Coalescence during emulsification has a significant effect on the outcome of the process, especially for the high volume fractions of disperse phase common in food and pharmaceutical processing. Controlling emulsification requires that the extent of coalescence during different conditions can be quantified. The step-down technique is the most commonly used method for measuring coalescence frequency during emulsification. However, the validity of the method has been questioned. No in-depth theoretical validation or best practice guidelines have been provided for the step-down technique, or for any of the suggested alternative methods. This contribution derives error estimates for three non-idealities present in every step-down experiment: i) limited sampling rate, ii) non-instantaneous step-down and iii) residual fragmentation after the step. It is concluded that all three factors give rise to systematic errors in estimating coalescence rate. However, by carefully choosing experimental settings, the errors can be kept small. The method, thus, remains suitable for many conditions. Best practice guidelines for applying the method are given, both generally, and more specifically for stirred tank oil-in-water emulsification.
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