Whether you own a commercial brew house or a personal homemade setup, it is important to control the brewing process to ensure you achieve the best beer quality. To realize this, you need to know when to let your tanks open, what rate they should flow, and when to shut them down. All this is made possible with valves. Before we explore the different types of valves used in brewery equipment, let’s understand what valves are and how they work.
What are Valves?
A control valve is a special device that regulates fluid flow by opening, shutting down, or obstructing a passageway. Valves are typically used in piping systems to control the flow of liquids or gases, but they can also be used to control air and steam pressure in pneumatic systems. There are various valves, each with unique features and functions.
Valve types vary greatly in size and function: some are as small as 1/4″ or less, while others can be over 10 feet high! Valves may open or close at a specific rate (one drop per second) or set intervals (such as every ten seconds). They may open to a wide angle or only a slight distance. Some valves only operate when triggered by a physical action, such as turning a lever or flipping a switch, while others are controlled remotely using solenoids or electric relays.
Different Types of Valves and How they Work
Before buying a valve for your brewing process, it is important to understand the functionality of each. This will help you find the most ideal for your brewing process since numerous liquids and gases are brought in and out during the brewing operation.
Here are the different kinds of valves you will find in a typical brewery process and the purpose each valve serves.
This is one of the most used valves in breweries. Butterfly valves have rotating internal disks that control the flow of fluids. The valves also have a stem right in the middle, which obstructs the flow of the media, making it possible to regulate the flow.
Their compact nature and good hygienic design make them easy to clean; hence they are normally used in direct contact with the brewed product. Typically they are used in racking arms, blow-off arms, and the CIP (clean-in-place) line. However, they are not the best option in high-pressure applications.
A ball valve is a fluid control valve that opens and closes due to the rotation of a central axis. As the ball turns, it either opens or closes the fluid flow through the valve. Ball valves are typically used as shut-off valves since they can effectively prevent media flow when needed.
Its design makes it durable and safe for direct contact when cleaned regularly to ensure any bacteria or contaminants trapped are eliminated. They are mainly used in water piping, gas lines, and other thick mediums in breweries.
A gate valve uses a wedge-shaped disk, called a gate, to control the flow of liquid or gas. Using a handwheel, you can allow unobstructed flow of the medium or completely stop the media from flowing. Their operation is typically easy; hence they are greatly used in breweries, especially in water pipes outlets and inlets. Like the butterfly valves, they are not applicable in high-pressure systems.
Globe valves are normally used where throttling or isolation of fluids is needed. They are best in regulating flow due to their stem, which can move upwards or downwards depending on the fluid flow rate you want. They are generally used on water outlets and inlets.
Normally-Closed Solenoid Valves
The solenoid valve can be used as a service utility or a direct contact valve. It has an electric coil that creates an electromagnetic field that forces the plunger to move upwards, thus creating a flow path. When electricity is cut off, the spring causes the plunger to move downwards; thus, the flow path is closed. Due to its reliability, quick response, and normally closed state, it is ideal for automated bottling processes. The valve is, however, not the best when dealing with highly viscous media.
The valve has a knob which, when screwed, moves the stem and diaphragm downwards, sealing it against the valve’s body. Its diaphragm gives it great flow regulation; hence best in heat exchangers.
Choosing the Ideal Valve for Your Setup
Unlike other industrial or domestic applications, the brewery process is a highly-regulated industry. Your choice of the valve should meet safety standards. The valve design, valve material, and connections are some things to consider.
Typically, the valve should be perfect for mixing and regulating fluid flow, and the material should be easy to clean and withstand higher temperatures. A valve with a brass/stainless steel housing and an EPDM valve seat would be an ideal option. If you have any questions or need clarification before choosing a valve, ensure you consult a seasoned and trusted professional.