Frequently Asked Questions

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Commonly asked general questions

What is Food Texture?

Food texture refers to those qualities of a food that can be felt with the fingers, tongue, palate, or teeth. Foods have different textures, such as crisp crackers or potato chips, crunchy celery, hard candy, tender steaks, chewy chocolate chip cookies and sticky toffee, to name but a few.

What is texture in food?

The texture of food relates to its mouthfeel and is a sensory perception which is closely related to the structure and composition of the food. Consumers evaluate the texture of food when it is touched, first bitten into and then subsequently chewed. The teeth, tongue and jaw exert a force on the food when eaten, and how easily it breaks or flows in the mouth determines whether it is perceived and described as hard, brittle, sticky, crispy, and so on.

Why is texture in food important?

Texture is important for consumers as it indicates the eating quality of food which can change as food is stored. Consumers have an expectation of the texture of most foods and therefore any disagreement with this may alter repeat purchase or further consumption of the food.

What is texture in food production?

The control of food texture in production is necessary to guarantee that quality is consistent. Texture is a major indicator of quality. Consumers purchasing and then consuming food that does not meet with their textural expectation will result in disappointment and potentially lead to the choice of an alternative brand on subsequent purchases.

What is Food Texture Analysis?

Food Texture Analysis is the science we use to objectively measure the physical properties (or mechanical characteristics) of a food product. Texture Analysers are used to imitate or create controlled stresses within the sample just as we do when we consume or use a product. The science of texture measurement (texture analysis) falls across the scientific fields of rheology (the science of material flow) and materials science.

Texture Analysis itself is the study of the deformation and flow of a food when under the influence of stress and includes the assessment of raw materials, intermediate components and finished products. From a manufacturer's perspective, food texture analysis could be assessing the functionality of an ingredient within the production process or its effect on the finished product. From a consumer’s perspective, food texture analysis could be a vital assessment to ensure an anticipated or expected sensory property, quality or functional performance of a food.

What is a Texture Analyser?

A Texture Analyser is a scientific instrument that moves in either an up or down direction to compress or stretch a sample. The moving arm is fitted with a load cell and records the force response of the sample to the deformation that is imposed on it. Force, Distance and Time data is collected and usually presented as a curve on a graph which, when analysed, indicates the texture of the sample.

What does a Texture Analyser measure?

Texture Analysers measure all types of physical/textural properties, such as hardness, brittleness, spreadability, adhesiveness, tensile strength, extensibility etc. on a vast range of solid and semi solid systems by their ability to accommodate a wide range of probes and fixtures that can be attached to the Texture Analyser base and/or arm.

What is a Texture Analyser used for?

Texture Analysers can be used to perform compression, extension, cutting, extruding, bending and shearing tests – depending upon the chosen probe/fixture. In doing so, a Texture Analyser can measure properties such as fracturability, chewiness, stickiness, consistency, bite force and springiness, to name but a few.

Why Measure Texture?

Successful production and quality control depends on the ability to measure and test at the various stages of production of a product. If you can’t measure it, you can’t control it!

A Texture Analyser will certainly prove an indispensable tool when you need to quantify the texture or overall physical properties of your 'gold standard' product for future comparison in manufacture – the key to maintaining consistent textural quality. You could even use it to compare the texture of your product with your competitors!

What is Texture Profile Analysis?

Texture profile analysis (TPA) is an objective method of sensory analysis pioneered in 1963 by Szczesniak who defined the textural parameters first used in this method of analysis. Later in 1978, Bourne adapted the Instron to perform TPA by compressing standard-sized samples of food twice.

The test consists of compressing a bite-size piece of food two times in a reciprocating motion that imitates the action of the jaw and extracting from the resulting force-time curve a number of textural parameters that correlate well with sensory evaluation of those parameters.

Related to the use of the instrument

How often should I calibrate the texture analyser?

Many people ask this question. The texture analyser does not need to be calibrated every time you use it. Normally, as a guideline we would suggest that you calibrate at least once a month, if the texture analyser is moved to a different position and if you cause an overload. However, as calibration only takes a matter of seconds you could calibrate every day if you prefer. Where the texture analyser is used by several people who may have optimised the calibration range that they have been testing within it is always advisable to recalibrate with your chosen calibration weight.

What data acquisition rate should I choose for collecting test data?

When measuring crispness, brittleness or fracture the events occur very quickly. In order to obtain an accurate understanding of the fracture events one should try to obtain as many data points as possible. By using a data acquisition rate as low as e.g. 50pps you may indeed be missing the true picture of what is really happening in terms of fracture. For brittle products, therefore, a data acquisition rate of 400 or 500pps is recommended. When testing products that are not brittle and do not necessarily fracture (i.e. fast events need not be captured quickly) a data acquisition rate of 200pps is recommended. At 200pps data is still captured very quickly and accurately but at this speed the test will not take up as much space on your hard drive.

The test does not start when the probe reaches the product. Why is this?

The trigger force may be too high and should therefore be lowered. Alternatively, there may be loose connections in which case all the connectors should be checked to ensure that they are plugged in correctly.

Occasionally my texture analyser appears to start collecting data in mid-air, i.e. before it has reached the test sample. Why is this?

The trigger type may be set to 'Button' in which case it is instructed to collect data as soon as the test is commenced. If this is not required then Trigger Type 'Auto' should be selected in the the T.A. Settings window. However even when Trigger Type 'Auto' is selected you may experience this 'early triggering'.

The following is a list of reasons associated with the 'early triggering' problem which customers may encounter.

The texture analyser may trigger early if:

• The trigger force is set lower than 5g when a 30kg load cell is installed

• An open window or circulating fan is located near to the texture analyser

• Screws on the load cell plug are not tightened and therefore vibrate

• Probes are incorrectly fitted

• Inertia is present (i.e. heavy probes)

• There is vibration on the table on which the texture analyser is situated which may be from other equipment or e.g. drilling in a nearby room.

If the machine is subjected to vibration then small fluctuations in the force readings may be measured. The fluctuations will be amplified when using heavier probes etc. due to inertia.

In an extreme case the last calibration may have obtained false data or the environment and condition of the machine may have changed. Whatever the reason, it is possible that the sensitivity of the machine has become exaggerated and force re-calibration would be advised.

I appear to get a lot of ‘noise’ on my curve (produced using a Kramer Shear Cell), even when the blades are not touching the sample. Why is this?

When setting up a fixture such as

• Blade Set

• Kramer Shear Cell

• Forward Extrusion Cell

• Ottawa Cell

it is important to avoid friction of the probe on other surfaces of the fixture which can contribute to a considerable amount of measured force which is not due to the testing of the sample itself. When the fixture is set up it is recommended that users perform a 'blank' test (i.e. a test should be run with no sample) so that the frictional force (if any) can be measured to see what contribution it will be making to the measurement. In the case of the forward extrusion a small frictional force of the piston against the cylinder interior cannot be avoided but can instead be substantially reduced by careful positioning.

How can I check that the force calibration is correct?

Within the software, click on T.A. > Calibration > Check Force. Place known weights on the calibration platform to check the reading in this window. The weight value placed on the calibration platform should be that displayed in the box of this window.

Can you give me further information to consider regarding the force calibration of the texture analyser?

Points that should be noted when performing force calibration: The calibration weight should not be lifted off the calibration platform too soon - wait for instructions from the software Do not use a calibration weight which is less than 10% of the force capacity you intend to go to Overload/Underload should not cause force calibration problems but in any event calibration is very quick to perform and is therefore recommended. However overload/underload does lose the probe height calibration which will then need to be performed again if required as part of your test procedure.

Do I need to calibrate the Probe Height every time I use the TA?

No. In fact, Probe Height calibration is only necessary when wanting to test samples to a certain 'Strain' or if you wish to used a 'Button Trigger'. However, it is useful if you wish to set Pre-set positions on your texture analyser to speed up multiple sample testing. For example, you may wish to have a chosen position for sample loading and a chosen position just above the sample before you start the test to reduce test times.

What test vessel size should I use?

As a general rule, a test vessel diameter of at least 10 times the probe diameter is advised to reduce 'wall effects'. Similarly a target distance for a test should be no more than 75% of the product fill level to reduce 'base effects'.

How many samples should I test?

Whilst it is appreciated that time and sample availability are often limiting factors, it is necessary to test at least 3 and ideally 4 samples to differentiate between samples with some confidence. However, time permitting, it is recommended that 5 or more samples are tested expecially where low sample repeatability is expected from inherently variable samples, e.g. potato crisps.

Note: It is not statistically valid to apply a standard deviation or coefficient of variation calculation to a sample set fewer than 4 and ideally these statistical measures should be applied to a sample set of more than 5.

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Related to the use of the software

When should I use a ‘Button’ trigger type instead of an ‘Automatic’ trigger type?

First of all, a brief explanation of both trigger types:

Button: Measurement starts as soon as the Run command is given and the probe starts moving.

Auto: The Texture Analyser will move the probe up (Tension test) or down (Compression test) until it detects a force greater than the Trigger Force setting. Measurement starts once this force point is reached. This ensures that products of different sizes are accounted for. This facility also allows the Texture Analyser to measure the product height (particularly important when measuring in strain). Sometimes you can experience false triggering when using the Auto option. If this is the case then try increasing the Trigger Force setting.

Most products should be tested with an automatic trigger for detecting the surface of the sample and starting to collect the test data. The penetration, cutting or compression distances etc. are then identical for all automatic trigger tests without regard to the precise height and geometry of each sample tested.

The sensitivity of the automatic trigger can also be used to adjust for minor differences in sample geometry and sample preparation. For example, if you used a 3g trigger force for a product with an irregular surface you would almost certainly get relatively extreme differences in the depth of penetration, based on how deep the surface irregularities were. If the surface irregularities were from peaks like those on whipped cream, you could negate the surface irregularity impact by using e.g. a 25g trigger force, so the light surface peaks would be ignored, and the penetration distance would start at a more consistent product surface, i.e. when the probe and product surface have full contact.

The sensitivity of the automatic trigger can also adjust for differences in probes. For example, if you used a 3g trigger with a 3mm cylinder probe the texture analyser may not detect the surface of a very soft gel until the probe is 4-5mm into the gel. Perhaps much better consistency between hard, soft and very soft gels could be attained by using a much lighter trigger force, or even a button test where the probe can be more precisely positioned over the sample by eye (or preset positions). Of course, using a different probe would also be suggested for gels.

Button tests are particularly good for testing the Firmness of e.g. pastes, doughs and other products where geometry is difficult to control. We also highly recommend a Button trigger type when using the Kramer Shear Cell and Ottawa Cell. These attachments are often used when testing products of differing heights such as compressing a portion of cereal flakes. In these instances you can program the probe to travel a fixed distance so that the product, whatever its original shape or height, is deformed to a consistent height or cut to a constant distance above the base. For example, if you calibrate a probe to 10.0mm over the base, and then use a button trigger with a Return to Start test to travel 9.0mm, you will always deform or cut the product to a 1mm distance from the base.

What minimum trigger forces do you recommend?

When using an automatic trigger type our guide as to minimum trigger forces is: 5kg load cell – 0.5g 25kg load cell – 5g 50kg load cell – 7g The trigger force is extremely sensitive and could result in a false surface detection in 'vibration noisy' environments such as production floors or high-traffic R&D labs. In such locations we recommend a trigger force of at least 5g for 5kg load cells, and perhaps as high as 20g for 30kg and 50kg load cells. Choosing an optimum trigger force is a balance between one high enough to avoid triggering in the air during the downstroke and low enough to be sensitive to the true surface of your product. A short period of experimentation will help you find the right trigger for your product. It is difficult to recommend a perfect trigger force for each test as there are several variables to consider, namely, trigger force will depend on the size of the probe and/or product for testing, the Hardness of the product and the irregularity of the product surface. Other trigger force considerations are explained in a previous question and answer.

When I receive a software upgrade, how can I find out what has changed between the new and last version?

When you install the software you are asked if you would like to view the notes file. This file contains a list of the changes made to each version. The file is called "updateinfo.rtf" and is installed into the application directory so you can view this at any time using Notepad.

Data appears backward when displayed in distance. What happened?

Either the Distance Relative setting or the Inverted Graph option is incorrect.

There are two ways to change these settings:

a) Right-click on the units displayed on the graph axis. The options appear at the bottom of the pop-up list that appears. Click on an option to toggle the status.

b) Open the Graph Preferences (File > Preferences > User > Graph menu item, or press the F3 key). Change the options for the required data type.

So many choices show up in the pop-up boxes which do not apply to my work. How can I hide those elements I don't wish to see?

The Plug-in Manager can be used to hide Test Parameters such as Product Height, etc., Axis types such as Pressure, etc., and Calculations such as Area, etc.

To run the Plug-in Manager, select from the Windows taskbar Start > Programs > Texture Exponent 32 > Plug In Manager. The folders can be expanded to show more folder / items. The items in the list are active when the is an tick in front of them. Click on the the tick to toggle the status. Items with a [Graph picture] represent axis types. Items with a [Sum picture] represent calculations. Items with a [abc picture] represent parameters. Items with [Binoculars picture] represent goto functions. Click on OK to save the changes and close the Plug-in Manager. Changes will take effect when you next start Exponent.

When I start up I want to see a graph window, but all windows are closed. How do I control the initial screens that boot up when I start the program?

Create a Workspace. Also note that you do not need a graph window open to run a test, as the T.A. commands are always available and a new Graph window is automatically created when the test starts.

How do I clear calculations I have made on a curve?

Use the Graph window's menu item Results > Clear for Current Graph or Clear for All Graphs.

My various windows are floating around the screen. How do I put them back in place?

Double click the title bar of the window to re-dock it or drag it to the edge of the parent window to dock it on a specific side.

How do I modify my toolbars?

You can drag toolbars to any location within Exponent and change the buttons that are on the toolbars. Use the menu command Tools > Customise Toolbars. Use the Toolbars tab to create new toolbars and specify global properties. Use the Commands tab to view specific commands and drag them to a toolbar.

How do I access a Macro to edit it?

This can be done in one of three ways:

a) If the macro appears in the toolbar list box, you can select it in the list (so that the background is blue) and then press the Enter key.

b) From the Project panel's Macro tab, click on the macro to select it, then right-click to display the pop-up menu and select Edit.

c) Open the file using the File > Open menu command.

What is a Workspace and why do I need one?

Workspaces save the layout and content of windows within Exponent. They are not compulsory so you can use them if you wish or just ignore them.

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Request Technical Support

If you need to request advice about product testing methods then do so through our Test Advice Service form.

Technical support requests relating to our instruments or software can be made via our Technical Support form.

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