Low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers are on the rise. While new non-alcoholic beer creations with exciting tastes and colors arrive in supermarkets every day, manufacturers face unknown challenges in quality control. To guarantee the appropriate alcohol content of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers and thus meet consumer expectations, a new alcohol analysis method is required. This is where NIR spectroscopy comes in – to ensure outstanding quality.
Low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beer: A growing market!
The variety of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beer products on the shelves of our shops has been changing quickly in recent times. A decade ago, consumers could choose from just a handful of beer products ; nowadays they have the freedom to choose from a virtually unlimited number of products – continuously growing every day.
Among all these new products, one group of beverages stands out because of its popularity:
Low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers.
Consumers of this group of products go for these specific beverages to enjoy the great taste of beer without the side effects of alcohol. Therefore, being able to keep the specified label promise for these products is more crucial to their manufacturers than ever.
The aim is to adhere to product specifications, pay the appropriate amount of tax, and ensure that the quality lives up to the manufacturer’s and the product’s high reputation.
To meet the strict specifications for the maximum tolerated alcohol content in low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beers, manufacturers have to incorporate new methods of analysis in their production processes. However, to ensure accurate results, these methods require either skilled users or the handling of chemicals, which is not desired in daily operation.
Luckily, more advanced technologies are available:
This is where NIR spectroscopy for alcohol analysis comes in.
Alcohol determination with NIR spectroscopy is a very suitable method for the analysis of alcohol concentration in beverages, if used in the proper way. It was introduced to simplify the alcohol determination in beer more than 15 years ago. Since then, this technology has been constantly improved, resulting in a new analysis method for alcohol-free beers.
In the fast lane – NIR spectroscopy for alcohol determination
To receive highly accurate results for alcohol with NIR spectroscopy, an evaluation of the measured spectrum using suitable mathematical algorithms is necessary. These algorithms need to be adapted to a certain product group and, consequently, the sample’s common ingredients. These sample constituents may contribute to the measured alcohol content and their impact therefore needs to be eliminated. The mathematical corrections made for that task guarantee that the spectroscopic measurement of the alcohol content reports accurate results independent of the sample’s composition.
Figure 1 shows a schematic setup of an NIR spectrometer dedicated to alcohol analysis. The selection of a specific wavelength of light which is highly specific to the absorption of ethanol enables the direct determination of the alcohol content in alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
To make NIR spectroscopy usable for the determination of alcohol in low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers, a special algorithm adapted to this specific group of beverages and a highly stable hardware are mandatory requirements.
It allows the analysis of the alcohol content together with other parameters for all types of beers, and especially for low-alcohol and non-alcoholic ones, at the highest precision – to ensure outstanding quality and meet high customer expectations.
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