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    Flash Pasteurization 101: How It Works and the Beverages That Need It

    Notice: This article is for educational purposes only. Please note that Metabrand does not currently offer flash pasteurization services. The information provided in this article is intended to provide an overview of how flash pasteurization works, its applications, and benefits. 

    Any references made to Metabrand offering flash pasteurization services are incorrect and should be disregarded. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused.

    Customers expect to get their favorite beverages fresh with their natural flavor intact. Beverage manufacturers are leveraging flash pasteurization to extend the shelf life of their products without compromising on quality, taste, and nutrition.

    Flash pasteurization, or high-temperature short-time (HTST) as it may also be called, is a process through which cold beverages are flash-heated to a very high temperature for a short period (15–30 seconds) and then quickly cooled. 

    This kills spoilage microorganisms like bacteria, molds, and yeast, extending the shelf life of the beverages by up to 12 months.

    Flash pasteurization, unlike other pasteurization processes like tunnel pasteurization, maintains the beverage’s natural flavor, texture, and nutritional value. It also eliminates the need for preservatives, giving customers a fresher and tastier product. 

    This expert guide provides an overview of how flash pasteurization works, as well as its applications and benefits.

    How Flash Pasteurization Works

    Named after French scientist Louis Pasteur, flash pasteurization’s core concept is to inhibit enzymatic reactions that lead to spoilage. The process begins with preheating the beverage to a specific temperature of 71.5°C (160°F) to 74°C (165°F) for 15–30 seconds. 

    This flash heating is done in a flash pasteurizer that usually consists of two plates. The first plate has evenly spaced steel tubes that heat the beverage in a flash, while the second plate cools it rapidly. 

    After heating, the beverage is cooled rapidly at 4°C (39.2°F) to 5.5°C (42°F) to stop any further enzymatic and non-enzymatic reactions and slow down the growth of spoilage microorganisms.

    Manufacturers must use sterile fill technology to prevent post-pasteurization contamination. This helps to ensure that flash-heated beverages are bottled in a sterile environment. 

    Flash pasteurization also demands rigorous quality control, as any deviation from flash heating parameters can compromise the product’s quality or, worse, lead to an unsafe beverage. 

    Applications of Flash Pasteurization

    Maintaining the quality and taste of cold beverages is the primary application of flash pasteurization. It helps manufacturers extend their product’s shelf life without interfering with its taste, health benefits, and composition. 

    The flash pasteurization process is used to manufacture an array of cold beverages, including:

    The high perishability of these beverages dictates flash pasteurization as the only viable option to extend their shelf life without compromising on the unique tastes customers expect. 

    Flash pasteurization for milk became a U.S. standard in the 1930s after discovering Coxiella burnettii (a heat-resistant pathogen) in unpasteurized milk. Flash-pasteurized beers and wines are gaining traction among brands looking to deliver superior-quality products. 

    Benefits of Flash Pasteurization

    Beverage manufacturers are increasingly turning to flash pasteurization because of its distinct benefits over other processes. Some of these include:

    Preserves a Beverage’s Flavor, Natural Nutrients, and Color

    After working so hard to formulate the perfect beverage, flash pasteurization helps manufacturers retain their product’s flavor profiles and natural nutrients. Flash heating doesn’t meddle in the beverage’s texture, color, and nutritional components. Your customers can savor the same flavor and texture they signed up for. 

    Extends Shelf Life Without Compromising Product Quality

    Microorganisms like bacteria, yeasts, and molds are the primary cause of spoilage in beverages. Heating beverages to a near-boiling temperature destroys these microorganisms, slows their growth, and extends the product’s shelf life. 

    Flash pasteurization does this without compromising the product’s quality. This prevents losses during slow months and helps brands reach a wider audience. For instance, flash pasteurized milk has a 2–3-week shelf life compared to 2–3 days for unpasteurized milk. 

    Reduces the Need for Preservatives

    Unlike traditional pasteurization, which requires the addition of preservatives to extend shelf life, flash pasteurization is a preservative-free process. The high temperatures are enough to denature the microorganisms and slow their growth, so preservatives are rarely necessary. 

    This is beneficial for brands looking to produce all-natural and high-quality beverages. 

    Flash pasteurization is quickly becoming the gold standard for preserving beverages. Its ability to preserve the beverage’s flavor, texture, and nutrients while extending its shelf life is hard to beat. Manufacturers already capitalizing on flash pasteurization can attest to the process’s efficacy, reliability, and cost-efficiency. 

    Drawbacks of Flash Pasteurization

    Sure, flash pasteurization offers a plethora of benefits, but it also has its disadvantages.

    Expense

    The advanced technology and equipment associated with flash pasteurization can be prohibitively expensive. It requires advanced monitoring systems, flash heaters, flash coolers, and regular maintenance, which can be a deterrent for smaller manufacturers with limited budgets. 

    Requires Quality Control

    Flash pasteurization is not a set-it-and-forget-it process. It requires rigorous quality control before, during, and after flash pasteurization to ensure safety and quality. 

    Manufacturers must maintain tight control over flash pasteurization parameters and regularly adjust them to meet the product’s requirements. Fortunately, you can leverage advanced monitoring systems to automate and expedite the process. 

    Can Kill Nonpathogenic, Beneficial Bacteria

    Flash pasteurization is an all-or-nothing process that doesn’t differentiate between pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacteria. Once the pasteurizer is on, the high temperature will destroy both good and bad bacteria. 

    This can be a problem for brands looking to preserve essential probiotic bacteria that promote a healthy gut, boosts immunity, and improves digestion. 

    Don’t let the drawbacks scare you away, though. The many benefits of  pasteurization far outweigh the downsides, allowing manufacturers to produce high-quality beverages without sacrificing taste, mouthfeel, and nutrition. 

    You can partner with a reliable full-cycle beverage development manufacturer to reap the full benefits of pasteurization.

    Get Started with MetaBrand Today

    Pasteurization can work wonders for your beverage brand. It helps you produce high-quality beverages that retain their flavor, texture, while extending their shelf life. 

    You need an experienced, reliable pasteurization partner who can ensure the process’s efficacy and safety. 

    Get in touch with the MetaBrand team today to learn about our options for pasteurization, and how we can help you maximize your beverage shelf life.

    FAQs about Flash Pasteurization

    Flash pasteurization, also known as high-temperature short-time (HTST), is a process where cold beverages are quickly heated to a high temperature for a short duration (15-30 seconds) and then rapidly cooled. This kills spoilage microorganisms, extending the shelf life of beverages by up to 12 months.

    The flash pasteurization process heats the beverage to a specific temperature of 71.5°C (160°F) to 74°C (165°F) for 15-30 seconds.

    Flash pasteurizers typically consist of two plates. The first plate has evenly spaced steel tubes that quickly heat the beverage, while the second plate rapidly cools it.

    Flash pasteurization is commonly used for fruit and vegetable juices, milk, smoothies, sports drinks, beer, and wine.

    Flash pasteurization preserves the natural flavor, texture, and nutritional value of beverages. It extends shelf life without compromising product quality and eliminates the need for preservatives.

    Flash heating doesn’t interfere with the beverage’s texture, color, and nutritional components, allowing customers to enjoy the same flavor and nutrients.

    Flash pasteurization can extend the shelf life of beverages by up to 12 months.