When to Measure the Dissolved Oxygen in Beer

Many years ago I was at a brewery where we were measuring the dissolved oxygen in a finished beer tank.  The dO2 was twice their acceptable value, so I asked what they were going to do with that particular batch.  The reply from the quality person was, “We’ll wait until tomorrow before sending it to packaging.  By then the dissolved O2 will be within spec.”  I gulped and politely asked if they were concerned with the long-term flavor stability of that tank of beer.  He changed the subject and we moved on to discuss other matters.

Brewers are much more concerned with minimizing dissolved oxygen today, because they know that the lower the dO2, the better the shelf stability. But not everyone understands how important it is to measure dO2 in real time.  Measuring a day or even a few hours after filtration or packaging won’t give a realistic measurement. If you bottle condition or don’t filter your beer, the oxygen consumption could be even faster: minutes instead of hours or days.

The key is to measure dO2 in real time, perhaps checking a bright beer tank a couple of times during a filtration run, or having inline monitors to insure that your centrifuge, filter, or pump are not creating a dO2 problem.

My final thought is that if you want to know the dissolved oxygen content of a particular batch, measure early.  Waiting could give you a false sense that all is well.  According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, 91% of customers who have a bad experience will not buy again from that business, and they will remember the offense for 23½ years.

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