We rarely review products here at Australian Brews News. most of the products we are pitched for review are so ridiculous they can be reviewed with the phrase, “a fool and their money”.
But for all the dross, in an industry that inherently involves low-level alcohol consumption, a personal breathalyser is of great interest.
Estimating one’s blood alcohol concentration is challenging when a ‘standard’ beer has become largely meaningless with the strength of common beers varying from 4% to 5%, let alone the higher ABV of many craft beers.
Glass sizes also vary widely and the many factors that impact absorption of alcohol between different people, or even the same amount of alcohol by the same person on different occasions, make calculations a lottery at best.
Of course, the best advice – if you plan to drink, don’t drive – is the most sensible approach, but the reality in this industry is that sampling isn’t always planned. There is also the issue of the next day, and when it is safe to drive after a night out.
The AlcoSense Elite 3 is a compact personal breathalyser with a recommended retail price of $219.
The unit uses a fuel cell as opposed to a semiconductor, which is regarded as more accurate, and also better if multiple tests in a day are being undertaken. They are also less prone to other chemical substances giving false positive readings.
While more accurate, the instructions still point out that blood alcohol concentration can only be determined by a blood test, and the user shouldn’t rely on the test as an accurate indication of BAC or level of intoxication. And it certainly won’t hold up in court.
Unscientific tests, which generally seem to involve a journalist and their friends giving breathalysers a go during a boozy dinner party, regularly report wide variances in results. However, these are unlikely to have been conducted fully adhering to manufacturers guidelines, which are vital if any accuracy is to be expected.
More scientific studies show far greater accuracy in results. While users should never rely on them to make their decision to drive, a quality breathalyser gives a reasonably good indication of alcohol levels.
Result accuracy relies on waiting for 30 minutes from your last drink, which does require some planning. Additionally, while the unit is Australian Standards compliant, and the manufacturer says it only needs to be calibrated every six months or 500 uses to extend the three year warranty up to five years, the fine print notes that the Australian Standards requirement is to calibrate every month. Calibrations cost $45.
The unit itself is very easy to use – a reading to three decimals takes just seconds.
Aside from the delay between last drink and testing, it is very convenient, and – coupled with common sense – does provide reassurance in those situations where driving is unavoidable. Whether you prefer the reassurance of Uber fares, or want one of these in your car is up to you, we will have one in our car as a backup.