Making beer: College food science program teaches brewing, automation

By Control Engineering Staff January 2, 2008

At the University of California, Davis , brewing is a scholarly pursuit. While consuming it may be extracurricular, UC Davis is home to one of America’s foremost brewing science schools, preparing students to join the next generation of brew masters. The school’s nanobrewery was recently updated with state-of-the-art production systems donated and designed in part by Rockwell Automation , allowing students to practice their craft with technologies similar to those used by commercial breweries.

Today, the UC Davis program teaches traditional brewing techniques– such as hand-selecting the hops – along with lessons on advanced automation technology, including an Allen-Bradley ControlLogix programmable automation controller and FactoryTalk View HMI and production-monitoring software.

These advanced control technologies from Rockwell Automation monitor variables such as temperature, pressure, agitator speed and time in the fermentor tanks, as well as advanced parameters in the brewing process. Allen-Bradley PowerFlex 40 variable-speed drives are networked via Ethernet, allowing students to collect parameters from all steps of the process. This data gives students the ability to trend and compare information among multiple batches to ensure a consistently high quality product.

“The students need to get down and dirty—in a nice, safe way of course. So, for example, they manually hoist grain to the mill and then cart the milled grist over to the mash mixer,” says Dr. Charlie Bamforth, chairman of the university’s food science and technology department. “But automated technology is the future of brewing, because it is key to consistent quality.”

The updated pilot brewery offers other benefits to students, Bamforth notes: “It’s a brewery on which the students can learn, but also on which we can do sophisticated research. It is a testimony to the commitment of many people, notably of course the architects of the project from Anheuser-Busch, but also various other companies so generous with their input, including Rockwell Automation.”


—Edited by Peter Welander, process industries editor, ,
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