Determination of the Level of Ethanol in Alcoholic Beverages Produced in Nigeria

Determination of the Level of Ethanol in Alcoholic Beverages Produced in Nigeria as an Indication for Safety Standard

Literature Review

A drink or beverage is a liquid, which is specifically prepared for human consumption. In addition to filling a basic human need, beverage from part of culture of human society. In medieval times the term beverage was used to indicate alcoholic drinks. In this century, a variety of drinks have been developed, which are non-alcoholic and the wood beverage is now used to indicate all foods, which are consumed in liquid form (Morris Jacob, 1999).

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Beverages are liquid foods, which are served as drinks with or without other foods. In-fact even water is included in this group as it is a universal beverage. Beverage help not only to quench thirst, but aid the movement of food in the body (John cousins, etal., 2002).

There are variety of beverages, which are consuming daily. Beverages are served either not or cold. Hot beverage include tea, milk, cocoa, and chocolate and other malt flavoured milk cold beverage include fruit juice, soft drinks, milk etc. Some of these beverages are taken for their stimulating and refreshing effects, while others are taken as stimulating drinks, whole milk, milk shakes etc are nourishing drinks (Morris Jacobs, 1999). Beverage are excellent stimulant or appetizers which play an important role in our daily diet those beverages which are prepared from fruits or vegetables contain vitamins and minerals. And those prepared from meat, milk, egg or legume or cereal or millet provides some protein in addition to vitamins and minerals (Brain and Allan, 2005).

Types of Beverages

There are various classes of beverages the classification is based on whether the beverage contain no alcohol, minimum alcohol, high alcohol content served or consumed hot or cold or soft drinks fruit juice, alcoholic, non-alcoholic and miscellaneous beverages (Bamforth, 2006).

2.1     Alcohol content of Beverages

The concentration of alcohol in a beverage is usually stated as the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV) or in the United States as proof. In U.S, the proof is twice the percentage of alcohol by volume at 60 Fahrenheit (15oC) (e.g, 80 Proof = 40% ABV).

Degrees proof were formerly used in the United Kingdom, where 100 degrees proof was equivalent to 57.1% ABV. Ordinary distillation cannot produce alcohol of more than 95.6% ABV (191.2 proof) because at that point alcohol is azeotrope with water. A spirit which contain a very high level of alcohol and does not contain any added flavouring is commonly called neutral spirit.

Generally, any distilled alcoholic beverage of 170 proof or higher is considered to be neutral spirit (Bamforth, 2006). Most yeast cannot reproduce when the concentration of alcohol is higher than about 18%, so that is the practical limit for the strength of fermented beverages such as wine, beer and sake. (Arnold, 2005).

Fermentation is the traditional way of making ethanol. Ethanol is made by the action of Enzymes on sugars, particular glucose and fructose, both which have the formula C6H12O6. One enzyme, which is extremely effective in causing fermentation, is found in yeast. As grape ripen, the amount of sugar inside them increases and yeast grow on the outer skin. By crushing the grapes the sugary juices and yeast are brought into contact and fermentation starts. The sugar sucrose, C12H22O11, which is itself resistant to attack by zymase, can be broken down into glucose and fructose by another enzymes invertase.

READ  Ethanol Production from Yam (Discorea Spp) Peels

C12H11O12 + H2O                   C6H12O6 +C6H12O6

Sucrose                                         Glucose     Fructose

C6H126 +H20    Zymase          2C2H5OH + 2CO2

(Philip Mattew, 2003)

The main types of alcoholic drinks and their energy values are shown in table 1 below.

Table 1: The conversion of sugars into ethanol.

Types of Alcoholic


Example Alcoholic content (g/100ml) Energy value kg/100ml
Bear, draught Bitter 3.1 134
Mild 2.6 104
Ciders Dry 3.8 152
Sweet 3.7 176
White Sauternes 10.2 394
Red Claret 9.5 284
Fortified Sweet cherry 15.6 568
Spirits Whisky 21.7 9.9
Liqueurs Cherry brand 19 1073

Arnold, 2005).

Generally, the world alcohol when used alone usually refers to ethanol, also known as grain alcohol or spirit. Ethanol or ethyl alcohol (CH3CH2OH) is the most common member of the organic compound in which a hydroxyl group. Alcohol can be regarded as derivatives of water with an alkyl group replacing one of the hydrogen atoms (Morrison and Boyd, 2005). There are three major groups of alcohol based upon to the number of carbon atoms the C-OH Carbon is bonded to they are as follows:

Primary Alcohol: They has only one alkyl group attached to the carbon atom that carried the hydroxyl groups. The general structure is RCH2OH. The simplest primary alcohol is mentioned and sometimes known as wood spirit because it was initially produced by the destructive distillation of wood.

Secondary Alcohol: This has the alkyl groups attached to the carbon atom that carries the hydroxyl structure R2CHOH. The simplest secondary alcohol is Isopropanol (2-methyl propanol).

Tertiary Alcohol: This has three alkyl groups attached to the carbon atom that carries the hydroxyl group with general structure R3COH that is they contain three alkyl groups but no hydrogen attached to the hydroxyl-bonded carbon atom Example is 2,2-methyl propane-2- ol (John Cousins, et al., 2002).

Alcohol is prepared in the laboratory by hydration of alkenes which engage in an acid catalysed hydration reaction using concentrated sulphuric acid as a catalyst; to which usually gives secondary or tertiary alcohol. Also from Gringand’s regent which reacts carbonyl groups to give primary, secondary and tertiary alcohols. Hydrolyzing alkyl halids by aqueous alkali gives primary alcohol (Arnold, 2005).

Alcohol is also prepared industrially by fermentation using glucose produced from sugars from the hydrolysis of starch in the presence of yeast.

Denatured Alcohol: This is one of the type of ethanol consisting of ethanol blended with various additives to render it unfit for human consumption. These additives called denaturants are generally either toxic or have unpleasant task or odours such as denotorium benazoate, (Morris Jacobs, 1999).

Absolute Ethanol: This is another type of ethanol and it is generally referred to as purified ethanol containing not more than one percent by simple fractional distillation because a mixture containing about 65.6% alcohol and 4.4% water becomes a constraints in the boiling mixture. In one common industrial method used to obtain absolute alcohol, a small quantity of benzene is added to rectified spirit and the mixture is the distilled. Absolute alcohol is obtained in the third fraction that distills over at 78.5o. Pure ethanol is a colourless, liquid with a slight but characteristic odor, a boiling point of 75.5oC and the density of 0.78glml. The OH-functional group makes ethanol soluble in water. (Morrison, & Boyd, 2005).

2.1.1  Alcohol Strength

The scale of measurement of alcohol strength may be summarized as follows:

OIML scale (European): Range 0% to 100% alcohol by volume.

Sikes scale (United Kingdom old scale): Range 0o to 170 proof was the point 100; 70 is equal to 40% alcohol by volume.

American scale (USA): Range 0o to 200o similar to sikes but has scale of 200o rather than 175o.

2.1.2  The OIML Scale

Previously called Gay Lussac scale now the organization metrologic Legale (OIML) scale is directly equal to the percentage alcohol by volume in the drink at 20oC. It is the universally accepted scale for the measurement of alcohol. The by volume measurement indicates the amount of pure alcohol in a liquid. Thus a liquid measured as 40% alcohol by volume will having 40% of the content as pure alcohol. The alcohol contents of drink by volume, is now almost always shown on the label.

Table 2 Showing the approximate alcohol strength of drinks (OML) scale (Arnold, 2005).

% Alcohol by volume
Not more than 0.05%          Alcohol free
Not more than 0.05%          De-alcoholised
Up to 1.2%          Low alcohol
3-6%          Beer
8-15%          Wines usually around


14-22%          Fortified wines,   Sherry, port
37.5-45%          Spirits usually at 40%
17-55%          Liqueurs very wide  range.

(Gold Hammer, 2008).

2.1.3  Standard Drinks

A standard drink is a national drink that contains a specified amount of pure alcohol. The standard drink is used in many countries to quantity alcohol intake. It is usually expressed as a measure of beer, wine or spirits. One standard drink always contain the same amount of alcohol regardless of serving or the type of alcoholic beverage. The standard drink varies significantly from country to country. for example it is 7.62ml (6 grams) of alcohol in Austria, but in Japan it is 25ml (19.75grams) (Stamper, et al, 2005). In the United Kingdom, there is a system of units of alcohol which serves as guideline for alcohol for alcohol consumption. A single unit of alcohol is defined as 10ml. The number of units presents in a typical drink is printed on bottles. The systems is intended as an aid to people who are regulating the amount of alcohol they drink (Bamforth, 2006).

2.1.4  Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Alcohol, also called C2H5OH is the mostly widely consumed drug in the world. Alcohol must be regarded as a food stuff because in the body it can be broken down to provide energy. When alcohol is ingested, the stomach absorbs only a small intestine, where it is rapidly absorbed by diffusion into the blood stream which distributes it throughout the body. Alcohol also affects the central nervous system and it is also a drug. These two effects must be considered together when assessing the desirability of alcohol as a source of energy. The nature of the effects of alcohol on body, varies from mild stimulation when a small amount is consumed to loss of coordination and even death when a large quantity is taken (Bamforth, 2006). Consumption of a pint of beer produces a maximum level of about 0.05% alcohol in the blood.

Unlike most foods, alcohol can be absorbed by the body without prior digestion and this takes place mainly in the small intestine, but also through the walls of the stomach. Absorption may take anything from one-half to two half depending on the concentration of alcohol in the beverage consumed the amount taken, and the nature and amount of food eaten with it or immediately before hand. An average time of absorption is about one hours (Bamforth, 2006) the effect of alcohol in the body is summarized in appendix 2.

After absorption, the alcohol is distributed through the body in the blood stream and thereafter, it is broken down in series of oxidative step with liberation of energy. The breakdown processes is controlled by a series of enzymes, each step being controlled by its own enzymes. Initial oxidation of alcohol to acetaldehyde is mainly controlled by alcohol dehydrogenase and as its name indicates, this step involves removal of hydrogen. It is followed further by oxidation to acetic acid, the most involved in this step being aldehyde dehydrogenase. Those initial breakdown step occur in the liver, and the acetic acid produced then becomes part of the general body and is further oxidized in a complex process, to carbon dioxide and water. Alcohol is oxidized in the body rather slowly and only about 7g can be oxidized in an hour. This means that alcohol is removed from the body at a slow rate and that it can only make a small overall contribution to energy needs (Curtis Klassen, 1996).

The most common legal terms regarding the effect of alcohol in the body are impairment and intoxication. Those terms are based on blood alcohol content (BAC) which is defined as either grams of alcohol per 2101 of breadth. Even at 100 concentrations, alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressed.

Determination of the Level of Ethanol in Alcoholic Beverages Produced in Nigeria as an Indication for Safety Standard


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