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How can brewers achieve impeccable product consistency?

23 August 2016

Twisted Vine Brewery, a three-man operation dedicated to the art and science of brewing, creates unique, hand-crafted beer. In order to produce high-quality craft beer, the team at Twisted Vine was searching for a robust and reliable controller that would enable them to brew with meticulous attention to detail for a consistent, delicious end result. 

Unitronics Vision1040™, Twisted Vine Brewery, USA
Unitronics Vision1040™, Twisted Vine Brewery, USA

No one at Twisted Vine had experience with PLCs, so the control platform had to be easy to learn and use. Their primary goals were to monitor and control the fermentation temperature, to implement tools like the timers for tracking hop additions, and to monitors trends and outputs remotely.  They also wanted a control system that they could expand as their business grows.

Additionally, space in the brewery is very limited, so they needed a compact PLC, robust enough to be mounted next to the mash tun. This mash tun is kept at 150 degrees Fahrenheit during the brewing process and the mash is rinsed in water as hot as 170 degrees Fahrenheit.  Any PLC Twisted Vine installed needed to be sturdy enough to be exposed to high temperatures and large amounts of steam and condensation without failing.

The Unitronics Vision1040™, paired with a V200-18-E3XB snap-in I/O module, was able to accommodate all these requirements with ease.  The Twisted Vine team programmed the Vision1040 to control a rotary phase converter, which powers a three-phase chiller, glycol pump and the glycol valves on the jacketed fermentation and conditioning tanks.  They also rely on Unitronics’ complimentary data-logging and remote access software utilities; they monitor temperature trends remotely, turning temperature loops on and off as needed from anywhere with internet access.  Additionally, with a NEMA4X/IP65 environment rating, the Vision1040™ is able to withstand the hot, steamy conditions.

Not only did Unitronics provide a powerful PLC, according to co-owner Steven Becker, the all-in-one design and single-environment software made the Vision1040 an intuitive and cost-effective choice for their operations.  “The free software and many online tutorials made it easy to learn and it was a low cost and powerful solution,” explains Becker.

In fact, Twisted Vine Brewery is already planning to expand their control system with the help of Unitronics.  They are introducing water-use monitoring and valve control to control the amount of water in their mash, which will improve the consistency of the product and free up their attention from watching the water meter to more productive tasks.  Becker says, “My experience with Unitronics products has enabled me to produce systems that are more productive and user friendly … This system has kept our products at the optimum temperature while keeping our development and operating cost at their lowest.”

Unitronics Vision350™, SABACO Brewery, USA
Unitronics Vision350™, SABACO Brewery, USA

Five Reasons Unitronics All-in-One is the PLC+HMI of choice for Brewers
1.Robust, industrial PLCs handle everything a brewery throws at them
        • Brewing is often messy and controllers need to be able to get wet with beer, steam and other by-products of the brewing process
        • In order to meet food safety standards, controllers must be washed down and sanitized 
        • All Unitronics PLC+HMI controllers are IP65/IP66/NEMA4X rated, great in wet conditions
2.Unitronics offers a wide range of I/O options, including precise temperature control
        • Temperature control is key to several point in brewing, such as convertng starches to sugars in the wort
        • These processes need to be maintained within a precise, even temperature range to be effective without burning the mash; Unitronics thermocouple and PT100 inputs and PID functionality make this precision possible
        • Other I/O from Unitronics make it possible to control functions like system on and off times or water additions
3.Using PLC control and data logging make it effortless to create and recreate recipes
        • You can program recipe parameters, like specific temperatures, run times and addition schedules, ensure a batch will be consistent with previous brews
        • These parameters can be adjusted from integrated HMI panel to customize a brew as needed
        • You can also log any changes and export data to record the settings for a particular batch of beer, a key feature for repeatability 
4. Automated monitoring frees up brewers attention to more pressing tasks
        • Unitronics PLCs have a built-in alarm management system, allowing you to receive alerts on the HMI and by email or SMS message if a problem arises
        • Unitronics offers software utilities that enable remote access and VNC capabilities at no added cost
        • When you don’t need to watch each step of the brewing process, you have time for more creative and inventive brewing
5.Unitronics PLC+HMI controllers offer an incredibly compact, easy to use design
        • These all-in-one PLCs have an integrated HMI and onboard I/O, which reduces wiring and makes them easy to fit into limited space
        • Unitronics PLCs are programmed in a single programming environment, which is simple to learn and to use
        • Full software and support at no extra cost means that automated brewing is affordable, even for small breweries

“There is a common denominator which is shared by every brewer: they all strive to be consistent and repeatable when it comes to brewing their favorite recipes.  Temperature accuracy, data retrieval, proper recipe clock timing and convenience are in high demand from such customers who staked their business and personal reputations, and lots of time, on the quality of their finished products.  For many years, Sabco has wisely partnered with Unitronics and their full line of smart programmable logic controllers.” – Customer Testimonial: SABCO

“My experience with Unitronics products has enabled me to produce systems that are more productive and user friendly … This system has kept our products at the optimum temperature while keeping our development and operating cost at their lowest.” – Steve Becker, Twisted Vine Brewery


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