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How can craft brewers achieve the product consistency of larger operations despite limited automation experience?

20 May 2018

Situated in the hills of St. Charles, Iowa, Twisted Vine Brewery creates unique, hand-crafted beer. The team is dedicated to both the art and science of brewing. To produce their great craft beer, the team at Twisted Vine sought a robust and reliable controller that would enable them to brew with meticulous attention to detail for a consistent end result.

No one at twisted Vine had experience using programmable controllers, so they were looking for a platform that was easy to learn and use. They needed to be able 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 easily 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. Their 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 robust enough to be exposed to high temperatures and large amounts of steam and condensation without failing.

The Unitronics Vision1040™ programmable logic controller, 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™ was able to withstand the hot steamy conditions.

Not only did Unitronics provide a powerful programmable logic controller, 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.”

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