IoT and Microbrewing: Rolling Out the Barrel!

Posted by on Aug 31, 2017 5:00:00 AM Carmi Brandis  
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While the majority of beer consumed in America continues to be made by mass-market companies, Americans also have enjoyed a love affair with microbreweries for roughly the last thirty years. But fickle consumer tastes, intrusion into the craft beer market by multinational breweries, and other factors have made independent microbreweries a challenging business. Luckily, IoT is redefining the economics of small-scale brewing, bringing all new levels of efficiency and control that empower microbreweries to thrive in unstable business climates.

The pressure to deliver

Microbreweries, by definition, have to produce great beers that cater to niche markets—their customers are more discerning than the average Budweiser drinker. That means they are under tremendous pressure to ensure quality and consistency while meeting increasing production demands. Like wine, brewing is an art form that requires constant oversight of the process, and that means it is both labor intensive and highly susceptible to errors. If serious enough, a single mistake can derail a batch or even the entire operation. The key is to automate as many processes as possible so brewmeisters and associates can focus on their craft without worrying about the minutiae that can threaten production. And these changes need not involve a wholesale reworking of the entire microbrewery as IoT devices/sensors for temperature, flow monitoring, and other crucial functions can be added easily to any existing infrastructure without significant alterations.  

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Let me take your temperature

Proper temperature monitoring during the entire brewing process is vital to success, and this is where problems (usually due to human error) can easily occur. IoT smart thermometers can be added to vats and other equipment to guarantee proper temperatures for each brewing phase. Any aberrations will instantly generate alerts sent to worker cell phones, and the system can even self-correct problems without human intervention or shut down the process entirely depending on severity. This virtually eliminates temperature-related issues and offers brewmeisters second-by-second historical data on every batch.   

Go with the flow

Much of the brewing process is done out of visual range, primarily in steel tanks linked by pumps and piping. This is where grain becomes wort that is boiled with hops to create flavor. The liquid result then is chilled, fermented, and stored until ready for consumption. Key to this age-old method is flow monitoring, the rate at which the liquid passes through various steps in the system and at what temperatures. Varying flow-through factors enables brewers to customize batches to suit different tastes. Improper flow timing—whether due to machine or human error—can result in an undrinkable or ‘off’ product. Likewise, blockages in the system can force the mixture to be exposed to temperatures that are too high or too low, potentially ruining equipment, or resulting in under-filled bottles that could trigger consumer complaints or even legal action (for misrepresenting content amount).

IoT removes the guesswork—and discoveries of problems at the last minute—for the entire flow monitoring process. The system precisely monitors and controls all aspects of the brewing process, including wort transfer flows, foundation water, lautering (where mash is separated into clear liquid wort and residual grain), and yeast recovering and pitching. In addition, real-time data on each batch is matched constantly to preset criteria. This ensures the end product is exactly what was desired, and eliminates ‘benign’ errors that may have gone undetected, such as a beer that is drinkable (and saleable) but not what was intended. Microbrew customers are very particular in their tastes (similar to wine aficionados), and are more likely to abandon a brew with inconsistent quality, especially when they are paying a premium for the product.

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A new era in microbrewing

Overall, brewers are given unparalleled insight into every second of production, and are automatically notified if there is a flow error or a blockage. Sensors pinpoint the exact location of the issue, making repairs and fixes faster and more efficient. In fact, the system even can make alterations automatically, potentially saving an entire batch from ruin. The same holds true for contamination. Brewers are obsessed with cleanliness, as even the slightest contaminant can waste a batch. IoT sensors can instantly identify any contaminant during brewing (as well as discern between an interloper and a new ingredient being tried) and notify brewers in advance if any given component is not clean enough for usage, even if it appears clean to the human eye.

By offering microbrewers an IoT infrastructure that radically can change the efficiencies of their business, you empower them with a competitive advantage they never had. And that results in customers for life!

To learn how Aeris can keep your customers drinking the good stuff, visit Aeris.

Topics: IoT, smart beer, beer production, microbrewing, smart brewing