Home > Researchers use FLIR thermal imaging camera to show why champagne should be poured like beer

Researchers use FLIR thermal imaging camera to show why champagne should be poured like beer

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article image The FLIR SC7000 thermal imaging camera is pointed at a champagne flute standing before a calibrated blackbody
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The FLIR SC7000 series thermal camera has been used by researchers to show why champagne should be poured differently to retain its aroma and taste.

The University of Reims in the Champagne region of France, from which the beverage takes its name, conducts significant research into champagne. The University’s most recent discovery is that the traditional way of pouring champagne causes loss of aroma and taste.

Champagne is associated with luxury and celebration all over the world. Up until now the mechanics behind the taste of this special drink remained clouded in mystery. However, recent revelations from champagne research show why this drink should be poured differently.

Thermographic cameras have played a vital role in the recent discovery that champagne should be served like beer.

Guillaume Polidori, director of the thermomechanics department of GRESPI (the Group for Research in Engineering Science) explains that the fizz in champagne is produced by fermentation, after which champagne is basically a white wine. When champagne is bottled, a mixture of yeast and sugar is added to start a second fermentation, producing CO2 gas, which dissolves in the white wine. When the bottle is opened, the dissolved CO2 disperses, thus creating the bubbles in champagne.

Where earlier it was believed that the bubbles in champagne just added to the fizzy sensation in the mouth with no influence on the taste, a 2009 study showed that the CO2 contained most of the champagne’s aroma, with up to 30 times more flavour-enhancing chemicals in the bubbles than in the rest of the drink.

Wanting to further research this phenomenon, the GRESPI researchers set out to test how the way champagne was poured influenced the loss of CO2, given the fact that loss of CO2 also meant loss of taste.

Having tested the CO2 contents of champagne before and after the pouring process, using different pouring techniques at different temperatures, the researchers found that the colder the temperature, the smaller the loss of CO2 during the pouring process, thus presenting the first scientific proof that serving champagne chilled helped to contain the CO2 and retain the champagne’s flavour.

The GRESPI team also found to their surprise that pouring techniques also made a big difference to the flavour with the classic way of serving champagne not very effective at all.

The researchers compared two different ways of pouring a glass of champagne: the ‘champagne-like’ method, which involves holding the glass vertically, allowing the champagne to hit the bottom of the flute, and the ‘beer-like’ pouring method where the glass is held aslant, allowing the champagne to flow along the inclined flute wall.

Testing the CO2 levels before and after pouring for both methods and at three different temperatures of 4, 12, and 18°C, the results showed that the beer-like pouring method caused significantly less CO2 loss in comparison to the traditional method.

But CO2 also leaves the champagne by diffusing through the contact surface of the champagne with the air. Experiments performed a few years ago found that for every single CO2 molecule, which escapes from the champagne in the form of bubbles, four others directly escape by diffusion through the free contact surface of the champagne with the air.

When pouring champagne, the sparkling fluid forms a jet – or tongue – as it falls from the bottle into the glass. According to Guillaume Polidori, with the traditional way of serving, this tongue is much longer than with the beer method, where the contact surface of the champagne with the air is significantly smaller.

As the diffusion process is invisible to the human eye, measuring it presented the researchers with a challenge. The researchers decided to use the FLIR SC7000 series thermal camera to film the CO2 as it dissipated during the pouring process, visually confirming the test results. This series of advanced thermal cameras is specifically designed for academic and industrial R&D applications where leading edge sensitivity and performance are required to produce results.

Key features of FLIR SC7000 series thermal imaging cameras:

  • Flexible open system that can be adapted for any situation
  • Provides high sensitivity, accuracy, spatial resolution and speed
  • Cooled Indium Antimonite (InSb) detector
  • Sensitivity of about 20 mK (0.02°C) and image resolution of 640x512 pixels make small temperature differences visible
  • Integration time adjustable in 1 μs increments, which combined with the external triggering mechanism allows capture of fleeting events
The visual confirmation of the effect of differing pouring techniques on the diffusion process by the SC7000 thermal camera provided the researchers with further scientific validation of their experimentation, but it also played another crucial part, according to Guillaume Polidori.

He explained that the thermal camera played a major part in helping to visualise the whole process, which attracted due attention from the press.

GRESPI researcher Hervé Pron, who mostly worked with the FLIR camera, said that the visualisation aspect was not a simple task as the CO2 absorptions observable by thermal cameras were quite weak because this gas molecule had a strong absorption peak in the detector bandwidth at 4.245 μm.

The camera operates at a bandwidth of 3 to 5 μm. To look at the thermal emission from the escaping CO2, an external band-pass filter was acquired, which was centred on the CO2 emission peak and only allowed infrared that had the bandwidth of the particular wavelength region they needed to pass.

Hervé Pron was pleased with the camera’s performance as it was easy to calibrate, very accurate, lightweight, simple to use and also had a high resolution.

Guillaume Polidori’s team is currently working on producing a complete mathematical model of CO2 dissipation during the pouring process, which includes the multiple ways of CO2 discharge. This, he believes would be a very useful discovery, as glassmakers could use the model to design the perfect champagne glass.

FLIR thermal cameras are available in Australia from FLIR Systems Australia .

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