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Steam Traps for Brewing Kettles?

Mike_SheppardMike_Sheppard Posts: 621Member
That title ought to get some attention! *opens beer*

This may be a good question for @RayWohlfarth and also reminds me I still need to get a copy of your Brewing With Steam book!

I work at a lot of breweries (on the boilers/burners) in the DC/VA/MD area and this is something I've wondered for awhile actually. They tend to run higher steam pressures for this process. And the kettles usually have an F&T trap on the outlets of the kettle jackets. There's one that has the kettle right next to the boiler. Steam goes up and into the kettle and the condensate comes out, into an F&T, and right into the feedwater tank. This particular one had quite a noticeable amount of flash steam coming out of the tank vent. I asked them when the last time they had their traps tested/serviced was. They told me the traps were only a week old and another company had replaced them because of the "steam" coming from the vent.

I don't know anything about brewing beer or kettles, but if it were being fed the correct amount of steam, maintaining whatever temperature it needs to maintain, would one assume the condensate would probably have cooled off enough after going through that process to not be hot enough to flash at the trap?

Another thing they brought up is, every time they shut the steam off to a kettle (motorized valve) they hear a loud pop as it cools off. The first thing I thought was the jackets imploding from vacuum forming. They didn't have any vacuum breakers after the motorized valves. It would be wise to use a vacuum breaker in this situation right?

Thanks for any advice!
Never stop learning.


  • RayWohlfarthRayWohlfarth Posts: 783Member
    @Mike_Sheppard Thanks for the shout out. I use F&T Traps and prefer them. Spirax Sarco recommends using Inverted Bucket Traps. Check to see the steam pressure. many brewers try operating the boilers close to 14 Psig. I am operating the boilers here at 11 Psig. The flash steam is common as the steam temperature @12 Psig is about 244 degrees. The F&T trap will open oce the temperature drops 20 degrees F which would be 224 Degrees into a pipe or tank @ atmosphere. And it will flash back to steam. I would definitely look at a vacuum breaker. The syste has to be able to breathe. Condensate induced water hammer could destroy the tank and do terrific damage. It generate pressures over 1,400 Psig.
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Click here to take Ray's class.
    Click here to buy Ray's books.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 6,294Member
    I agree with Ray.

    Should have a vacuum breaker. I like using check valves for vacuum breakers. There are charts where you take the steam pressure used in the kettle and the steam pressure in the condensate return and it will tell you the % flash steam. This kettle being close to the condensate return tank makes the flash steam more noticeable although some of it would just be condensing in the condensate return piping anyhow if it was a longer return pipe.

    Running the pressure as low as possible (keeping in mind the process temperature requirements) will minimize the flash steam. It can't be eliminated.

    Sometimes the "exhaust steam" can be used for a lower temperature load... heating domestic hot water or preheating boiler feed water to save BTUs
  • Mike_SheppardMike_Sheppard Posts: 621Member
    Well the feedwater was already hot enough, the pump was beginning to cavitate. I figured there wasn’t much that could be done about it being the process it is being used for, needing that higher steam pressure.

    But I was pretty sure the vacuum breaker was the solution to the banging tank problem after the valve was shut off.

    Thank you guys for the advice!
    Never stop learning.
  • DanHolohanDanHolohan Posts: 14,860Member, Moderator, Administrator
    Yes to the vacuum breaker. That's essential here.

    Also, Ray's right. You'll be better off with bucket traps. They cycle open to dump condensate only when the trap if full. F&T's get rid of the condensate more quickly, which means it's going to be hotter than it would be coming out of bucket trap. F&Ts work best in space-heating systems, where there's a lot of air to vent on startup. That's not necessary with kettles.

    And make sure there's no insulation on the trap or the piping between the kettle and the trap.

    As for the pressure, the higher it is, the hotter the steam will be, so this goes to the time it takes to cook. Higher pressure speeds the process, but not by that much because you're still limited to a maximum of 14 psig. Consider lowering it to get rid of more flash steam from the traps.

    I hope that helps.
    Retired and loving it.
  • RayWohlfarthRayWohlfarth Posts: 783Member
    Wow @EBEBRATT-Ed and @Dan Holohan agreed with me. Its going to be a great day. LOL
    Another thought with the steam pressure is the relief valve. Conbraco recommends operating the boiler a minimum of 4 Psi below the setpoint. That would be a max of 11 Psig.
    Just noticed my typos from my previous post. Sorry
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Click here to take Ray's class.
    Click here to buy Ray's books.
  • Mike_SheppardMike_Sheppard Posts: 621Member
    Very helpful! I appreciate your guy’s advice!!
    Never stop learning.
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