O-33. An economical brewery temperature control and monitoring system built using commercially available components

Presenter: Adam DeBower, Austin Beerworks, Austin, TX
Coauthor: Ken DeBower, Austin Beerworks, Austin, TX

Brewery temperature control systems are often expensive and uni-dimensional, i.e., capable of consistent control but incapable of remote control and monitoring. Existing commercially available integrated systems are expensive and inflexible. Austin Beerworks has developed a flexible system that utilizes a standard PC, freeware programmable software, and readily available PLC and other hardware components to monitor and control the temperature of all fermentation vessels, brite tanks, and hot and cold liquor tanks. Further brewery process monitoring and control has been integrated into this system with minimal additional capital expenditures. All components are readily available, with the exception of a simple signal conditioning device that was fabricated in-house. Analog data are fed from the temperature probes (Johnson Controls A99-B) to the signal conditioners, which in turn are processed by analog-to-digital (A/D) converters and ultimately interpreted by a PLC. The PLC controls the opening and closing of glycol valves at the tanks or steam valves in the case of the hot liquor tank, and a positive confirmation mechanism feeds back glycol valve position information to the PLC. Temperature probes, glycol control power, and glycol valve position data are all connected to the PLC via a CAT 6 data cable that consists of 4 twisted pairs of 23 AWG wire. The PLC is programmed and monitored by a server running on Microsoft Server 2008 via machine-to-machine (M2M) programmable freeware, and all data are archived and searchable on the server. The server and PLC are physically connected via local area network (LAN) and RS-232. The data and control features are made available via any Internet browser and on any computer or device with Internet connectivity anywhere in the world. Programming is accomplished in-house and can be augmented to add or subtract functionality as needs change. Data returned from the tanks are constantly monitored for noise or unusual values, and the program actively monitors for such anomalies and alerts plant management when any occur. Other processes that have been added include automatic hot liquor tank filling and recirculating during heating, brewhouse and cellar pump control, flow meter monitoring, and various packaging counting processes. Archived data are exportable to Microsoft Excel and Quickbooks.

Adam DeBower is co-founder and co-owner of Austin Beerworks, a canning craft brewery in Austin, TX. In addition to managing fermentation, filtration, and packaging operations, Adam spends a large amount of his time maintaining brewery physical plant systems and special project procurement and installation. Adam worked at Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, MD, and at Real Ale Brewing in Blanco, TX, prior to founding Austin Beerworks. A native Texan, Adam was born and raised in Austin and is an alumnus of Baylor University.

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