Silicone antifoams help breweries thrive

Paul Boughton

The chemical reactions of proteins and enzymes of barley grains and hops may give beers their distinct flavours, but as the world’s thirst for beer grows, large and small breweries are also looking to chemistry to help maintain peak productivity.

“While carbon dioxide bubbles can create a distinguishing ‘head’ on a glass of beer, too much foam can create problems,” said Don Buchalski, global marketing manager for Dow Corning’s XIAMETER brand, which offers high-quality, standard silicone products online and through distribution. “Boilovers during the brewing process can hinder production in what is a very competitive industry. One solution can be to add silicone antifoams in the brewing process.”

Silicone antifoams destabilise and collapse the bubbles, helping brewers to reduce loss and avoid having to stop production to clean up spills. The antifoams are removed along with the silica used for haze stabilization in the filtration process before packaging. [Page Break]

Such manufacturing improvements are good news for smaller brewers, and may be one reason the craft beer industry has grown by 13 per cent from 2010 and now accounts for 5.7 per cent of volume of the US beer market, according to the Brewers Association, the trade association representing the majority of US brewing companies. Overall, beer producers are working overtime to keep pace with thirst.

A report by Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings said 2011 was the 27th consecutive year that global beer production marked an increase. It attributed the rise to robust demand in Asia and developing countries. The report said 192.71 million kilolitres (50.9 billion gallons) of beer were produced last year, up 3.7 per cent from 2010. [Page Break]

China was the world's largest beer producer — accounting for about 25 per cent — for the 10th straight year.

The United States saw a slight decrease in production from the year before but still ranked second at 11.7 percent, followed by Brazil and Russia, the report said.

“Beer is older than recorded history but there’s always room for improvement, especially in when it comes to production techniques,” Buchalski said.

Beyond beer production, tasteless, odourless food-grade silicone antifoam emulsions are also used in production of wine, carbonated soft drinks, fruit juices and drinks, and soy sauce.

XIAMETER AFE-1510 Antifoam Emulsion and XIAMETER AFE-1520 Antifoam Emulsion have been used successfully as process aids and cleaning aids during production of beer.

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