Student Research Projects

Determination of copper in distilled spirits using FAAS

Student Areli Ibarra, '16
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Chemistry
Course Chemistry 480: Instrumental Methods of Analysis


Distilled spirits contain several trace metals at various concentrations. Metals find their way into distilled spirits from a variety of sources including: raw materials, water supplied, and corrosion of from processing equipment used. Therefore, since distillation, aging processes and equipment used vary for different kinds of distilled spirits, it is expected to impact the trace metals present. Copper is one of the trace metals that have been found consistently present in distilled spirits after processing and bottling. The objective of this research was to determine whether different brands of distilled spirits (by expense), with different preparation processes, would have significantly different levels of copper. Flame atomic absorption spectroscopy (FAAS) was used to determine copper trace concentrations in distilled spirits (gold and silver tequila) between two brands (Patron and El Toro). Results from previous studies suggested lower brand tequila to have a slightly higher copper concentration than expensive brands. However, the results of this study determined the opposite, where the cheaper brand had a lower concentration of copper metal while the expensive brand, Patron had a much higher metal concentration. Sources of the trace metal concentration variation are most likely due to the differences in equipment used and preparations that take place during processing and storage.