Quantcast

Automated Valves - Are They Worth It?

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

BrewKaiser

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 4, 2014
Messages
190
Reaction score
71
Location
Granite Bay
I'm designing a new system. I intend to use BCS462 controller. One area I am looking at is incorporating automated ball valves (both 2 way and 3 way) like the ones offered by Johnson Controls. Given the added cost, slow response, and BCS interface making throttling flows a trial and error process, I'm wondering if it's even worth pursuing. I like the idea of being able to automate certain processes so I can "kick back" on brew day, but in reality my OCD tendencies means I'll likely be standing guard anyway.

Anyone have any experience upgrading from manual to automated valves and care to share your thoughts?

Anyone dive head first into the automated valves never to look back with no regrets?

Thanks in advance.
 

jddevinn

Got 99 Problems but beer ain't one
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 14, 2010
Messages
1,410
Reaction score
540
Location
Concord
For strict on/off control I use these chinese valves in my glycol cooling setup. No issues, I'd be a little hesitant to use them for hot side wort process due to the cleaning difficulty (I always find debris/sweet wort in my 3 piece npt valves) and wouldn't touch them on a cold side process.
 
Joined
Dec 19, 2014
Messages
5,365
Reaction score
1,542
Location
West Palm Beach
I just installed a series of automated valves on my BCS/Arduino system. I brewed once with this upgrade and learned a few things, and have since made some changes. For example, I had some valves normally open but BCS outputs are off when a task is paused so that was not ideal. It is not hands off as tasks like dough-in, water salts, mash pH, sparge runnings, hop/adjunct additions, O2, and fermenter transfer are manual. But my goal was to reduce some mundane items to focus on brew science more, so I think it will help with that. I am especially excited about the system's automatic cleaning. Rig's in my sig.
 

JonW

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Dec 9, 2009
Messages
2,101
Reaction score
306
Location
Huntington Beach, CA
My current setup uses automated ball valves for the movement of liquid. I like not having to do hose swaps and keeping everything clean. Not only would I build again using automated valves, but I'm finishing up a new rig right now that has even more automated valves. In addition to the automated water/wort movement, I'll be doing auto-fill/clean with fresh water input and CIP/dump valves for output.

The flow issue is something that I've not automated and it's never bothered me. I use a manual ball valve on the return to the kettles to set the flow rate. When fly sparging starts, I set the rates of wort going to the BK and sparge water coming into the MLT. I set it once and rarely adjust it.

I don't kick back on brew day, but the automation aspect does allow me to multitask (kegging, cleaning, weighing grain/hops, etc.) and only tend to the brew when I need to intervene.
 

jddevinn

Got 99 Problems but beer ain't one
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 14, 2010
Messages
1,410
Reaction score
540
Location
Concord
My process may be a little different from everyone else's. My hot side system is basically a Kal clone with a couple changes.

For the last 15 minutes of the boil I circulate from the boil kettle through both march pumps, my hx and then back into the boil kettle whirlpool to sanitize. After boil I cool with the same setup, then remove the hx from the loop whirlpool for a couple minutes, rest, then drain. Since switching to conicals I no longer filter the trub at all, I simply rely on the whirpool and drain any trub that gets in the fermenter after it settles the next day.

I explain my process because it shows I have more trub moving around during the cooling/whirlpool stage than most other people.

below is a picture of a 3 piece ball valve that was on my whirpool connection last time I cleaned. This was after a 15 min recirculation of PBW.

This is why I will wait until I can use sanitary automated valves, I have to disassemble the NPT ones too much to clean.

2015-11-21 14.19.16.jpg


2015-11-21 14.19.25.jpg
 
Joined
Dec 19, 2014
Messages
5,365
Reaction score
1,542
Location
West Palm Beach
Wow that's crazy. And highlights an important point: and that is when a ball valve is partially open, the fluid area around the ball gets flooded with passing fluid. If you then clean it with the valve fully open or closed, that fluid, or in your case, fluid and trub, get trapped there. This would be a legitimate concern with automated valves, as they cannot (easily) be held in the in between position for cleaning. I say easily because it would be possible depending on your control setup to stop the valves in an intermediate position. Or, if they have manual actuators, as many do, you can position them there for cleaning.
 
OP
B

BrewKaiser

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 4, 2014
Messages
190
Reaction score
71
Location
Granite Bay
JonW: Thanks for your reply and words of encouragement here and on ECC forum. Which valves are you using?

Yeah, I don't really "kick back" on brew day, but like BrunDog, would like some automation to focus less mundane tasks

I also thought about installing manual ball valves on the vessel's return to regulate flow, but here again, has me wondering if automating other areas is worth it since I'll be constantly monitoring/adjusting certain valves anyway.

jddevin: thanks for bringing the cleaning aspects to our attention. I never thought about that. I left a message for one of our contacts at Johnson Controls to see if they offer sanitary valve bodies. As BrunDog states, most valves do offer a manual override, but I for one will not sleep well knowing there may be gunk stuck in my valves and without being able to disassemble will never know. I'll certainly be going with the sanitary valve bodies whether manual or automatic (if available).

Sounds like your set up/approach is similar to what I'm planning. I plan on fabricating a 30" X 5" SST sealed HEX tube body with about 25' of 1/2 SSt coil inside and a 4500w element. I plan to use for mash recirc and chilling. For extended whirlpool/hop stands I plan to chill to 180*F and then maintain temp there by circulating through the HEX for an extended period.

I also plan to fabricate a circular 1/2 SSt drain tube that rests on the bottom of my BK along the perimeter with small (.050") holes along the outside-bottom perimeter of the tube. My hope is it will act as a trub/hop dam and filter and allow for full cone on inside. If that does not work then I'll stick with simple pick up tube with a trub/hop filter aft chiller.

One more question: with all the valves and plumbing presumably below kettles, how much wort loss are you all experiencing?
 

JonW

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Dec 9, 2009
Messages
2,101
Reaction score
306
Location
Huntington Beach, CA
JonW: Thanks for your reply and words of encouragement here and on ECC forum. Which valves are you using?

Yeah, I don't really "kick back" on brew day, but like BrunDog, would like some automation to focus less mundane tasks

I also thought about installing manual ball valves on the vessel's return to regulate flow, but here again, has me wondering if automating other areas is worth it since I'll be constantly monitoring/adjusting certain valves anyway.
For my new rig, I'm using electric ball valves and solenoid valves all sourced from Ehcotech aka Valves4Projects on Ebay.

I flush my rig with line pressure water while opening/closing the ball valves. When taking them apart, mine have never looked as bad as that shown above.

For adjusting the flow during fly sparging, I really don't have to keep watching it. I set it and check it once or twice. Once you do it a few times, it's pretty easy to gauge the flow by eye. The MLT is really the only kettle you have to be concerned with. I've pre-wired my new rig for doing some float switches and will likely do that in the not-to-distant future as a safety that the MLT doesn't get too full and overflow.
 

firkin

Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2015
Messages
13
Reaction score
4
Location
Prairie du Sac
I'm a brewb that has just started building my first rig. I have 1 bbl Stout tanks and I am working with Electric Brewing Supply on a BCS462-based control panel. I too have been thinking heavily about automated ball valves for the reasons stated by others. I'm nearly at the point of no return on making the decision to go with automated ball valves, though I am very concerned about the cleanliness issue. But, I guess I'm going to still move forward with them...

I've attached a couple of pictures of my manifold plan to utilize the motorized ball valves, and I'd love to hear feedback since I kind of made this up from scratch.

manifold 1.jpg


manifold 2.jpg
 

JonW

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Dec 9, 2009
Messages
2,101
Reaction score
306
Location
Huntington Beach, CA
Why no KLD this time, JonW?
The only thing KLD had that the current valves don't is the manual override. In the 4+ years I've been using them, I've never needed the manual override. The valves from Ehcotech have an open/close indicator which is all I really need. They are quality valves and the folks at Ehcotech are in the US and great to call if you have any questions.
 

firkin

Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2015
Messages
13
Reaction score
4
Location
Prairie du Sac
let me try this again and do a better job explaining what I think i'm doing. I would like to automate the different flows required for my new rig. As I considered all the different flows required, I came up with a need for 10 motorized ball valves. And using those valves, along with my kettles, pumps and plumbing, I came up with the following connection diagram. And in the subsequent images, I show how I can turn on (green) or off (red) the valves and pumps to support all brewing needs. I'd appreciate any feedback on this, so I can proceed with my build, or tweak as necessary.

baf1.jpeg


baf2.jpeg


baf3.jpeg


baf4.jpeg


baf5.jpeg


baf6.jpeg


baf7.jpeg


baf8.jpeg


baf9.jpeg
 

crane

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Sep 20, 2011
Messages
1,163
Reaction score
398
Location
San Diego
let me try this again and do a better job explaining what I think i'm doing. I would like to automate the different flows required for my new rig. As I considered all the different flows required, I came up with a need for 10 motorized ball valves. And using those valves, along with my kettles, pumps and plumbing, I came up with the following connection diagram. And in the subsequent images, I show how I can turn on (green) or off (red) the valves and pumps to support all brewing needs. I'd appreciate any feedback on this, so I can proceed with my build, or tweak as necessary.
How are you going to sanitize your chiller? I first whirlpool without the chiller inline to prevent hop debris from getting into the chiller. I then add the chiller inline and recirculate back to the boil kettle before turning on the cold water to sanitize the chiller with heat. Then turn on the cold water and throttle back the pump to get the output temp before knocking out into the fermentor.
 

schematix

Banned
Joined
Aug 14, 2011
Messages
6,794
Reaction score
4,828
I've found recirculating with both pumps on the hot side is a great way to sanitize both pumps and increase the pump head, which typically gives higher flow in most systems. Also makes it easier to back flush since everything is already hooked up.

I also clean all of my ball valves by first flushing in the full open position, then slowly close it until almost closed so the fluid flows around the ball and seals. I used to end up with smelly vessels until I started doing this. Now they are totally flushed out.
 

firkin

Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2015
Messages
13
Reaction score
4
Location
Prairie du Sac
How are you going to sanitize your chiller? I first whirlpool without the chiller inline to prevent hop debris from getting into the chiller. I then add the chiller inline and recirculate back to the boil kettle before turning on the cold water to sanitize the chiller with heat. Then turn on the cold water and throttle back the pump to get the output temp before knocking out into the fermentor.
Thanks crane,

I have to admit, I didn't at first understand the relevance of your question and significance of your solution. But, some further reading on HBT fixed that.

I have 1.5" TC temp probe tee, inline O2 tee, and sight glass after chiller. From there, I have a silicone hose going to the fermenter. So, using my configuration, could I not implement your system by manually running that hose to the brew kettle during the sanitization flow, and then connect it to the fermenter to knock out? I would also be sanitizing those other components too.

But, I know, I'm trying to eliminate swapping hoses... Otherwise, I guess you are pointing out that I would need another couple valves to do this. And since I'm trying to eliminate threaded connections on wort side, maybe these would be better to be manual...
 

crane

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Sep 20, 2011
Messages
1,163
Reaction score
398
Location
San Diego
Thanks crane,

I have to admit, I didn't at first understand the relevance of your question and significance of your solution. But, some further reading on HBT fixed that.

I have 1.5" TC temp probe tee, inline O2 tee, and sight glass after chiller. From there, I have a silicone hose going to the fermenter. So, using my configuration, could I not implement your system by manually running that hose to the brew kettle during the sanitization flow, and then connect it to the fermenter to knock out? I would also be sanitizing those other components too.

But, I know, I'm trying to eliminate swapping hoses... Otherwise, I guess you are pointing out that I would need another couple valves to do this. And since I'm trying to eliminate threaded connections on wort side, maybe these would be better to be manual...
Correct. Here is my thoughts. If you swap hoses you can sanitized everything on the output of the chiller leading up to the fermenter. If you add more valves to eliminate hose swapping, then some part of it will have to be sanitized using sanitizer solution. It's a trade off to make. I currently don't have any automated valves, but am looking to add some, but I think I will still go for swapping the hose.
 

MrShake

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2006
Messages
1,313
Reaction score
14
Brewtroller has 2 ways in stock as well @ http://www.brewtroller.com

I've had these valves on my system for a number of years now. Even manually operating them, they provide a simplistic way to control flow without having to move hoses, or even move around the stand. Automatic control of a lot of fluid movement is just flat out a time saver!
 

firkin

Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2015
Messages
13
Reaction score
4
Location
Prairie du Sac
Ryan from Electric Brewing Supply (who is building my BCS-based control panel) suggested that I should avoid DC-controlled valves and go with 110v. Anybody feel differently about that?
 
OP
B

BrewKaiser

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 4, 2014
Messages
190
Reaction score
71
Location
Granite Bay
I spoke with our Account Rep at Johnson Controls yesterday. There is interest at JC to gain more headway into the craft brewing and home brewing markets. He will present the idea of multi-piece valve bodies that can be disassembled for sanitation with a product manager. I suggested using tri-clover flange fittings (ie no threads) for all hot side/post boil connections and threaded for pre boil.

Just curious how many of you would be interested in automated 2-way and 3-way valve bodies that can be disassembled for cleaning.

Johnson Controls offer quality, reliable products. However, they are more expensive than the examples offered here.
 

LandoLincoln

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2011
Messages
2,983
Reaction score
1,137
Location
Joliet
below is a picture of a 3 piece ball valve that was on my whirpool connection last time I cleaned. This was after a 15 min recirculation of PBW.
I think the seals on your ball valve need replacing.
 

LandoLincoln

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2011
Messages
2,983
Reaction score
1,137
Location
Joliet
I spoke with our Account Rep at Johnson Controls yesterday. There is interest at JC to gain more headway into the craft brewing and home brewing markets. He will present the idea of multi-piece valve bodies that can be disassembled for sanitation with a product manager. I suggested using tri-clover flange fittings (ie no threads) for all hot side/post boil connections and threaded for pre boil.

Just curious how many of you would be interested in automated 2-way and 3-way valve bodies that can be disassembled for cleaning.

Johnson Controls offer quality, reliable products. However, they are more expensive than the examples offered here.
You know what's really lacking in the homebrew market? Fine-control valves for fly sparging. Ball valves don't provide enough control. One tiny little nudge on a ball valve is the difference between 1 quart a minute and 3 quarts a minute. I went to a pro brewery and they had this valve on their rig that took something like fifteen turns on a wheel to go from fully closed to fully open. That's the kind of control I want when I'm fly sparging.
 

JonW

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Dec 9, 2009
Messages
2,101
Reaction score
306
Location
Huntington Beach, CA
I've had these valves on my system for a number of years now. Even manually operating them, they provide a simplistic way to control flow without having to move hoses, or even move around the stand.
Those valves you are showing don't have the manual operation option nor do they have the position indicator. You're referring to the earlier KLD version valves that had those features (and more expensive).
 

JonW

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Dec 9, 2009
Messages
2,101
Reaction score
306
Location
Huntington Beach, CA
Ryan from Electric Brewing Supply (who is building my BCS-based control panel) suggested that I should avoid DC-controlled valves and go with 110v. Anybody feel differently about that?
I'd like to hear the reasoning behind that statement. I can't see any reason why it would make a difference. I use 110 solenoid valves for fresh water and natural gas but all my HLT/MLT/BK ball valves are 12V and I've never had an issue. I also like the simpler wiring options available for low voltage valves. e.g. M12 connectors or other options. Using 110V means either having everything hard wired to the relays or adding a ton of 110V plugs/outlets.
 

jddevinn

Got 99 Problems but beer ain't one
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 14, 2010
Messages
1,410
Reaction score
540
Location
Concord
I think the seals on your ball valve need replacing.
Seals are fine in the valves. I don't disassemble every time, but this is what I get when I don't try to open close the valves repeatedly during the cleaning cycle. I'm sure that some of it depends on how tight the valve is assembled. When I open close repeatedly they do get cleaner..... but not enough so that I don't want to disassemble every few brews or every month.
 

jddevinn

Got 99 Problems but beer ain't one
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 14, 2010
Messages
1,410
Reaction score
540
Location
Concord
You know what's really lacking in the homebrew market? Fine-control valves for fly sparging. Ball valves don't provide enough control. One tiny little nudge on a ball valve is the difference between 1 quart a minute and 3 quarts a minute. I went to a pro brewery and they had this valve on their rig that took something like fifteen turns on a wheel to go from fully closed to fully open. That's the kind of control I want when I'm fly sparging.
Ball valves are for on/off control on any sort of "real" designed piping system. Typically for most low flow applications, like we have in our systems, globe valves are used. However, these are way way not sanitary.


Flow control with butterfly or piston type valves are used commercially to set flow rates, but these get very expensive very fast and are normally pneumatic.

I always sparge at the same rate. I've considered putting a T on my pump outlets and using one of the directions only for sparging. It would be relatively cheap to place a properly sized orifice plate in this line to fix the flow rate by pressure drop. For now I picked up two panel mount flow meters and mount them directly to the pump..... its amazing how much a little bump of the handle changes the flow rate. (pic is full open during mashing.)

2015-12-05 12.59.13.jpg


2015-12-05 14.30.27.jpg
 
Joined
Dec 19, 2014
Messages
5,365
Reaction score
1,542
Location
West Palm Beach
Last edited by a moderator:
Joined
Dec 19, 2014
Messages
5,365
Reaction score
1,542
Location
West Palm Beach
I'd like to hear the reasoning behind that statement. I can't see any reason why it would make a difference. I use 110 solenoid valves for fresh water and natural gas but all my HLT/MLT/BK ball valves are 12V and I've never had an issue. I also like the simpler wiring options available for low voltage valves. e.g. M12 connectors or other options. Using 110V means either having everything hard wired to the relays or adding a ton of 110V plugs/outlets.
I agree. Low voltage is easier and safer, IMO.
 
Joined
Dec 19, 2014
Messages
5,365
Reaction score
1,542
Location
West Palm Beach
Seals are fine in the valves. I don't disassemble every time, but this is what I get when I don't try to open close the valves repeatedly during the cleaning cycle. I'm sure that some of it depends on how tight the valve is assembled. When I open close repeatedly they do get cleaner..... but not enough so that I don't want to disassemble every few brews or every month.
The gunk gets inside the valve during that period of time the ball is not fully closed or open. PBW will do nothing to that valve if it is fully open or closed. You need to run your clean process with it partially open. This is a consideration/problem with automated, non-proportional ball valves. You need to cycle them multiple times if you want to get the cleaning and rinsing inside the bodies.

-BD
 
Joined
Dec 19, 2014
Messages
5,365
Reaction score
1,542
Location
West Palm Beach
You know what's really lacking in the homebrew market? Fine-control valves for fly sparging. Ball valves don't provide enough control. One tiny little nudge on a ball valve is the difference between 1 quart a minute and 3 quarts a minute. I went to a pro brewery and they had this valve on their rig that took something like fifteen turns on a wheel to go from fully closed to fully open. That's the kind of control I want when I'm fly sparging.
Not trying to pat myself on the back here... but I fixed this problem with a proportional valve. Using an arduino, flowmeter, and proportional valve, the sparge rate is automatically maintained, independent of pressure/temperature conditions. If has very fine control and a V-groove cut into the ball for more linear response to input signals.
 

jddevinn

Got 99 Problems but beer ain't one
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 14, 2010
Messages
1,410
Reaction score
540
Location
Concord
The gunk gets inside the valve during that period of time the ball is not fully closed or open. PBW will do nothing to that valve if it is fully open or closed. You need to run your clean process with it partially open. This is a consideration/problem with automated, non-proportional ball valves. You need to cycle them multiple times if you want to get the cleaning and rinsing inside the bodies.

-BD
Yea, when I brew and it isn't a "disassemble and clean everything clean" I run the PBW for about 15 minutes and during that time alternate between full open and partially closed. It does a decent job, but I still find disassembly necessary every once in awhile. Some of these automated valves, like the cheapos I linked earlier, are either open or closed... I am thinking that these would be harder to get cleaned.
 

jddevinn

Got 99 Problems but beer ain't one
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 14, 2010
Messages
1,410
Reaction score
540
Location
Concord
Not trying to pat myself on the back here... but I fixed this problem with a proportional valve. Using an arduino, flowmeter, and proportional valve, the sparge rate is automatically maintained, independent of pressure/temperature conditions. If has very fine control and a V-groove cut into the ball for more linear response to input signals.
It seems like I may have read a thread on this at some point. Do you have any other info posted anywhere? I would love to change my flow measurement from the cheap panel meters to something automated.
 

kickflip_mj

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2008
Messages
1,116
Reaction score
120
Electric valves are garbage, I have 10 of them and I cant rely on them not to fail. When one goes the other goes the next brew day. Same crap with my chugger pumps locking up and the brewtroller freezing. I guess thats what you get for spending 10k on a brew rig. I'd love to get my hands on Pneumatic valves, but in the mean time im working on buying a home. lol
 

JonW

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Dec 9, 2009
Messages
2,101
Reaction score
306
Location
Huntington Beach, CA
Electric valves are garbage, I have 10 of them and I cant rely on them not to fail. When one goes the other goes the next brew day. Same crap with my chugger pumps locking up and the brewtroller freezing. I guess thats what you get for spending 10k on a brew rig. I'd love to get my hands on Pneumatic valves, but in the mean time im working on buying a home. lol
Wow, sorry to hear you've had so many issues. That's disconcerting when you've put so much work into it. When I previously looked at your rig, I thought maybe some of those automated valves were too close to the burners. Could heat be killing them?

I've been running automated for 5 years and rarely had any issues. Once had a solenoid actuator on my BK gas valve go out during a brew day and I just swapped the one from the HLT over to it and continued on, but other thank that, I've been pretty lucky (knock on wood).
 

kickflip_mj

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2008
Messages
1,116
Reaction score
120
Wow, sorry to hear you've had so many issues. That's disconcerting when you've put so much work into it. When I previously looked at your rig, I thought maybe some of those automated valves were too close to the burners. Could heat be killing them?

I've been running automated for 5 years and rarely had any issues. Once had a solenoid actuator on my BK gas valve go out during a brew day and I just swapped the one from the HLT over to it and continued on, but other thank that, I've been pretty lucky (knock on wood).
Honestly I think they are just bad valves from supplier to begin with. I ordered them from china and had nothing but issues from the get go. The ones I ordered in the USA actually sound different but look identical. Funny thing is the ones close to the burners actually work the best. I plan on going pneumatic just so I can have a fully draining true clean in place system, I will use the other valves for a CIP system hardplumbed but not off the brewtroller.
 

firkin

Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2015
Messages
13
Reaction score
4
Location
Prairie du Sac
I'd like to hear the reasoning behind that statement. I can't see any reason why it would make a difference. I use 110 solenoid valves for fresh water and natural gas but all my HLT/MLT/BK ball valves are 12V and I've never had an issue. I also like the simpler wiring options available for low voltage valves. e.g. M12 connectors or other options. Using 110V means either having everything hard wired to the relays or adding a ton of 110V plugs/outlets.
To be honest I don't really understand the reason, other than I was told "the transformers/supplies for the low voltage valves cause challenges".

Personally, I had intended to go with low voltage thinking it would be easier and it is also cheaper. He's wiring up the control panel with relays and manual switches and M12 QDs to implement it. I am still talking to him about configuration. I should I reconsider going that route, and instead go DC? I might drop that from his build and just do that part myself with low voltage, as that was my original intention.
 

aphanson17

Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2012
Messages
11
Reaction score
1
Location
Mill Creek
Has anyone tried connecting a manual ball valve to the end of an motorized ball valve? That way you can set the manual ball valve to the flow rate you want yet still get the automated ball valve for control.
 
Top