A German research institute is developing a new polymer powder that can quickly detect pathogens in beer before they ruin the brew.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Potsdam have developed a powder that simplifies microbiological tests to detect beverage-spoiling organisms, such as bacteria and yeasts.
The scientists say the test takes two to three days instead of the usual five to seven days.
To ensure that the finished product is drinkable, breweries invest heavily in quality control systems. Because beer is a "living" product produced by fermentation, a few bacteria or other microorganisms can affect your pint.
The conventional way of detecting bacteria is incubation. In this, samples of beer are filtered through a membrane and the residue collected is placed on agar plates. After incubation, any bacteria colonies that form are separated out and cultivated again until pure strains are produced, identifiable under a microscope.
The new polymer powder is added directly to a liquid beer sample. The polymer is engineered so its surface interacts with the membrane of the microorganisms and clings to them. The result is that the powder soon gathers a concentrated sample of the pathogens, which can be separated from the liquid and studied.
Breweries have also only been able to examine small sample volumes of up to one litre though membrane filtration. With the polymer powder, tests with 30 litres or more could be possible.
“Membrane filtration is not suitable for the quality control of beverages such as fruit juices, milk, cola and red wine. They contain so much solid or suspended matter that the filter clogs quickly,” said Andreas Holländer, a scientist at Applied Polymer Research.
He added that the polymer is currently undergoing pilot plant testing and will be available later this year.