested would constitute recreational use. Like you said, they use it in whipped cream all the time.

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To be fair, PMV was also asking about the practicality (and maybe feasibility?), which is appropriate for this forum. –  Brandon Nov 19 '10 at 16:05
    
I don't think you'd get a buzz from the nitrous considering you'd be drinking it rather than inhaling it, I was thinking it would impart the same flavor on the beer that it does on whipped cream. –  PMV Nov 19 '10 at 16:09
    
Good call. I can see some cool benefits from using it, but negatives as well. Which I'll add to the answer above. –  chrislarson Nov 19 '10 at 16:18
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Dude, seriously. It's noncombustible. There's no probability of violent decomposition. The safetygram you linked is something that the lawyers at Air Products and Chemicals require, and is really only to address the risk of a tank rupture (since N2O can be stored at pressures up to 760 psi). Plus, the tank is a Faraday cage, so external static discharge couldn't contact the gas. Even if it were flammable. Which it's not. –  Brandon Nov 20 '10 at 5:08
    
"Dude", seriously. I didn't say it was combustible. I'm only pointing out what I've found on the safetygram. I see no reason to take your word for it otherwise. Settle down. –  chrislarson Nov 20 '10 at 22:19
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You can't "carbonate" with anything other than CO2. That's the definition of "carbonation".

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Updated the title, thanks for clarifying :) –  PMV Nov 19 '10 at 18:38
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This should have been a comment rather than an answer. –  mdma Jun 29 '12 at 22:22
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It's borderline illegal, depending on your state. It's been mentioned in threads on various forums over the years, but it sounds like a bad idea, since you wouldn't really know how much you were consuming, and could therefore easily OD.

Plus, you'd waste a lot more N2O carbonating beer than if you just drank regularly-carbonated beer and did your own thing with the nitrous.

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All those laws are only applicable if the intent is to inhale it. Using nitrous oxide in beer is no more illegal than canned whipped cream. –  Dale Sep 10 '11 at 18:36
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