Trying to decide whether to do GC setup or just use outside

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Hi Everyone,

I just joined the forum to try and get some help deciding the best path to take. I own a small distillery. There are several labs that do analysis of samples you send in but there is a big lag between sending them in and getting the results. I would like to be doing more real-time analysis of my fermented mash, distilled spirits during the distillation process, and aged spirits over time. Running the analysis myself would be ideal assuming I could do it economically. My primary interest is looking at ester generation and process optimization for generation of selective esters.

Just to give a little background on myself, I have never run a GC machine before. I have a PhD in electrical engineering and my dissertation was on various forms of scanning probe microscopy.

So my question are:
1. Is a viable path to take for someone whiling to learn to take?
2. What is the best way to determine what the optimum equipment is for doing this type of analysis?
3. Is there any standard procedure for running this type of analysis?

Performing the analysis yourself is always cheaper but the upfront costs are higher (staggering?) like purchasing equipment, maintenance, training personnel...

Review each method you need (outsource methods that are rare used). You may only need 1 method performed expertly and timely (hours?) like Ethanol.

Select the detectors you will need. A typical GC has 2 ports (1st port is FID, the 2nd can be MS, ECD, TCD...).

Many methods can be adapted for your use. Check the AOAC, ISO, websites of Agilent and Restek...

I used to be a former Lab Manager for an outside contract laboratory.
Hi GeekSpirits,

Please pardon my teasing, it's a GC instrument (machines accomplish work).

Yes, there certainly are standard methods for analysis, to look into these try vendors of GCs and GC columns (Restek, Supelco, SGE, Agilent, etc.). My apology, this was already pointed out above...

To me, I think you also have to have an idea of what to analyze for and why. These may help, if you do not already have them:

Handbook of Alcoholic Beverages: Technical, Analytical and Nutritional Aspects, Volume I and II, Editor(s): Alan J. Buglass, Published Online: 17 DEC 2010
Print ISBN: 9780470512029, Online ISBN: 9780470976524, DOI: 10.1002/9780470976524.

From folks I've met that work with spirits, Flame Ionization and Mass Spectrometric detectors are generally employed after the GC separation.

Up front costs can be significant. You can buy used but that requires some knowledge of what to get and quality of purchase and even then it is still expensive. Plus, you need a good data system since spirits can be complicated and you don't want to do this with an integrator.

I would think a long, thin film column and FID would get you a long way along the path you want to be. Amazing separation power. Then you would have to find the appropriate standards to pick out your esters. I need to look, but wonder if UV would do what you want.

If you wish to discuss further, feel free to ping me at aicmm at flash dot net.

Best regards
Hi GeekSpirits,

AICMM is correct--if you chose to procure a GC-MS system, you'd be looking at ca. $50k--not counting a service contract, upkeep costs, gases and other consumables. Plus, you need to have the utilities/space to lace the instrument.

Please see what you think and thank you!
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