Quick method for determining starch quality:

The new ViscoQuick from Brabender put through its paces at Kröner-Stärk

Laboratory device manufacturer Brabender from Duisburg, Germany has developed a new device for the rapid determination of viscosity called the ViscoQuick. This instrument was tested over a period of four months in the laboratory of the Kröner-Stärke, a producer of (organic) wheat starch and gluten from Ibbenbüren. In this article, wehoat an interview with Matthias Evers (ME), Quality Manager at Kröner-Stärke, about his experience with the machine.

Kröner-Stärke is a family-run business currently managed by the third generation of owners and looks back on more than 100 years of experience in the production of starches. For which sectors does Kröner-Stärke manufacture products, and who are its clients?

ME: Kröner-Stärke is a globally active company with representation in more than 20 countries and with approximately 110 employees. All products are produced in Ibbenbüren. In addition to the manufacturing of starch and gluten, Kröner-Stärke also develops tailored solutions for customers from the industrial, commercial, and skilled trades sectors.

The products are used primarily for the food industry, such as the baked goods industry, as well as in the pet food segment and many industrial sectors which perform further processing, whereby 40 percent of production is exported. Kröner-Stärke is also the leading provider of organic wheat starch and organic wheat gluten as well as gluten-free starches and flours. Kröner-Stärke has set itself apart from many other starch and gluten producers by not using microbiocides, extracting agents, additives, or enzymes.

What products does Kröner-Stärke manufacture, and what are the company's specialties?

ME: Kröner-Stärke offers a wide range of starches and flours. Options range from native starches, pre-gelatinised starches, wheat protein and pre-gelatinised flours to flour mixtures. Products made from various raw materials are also available in various quality levels.

A particular specialty of Kröner-Stärke is gluten-free products and organic products, for which the quality expectations of customers worldwide are particularly high. In addition, we develop and produce customer-specific products, such as flour mixtures, and assist customers with the implementation of our products in process workflows as well as the optimisation of production processes.

Mr Evers, you have been working at Kröner-Stärke since 1996 and are responsible for quality control. What controls are performed in your company and what exactly do the quality controls look like in practice?

ME: I should first mention that production at Kröner-Stärke runs round the clock, seven days a week. All products undergo a three-stage control procedure. Before production, the raw materials are first subjected to an incoming goods inspection; this is particularly important, because we deal with natural products which are, of course, subject to natural fluctuations.

This is then followed by a check during production in order to ensure that there are no malfunctions. At the end, there is, of course, an outgoing inspection in order to verify and document the quality of the product. With the many products that Kröner-Stärke offers, a large number of samples are collected, the properties of which are analysed by a nine-man team.

These analyses require a relatively long time to perform, but at the same time need to be performed promptly in order to ensure that production runs optimally and that no defective batches are generated due to insufficient quality.

Which product properties are important for starches and how do you ensure the quality of your products?

ME: In order to be able to assess starches or products containing starch and their possible applications, it is important to know their solubility, their gelatinisation behaviour and their stability. Therefore, it is not only the quality of the raw material that plays an important role, but also its behavior during processing operations, where factors such as temperature, quantity, heating and cooling rates, as well as shear forces play a role.

In order to determine the gelatinisation behavior of starches and starch-containing products, temperature- and time-independent viscosity measurements are conducted with the aid of the Brabender Viscograph.

For flours, the enzyme activity is also measured, as it has an influence on the gelatinisation properties and hence on the baking behavior. For this purpose, amylograms are recorded using the Brabender Amylograph-E and additional parameters identified, such as the falling number. For assessing the quality of the gelatinisation properties, we use a Viscograph or an Amylograph, depending on the specific application.

Kröner-Stärke not only produces standard products but also develops tailored solutions for customers. What challenges does this result in for your laboratory tests?

ME: During our tests, we examine all raw materials and monitor production with our analyses. Naturally, both the speed of the test and reliable measurement results are important factors for the analyses.

These two factors affect not only work in the laboratory but the overall production as well. We also have a wide range of production operations. This means that it is important for us to be able to adapt the tests to the various applications in a manner that is as straightforward as possible.

This is also particularly important for the development of customer-specific solutions. In this case, we need to be able to react to the specific requirements by simulating the production processes as closely as possible with our analyses, for example with regard to temperature and the shear forces which occur.

Mr Evers, you tested the new ViscoQuick from Brabender over a period of four months in your laboratory. What added value does the device offer?

ME: One advantage of the device is, first of all, the speed of the measurements. While measuring viscosity using the Viscograph required approximately 40 minutes-per-sample, it can be done in approximately 10-to-15 minutes with the ViscoQuick.

The shorter test period results from the significantly smaller sample size and the faster heating and cooling rates. This is already a significant advantage, whereby the device also features good reproducibility.

One additional plus factor of the new device is the wider temperature range with which the ViscoQuick can be configured. This means that a wider range is available, providing greater flexibility. This is a highly interesting aspect, in particular for product developments, but also for the optimization of production workflows, as it allows reactions to be tailored more closely to requirements.

For which applications have you used the ViscoQuick?

ME: We have used the ViscoQuick both for production monitoring in our facilities and during collaboration with one of our clients to improve the production workflow. The project involved production planning from the raw material to the final product. With the measurements from the ViscoQuick, we were able to coordinate individual parameters and develop a sample which was communicated to the client.

How would you summarise what it's like to work with the new analytical device?

ME: After being trained by Brabender staff, we were able to start performing the measurements without problems, as the device is easy to operate thanks to the integrated MetaBridge software.

We then performed various tests with different materials and compared the device with our current devices. We realised that the ViscoQuick was highly suited to determining the viscosity and/or the gelatinisation behavior of starch and starch-containing products.

You receive information rapidly and in a straightforward manner, whereby the device can be used in a highly flexibly manner for various products, for incoming goods inspections as well as in production and during product development. The ViscoQuick is also ideal for testing non-baked goods, such as sauces.

When it comes to baked goods, we assess the baking behavior and the enzyme activity with the Amylograph. The ViscoQuick is a valuable addition in this area and is highly recommended for rapid viscosity measurements and/or the viscosity curves against temperature.

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