Quality, Consistency, and TTB Compliance for Distilleries

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Makers of Craft Spirits Beverages seek to produce high quality, consistent tasting products that fully comply with TTB regulations. Using good laboratory techniques and adding some addition quality control checks can help you produce a better finished product.

Video Transcript

Quality, Consistency, and TTB Compliance
How do these relate to you and your products?

  • Quality, is the result of a good process developed from significant experimentation. Once you find that perfect taste it is time to move on to the next challenge …
  • Consistency, once you have a product your customers enjoy then they will want the same taste every time. Imagine buying a Coke and it tastes different every time you buy it. Product consistency demands good Quality control.
  • Compliance, as a manufacturer of alcohol products you must remain in compliance with the TTB for purposes of paying taxes and for truth in labeling.

Quality
What are some key contributing elements to produce a quality spirits beverage?

  • Ingredients – including mash, yeast, water, and flavorings.
  • Process – including distillation cuts, number of distillations, blending, flavoring and aging.
  • Consistency, What are some key contributing elements to maintain consistency in a spirit s beverage?
  • Ingredients – Maintaining strict formulas and checking purity/quality of incoming materials.
  • Process – Formulas are like baking instructions. Cutting, mixing, blending, aging must all be controlled and repeated the same way for each batch or run.

Compliance
What are your compliance issues?

  • Taxes – You do not want to under or over pay your taxes
  • Fines – The TTB can pull your products for testing to decide if you are complying with both proper testing procedures, accurately paying taxes, and properly labeling your products.

Adding Precision to the Art of Craft Spirits production.
Using some common and simple laboratory tests can result in great results for your finished products.

  • Measuring RI and BRIX with a refractometer.
  • Measuring Density and Specific Gravity
  • Understanding obscuration and distillation
  • Let’s work through some of the Chemistry Involved in making Craft Spirits

Making Spirits is Chemistry and it involves:

  • Fermentation – a natural process of converting sugars into alcohol.
  • Distilling – purifying the fermentation to remove unwanted elements and raise the proof.
  • Blending – adding water and or flavorings to create a tasty and drinkable beverage.

Let’s be more specific

Quality

  • Monitor “Distiller’s Beer” to maximize % ABV yield.
    Your goal is to maximize the yield of your mash by making adjustments to your fermentation process which in turn helps control your raw materials cost
  • Your mash bill also determines taste!
    Reduce Material Costs – Improve Taste

Quality
When making cuts from the still and when barreling a highly accurate Density Meter can be used to rapidly measure % ABV so you can make your cuts and dilutions precisely and consistently – Every Time.

Consistency
Lock in Quality
Successful Distilleries produce high quality and consistent products.

Common tests include:

  • Test RI of water, flavors, and finished products.
  • Checks during your process will result in a better product
  • Maintaining very tight formulas will greatly increase consistency

Blending and Diluting is a critical step in creating a Craft Spirit.
Using software to calculate dilutions saves you time and adds consistency to your finished product.
Some Density Meters have dilution calculators build right in!

Compliance

Obscured alcohol products are those where the alcohol and water % are masked by other liquids and solids such as flavorings, barrel aging, creams, and oils.
The official TTB method of measuring % ABV is by distilling the water and alcohol away from the finished beverage or using another known more accurate method such as Gas Chromatograph.

Working with obscuration
Hydrometers and Density Meters can only measure water with a % of alcohol in it. The water is the constant and as alcohol is added the density changes. Tables and calibrations will get you to the true %ABV.

Water and alcohol mixtures with any additional ingredients cannot be measured with a hydrometer or Density Meter.
Laboratory Distillation is a time consuming process and requires special skills.

Good laboratory methods must be employed to obtain accurate results. A small lab still will do the job and the TTB will want you to own one.
Some solutions do not distill well especially those with solids, oils, or fats.
Gas chromatography is typically done by a lab thus takes 1-2 days, and costs are high.

Saving time
During Spirits production there are opportunities to reduce distillations.
For product that needs to be measured during dilutions there is an option to use refractive index (RI) and density to determine % ABV. Using polynomial tables RI can be used as a compensating factor for a density (%ABV) measurement that is obscured. Once a history of measurements is built up and the distiller has committed to very tight formulas and ingredient testing some distillers will us the Density/RI reading for final label value.

Saving time
During Spirits production there are opportunities to reduce distillations.
Using Refractive Index (RI) and Density to determine % ABV is a science that is over a century old.

Quality, Consistency, and TTB Compliance

  • Quality: is the result of a good process developed from significant experimentation. Once you find that perfect taste it is time to move on to the next challenge …
  • Consistency: once you have a product your customers enjoy then they will want the same taste every time. Product consistency demands good Quality control.
  • Compliance: as a manufacturer of alcohol products you must remain in compliance with the TTB for purposes of paying taxes and for truth in labeling.

We hope we have taken your knowledge of Chemistry up a level today and presented an overview of the types of testing that can be done to improve Quality, Constancy, and Compliance. Please call on us to discuss instrumentation needs, difficulties with samples, or for a no obligation study of your sample testing needs.