shutterstock_214295824Holidays are coming! Decorations are going up, shopping for gifts has begun and perhaps you’re counting down the number of days left at work? Yes, at last, the festivities are upon us, time to eat, drink and be merry!

As we reflect on the year gone by and celebrate the achievements of friends and family, I would like to make a toast to my old friend, Ion Chromatography.  Why, you may wonder? My colleague Art Fitchett has his own reasons for toasting IC as discussed in this recent interview with Analytical Scientist Magazine on IC innovations. My toast is a little different and as I raise my glass, I would like to take a moment to thank this technique for contributing to its liquid contents. Whether it’s alcoholic, soda or fruit juice or a good old glass of water, IC won’t be your first thought, but you can be sure that it played its part in the beverage testing required to get that drink into your glass. So please join me in a little celebration…

Cheers to the Carbohydrates!

Carbohydrates are abundant in the foundations of most beverages, be it in the fruits used in juice, grapes for wine or raw ingredients of beer, carbohydrates contribute to flavor as well as determining alcohol content.  Carbohydrate analysis is important for the fermentation process as well as for labelling requirements and measuring authenticity and quality. Carbohydrate testing using high performance anion exchange with pulsed amperometric detection (HPAE-PAD) is the perfect choice as there is no need for derivatization. Whether your tipple is beer, wine, whiskey, rum or just a fruit juice or soda, they can all be analysed this way. If you’re partial to an after dinner coffee (discussed in detail in my previous blog post) with milk then this methodology applies here, too.

Also worth a mention are those sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol and xylitol. They are used in reduced sugar juices and confectionaries to give a low calorie sweet taste. Their use in foods is regulated because they exhibit laxative and diuretic properties –  a regulation and analysis we should all be grateful for.

Best wishes to all inorganic and organic acids!

In your wine, organic acids contribute to the overall acidity and tartness, giving flavors that are either pleasing or not so – think vinegar! Wine testing ensures a quality product. In your soda, they are important to maintain beverage freshness, minimize microbiological growth, and add a characteristic flavor – in particular citric acid and its inorganic acid sidekick phosphoric acid. Analyses of these are also needed to meet product labelling requirements in 21 CFR part 101.1. The production of soft drinks is fast paced and quick running IC methods have been developed so soda analysis can keep up with production.

Not only are they important to taste, organic acids can determine the authenticity of fruit juices and wines. Certain fruit juices are popular because of their high levels of antioxidants giving health benefits. Adulteration of these high cost juices with cheaper alternatives or dilution with water has been reported many times for financial gain by fraudsters.

Inorganic acids in beer come from the brewing water and can impact on flavor. Sulfate is added intentionally (Burtonisation), any excess along with high levels of chloride can have a detrimental effect on the taste. Excess nitrate can impact the fermentation process so analysis of beer to determine the inorganic acid profile is key to bringing you the perfect brew. Most inorganic acids can be analysed at the same time as organic acids under gradient conditions. Utilising high pressure IC with autogenerated eluents, an AS11-HC 4um column and suppressed conductivity detection, these complex separations can become simple.

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Here’s to the cations!

Cations may be our positive little friends, but can lead to some unpleasant tastes in our beer. Too much potassium will taste salty and metals such as zinc, lead and copper can be poisons. Magnesium is a good nutrient for yeast aiding fermentation, but over a certain concentration leads to a sharp, bitter-sour taste.

Arsenic is another one to watch out for. Analysis of fruit juices for arsenic has been carried out for many years. Arsenic has a number of forms, some more toxic than others, As(III) As(V) especially and some are harmless like Arsenobetaine. Fruit juice testing using IC for the separation of these arsenic species can then be coupled with ICP-MS for detection, which allows the speciation of arsenic to be monitored and strict limits to be adhered to.

Bon voyage to biogenic amines!

Want to avoid the next day wine headache? Then think about the biogenic amines. Yeast in its primary fermentation can lead to the production of biogenic amines such as tyramine, putrescine, histamine, and phenylethylamine in wine samples. Histamine can produce headaches, flushing of the face and neck, and hypotension, whereas some aromatic amines can cause migraines. The concentration of biogenic amines depends on storage time, conditions and the quality of raw ingredients. Wine testing using cation exchange chromatography with a combination of suppressed conductivity, UV detection and integrated pulsed amperometry is the ideal solution to determine and then control these spoilers and ensure we are drinking a quality product.

One for the road?

These toasts are a nod to the role ion chromatography plays in beverage testing and production.  There are of course many other techniques, methodologies and applications that produce beverages to a high standard. To learn more visit the beverage testing home page.

Top up on your beverage testing applications in this handy Beverage Application Notebook.

Quench your thirst for organic acids in wine and juice with this application note.