Regulation & Safety

‘Yeast Lightning!’ UK firm reveals big beer interest in testing kit

13-Mar-2014
Last updated on 13-Mar-2014 at 17:18 GMT - By Ben Bouckley+
‘Yeast Lightning!’ UK startup reveals big beer interest in testing kit
A- A+

UK firm BACTEST says a major global brewer is trialing its ultra-fast testing kit for wild yeasts in beer, and insists Speedy Breedy will save money and remove the risk of brand damage.

Using this test, brewers simply add beer samples to BACTEST's sterile gamma irradiated culture vessel populated with its newly developed media product called YMC, which is designed to detect wild yeasts.

The vessel is then incubated inside the retro-looking Speedy Breedy respirometer – launched in late 2012 and validated by Campden BRI – that can be used within the brewery and produces results in as little as 5.8 hours.

This compares favorably with the current practice of sending samples to a lab, which takes between three to five days excluding transportion, and BACTEST CEO Annie Brooking tells BeverageDaily.com the system is unique.

What dangers do wild yeasts bring? Well, contamination can indicate uncontrolled processes or insanitary procedures that may mean problems  – lower terminal gravities in beer, incorrect alcohol content, off flavors.

Wild yeasts can cause major brand damage

Fast identification of yeasts means brewers do not make the mistake of bottling contaminated beer, while affected equipment can be quickly sanitized to stop spoilage of subsequent batches.

Brooking tells this website that Speedy Breedy (pictured left) which weighs just 3kg, can be used to detect contamination in everything from juices and milk, to ice cream, beer, water and meat – even stem cells and semen.

Here is Brooking discussing beer specifically: “Wild yeast contamination is not desirable by any means. If a brewery is contaminated really badly then they might have to throw a batch a beer away, or even shut the brewery down – due to the off taste of beer,” she says.

“People follow brands of beer. So they know if something’s not right. Unlike wine, which has so many different flavor variants. With beer, people pick it up instantly if it’s different from what they’re anticipating,” she adds.

“If you do have a contaminated line and you don’t know, you could be sending samples off and waiting a week – during that period of time you’ve made more batches of beer that also get contaminated.”

“When these things get out of control it’s serious. Decontaminating a factory or line can not only cost a lot of money but take a lot of time and productivity, recalling a batch of beer, and the brand damage this involves.”

Speedy Breedy slashes test waiting times

Key USPs for Speedy Breedy include its speed – vis-à-vis sending samples to a lab – and the lack of need for expert staff, Brooking explains.

“Normally you’d place beer samples on agar plates and pop them in incubators for several days, before waiting for bugs to grow,” she says.

“This takes a skilled person to look at the plates and determine if there was contamination. Secondly, visually they need to visually identify the contaminant – as experts they know what they’re looking at.

“But with Speedy Breedy you don’t need to do any of those things. The combination of a media for wild yeast (which is what we supply) together with a specific protocol, means that any contaminant identified is automatically wild yeast – the whole thing is set up to find that,” Brooking adds.

The Speedy Breedy respirometer itself costs £2,500 ($4,170) while an 8-pack of single use Wild Yeast Vessels (above, left) will set you back £60.

"I know that’s a lot of money still for a microbrewer. But the major benefit in using Speedy Breedy is the cost of not using it,” Brooking says.

*Join us for our free online event, Beverage & Dairy Treatment 2014, on March 20 2014.  The program starts at 10.15am New York time, 3.15pm in Paris, and explores process technologies including aseptic, ESL and HPP. 
Exclusive webinars unite top consultants, suppliers such as GEA Procomac and Avure and brandowners including Coca-Cola Hellenic and Refresco Gerber. Click here to find out more and to register.

Related topics: Sustainability, Regulation & Safety, Beer, Wine, Spirits, Cider, Processing Equipment & Systems, Automation, Control