Better Data, Better Beer

Emerson's Laura Chemler


At the recent Emerson Exchange conference in San Antonio, Emerson’s Laura Chemler developed a presentation with a Chief Technology Officer at a brewing company to share how data from flow meters helped produce the highest quality beer. This CTO is obsessed with data—collecting data, observing trends in the data, figuring out what the data can tell besides pressure or temperature in tanks.

Laura presented this case study and opened with the beer making basics. It is composed of four raw materials—hops, yeast, water and barley. There are basically 8-steps in the beer making process. The mash tun combines the malted barley with water and heat to produce a wort. The lauter tun filters the wort before it goes to the brew kettle where the wort is combined with heat and hops to give it the flavor, color and aroma. Next a whirlpool removes solids from the wort and a heat exchanger removes heat.

The wort is now ready to go into the fermenter where the yeast convert the sugars into alcohol where the yeast convert the sugars into alcohol producing beer along with lots of dead yeast. The dead yeast is purged out the bottom of the fermenter, and the suspended yeast is removed in a filtering process. Then the beer is ready for canning, bottling, or adding to kegs or growlers or lagering depending on the beer style.

While all beer is made from these four ingredients, it’s the style in which they’re combined that determines the style of beer. Everything from the quantity or type of each, when they’re added in the brewing process, and for how long that determines the flavor profile of the beer. This means consistently making the exact same type of beer in a manual craft brewery process can be incredibly difficult.

While macro-breweries automate all the processes, microbreweries use mostly manual processes. Consumers expect consistency, so the use of data in the brewing process to make decisions is critical. It can help bring consistency between batches, show the impact of different practices, quantitatively bring understanding to the brewer’s practices and effects on the beer, and areas where efficiency gains and losses occur.

One of the critical measurement points is on the output of the fermenter tanks. This is where the fermented beer and yeast come out on their way to the filter. What’s critical here is knowing how much wort and live yeast went in and knowing how much beer and dead yeast come out. One thing to know about dead yeast, is it has the consistency of chunky peanut butter—not an easy thing to measure.

Brewers want to know how much dead vs. live yeast there is to check on efficiency and the health of the yeast. At the same time, it’s important to purge as much of the dead yeast as possible and retain the live yeast to filter out of the beer during the filtering process.

This is where the totalizing functionality on a magnetic flow meter (mag meter) excels. A mag meter is obstruction-less, so it doesn’t wear down from the high viscous fluid, and it tells the brewer exactly how much dead yeast is being purged.

The mag meter with a wireless transmitter allows it to be moved between different fermenting tanks to measure the exact amount of dead yeast and measure the amount of taxable beer produced in a particular batch. These measurements help determine the efficiency of the brewing process. The magmeter measures wort between the mash tun and lauter tun as well as the total flow out of the fermentation tanks.

These measurements helped to eliminate a lot of guess work and identify the most efficient brewing practices by knowing exactly how much is going in, and how much is coming out. This improves the yields between batches.

Visit the Magnetic Flow Meters section on Emerson.com for more on this technology. You can also connect and interact with other flow measurement and food & beverage experts in the Flow and Food & Beverage forums in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

Posted Monday, October 15th, 2018 under Flow, Food & Beverage.