# CSC Scientific Blog

A blog about test equipment

One quiet night, I was musing over moisture analysis and how easy it is to do using loss-on drying. Little did I know what was in store.

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Last week, as I was reflecting on a recent moisture content problem, I recalled our series “Loss-on Drying and Other Moisture Mysteries.” In that series I examined moisture chemistry in products. However, I did little to define moisture content.

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Regularly I’m asked the question; “How accurate is this moisture balance?”

The questioner asks for the answer in terms of percent (%) moisture. When I answer “it depends”, I always get the unspoken response, “Why did I ask this stupid idiot?

# Absolute Measurement

When you ask about the accuracy of something like weight or temperature the answers are straight forward and relate to the instruments' precision. For example 25 grams or 50 degrees plus or minus (+/-) 0.1 gram or 1/2 degree.

# Percent is Relative

When you ask the question of how accurate is my percentage reading, the answer becomes complicated. It’s complicated because percentage (%) is a relative term. For example, the answer for the result of a Loss on Drying (LOD) moisture test, is based on the size of the sample you use.

Using the example of a LOD moisture test we can understand the concept. The result of this type of test is calculated by subtracting the weight of the sample at the end of the test from the weight of the sample at the beginning of the test. This difference is divided by the initial weight of the sample. This procedure produces a % moisture result.

# Sample Size

In the following analysis, the implication s of sample size and instrument precision will be illustrated. This will be based on a sample that has 23.5% moisture and an electronic LOD moisture balance that has a sensitivity of 0.001 grams and repeatability of ± .005 grams.

# Sample Analysis

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Moisture content is a critical factor to consider in the food industry. The amount of water in a product affects the product’s texture, shelf life, ease of processing, and cost to produce. Snack foods, baked goods, pet food, and dried goods are just a few examples of products that are vulnerable to moisture content issues like these. In many cases, an easy loss-on drying (LOD) test will allow you to monitor the moisture content of these products. (See the 3 Easy Steps to Run a LOD Test here.

Simple moisture analysis can be all it takes to improve the quality of your product. Let’s take a closer look at how moisture content affects each of these four product and production aspects.
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The answer to the question, “How Long Does a Water Activity Test Take?” is, as with most testing questions, “it depends.” Some water activity meters promise a test completed in a very short time; some in as little as five minutes. This time is an arbitrary selection that may or may not produce a satisfactory result.

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As people who measure moisture, we at CSC Scientific work to find the best technique.

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One quiet night, long ago I was musing over moisture analysis and how easy it is to do using Loss-on Drying (LOD). Little did I know what was in store.

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Five years ago, we published an article on in-line vs. off-line moisture measurement. At that time we debated whether these measurement systems should be called on-line or in-line. We chose to use the term "on-line". Since then, however, the world of the internet became known as "online". So, to avoid confusion, we changed our view and now refer to direct measurement as "in-line" moisture measurement.

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# Can you do a fast moisture test?

The answer is, “maybe”.

The direct methods of Loss on Drying and Karl Fischer have the benefit that between them they can get a good moisture content result on almost any product or material.

But these tests usually take several minutes.

When you need the moisture content in a truck load of grain while the load is being dumped, or when you need to check several hundred bags of coffee at an auction, or when you need to get a moisture gradient in a pile of corn, a faster test is crucial.

Can you do it?

The short answer is, “yes”.  There are, however certain caveats to this answer.

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Karl Fischer Titration and Loss-on Drying (LOD) are both methods for determining moisture content in a product.

That’s where the similarities end, though. In this article, I will explain the difference between Karl Fischer Titration and Loss-on Drying, and offer some suggestions to help you choose the right method for your application.

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