In recent years, nonalcoholic beer has been growing in popularity. Today’s consumers are seeking healthier options as evidenced by the significant decline of soda consumption due to its high sugar content and link to obesity. Bottled water and juice have become more popular options, particularly among millennials, and this group is driving the sales of no- and low-alcohol beers as well. Statistics from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more than 40% of 18- to 25-year-olds reported not having had an alcoholic beverage in the previous month. Nonalcoholic beer is growing in popularity because it evokes a lifestyle image more sophisticated than that of sodas and juices, fitting the social image that many people want to project about themselves.
Processes designed to dealcoholize wine and beer have been around for more than 30 years, but consumers did not always accept these products. These low-alcohol products were not the highest quality and had a less than pleasing taste, but better technology and experimentation with ingredients, strongly influenced by craft brewing, has changed that. With the right technology, removing the alcohol no longer means removing the flavor.
API Heat Transfer’s Schmidt brand is the technological leader and original patent holder for the vacuum rectification process used to make no- alcohol beer. This method of dealcoholization better maintains the natural qualities of beer compared to the traditional process of filtering out the alcohol. API’s exclusive SIGMATEC process is the only system capable of producing 0.0% beer.
This technology can produce beer with a final alcohol content lower than 0.04% by volume at a capacity of 2000 to 100,000 liters per day (10 h production).
Vacuum rectification is the core engineering principle behind SIGMATEC technology. This proprietary dealcoholization process guarantees a very gentle separation of the alcohol from a diverse range of alcoholic products, including beer and wine, and can be tailored to a customer’s product.
For example, consider beer dealcoholization. The first step is decarbonization. Next, the SIGMATEC process removes the alcohol from the product in its rectification column, the design of which is exclusive
to API Heat Transfer, resulting in better flavor and a reduction in alcohol content to below 0.04% alcohol by volume.
While the product is in the rectification column, alcohol-rich vapors are condensed and cooled at a low temperature in the top of the column. These alcohol-rich vapors can be concentrated up to 75% alcohol by volume and stored in a tank in the form of industrial alcohol. The result is a saleable product that can be marketed immediately.
SIGMATEC plants have capacities ranging from 2 to 100 hl/h. The technology is environmentally friendly with regard to both water and energy resources. It is also adaptable for various products and formulations.
The technology advances made by API’s SIGMATEC modular dealcoholizing plants are becoming increasingly attractive to smaller breweries as well as craft breweries. Today, the SIGMATEC dealcoholization system is used in more than 100 plants around the world.
From the beginning, API Heat Transfer with its Schmidt brand has successfully established itself as the market leader in innovative and energy efficient equipment, and its engineers continue to develop and optimize the SIGMATEC process. For instance, new dual-stage cooling replaces 80% of glycol with cooling water, thereby reducing operating expenses. For a plant with 100 hl/h, the savings amounts to about 1,000 kW/h.
Advancements in control technology are enabling operators more flexibility in plant operations. Operators can continuously adjust the performance of their plant via a PLC (Programmable Logic Control) touch screen controller HMI (Human Machine Interface) within a power range of 50-100%
without having to make a single mechanical adjustment. A PLC control with ethernet capability and real-time data displays enables operators to monitor performance and avoid premature cleanings, extending the intervals between cleanings and reducing the costs for energy, CIP (Clean- in-Place) products, water and downtime.
Furthermore, automated controls have optimized the maintenance procedures. Startup, cleaning, and shutdown of the plant have improved, saving thousands of liters of water per cleaning cycle.
Below are the primary advantages of the SIGMATEC process: