Is the color of beer related to the color of the distillers grain?

MaltHunterLab has worked on an application for whole grain barley. This whole grain barley is used in making beer. The color of the final liquid beer product is related to the color of the grain used to make it.

Currently the color of beer is measured using what is called the ASBC color scale. The American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) was established in 1934 “to improve and bring uniformity to the brewing industry on a technical level.” The ASBC established a method of measuring the color of beer. The ASBC method of color measurement uses a liquid sample that is created from the mashing process. The liquid is then placed in a 10mm x 10mm cell. Next a photometer or spectrophotometer is used to measure the absorbance at 430 nm to determine the ASBC color of the liquid mash.

There are three main ASBC color groups for beer. Light beers are assigned to an ASBC color range of 1.5-3.0, amber and pale beers fall in the middle ASBC color range of 3.0-15.0, and dark beers carry the ASBC color range of 15.0-200+.

HunterLab was approached to improve upon current beer color measurement techniques. The issue of the ASBC color measurement is that liquid mash is used for measurements. This means that if the mash is the wrong color then the whole batch will be scrapped. A method to measure the dry grain before mashing would be ideal. If HunterLab instruments can accurately predict the ASBC color of the mash from dry grain, batches of mash will no longer have to be thrown away.

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HunterLab proceeded to take measurements on 70+ whole grain barley samples using the ColorFlex EZ instrument. The samples represented the whole range of ASBC color which correlate best to L* (or the lightness of each sample). From all of these measurements HunterLab continues to work on developing an equation to predict the ASBC color of beer based on a dry grain sample.

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