Chapter 23

Steam Boilers

Steam System Operation

Steam system operation involves generation, distribution, end use, and recovery. These four areas follow the path of steam as it leaves the boiler and returns via the condensate return system.


Steam is generated in a boiler or a heat recovery steam generator by transferring the heat of combustion gases to water. When water absorbs enough heat, it changes phase from liquid to steam. In some boilers, a superheater further increases the energy content of the steam. Under pressure, the steam then flows from the boiler or steam generator and into the distribution system.


The distribution system carries steam from the boiler or generator to the points of end use. Many distribution systems have several take-off lines that operate at different pressures. These distribution lines are separated by various types of isolation valves, pressure-regulating valves, and, sometimes, backpressure turbines. A properly performing distribution system delivers sufficient quantities of high-quality steam at the right pressures and temperatures to the end uses.

End Use

Brewhouses rely on steam heating during mashing and wort boiling to control the temperature of the various ingredients, such as grain, hops, yeast, and water. To a large extent, this controlled reaction determines the type of flavor of the beer. Steam boilers contribute more to the craft brewing process than just heating ingredients.


The condensate return system sends the condensate back to the boiler. The condensate is returned to a collection tank. Sometimes the makeup water and chemicals are added here, while other times this is done in the deaerator.

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