Helium Beer And Hilarity? Maybe

By Josh Bloom — Sep 15, 2017
Gases are being now infused into various beverages, especially coffee and beer for a variety of reasons. But there is a viral video of two maniacs who tried "helium-infused beer." If they were looking for laughs they succeeded mightily. But is it real?
Two Crazies Drinking Helium ?

I've written recently about nitrogen-infused coffee (and also beer) and why the chemistry of adding nitrogen makes sense. (See: Nitro-Coffee: Good Science Or Nitrogenous Waste?). The following, helium-infused beer makes far less sense, but good luck not laughing during the four minutes of the video.

The screwballs in the following YouTube video are apparently astounded that when they try the same experiment five times that they get the same result every time. 

The video starts with beer critics about to drink helium beer. At first, they are skeptical. Will drinking helium beer make them sound like little girls when they speak the way a helium balloon does? Aren't we all curious? The concern is etched upon their faces...

Many words come to mind. Genius is not one of them. This can't be real, right?

But not for long...

Which produces more or less the same results...


Since you put it that way...

Some people don't know when to quit. These guys are two of them.

Until it does. 

Well, all good things must end, as must this. They take a well earned time out.

Maybe for a beer.

Now that I have your attention...

This Video Is Not Only Fake, But Helium Beer Is Impossible

Helium is the second least dense of all gases (0.16 grams/liter at room temperature and pressure. (Hydrogen, .09 is the least). By comparison, nitrogen, the main component of air, is much denser (1.25). Sound travels faster through less dense gases. Faster sound has a shorter wavelength and thus, a higher pitch. This is why inhaling helium -  the balloon trick - works to give you a hilarious high voice.

Since it is not only possible to make nitrogen-infused coffee, but also to make it commercially successful, it is at least plausible that one could want to try the same thing with beer and helium. Except you can't. It was tried in Chemical and Engineering News and failed miserably. The reason that the balloon trick works is the same reason that helium beer doesn't - low density.

Both nitrogen and helium are insoluble in water, but when pressurized nitrogen is added to coffee it remains in the coffee in very small bubbles. Helium wants no part of this. It wants to escape, which is why helium balloons deflate rapidly. Helium is a very small molecule, small enough to escape through the tiny pores in the rubber. To get enough helium to stay in beer, it would have to be so highly pressurized that you'd blow your head off opening the can (though it would probably blow up on its own first). 

This lunacy was nothing more than an April Fools' joke. Now you can watch the video with your chemistry questions answered, but I will give a biology caution. Unless you have superb bladder control, do not sit on an expensive sofa when you watch it. 

Wish I'd thought of that.



Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

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