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What is Sparging?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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Sparging is a technical term generally recognized to have two meanings. First, it can refer to a process of injecting gas into a liquid. Examples of this type of sparging include carbonating beverages and water treatment. Second, sparging can refer to the act of spraying liquid onto a solid. A good example when referring to the word in this sense is the process of making beer.

The first type of sparging, which involves injecting gas into a liquid, is commonly used for many purposes. One product that people are familiar with that is produced in this manner is a soft drink, or soda. Such a drink is often classified as a carbonated beverage. This is because it is composed of a liquid that has been injected with carbon dioxide, which results in its fizziness.

Water can also be treated by way of this process. Air sparging is a groundwater remediation technique. It involves adding oxygen to contaminated water and soil, thereby encouraging the breakdown of contaminants. Ozone water treatment operates in much the same way. Ozone is pumped into a water supply and bacteria is destroyed when it comes into contact with the gas.

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Another use of this type of sparging is to extend the shelf life of food. This is done by injecting nitrogen bubbles into items such as oils and mayonnaise. The nitrogen strips away much of the oxygen. If the oxygen was left in those products at high levels, the products would not last as long.

The gas injected during the sparging process is often forced through an object with pores. The size of the pores is important, because it helps to control the size of the bubbles produced. For example, when there is a need for fine bubbles, gas is forced through an object with very small holes. Finer bubbles are often more effective and can save processing time.

There are several objects that can be used for these types of processes. These include aerators, diffusers, and porous metal spargers. Each can have advantages and disadvantages depending on what they are used for.

The second definition involves spraying a solid with a liquid. This process is often used in the production of beer. It refers to spraying the grains after runoff of the wort. The sweet, unfermented product as a result of mashing the grains is the wort.

In this case, sparge refers to using water to wash sugar from the grain. This is not a thoughtless task. There are several processes for sparging beer. Both the water temperature and the water pressure may need to be taken into consideration. Otherwise, the flavor of the beer could be negatively affected.

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