Why Is There a Plastic Ball in a Can of Guinness Beer?

Can of Guinness Beer

If you’ve ever peered into an empty Guinness can and wondered about the plastic ball inside, you’re not alone. It’s called a widget and it’s there to ensure that Ireland’s most famous export tastes like it was poured fresh from a tap.

According to Guinness, the secret to making a beer that’s rich and creamy with a smooth, velvety texture is skillfully pairing nitrogen gas and carbon dioxide to create a perfectly balanced stout.

This approach obviously works well when patrons order Guinness at a pub but how can they ensure that the beer has the same texture when poured from a can?

I’m glad you asked. That’s where the widget comes in!

How Does the Guinness Ball Work?

The Guinness ball is called a widget. It’s hollow, made of plastic, and has a tiny hole in it. It looks like a ping pong ball but it’s smaller.

During the canning process, Guinness is infused with pressurized nitrogen which trickles into the hole in the widget, along with some beer. Then the entire can is pressurized.

Later, when someone opens a can of Guinness, pressure inside the can immediately drops to match the atmospheric pressure in the room. Pressure inside the widget, however, remains high because the only exit point is a tiny hole.

A burst of nitrogen is released into the beer creating a flurry of tiny bubbles, enhancing the flavor, and providing the thick, creamy head Guinness is famous for!

How to Pour Guinness from a Can

Guinness should be chilled before serving. Simply place the can on a flat surface, open it, and wait 5 seconds for the nitrogen to work its magic. Pour the beer into a clean pint glass at a 45 degree angle – bonus points if you have a proper Guinness glass!

When the stout is 2 inches from the rim, straighten the glass and finish your pour to add the perfect, velvety head that Guinness lovers around the world covet.

Should You Shake a Can of Guinness?

Despite the fact that cans of Guinness have small, plastic balls in them, they’re not spray paint – you don’t need to shake a can of Guinness!

Other Beers with Widgets

If you’d like to sample some other beers with widgets, here is a list to get you started:

  • Boddingtons Pub Ale
  • Old Speckled Hen
  • Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro
  • Murphy’s Stout
  • Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

Mystery Solved!

So now you know! The widget in cans of Guinness is there to deliver a burst of nitrogen at the right time, enhancing the taste and texture of your favorite stout beer.

Add some friends and some lively conversation and you have all of the ingredients for an entertaining ‘pub night’ at home with one of the world’s most popular beers!


By Michael

Chief mixologist and cocktail enthusiast at Swizzle Club.