Today we’re going to look at the minimum brewery equipment list you need to start a brewery. This came up in an interview I did recently with the Build Me A Brewery Podcast.
As an aside I would highly recommend this podcast, if you’re looking to set up your own brewery. Every podcast is an interview with someone in the brewing trade, about a certain part of the business.
Now, if you’ve ever looked into opening your own brewery; you would be aware, buying the actual equipment to brew is a BIG capital investment.
When you’re starting out, your budget might be stretched, so what’s the least amount equipment you actually need to get started?
Well, with our minimum brewery equipment list we will explore and answer that question today.
I am going to add a few caveats, with my own personal preferences, that will save you money, if you follow them. I’ve added them to the end of the article.
This is a basic guide for newbie would be brewery owners. If I tried to explain everything it would turn into a book.
I know a lot has been left out here, but, I’ve other posts on this site to fill in the blanks. This is a post; I think some people might find useful after my conversation with Build Me A Brewery Podcast.
Also, my FREE brewing glossary might be useful if you don’t understand all the terminology in this post. If you click the link it will open a up a new tab – like all my links
Actually, you might get away without a mill in some countries. As some malt suppliers can supply pre-crushed grain. Ask your local malt supplier if they have this option.
If you do use pre-crushed malt it’ll have a shorter shelf, usually about 6 months so, you need to be tight with your stock control.
However, having your own mill offers you more choice in the malt and grains available to you. It’ll allow you to control the “crush” too. The crush is how fine the grain is milled.
Furthermore it’s nice to have the control as it helps with your lauter. Lautering is the process of sending the wort from the mash or lauter tun (if you have separate vessels) to the brew kettle.
If the crush is too fine, you might end up with a “stuck mash”. Most pre-milled malt will come within a standard range and be fine for most brewers needs.
2. Hot Liquor (water) Tank (HLT)
A hot liquor tanks is where you make hot water, the day before a brew (or overnight). You fill the tank with water and heat up to around 80C ready for your brew day.
You’ll use this water for both your mashing in and lautering. When you lauter you add more water on top of the mash to make sure you get most of the sugars made by the grain.
You also use hot water for cleaning things like kegs and cellar tanks in the brewery too. In general, you want your hot liquor tank to be twice the size of your brewhouse length…
Some breweries to go with “on demand” hot water, which if set up right might mean you can “get away” without having a HLT. However, having a bank of hot water will save you time and labour and pay for itself.
To make beer you need a brewhouse, when you’re starting out you need a minimum of a mash tun/lauter tun and brew kettle. A mash tun is where you mix the barley (and other grains/adjuncts) and hot water.
The “porridge” you make will turn the starch in the grain to sugar. The resulting sugar liquid made is called wort. Which, will then be transferred to your brew kettle. The process is called lautering.
Hence the name “mash/lauter tun”. They can also be separate vessels if you have the budget and space. The grain is left behind in the mash/lauter tun to be cleaned out. Then, most likely given to a farmer to feed his livestock.
The brew kettle is where you boil the wort and add other ingredients for flavor. Hops are added in the kettle.
Hops give beer bitterness; to balance the beer, offsetting the sweetness from residual sugars after the fermentation. Hops also provide aroma to the beer too. The hop kettle can be a combination vessels being a whirlpool too.
If you do go with a 3-vessel system, it might be best to opt for a combined mash/lauter tun with separate brew kettle and whirlpool. It most instances it provides a quicker brew day when doing back-to-back brews.
3. Heating System – Minimum Brewery Equipment List
When you need to make hot water or boil your brew kettle. You obviously need a heating system. Most brewers prefer steam, however with steam you need to buy a steam generator.
You’ll also need the necessary hard piping to send the steam to where it is required. However, you can have electric heating instead.
With electric heating you have internal heating elements in both the hot liquor tank and brew kettle. So, no extra equipment is needed as the elements come already installed.
Using electric is generally more expensive than steam. Furthermore, some brewers don’t like using electrical elements in the brew kettle as it can “scorch” the wort and make your final beer taste bad.
4. Heat Exchanger (O2 Dosing)
A heat exchanger is used to cool wort down after the boil, as it’s sent to the FV. You flash cool the wort from near boiling to 7-35°C depending on beer style.
In the simplest set up you’ll mostly likely have a two-stage heat exchanger. Which uses municipal water and glycol (we will come to that later) to “flash” cool the wort.
So you don’t need to invest in a CLT (cold liquor tank). It puts more pressure on your glycol, but it might be one less tank needed.
I do like having a CLT because, it makes back-to-back brewing easier as you have more hot water for the next brew.
Usually just after you heat exchanger, you will also have a point to add oxygen to your wort. Adding oxygen to the wort is desirable in some beers to aid fermentation.
5. Fermentation Vessel(s) – Minimum Brewery Equipment List
So, on brew day you’re essentially making a sugar liquid that the yeast will work on. Yeast turns sugar to alcohol (plus makes CO2). This process takes place in a fermentation vessel (FV).
These tanks allow you to control the temperature of the fermentation. It’s important to control the temperature so you don’t get undesirable off-flavours.
You can have FV’s of different sizes. It’s common to have two sizes in your brewery. Single fermenters that can fit in one full batch of a brew and double fermenters for two batches of beer.
Having a double batch FV’s can save time and labor over the long term plus make it easier to keep your biggest seller in stock.
6. Chilling and Glycol System – Minimum Brewery Equipment List
We have spoken about controlling the temperature of your fermentation, with glycol, as well as flash cooling your wort too. Glycol is a liquid we use to chill wort/beer in breweries, you can also use alcohol too.
The glycol has its own tank(s), pump(s), pipework and chilling units. The tank is the bank of the glycol, and the pipes go into the “jackets” of the FV’s and unitanks. The glycol doesn’t ever touch the beer.
But goes through internal coils inside the FV’s to cool wort/beer down to the desired temperature. Which you can control from a screen or panel.
To cool the glycol (usually to around -3°C), it needs its own chilling unit (works a bit like air-conditioning) and pump to push it through your system.
7. Control Panels
To be able to brew and ferment your beer you need have a certain amount of control over the process. Usually in brewing you have one control panel for the brewhouse and one for the FV’s.
You can combine the two if you’re on a budget into one panel. They can be very simple controls.
Where you set the temperature on an LCD readout, which controls the opening and closing of the solenoids of the chosen vessel to either heat/chill or stop the process.
8. Transfer/CIP Pump or CIP Unit
If you are stretched of capital, you can have a CIP pump to clean your tanks. CIP stands for “Clean in Place”. Inside most tanks you have a spray-ball. You add some water and cleaning chemicals inside the tank.
A CIP pump will be used to take the liquid from the bottom of the tank, and pump it back through a side arm and through the spray-ball to clean the tank.
If you opt for a CIP unit. You can store and re-use the cleaning liquid for future uses. The CIP unit comes with its own pump. Just having a CIP pump is cheaper than having a CIP unit.
Minimum Brewery Equipment List – Optional Extras and Further Notes
Well, here some the caveats…
As a brewer with 25 years of international brewing experience. There are a few optional extras I would always recommend to my clients when they’re considering opening a brewery. Which are:
1. Bright Beer Tank (BBT)
A bright beer tank is where you can send finished beer after the fermentation. I would always recommend having one if you open a brewery. It gives more flexibility.
It can be used to make sure any adjuncts added post-fermentation like puree are properly mixed. Furthermore, a BBT can be used for adding finings inline when looking to clear a beer on transferring from your FV.
Most bigger breweries use separation technology to clear the beer of yeast and sediment. The most common are filters or a centrifuge. When the equipment is used it’s placed inline from the FV to the BBT clearing the beer.
Many breweries opt to have 1 bright beer tank for every 4 fermentation vessels. A BBT is also cooled by your glycol system (usually kept at 0°C when it has beer inside).
2. Kegs, Keg Cleaner and Cold Room
If you have a brewery, you can use your FV’s and BBT’s as serving tanks too. If you do, it doesn’t make sense to keep using when they are less than 35% full.
This is when you can move the beer to kegs, freeing up your tank for another brew. If you move beer to kegs, you need to store them cold for improved shelf-life. In brewing, this usually means a walk-in cooler.
If you’ve a cold room it can also be used to store some of your more sensitive ingredients like hops and yeast too.
If you’re using quite few kegs weekly, I’d say more than 15 it makes sense to purchase a keg cleaner. They can come in a number of sizes to fit any brewery’s needs.
You can even make your own simple version if you’re on a budget. Any form of keg cleaner will speed up the cleaning process plus use less chemicals than cleaning by hand.
Minimum Brewery Equipment List – Conclusions
Well there ends my minimum brewery equipment list. If you’ve recently thought about opening a brewery and are doing your initial research, I hope this post helps.
One last thing: If you use steam instead of electric, you can control the temperature of the mash tun too. This permits step-mashing, which allows you to make better beer truer to style.
Electric and Direct Fire aren’t ideal for heating a mash tun,
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I’m a British brewer, whose brewed in many countries from France to Bermuda.
I’m now based in China (first came in 2010), where I help prospective breweries owners source brewing equipment from China among many other services.
Anyway, thanks for visiting my site and reading my post.
Have a great day and happy brewing.