Vacuum failure is a hidden danger in your typical brewery operation that can quickly turn into a costly mistake. The causes of vacuum failure are wide and varied and can strike during the most normal of tasks - like filling a bright tank too full, using caustic soda in a tank that is still full of carbon dioxide, and rinsing a tank with cold water too soon after a hot clean-in-place cycle.
Ashton Lewis, Master Brewer-in-Residence for Paul Mueller Company, shows us how quickly you can ruin a tank that doesn't have the proper vacuum relief while performing a hot CIP.
To simulate the conditions found inside a fermenter during a hot clean-in-place cycle, Ashton partially fills a 55-gallon drum with water then heats it to a boil. Once water vapor is visible coming out of the top port, the drum is sealed up. This simulates a tank without a properly sized vacuum relief valve or, even worse, no relief valve at all.
Ashton takes the drum off the heat source and sprays it with a hose. This is the equivalent of rinsing a tank with cold water after a hot CIP cycle. The hot steam in the drum condenses into water which greatly lowers the pressure within the drum. The pressure of the atmosphere bearing down on the drum causes rapid vacuum failure and a visually impressive implosion.
How to Prevent Vacuum Failure
A fermenter or bright tank is a significant investment for any brewery. It can be devastating to lose one to vacuum failure. That is why it is important to equip your tank with a properly-sized vacuum relief valve. Purchasing the right valve can be a daunting task since no two tanks are engineered the same and no two breweries use the exact same procedures. Take the guesswork out of the situation and download the .