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A review of methods of low alcohol and alcohol-free beer production

Tom Brnyik
, Daniel P. Silva
, Martin Baszczyn ski
, Radek Lehnert
, Joo B. Almeida e Silva
Department of Fermentation Chemistry and Bioengineering, Institute of Chemical Technology Prague, Technick 5, 166 28 Prague, Czech Republic
Institute of Technology and Research, Tiradentes University, Campus Farolndia, Sector ITP, 49032-490 Aracaju, Sergipe, Brazil
Department of Biotechnology, Engineering School of Lorena, University of So Paulo, P.O. Box 116, 12602-810 Lorena, So Paulo, Brazil
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 29 June 2011
Received in revised form14 September 2011
Accepted 25 September 2011
Available online 1 October 2011
Low-alcohol beer
Alcohol-free beer
Limited fermentation
a b s t r a c t
The increasing interest of consumers in health and alcohol abuse issues motivates breweries to expand
the assortment of products with low alcohol content. The goal of producing beers with low alcohol con-
tent can be achieved by two main strategies; namely by gentle removal of alcohol from regular beer and
by limited ethanol formation during the beer fermentation. Within these two basic strategies, there are a
number of techniques that vary in performance, efciency and usability. This paper presents an overview
and comparison of these techniques and provides an evaluation of sensorial properties of low-alcohol and
an alcohol-free beer produced as well as suggests possibilities for their additional improvement.
2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 494
2. Beer and health . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 494
3. Methods of the alcohol-free beer production. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 494
4. Production of alcohol-free beer by ethanol removal methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 495
4.1. Thermal processes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 495
4.1.1. Vacuum rectification plant. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 495
4.1.2. Thin film evaporators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 496
4.2. Membrane processes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 498
4.2.1. Dialysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 498
4.2.2. Reverse osmosis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 498
5. Production of alcohol-free beer by methods of restricted ethanol formation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 499
5.1. Changed mashing process. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 499
5.2. Arrested or limited fermentation process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500
5.3. Use of special yeast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 501
5.4. Continuous fermentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 502
6. Sensorial properties and additional improvements of alcohol-free beer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 503
6.1. Post-treatments and blending . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 504
6.2. Additives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 504
7. Cost evaluation and conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 504
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 504
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 505
0260-8774/$ - see front matter 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Abbreviations: ABV, alcohol by volume; ADH, alcohol dehydrogenase; AF, arrested fermentation; AFB, alcohol-free beer; CCP, cold contact process; D, dialysis; DMS,
dimethyl sulde; EAA, esters of acetic acids; EBC, European Brewery Convention; ES, esters; FA, short-chain fatty acids; FF, falling lm; FUM, fumarase; HA, higher alcohols;
HAA, higher aliphatic alcohols; KGD, 2-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase; LAB, low-alcohol beer; RO, reverse osmosis; SCC, spinning cone column; VR, vacuum rectication.

Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (T. Brnyik).
Journal of Food Engineering 108 (2012) 493506
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Journal of Food Engineering
j our nal homepage: www. el sevi er. com/ l ocat e/ j f oodeng
1. Introduction
The production of beers with low alcohol content had different
historical reasons in the past century. For instance, during World
Wars (19141918 and 19391945) it was the shortage of raw
materials, which was leading to the production of beers with low
original extract (often with a high proportion of adjuncts) and thus
of low alcohol content. On the other hand, in the years between
1919 and 1933 it was the prohibition to manufacture, sale and con-
sume alcohol, which increased the production of low alcohol con-
tent beers in the United States of America (Meussdoerffer, 2009;
Silva et al., 2010). In the late 20th century efforts of breweries to
expand the assortment of products with beers with low alcohol
content was motivated mainly by the following reasons:
Increase in the overall production by bringing out new products
in countries with highly competitive markets.
Provide beer consumers with alternative products prior or dur-
ing their activities (driving motor vehicles or operating machin-
ery, engagement in sports) or under conditions (pregnancy,
medication) irreconcilable with alcohol consumption.
Penetrate beverage markets in countries, where alcohol con-
sumption is forbidden for religious reasons.
Although the sales of beers with low alcohol content did not ful-
ll the initial optimistic expectations and the market with these
products has been, for a long time, just a drop in the sea of the
overall beer production, nowadays it is a fast growing segment of
the beer market worldwide. In the last ve years, the average sales
in Europe climbed by 50%. Spain is now the largest consumer of
beers with low alcohol content in the European Union (EU), 9.5%
of the beer sold there in 2010 were alcohol-free, while in Germany,
the largest European beer market, the share of beers with low alco-
hol content varies between 4% and 5%. Probably the most signi-
cant reasons for the annual increase in alcohol-free beer (AFB)
sales in the EU countries are the legislative interventions restrict-
ing the alcohol consumption and the increasing awareness of con-
sumers about the benets of moderate beer drinking (Silva et al.,
2010; Informe, 2010).
In most of the EU countries beers with low alcohol content are
divided into alcohol free beers (AFBs) containing 60.5% alcohol by
volume (ABV), and to low-alcohol beers (LABs) with no more than
1.2% ABV. In the United States alcohol-free beer means that there is
no alcohol present, while the upper limit of 0.5% ABV corresponds
to so-called non-alcoholic beer or near-beer (Montanari et al.,
2009). In countries that enforce religious prohibition, the alcohol
content in beverages must not exceed 0.05% by volume.
The terminology of this article in the following chapters will be
governed by the aforementioned European legislation. However,
while the methods to produce both LAB and AFB are from practical
point of view identical, the AFBs market share prevails over the
LABs one. Hence, in this article the beverages with low alcohol con-
tent produced from malt will be generally termed alcohol-free
beers (AFBs).
2. Beer and health
Alcohol abuse has been on the public agenda for many years
since it carries risks of violent crime, trafc accidents, public disor-
der, and health damage. Ethanol is one of the most commonly used
recreational drugs worldwide and it is often ingested as a compo-
nent of beer. When beer is consumed, ethanol is absorbed from the
gastrointestinal tract by diffusion and is swiftly distributed in the
blood before entering tissues. Ethanol is metabolized to acetalde-
hyde mainly in the stomach and liver. Acetaldehyde is highly toxic
and binds cellular constituents generating harmful acetaldehyde
adducts (Rajendram and Preedy, 2009).
Simultaneously, there are strong evidences that moderate
alcohol consumption has not only a better long-term health out-
come than excessive alcohol consumption, but even better than
abstaining. Moderate beer drinking has shown to be, at least,
as effective as wine drinking at reducing risks of coronary dis-
eases, heart attack, diabetes, and overall mortality (Mukamal
and Rimm, 2008; Ferreira and Willoughby, 2008). Besides alco-
hol, which is probably the most important component of beer
that counters atherosclerosis (Li and Mukamal, 2004; Tolstrup
and Groenbaek, 2007), these positive effects may be attributed
to a whole range of other properties and valuable cereal and
hop-related substances found in beer such as no fat or choles-
terol content, low energy and free sugar content, high antioxi-
dant (e.g. polyphenols, avonoids), magnesium and soluble
ber content. In addition, beer provides essential vitamins and
minerals and is thus contributing to a healthy balanced diet
(Bamforth, 2002). The alcohol-free beers also claim benecial
effects of healthy beer components with a simultaneous effect
of the lower energy intake and complete absence of negative
impacts of alcohol consumption.
3. Methods of the alcohol-free beer production
The strategies to produce AFBs can be divided into two main
groups (physical and biological processes), which can be further
broken down as shown here (Fig. 1). The so called physical meth-
ods are based on gentle removal of alcohol from regular beer and
require considerable investments into the special equipment for
alcohol removal. After the removal process has been optimized,
the sensorial quality of produced AFBs is usually good. Their fur-
ther advantage is that they can remove ethanol from beers to van-
ishingly low levels. The most widespread biological approaches
are based on limited ethanol formation during the beer fermenta-
tion. They are usually performed in traditional brewery equip-
ment and hence do not require additional investments, but their
products are often characterized by worty off-avors. Improve-
ments taking advantage of special yeast increase the costs by
the purchase, selection, or construction of the production organ-
isms as well as by the need their propagation have to be sepa-
rated. However, suitable tailor-made or selected microorganisms
can contribute signicantly to the product sensorial quality
improvement. There are also AFB production processes (continu-
ous fermentation with immobilized yeast) based on limited alco-
hol formation, which require special equipment and material
(continuously operating bioreactor, carrier for cell immobiliza-
tion). In this case, the higher investment costs have to be justied
by the higher productivity of continuous processes. In general, the
ethanol formation, which is intrinsic to the biological methods,
makes impossible the production of AFBs with alcohol content
close to zero.
Fig. 1. The scheme of most common alcohol-free beer production methods.
494 T. Brnyik et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 108 (2012) 493506
4. Production of alcohol-free beer by ethanol removal methods
The technologies applied for complete or partial ethanol
removal from regular beers can be classied into two groups based
on the principle of the separation process such as thermal and
membrane processes (Fig. 1). Besides the industrially applied
methods of beer dealcoholization (vacuum rectication and evap-
oration, dialysis, and reverse osmosis) there have been several
other methods studied under laboratory conditions such as mem-
brane extraction (Matson, 1987; Etuk and Murray, 1990), super-
critical CO
extraction (Mori, 2004), pervaporation (Magalhaes
Mendes et al., 2008), adsorption on hydrophobic zeolites (Anglerot,
1994), and freeze concentration (Von Hodenberg, 1991).
4.1. Thermal processes
The early attempts to dealcoholize beer by evaporation or distil-
lation under atmospheric pressure, which revealed signicant tem-
perature damage to the beer taste, were soon replaced by vacuum
distillation (Zufall and Wackerbauer, 2000a). If the pressure is
reduced, alcohol can be drawn off at much lower temperature.
All thermal processes to produce AFBs are therefore performed at
an absolute pressure of 420 kPa, whereby evaporation tempera-
tures of 3060 C are achieved. Even so, a great loss of beer avor
and liveliness can occur during thermal processes. The deteriora-
tion of beer quality by thermal dealcoholization depends mainly
on the evaporation temperature and the period of exposure, which
depends on the thermal separator construction. AFB production at
industrial scale has been implemented using vacuum distillation
(rectication) plants or vacuum evaporators (single or multi-stage)
of two main construction variants i.e. centrifugal and falling lm
Generally, advantages of thermal processes are: the potential to
remove alcohol from beer completely, the possibility to commer-
cialize the separated alcohol, the continuous and automatic opera-
tion with a short start-up period, and the exibility in terms of
volumetric performance and the input beer composition. Con-
versely, the purchase of these systems requires signicant invest-
ment as well as there is considerable running costs (energy
consumption) and some risks of thermal damage or loss of volatiles
from beer. At the end of all thermal processes the concentrated
alcohol-free beer has to be diluted with oxygen-free water and car-
bonized (Zufall and Wackerbauer, 2000a).
4.1.1. Vacuum rectication plant
This process arrangement consists of the main steps as follows:
preheating of the ltered alcoholic beer in a plate heat exchanger,
degassing of beer (loss of liveliness) and the simultaneous libera-
tion of volatile compounds in a vacuum degasser, dealcoholization
in a vacuum column (usually a packed-bed rectifying column),
recovering the aroma components from CO
by spraying with deal-
coholized beer or water, and redirecting them into dealcoholized
beer (Regan, 1990; Narziss et al., 1993; API Schmidt-Bretten,
2004). In the rectication column the uid ows down at a tem-
perature between 42 and 46 C. In counter ow the product con-
tacts rising vapors, generated from alcohol-free beer in an
evaporator, which brings about the selective separation of alcohol
from the product. The dealcoholized product (less than 0.05% ABV
is achievable) is then cooled. The production capacity of these sys-
tems is usually given in the range 4200 hl of alcohol-free beer per
hour. The system further contains an aroma recovery unit, where
the aroma components are recovered and their redirection into
the beer can be made under pressure (Koerner, 1996). The alco-
hol-rich vapors can be concentrated to 75% ABV in a rectication
section and marketed immediately (Narziss et al., 1993; API
Schmidt-Bretten, 2004). Without concentrating, the alcoholic
by-product produced has about 89% ABV. This by-product can
be sold for acetication to produce vinegar (Regan, 1990).
An alcohol removal system (Sigmatec) from beer by counter-
current distillation in combination with rectication was used for
dealcoholization of both top and bottom fermented beers. In the
case of top-fermented wheat beer the original total higher alcohol
(182 mg/l) and ester (51.5 mg/l) contents decreased by 75.2/89.3%,
77.3/91.9%, and 80.2/98%, respectively, along with the ethanol
removal from the original 5.57 vol.% to 0.46, 0.22, and 0.12 vol.%,
respectively. This means, that in dealcoholized wheat beer with
0.46 vol.%, there was still a considerable amount of volatiles
(ca. 45 mg/l of higher alcohols and 5.5 mg/l of esters). Conversely,
the bottom fermented beer (4.99% ABV) was depleted of volatiles
to a higher degree. Approximately 78% of total higher alcohols
(104.7 mg/l), and almost 100% of total esters (19.6 mg/l) were
removed already at 0.48% ABV (Table 1). In addition, the total high-
er alcohols in dealcoholized top- and bottom-fermented beers
were represented almost exclusively by 2-phenylethanol (73 and
97%), a compound with oral odor (Narziss et al., 1993). This
unbalanced content of volatiles shows the importance of adding
them back, particularly into dealcoholized bottom fermented beer,
otherwise the sensory properties of AFBs are signicantly changed
Table 1
Selected properties of original input beer and alcohol-free beers obtained by vacuum rectication and post-treated with aroma redirection and blending with 6% krausen.
Sample Original 1/Original 2 Dealcoholized 1
/Dealcoholized 2
Dealcoholized 1
+ aroma Dealcoholized 1
+ 6% Krausen
Original gravity (wt.%) 11.59/na 5.16/na 4.98 5.22
Ethanol (% ABV) 4.99/5.3 0.48/0.03 0.51 0.54
Color (EBC) 8.4/na 9.5/na 8.7 9.5
pH 4.75/na 4.71/na 4.78 4.69
Bitterness (EBC) 24.9/na 25.5/na 27.5 29.3
1-Propanol (mg/l) 6.7/23.4 0.8/nd 1.0 1.3
2-Methylpropanol (mg/l) 11.2/24.3 nd/nd 0.7 1.7
2-Methyl-1-butanol (mg/l) 15.2/22.4 nd/0.1 4.3 2.8
3-Methyl-1-butanol (mg/l) 52.8/64.1 nd/0.3 3.0 10
2-Phenylethanol (mg/l) 18.6/35.9 22.4/35.1 20.0 23.0
Furfuryl alcohol (mg/l) 0.07/3.2 nd/2.8 0.01 0.02
Ethyl acetate (mg/l) 16.9/23.1 nd/nd 3.3 5.2
Isoamyl acetate (mg/l) 1.9/2.8 nd/nd 0.5 0.5
2-Phenyl ethyl acetate (mg/l) 0.4/na 0.03/na 0.34
Total HAA (mg/l) 104.7/173.3 23.2/38.3 29.0 38.82
Total EAA (mg/l) 19.6/25.9 0.04/nd 3.83 6.13
na, Data not available; nd, not detectable.
Dealcoholization of original 1 to 0.48% ABV (Narziss et al., 1993).
Dealcoholization of original 2 to 0.03% ABV (Zrcher et al., 2005).
Dealcoholization of original 1 to 0.1% ABV (Narziss et al., 1993).
T. Brnyik et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 108 (2012) 493506 495
as compared to original beer (Zrcher et al., 2005). The recovery of
aromatic volatiles from the CO
liberated during degassing and
their addition into dealcoholized beer, returned about 6% and
20% of the originally present higher alcohols and esters (Table 1),
respectively (Narziss et al., 1993). The thermal stress exhibited
by the dealcoholization system was considered negligible. There
was no increase in hydroxymethylfurfural or furfural observed in
alcohol-free beers (Kern, 1994). The content of medium-chain fatty
acids decreased during the dealcoholization by 2040% as com-
pared to original beer, with the exception of dealcoholized unl-
tered beer, where the thermal lysis of cells is blamed for the
increased decanoic acid content (Narziss et al., 1993).
4.1.2. Thin lm evaporators
In order to shorten the ethanol removal, regular beer ows
through these vacuumdevices as a thin lmwith large surface area
in an extremely short residence time, which results in an improved
product quality. Examples of thin lm evaporators, which produce
a thin liquid lm in a mechanical (rotational movement) way, are
the Centritherm and spinning cone column (SCC) systems (sup-
plied by Flavourtech, On the contrary, the falling
lm evaporator does not contain moving parts and the liquid lm
is created by gravity-induced downward movement of beer on the
inner surface of heating tubes.
The Centritherm system structure resembles that of a plate cen-
trifuge (Fig. 2). The centrifugal evaporator operates under vacuum
at low temperatures (3560 C) and uses steam as the heating
medium. The regular beer to be dealcoholized enters the evapora-
tor through a feed tube and injection nozzles (one for each cone),
which distribute it to the underside of the hollow rotating cone.
Centrifugal force instantaneously spreads the beer over the entire
heating surface in an extremely thin layer (approximately
0.1 mm). The beer passes across the heating surface in less than
one second. The concentrated and dealcoholized beer collects at
the outer edge of the cones and then exits the evaporator through
a stationary product tube. The vapors removed from the beer rise
through the center of the cone and enter an exhaust pipe that
transfers them to an external condenser. The Centritherm evapora-
tors are designed with 112 hollow cones, which correspond to
production capacities of AFB from 0.5 to 100 hl/h, respectively.
Steam is supplied to the evaporator through a hollow spindle to
the steam chamber of each cone. As the steam condenses, the con-
densate is immediately projected to the upper wall of the hollow
steam chamber. The condensate exits the steam chamber through
a channel and is removed from the evaporator (Fig. 2). The Centri-
therm is claimed to have minimal thermal impact and easy opera-
tion, while the oxygen penetration through the seals of moving
parts is considered as a potential risk (Zufall and Wackerbauer,
The spinning cone column (SCC) is a counter-current liquidgas
contacting device using gentle mechanical forces to enhance inter-
phase contact (Fig. 3). This allows rapid and efcient separation of
volatile compounds such as ethanol from a thin liquid (beer) lm.
The SCC contains two series of inverted cones. A series of xed
Fig. 2. Rotating thin lm evaporator (Centritherm system) with one rotating cone:
(1) feed tube and injection nozzle, (2) product tube, (3) hollow cone, (4) vapors, (5)
exhaust pipe, (6) steam, (7) condensate.
Fig. 3. Vapor and liquid ow through the spinning cone column (SCC): (1) rotating
shaft, (2) xed cone, (3) rotating cone, (4) n, (5) downward liquid (beer) ow, (6)
upward vapor ow, (7) external wall of the SCC.
496 T. Brnyik et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 108 (2012) 493506
cones is attached to the inside wall of the column. Another series of
cones is attached to the rotating shaft, in parallel to the xed cones.
The xed and rotating cones alternate vertically. The full strength
beer is fed into the column top. Pulled by gravity, it ows down
the upper surface of the rst xed cone and drops onto the rst
rotating cone (300500 rpm), which spins the beer into a thin, tur-
bulent lm. The centrifugal force induces an upward liquid ow to
the rim of the spinning cone where the beer is dropping onto the
next stationary cone below. In this manner, the beer ows to the
bottom of the column. The stripping medium, steam produced
from deaerated water, is fed into the column bottom and ows
upward, passing over the surface of the liquid thin lm, collecting
ethanol and other volatile compounds as it rises. Fins on the under-
side of the rotating cones induce a high degree of turbulence and a
pumping effect to the rising vapor stream. The turbulent liquid and
vapor ow leads to highly efcient mass transfer of volatiles from
liquid to the vapor stream (Fig. 2). The vapor ows out of the col-
umn top and passes through a condenser system, which captures
the volatiles in a concentrated liquid form. The dealcoholized beer
is pumped out of the column bottom (Craig, 1986). A low pressure
drop in the SCC allows a low operating temperature of 4055 C
under vacuum. The residence time of beer in the SCC is approxi-
mately 20 s, which is enough to reduce the original alcohol level
(5% ABV) to 0.010.03% ABV in a single pass. Residual CO
in the
feed beer shows no negative impact (overfoaming) and no oxygen
pickup was found in the beer that passed the SCC (Moreira da Silva
and De Wit, 2008). Several different production strategies using the
SCC system have been tested. The best avor recovery was
achieved by a two stage process involving the avor removal fol-
lowed by dealcoholization. In the rst passage through the SCC
(highest temperature in the column 53.7 C) the feed beer
(4.8% ABV) looses practically all esters and 57% of total higher alco-
hols, while the alcohol content of the beer decreases by 1% ABV.
This beer with a reduced alcohol content (3.8% ABV) is then further
dealcoholized to 0.17% ABV during the second passage through the
SCC (highest temperature in the column 57.2 C), which simulta-
neously leads to the loss of remaining volatiles. The re-combina-
tion of the dealcoholized beer stream with the volatile-rich
condensate (75% ABV) captured after the rst avor-removal stage
resulted in an AFB (0.5% ABV) with 25% and 30% of total esters and
higher alcohols retained, respectively, relative to 4.8% ABV beer
(Badcock et al., 1994).
In contrast to centrifugal evaporators, the falling lmevaporator
contains no moving parts, which results in great benets. The sys-
tem is not only cheaper in construction, but also easier to clean
and there is practically no danger of oxygen transfer across the var-
ious seals of moving parts. Overall, the acquisition and operation
costs of the falling lm evaporation are considered the lowest of
all thermal dealcoholization systems (Stein, 1993; Zufall and Wack-
erbauer, 2000a). Further energy savings can be achieved using a
multi-stage design of falling lmevaporators since the alcohol con-
taining vapors from the rst evaporator can be used as heating
steam to the second one, while the vapor from the second one
can heat the third evaporator. Certain disadvantage of this multi-
stage arrangement is the need to operate the rst stage at relatively
high temperature (60 C), so that the vapor temperature in the nal
stage is sufciently high for the alcohol removal (3540 C) (Hoch-
berg, 1986). In falling lm evaporators the original beer is pre-
heated to the evaporation temperature (3060 C at 3.520 kPa)
and enters the evaporator column through a distributor device,
which ensures the formation of an even liquid lm on inner walls
of the tubes. The beer ows downward at boiling temperature
and is partially evaporated (Fig. 4). The downward movement is
induced both by gravity and high speed co-current vapor ow
(2080 m/s). Thus the beer stays in the evaporator for only a few
seconds. Process steam (saturated steam) is used to heat the
evaporator tubes. The alcohol-rich vapor is separated fromthe deal-
coholized beer concentrate in a vapor separator connected to the
falling lm evaporator outlet and is nally condensed in a con-
denser. The heaters, falling lm evaporator, separator, and con-
denser are connected to a common vacuum pump. As the beer
passing through the falling lm evaporator was not only dealcoho-
lized, but also concentrated, it must be re-diluted with degassed
water to the original extract content as well as it is necessary to car-
bonize it. The main process parameters controlling the dealcoholi-
zation degree in the falling lm evaporator are the heating steam
supply and the evaporation temperature adjustable by the vacuum
pump. However, it turned out that independently on the tested
evaporation degree (3055 kg of vapors from 100 kg inlet beer)
there was a signicant loss of total higher alcohols (9197%), while
esters were practically completely removed. In terms of the alcohol
content there was an evaporation degree of 40/100 kg necessary to
achieve 0.5% ABV. In order to re-direct some volatiles into the deal-
coholized beer, while not exceeding the alcohol limit for AFBs either
the condensed vapor owor preferably the volatiles separated from
vapor condensate by rectication can be used. The overall material
balance of input (original beer) and output streams (dealcoholized
beer concentrate and condensed vapor) from the falling lm evap-
orator unit showed a loss of esters (36%) and higher alcohols
(8%), and an overall accumulation of acetaldehyde (+17%),
explained by thermal decomposition of acetaldehyde-bisulphite
complex (Zufall and Wackerbauer, 2000a).
Fig. 4. Falling lm evaporator: (1) feed beer, (2) dealcoholized beer, (3) heating
steam inlet, (4) condensate, (5) head, (6) vapor separator, (7) vapor ow, (8) heating
steam, (9) steam condensate lm, (10) heating tube wall, (11) beer lm.
T. Brnyik et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 108 (2012) 493506 497
4.2. Membrane processes
These alcohol removal methods are based on the semiperme-
able character of membranes, which separate only small molecules
like ethanol and water from the beer to the permeate liquid. Two
types of membrane processes used for beer dealcoholization can
be distinguished on the industrial scale: dialysis and reverse osmo-
sis. They differ in applied pressures and temperatures, membrane
materials and their structures. It is known that all of the membrane
processes have less thermal impact on beer, they can be operated
automatically and in exible manner, but at the same time they
require signicant capital and running costs. The economic feasi-
bility of membrane processes for the production of beverages with
an alcohol percentage lower than 0.45 vol.% was by some authors
challenged (Pilipovik and Riverol, 2005), while others stated that
the energy requirement of a membrane systemfor alcohol purica-
tion (reverse osmosis) would be signicantly lower than that of a
conventional distillation system (Mehta, 1982). Membrane pro-
cesses were suggested also as a part of a system for the continuous
production of delacoholized beverages (Gresch, 1991).
4.2.1. Dialysis
The driving force of the mass transfer across the semipermeable
dialysis membrane is the concentration gradient of compounds
between beer and dialysate. The semipermeable membrane acts
as a molecular sieve permeable only to certain molecules, depend-
ing on the pore size and surface properties of the membrane. When
dealcoholization by dialysis is performed into water, all beer ingre-
dients tend to move from the area of the high concentration (beer)
to the area of the low concentration (water), while some water will
diffuse from dialysate into beer. The prevailing mechanism of mass
transfer in dialysis is molecular diffusion. When the transmem-
brane pressure difference is applied (usually 1060 kPa), in order
to suppress water diffusion into beer, the process is often called
dialtration and both diffusive and convective mass transfers take
place (Leskosek and Mitrovic, 1994; Petkovska et al., 1997).
The process of dialysis is usually performed at 16 C, eliminat-
ing the thermal load of the product. Dialysis membranes are com-
posed of either cellulose derivatives or various synthetic materials
(e.g. polysulphone, polyethersulphone) and are generally arranged
in bundles of hollow bres, known as modules. In hollow bers the
beer passes along a dialysis membrane, while simultaneously an
alcohol-free dialysate liquid ows counter-currently along the
other side of the membrane (Fig. 5). The principle of the counter-
current ow guarantees a high concentration gradient between
the dialysate and the beer in terms of the alcohol content so that
an optimal diffusion can be obtained. To operate a dialysis module
it is necessary to apply some pressure on both the beer side and the
dialysate one, otherwise the diffusion can be disrupted by release
of carbon dioxide. The applied pressure must be at least equal to
the saturation pressure of CO
in beer at a given temperature. In or-
der to further minimize the loss of CO
it is recommended to add a
small amount of carbon dioxide into the dialysis water. This will
also eliminate the risk of oxygen transfer from dialysate to beer.
Attention has to be paid also to the content of inorganic salts
(sodium, calcium, nitrates), which can get concentrated in dialy-
sate during rectication and then pass into beer (Moonen and
Niend, 1982; Attenborough, 1988; Donhauser et al., 1991).
Despite the optimization of membranes and process parameters
a selective removal of ethanol cannot be achieved. Other compo-
nents of beer, such as higher alcohols and esters, are therefore
almost completely removed from the beer by dialysis (Table 2).
Losses of low-molecular-weight volatile compounds can be pre-
vented by adding them into dialysate reducing thus their diffusion
from beer. The extent and rate of dealcoholization, and also loss of
volatiles, can be regulated mainly by the ratio of ow rates of dial-
ysate and beer, which can be varied in a wide range from 0.4:1 to
6.5:1. By increasing the ratio of dialysate to beer ow, the removal
of alcohol and volatiles from beer becomes more pronounced.
However, this ratio inuences not only the rate of alcohol removal
from beer but also the energy costs for the rectication of the dial-
ysate (Donhauser et al., 1991; Leskosek et al., 1995; Zufall and
Wackerbauer, 2000b).
4.2.2. Reverse osmosis
Inthe reverse osmosis (RO) process, beer ows tangentiallytothe
membrane surface and ethanol (and water) permeates the mem-
brane selectively when the transmembrane pressure substantially
Fig. 5. Flow diagram of beer dealcoholization by dialysis: (1A) principle of hollow ber dialysis, (1B) schematic representation of capillary membrane module, (2) heat
exchanger, (3) stripper column, (4) original beer, (5) dealcoholized beer, (6) dialysate, (7) make-up brewing water, (8) glycol, (9) dialysate pump, (10) alcoholic condensate,
(11) stripping steam.
498 T. Brnyik et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 108 (2012) 493506
exceeds the osmotic pressure of beer. It is expected that other large
molecules, suchas aroma andavor compounds, will mostly remain
at the retentate side of the membrane (Catarinoet al., 2006). Reverse
osmosis (RO) is usually carried out at transmembrane pressures
ranging from 2 to 8 MPa generated by pressure pumps (e.g. piston
pump) and at temperatures below 15 C achievable with, for
instance, a plate heat exchanger (Von Hodenberg, 1991; Catarino
et al., 2007). The membranes used for the alcohol removal frombeer
by RO are usually of asymmetric structure, with the active layer
made of cellulose acetate, polyamide, or polyimide on polyester,
polysulphone, or berglass support structures. An ideal membrane
features the following characteristics:
High permeability to ethanol and water.
Low permeability for other beer components (avor, aroma and
bitter substances).
Temperature resistant.
Resistant to cleaning and disinfecting agents (pH 211).
Resistant to all kinds of fouling (inorganic, organic, colloidal,
and microbiological).
Chemically and mechanically resistant.
Shapable to high membrane area-to-volume ratio (packing
Is inexpensive.
The membranes are usually placed in modules of different geo-
metric arrangements (planar, tubular, spiral-wound) (Light et al.,
In practice the RO is carried out in a so called dialtration mode.
The rst phase is the concentration of the original beer by remov-
ing permeates and not replacing it with demineralized water. This
leads to an increase of the alcohol concentration and so does the
ux of solute across the membrane increases, too. Subsequently
during the dialtration phase the permeate removed from beer is
quantitatively replaced by demineralized water. This continues
until a desired alcohol concentration is reached in beer. After the
target alcohol content has been achieved, the retentate is made
up with demineralized water to the starting volume of beer and
the alcohol content is further lowered by this operation. The
dialtration water applied in RO has to be sterile, completely
demineralized (conductivity < 50 lS) and deaerated (oxygen
content < 0.1 ppm). Carbonation of the product is necessary after
RO (Von Hodenberg, 1991).
Very few data are available on the composition of AFBs pro-
duced by RO. However, these report on signicant losses of vola-
tiles (7080% of higher alcohols, 8090% of esters) during the
process (Table 2), which can be ascribed to imperfect selectivity
of membranes (Kavanagh et al., 1991; Stein, 1993). Recently, sev-
eral cellulose acetate and polyamide membranes have been tested
in laboratory at different operation conditions (24 MPa trans-
membrane pressure, 520 C, and different feed ow rates). It
was found that higher transmembrane pressures resulted in higher
permeate ux, higher rejection of ethanol and higher alcohols, but
lower rejection of esters. Lower temperatures resulted in lower
permeate ux but in higher rejection of aroma compounds
(Catarino et al., 2007). Unfortunately, this study does not indicate
the composition of beers dealcoholized by RO.
5. Production of alcohol-free beer by methods of restricted
ethanol formation
The methods of the alcohol-free beer (AFB) production based on
limited alcohol formation can be divided according to the produc-
tion equipment they require and further subdivided according to
alterations in technology or use of special yeast (Fig. 1). The most
exploited technologies are those requiring the equipment of a tra-
ditional brewery plant, while the continuous limited fermentation
is a promising but marginal technology. The respective procedures
applied on the industrial scale are often combinations of strategies,
which belong to technologies using traditional brewery facilities.
5.1. Changed mashing process
Mashingconsists of complexphysical, chemical, andbiochemical
(enzymatic) processes, the main purpose of which is to completely
degrade starchtofermentable sugars andsoluble dextrins. The spec-
trumof sugars formeddepends onthe actual enzyme activities pres-
ent. b-Amylase (temperature optimum of 6265 C) produces the
fermentable sugar of maltose, whereas a-amylase (temperature
optimumof 7275 C) generates rst non-fermentable sugars (dext-
rins) and at prolonged actionalso fermentable sugars (Kunze, 1996).
Table 2
Selected properties of original input beer and alcohol-free beers obtained by dialysis and reverse osmosis.
Sample Original Dealcoholized
Original Dealcoholized
Original gravity (wt.%) 11.16 4.53 10.83 2.48
Ethanol (% ABV) 4.80 0.47 4.92 0.40
Color (EBC) 7.25 7.5
pH 4.55 4.68
Bitterness (EBC) 30.7 29.7 24.6 12.3
1-Propanol (mg/l) 9.4 0.5 12.0 2.0
2-Methylpropanol (mg/l) 7.0 0.3 17.0 5.1
2-Methyl-1-butanol (mg/l) 9.9 0.4 4.3 2.8
3-Methyl-1-butanol (mg/l) 43.6 1.5 3.0 10
Isoamyl alcohol (mg/l) 79.0 17.0
Phenyl ethyl alcohol (mg/l) 40.0 3.7
Total HA (mg/l) 69.9 2.7 148.0 27.9
Ethyl acetate (mg/l) 12.1 <0.1 15.0 1.8
Isoamyl acetate (mg/l) 2.2 <0.1 1.5 0.16
2-Phenyl ethyl acetate (mg/l) <0.1 <0.1 0.63 0.04
Total ES (mg/l) 14.3 <0.1 17.6 2.0
Iso-valeric acid (mg/l) 1.22 0.49 0.76 0.18
Caproic acid (mg/l) 1.88 1.02 2.0 0.22
Caprylic acid (mg/l) 4.61 2.55 3.6 0.35
Capric acid (mg/l) 0.35 0.21 0.95 0.11
Total FA (mg/l) 8.82 4.27 7.9 0.9
Dealcoholization by dialysis (Zufall and Wackerbauer, 2000b).
Dealcoholization by reverse osmosis (Kavanagh et al., 1991).
T. Brnyik et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 108 (2012) 493506 499
The nal content of fermentable sugars in wort then determines the
alcohol level in beer. Therefore, by changing the mashing process, it
is possible to modulate the prole of wort sugars in a way that their
fermentability is limited and results in low alcohol content. A low
wort sugar content can be achieved by different strategies as
Inactivation of saccharifying b-amylase by high temperature
mashing (7580 C). Under these conditions b-amylase is rap-
idly inactivated but sufcient a-amylase remains to digest
and liquefy the starch. This procedure results in ca. 85% extrac-
tion of malt and a wort fermentable to 25%. The nal ethanol
content is inuenced also by the original wort gravity, attenua-
tion achieved during fermentation, and nal dilution. According
to the literature the avor of these beers is very good, however,
some problems with worty avor have been reported. Concerns
regarding colloidal stability of the product are also relevant
(Muller, 1990, 1991, 2000):
Cold water malt extraction. It is based on extracting the maxi-
mum malt avor compounds without increasing the wort grav-
ity. The malt is extracted with water at temperatures
insufcient (<60 C) for starch gelatinization and subsequent
enzymatic hydrolysis. The obtained wort contains some fer-
mentable sugars, which result from barley modication during
malting. In practice, difculties with lautering could be
expected while the remaining malt could be used in normal
mashing. No information is available on the current use of this
method (Muller, 1990).
Re-mashing of spent grains to produce a secondextract withvery
little fermentable sugar. Two modications of the original
methodare known: (i) extrusioncooking of the spent grains prior
tothe secondextractionand(ii) acidic hydrolysis of spent grainto
yielda secondarywort witha signicant content of non-ferment-
able pentoses. The main advantage of these methods is that two
beers can be produced from one dose of grain. Although it is not
apparent that anyone is using this method, both difculties with
avor and color formation were hypothesized and an increased
investment costs, concerning the hydrolytic apparatus, would
be inevitable (Muller, 1990; Zurcher and Gruss, 1991).
Barley varieties with wide variations of b-amylase thermostabil-
ity as well as b-amylase decient varieties have been reported
(Kihara et al., 1998; Kihara et al., 1999). Although, it can be
hypothesized that both thermolability and/or lack of b-amylase
in special barley varieties could be advantageous to achieve low
wort fermentability, no informationonany researchor industrial
implementation of these barleys have been found so far.
Used on their own, methods relying solely on the modied
mashing are seldom successful for the production of AFBs and they
have to be combined with further measures such as vigorous wort
boiling (lowering the level of aldehydes), wort acidication, limited
fermentation, color and bitterness adjustment, etc.
5.2. Arrested or limited fermentation process
In general, the major disadvantage of both stopped and limited
fermentation approach is that it is hardly feasible to achieve low
alcohol levels with adequate conversion of wort to beer. Therefore,
the objective of these methods is keeping the ethanol content low
by removal of yeast before excessive attenuation (stopped fermen-
tation) or creating conditions for restrained yeast metabolism (lim-
ited fermentation) and simultaneously reducing the worty avor
impression or limit it from the beginning (Muller, 1990). These
production methods operate with traditional brewery equipment
and unit operations, but they require accurate and swift analytical
control (Perpte and Collin, 1999a). These approaches represent
the most usual way to produce alcohol-free or low-alcohol beers.
When these techniques were carried out with worts of original
gravity from 9 to 13 wt.% the smell and taste of AFBs was charac-
terized by a strong worty avor impression due to the non-reduced
wort aldehydes. It has been veried that for stopped or limited fer-
mentation processes an original gravity from 4.0 to 7.5 wt.% is
desirable. However, brewing at high gravity (20 wt.%) increases
the formation of higher alcohols and esters. This phenomenon
can be exploited to strengthen the avor of reduced alcohol beers
obtained after dilution of a higher gravity beer. Further adjust-
ments of volatiles can be achieved by higher fermentation temper-
ature (greater effects on lager yeasts) or reduced oxygen content of
wort, which increased dramatically the ester formation by ale
yeasts (Muller et al., 1991).
The fermentation activity can be arrested (stopped or checked)
quickly by temperature inactivation (rapid cooling to 0 C, pasteur-
ization) and/or by removal of yeast from fermenting wort (ltra-
tion, centrifugation). The fermentation initial phase can be
carried out at a relatively wide range of temperatures without a
signicant impact on the formation of volatiles and the reduction
of aldehydes (Table 3). However, at higher temperatures the fer-
mentation has to be arrested, either by yeast separation or cooling,
rather shortly after the wort was pitched, which requires a prompt
analytical control and intervention (Attenborough, 1988; Narziss
et al., 1992). The increasing fermentation temperature deepened
the attenuation and simultaneously enhanced the formation of vol-
atiles and diacetyl by bottom fermenting yeast. A comparison of
yeast types showed that the top fermenting yeast achieved a sig-
nicantly higher aliphatic alcohol formation at lower attenuation,
but the top fermented AFBs had also rather high diacetyl content
(Table 3). After interrupting the fermentation at an alcohol content
less than 0.5 vol.%, the AFB is usually matured for at least 10 days
Table 3
The inuence of yeast type and fermentation temperature on the composition of alcohol-free beers.
Fermentation yeast Bottom Bottom Bottom Bottom Top Top
Temperature (C) 0 4 8 12 8 12
Original gravity (wt.%) 11.4 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.4 7.4
Ethanol (wt.%) 0.27 0.37 0.37 0.42 0.32 0.27
Real extract (wt.%) 10.64 6.79 6.79 6.52 6.87 6.94
Attenuation (wt.%) 8 12 12 16 9 8
Fermentation time (h) 48 24 7/24
24 7/24
pH 5.01 4.87 4.92 4.89 4.87 4.89
Bitterness (EBC) 25.4 17.5 17.7 17.4 17.7 17.8
DMS (lg/l) 30 22 30 32 35 45
Total diacetyl (mg/l) 0.06 0.09 0.08 0.14 0.51 0.35
Total HAA (mg/l) 2.2 6.8 6.7 8.6 15.8 14.2
Total EAA (mg/l) 0.55 0.69 0.60 0.84 0.90 0.90
Reduction of aldehydes (%) 85.8 77.6 80.2 83.0 88.2 77.5
After 7 h at the initial temperature the wort was cooled to 0 C until 24 h were completed, source: Narziss et al. (1992).
500 T. Brnyik et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 108 (2012) 493506
at 0 to 1 C to avoid an overpowering sulfur avor. Then the AFB is
ltered, carbonated, stabilized, and sterilized.
The most practical tool to suppress yeast metabolism is low
temperature. The so-called cold contact process (CCP) is taking
advantage of the fact that under these conditions the ethanol pro-
duction is slow, but other biochemical processes, such as the for-
mation of higher alcohols and esters and the reduction of
carbonyls, may exhibit moderate activities. In an example of the
CCP the alcohol-free beer is produced from wort (6 wt.%) cooled
to 01 C, acidied with lactic acid to pH 4, pitched with the yeast
cell concentration of 30 10
cells/ml and kept at 0.5 C for 48 h
(Schur, 1988). However, when using a high yeast cell concentration
cells/ml) it has to be taken into account that the pitching
yeast slurry has a signicant ethanol content (6 vol.%).
In comparison with other methods of AFB production, the CCP
was characterized by one of the highest volatile production and
lowest aldehyde reduction capacity (Perpte and Collin, 1999a).
Several carbonyl compounds present in wort are known to contrib-
ute to the worty off-avor of AFBs produced by the CCP. Among
them the branched aldehydes (3-methylbutanal, 2-methylbutanal,
and 3-methylpropionaldehyde) with very low odor threshold val-
ues are less readily reduced both enzymatically and chemically.
The total removal of branched Strecker aldehydes is under CCP
conditions limited to approximately 65% of their initial concentra-
tion, remaining thus enough of them in AFBs to impair their senso-
rial prole. Therefore, there were two strategies suggested to
improve the CCP, one being the use of genetically modied yeast
at higher temperature (high temperature enhance chemical bind-
ing of aldehydes) or decreasing the wort polyphenol level (alde-
hydes bound to polyphenols resist enzymatic reduction) by using
the polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP) just after wort cooling (Per-
pte and Collin, 1999b, 2000a).
When using arrested or limited fermentation it is necessary to
consider, besides fermentation temperature, wort gravity, and
yeast type, also additional interventions into the production pro-
cess in order to improve the products avor characteristics:
The addition of dark (20%) or pale caramel malt (15%), com-
pared to the brew with 100% pale malt, contributed positively
to taste characteristics by masking the worty avor impression
with more beer avor substances. In particular, pale caramel
malt contributed the highest amount of substances resulting
from Maillard reactions (e.g. furfural, 2-acetylpyrole) (Narziss
et al., 1992).
Wort dilution after boiling (from 11.5 to 7.5 wt.% original grav-
ity), instead of dilution before wort boiling, resulted in lower
bitterness, increased ester and higher alcohol levels and the
AFBs were characterized by purer, less worty smell and taste
(Narziss et al., 1992).
An attenuation of about 10% will lead to pH of only 5.0, which
results in low liveliness emphasizing the worty avor impres-
sion. Therefore the effect of wort acidication with acid malt
(5%) or lactic acid (10 min before the end of boiling to a pH of
4.3) was tested. The results showed that the acidication had
a very favorable effect in suppressing the worty character of
AFBs (Narziss et al., 1992).
The unpleasant bitter aftertaste of AFBs, probably due to oxi-
dized malt substances, can be eliminated by adding ascorbic
acid to the wort (approximately 20 mg/l to 7 wt.% wort) as long
as it remains hot (Schur and Sauer, 1990).
Wort canbe hot (Lommi et al., 1990) or coldstripped (Monta-
nari et al., 2009), with sparging CO
or N
into the liquid, to wash
out undesirable volatiles (e.g. sulfur compounds, carbonyls).
The CO
along with stripped volatiles produced in the primary
fermentation of a normal gravity beer (e.g. 10 wt.%) is vented
through the fermenting vessel of the low gravity beer (e.g. 3
wt.%) leading to a avor enrichment of the later (Barrell patent).
Finally, the two beers can be mixed in different ratios leading to
a low-alcohol beer (Barrell, 1979; Muller et al., 1991). However,
the risk of contamination of the low gravity beer with undesir-
able avor volatiles (H
S, carbonyls, terpenes) stripped by CO
has been hypothesized (Muller, 1990).
5.3. Use of special yeast
This approach to the AFB production is associated with the use
of special yeast performing a limited fermentation process. The
dissimilarity of these special yeasts compared to traditional
brewing yeast lies mainly in their tendency to produce lower
amounts of ethanol or no ethanol at all. This can be achieved by
strategies such as selection of a proper microbial genus (strain)
with specic properties or intentional modication of brewing
yeast by random mutation or genetic engineering.
The most common approach relies on the fact that the major
fermentable sugar of all malt worts is maltose (ca. 75%) and some
strains of the genus Saccharomyces (e.g. used in the wine fermenta-
tion) are unable to ferment this sugar. Thus the beer resultant from
conversion of glucose, fructose, and sucrose will contain less
than < 0.5% ethanol (Muller, 1993). Except the application of a spe-
cial yeast strain this method of the AFB production is identical with
the manufacturing of standard beer. However, due to limited yeast
activity and high residual extract content this manufacturing pro-
cess is vulnerable to microbial contamination. Therefore high stan-
dards of cleanliness and microbiological control are required
(Muller, 1990).
The most successful genus, other that Saccharomyces, used for
the industrial production of alcohol-free beer is Saccharomycodes
ludwigii. The controlled fermentation can be carried out by this
yeast thanks to its disability to ferment maltose and maltotriose,
the prevailing fermentable sugars of all malt worts. Although
according to some authors the beer fermented by S. ludwigii tends
to be sweet due to its high residual maltose and maltotriose con-
tent, the relative sweetness of these sugars is signicantly lower
than that of sucrose and glucose (Attenborough, 1988). The fer-
mentation with S. ludwigii is characterized by slow attenuation
even at 20 C which implies that the process does not require con-
tinuous monitoring. A comparison of traditional bottom ferment-
ing yeast with S. ludwigii with/without wort acidication showed
a signicantly higher formation of sensorially active by-products
(higher alcohols and esters) by special yeast (Table 4). These vola-
tiles, together with wort acidication, were found to mask the typ-
ical worty avor of AFBs and contributed positively to fullness and
pleasant liveliness of AFBs. However, in spite of the high volatile
content there was a remaining slight worty off-avor, which can
be ascribed to lower aldehyde reduction by S. ludwigii. The AFBs
Table 4
The inuence of yeast type and wort acidication on the composition of alcohol-free
Fermentation yeast Bottom S. ludwigii S. ludwigii + acidication
Temperature (C) 0 20 20
Original gravity (wt.%) 11.5 11.5 11.5
Ethanol (wt.%) 0.3 0.68
Real extract (wt.%) 10.7 10.34 10.34
Attenuation (wt.%) 9 13 13
Fermentation time (h) 48 120 120
pH 5.15 4.98 4.18
Bitter substances (EBC) 28.0 27.2 22.2
Total diacetyl (mg/l) 0.04 0.14 0.13
Total HAA (mg/l) 3.0 31.8 30.3
Total EAA (mg/l) 0.79 1.88 2.31
Reduction of aldehydes (%) 81.0 56.8 32.6
Ethanol content higher than the legal limit for AFB. Source: Narziss et al. (1992)
T. Brnyik et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 108 (2012) 493506 501
produced with S. ludwigii contained diacetyl slightly above the
taste threshold level, which was picked up in the tasting (Narziss
et al., 1992).
Another invention suggests leading steam saturated air through
alcoholic beer in a sieve bottomcolumn in order to desorb the alco-
hol (Dziondziak and Seiffert, 1995). The involved loss of sensorially
active compounds by desorption was suggested to be compensated
either by addition of a fermenting wort or by using the species
Saccharomyces rouxii able to consume ethanol under aerobic condi-
tions and at the same time to produce avor active substances
(Dziondziak, 1989a). However, the author does not suggest how
to deal with the possible negative effect of oxygen from stripping
air on avor and colloidal stability of produced AFB.
A method for producing an alcohol-free beer-like fermented
beverage employing a slow fermentation process by fungi from
the genus Monascus has been proposed, too. According to the
authors the nal product looks like beer, has a refreshing taste, glit-
tering red color, low alcohol content, and has high anti-oxidation
activity (Lin et al., 2005). However, it is questionable whether this
beverage can be considered beer.
Hand in hand with the growing consumption of AFBs increases
the need for yeast that would t the special requirements of their
production. Random mutagenesis by ultraviolet irradiation (the
most convenient for food applications) followed by selection of
proper mutants has been applied for isolation of non-recombinant
yeast strains with defects in citric acid cycle. The most acceptable
AFBs were obtained after the fermentation with Saccharomyces
cerevisiae mutants lacking 2-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase (KGD)
and fumarase (FUM) activity. These strains were studied in batch
and continuous fermentations, both immobilized and free. In all
studied fermentation arrangements the AFBs produced by these
two strains were characterized by a low ethanol (up to
0.21% wt.%) content and a high organic alcohols (up to 1.38 g/L)
one. The production of total higher alcohol (4575 mg/L) and es-
ters (1836 mg/L) were somewhat lower and higher compared to
a reference beer (alcoholic), respectively. The organic acids pro-
duced, especially lactic acid, had a strong protective effect on the
microbial stability of the nal product and thus the usual addition
of lactic acid could be omitted (Narvtil et al., 2002). The presented
parameters meet the criteria for AFBs; however, these results were
obtained with haploid or diploid laboratory strains. Since the
brewing yeast, which possess industrially important and stable
properties (fermentation rate, avor formation, occulation) are
alloploids, it makes the approach of random mutagenesis less
effective, in particular face to face the DNA repair mechanisms of
yeast (Petin et al., 2001; Brendel et al., 2003; Aylon and Kupiec,
Yeast strains with intentional gene deletions in citric acid cycle
have been studied rst related to sake (Magarifuchi et al., 1995;
Yano et al., 2003) and later to AFB production (Selecky et al.,
2008). Similarly to random mutants the best AFBs were obtained
with DKGD1, DKGD2 and DFUM1 strains. Thus it is no surprise
that the composition of AFBs produced by yeast with a gene dele-
tion (Selecky et al., 2008) was close to those produced by random
mutation (Narvtil et al., 2002). Since the gene deletions were car-
ried out only on diploid strains, the preparation of a hybrid
between a brewing yeast and a laboratory strain, carrying all the
genetic properties responsible for all the industrially important
properties (taste and avor formation, occulation), and simulta-
neously decient in the citric acid cycle enzyme genes, would be
Another example of the gene deletion strategy is the use of alco-
hol dehydrogenase-free (ADH) non-revertible mutant of S. cerevisiae
to produce AFB having 0.32.0 vol.% glycerol content, which is
reported to improve the body of the beer. The excessive accumula-
tion of acetaldehyde, a fermentation by-product toxic to yeast, by
this recombinant yeast is prevented by daily gassing with CO
(30 m
/hl/h) for 30 min into the fermenting tank. The effect of gas-
sing on the content of beer volatiles (higher alcohols, esters) is not
discussed in the patent (Dziondziak, 1989b). The benecial effect
of lacking ADH activity was demonstrated on haploid S. cerevisiae
showing a double phenotype: low ethanol production and
enhanced worty aldehyde reduction (Evellin et al., 1999). However,
the eliminationof each ADHlocus in a polyploidy brewers yeast has
not been published.
Conversely to the gene deletion strategy, the overexpression of
glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase gene was performed in an
industrial lager brewing yeast (Saccharomyces pastorianus) to
reduce the ethanol content in beer. The results were not fully satis-
factory since this transformation led to 5.6 times increased glycerol
production and the ethanol production decreased only by 18% when
compared to the wild-type. Although only minor changes in the
concentration of higher alcohols, esters, and fatty acids could be
observed, concentrations of several other by-products, particularly
acetoin, diacetyl, and acetaldehyde, were considerably increased
(Nevoigt et al., 2002).
Despite of some controversy and lack of decisive breakthrough,
the potential of genetic engineering is enormous, making possible
the future construction of strains tailor-made for the AFB produc-
tion. However, as long as both legal obstacles and particularly
the consumers negative attitude towards the use of genetically
modied yeast persist, the breweries will not risk their industrial
5.4. Continuous fermentation
Investigation on the continuous culture of free and immobilized
yeast for the beer production has been motivated by the advanta-
ges comprising of lower capital, production, and manpower costs.
Several reviews have been written recently on the state-of-
the-art of continuous beer fermentation systems and the avor
particularities of the continuously fermented and/or maturated
beers (Brnyik et al., 2005, 2008; Willaert and Nedovic, 2006).
The potential advantages arise mostly out of the accelerated trans-
formation of wort into beer driven by an increased biomass
concentration (van Iersel et al., 1998). This is achieved by immobi-
lization of biomass based on physical connement of yeast inside a
bioreactor. Various carrier types have been used for the beer fer-
mentation by immobilized brewing yeast. Among them, inert
carrier types with adsorption as the prevailing immobilization
mechanism (DEAE-cellulose, wood chips, spent grains) have shown
to be technically useful and economically affordable. For each cell
immobilization technique a variety of reactor types can be selected
and a careful matching of immobilization method, reactor congu-
ration and process characteristics is important for a successful
industrial implementation (Verbelen et al., 2006). Since the contin-
uous alcohol-free beer (AFB) production is based on the limited fer-
mentation strategy, the corresponding fermentation systems
generally consists of one stage bioreactors equipped with addi-
tional apparatus for a continuous wort supply and process control.
Although the continuous beer fermentation has been studied
for several decades, the number of industrial applications is still
limited. The major obstacle hindering the industrial exploitation
of this technology is the difculty in achieving the correct balance
of sensory compounds in the nal product (Pilkington et al., 1998;
Brnyik et al., 2008). Given the shifts in metabolism of cells grown
in continuous culture, it has proven difcult to translate the tra-
ditional batch process into a continuous and immobilized process.
The production of AFBs using immobilized yeast cell systems rank
among limited fermentation methods using short contact (112 h
residence time) between immobilized yeasts and wort (Van De
Winkel et al., 1991; Aivasidis et al., 1991; van Iersel et al., 1995;
502 T. Brnyik et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 108 (2012) 493506
Debourg et al., 1995; Lehnert et al., 2008). The continuous AFB fer-
mentation can outperform the rival technologies in productivity;
however, it is essential that it produces a nal product competitive
in terms of sensorial quality.
Alcohol-free beers are usually characterized by worty off-
avors and lack of pleasant fruity (estery) aroma found in regular
beers. Although the formation of higher alcohols and esters during
continuous AFB production has already been studied, very few
papers comparing avor formation in the traditional batch fermen-
tation and the continuous one are available. One reported a signif-
icantly lower formation of higher alcohol and acetic acid esters
(Aivasidis et al., 1991), while more recent papers concluded the
importance of process parameters and yeast strains for the forma-
tion of volatiles (Lehnert et al., 2008, 2009). Among process param-
eters it is aeration, which has perhaps the most important impact
on the formation of volatiles in continuous systems (Virkajrvi
et al., 1999). An optimal and constant avor prole of the AFB
can be achieved by the accurate oxygen supply (van Iersel et al.,
1999). The concentration of total higher alcohols (HA) and ester
(ES) as well as the HA/ES ratio found in continuously fermented
model medium under optimized oxygen supply was comparable
with those found in three commercial alcohol-free beers (Lehnert
et al., 2008).
The interplay between the appropriate production strain, car-
rier material, and bioreactor design is very important in continuous
immobilized cell reactors and their suitable combination can
improve both the system performance and product quality. The
importance of careful matching of the chosen yeast strain with
an immobilization method and a suitable reactor arrangement
was demonstrated. It was shown that the laboratory yeast strain
with disruption in the KGD2 (2-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase) gene
performed, in terms of the avor formation, equally well in the
batch and continuous packed-bed reactor. However, it was unable
to form a biolm around spent grain particles and therefore its use
was not possible in the gas-lift reactor. Conversely, the bottom fer-
menting strain W96 adhered to the solid supports readily, but the
formation of avor active compounds was insufcient with the
exception of the immobilization onto spent grains in the gas-lift
reactor. This system arrangement proved that even a strain, which
seems to be less suitable for the AFB production by the arrested
fermentation, can under appropriate conditions produce an accept-
able nal product (Mota et al., 2011).
Several studies have been carried out on the alcohol-free beer
production by the limited fermentation with immobilized cells of
S. cerevisiae at low temperature (04 C) and nearly anaerobic con-
ditions (Lommi et al., 1990; Aivasidis et al., 1991; van Iersel et al.,
1995). Similarly to the cold contact process (CCP) these conditions
lead to the suppressed cell growth, low ethanol formation, and
stimulated production of higher alcohols and esters. The authors
hypothesized that the increased production of volatiles can be
ascribed to the effort of cells to maintain the redox balance under
anaerobic conditions by reoxidation of NADH coupled with the
reduction of carbonyl compounds to higher alcohols (van Iersel
et al., 1995). However, some oxygen is essential for several yeast
biosynthetic pathways (Snoek and Steensma, 2007) and thus for
the long-term production of AFB with balanced avor (van Iersel
et al., 1999).
Wort carbonyls were proposed to contribute to the unpleasant
worty taste of AFBs (Perpte and Collin, 1999c). Although the
reduction of wort aldehydes by yeast is relatively fast during batch
fermentations, there was concern it may not be sufcient at the
speed of the continuous AFB production. However, the carbonyl
reducing capacity of continuous immobilized cells systems for
the AFB production has been reported to be satisfactory (Debourg
et al., 1995; van Iersel et al., 2000; Lehnert et al., 2008). This can be
ascribed to either an increased alcohol dehydrogenase activity in
immobilized yeast (van Iersel et al., 2000) and/or a wise compro-
mise between the alcohol formation and the carbonyl reduction
by optimizing the process parameters (biomass load, residence
time, temperature, and aeration) of the continuous systems
(Debourg et al., 1994; van Iersel et al., 1995; Lehnert et al., 2008).
As in the processes involving the limited fermentation, the pH
drop during the continuous AFB production does not take place
in the required extent, a continuous biological acidication for
the direct adjustment of pH of mash and wort by immobilized lac-
tic acid bacteria (DEAE cellulose) has been studied during test peri-
ods of a few months. The continuous acidication would suitably
match with the subsequent continuous fermentation (Pittner and
Back, 1995).
Several industrial examples of testing (Aivasidis et al., 1991)
and implementation of the continuous AFB production have been
reported (Van Dieren, 1995; Mensour et al., 1997). However, infor-
mation on the current industrial application of the continuous lim-
ited fermentation of AFBs is not available to the authors. It can be
assumed that the continuous fermentation systems have not found
widespread utilization in the AFB production mainly due to the
need of special equipment (bioreactor and tools for its continuous
feed and control), eventually additional methods (immobilization)
and materials (carrier).
6. Sensorial properties and additional improvements of alcohol-
free beer
The aroma and taste of an AFB is usually rather different from
its fully fermented counterpart. The AFBs often suffer from various
avor imperfections. For instance, the AFBs produced by the mem-
brane processes have usually less body and a low aromatic prole,
the thermally dealcoholized AFBs may suffer heat damages, while
the beers obtained by biological methods have often a sweet and
worty off-avor (Montanari et al., 2009). It has been proved that
ethanol signicantly increases aldehyde retention, leading to lower
perception of the worty character. In a usual 5% ABV beer the
retention of aldehydes was 3239% in comparison to 812% reten-
tion at 0.5% ABV. Similarly, higher levels of mono- and disaccha-
rides in AFBs intensify such off-favors. Headspace extraction and
sensorial analysis further showed that the aldehyde retention in
AFBs can be enhanced by increasing the level of dextrins or glyc-
erol (Perpte and Collin, 2000b). These ndings suggest that the
avor perception of a regular beer cannot be mimicked simply by
trying to get the volatile distribution in AFBs as close as possible
to that one in a regular beer. Instead, promising results can be
achieved by changing the degree of volatile retention in AFBs
and/or by creating a balance of volatiles, different from that pres-
ent in beers containing ethanol, but with similar avor impression.
Particular avor balance can be produced by process adjustments
as well as by adding avor active compounds into the nal product
(Daenen et al., 2009; Heymann et al., 2010).
There are solely a very few articles, which allow the comparison
of beer properties before and after dealcoholization. These are
summarized in Table 5 and presented as a percentage change of
selected properties. It can be seen that the thermal processes tend
to increase, while the membrane processes decrease the color of
the AFB. The bitterness and foam stability were usually impaired
by all dealcoholization processes. However, the most signicant
impact of the alcohol removal was observed on the loss of volatiles.
All the technologies led to signicant losses of volatiles, the small-
est being observed in the case of the membrane processes. In the
case of the arrested fermentation the difference in the volatile
content was calculated for an average German AFB and a full-
fermented pale beer as found in Narziss et al., 1992. The absence
of volatiles in an AFB produced by the arrested fermentation is
T. Brnyik et al. / Journal of Food Engineering 108 (2012) 493506 503
comparable with that in AFBs produced by the alcohol removal
(Table 5). The avor imperfections of AFBs raised the need to cor-
rect them. Some strategies of the avor improvement were dis-
cussed together with the technologies, while here are mentioned
some additional possibilities.
6.1. Post-treatments and blending
Both the thermal and membrane processes often use different
post-treatment and blending techniques in order to improve the
sensorial quality and colloidal stability of dealcoholized beers.
Improvements can be achieved by the addition of fresh yeast fol-
lowed by maturation or by blending with the original beer (Schedl
et al., 1988; Moreira da Silva and De Wit, 2008), aromatic beer
(beer fermented at elevated temperatures), or krausen (Narziss
et al., 1993). Another possibility is to adopt the Barrell patent (Bar-
rell, 1979) to gently dealcoholize beer by treating it with CO
fermenting green beer and nally add krausen followed by matu-
ration and ltration process (Zrcher et al., 2005). The addition
of 6 vol.% of krausen into a beer dealcoholized to 0.1 ABV returned
about 15% and 31% of the higher alcohols and esters originally
present in the alcoholic beer (Table 1), respectively (Narziss
et al., 1993). Other studies have shown that the thresholds of the
important aroma components in the AFBs are signicantly lower
than in the alcohol-containing beer. This means that even a partial
replacement of aroma compounds by one of the above suggested
methods can improve signicantly the AFB avor (Zufall and
Wackerbauer, 2000a).
6.2. Additives
The use of additives will be explained on the example of Czech
alcohol-free beers. Currently there are 30 AFB brands commercial-
ized in the Czech Republic (AFBs represented 2.92% of the Czech
beer market in 2008). Among them 26 brands are produced by
the arrested/limited fermentation (at least one uses also a changed
mashing process), two are fermented with special yeast and one is
produced by vacuum rectication. According to information on the
labels, 10 brands from the whole group of AFBs are produced only
using traditional brewing raw materials, 9 contain one additive, 9
contain two additives, and 2 contain three or more additives. The
most frequently used additives are: saccharin (sweetener E954,
11 AFBs), ascorbic acid (antioxidant E300, 9 AFBs), lactic acid (pre-
servative E270, 8 AFBs). In the case of AFBs produced by the
arrested/limited fermentation, the use of lactic acid (preservative
with antimicrobial and avor effects) and ascorbic acid (antioxi-
dant increasing avor and colloidal stabilities) is justied. Besides
the addition of lactic acid during the production process a biolog-
ical acidication of wort with lactobacillary strains was tested as
well (Narziss et al., 1991). The widespread addition of saccharin,
a sweetener with an unpleasant bitter or metallic aftertaste at
higher concentrations, is motivated by the desire to strengthen
the body of the AFB. Besides these frequently used additives some
producers indicate also the use of citric acid (acidity regulator,
E330), potassium metabisulphite (preservative, E224), caramel
(coloring, E150), and glucose-fructose syrup. Moreover, the addi-
tion of dextrins into beer has been reported to improve the avor
prole of LABs and AFBs through their action on the retention
and/or perception of avor active compounds (Louant and Dufour,
1991). However, an anonymous evaluation of Czech AFBs by a
panel of 35 tasters (brew masters, brewing engineers and research-
ers) showed that the additives solely cannot substitute the use of
high quality raw materials and an optimized production process.
The distribution of beers with different additives and their combi-
nations across the nal ranking of AFBs was random and no ten-
dency of improved evaluation based on the use of additives was
found (Vecerkov, 2010). It was found that the popularity of
semi-dark AFBs (dark and caramel malts added) is on the rise
(2nd and 3rd place in the contest), but at the same time the worst
contestant was also a semi-dark AFB underlining the fact that
solely the addition of special malts cannot improve the products
sensorial quality.
7. Cost evaluation and conclusions
The available literature is poor in comparisons of processes and
their impact on the product quality, but the comparison of eco-
nomic aspects of processes producing LABs of AFBs is even scarcer.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the arrested/limited fermentation pro-
cess can be performed in a common brewery equipment but short-
er production time and less raw materials are needed. Therefore,
the production costs for such LAB/AFBs are the same or lower, than
for the regular beer. Conversely, processes of the alcohol removal
do require an extra equipment, relevant utilities and space, which
mean additional investments and operating costs above the pro-
duction costs of the regular beer to be dealcoholized. The advan-
tage of alcohol separation processes is their exibility (start-up
within hours, high productivity) and possibility to produce zero
alcohol beers, which is hardly achievable by fermentative pro-
cesses, given by their nature. Some authors also state that the taste
of the dealcoholized AFBs is dryer and closer to regular beer (Basar-
ov et al., 2010). Somewhat contradictory to this is the fact the only
Czech AFB produced by vacuum rectication was ranked 21st
among 30 samples by the taste panel (Vecerkov, 2010). Additional
prot can be created also from the separated alcohol, which is
obtained at different concentrations. The diluted alcohol solution
can be further concentrated to a marketable content, used in the
brewing process as blending water or sold for acetication to pro-
duce vinegar (Regan, 1990; Stein, 1993). From one rare cost com-
parison of four different processes it was the falling lm system,
which emerged victorious followed by the thin lm evaporator,
reverse osmosis, and, nally, dialysis (Stein, 1993). However, a reli-
able and comprehensive economic comparison of various methods
of the LAB/AFB production is not available and therefore it is
impossible to dene the best process. Moreover, choosing the most
appropriate process is further inuenced by the available produc-
tion capacity, expected sales, and marketing strategy of the prod-
uct and hence it requires a detailed balance sheet reecting the
existing technology and the specics of the local market.
The authors thank to the Ministry of Education, Youth and
Sports of the Czech Republic (MSM 6046137305 and 1M0570),
National Council for Scientic and Technological Development
Table 5
Alterations in the properties of alcohol-free beers as compared to original beers
resulting from their dealcoholization or arrested fermentation.
Difference (%) VR
Color (EBC) +13 0 +10 6 3
Bitterness (EBC) +2 7 8 12 7 50
Foam (NIBEM) 3 1 8
Esters 99 100 95 100 85 78 87 87
Higher alcohols 78 78 98 95 85 69 81 80
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