Your customers expect to get their favorite beers fresh with their natural flavor intact. But after you’ve worked so hard to create the perfect batch of beer, it could all be ruined before the customer even gets to press their lips against the container.
You want to make sure the beer tastes the same from the time it leaves your facility to the moment someone tastes it. Why leave the shelf life of your beverages up to chance?
It’s becoming increasingly clear that beverage manufacturers who care about quality need to leverage some form of pasteurization to extend the shelf life of their products without compromising on quality, taste, and nutrition. Enter flash pasteurization.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at what flash pasteurization is, how it works, and why flash pasteurization might be the best choice for your brewery.
What is Flash Pasteurization?
Flash pasteurization, or high-temperature short-time (HTST), is a process used to treat foods and liquids. Cold beverages are flash-heated to a very high temperature for a short period of time and then quickly cooled. Exposure to heat for a set period of time kills microorganisms like bacteria, molds, and yeast, extending the shelf life of the beverages.
Flash pasteurization, unlike other pasteurization processes, maintains the beverage’s natural flavor, texture, and nutritional value. It also eliminates the need for preservatives, giving customers a fresher and tastier product.
How Flash Pasteurization Works
The rapid heating of flash pasteurization is done in a heat exchanger, which typically has three sections:
Regeneration Section In this section, the majority of the heat transfer is taking place. There is the raw incoming product on one side of the plate and pasteurized product on the other side. The incoming product is being pre-heated by the existing product, which is in turn being cooled by the incoming. This recovers 90% or more of the energy and reduces utility costs for both heating and cooling.
Heating Section After exiting the raw side of regeneration, the product has already been heated to within 15-20°F of the pasteurization temperature. It then travels through heating to be heated to the desired pasteurization temperature. Steam is used to heat water, which is then pumped through the heat exchanger on the opposite side of the plate from the product.
Hold Loop After reaching the desired pasteurization temperature, the product travels through the Hold Loop, which retains the pasteurization temperature for the specified time (normally 15-30 seconds). Exiting the Hold Loop, the product then passes through the pasteurized side of Regeneration. The existing product is cooled by the incoming product on the opposite side of the plate. The exiting temperature of pasteurized regeneration is typically within 10-15° of the incoming product temperature.
Cooling Section Product exiting regeneration passes through cooling to be cooled to the final desired temperature. Glycol or other cooling is the medium.
Breweries must use hygienic filling technology to prevent post-pasteurization contamination. This helps to ensure that flash-heated beverages are bottled (or canned) in a sterile environment. Flash pasteurization also demands rigorous quality control, as any deviation from flash heating parameters can compromise the product’s quality, or worse, lead to an unsafe beverage.
Which Beverages Need Flash Pasteurization?
The main reason you should consider flash pasteurization is that it maintains the quality and taste of your cold beverages over a longer period of time. It extends a product’s shelf life without interfering with its taste, health benefits, or composition. This process can also be used with several other kinds of cold beverages, including:
- Fruit and vegetable juices
- Sports drinks
For beverage producers looking to deliver superior-quality products, flash pasteurization is a viable option. However, there are benefits and drawbacks to the process that might sway a brewery’s decision to incorporate the process into its beer production. Here’s a look at a few:
Advantages of Flash Pasteurization
Flash Pasteurization is Best for Highly Perishable Beverages
Flash pasteurization is the only viable option for highly perishable beverages like beer. Especially when brands want to extend their product’s shelf life without compromising on taste.
Flash Pasteurization is Preservative Free
Unlike traditional pasteurization, which requires the addition of preservatives to extend shelf life, flash pasteurization is a preservative-free process. The high temperatures are enough to denature the microorganisms and slow their growth, so preservatives are rarely necessary. This is beneficial for brands looking to produce all-natural and high-quality beverages.
Disadvantages of Flash Pasteurization
Flash Pasteurization is a Long-Term Investment
Flash pasteurization is a long-term investment because of the technology and advanced equipment involved. However, investing in a system not only maintains your great flavor, but also gives you the opportunity to reach new markets.
Flash Pasteurization Requires Quality Control
Flash pasteurization is not a set-it-and-forget-it process. It requires rigorous quality control before and after to ensure safety and quality. Fortunately, you can leverage advanced monitoring systems to automate and expedite the process.
Flash Pasteurization Can Kill Beneficial Bacteria
Flash pasteurization is an all-or-nothing process. It doesn’t differentiate between pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacteria. This may be a problem for brands looking to preserve essential probiotic bacteria that promote a healthy gut, boosts immunity, and improves digestion.
For breweries looking to produce high-quality beers without sacrificing taste, freshness, and nutrition – the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
Why Flash Pasteurization is the Right Choice for Breweries
Pasteurization is an important factor in shipping, warehouse time, sitting on the shelf, and even time it may sit in a consumer’s refrigerator. And it’s important to note, there are actually two types of pasteurization that make sense for breweries, depending on your product and overall goals:
- Flash pasteurization: This is more common in brewing and is used by most large breweries. The process is done prior to packaging. And as brewers of all sizes branch out into alternative beverages like seltzers, teas, and coffee – flash pasteurization helps with quality control in the marketplace.
- Tunnel pasteurization: This is a continuous process that treats a beverage through multiple steps from start to finish to ensure that a liquid does not become contaminated with unwanted microbes. After the product is bottled or canned, the package runs through the tunnel. This process is also not as energy-efficient as flash pasteurization, is normally a higher capital investment, and requires a large commitment of space.
Regardless of which process you choose, one thing will remain constant: After working so hard to formulate the perfect batch of beer, it doesn’t make much sense to leave its shelf life up to chance in kegs and with distributors. It is almost impossible to control keg cold storage once it’s in the hands of distributors. Beyond that, you want to ensure that you’re not sacrificing taste or freshness when it comes to a product you’ve poured your heart into.
Equipment advancements mean that flash pasteurizers can be placed in various spots around breweries without taking up a lot of floor space and many models have become more affordable over time.
Get Started with Shelf Life Systems
Flash pasteurization can work wonders for your brewery. It helps you produce high-quality beers that retain their flavor and freshness while extending their shelf life. You need an experienced, reliable pasteurization partner who can ensure the process’s efficacy and safety.
Get in touch with the Shelf Life Systems team today to learn about our options for flash pasteurization, and how we can help you maximize your beer’s shelf life.