Giving oxygen to cheaper and better beer

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Beer, Oxygen, Brewing

A sensor that quickly and accurately measures dissolved oxygen in beer products has been launched by the Process Analytics arm of Swiss firm Mettler Toledo.

A sensor that quickly and accurately measures dissolved oxygen in beer products has been launched by the Process Analytics arm of Swiss firm Mettler Toledo.

Dissolved or residual oxygen is a problem that can drastically alter the quality of beer and how long it stays in good shape for, problems Mettler Toledo are tackling with its chemo-optical technology.

The sensor, called the InPro 6970i, can also reduce beer wastage and reduce maintenance and calibration times.

“Long calibration intervals, easy and fast calibration routines result in high operational availability of the system,”​ the company said in a statement. “Residual oxygen level has become a key factor for beer quality.”

It added: Interruptions of the filling process are very short, e.g. during a change of the beer brand or cleaning of the plant. Consequently, the time available for sensor maintenance is brief, and unscheduled downtime is very costly.”

Big beer seeking small costs

Mettler Toledo marketing manager, Adami Jean Nicolas said the importance of reducing the cost of beer production had become more vital than ever as brewery ownership had become concentrated in “seven or eight big brewing groups”.

“Productivity gains are key to increase the brewery’s margins,” ​he told “Distribution paths are now longer as brewing has become more concentrated in super-breweries. That means beer has to travel further and keep longer and so the importance of reducing residual oxygen has never been greater. Too much oxygenated beer is thrown out.”

Nicolas said whereas in the past residual oxygen levels of 100 parts per million were acceptable, now such contamination was measured in the parts per billion.

“That is what drove the development of this new sensor,”​ he said. “Because when the sensors go down the whole brewery stops, because you cannot fill the bottles without an oxygen reading so the fact these new sensors have such low-maintenance time is another key feature.”

He estimated the InPro 6970i was 3-4 times faster and more accurate than its predecessor.

Sensor sensitivities

The company used its experience of measuring oxygen, conductivity, turbidity and pH in breweries to refine the product and make it as brewer-friendly as possible.

“The OptoCap [a component of the sensor] is the only consumable and can be replaced by the user without any specialist know-how,”​ the company said.

The optical sensor does not employ any electrolyte or polarisation which simplifies maintenance and reduces handling error risk rates.

Additional information includes real-time warnings when early signs of end-of-life of the optical cap appear or when calibration is necessary.

One of the key features is the Optcap’s ability to detect cleaning-in-place (CIP) cycles and therefore monitor its own state of dilapidation.

“The user is able to predefine a maximum number of CIP cycles for each unit,” ​the company said. “The measurement system automatically recognises if this limit is reached and generates a maintenance request. As a result, any unforeseen failure of a sensor is very unlikely. There is no need for manual documentation of the CIP cycles for each sensor: the information is always available in the sensor and can be visualised on the transmitter.”

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