Vista Spectrophotometer Improves Color Quality Control for Vodka Distilleries

I was at a bar with a Russian friend the other day. He ordered us some premium vodka, and it was so smooth that I almost forgot how alcoholic it was! This got me thinking about how the vodka I drank in college wasn’t good vodka. My friends and I (and much of the student body) would buy one of many different brands of what was all essentially the same rotgut. For about ten dollars, we could purchase 1.75 liters of this clear, syrupy liquid in a plastic bottle. I know it was distilled, at least a few times. However, when you drank it, although you couldn’t see them, you could feel on your tongue little bits of—something—floating around in there. Maybe that’s why it tasted so bad.

Popov vodka
You know it’s the right stuff when it comes in a plastic handle. Image credit: Flickr User Kim+5 (CC BY 2.0)

 

Brand Consistency for Vodka Distilleries

 

Not all vodka comes in plastic handles, and even if it does, quality control is an essential element of the production process. After repeated distillation, manufacturers subject their batches to a battery of QC tests designed to ensure color clarity, transparency, and the flavor is consistent with their brand. Only after passing this regimen is the vodka bottled and shipped to distributors.

 

The reason for this is obvious: brand consistency. A major selling point for middle and top-shelf vodka companies is their comparative quality and distinctive flavor, or lack thereof. Should they ship out batches of off-color vodka, customers are likely to choose a different option off the shelf. These customers will also remember the decision and will be more likely to choose another brand in the future. That holds true even if the batch in front of them is the color it’s supposed to be.

 

Customers won’t notice haze or strange flavors until after they’ve bought the bottle, or received a drink at the bar. However, they’ll remember the experience and will be more likely to choose a different brand the next time they’re looking for a drink. Quality control then is not only important for the immediate batch, but to safeguard the reputation of every other future batch as well.

Vodka being sold
Makers of high-quality vodka rely on instrumental color quality control to differentiate their products. Image Credit: Flickr User James Hubley (CC BY 2.0)

 

Instrumental Color and Haze Measurement Ensures Vodka Quality Control

 

With their brand’s reputation at stake, vodka producers rely on transmission spectrophotometers and haze measurement instruments to ensure that their liquor is the right color and completely transparent. These instruments measure color and haze, respectively, using similar methods. They pass a controlled beam of light through a transparent liquid and record any changes in the light as it hits a detector on the other side. Quality control technicians place the sample into the instrument, take the measurement, and observe the result displayed on the instrument’s screen. It is a straightforward method for determining if the sample color (or lack thereof) is within acceptable tolerances.

vodka with city backdrop
Quality and luxury are top selling points of high-quality vodkas. Image Credit: Flickr User AnestesiA Vodka (CC BY 2.0)

 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Color and Haze Measurement Instruments

 

Due to their improved reliability and precision over human observers, color and haze measurement instruments have become the industry standard for quality control of transparent liquids. However, that’s not to say these instruments don’t have drawbacks.

 

For one, their large size crowds up benchtop space in small laboratories, which is especially onerous for small to mid-size craft distilleries. Also, they often require a connection to a nearby PC to store saved color standards, display results or transfer data to a company server. Other aspects are outdated as well, such as the need to calibrate the instrument daily with a set of colored disks.

 

Recognizing the need for improvement, at HunterLab, we’ve designed Vista, a single instrument capable of measuring both transmission color and haze simultaneously. Not only does it replace two instruments with one, it’s also significantly smaller than either earlier machine. Despite its small size, its modern processor is capable of storing saved standards and transmitting data without the need for a PC. Also, its large touchscreen display makes reading measurement data fast and simple. It doesn’t need colored disks, either—it can calibrate automatically at the touch of a button.

 

To read more about how Vista can improve your distillery’s quality control processes, contact us today to speak with one of our friendly, knowledgeable sales professionals.

Vista Color and Haze Spectrophotometer Ensures Bottled Water Clarity and Color Quality

Have you ever been out in the wilderness and had to rely on natural sources of water? If you have then you know that it is a bad idea to consume still water that’s been sitting in a pond or a lake. The lower the elevation, the higher the chance of contracting a stomach bug. It’s prudent to treat any water from a stream or lake with an iodine tablet, but here’s the catch. Water that’s been treated with iodine looks far less appealing than the sparkling water that nature has offered up to you. It’s hard not to take a sip of it; though, in the end, you’ll be by your toilet regretting your life.

 

Watercolor, or the lack-there-of, has an effect on people’s perception of its cleanliness and drinkability.  That’s why bottled water manufacturer’s know how that their brand’s success relies on consistently providing customers with transparent and colorless products.

 

waterfall into a stream
But it looks so fresh and drinkable! Image Credit: Flickr User tobo

 

Perception of Cleanliness and Safety Is Essential for Bottled Water Manufacturers

 

When the public perceives that its water supply is not safe1 , it’s good business for the bottled water industry. Sales of bottled water spiked when Flint became aware of its contamination2. As fracking stirred fears of water contamination in Pennsylvania (spurred by an image of burning tap water in Gasland), residents began subsisting entirely on bottled water, for eating, for cooking, and even for showering. People buy bottled water because it is safe, and it is clean.

 

As a result, bottled water manufacturers have a vested interest in maintaining the public perception that their water is clean and safe. If contamination is perceived or discovered in a brand–if a customer noticed that one particular case of water was more yellow than others–that brand’s credibility would be in serious jeopardy. That’s why bottled water manufacturers rely on transmission spectrophotometers to ensure that their water seems safe to drink. As every company producing bottled water is essentially selling the same product—water is water—the strength of a company’s bottled water line is entirely dependent on brand credibility and customer loyalty. To endanger either is to endanger the entire product line. By testing the color and haze of their water before it is bottled and distributed, manufacturers can ensure their credibility.

 

bottled water
Bottled water must maintain an impression of cleanliness and safety to remain competitive. Image Credit: Flickr User Techmsg (CC BY 2.0)

 

Vista Ensures Water Color And Haze Conforms to Quality Standards


Transmission spectrophotometers assess the color of transparent or translucent liquids by passing light through a sample and measuring it on the other side. Like the human eye, they record color as a function of the full spectrum of visible light. Any tint in the water can be rapidly detected. From there, the issue can be isolated, the root cause discovered, and the process corrected. This ensures that all water leaving the bottling plant is “water white.”

 

Of course, color is not the only indicator of water quality. Clarity is of equal importance. Any particulate matter affecting the transparency of water will be noticed by customers. Whether or not these particulates pose health hazards, the sight of them alone will drive customers to a clearer brand of water. Naturally, bottlers employ haze measurement instruments as well as spectrophotometers to ascertain the quality of their water.

 

Traditionally, these have been separate instruments, requiring quality control technicians to subject each sample to two separate tests. However, HunterLab has recently introduced the Vista, a transmission and haze spectrophotometer, which is the first instrument capable of measuring color and haze simultaneously. By measuring both at once, this instrument cuts measurement time in half frees up valuable benchtop space in the laboratory and reduces the ongoing costs of ownership by halving maintenance costs. To learn more about how the Vista can improve the quality assurance processes of your bottled water plant, contact the experts at HunterLab.

  1. “America’s Tap Water: Too Much Contamination, Not Enough Reporting, Study Finds.” 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/us/tapwater-drinking-water-study.html?module=WatchingPortal&region=c-column-middle-span-region&pgType=Homepage&action=click&mediaId=thumb_square&state=standard&contentPlacement=19&version=internal&contentCollection=www.nytimes.com&contentId=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2017%2F05%2F04%2Fus%2Ftapwater-drinking-water-study.html&eventName=Watching-article-click&_r=0
  2. “Flint water crisis fast facts,” 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/flint-water-crisis-fast-facts/
Color and haze measurement of fruit drinks and carbonated beverages

FAQ: “I have worked with a company measuring the color of sports drinks. Now this company is interested in fruit drinks and also in carbonated soft drinks. Have you worked with these types of beverages? Any advice or recommendations?”

Fruit drinks contain:

  • water
  • corn sweeteners
  • may contain some fruit juice or fruit solids
  • flavors (oil emulsions)
  • may have clouding agent which is usually citric acid. Putting in a clouding agent to create a hazy appearance is a marketing decision which depends on the consumer association with the type of drink.

In a fruit drink, whether there is any natural fruit juice or not, the appearance of haze can be created by the presence of oil flavor emulsions and/or clouding agents such as citric acid. These are added on purpose to create a hazy appearance in some flavors of fruit drinks such as pineapple, lemonade, grapefruit and guava where the consumer expects some scattering.

For other fruit drink flavors such as apple, cream soda or grape the consumer does not have the expectation of a hazy appearance and no additional clouding agents are added.HunterLab can measure both lot-to-lot color and haze (or no haze for clear drinks) inherent in different fruit drinks.

If the beverage is carbonated (a separate source of scattering), it should be decarbonated to remove the carbonation as an unnecessary cause of scattering (independent of color) and measurement variation.To de-carbonate the beverage, place the liquid sample in a sonicator (there are a number available but I have seen a Branson Sonicator in successful use in the lab) that breaks up the carbonization by bombarding with Ultrasound for 60 seconds. Some care has to be taken that the carbonated beverage be placed in a container at least twice the volume of the beverage because when the ultrasound pummels the carbonization, the release of carbon dioxide gas can effervesce suddenly.

Another low-tech option to decarbonization is to place an air hose from the normal lab air supply into the beverage and gently run the air for about 4 minutes. The slow stream of air bubbles break up the carbonization gradually.

Is it possible to create ASTM traceable haze standards above 30%?

The current, available ASTM D1003 Haze Standards have nominal Haze% values of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 30 with air (transparent solids) or the transmission cell filled with DI water being 0 (transparent liquids). Here are some thoughts on further options. Continue reading

The details of how HunterLab sphere instruments conform to ASTM D1003 Section 8: Procedure B Spectrophotometer for transmission haze measurement

HunterLab sphere instruments with CIE d/8 geometries conform to the requirements of ASTM D1003 Section 8: Procedure B Spectrophotometer. The measurement of transmission haze using Procedure B instruments will be in close agreement with ASTM D1003 Procedure A Haze meter.

Here is a more detailed description of how the HunterLab UltraScan PRO, UltraScan VIS and ColorQuest XE meet the requirements of Section 8.

Continue reading

Measuring the Color of Olive Oil
Olive oil samples with range of sediment. Left to right least amount of sediment to most amount of sediment.
Olive oil samples with range of sediment. Left to right least amount of sediment to most amount of sediment.

Olive oil is produced by grinding whole olives and extracting the oil by mechanical or chemical means. Olive oil has a wide variety of applications cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, soaps, but most commonly is used in cooking.

Can HunterLab instruments accurately determine the quality of olive oils quantitatively? Continue reading

Do you have a source for Transparent Liquid Haze Standards?

HunterLab Distributor FAQ: “I have a new pharma customer doing color measurements.  They also want to do haze measurements and we had a discussion about haze standards.  Would our plastic haze standards be fine or is there a liquid haze standard out there?” Continue reading

What is a visual limit for Haze%?

FAQ: “What is a visual limit for Haze%? When should I be able to see a difference in a sample?”

A perfect clear of 0% would be air for transparent solids and the transmission cell of a defined path length filled with DI water for transparent liquids.

It should also be noted that the Haze% measurement of scatter in a sample is dependent on the thickness of transparent solid samples or cell path length of liquid samples.

The answer as to when you can see a visual difference will depend on the nature of the sample. For the plastic or glass sheets used in computer tablet screens, acceptable limits for what is faintly visible fall in the 1-2% range.

For pharmaceutical or chemical liquids, the average person may be able to see a visual difference in transmission haze at around 4 – 5%, and should definitely see a difference at a level of 6 – 7%.

To determine this for you sample, you should take a range of products exhibiting haze and get the consensus opinion of a number of people as to which samples show less than and more than visible sample. Measure Haze% using a sphere instrument and assign a visible limit specific to your product.

For many applications, especially those related to consumer products, a visible limit for haze is also the tolerance for acceptable product but not always…

Depending on the end use of the product, what is an acceptable may be below a visible limit if you don’t customer to see any visible haze difference in your product.

Or, if haze is inherent in the product and whatever is causing the product haze does not impact its use, an acceptable tolerance may be several times a visible difference. On these types of products, a typical range for good product might be from 10 to 12%, with an upper limit set at 20% just to ensure that any abnormal product is detected.

Air for transparent solids, or the cell filled with DI water or clear solvent for transparent liquids, is a physical product reference representing no haze, and the best your sample can be. A visible limit in product samples will typically be in the 2% to 5% range. What is acceptable in the marketplace will vary from less than a visible limit to some upper maximum.

What are the Flow Cell Options for Transparent Liquids?
Flow Cell Diagram combo
HunterLab D04-1015-423 flow cell with 7 mm ID/9 mm OD inlet ports, centered in D02-1009-960 Flow Through Cell Holder

A flow through cell can be a handy solution for continuous sampling and ease of measurement with a transparent, liquid product. Continue reading

Source for ASTM D1003 Transparent Plastic Haze Standards from HunterLab

You can order single Haze standards or the full set of 5 haze standards through HunterLab for use with any of our sphere instruments – ColorQuest XE, UltraScan PRO and UltraScan VIS. These solid, transparent plastic plaques (calibrated or uncalibrated) can be effective in monitoring instrument performance in measuring wide angle scattering over time.   Continue reading