There are many challenges to measuring/testing alcohol proof and measuring Proof of Obscuration in flavored spirits. Alcohol producers have all the demands of manufacturing a constant product with the added burden of making a product that must comply with government measurement and labeling guidelines. In most countries, the production of alcohol is highly regulated and tax reporting must be accurate. Government-prescribed measurement methods can be very slow as well as require laboratory skills to produce an accurate measurement. Rudolph addresses the need for alcohol producers to make fast, accurate measurements at various stages during the production process. Rudolph also addresses government requirements, by providing certified instruments that will keep your production facility in full compliance.
The Problem – Efficiency, Regulation, and Taxes
Alcohol manufacturers operate in a competitive world. They must keep costs under control and keep production operating efficiently to ensure profitability. However, manufacturers must report correct % ABV values and must do this to the satisfaction of the local government authority. Many governments require testing methods such as distillation for Proof Obscuration Measurements, which are very slow and can significantly disrupt production.
For Easy Proof Obscuration Measurement the Alcohol Proof Testing Solution
The AlcoTest-RI® offers a certified government-compliant method and a rapid non-certified method to measure alcohol proof or % ABV. Certified results can be used for taxation purposes and will serve as the benchmark method. Using the “Production Method” you can measure alcohol content, without distillation, and also read the sugar content which is the source of most obscuration in flavored alcoholic beverages. It just takes a few keystrokes to move between fast measurements for Proof Obscuration Measurement and the certified Government Compliant Method.
Principle of Operation – Measuring Proof Obscuration
Regulatory method – Standard measuring Alcohol Proof Testing – Vodka and similar products. Vodka is a mixture of alcohol and water. The density of water and alcohol are well known, so the user simply measures a sample in the density meter and the measurement display shows % ABV. Different countries use different scales and even different expressions of the same scale. AOAC ABV is used in the USA, OIML ABV is used in Europe, the UK uses Proof, Canada uses ABV, and the Japan Taxation Department uses AOAC Proof. These are just a few of the many scales that can be used to present % alcohol.
Other Products. The difficulty with many alcohol products today is that other ingredients besides alcohol and water are included in the final product. These other ingredients are important because they add unique tastes and aromas with improved “mouth feel”. The consumer likes these additional ingredients which are generally sugar and flavorings but they obscure the % alcohol and alter the density measurement. The USA TTB solution is for the user to distill the sample before measurement in a density meter. This distillation process is time-consuming and can take as long as 2 – 3 hours according to the US TTB. At the end of the process, the user has an alcohol-water mixture which they can measure in the density meter in the same way they would measure straight alcohol. Accuracy in regulatory mode is dependent on the model of density meter that the Alcotest-RI® is built around.
Other Products In Production Mode, the Alcotest-RI® also measures the refractive index. Refractive Index (RI) is a proven measurement used to estimate the amount of other ingredients in the sample and correct the density meter measurement for their effect on the % alcohol value. Production Mode allows a user to obtain a result in less than 2 minutes with no sample pre-treatment. Accuracy in Production Mode is sample dependent but is often comparable to the results obtained using a standalone density meter and distillation step. Proof Obscuration Measurement made easy.
The AlcoTest-RI® is designed to help the person in charge of an Alcohol Laboratory balance the need for both compliance and profitability. Government regulators don’t care how long it takes to make measurements, they don’t care how many resources are needed in the compliance process, they simply want accurate results done according to the approved method. The owner of the factory is interested in accurate measurements as well, but they see the laboratory as a cost center needed for compliance and meeting government regulations should be done with as few resources as possible. The AlcoTest-RI® responds to the need for fast results and the need for high accuracy government-compliant measurements.
Measure Proof Obscuration in most flavored Alcohol Beverages
Testing High Proof Spirits including Bourbons, Straight Spirits, and Flavored Spirits
Manufacturers of spirits are generally subject to the highest tax rates and benefit the most from the use of the AlcoTest-RI®. With the recent explosion in the growth of flavored or obscured spirits, the ability to make specialized methods for each product will mean that the number of distillations a lab needs to do can be dramatically reduced. The AlcoTest-RI® is the perfect solution to help with this. Instead of making 2, 3, or even 4 distillations on a batch of flavored products, the AlcoTest-RI® can reduce that number to one. Proof Obscuration Measurement made easy!
The AlcoCalc® option allows the AlcoTest-RI® to be used for calculating dilutions of alcohol and water solutions. The AlcoCalc® feature will automatically calculate for you the amount of water to dilute a high %ABV solution to a desired %ABV based on known tables, or how much alcohol to add in order to recreate the %ABV
There are many, non-approved, quick methods for wine analysis. While wine alcohol content isn’t as critical for wine as it is for spirits there are still regulatory requirements. Depending on the country there may be a point above a certain alcohol level that the tax rate changes (16.0 % ABV in the USA). It is critical for a winery to use an approved method when they are producing products near that point. Some of the non-approved methods are geared more toward measuring other components in wine. This may provide % ABV but not with the accuracy available with the AlcoTest-RI®.
Alcopops / RTDs (Canned and Bottled Alcoholic Beverages)
Many very successful soft drink manufacturers are expanding into ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages, RTDs. Beverage companies traditionally focused on monitoring Brix. Alcohol obscures this value. The correct Brix value in their soft drink manufacturing process is very important to taste. It can be maintained by correcting for the alcohol in the product obscuring the measurement. The AlcoTest-RI® solves this problem, by measuring the Brix value as if no alcohol were present.
Flavors / Flavorings
The growth of flavored alcohols is an opportunity for flavor manufacturers. There are relatively short production runs and high costs for these new alcoholic beverages. This means that supplying flavors to this area can be very profitable. Making test beverages can be more complicated than with non-alcoholic beverages. The AlcoTest-RI® eliminates this complexity making alcoholic drinks as simple to measure as soft drinks. Best of all, the AlcoTest-RI® is built on top of an instrument that is already used by flavor companies for the measurement of the Specific Gravity and Refractive Index of flavors. The methods for doing these tests are included in the standard AlcoTest-RI®
Alcoholic Beverage Sample Handling Options
AlcoTest-RI® can also Measure Proof Obscuration with Syringe Sample Loading
Loading your sample with a simple syringe is often the preferred configuration for distilleries and many flavor companies. It is the least expensive configuration and uses the lowest sample volume. It also allows the measurement of extremely viscous or rheopectic samples which can be important in flavor companies.
AlcoTest-RI® Proof Obscuration Measurements with the Load Assist Option
The simplest multi sample option, the R817 allows a user to load up to 24 samples and leave the instrument to do the rest. Like the Load Assist the R817 displaces the previous sample with the new sample meaning fast cycle times and no cleaning solvents.
AlcoTest-RI® with fully automated R837 Autoflex® – High Throughput Proof Obscuration measurements
The AutoFlex® R837 is Rudolph’s most advanced highest throughput automation solution. It is ideal for laboratories that measure alcohol proof with 40 to over 100 samples per day. While many smaller labs do not need the throughput of the AutoFlex® R837 initially it is possible to purchase a more basic system and upgrade later. For more information on the R837. See R837 Technical Bulletin # TB937.
Proof Obscuration Measurements Made Easy!
Rudolph supplies a full range of Alcohol Testing equipment and instruments. Call us for an online or in-person demonstration to test your samples.