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Microbrewing Glycol System Troubleshooting

by Kyle Marshall

If you run a microbrewery business, it's essential that your glycol unit is working properly. A faulty glycol unit will not cool the beer properly, leaving your brew vulnerable to damage by bacteria. A damaged batch will cost you money in wasted product, in lost orders, and in damage to your company reputation.

So, how do you know if your glycol unit is acting up and what can you do to fix it?

How a Glycol Unit Works

A glycol unit runs a food grade antifreeze solution, called propylene glycol, via an insulated line to keep the beer chilled on its journey through to your taps. There are two glycol lines that run beside the beer lines; one bringing chilled glycol to your taps and the other returning the warm glycol to your cold pack.

 The unit has four main components:

  • a compressor
  • a motor
  • a pump
  • a glycol bath

The motor continually spins the pump in order to push the cold glycol out and return the warm glycol back into the bath. The glycol bath itself is a small tub where the glycol is stored. The glycol is chilled by means of a coil, which is driven by the compressor.

Troubleshooting a Glycol System

If the beer you're drawing from your taps is warm and foaming, but the beer in your walk-in cooling facility is cold, there's an issue with your glycol system.

Start by opening the lid on the glycol bath and dipping a thermometer to obtain an accurate temperature reading. If the bath is warm, the problem is most likely with the compressor or the coil. If the glycol bath temperature is low, but the beer from the taps is warm, it's probably an issue with the pump or the motor, meaning that the glycol is no longer being circulated around the system. Both these problems will need looking at by a professional glycol system maintenance firm.

You should be aware that propylene glycol breaks down over a period of time, causing ice to form in the bath. If this problem is not rectified, the glycol mixture will freeze solid and your whole system will break down.

In conclusion

The best way to avoid microbrewery downtime due to problems with your glycol system is to have the system professionally serviced and maintained every few months. Contact your local professional glycol system maintenance contractor for more information and guidance on what maintenance schedule would be the best option for your business.