News Release

Molecular secret behind alcohol content of beverages revealed

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

In a study published in Matter on May 1, researchers led by Prof. Jiang Lei from the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have revealed the molecular secrets behind the alcohol content of alcoholic beverages (e.g., Chinese baijiu). Their research provides a scientific explanation for traditional distilling processes and suggests new opportunities for future innovation in the alcoholic beverage industry.  

The researchers discussed how ethanol–water mixtures determine the critical alcohol content in beverages. Using high-frequency proton nuclear magnetic resonance and molecular dynamics simulations, they revealed the presence of distinct ethanol–water molecular clusters within ethanol–water mixtures.  

According to the researchers, the transitions of these clusters at specific critical points correspond remarkably to the alcohol content ranges of several well-known alcoholic beverages worldwide.  

In addition, they found that low temperatures promote the formation of ethanol-dominated chain-like clusters, which explains the preference for cooling beers and warming spirits such as baijiu to obtain similar "ethanol-like" flavors at lower alcohol content. This finding not only provides a scientific basis for traditional brewing and distilling techniques but also opens up opportunities for the future development of innovative alcoholic beverages.  

This innovative research has not only demystified the traditional aspects that determine the alcohol by volume (i.e., alcohol concentration) of alcoholic beverages but has also provided a new scientific basis for standardized production in the alcoholic beverage industry.  

By precisely controlling the critical points of the ethanol–water cluster, manufacturers can maintain ideal taste while reducing alcohol concentration, thereby bringing a more diverse range of products to the market. 

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