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Case study | Automated brix calculations and fermentation monitoring

Case Study

How to improve wine quality with automated fermentation monitoring

The process of fermentation in winemaking turns the juice from the grapes into the wine we enjoy. During this process yeasts convert the sugars in the juice into ethanol, which reduces the amount of dissolved sugars and as well as density of the media. Degrees Brix is the measurement most commonly used in winemaking, and it is a measurement of the dissolved sugar content in an aqueous solution.

Visualize brix values Reliable, real-time data Increase efficiency


  • Higher wine quality due to precise brix value calculations and temperature monitoring

  • Reduced risk of inaccurate measurements performed with a densitometer, refractometer, or hydrometer

  • Redirected hours of labor from manual tank checks to value-added work

  • Visualization in industrial software of fermentation progress inside all tanks

  • Easy installation of components on the pumpover line of red wine fermentation tanks

The challenge

Many wineries start as small operations, where manual processes seem cost-effective and easiest to implement. As a winery grows, it may run into challenges where those operational inefficiencies are difficult to scale up wine production. It may appear that components on a tank are more expensive, when in reality they save labor costs and provide more reliable product quality from batch to batch. Wine fermentation is an incredibly important part of the winemaking process, where yeast converts the sugars in the grape juice to alcohol. As the yeast converts the sucrose, the specific density of the juice decreases in a predictable pattern that correlates to the alcohol content of the final product. Degrees Brix is the most commonly used measurement in winemaking, capturing the dissolved sugar content left in an aqueous solution. 

Brix values are often calculated by a winery employee manually checking the progression of fermentation by pulling a sample from the tank to measure with a handheld instrument, such as a portable refractometer. These instruments measure the current sugar content remaining in the wine, which changes the density of the liquid. The brix readings are then entered into a computer and a fermentation curve is plotted on a graph to track the conversion from sugar to alcohol in the liquid at specific points in time.

The disadvantages of manual Brix level measurements are:

  • Risk of entering inaccurate Brix values
  • Lack of visibility to fermentation progress between measurement points
  • Inaccurate Brix values due to variation in the sugar content of the juice in different areas of the tank

The solution - why ifm?

ifm provides automation solutions that scale with the growth of wine production. To automate brix monitoring, wineries can add two ifm PI17 series pressure sensors at a fixed height apart from each other on the primary fermentation process tank. By using two fixed pressure sensor measurements, you can continuously monitor density to calculate Specific Gravity (γ ) or degrees Brix (Bx) (see Density Measurement application) using the equations below:

Instead of performing these calculations manually, ifm IO-Link masters send the pressure data to any higher level software system. For example, ifm moneo|software can receive the temperature and differential pressure data from the tanks to calculate the brix measurement in real-time. Additionally, using two pressure sensors to calculate brix values ensures a more accurate understanding of how fermentation is progressing throughout the entire tank. This is because density over a larger fluid column provides a more aggregate measurement.

Continuously monitoring the changes in the brix level during fermentation provides valuable process data which can be used to ensure fermentation is behaving normally or identify problems during fermentation. This allows winemaker to make adjustments to the batch when possible. Increased access to brix level data leads to improved process and product quality when compared to the lack of visibility that results when using manual or handheld methods.

The ifm solution offers another advantage, as the pressure sensors can be installed on the pump over line of a red wine fermentation tank. This allows a winery to avoid adding new tank penetrations, while still receiving accurate brix level data. 


  • IO-Link technology is the foundation of scalable automation solutions, and it is embedded in ifm sensors. This technology allows the sensors to communicate the wine fermentation data via ethernet for processing. IO-Link communication provides fully digital data, resulting in higher quality measurements that eliminate analog conversions and are less prone to electrical noise. With IO-Link, you can have confidence in your temperature and pressure measurements.
  • Pressure Sensors: ifm PI17 series pressure sensors at a fixed height apart from each other on the primary fermentation process tank.
  • moneo|software: Build drag-and-drop dashboards to implement real-time monitoring of temperature and pressure values. These visualizations can be programmed to show the progression of fermentation for multiple tanks.  

Gain a competitive edge

Automated wine fermentation contributes to the production of a more stable and higher-quality product. Wineries of any size benefit from the increased accuracy when monitoring the fermentation process and logging historical data for future use. Whether small wineries monitor each batch closely for slight variations in flavor or commercial wineries monitor hundreds of fermentation tanks simultaneously, automated brix monitoring can benefit operations of all sizes. It all starts with one IO-Link master, which allows for flexible solutions that are both cost-effective and easy to implement. 

Data generated from automation processes offer valuable insights for further improvements. Winemakers can leverage this data to fine-tune their operations, increase efficiency, reduce costs, and continually improve wine quality.