Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together

It feels like I spend my half my life putting a brewery equipment list together. Just this week I’ve been working on a 150-liter system (1.3 US Bbl.), for a small venue here in Shanghai.

As well as assisting on a project in the UK, where the client needed quotes and basic drawings, to apply for local government funding.

Actually, the UK project has been pretty stressful, As I was brought on to the project 6-days before the paperwork for application needed submitting.

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together - Helping Out A Client
The chat between myself and the UK client on the rushed project

What would typically be a 20+ day timeline, had to be completed within a week. The client was happy with what I put together in the short period of time available.

Anyway, I digress…so, what steps do you need to take when putting a brewery equipment list together?

Scope of the Project – Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together

The first step is to lock in the scope of your planned brewery project. This means doing your research, putting together sales forecasts, with predicted growth accounted for.

A good brewhouse at a minimum, should last 5-years. Some breweries see crazy development and outgrow their brewhouse quicker. Be it a brewpub or production brewery.

Still, one of the largest expenditures when opening a brewery, is the physical brewing equipment. You want the brewery to still serve you, as you grow.

That’s why one of the questions I ask in my questionnaire, I give to potential brewery owners. When they reach out to me for help is…

–> What are you planned sales volumes?

Number of Beer Styles and Predicted Sales Volumes

This ties in with what AND how many beer styles you plan to brew too? If the plan is to make mostly lagers.

Then more cellar tanks are needed with, horizontal maturation tanks recommended as well.

Lagers require longer time in tank than ales, before they are ready to package. Therefore, more cellar space is required. For more information on calculating brewery capacity see our article here.

When volume forecasts, beer styles and number of beers in the core range has been calculated. It allows the size and number of brewhouse vessels needed, to be calculated

If a production brewery is planned, then a minimum of a 3-vessel system is recommended. This would be a mash mixer, lauter tun and combined kettle/whirlpool.

As for a brewpub or pilot brewery, a 2 or 3-vessel system should be fine. Even with a 2-vessel system, a double brew day is possible. It might take a while, like 10 to 11 hours, but that’s manageable.

Small Brewery Equipment List - 150 Liter Two Vessel Pilot System
A Small System Does Need Rakes

Cellar Tanks – Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together

When planning cellar tanks purchase, particularly for a production brewery, it can be done in phases.

As long as there’s extra floor space, more cellar tanks can be added at a later date. One HUGE takeaway I’d like to share with you is…

When Going Bigger, Pricing Isn’t Logarithmic with Brewing Equipment

If you’re planning to add extra cellar vessels later, oversize your initial glycol system to cover for future expansion. The cost of going bigger, isn’t logarithmic.

Meaning when you purchase a glycol system 50% larger, the price paid isn’t 50% more. Granted, your initial set-up costs are bigger, but it’ll be time and money saved when a tank expansion takes place later.

As the purchase of an additional compressor and reserve glycol tank isn’t needed. A brewery can simply buy, and plumb in the extra tanks. Hooking them up to the current glycol system in place.

Also, where possible -> I’d suggest buying some double-sized fermentation vessels (FV’s). Because, just like glycol systems, (but even more so), pricing isn’t logarithmic.

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together - FV Size And Price Comparison
As you can see pricing of FV’s isn’t logarithmic as they get bigger

When buying bigger FV’s, you mostly paying for the extra materials used. It takes roughly the same amount of time to make a 1,000-liter (8.5 US Bbl.) FV as it does a 2,000-liter (17 US Bbl.) FV.

It’s worth having larger FV’s to brew your biggest seller into. Yes, you’ll need multiple brews to fill the tank. However, larger tanks save money, time and lead to less beer loss.

Generally, it’s the same with most brewing equipment, going 20 to 30% bigger doesn’t see a big jump in price. It’s certainly something to think about when sizing a brewhouse, and future expansion plans.

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together – Tank Dimensions

As we are talking about tank sizes, it’s the ideal time for a wee tangent. As a brewing consultant, one of the first questions I ask is:

—> Do you have a building yet?

Brewing equipment manufacturers will ask the same too. The reason we’ll ask this is, dimensions of a building can have a big influence on the equipment chosen.

The man two factors are:

  • Ceiling Height
  • Total Floor Dedicated for The Production Area

These days, good fabricators can manufacture tanks to different dimensions. If a building has high ceilings and floor space is at premium, then skinny FV’s are an option.

Please note: skinny tanks do cost more to make than FV’s with more conventional dimensions. As they use more materials; however, they can solve floor space problems for the modern brewer.

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together - Skinny FV's Compared to Normal Size FV's
Thanks to Bespoke Brewing Solutions for Suppling The Pictures

Tank Dimension and Shipping

It’s the same principle when it comes to shipping too. There’s some wiggle room where tank dimensions are concerned. When it comes to fitting “more tank volume” in to a shipping container.

Most brewing equipment is delivered in 40ft shipping containers. So, optimizing space for shipping needs to factored in.

Recently I saw a post in a Facebook brewing group; which you can see below:

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together - Badly Organized Brewery Shipping

As a brewing consultant, I’d never allow this to happen. I’d work with the client and manufacturer to figure out a more optimized solution.

In the above example, the client will be paying a considerable amount of money, for empty space.

The worst-case scenario would be to fill the space with kegs, if the client agreed to this and was looking to buy kegs anyway.

However, tanks could be fabricated to fit both the planned brewing space and be optimized for shipping too. For example, look at the possible configurations for a 3,000-liter (25 US Bbl.) HLT (hot liquor tank).

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together - 3000-Liter HLT Configurations
Different configurations available for a 3,000-liter HLT – Provided by Bespoke Brewing Solutions

Now, there isn’t major difference in dimensions here, but it can make a big difference to an individual project.

  • This is the type of knowledge I bring to a venture, as a brewing consultant. When there are many variables to consider. Having an experienced brewing consultant onboard, can save the project money.

Depending on the height of the skinny FV’s, it’s possible to fit several of them in one container to really optimize the use of container space.

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together - Skinny FV's Stacked
Skinny FV’s Stacked and Ready To Ship

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together – Milling and Grain Delivery

The UK project I’m working on now, uses pre-milled grain. When planning a smaller brewery this is always an option. If pre-milled malt is readily available locally.

Most brewers like to have their own mill, as having control of the crush of the malt is preferable. However, if you’ve a small brewpub where space is a premium.

Using pre-milled malt and ordering small amount at a time from a local supplier may be a viable option

When it comes to the size of a brewhouse, if it’s under 700-liters (6 US Bbl.), I’d advise against grain delivery. I’d simply add the malt manually through the top manway when brewing on a smaller system.

Brewing a raw ale tips - Mash hopping
It easier to add the malt manually directly into the mash tun on a small brewery system

It’s up to the individual brewery. However, with my experience, brewing on multiple systems of various sizes, I’d always advise manual mashing on smaller system. Adding the malt by hand directly into the mash tun.

When you get to 1,500-liters, I’d start to consider a grain delivery system. With a mill, grist case and auger setup. You can mill the malt the day before in preparation for brewing the next day.

Another Quick Tangent…

One subject which does annoy me is; Chinese manufacturers always push to have rakes on breweries when the brew length is 200-liters (1.7 US Bbl.) or more. They say it’s tiring, to do it by hand.

Furthermore, in my opinion, any brewery at 700-liter or below doesn’t need rakes in the mash/lauter tun. It’s easy enough to mix a 700-liter (6 US Bbl.) mash by hand.

I know people who mash-in-by-hand on a 1,600-liter (13.6 US Bbl.) system. It only takes my friend Francois 15-minutes to mash in by hand, on his system at One Beer Later.

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together - Mashing-In-By-Hand on a 1,600-Liter Mash Tun
As you can see brewers mash-in by hand on larger systems

For a mash with high wheat or adjunct percentages, some rice hulls can be added to the mash to help lautering.

On smaller systems, rakes in my opinion are harder work, and certainly a pain to clean too. A 200-liter (1.7 US Bbl.) system with rakes would drive me insane!

Save yourself money and make your life easier, and opt against adding mash/lauter rakes on a smaller system.

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together – Auxiliary Equipment

There are some smaller pieces of equipment, which can make a brew crews life easier. The cost of the equipment is often reasonable, and offer labor savings to a brewery.

One of the key pieces of auxiliary equipment in many breweries, is a keg washer.

Keg Washing

Even a small brewery, if it’s consistently cleaning kegs should buy a keg washer. At the very small-scale, you can go with a DIY solution, to save some money.

Google is your friend here, there are plenty of plans on the internet for DIY keg washer.

However, my advice when it comes to a keg washer my advice is, don’t be cheap when buying this equipment.

A good keg washer, will be a brewery workhorse. A well-built one will give you many good years of service.

Going cheap, you’re simply setting up the brew crew for heartache and frustration. A well-made semi-automatic keg washer, will always prove its weight in gold to a brewery.

My last bit of advice for this section is fill kegs by hand, if you’re tanks are 2,500-liter (21.3 US Bbl.) or less. Setting up rig with a couple of keg couplers will allow a brewer to fill kegs quickly enough. Kegs can be filled whilst doing other jobs in the brewery throughout the day.

Brewery Equipment List Options - Manual Keg Filling
On Smaller Systems, It’s Easier Enough To Fill By Hand

CIP Cart/Systems – Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together

In larger breweries I’d recommend having a CIP system. At the 2000-liter level and above I think they are worth investing in. For a 2,000-liter (17 US Bbl.) system, 300-liter (2.55 US Bbl.) CIP vessels are ideal.

Having a CIP system can save time, as you’ve pre-mixed cleaning chemicals heated and ready to go. Furthermore, it allows a brewer to reuse chemicals for cost savings as well.

I’m in the minority here, I’m sure. However, on smaller systems, I don’t like having a CIP cart. Any system at 500-liters (4.3 US Bbl.) or below. I wouldn’t bother with a CIP cart.

The time and cost saving are negligible. I’d rather put hot water from the HLT (hot liquor tank) into the brewing vessel, add the chemical and then CIP the tank.

There’s an argument this is less safe than using a CIP cart. However, if proper PPE is used, then it should be safe to go this route. It’ll save on initial start up cost and on space too.

A CIP system/cart can be useful in a smallish brewery if you do regular packaging into bottle and can. It really depends on the overall brewery set-up.

If you’d like to discuss these options further; then please feel free to message me. My email address is:


Flexible Brewery Hose and Hard-Piping

Every brewery will have a degree of hard-piping. That’s in-place stainless-steel piping, most often seen between brewhouse vessels.

Brewhouse Manifold
Manifold and hard-piping for a brewhouse

For example, there will typically be hard piping between the mash/lauter tun and kettle/whirlpool.

The amount of flexible beer hose needed will depend on the layout of the final brewery. These days I recommend keeping hose length at a maximum of 5-meters.

The reason being smaller hoses are easier to store and keep fry. If you need longer hoses, it doesn’t take much effort to connect two or more hoses together.

The bigger the brewhouse, generally the more hard-piping it’ll have. You’ll have hard-piping from the brewhouse to the cellar area, for example.

It’ll be a minimum of three hard pipes:

  1. For transferring wort from the kettle to the cellar area.
  2. A CIP return pipe to clean the wort line and sometimes the brew kettle
  3. For taking water from the HLT to the cellar area

In bigger breweries, you’ll see hard-piping for many tasks. For example, from the cellar area to the packaging area.

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together - Hard-Piping In A Brewery
The bigger the brewery the more the hard-piping

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together – Automation

On bigger systems, new breweries are looking at automation for brewhouse. Labour costs are getting higher. So, having automation can reduce labour costs.

Adding automation to a brewery is an expensive upfront cost, but over time the investment will pay itself off.

Furthermore, I’m seeing more clients looking to add automation to a planned brewery, to guard against human error.

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together - Automation
People are option for automation to guard against human error and make consistency easier

Opting to use automation, is very much up to the individual. As well as what the total budget for the project allows.

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together – Speaking of Budget

If you’re reading this post, then you most likely know I’m a British brewer based in Shanghai. I mostly help people source brewing equipment from China.

Regular readers of my articles will know there are two main areas where brewing equipment is made in China. These two places are Jinan and Ningbo.

The common consensus is the best made equipment comes from Ningbo. This is also my experience of buying equipment in China too. It must be noted however, Ningbo made equipment is more expensive.

As more Chinese equipment manufacturers enter the market it’s becoming harder to choose between them. Who makes good equipment and can be relied upon?

As someone who first came to brew in China in 2010, I have inside knowledge of the fabrication of brewing equipment here.

I’ve a list of reputable suppliers within different price ranges, whose equipment I’ve used personally or people in my brewing network highly recommend.

Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together – Conclusions

Thanks for reading my post on “Putting A Brewery Equipment List Together”. I hope you found some actionable content, to help in your planned brewery project.

As you can see, there are many facets to consider when planning a new brewery. If you don’t know where to start, then feel free to fill in my 13-part questionnaire.

If there are parts you can’t answer, it’s fine. Instead feel free to send me an email, I’ll be happy to jump on a call, and have a chat about your project.

To help fill in some of the gaps you may have, or just a general chat about the scope of your proposed project. My email address is:


If you’d like my FREE guide to brewing equipment. I’ll be happy to send it to you. It’s deep-dive into all the brewing equipment options open, when planning a brewery.

At 30-pages, it’s a large PDF file with pictures included. So, it’s easier for me to email it to you

—> Please fill in the form below so, I know where to send it.

If you want to message me directly, please scan the relevant QR code below of your preferred network, add me and message me there.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

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 neil@asianbeernetwork.com.
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