Optimizing Beer Shelf-life using Accelerated Aging Studies

Fluctuations in temperature during beer transportation and storage can result in a product that tastes stale when it reaches the customer. Accelerated aging studies can help to estimate shelf-life and optimize the brewing and packaging processes to ensure product quality and stability, so the customer gets the same fresh taste, every time.

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The beer and bottled beverage markets are highly competitive. Consumer tastes are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with craft beer and microbreweries becoming more popular in recent years. However, brewers face significant challenges in consistently producing high-quality beers that meet customer demands. One major challenge for producers is keeping beers fresh throughout their journey to the customer.1

Customers expect to recognize the flavor and smell of their favorite beer, so consistency between batches of beer, despite potential differences in conditions during production, transportation, and storage, is vital. Brewers invest a lot of time, money, and energy in developing brewing processes that produce consistent, great-tasting beer. However, once the product leaves the brewers facilities, conditions such as temperature can be varied and unpredictable. So, how can brewers ensure their products maintain a fresh taste?1,2

Beer aging and staling is a complex process

The shelf life of beer is determined by the stability of its microbiological, colloidal, foam, color and flavor properties. Previously, the growth of microorganisms that caused the bottled beer to spoil represented the primary challenge to maintaining a fresh product during transportation and storage, but progress in brewing technology has significantly reduced such problems. Now, brewers focus on preventing changes in beer aroma and taste which can result in stale tasting beer.1,2

Many regard the degradation of desirable aroma molecules and the development of ‘cardboard flavors’ as the main contributor to the taste of stale beer. Cardboard flavors tend to develop over time, a process that is accelerated by increased temperatures.2

Unfortunately, beer aging and staling is a complex process involving a variety of chemical and biological reactions that can be difficult to control. Packaging can block out light and reduce effects of temperature fluctuations to some degree, but determining the shelf-life of beer during storage ultimately requires a detailed oversight of the effects on varied storage conditions on the aroma molecules present in the beer.2-4

Accelerated aging studies provide insight into beer stability and shelf-life

To fully understand how their products age and stale, brewers can conduct accelerated aging studies, which involve cycling bottled beer samples though temperature variations to simulate environmental fluctuations that the product may encounter during transportation and storage. After the accelerated aging process, brewers can observe the effects of temperature fluctuations on the beer taste, smell, and chemical composition. Accelerated aging studies can inform the brewer of changes required to the brewing process to minimize the risk of premature staling.

What’s more, accelerated aging studies can be used to estimate shelf-life and provide routine measures of quality and consistency between batches.2-5

Accelerated aging studies require efficient temperature control

Accelerated aging studies usually involve exposing beer samples to a range of temperatures between 5 and 40 °C. Informative aging studies require technology that can provide accurate temperature control and efficient temperature cycling. What’s more, temperature control technologies used by breweries must be efficient, economical, reliable, easy to use, and have sufficient capacity for several bottles at one time.1,4

There are many types of temperature control technologies that can be used for accelerated aging studies including refrigerators, ovens, heated rooms, and water baths. Water baths provide many advantages over technologies that use heated air, including better heat transfer and heat distribution. Circulating baths provide the best heat distribution and even heating, reducing fluctuations in temperature between samples and decreasing the risk of hot spots.  However, many heated water baths struggle to provide temperatures below 10°C. As temperatures below 10°C- are often encountered during transportation and storage, brewers should select a bath that offers both heating and refrigeration. Heated/refrigerating circulating baths are the ideal temperature control solution for accelerated aging studies in breweries.6,7

The PolyScience 75L refrigerated/heated circulating bath. Image credit: PolyScience.8

The PolyScience 75L refrigerated circulating bath is an excellent option for brewers interested in conducting accelerated aging studies. The bath can both refrigerate and heat bottled beer samples to temperatures between  –20 and 100°C, with a stability of ±0.005°C. The programmable touch-screen is easy to use and allows an endless array of temperature cycling programs, so that brewers can create their own accelerated aging studies.

How could a 75 Liter Refrigerated Circulating Bath advance your research?

What’s more, the 75L bath offers plenty of capacity for multiple beer bottles to be tested at one time. As a result, the PolyScience 75L refrigerated circulating bath provides the ideal solution for brewers wishing to overcome the challenges of estimating shelf-life and preventing beer staling during transportation and storage, ensuring their customers receive the fresh taste of the beer they expect in the product.8

References and further reading

  1. ‘Handbook of Brewing: Processes, Technology, Markets’ — Esslinger HM, Wiley VCH, 2009.
  2. ‘The chemistry of beer aging – a critical review’ — Vanderhaegen B, Neven H, Verachtert H, Derdelinck G, Food Chemistry, 2006.
  3. ‘Further Studies on the Impact of Commercial Malting and Brewing Practices on Beer Flavour Stability’ — Lentini A, Nischwitz R, Rigoni P, Goldsmith M, Duan D, Fogarty L, Rogers P, Foster’s Group, 2001.
  4. ‘Application Spotlight: Accelerated Beverage Aging Studies’ https://polyscience.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/application-spotlight-accelerated-beverage-aging-studies/
  5. ‘ASLT Method for Beer Accelerated Shelf-Life Determination’ — Rakcejeva T, Skorina V, Karklina D, Skudra L, International Journal of Biological, Biomolecular, Agricultural, Food and Biotechnological Engineering, 2013.
  6. ‘Choosing a PolyScience Product’ https://www.polyscience.com/manuals/choosing-polyscience-product
  7. ‘Circulating Baths’
    https://www.polyscience.com/products/circulating-baths/introduction
  8. ‘75 Liter Refrigerated Circulating Bath’ https://www.polyscience.com/specialty-product/75-liter-refrigerated-circulating-bathPolyScience

About Polyscience

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