Today we dive into the world of commercial brewing equipment fabrication. Giving the lowdown on what to look out for, when buying brewing equipment.
As a brewing consultant I spend much of my days speaking with manufactures about fabrication. For instance, today we were discussing hop baskets for a project in Asia.
These hop baskets were to be used in various vessels in the planned brewery. It may seem like a small bit of kit, however there’s still a lot to consider, for instance.
1. Dimensions – To increase the hop to beer surface area.
2. Ensure they fit in the vessels properly – Easy to get in and out of each tank.
3. Hooks and loops – We had discussions on direction of hooks, in the vessels.
4. Intensity and rigidity of the baskets – The bottom was not all mesh, as needed the structural integrity of the plating.
5. The size of the mesh – The size of the mesh is important to reduce hop matter in the beer. However, a mesh size large enough for aroma to be picked up well.
There was more we discussed, but you get the idea. Even, something which appears as simple as a hop basket, can take a long time to lock in, with both client and manufacturer.
So, where do we begin with commercial brewing equipment fabrication? I think timelines.
Commercial Brewing Equipment Fabrication – Timelines
Why do we start with timelines? Well, you need to work backwards from when you plan to open your brewery/taproom. So, you have enough time to get the equipment organized.
In the table below we shared some timelines on how long it takes to put a brewery project together. Concerning the equipment side.
Some of you may be surprised to know how long it takes to organize, fabricate and send brewing equipment to a location. We asked several manufacturers about timelines and took an average.
Realistically, you’re looking at around 6-months when it comes to equipment fabrication. From locking in your initial project scope, to when the brewhouse could be operational.
It’s possible to bring the timings down. For example, I’m looking to do another container brewery project similar to this one, for a new client. If we can use the bones of the old project, we can save a lot of time.
There’ll be some minor changes, but the planning stage can be reduced considerably.
Furthermore, with the number of projects I’ve done now. If a new project presents itself comparable to one, I’ve done before.
Plus, we agree to use the same manufacture. Then life will be much easier and the planning time reduced.
Commercial Brewing Equipment Fabrication – Locking in the Scope of the Project
The first step when assisting people, is to lock in the scope of the project. I will ask them 13-questions which I have in a Word document here. If a client can’t answer all the questions, it’s fine.
However, the more information I have the better. Once they questions have been answered, and I’ve had a chance to review them. I’ll ask a few more questions, with the next step being a call.
Doing some prep work before the first call, makes the initial discussion much more productive. After the call, I’ll know what the client is planning and an equipment list can be populated as a result.
During these initial discussions, I’m often able to save clients’ money, as I can put together an equipment list of exactly what they need.
My 27-years brewing and working around the World on various systems, means I understand brewhouse equipment thoroughly.
Before moving forward with any project, you need to know what equipment you need to fulfil volumes predicted for sale. Plus, factor in room for growth. If need help sizing your brewery project, get our free guide here.
The Equipment List – Commercial Brewing Equipment Fabrication
Once the initial equipment list is put together, then it needs to be locked in. I’ll present an equipment list to the client. With notes on why the equipment is needed. How it should be designed plus, other notes.
This allows the client and I to go back and forth until, they’re happy with the list. Often, I find once I put a list together, and ask some questions.
It leads to adding extra equipment not thought of previously. This is why equipment sourcing need to be a step-by-step process.
Furthermore, I’ll be making notes on the design of the equipment, to do specifics job as needed by the client and required of the brewery.
If making hop forward beers? Need to think about the placement of the whirlpool wort outlet pipe, plus design and placement of a hop dam.
Brewing hop forward beer may also lead to a change in the hop strainer design to be placed before the heat exchanger as well.
When putting a brewing project together plus, thinking about commercial brewing equipment fabrication. The more pre-planning done and issues addressed the better for the project.
I regularly find manufactures push brewing equipment which isn’t needed.
As often the people fabricating equipment aren’t brewers themselves, or unaware of how changes in brewing has led to evolution in equipment.
The popularity of hop forward and hazy IPA’s means many breweries need tailormade equipment. I’m working on one project now for a brewery planning to make only hazy IPA’s.
It’s led to the design of the hop baskets above, for several different vessels. Adding a specialized tubular heat exchanger to cool the wort. Before the addition of whirlpool hops.
Plus, careful consideration has been put into the design of the whirlpool. With most attention paid to the outlet pipe and hop dam as mentioned before.
This brewhouse doesn’t need a hopback or yeast adding vessel, which seems to come standard on so many systems I see offered.
Please note: I prefer to pitch straight into the FV on smaller craft breweries. Rather than use a yeast adding vessel. One pro being, I can add yeast only once I know the wort temperature has been stabilized.
Furthermore, on this project the client is keen reduce hot side aeration, meaning some adjustments to the sparging system were needed too.
Hiring A brewing Consultant?
Having a person on the project who understands brewing equipment thoroughly. So, the finished brewery ends up with the exact equipment needed. Is paramount to a project’s overall success.
Maybe an extreme example however, I saw this comment below in a Brewery Planning Facebook group. It was a discussion on how much brewing consultants charge.
This person was paying a brewing consultant USD$ 50,000 to help them with his planning process for a 12-month period.
Being able to look at brewing equipment drawings/layouts, ensuring they are as discussed and planned. Plus, spotting any issues so, they can be corrected before fabrication is vitally important.
It’s why a lot of people recommend hiring consultants to help on a brewing project. If people aren’t too confident or experienced themselves.
Getting Quotes – Commercial Brewing Equipment Fabrication
Once you’ve locked in your equipment list, it’s the time to get quotes. When I work with clients, I’ll get between 3 and 5 quotes from reputable manufacturers in the pre-determined budget range.
Once, these quotes are in. Then it’s a process of determining which is the right manufacturer to opt for.
There are a few criteria, I’d suggest to help make the right choice:
Some companies will just resonate better than others when it comes to discussing the project. They will be quick in responding, ask the right questions and properly listen.
Some manufactures I feel try and push their ideas, or standard packages on to clients. Never go with an off-the-shelf solution.
As I said before, brewing is constantly evolving. With new styles and needs for brewing equipment seemingly changes constantly.
Not all equipment manufacturers understand or can provide the equipment truly needed. A lot of what I said in the understanding equipment section applies here.
Research the Manufacturers
I get people who come to me, after they’ve decided to get their own way. They reach out to me to see if I can help with a major issue with an equipment manufacturer.
Sometimes I’ll try, but often it’s issues with fabricators, I don’t work with for a reason. So, I have to politely decline.
Whatever you do, never go simply on price, but research the reputation of the company and speak with past customers.
Putting Together a Comparison Chart
I find for most clients it takes a minimum of two-weeks to choose which manufacturer they will go with.
One file I’ll put together is a price comparison chart to help a client with their decision. As not all quotes aren’t created equally. It can be confusing for a client to compare quotes.
So, with my understanding of equipment. I can list out each manufactures quote, in way a clients can compare individual pieces of equipment in an Excel file from various suppliers.
So, clients can compare like-for-like when it comes to mash/lauter tun, wort aeration and glycol systems, for example.
Yes, I’ve stated never go solely on price. However, I understand it plays a factor in the decision.
Having the pricing clearly set out for each piece of equipment and easy to compare in one file. Is something every single one of my clients appreciates.
If you want to look at how to break down an equipment quote yourself, please read our dedicated article here.
Agreeing On Your Supplier – Commercial Brewing Equipment Fabrication
At some point everyone makes a decision to go with one supplier, based on the criteria listed above. At this point they’ll move forward going over the quote in more detail with the fabricator.
As there’ll be changes to make to the exact equipment needed. If it’s not too complicated then a supplier will do this for free.
However, if this becomes a longer on-going concern a manufacturer will may ask for a 10% deposit (or similar) to continue the discussions.
It’s common, as the manufactures have put in a fair amount of work to this point. To protect their interests, they’ll need to see some form of commitment from the client.
A fabricator will be fine to give basic layout drawings before any payment, in most instances.
Possible to Get Basic Drawings for Free
It’ll be a basic 2D drawing based on the information given by the client. Just so all parties can see clearly all the equipment fits in the space the client has.
When it comes to putting detailed on the final equipment, needed for production. Then every supplier will ask for a deposit.
The size of the deposit depends on the manufacturer involved. Payment of USD$3,000 is common, it can be more/less or a percentage of the deposit.
Putting these drawings takes time every fabricator has a dedicated department for this process.
Putting Together Drawings – Commercial Brewing Equipment Fabrication
Okay, you’ve paid a deposit; the equipment supplier takes some time to put the drawings together. They can take a week or so to finish, for a system under 2,000-liters.
When it comes to supplying drawings, again it’s a process. They manufacturer will make drawings for every vessel based on discussions to this point.
Still, when you see the equipment drawn out, it can often lead to issues not considered before, being discovered.
Again, to use an example I had recently, when doing the hazy brewery project. When the drawing for the kettle/whirlpool came out.
We saw the whirlpool wort outlet for collection to the FV was too low down in the vessel.
Furthermore, we wanted to make the hop dam a little longer and higher. As the brewery would be making solely hop forward beers.
Changing Designs During the Drawing Phase
The wort outlet and hop dam design/placement were critical. Seeing the drawings in front of us. In the black and white allowed us to catch this issue before equipment fabrication went into production.
On this same project I was also able to add hard pipe from the hot liquor tank to the bottom of the brew kettle. To be able to clean the heat exchanger and for rinsing the wort out and CIP return pipework.
To understand what I mean please, see the images above. Again, it wasn’t till I could see the pipework layout in front of me. I was able to understand we’d forgotten this in earlier discussions.
Manufacturers don’t mind clients and consultants taking their time to go over the drawings.
They actively encourage it. As it’s best to catch issues before any equipment has gone into fabrication/production.
I always suggest taking a few looks at these drawings, over a few days.
As often on the third/fourth look, puts your mind at ease to feel confident on moving forward. Looking back with fresh eyes over a few days really helps.
Equipment Fabrication Begins
Once the drawings have been confirmed by both client and manufacturer. Then equipment fabrication begins.
If you’ve not already paid a deposit, then around 30 to 40% of total quote given will be paid. To move forward with fabrication the vessels and pipework. With any prior payments taken into consideration.
This is standard in the industry for fabricators in China, where I’ve the most experience. It’s been similar on the projects I’ve worked on in Europe too.
Picture to the left is a 35HL 4-vessel brewhouse project I was involved in based in Yerevan, Armenia. Came with fully automatic keg filler, bottling line and SPX centrifuge.
Visiting The Factory – Commercial Brewing Equipment Fabrication
During equipment fabrication, the manufacturer is happy for customers to visit the factory. To check everything is on track and being made as agreed upon.
They’ll be happy to supply videos and photos when asked. I also offer a service where I can visit a factory on a client’s behalf too.
Feel free to email me at:
As we’ve said above, fabrication of equipment for a standard brewery is around 3-months or a less. If you’re making a fully-automated 100HL brewhouse, it’ll take longer, obviously.
Most equipment manufacturers are happy for clients to visit any time. As long as it’s been agreed upon beforehand.
The key visit for most people is the final check before equipment is loaded. Ready for shipping to the client’s location.
It’s the last time equipment can be checked and any changes can be made before the kit is off-loaded at its final destination. It’s still too late for any major changes to made, however.
On the Water (Shipping)
Depending on where the brewing equipment comes from and the final destination. The equipment can be on the water from 10 to 45 days.
China to The West Coast of the US is generally the longest time equipment is at sea. Then there’s some time for the equipment to clear customs.
To smooth the process, ensure all the proper paperwork needed for your country is sent with the equipment!
Local Regulations and Requirements
Every country is different when it comes to paperwork needed. Here are some examples:
AS1210 –> Design Code for Pressure Vessels – Australian regulations for pressure vessels like fermenters.
ASME Code – For tanks above 15 PSI, ASME rating needed in the US
In Japan – It’s much more convoluted. As many vessels need a measuring tube to ensure the volume tanks can be checked
This goes for the wiring and electrics too. Each country is different so, ensure the single and three-phase is the correct voltage, frequency and amps for your needs.
Commissioning and Installation – Commercial Brewing Equipment Fabrication
Not really part of commercial brewing equipment fabrication, but feels like I should add it to complete the article.
When installing brewing equipment at location. The preparations for the building should be done whilst the equipment is being fabricated.
We’ve a few articles on preparing a building to house a brewery here:
Some key points include agreeing where utility points for electricity and water are needed, with the equipment manufacturer. So, the utility points are in the right place for when the brewery is installed.
For example, where the control panel is placed, needs three-phase electricity close by. Water outlet agreement for placement of an RO machine, and/or to fill up the hot liquor tank (HLT).
Depending on the size of the brewery, installation can take between 5 and 21-days. The smaller breweries under 2,000-liters will typically be installed in 21-days or less.
Breweries installs can be quicker these days, as a lot of the pipework can be pre-cut at the factory and send with the equipment. That’s why layout agreement is important.
Commercial Brewing Equipment Fabrication – Round-Up
There you have it, our article on commercial brewing equipment fabrication. As you can see it’s long process with key step a long the way.
Throughout the whole undertaking communication is vital between client, manufacturer and consultant if you decide to use one.
My clients usually highlight how clarifying everything between as a go between a manufacturer and them is really valuable. As I can explain things both ways, which each party can understand.
The main reason for writing this article was to show the timings involved as well as the step-by-step process needed.
If you’ve any follow-up questions about this article, then please feel free to contact me.
Need Help with Your Brewing Project?
If you looking to put brewing project together and would like some help. Then feel free to get in contact. My name is Neil…
I’m a UK brewer who has brewed around the World for the last 27-years. I’ve spent a lot of time brewing in China so, know the equipment market here thoroughly.
I help people put equipment list together based on the scope of their project. Then help source the equipment to spec at competitive pricing from reputable manufacturers.
I can also help with:
Processing optimization/Brewery auditing – Improving brewing processing in a brewery for lower costs and increased yields.
Recipe formulation – Can provide single recipes, but can also populate a new brewery with some core beers.
Forecasting and scheduling – Need to work out how much beer you need to brew, and schedule production? I have you covered.
Staff Training – I’ve often gone into a new or breweries in trouble and trained staff and put new better procedures in place.
If you have a brewing issue or want to discuss a new project then feel free to get in touch. My email address is:
Or you can contact me directly on your preferred network. Simply scan the relevant QR code, add me and then message me there.