Steam is a popular heating method in craft beer, especially for breweries larger than 1000l. Steam can be used for sanitation purposes and to heat the caustic solution. It can also be used to sterilize the air during wort aeration. Most brewers use pure oxygen to aerate the wort on its way to the fermenter.
Working Method of Steam Heating
In most mash plants, you can control the steam flow into the vessel, similar to controlling a gas flame on a stovetop. With a steam-heated brewing system, there are three different methods you can use to heat your brewing tun. We’ll start by looking at the internal piping.
Increased evaporation rate during the boil, which can reduce the boiling time.
Studies suggest improved hop utilization and hop interaction, although further research is needed to confirm this.
The vigorous boiling and evaporation rates reduce the chance of DMS (dimethyl sulfide) in the final beer.
Reduced occurrence of caramelization in the mash tun due to wort movement compared to other systems.
Improved movement in the wort tun, which may mean less power input.
Shorter brewing time, as it is more efficient than using the steam jacket alone.
When using exhaust pipes, the efficiency comes from the large amount of heated surface area they represent, as well as the small amount of heat lost to the environment. The increased evaporation rate is explained by higher heating efficiency and improved wort movement.
The Advantages of Steam Heating
When using the steam jacket, there is a large heated area. Optional piping provides heating to the base and sides. The wort can be heated rapidly and boiled at an optimal evaporation rate.
Even Distribution of Heat
The large heated surface area ensures a more uniform heat distribution, reducing the risk of scorching or blocking and ensuring high-quality wort. The cleaning process after steam heating is easier compared to direct fire heating or electric heating.
Steam can be used in a brewery for various tasks, from keg cleaning to sterilizing compressed air for wort aeration.
Steam can be controlled based on the settings of the mashing tun, making processes and procedures easier to replicate.
Long-Term and Potential Scalability
With proper boiler maintenance and preventative maintenance, boilers can last a long time, making them a worthwhile investment. If an electric steam generator is used, it can be operated in series.
Disadvantages of Steam Heating
Boilers are expensive to install initially, and they require significant maintenance to keep the generator in top condition. A steam generator is also required, adding to the overall cost.
Depending on the location of the brewery, local regulations may not allow boilers to be installed inside the brewery. Make sure to check if steam heating is permitted in your area.
On smaller brewing systems, an electric steam generator may be the best option if you want to use steam heating.