Chinese Brewing Equipment Review

In today’s article we are doing a Chinese brewing equipment review. Looking into Chinese brewing equipment manufacturers and how to differentiate between them.

Hoping it will guide you in understanding the nuisances when choosing the right manufacturer for your brewing project.

There are many breweries around the world purchasing their brewing equipment from China. The main pull is price; with Chinese equipment up to 40-60% cheaper than the equivalent in the US or Europe.

Let Me Introduce Myself…

First though a little bit about me. My name is Neil and I am UK brewer with 25 years international brewing experience. I have brewed in the UK, France, Bermuda, Hong Kong, Armenia and Portugal.

Asian Brewing Consultant - Neil Playfoot Mashing In
Me Helping Put On A Brewpub System in Wuxi, China

I first came to China in 2010 to brew and decided to make China my home in the intervening years.

Since then, I have built up a network of brewing contacts in Asia as well as be involved in a number of brewery installs and projects.

Anyway, enough about me; back to the article. A good place to start is; why Chinese made equipment is cheaper than in the West?

Chinese Brewing Equipment Review – Why is China Cheaper?

There are several reasons why Chinese equipment is cheaper which include:

Lower Wages

China has internal migration from rural to industrial cities where people are willing to work many shifts for lower wages

China’s Business Ecosystems

Industrial production does not take place in isolation. It relies on networks of suppliers, component manufacturers, distributors, government agencies, and customers.

Who are all involved in the process of production through competition and cooperation. 

Lower Compliance

There’s less healthy and safety regulation in China. Chinese manufacturers operate under more lenient permissive regulatory environment.

It allows for cheaper manufacturing as there are less rules and regulations in place.

Made in China Logo

Currency Manipulation

This maybe a controversial one but most financial experts will tell you that China manipulates its currency. To make exports appear more attractive; especially with the current trade war with US.

Tax and Duties

There is an export tax rebate policy in China allowing manufacturers to be able to make their products and goods competitive in world markets.

Chinese Brewing Equipment Review – How China Evolved into the World’s Factory

Although Chinese equipment is cheaper; it doesn’t mean it is of lower quality. China is often referred to as the “World’s Factory”.

When as little as 30 years ago, China was an agricultural society.

The Economist magazine in 2015 reported that China produced 80% of the world’s air conditioners, 60% of it shoes and 70% of its mobile phones.

The Chinese manufacturing sector has matured over the years. Factories have improved their processes as well as worker training and quality controls over time.

Chinese labor is cheap; well, compared to Western wages. However; salaries have risen in China so factories have evolved as a result too.

Factories have adapted to operate more efficiently; such as re-organizing shop floors and layouts to be leaner and more efficient.

Can You Get Good Chinese Brewing Equipment?

Chinese companies now understand that when producing industrial equipment such as brewing systems they’re competing in a world market.

Manufacturers are now aware of the quality standards and typical requirements needed, working with the countries they are exporting too.

How to buy Chinese Brewing Equipment
Fermenters Made in China

Chinese brewing equipment manufacturers have supplied systems to the following breweries:

  • AB InBev (Hand and Malt, Goose Island and Indian innovation project)
  • Lamborghini (brewpub experience)
  • Sunday Road Brewing (Australia)
  • Deepwater Brewing Co (USA)
  • Little Island Brewery (Singapore)
  • Gammelbacka Bryggeri AB (Sweden)
  • Waterman Brewery (Oakland, USA)
  • Distant Shores Brewing Company (Japan)

The list is more extensive; I know of breweries in The Philippines, Germany, Canada and Bali that have bought and installed Chinese brewing equipment.

Now the question: is the equipment any good?

It Isn’t All Good News

When it comes to our Chinese brewing equipment review; it isn’t all good news, I am afraid. There is bad equipment out there.

I will not name names but I know of one manufacturer that supplied some of the equipment pictured below:

When the brewer who bought the equipment complained, the reply from the manufacturer was…

“Well for what you paid, this is what you get!”

So, on top of bad equipment; the aftercare service was non-existent. There are equipment manufacturers like this in China (but they are becoming rarer).

They only care about the sale…

This thankfully is becoming a less common occurrence as Chinese companies realize that short term profit isn’t going to guarantee long term success.

They are competing in a world market and if they want to be around for the long term, they need to offer competitive pricing, quality equipment with good service and after care.

The brewing world is both big and small as well as interconnected. People in the industry do speak to each other and bad suppliers do quickly get found out by word of mouth.

Chinese Brewing Equipment Review – How do you Sort the Good Suppliers from the Bad?

There are two main areas where brewing equipment is made in China. The first is Jinan and the second is around Ningbo.

As a rule of thumb the cheaper equipment is made in Jinan whilst the more expensive and better equipment is made in Ningbo.

This isn’t strictly true you can get great equipment out of Jinan but yes, the supplier of the bad equipment above was from Jinan. There are hundreds of brewery equipment suppliers in China so how do you find the right one?

Most of the brewing equipment suppliers in China weren’t founded as such. They were often historically making industrial equipment for the dairy and soft drinks sectors.

How to Buy Chinese Brewing Equipment
Chinese Made Brewhouse

However, over time they transitioned into making brewing equipment wanting a piece of the action; as the craft beer revolution spread across the globe.

It hasn’t always been a seamless transition, with a lot had been learned in the last 15 years.

Quality and expertise has grown; with most of the world’s craft brewing equipment now being made in China.

Furthermore, it should be noted that several US and European suppliers of brewing systems get their equipment made in China.

Once delivered they do the finishing touches in their own factories before sending to their customers. It’s proof-positive that good equipment can be sourced in China.

So, let me share a few pointers when it comes to Chinese brewing equipment:

You Get What You Pay For

If you want super cheap equipment you can get it but it might not be a long-term investment. People in the brewing industry will tell you most people who get into brewing on the cheap don’t last long.

It isn’t true for everybody; but brewing is a multi-step process with temperature and times being important.

Having a brewing kit of a certain standard will allow for less man-hours, easier standardization, better beers and a greater chance of long-term success.

Research

When buying brewing equipment in China you have to do your research.

There are now enough brewing systems coming out of China to allow reputable suppliers to offer references and case studies of equipment they have manufactured and are operating successfully.

How to Buy Chinese Brewing Equipment

—>Need help purchasing Chinese Equipment? Let me help click here<—

Communication

You can get great kit for a good price in China but you need to reach out to a number of suppliers and speak with them.

Ask them to provide you with references so, you can speak to breweries that are using their equipment providing you feedback.

A reputable manufacturer will be happy for you to speak with previous customers. I am the contact point for a few Chinese manufacturers and happy to share my experiences good and bad.

When it comes the actual purchase of the equipment you have to be precise in what you need. From your budget, level of automation plus be in constant communication after making your purchase.

Take Your Time to Compare Manufacturers

When you have done some research and found some potential manufacturers it is time to get quotes for the equipment.

You’ll often get a spread in price of up to 20-30% between manufacturers for the same size system and cellar configuration.

It is best to breakdown the quotes into smaller blocks on a spreadsheet to see where the price differences are.

So, you might breakdown costs for brewhouse, cellaring, glycol/cooling and heating (electric or steam) with varying prices.

It might throw up some queries. For example, I was once quoted US$ 6,100 for an 8HL Mash Tun/Lauter AND a Kettle/Whirlpool.

This was about 35% of the price other the other suppliers. This threw up some red flags for me to look into.

Communication is Most Important

Overall, communication is the key with Chinese suppliers. You need to be clear in what you want.

There’s a saying “quality begins with the buy”. A good manufacturer will provide proper PID and schematics of any build if asked.

If you aren’t clear, then you’re essentially giving the equipment manufacturer free rein to build the equipment as they see fit.

Possibly, leaving you with something that wasn’t as you expected.

Communication will allow you to understand what you’re getting for your money. Plus, make sure you are in contact with your equipment manufacturer throughout the build process.

A reputable manufacturer will happily to share details along the way.

It would also make sense to visit China twice. Once to visit several manufacturers and inspect build quality before deciding on one supplier.

Then visit again before the equipment your purchased is shipped. To sign off on the project.

When you factor in cost of equipment and travel; the price is still much cheaper than getting it manufactured in Europe and the US.

If possible visit during the build process too. To ensure the build is going as agreed and catch any issues before it is too late.

Or you can have me consult, as I am in country and can share video, pictures and even video call with you.

Going over the build in as much detail as you need and pointing out any potential issues too.

Jinan, Ningbo or Elsewhere?

Jinan

In Jinan, if you take the above advice you can get great quality brewing kit for a good price.

I managed to get a 20HL ex-show brewhouse with 180HL of cellaring, some automation and all auxiliary equipment (heating, chilling and control panels) for US$170,000 for a client recently.

Please note it was because it was already in stock and looking to be sold to free up warehouse space so hence, I managed to get a one-off low price.

With my contacts I can sometimes get these agreements for my clients.

So, with the right contacts and good communications a good deal can be made.

The quality in Jinan (with certain suppliers) is always improving and one of my recommended suppliers ZyBrew recently opened a new factory.

To keep up with demand as well as allow them to improve their processes and systems.

ZyBrew have customers around the world and even have their own warehousing for their equipment in Canada to aid shipping and logistics.

There are many brewing equipment suppliers in Jinan at different price points and I can help you to find one to fit your budget.

You can email me at: [email protected].

Ningbo

Ningbo is on the whole pricier than Jinan; but a lot of the equipment made there; is of better quality than the equipment made in Jinan.

One of the suppliers I recommend Bespoke Brewing Solutions who have their equipment made in Ningbo.

Bespoke Brewing Solutions are the company that supplied AB InBev with their Goose Island and Hand of Malt kit.

I worked for AB InBev before and know the process for them to buy equipment has many checks in place before they pull the trigger.

To supply AB InBev kit you needs to be of the highest standards.

If you need an introduction to be made with Bespoke Brewing or looking for recommendations for Ningbo manufacturers then please feel to email me at: [email protected]

Chinese Brewing Equipment Review – A Conclusion

It’s possible to get good equipment made in China with proper research or industry contacts.

There is brewing equipment made in China out in the world producing award winning beer for reputable brewing companies.

There is information online (Google can be your friend) but if you would like some help then please feel free to reach out more me.

I have 25 years of brewing experience, have done several brewing installs and worked on a number of systems.

One expat brewer in China even called me “one of China’s craft daddies” the other day. When he was introducing me to some other expat brewers.

It was in jest and somewhat embarrassing.

However, since I first came to China 10 years ago, I have seen the rise and growth of craft brewing in China. I’ve made a lot of industry contacts throughout Asia.

I have done a lot of legwork so you don’t have to. So, please feel free to contact me for enquiries by emailing me at: [email protected]

Or you can fill in the form below. Anyway thanks for reading and happy brewing!

Cheers

Neil

Neil Playfoot

Neil is a brewer with 25 years international brewing experience. Based out of China (first came in 2010) he works as a brewing consultant helping brewers with their projects and brewing processes. To find out what services Neil can provide your brewery please click here. If you'd like to contact Neil you can email at [email protected].
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