Despite this, using the manual Ripper titration to measure SO2 can be challenging for a number of reasons. Given the need to monitor the color change associated with this titration method by eye, it can be problematic to accurately determine end points in red wines, as the dark color of the sample can make it difficult to identify the onset of the color change. This limitation means that measurements can often be inconsistent and unreliable, putting the quality and regulatory compliance of the end product at risk. Moreover, as operators must be fully engaged with the titration throughout the experiment, manual titrations can be very resource intensive. For wineries with limited resources or those deciding to scale up production, the need for a dedicated, trained operator, or team of operators (for large productions), to perform manual Ripper titrations can prove to be a bottleneck.
Using Automated Titrators to Measure Sulfites
Given the importance of monitoring sulfite levels to protect the quality of wine and extend product shelf life, winemakers are increasingly using automated titration systems to generate results faster and more efficiently. As automated Ripper titrations use electrodes to monitor potentiometric end points, rather than subjective color changes, they provide precise results regardless of which operator performs the test. Moreover, by generating accurate results that are right the first time, these systems are able to support rapid and more informed decision-making.
Modern automated titration platforms are also capable of performing testing with no manual intervention except for the initiation of tests with the push of a button, enabling wineries to undertake sulfite testing more efficiently. In addition, this ease of use frees up operators to work on other tasks, such as additional safety or quality tests, and gives wineries the flexibility and capacity to quickly scale up sulfite testing activities without having to significantly expand their teams. The latest automated platforms for sulfite testing extend beyond data collection to processing and analysis, enabling wineries to automatically calculate and store results in line with regulatory requirements, while avoiding the risk of transcription errors that can occur using manual workflows.
Additionally, some of the latest titration platforms enable wineries to program and save frequently used method details in the system for routine use by operators. These convenient and intuitive systems can help wineries work more efficiently by eliminating the time required to set up the relevant conditions before each test. More advanced platforms will allow system administrators to lock the pre-programmed tests, preventing them from being changed by unauthorized users. For laboratories with large workflows, these features can be highly beneficial in increasing productivity and delivering more consistent results.
The robustness of sulfite testing workflows is a key priority for many wineries, especially those with high-volume testing requirements. Recent improvements in the operational resilience of automated titration systems are helping to minimize maintenance requirements and simplify upkeep. Some modern automated titrators will even diagnose performance issues and guide operators through recalibration and maintenance steps using clear on-screen instructions. As sulfite testing is often undertaken by operators without any in-depth technical knowledge, the improved simplicity and ease of use of these systems can allow wineries to extend the interval between maintenance operations and get titrators back in action more quickly when issues do arise. These innovative features improve operational efficiency and productivity and help get wineries back to what they’re good at: ensuring great wine makes the journey from vineyard to wine glass.
Gleichauf is an applications lab manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.