Trending Automation and IoT Tech in the Beer Making Industry

May 24th 2022

Trending Automation and IoT Tech in the Beer Making Industry

In the modern beer-making industry, automation technology plays a key role in optimizing production processes and ensuring consistent quality. From monitoring and controlling equipment to managing inventory levels and tracking quality metrics, automated systems help manufacturers streamline their operations and increase efficiency across all stages of the brewing process.

This article surveys the current, and upcoming technologies and case studies, to illustrate how Automation, smart manufacturing (SM) and the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies can significantly improve operational performance and productivity in the beer brewing sector. The study highlights benefits for the early adopters in terms of production flexibility, faster end-product to market, energy and water conservation, and reduction of the environmental impact of these breweries.

Stages of Beer Brewing:

There are multiple stages in the beer production process, broadly grouped into two categories: Brewing and Aging. The brewing phase takes place at higher temperatures, whereas the aging phase (follows the brewing and) takes place at lower temperatures.

Brewing: The milling of grains is the first step in brewing. The milled malt is combined with hot water in the mash tun, producing a sugar-rich liquid called wort. The wort is then separated from the grain particles in the lauter tun. In the third stage, the wort kettle is used to boil the wort. Because this step determines the flavor, color, and fragrance of the brewed beverage, boiling under optimal conditions is critical. The boiled wort is then transferred into a whirlpool where undesirable solids are removed. To allow fermentation to occur, the cooled wort is placed in a wort cooler.

Aging: The fermentation process begins with the production of alcohol from sugars. Yeast is added to the wort in the fermentation tank. Sugars are transformed into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and other compounds within this container. The aging stage of beer brewing begins now. The resulting beer is frequently transferred to a maturation vessel for aging. Finally, the beverage is filtered and stored in a storage tank, bottled right away, or filled into casks.

Step 1: Grain preparation and milling

The first step in the beer-making process involves preparing the grain, which typically consists of malted barley or another cereal crop such as wheat or rye. This involves milling the grain to break it down into smaller particles, then soaking it in water to activate enzymes that convert starches into sugars.

Grain and Milling Challenges mitigated with Automation and IoT:

  1. To achieve a good balance between efficiency and lauterability, the milling must be correctly adjusted, even though the basic milling settings work for many breweries. The size variety of the milled grains is constantly checked to ensure that the mill is performing properly.
  2. The mechanical wearing of the mill-rollers is a challenge that affects the incoming malt consistency. This is caused mainly due to the malt varieties performing differently in the mill (for example, dark malts tend to be more brittle than others). Therefore the settings should be adjusted for each malt variety.
  3. Improperly stored malt in the inventories (silos) may develop moisture if they are not properly sorted and stored. Mixing of unmalted and malted grains can also hamper the milling process, as unmalted grains have a greater moisture content (e.g., usually 12–14.5 percent humidity).

IoT & Automation Technologies for Milling and Grain Preparation:

  1. The SmartBarley project, developed by AB InBev's automation program, is based on Sentera's FieldAgent® platform, which allows farmers to collect data on a variety of field variables, including soil and irrigation in barley fields, using artificial intelligence and machine learning. To assist farmers in selecting the ideal planting, fertilization, and harvest dates, AB InBev provides them with the information. The method allows farmers to produce more barley per acre, while also enhancing sustainability. Using drone photos and satellites, the worldwide supply and cost of barley may be estimated.
  2. Blockchain technology has proven to be an efficient method to track raw malt production all the way through brewing. Previously, grain farmers in northern France had intended to link their malthouses with those in Antwerp and Leuven, Belgium through blockchain technology. The Beer Group AB InBev (Belgium), however, recently informed French Leffe drinkers that from 2021, all consumers will be able to use a QR code to learn about the malting barley's origin and the manufacturing process. The company also claims that the technology will benefit not only customers but also the agricultural sector and its environmental effect.

Step 2: Mashing and lautering

Once the grain has been prepared, it is mixed with hot water in a process called mashing. This step allows the enzymes to break down the starches into fermentable sugars. The mash is then transferred to a lauter tun, where it is separated into two parts: the wort and the spent grain.

Challenges with the conventional methods:

  1. The basic disadvantages of employing a kieselguhr filter include possible oxygen and iron entrance, in addition to the cost and dust concerns associated with the use of diatomite powder.
  2. To prevent filter blockages and pressure buildup on the pump-motor installations, ZHF and PVPP filters are replaced on a regular basis (daily on shift). Inadequate filter replacement frequency can have a detrimental influence on beer quality, therefore manual force is assigned for replacements. Replacement of filters frequently results in substantial losses in volume, thus affecting earnings.

IoT & Automation Technologies for Filtration, Mashing and Lautering:

  1. Automation with the Integration of Beer Membrane Filtration (BMF) systems with Internet of Things (IoT):Pentair has successfully demonstrated the use of IoT service solutions for BMF systems. Designed to assist improve operational performance, Pentair's new IoT service solution allows brewers to monitor critical process data throughout brewing to help maximize operational efficiency and optimize beer quality by monitoring continuous process performance data during manufacturing. A smart steering controller operates three single membrane units, each with an effective capacity of 80 liters per hour; as a result, it is called a smart beer filter line. The units clean and filter independently of one another, resulting in a self-operating filtering system. The smart steering controller can automatically select which unit to operate, the required flow rate, and when to switch the cleaning mode for specific equipment. Filters may now be run at varied flow rates of 25hl, 75hl, or 90hl per hour thanks to smart controllers.

Step 3: Boiling and Clarifying

The wort is then boiled in a large vessel called a brew kettle. This step helps to remove impurities from the liquid and also allows for the addition of hops, which add bitterness and flavor to the beer.

Automation & IoT Technologies to mitigate Wort boiling Challenges:

  1. Hop is a volatile ingredient that must be incorporated into the brewing process within 12 hours of being harvested, and IoT-enabled sensors can ensure they’re incorporated in peak condition. Sensors can gather data on the temperature and humidity of hops, use GPS to track a shipment’s location and report precisely when it will arrive at the brewery.
  2. Air compressors may be used to power the centrifuge during the clarifying process to help remove heavier substances from the product by aerating wort and water. The separated granules (grains, malt, or sugar) are carried away using pressurized air. The air must be dry, oil-free, and free of other contaminants in order to preserve the beer properly. The most typical oil-filtered air compressor induces numerous pollutants to the compressed air and does not match ISO Class 0 requirements for oil-free compressors. The better alternate solution is to utilize oil-free scroll air compressors, which provide clean, dry air and ensure that no oil enters any portion of the brewing process. Scroll compressors have a slower rotational speed, resulting in decreased noise pollution in the brewery. Additionally, because there are few moving components, the compressor's service life is extended, with minimal need for maintenance.

Step 4: Fermentation

Once the boiling process is complete, the wort is cooled and transferred to a fermentation tank. Yeast is added to the wort, which begins the process of fermentation and turns the sugars into alcohol.

Automation & IoT Technologies to mitigate Fermentation Challenges:

  1. Use of motorized ball valves and solenoid valves for fluid transfer: The batch of wort is cooled using a heat exchanger or heat recovery unit after passing through the chiller. The yeast is added to the batch of wort in the fermentation tank, which is glycol jacketed and has a central temperature control panel connected with up to 16 dedicated temperature sensors. Depending on the scale and variety of production, brewers use several valve types to control the wort flow, each with its own pros and cons. However, solenoid valves, automated and motorized ball valves are increasingly being adopted by the brewers, thanks to the remote and accurate flow control capabilities. 
    • A motorized valve is more appropriate for large diameter plumbing (anything above 50mm, as the glycol inlet on the fermenter end is usually around 25mm). Motorized valves are better suited to process industries utilizing dry applications than wet ones, such as beer brewing. If there is no particular requirement for the motorized valve, the solenoid valve is preferable since it is faster to turn on/off, has a smaller body, is easier to wire, and costs less. 
    • However, solenoid valves are generally open or shut, and they flood the cooling jackets with low-temperature coolant at above design GPM (gallons per minute) every time they open. When the temperature in the fermenter rises rapidly, as it does in this example, the yeast around the tank walls is shocked. The yeast tends to be dormant after due to sudden temperature change, resulting in a challenge to get the yeast “eating again.” This slows down the fermentation process. Therefore, careful study of the application is required while selecting the appropriate valve type.
  2. To accurately direct and control the flow of boiled wort, RTD temperature sensors and valve assemblies (solenoid valves, motorized ball valves, flow-switches, etc) are connected to the control panel, thus resulting in complicated wiring work this provides control over the beer production. Integration of modern protocols (such as MODBUS, RS485 Communications) with the outputs of ball-valves, RTDs, and switches, technology minimizes the complexity and provides additional control over the brewing process in terms of alerts and transmitting the real-time production data from the centralized control panel.
  3. An AI (artificial intelligence) model created by researchers at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland is capable of generating new beer recipes, based on the existing brew and consumption patterns. The Algorithmic Business Research Lab received assistance from professional brewers to create the AI algorithm, which now helps thousands of consumers to pick their favorite beverage. 

Step 5: Conditioning, Bottling, and Packaging

Post-fermentation, the beer is typically transferred to a conditioning tank where it undergoes a secondary fermentation process. This step helps to improve the flavor, clarity, and color of the beer before it is bottled or canned for distribution.

Challenges with Bottling and Packaging system:

  1. As the beer made its journey from tank to tank in the bottling line, variances in pressure and temperature would result in foam and loss of beer. Bottles were being filled incorrectly and then carried on to the labeling operation. These bottles had to be removed from the line and recycled, resulting in lower-quality products.
  2. When pouring a fobbing (excess froth) pint, the beer's flavor dissipates. Traditional taps disrupt the gas, causing large wet bubbles to burst more quickly, reducing the beer's character. This leads to 9 million pints being lost each year in the UK alone owing to excessive flatness.

Bottling and Packaging solutions mitigated with IoT and Automation:

  1. Sugar Creek Brewing uses an analog float and AI from the IBM Watson IoT platform to keep beer loss during bottling, mainly due to excess form formations. Precision flow meters and Bosch IoT sensors helped to identify the root cause of the process losses and implement improvements. The data obtained and analyzed using the IBM Watson/Bosch interface revealed a problem that was causing excessive foaming in the bottle. Savings of more than $10,000 per month resulted from this process alone. Bottles that were once rejected for incorrect fill levels have been almost entirely eliminated, allowing them to deliver a greater quantity of finished goods to the market.
  2. The Micro-Bubble solution of the Aletrim: Developed to minimize excessive formation, this technology creates micro-bubbles that take a long time to burst, preventing beer loss. This maintains a consistent head and protects the beer's freshness. AleTrim has successfully minimized waste from each keg to less than one percent, while still dispensing the ideal pint in five seconds or fewer. On the AleTrim website, an interactive tool may be used to calculate how much money a landlord or company might save by equipping their taps with the technology.
  3. Filling lines DO (Dissolved Oxygen) Monitoring: Trace, ppb-level measurements appropriate for the filling line are made possible by DO sensors in the beer production process. Optical DO sensors offer exceptional measurement performance and dependable readings to assure that final products meet your quality criteria for flavor. The sensors offer predictive diagnostics, which reduces maintenance and simplifies calibration, thanks to Intelligent Sensor Management (ISM) technology.
  4. Digital Twin Solution, by Krones: Krones is a German packaging machine manufacturer that creates and operates digital twin programs to simulate and predict the behavior of three-armed robots in the handling process. This may help with future repairs even if you don't have direct access to the physical device.
  5. Buffalo Wild Wings integrated automation technology into their bars in an effort to offer the best beer experience and better connect with their consumers. The goal of this method was to make certain that Perfect Pour standards were being followed, as well as to manage the growing number of brews on the market.

To verify that the Perfect Pour standards were met, BeerBoard installed IoT-enabled flow meters on the tap lines to collect pour data. This was, however, only one aspect of the equation. BeerBoard also needed sales data, which was kept in Buffalo Wild Wings' POS systems, to compare pour volumes against the purchase transaction that included information on the type and size of beer purchased. The integration of Sales and Production data was carried out by Capgemini, which developed the "SmartBar Platform". This platform resulted in a proven strategy to maintain Pour standards.

The SmartBar platform provided a web-based application that allows restaurants to manage all beer-related activities via a single platform. Buffalo Wild Wing locations would utilize it to replace and reassign beers to corresponding tap lines, as well as synchronize their upcoming beer rotation with a print menu supplier and the digital beer menu displayed on both restaurant TVs and on the Buffalo Wild Wings website. Restaurants are now able to measure the performance - in either sales or inventory yield – of each beer in rotation and get insights into identifying trends that they never had access to before thanks to SmartBar's platform, which also captures pour data and sales data.


Several large-scale beer brewing companies have successfully integrated automation and IoT into their systems and are reaping the benefits. In 28 breweries in Europe and Asia, Carlsberg uses the ThingWorx IIoT platform with Microsoft Azure. The solution allows the firm to track its worldwide operations clearly and document the conversion of raw materials into finished products, as well as provide a detailed analysis of the packaging process. The firm, with over 40,000 workers across the world, uses technology to track critical packaging lines, assessing overall line effectiveness and performance. As a result of this monitoring, the company is able to guarantee greater product and manufacturing uniformity.

In addition to enhancing operational efficiency by the integration of smart systems, several advancements are also being made to automate the entire beer brewing process - end-to-end. One such successful Automation model is Brewbot, an IoT Method of Beer Brewing (suitable for Household, Small, and Large scale applications). A Brewbot may accomplish a lot of this work through the use of sensors, controllers, and switches. Users can now change the criteria using an mobile app and have the system brew the beer thanks to a mobile application. The software must sync with the hardware to manage all of these functions, but it can accomplish many other things without a person's help, such as filling the tank, heating the mash and brew while monitoring temperature, notifying users to add pre-measured ingredients, prompting people to check the specific gravity in the fermenter, and performing all of the essential fluid transfers, delivering an end-to-end automated solution of beer brewing.

Automated systems, therefore, have started to play an important role in each stage of the beer-making process, from monitoring and controlling equipment to managing inventory levels and tracking quality metrics. They help manufacturers optimize their operations, ensuring consistent quality and efficiency at every stage of production. Automation also has resulted in several in-direct advantages, such as:

  1. Waste reduction: Embedded flow meters and sensors can be used to measure process parameters such as pressure, temperature, pH, CO2 formation, lead delays, and other variables. This assists brewers to determine the underlying reasons for wastage, overflow, and excessive foam during the brewing and packaging procedures.
  2. Quality control and Maintenance: Real-time data collection and analysis allow brewers to follow each batch of beer through its entire production process, from pre-production to shipment bay.
  3. Health and safety compliance: Working on a production line with big, pressurized containers might be dangerous for staff. Pressure sensors in every still, kettle, and brewing pump can assist production managers to avoid performance concerns that may result in a tragedy.

At the same time, advanced technologies are helping to optimize operations even further by providing real-time monitoring and predictive analytics capabilities. By leveraging the vast amounts of data generated by connected devices, breweries can identify issues and opportunities for improvement, improve product quality, and reduce costs through more efficient resource allocation.