|While we often think of brewing as a hands on, personal process the fact is that
automation that is,the use of software and hardware now performs many of the
processes otherwise performed by humans in the past.
Since the early days of the Industrial Revolution, brewers have sought to reduce
manual labor and focus brewers’ attentions on beer quality. Today, even relatively
small breweries and brewpubs (and the occasional zealous homebrewer) may
employ automated processes. The primary benefit of automation is that it makes the
most brewery operations “hands free” and thus renders the operator able to tend to
Other benefits include consistency, because automation excludes errors unique to
humans, such as forgetfulness or variation between different operators. Automation
programs are written to simulate what the brewer had previously performed manually.
For automation to be possible, many types of sensors are required to successfully
replicate what can be performed manually by a person. Such sensors include empty
pipe detection for knowing when a pump has emptied a vessel, pressure sensors for
monitoring lauter cake differential pressures and head pressure, pressure
transducers for converting a pressure into a level of a vessel, and temperature
sensors (there are many different types of sensors for each process). Very critical to
automation is a proportional, integral, derivative controller (PID controller).
Typical processes in a brewhouse that utilize PID controllers are the steam valves for
making hot water and boiling wort, the lauter speed control and differential pressure
control of lautering speed and efficiency, and the wort cooling valve, which controls the
flow of ice water through a heat exchanger to cool hot wort into a fermenter.
Depending on the budget for and applications within a brewhouse, there may be
many other uses for PID controllers such as yeast pitching and turbidity meters or
For many experienced brewers, a transition to automated systems is jarring, but
necessary. Once the automated programs are optimized and all functions are
satisfactory, the desired operations will be executed the same way every time. Well-
designed systems are highly flexible and allow brewers to make changes when
necessary and to program new recipes easily.
|Automation in Brewing
|A new column by
|Jack O'Reilly attended the
Siebel Institute/ World
|I'm very excited to be part of the BeerNexus team. I think my many years in the beer business
both as a brewer and manger will enable me to explain and investigate many topics of interest
for those who really love craft beer. Hope you join me every month.