Scientists figure out how many bubbles are in a glass of beer (a lot)

Cheers to beer science!

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Get your bubbles on.

Amanda Kooser/CNET

Have you ever poured yourself a glass of beer, gazed into its effervescent depths and thought, "Hmm, I wonder how many bubbles are in there?" Scientists did, and they came up with a number, calculating that a gently poured half-pint of lager will produce between 200,000 and 2 million bubbles before going flat.

"These bubbles are important sensory elements of beer tasting, similar to sparkling wines, because they transport flavor and scent compounds," the American Chemical Society said in a statement on Wednesday.

Gerard Liger-Belair -- a researcher with the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne in France -- counted the number of bubbles in a flute of champagne before turning to the question of beer.   

Liger-Belair is lead author of a paper on the bubble count published in the journal ACS Omega in late March. The eye-catching abstract starts with this: "The number of bubbles likely to form in a glass of beer is the result of the fine interplay between dissolved CO2, tiny particles or glass imperfections acting as bubble nucleation sites, and ascending bubble dynamics."

The researchers arrived at the bubble estimate through a combination of carbon dioxide measurements, calculations of how the glass encourages bubble formation and high-speed photography that helped them track the bubbles floating to the top.

There's a wide swing in the estimate. Your bubble mileage will vary with the style of beer, type of glass and other factors that can influence the fizz quantity. You could try to count the bubbles yourself, but good luck with that.