Many craft brew and large beer companies are moving to pasteurized beer, and for good reasons. This article gives a general overview of how and why to pasteurize beer.
Why pasteurize beer
There are two main reasons why one would want to pasteurize beer for commercial sale:
- Extend shelf life
- Ensure taste and consistency
The basic purpose of pasteurization is to eliminate or reduce microorganisms in the product that could cause it to spoil over time, and therefore extends the quality and shelf life of the beverage. A longer shelf life means that distributors and retailers can be confident that the product won’t spoil while it’s on a truck waiting to be delivered, or on a shelf in a store.
Many breweries use pasteurization as a standardization step for their products. Pasteurization effectively neutralizes the yeast, providing a product that consistently retains the flavor profile expected by consumers.
When to consider pasteurizing beer
- If you have product flavor fluctuations from batch to batch, pasteurization is the primary method used to standardize the product and maintain consistency across your product line.
- Has your business grown to the point of a regional distribution business model? Typically non-pasteurized products need to stay in the cold chain; refrigerated on-site and throughout transport. Pasteurized products can be safely shipped in non-refrigerated carriage. The method of distribution (refrigerated vs non-refrigerated) is a cost factor in any regional expansion plans.
- Barrel aged products and products that contain back sweetening or wild ingredients can be challenging to manage. Pasteurization is used as a standardization method to help minimize product failures.
The process of pasteurization
“Flash” pasteurization is another term for “HTST” (High Temperature Short Time) Pasteurization. Flash pasteurization is very energy efficient and has the least detectable flavor and color effect on the product compared to other pasteurization methods.
In this process the product is rapidly heated to a preset temperature, held for a short time, and is then rapidly cooled prior to filling. This process provides the required 5-Log reduction of microorganisms with minimal impact on the flavor or color of the product. The time and temperature of the process can be adjusted to suit the individual needs of the user.
A flash pasteurizer for beer is usually a plate style pasteurization unit. The term ‘plate’ style refers to the type of heat transfer technology used. Plate style heat exchangers are used for products with very little to no solids present like beer, cider, and kombucha. Learn more about our specialty Craft Brew Pasteurizer here.
Pasteurization temperatures and product hold times
Pasteurization temperatures typically range from 162°F to 180°F depending on the product and yeasts involved. Hold times are typically 15-20 seconds but can be as long as 60 seconds. You may already know which temperatures and hold times are needed to successfully process your beer. If not, a food lab or food scientist can help determine this for you. This process can be quite lengthy, so it’s best to get started right away if you are considering making the move to pasteurized beer.