Exploring the importance of effective Hygiene Monitoring within the brewing industry, plus an in depth explanation of A3 technology as an alternative to ATP testing.

When it comes to running a successful brewery, effective hygiene monitoring is absolutely essential. Failing to prioritise this aspect of your operation could compromise the quality, taste, and safety of your product.

The ability to accurately detect the presence of organic material is particularly important within a brewery, but unfortunately this is also an industry in which conventional ATP testing is likely to struggle. As a result, a number of breweries are now exploring the benefits of A3 technology.

With this in mind, we have created a guide to validating the cleaning and sanitisation of your brewery. In this article we will cover all of the areas listed below. There is helpful content in each section, but you can also use the links to skip to the subject most relevant to your site.

You can also follow the link below to watch a webinar on Hygiene Monitoring in High Care Environments. Hosted by Klipspringer Director Alex Carlyon, our in-house A3 specialist Radek Tameczka, and scientific advisor Dr. Stephan Speidel, this webinar explores the limitations of conventional hygiene monitoring methods and provides real-world examples of A3 verification at High Care production sites.

Why is the cleaning and sanitisation of my brewery so important?

You will already be familiar with at least some of the reasons for cleaning and sanitising your brewery, but we would recommend bringing them to the forefront of your mind. After all, being able to share the following incentives at a moment’s notice could prove invaluable when it comes to training your operatives, securing investment in new equipment, and sending the right message during upcoming audits.

1. Protecting the reputation of your brand

In an age of social media and online reviews, it is more important than ever to uphold the reputation of your business. Contrary to popular belief, the alcohol content of your product won’t necessarily eliminate harmful bacteria, so it is still possible for a contaminated beer to prove seriously harmful, if not fatal, to your customers. This could mean the end of your operation.

2. Securing quality and consistency

As you will know, yeast is a living organism that needs a very specific environment to thrive. Foreign body contamination can totally change this environment, so the taste of your product is at least partly reliant on how well your equipment was cleaned and sanitised before production. If the right hygiene operative was working that day, your finished product will be just as expected, but if a less enthusiastic operative was on site, you could be left with a sour beer that will lead people to question your processes.

3. Saving your site time and money 

At most factories there are targets and incentives related to spending. Although it might feel like a risk to warn your operatives against cutting corners to save time and money, a comprehensive clean isn’t going to cost you in the long run, it actually has the potential to save you a significant amount. Consider the expense of throwing away a contaminated batch, failing an audit, damaging your brand’s reputation, or replacing degraded equipment long before its suggested lifespan.

4. Securing audit compliance

Last but not least, prioritising the cleaning and sanitisation of your brewery will help you to secure audit compliance. Inspectors will expect to see evidence of your brewery working to the current specifications and standards. It should be clear that your operatives are aware of these targets and know exactly how to meet them. Hygiene is always going to play an important role in this, so you will need to consider everything from the quality of your cleaning equipment and the standard of your PPE to the clarity of your Cleaning Instruction Cards and the accuracy of your instrumentation.

How can I make sure my brewery is cleaned and sanitised correctly?

ATP testing is a traditional method for ascertaining how well a surface has been cleaned and whether or not any organic residue remains. This is because ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is a molecule found in every living organism. However, times are changing and many breweries are now making the switch to A3 technology – viewing it as a more comprehensive and reliable approach to hygiene monitoring.

But why is this shift occurring?

ATP is an unstable molecule that degrades in certain processes – including fermentation. It degrades to ADP and AMP, becoming undetectable to a traditional ATP test. In contrast, an A3 meter is able to detect adenosine molecules in all three forms: ATP, ADP, and AMP.

The graph below shows the results of an A3 meter when compared to three ATP meters testing the same surface:

As you can see, there is a dramatic difference between the readings provided by the A3 system and the ATP meters. The ATP tests indicate a low level of organic material and suggest the surface isn’t in need of any further cleaning. Whereas, the A3 system indicates a much higher level of organic material and suggests the surface needs to be cleaned and sterilised until this residue is removed.

This shows that if you are currently using ATP testing at your brewery, there is every chance that your equipment and surfaces are passing tests they should in fact be failing.

The video below offers a demonstration of the key differences between an ATP and A3 meter:

What are the dangers of failing to detect all three adenosine molecules?

When ATP degrades to ADP and AMP, it does so in an effort to conserve energy and preserve life. Processes such as fermentation certainly change the levels of detectable ATP, but the organic residue is still there. The problem is, organic residue is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and this next generation of bacteria could include ATP.

When ATP, ADP, and AMP are detected, they generate a reading for RLU. As you can see in this graph, a high RLU reading indicates the presence of organic residue and a poor clean. You will also see that this directly correlates with the amount of bacteria present on the surface. Put simply, a high RLU reading can be seen as a clear indicator of a high bacterial count. This bacteria has the potential to impact the safety, quality, and taste of your finished product. It could also result in turbidity – turning your beer to a cloudy substance.

Why is A3 technology especially suited to a brewery? 

As previously mentioned, ATP degrades to ADP and AMP during the fermentation process.

Fermentation involves the breakdown of glucose through glycolysis, which yields a limited amount of ATP compared to oxidative phosphorylation. High levels of ATP are generally observed towards the start of this process. However, as fermentation progresses and the availability of fermentable sugars decreases, the metabolic activity of yeasts slows down, leading to a gradual decrease in ATP.

This is the point at which accurate hygiene monitoring becomes crucial. An ATP test will detect the decrease in ATP and will read this as an indication of a clean surface without any organic residue. Conversely, an A3 meter will identify the presence of ADP and AMP. It will correctly detect the presence of organic residue and will let your operatives know that the surface or equipment is in need of further cleaning.

The graphs below provide real life examples of this technology at work. Fig A shows the increased sensitivity of the A3 meter from Kikkoman when compared to traditional ATP testing. Fig B displays the different results provided by ATP and A3 testing in regards to fermented foods and fungi residues. As you can see, in every instance, the ATP tests display a pass result, whereas the A3 tests reveal a high RLU reading and, by extension, a high bacterial count.

Fig A

Fig B

How do I carry out effective hygiene monitoring at my brewery?

When it comes to validating brewery cleans – it is recommended that multiple “hot spots” are tested across production. In the example used below, four key “hot spots” are being tested: the Can Filler Head, the Canning “Bubble Breaker”, the Undercover Gasser, and the Can Line Conveyer Belt.

This testing was carried out at the Great Central Brewing Company and took place over a period of four months. During this time, the four “hot spots” were tested with an A3 meter and saw a significant decrease in RLU. As the operatives gained a more accurate understanding of how effective their cleaning processes were, they were able to achieve an increased level of cleanliness and more consistent sanitation control.

The testing of multiple points is particularly important in breweries because it protects against both primary contamination (brewing) and secondary contamination (bottling). With 50% of contaminations attributed to bottling, you need to be vigilant at every part of the process. When establishing your own “hot spots”, you should factor in the following points of contamination:

Primary Contamination

  • Measuring instruments
  • Valves and dead ends
  • Gas pipes
  • Floor surfaces
  • Plate heat exchangers
  • Filters

Secondary Contamination

  • Sealing, crowning, and filling equipment
  • Bottle inspector
  • Bottle washer
  • Surrounding environment
  • Airborne contamination during trip from washing to filling to sealing equipment

What are the key benefits of an A3 monitor?

As this article explains, the key benefit of an A3 monitor is its heightened sensitivity – capable of detecting molecules that go unnoticed by traditional ATP tests. Aside from more accurate and reliable results, the A3 system also offers a number of other benefits:

  • Lightweight
  • Easy-to-use, with auto-calibration
  • Set your own limits for pass/fail results (supported by the Klipspringer team)
  • Automatic temperature compensation
  • Eliminates false negative readings
  • Free technical support
  • Next day delivery for all swabs
  • Superior sensitivity to ATP meters - precise measurement of ATP, ADP, and AMP
  • Data visualisation in the app - results are easy to analyse
  • Bluetooth connection - access results from any location

How does the A3 system eliminate false negative readings?

Another key benefit of A3 technology is that it resolves a common issue present in ATP systems. ATP tests often display a reading of 0 after swabbing. Understandably, operatives take this as a sign of a surface passing the test and rarely investigate the results. However, a reading of 0 can also occur if a swab has been compromised – misused by the operative or exposed to a high concentration of chemical detergent. There could also be an issue with the enzyme in the swab or the swab itself could be faulty.

In direct response to this issue, the A3 meter always produces a reading above zero (normally between 1-8), even if the levels of ATP, AMP, and ADP are extremely low. If an A3 meter ever displays a 0, this indicates a potential fault that requires further investigation.

What support will you receive if you introduce the A3 system to your brewery?

When collecting feedback on the A3 system, an additional plus point shared by its users has been the ongoing support provided by the Klipspringer team. Working closely with a group of micro-biologists, we will be on hand to help you establish and validate referential benchmarks for your A3 testing.

We can also provide training for your operatives, answering questions, sharing resources, and encouraging your team to engage with the new equipment. Instead of going it alone, you will have a team of experts to support you with the role out.

So that brings us to the end of our guide to Hygiene Monitoring within the brewing industry. We hope that this article has highlighted the benefits of establishing an accurate and reliable testing method at your site. We also hope that it has offered a comprehensive explanation of A3 technology and the reasons behind the industry turning away from conventional ATP tests, favouring instead the heightened sensitivity of an A3 meter.

If you would like any further guidance, the Klipspringer team would be happy to help with your enquiries. Our in-house A3 expert Radek Tameczka will also be available to provide support and relevant resources. You can contact us on 01473 461800 or sales@klipspringer.com. Alternatively, you can use the form below to arrange a free consultation

If you would like further guidance relating to Hygiene Monitoring, the Klipspringer team would be happy to help. Share your details below to arrange a free consultation.