Cheers to the Beermaster!
Liisa Otama describes how discrete analyzer technology has found its way from the clinic to the beer brewing industry – and beyond.
Liisa Otama |
sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific
I joined Thermo Fisher Scientific somewhat unexpectedly; I needed a summer job during my university studies, and it seemed a great place to gain some experience – I was working with discrete analyzers and reagents in process engineering. I must have done something right, because I was asked to stay until the end of the year. I finished my Masters in analytical chemistry (at the University of Helsinki), and was invited back to work on another project by my previous manager at Thermo Fisher. I accepted – and I’m still here over six years later!
In those six years, discrete analyzers have changed somewhat. Notably, the new instruments have moved from the floor to the benchtop and are supported by more sophisticated software. Essentially, our discrete analyzers are based on photometric detection of analytes in disposable reaction cuvettes that are served by automated dispensing probes. The instrumentation is designed for heavy routine use in industrial applications and allows fast and accurate detection of a wide range of analytes. Indeed, our Thermo Scientific™ Gallery™ Plus Automated Photometric Analyzers are open systems, which means that customers can develop and use any reaction reagents; but our reagents come with the application itself (a fully preprogrammed automated method), which makes adoption of the system – or a new test – much easier.
From the clinic to the brewhouse
Discrete analyzers started out in clinical diagnostics. But their utility in other areas quickly became clear. Someone figured out that juices and wines could benefit from the speed and cost efficiency afforded by discrete analyzers – in addition to the increase in accuracy gained by full automation. Since that early introduction, the market has grown fast; dedicated analyzers are readily found in wineries around the world.
The beer brewing industry is a relatively new market, but once again the move to automated testing is driving gains in efficiency and accuracy. The Gallery Plus Beermaster Automated Photometric Analyzer is aimed squarely at that market and comes with methods for a range of tests, including bitterness – a key quality parameter, as all beer drinkers will know! The traditional manual test for bitterness is slow and laborious, and uses liquid-liquid extraction with isooctane, which must be disposed of properly. The Beermaster’s bitterness module, on the other hand, uses ‘green’ solid-phase extraction ahead of a fully-automated testing protocol – and performs the whole analysis in 10 minutes. Moreover, it can be conducted alongside other photometric tests, using the same small amount of sample.
Beta-glucan concentration is another important parameter in breweries and malthouses; excessive amounts can clog process filters or impair the taste of the beer. Our unique method for rapid determination is more robust than the traditional method using fluorescence spectroscopy – and once again it’s ‘green’. The Beermaster can also determine SO2, free amino nitrogen, beer color, sugars, pH, acetaldehyde and acids quickly and accurately.
And let’s not forget one of the most important raw materials in beer production – water! Discrete analyzers have been used in water quality analysis for many years, so the Beermaster really is a feature-rich system that can be used for the complete brewing process. It’s built for breweries!
I think today’s consumers are more aware than ever. Consistency doesn’t just mean batch-to-batch for breweries, but also between sites and countries – the beer brewed in Holland must taste the same as that brewed in Nigeria, for example. It’s not just about following the ‘recipe’ – raw ingredients vary by location and by season. Taste testing is not enough and brewers are turning to chemical analyses; fast, accurate and robust measurements of key parameters – in the brewing process and the finished product – are essential.
Personally, I’m a fan of IPA beers, so anything that enables breweries to get the bitterness levels right has got to be a good thing. That said, I still think sensory testing is very important!
For more information about the Thermo Scientific Gallery discrete analyzers, visit www.thermofisher.com/discreteanalysis