Friday, December 31, 2010

Moisture and Ash Testing in Hay

Knowing the moisture content in hay is valuable information in limiting costs. Knowing the moisture content in hay is vital in storing and feeding methods to avoid forage loss and moisture and ash content should be known to avoid cattle malnutrition.

Dry matter (DM) is the amount of feed without moisture. This is important in cattle feeding rates. Dry matter is where the nutrition for the cattle is; if unusually wet feed is fed to cattle, they must consume more of it in order to gain the same amount of dry matter as a dryer feed would contain. If the dry matter content is unknown, the risk of underfeeding or overfeeding is possible. Underfed cattle will produce less milk and overfeeding cattle leads to unnecessary feeding costs, which in large herds can be considerable.

Knowing moisture content is also valuable in the storage of forage. Storage of wet bales can lead to bacterial and fungal growth. Large bales are recommended to be under 16% moisture, while smaller bales can have up to 20%. Any bales with more than 20% moisture can be prone to heat damage, and bales with over 25% moisture will likely rot. Storing bales without first knowing their moisture content can be a costly gamble.

Knowing mineral content in forage is also valuable to insuring that cattle have a balanced diet. An easy way to know the mineral content is to ash the feed material; all organic compounds are burned away leaving the minerals in the feed. The remaining ash is then calculated as a percentage of dry matter to determine the amount of mineral content in a feed.

Arizona Instrument LLC Computrac® Moisture and Ash Analyzers make obtaining moisture and ash content quick and easy. Our MAX® 4000XL moisture analyzer determines moisture content and our MAX® 5000XL determines both moisture and ash content. With these instruments moisture and ash content can all be tested on site swiftly and efficiently.

Manuel Oropeza, Chemist
Arizona Instrument LLC
800.528.7411 | Website

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Moisture and Ash Testing in Food Processing

Moisture content has been established as an important indicator of shelf life for foods. Moisture can determine the aesthetics of food, giving estimates to product shelf life regardless of sample properties in a wet or dry state. Ash content is also essential to a food’s nutrition and longevity. With Arizona Instrument LLC (AZI) Computrac® Moisture/Solids/Ash Analyzers, testing moisture and ash content is an easy pain-free process and can speed up production time and improve food quality control.

Moisture content is one of the most important characteristics in consumer sensory perception of food. Change in moisture content will dramatically affect flavor and texture as well as physical and chemical properties, as water gives chemicals a helpful medium to catalyze chemical reactions (water activity). The presence of free moisture is directly related to water activity; the higher the water activity, the more susceptible the food will be to interactions with microbes and its environment. Computrac® series of moisture analyzers are the fastest, most accurate tools for determining free moisture content.

Determining changes in moisture over time is essential in choosing the best packaging materials to maintain food longevity. The amount and type of packaging, the volume of food stored and the environment all can change the water content over time. Knowing and plotting water content is a useful way of locating the right packaging for each environment which improves shelf life.

The analysis of ash content in foods is simply the burning away of organic content, leaving inorganic minerals. This helps determine the amount and type of minerals in food; important because the amount of minerals can determine physiochemical properties of foods, as well as retard the growth of microorganisms. Therefore, mineral content is a vital component in a food’s nutrition, quality, and, like water, microbial viability. Arizona Instrument has instruments that reach 600°C, capable of ashing food samples without destroying the minerals within it, and is an integral part of the food manufacturing process.

Foods have high and low moisture content limits beyond which the product becomes objectionable from either a sensory or safety perspective. In dry brittle foods with low moisture content, such as dry cereal and dehydrated foods, upper moisture content limit is important; the food can absorb water and become moist, undesirable and prone to microbe contamination. In wet foods, such as muffins and sauces, the lower moisture content limit is monitored to make sure the food doesn’t become stale or distasteful. Finding and testing for these limits is essential to produce accurate manufacturer specifications for moisture. Guaranteeing food falls within these limits ensures the production of a quality food product that will not expire prematurely. Each food also has its own longevity and packaging concerns as well as mineral content considerations.

From cookies and mints, to flour and animal treats, we have tested all types of food for our customers. Using Computrac® analyzers to test for moisture, solids and ash content in place of comparable AOAC standards or vacuum oven test, manufacturers can significantly reduce test times without sacrificing accuracy; which again, speeds up production time and improves food quality control.

Manuel Oropeza, Chemist
Arizona Instrument LLC

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New In-Line System at Axium Foods

New In-Line System at Axium Foods includes the MAX 4000XL Moisture/Solids Analyzer from Arizona Instrument

Q. The new system [at Axium Foods] can measure several parameters of the food process. Which particular ones do you measure? How do the results correlate with the previous process measurement systems?

The two parameters we measure are moisture and temperature. Since the ε scan was installed on a new production line, there was nothing to compare it with directly. We calibrated the system using offline moisture and temperature analyses, using a Forced Air Oven and an Arizona MAX 4000XL moisture balance.

Full Article:

Karen Schoon

Quality Assurance Manager, Axium Foods
239 Oak Grove Ave | South Beloit, IL 61080 | USA
Tel + 1 815 389 3053 | Fax + 1 815 389 9842

Moisture Analysis Made Simple

Moisture Analysis in the Baking Industry

Providing a quality product is a complex problem that bakers must solve to be successful in a competitive market. Concerns about the taste, texture, appearance and freshness are just a few of the riddles, and at the heart of these is moisture. Too much water in a baker’s product can lead to problems with shaping, a soggy texture, and mold and spore formations in packaging. Too little water creates stale, brittle and hard goods.

Along with the obstacles associated with water content, determining the moisture level has proved to be just as complicated. Deciding when to test, what parts of the product to test and where to test are all difficult choices that need to be made, and changes in these decisions will affect the results obtained from testing. For instance, does the baker test the loaf of bread immediately after it is removed from the oven, before water migration is complete and estimate the moisture of the product; or does the baker wait until the migration has occurred and then test for moisture? Additionally, the historical methods used for moisture determination are lengthy processes that hinder the flow of information needed to decide if a product is ready for release or if there is a problem in the baking process.

While the decision when to test is still left up to the baker, advances in moisture analyses have dramatically reshaped the antiquated methods of the past. Arizona Instrument LLC has led the way on this front, developing rapid loss on drying instrumentation that provides reliable results in minutes instead of hours. These versatile instruments improve process efficiency which will allow for an increase in production, as well as provide vital information which can be used to make adjustments and optimize the quality of the baked goods that are produced.

Traditional Methods
The application of traditional test methods of moisture determination is considered to be elementary by bakers and scientists alike. Often the procedure involves taking a small random sample from a product, measuring its mass, placing it in an oven for a specified time at a specified temperature, removing it and letting it cool to ambient temperature, then reweighing the sample. The % moisture is determined using the following equation:

%M=((initial mass-final mass))/(initial mass)*100

Where the initial mass is determined prior to oven treatment and the final mass is determined after the sample has been in the oven and cooled to room temperature. Ease of use is certainly helps make this a desirable method, but it also has drawbacks. These methods frequently take hours to conduct, which can slow production down. Also, there are no in-situ¬ measurements being taken to optimize the procedure. These types of measurements would help reduce cost and improve energy management and efficiency.

Rapid Loss on Drying
Rapid loss on drying instruments operate using the same principle as traditional oven methods, but are able to address the drawbacks associated to them without changing the ease of use. Users of these instruments place a prescribed amount of material onto a pan that is sitting on a balance. Once the correct amount of material is on the pan the instrument heats up to a specified temperature and the water is evolved off of the sample. Multiple criteria can be used to end the test, but frequently tests are ended when the change in mass is determined to be negligible. These tests provide the user with real time measurements and often tests take a few minutes instead of hours.

Rapid loss on drying instrumentation has proven to provide a more desirable method of moisture measurement when compared to traditional loss on drying techniques. It addresses the drawbacks associated with conventional loss on drying and while maintaining the ease of use application. The reduction in test times increases manufacturing efficiency while simultaneously reducing energy costs. Additionally, this instrumentation is able to provide real time moisture measurements to help users optimize moisture measurement methods.

James Moore, Chemist
Arizona Instrument LLC