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Breweries use AI to improve their production
Wednesday, 30 November, 2022, 13 : 00 PM [IST]
Priyanka Kale & Ganesh Gaikwad
Brewing is the production of beer by steeping a starch source in water and fermenting the resulting sweet liquid with yeast. The basic ingredients of beer are water and a fermentable starch source such as malted barley.

Most beer is fermented with a brewer's yeast and flavoured with hops. Less widely used starch sources include millet, sorghum and cassava. Secondary sources (adjuncts), such as maize (corn), rice, or sugar, may also be used, sometimes to reduce cost, or to add a feature, such as adding wheat to aid in retaining the foamy head of the beer.

The most common starch source is ground cereal or "grist" - the proportion of the starch or cereal ingredients in a beer recipe may be called grist, grain bill, or simply mash ingredients. Steps in the brewing process include malting, milling, mashing, lautering, boiling, fermenting, conditioning, filtering, and packaging.

The global beer market is changing rapidly, owing to the rise of the craft beer sector, innovating product differentiation and quality. In reality, independent craft breweries place a premium on new tastes and products that harken back to traditional beer styles and manufacturing practices, bolstering the industry and generating customer interest.

Climate change, technology, pandemics, and consumer demand preferences have altered beer supply chains. In addition, brewery software and innovative technology will likely improve brewing processes, inventory management, quality control, and delivery.

Processing, delivery, service, and consumption are critical steps in the beer manufacturing chain that could benefit from IoT (Internet of Things) -based technology. Sensors and digitisation were first introduced by large brewers, followed by smaller breweries, including craft breweries. Clarifiers, Sedicanters, Decanters and Belt Presses are essential tools in the brewing process. At each stage, they improve both the efficiency of the operation and the quality of the beer. Process optimisation means reduced losses, and at the same time ensures consistent quality and taste. Ultimately, that represents a win/win for everyone, with reduced costs for manufacturers, and happier drinkers in the pub.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are helping the world become more efficient and effective in every way. For example, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT), are becoming more prevalent in the food and beverage business. Even the breweries are using AI to improve their beer production. Thanks to AI, the customization of alcohol content, flavor, color, aroma, and product development is much more viable and faster.

The basic processes of brewing and distilling have remained largely unchanged over the last quarter century with new technologies being introduced incrementally and with an adoption timescale of typically ten years to become widely accepted. The main drivers for change have been capital and revenue cost, reliability and repeatability, enhanced product quality, particularly stability, security and safety, and environmental impact. Following are the most important advances in engineering and project implementation in these areas.

Mash filtration
Mash filters have been used in breweries for over a hundred years but until about 20 years ago their application was limited, often handling materials too difficult for conventional lautering, such as sorghum. This changed with the advent of the Meura 2001 mash filter system whose key features were the reliable and effective mem-brane system (made possible by modern materials) and the process control methodology, which ensured fast mash filtration and sparging, maximizing extract recovery and minimising spent grain moisture at high throughputs.

Cross flow filtration
Until 2000, all beer clarification methods were based on the use of diatomaceous earth (DE). These included plate and frame filters, vertical/horizontal leaf filters and candle filters. All these filtration methods, whilst functioning admirably, have challenges in operation. The carcinogenic nature of the powder leads to handling concerns and disposal of the spent powder to land fill is increasingly expensive. Product losses during brand changes and at the end of filter runs are relatively large.  It is also time consuming to establish a filter bed and to re-establish it in the event of a power cut or pressure shock.

Yeast propagation
Yeast propagation developed relatively little until 1995. It was a batch growth system with 5 to 10 multiplication per stage, usually with simple pulsed aeration and without agitation.  These systems had a lengthy growth period, reaching typically 100 × 106 cells/mL, and often required three stages to pitch production wort volumes, with a total cycle time of up to two weeks. Recent developments have concentrated on rapid growth and production of high viability yeast suitable for pitching production wort volumes, with representative beer quality and good yeast growth during production.

Systems   have   been   developed   following   work   by   Boulton and Quain, with rapid yeast growth reaching up to 220 × 106 cells/mL within 36 hours per stage, at viability >98%.  Flow profiled oxygen sparging is used, linked with controlled intensive agitation to produce effective and extremely rapid yeast growth, while controlling foam generation.

Energy usage
Increasing energy prices, concerns over security of supply, together   with   existing   and   emerging   climate   change legislation have all added urgency to the constant need to drive down energy usage and operating costs. All major brewers have developed corporate sustainability statements detailing significant energy reduction as a key production target with positive results. Wort boiling continues to be targeted for energy saving, using many different methods including vapor heat recovery, thermal/mechanical vapour recompression and   absorption refrigeration. Implementation of these systems is heavily dependent on payback with relatively high capital investments. Recently, installed vapour heat recovery equipment at Molson Coors Burton Brewery saves 96% of the previous wort preheating energy required prior to boil.

Cleaning in place
There has probably been more development in CIP technology, operation and particularly in the emphasis on CIP as an integral part of the brewing process, than there has been on the process itself. CIP has increasingly played a more important role in new developments, with CIP being built into new and upgraded facilities as a key and integral part of the design, rather than as an afterthought.  

Advances in double seat mix proof valve technology have allowed systems to be designed with great flexibility, while guaranteeing complete and effective CIP coverage of all (vessel and mains) contact surfaces, with safe sepa-ration between product and CIP, and full automation.

Brewers and distillers have been seeking to reduce water usage and more technologies are being employed to recycle water with less reliance on discharging effluent to municipal water treatment and fresh water supplies, thus reducing cost. Water recycled in breweries and distilleries is still typically reused for CIP, boiler feed and cooling tower applications rather   than   direct   use   for   product   manufacture. Until the late 1970s, effluent treatment was usually aerobic. This required large plant footprints and generated large sludge volumes which then required disposal.

Over the last 25 years, there has been a succession of small improvement steps in the brewing and distilling industries, resulting in lower labour, reduced consumption of raw materials, energy, and water, together with innovative solutions to effluent and by-product treatment.  Process design and project implementation tools have benefited from powerful portable computers and ever more sophisticated software giving engineers the possibility of solutions, which could only be dreamed of at the beginning of the 1980s, together with reduced project timescale and overall engineering man-hours.

(Kale is research scholar, College of Food Technology, VNMKV, Parbhani; Gaikwad is research Scholar, College of Food Technology, VNMKV, Parbhani. They can be reached at
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