By: Alyssa L. Ochs
High-quality and reliable tanks are one of the most essential parts of any brewery or distillery. However, there are many components involved in keeping tanks in good condition and well-monitored throughout the beverage-making process. Experienced brewers and distillers use various tank supplies to keep their tanks working well for many years into the future and to produce excellent craft beverages.
Here is an overview of some of the most important tank supplies and accessories to stock up on and use regularly in a brewery or distillery.
Basic Tank Needs
Wraps are one of the most important tank-related products that breweries and distilleries should invest in because they provide fluid temperature control for tanks. Wraps also reduce condensation and allow fluids to circulate with a cooling jacket on for thermal control. Glycol wraps help control the fermentation process and are also referred to as glycol jackets. These products are put on the bottoms and sides of tanks to maintain beverage temperatures, regardless of the beverages’ fill levels. This is especially important on packaging days of the year. Overall, breweries and distilleries typically look for wraps made with lightweight and flexible fabric that’s easy to apply and manipulate as needed.
Insulation is useful for craft beverage tanks because both hot and cold temperatures are required from these tanks. Common insulation materials are fiberglass and stone wool. Insulation helps to counteract high humidity in a brewery or distillery and also prevent burn and freezing so that ice does not form on the pipes. Since insulation helps resist corrosion, keep mold away and save energy, it is also a way for breweries and distilleries to become more efficient and sustainable. For example, Synavax™ multipurpose coatings use a liquid wrap insulation to coat the equipment and cover exposed valves to prevent energy loss. Just keep in mind that staff members must to be trained thoroughly on insulation safety, especially when working around hot pipes.
Meters are another crucial piece of equipment used alongside tanks in the brewing and distilling processes. Liquid pressure and vacuum gauges come in both analog and digital formats, with digital versions typically being more expensive. Common sizes are ¼ inch to 1.5 inches, and stainless steel is the most common meter material used in the food and beverage industry. Meters often use two pressure transmitters to measure the beverage level – one for the head pressure and the other for the total pressure. It is that differential that’s really important number to steadily monitor. Magnetic flow meters often range from ½ inch to six inches and provide readings to minimize losses in the beverage-making process. Meanwhile, temperature sensors monitor a beverage’s temperature so that you can quickly adjust temperatures that become too high or low. Regardless of the chosen product, it’s always important to have hygienic process fittings for meter sensors.
Tank Stands, a less technical but equally important product that goes hand-in-hand with tanks. Stands are usually made from stainless steel and can accommodate 100, 200, 300, 500, or more liters for the right fit with your tanks. Stainless steel pipe stands for brite tanks are available to fit 1.5-inch and two-inch sizes. Some stands accommodate just one large tank, while others fit several tanks and are ideal for small batches. Some smaller tanks have wheels to make them transportable in case mobility is convenient for your operations.
Top Tank Supply Products
Dean Thompson, the brand manager for Flextank USA, told Beverage Master Magazine that his company’s most popular tank products among breweries and distilleries are its line of SS sanitary fittings, fermentation locks and oak adjuncts. This company manufactures and assembles all of its vessels in Vancouver, Washington and distributes them worldwide.
Among the most-used products throughout the beverage industry is Flextank’s AK1T – Combo 6-Bolt Flange Accessory Kit in the 1.5-inch size that includes VF1, BV3 and SV1T. This kit includes a complete drain valve installation and a Tassilini sample valve, and it fits all Eco and Dexter Maturation and heavyweight tanks, plus the Apollo Fermentor. Other popular products are Flextank’s butterfly valves and FL1 Fermentation Lock.1 for use on Eco Tanks and Dexter Lids purchased prior May 31, 2014. Meanwhile, the company’s FC060-50-70-80 FlexChill is an exterior wrap chilling system used with glycol chillers and designed for cylindrical tanks in two standard sizes.
“Our oak staves are French and American oak and available in different toast levels and sizes for different tank sizes,” Thompson said. “These are made with directions to add up the staves needed for use. An example is if you need 80 gallons, you can add the staves from the 50-gallon tank and then add the 30-gallon tank, and now you have what you need for the 80-gallon tank.”
Miyuki Clauer of ATAGO U.S.A., Inc. told Beverage Master Magazine that ATAGO’s most common product line used for craft beverage tank monitoring is its In-Line Refractometer PRM Series. Based in Bellevue, Washington, ATAGO U.S.A. is a leading manufacturer of refractometers, polarimeters, salt meters, acidity meters, pH meters and saccharimeters.
“The PRM series offers a digital display section with a seven-segmented LED that displays the temperature and measurements,” Clauer said. “Using output methods, such as RS-232 or 4-20mA, the data can be transmitted to a PLC system for system automation. It offers lab-grade accuracy across the full range of refractive index, Brix or user-defined concentration scale. The PRM series is equipped with an alarm output function that transmits a signal when it detects values exceeding preset high- and low-limit values.”
Clauer also explained how these inline units use COP (clean-out-of-place) and CIP (clean-in-place) methods for easy cleaning. This is always a valuable feature for busy breweries and distilleries.
“The detection section occupies a small footprint, taking up very little space and offering an installation option to be directly mounted to the tanks or piping systems,” Clauer said. “The unit can be easily removed without requiring previously acquired skills to be easily removed and installed for COP. The prism section is completely flat and can be easily cleaned once removed. For CIP, users can install an optional accessory and let the ultrasonic cleaner prevent utterly unavoidable sample build-up around the refractometer’s prism surface. Another option is the prism wiper, which attaches directly facing the detection section of an inline refractometer installed in the piping system to manually wipe buildup off the prism surface.”
Other Tank Accessories to Consider
In addition to wraps, insulation, meters and stands, there are many other tank products that can come in handy during the brewing and distilling process. For example, your beverage operations may benefit from carbonation stones, CIP spray balls and hydrators. Racking arms, valves, sight glasses, basic thermometers and through wall fittings are among the many other tank supplies that experienced beverage producers use.
Choosing the Best Tank Products
Although there are many brands, types and styles of tank supplies and accessories to choose from, not all of them are necessarily right for your beverage company. This is why it’s a good idea to get to know industry leaders who make these types of products so you learn about what will best suit your needs.
With regard to insulating beverage tanks, Thompson of Flextank USA said that the best strategy is “either a temperature-controlled room using our FlexChill system or using standard insulation materials common in hot water tanks.”
Thompson’s advice to breweries and distilleries is a reminder that starting with Flextank for fermentation of grains and sugars can significantly lower start-up or expansion costs.
“These tanks come in variable permeation rates so they can serve a double-duty and can age spirits, beer and cider without the cost of barrels,” Thompson said. “If an oak profile is desired, inexpensive oak staves are available in a variety of toasts and species that can complement the end product.”
When shopping for tank supplies for your brewery or distillery, Clauer of ATAGO U.S.A. says that the most important things to look for in a tank meter are the specification of the measurement range, temperature compensation capabilities and after-care services.
“ATAGO offers in-house service in the U.S., and we offer loaner units while we have customers’ instruments,” Clauer said. “With NIST certification, it offers information security standards and guidelines to ensure that the instrument is working accordingly.”
Clauer also told Beverage Master Magazine that when searching for pieces of craft beverage equipment, such as tank meters, it is important to have a comprehensive overview of what’s needed and what options are available.
“Purchasing an instrument is one part, but also knowing the spare parts and how accessible it is to these parts are important, as well as any technical service turnarounds,” Clauer said. “Having a manufacturer that can offer customer service that walks with you every step of the journey of craft beverage manufacturing is important. ATAGO is dedicated to meet our customers’ need with a motto of ‘You ask, we create.’ We offer a portable CO2 meter, refractometer, pH meter, and conductivity meter, as well as the inline refractometer.”