A brewer’s equipment ensures that his work provides consistent, fresh, and enjoyable beer every time a batch is made. A crucial component to their equipment are the valves. The brewery valves control the movement of liquid, steam, and mixes between kettles, fermenters, and tanks. Depending on the size of the brewery and the valve selected, the brewer can precisely control each individual valve during the operation, manually or through an automated system.
The brewing cycle requires numerous different liquids and gases (medium) in different quantities to successfully brew a batch. There are numerous valves used in brewing equipment, and each process may require a different valve to control the medium. You will often find a mix of ball, butterfly, globe, gate, needle, and solenoid valves throughout the equipment. Depending on the valve type, they can be controlled manually, pneumatically or electrically (solenoid valves can only be electrically controlled). These valves control each individual step and the ingredients to and from the tanks, giving the brew master full control. Before selecting a valve type, you first must know the medium, pressure drop, temperature, flow, and if it needs to be regulated precisely. Furthermore, it is important to know the circuit function and operating schedule of the valve. To help determine the valve type for each process, please refer to the brief table below.
|Valve Type||Advantages||Disadvantages||Example Implementation Step|
|Ball||Unobstructed flow, low pressure drop, good seal, and high max pressure||Possible hygienic issues with floating ball||Often used on gas and water lines. A 3-piece design allows for easy inspection, cleaning or maintenance|
|Butterfly||Low-cost and a good hygienic design for contaminated media||Not suited for high pressure and when compared to a ball valve has a less efficient seal and flow rate||Often used on a contaminated line with low pressure|
|Globe||Good flow regulating properties||High pressure drop||Often used on a water inlet/outlet|
|Gate||Easy to operate and unobstructed flow||Hard to regulate flow and bad with high pressure||Often used on a water inlet/outlet|
|Solenoid||Quick response time and can be normally closed for safety||Not good for contaminated or highly viscous flows||Often used for bottling or for safety concerns|
|Needle||Good flow control and high max pressure||Not good for contaminated flow||Often used to precisely control gas lines|
The three main valve connections are threaded, flange, and tri-clamp. A threaded connection will be the most common, but is typically not preferred from a hygienic design perspective on a line with perishable fluids as the threads can become dirty and the valve is not easily removed from the line. A bolted flange connection is a cleaner connection as there are no threads, but the disassembly process is time consuming. For a line that needs frequent cleaning, often times a tri-clamp connection is used. This allows for a good seal between the connections while allowing for a quick disassembly to clean the valve.
There are general selection criteria for choosing a valve (connection size, temperature range, flow rate, etc.), but for brewery applications it is important to keep the following into account:
A 3-piece ball valve and a tri-clamp connection will allow you to take apart and clean your valve the easiest. A 3-piece ball valve is shown in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: 3-piece stainless steel ball valve
To ensure no contaminants enter your product and for a consistent flavor, cleaning all equipment that comes into contact with the product is critical. Contaminants and/or bacteria can build up in the threads, turns, obstructions, or around a floating ball in a ball valve. A ball valve that has a “floating ball” means that contaminants from the flow can become trapped between the ball and the housing. Having a 3-piece design, as showing in Figure 1, allows you to fully take apart the valve to clean every component. To clean a valve, you must first disassemble it from the medium line.
Due to frequent cleaning, the connection and valve type selected for each processes is critical. Periodically you will need to disassemble the valve from the medium line, so depending on your connection type this can be a long or short process. The threads, gasket, floating ball, orifice, and the inside of the valve needs to be cleaned to ensure the next beer batch won’t be contaminated. For a ball valve, ensure the handle is back in the correct open/close orientation in relationship to the ball when reassembling.
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