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Rapid and mobile determination of alcoholic strength in wine, beer and spirits using a flow-through infrared sensor

Author(s): Lachenmeier Dirk | Godelmann Rolf | Steiner Markus | Ansay Bob | Weigel Jürgen | Krieg Gunther

Journal: Chemistry Central Journal
ISSN 1752-153X

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 5;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Abstract Background Ever since Gay-Lussac's time, the alcoholic strength by volume (% vol) has been determined by using densimetric measurements. The typical reference procedure involves distillation followed by pycnometry, which is comparably labour-intensive and therefore expensive. At present, infrared (IR) spectroscopy in combination with multivariate regression is widely applied as a screening procedure, which allows one to determine alcoholic strength in less than 2 min without any sample preparation. The disadvantage is the relatively large investment for Fourier transform (FT) IR or near-IR instruments, and the need for matrix-dependent calibration. In this study, we apply a much simpler device consisting of a patented multiple-beam infrared sensor in combination with a flow-through cell for automated alcohol analysis, which is available in a portable version that allows for on-site measurements. Results During method validation, the precision of the infrared sensor was found to be equal to or better than densimetric or FTIR methods. For example, the average repeatability, as determined in 6 different wine samples, was 0.05% vol and the relative standard deviation was below 0.2%. Accuracy was ensured by analyzing 260 different alcoholic beverages in comparison to densimetric or FTIR results. The correlation was linear over the entire range from alcohol-free beers up to high-proof spirits, and the results were in substantial agreement (R = 0.99981, p < 0.0001, RMSE = 0.279% vol). The applicability of the device was further proven for the analysis of wines during fermentation, and for the determination of unrecorded alcohol (i.e. non-commercial or illicit products). Conclusions The flow-through infrared device is much easier to handle than typical reference procedures, while time-consuming sample preparation steps such as distillation are not necessary. Therefore, the alcoholic strength can be economically and quickly controlled (requiring less than 60 s per sample). The device also gives the opportunity for mobile on-site control in the context of labelling control of wine, beer and spirits, the process monitoring of fermentations, or the evaluation of unrecorded alcohols.
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