Real World Brewery Equipment Tips

Today I want to share some real world brewery equipment tips, from projects I’m working on right now.

I’m working on projects for The Philippines and Japan. One is a direct-fire system, while the other will use a gas steam boiler.

As we move through the process, I’ve had to make some adjustments to the project, working with both the client and manufacturer.

The reason I’m writing this is well I had one big issue, which came up and well…freaked me out!

It was the position of the wort outlet on a brew kettle/whirlpool!

Wort Outlet Height – Real World Brewery Equipment Tips

Why did it freak me out? Well, as I reviewing the kettle drawings on behalf of the client, I saw this:

Real-World Brewery Equipment Tips - High Wort Outlet

So, I asked a simple question, how many liters of wort were below the wort outlet please?

The answer came back at 50-liters!!!

Imagine losing 50-liters of wort every time you brew…it’s way too much. Please note, this was a 350-liter system.

Real-World Brewery Equipment Tips - 50-Liters Under the Wort Outlet

Now when it comes to brewing you can’t get all the wort out of the kettle. As there’ll be some trub and hop matter at the bottom of the kettle, after the collection has finished.

Depending on the setup, you’ll have either combined whirlpool/kettle or they’ll be separate vessels.

Brewers use a whirlpool to form a hop cone, to separate this matter (trub and hop) from the wort. You can’t get all the wort, but you want to minimize the loss.

Real-World Brewery Equipment Tips - Hop Trub Cone
Typical Whirlpool Cone in a Craft Brewery

50-liters is way too much, especially as we’ve added a hop strainer to this project. To learn more about adding a hop strainer to your system, please read this article.

When it comes to your own brewery project, make sure you ask about the wort volume below the wort outlet.

In this project we lowered the wort outlet to 20-liters. As this is a 350-liter brewhouse; 50-liters meant losing around 14% of the brew, in the kettle.

Now we’re losing 5.7% (20-liters below the outlet) but, this will be mostly trub and hop matter. A much better scenario.

The strainer protects hop matter and trub from entering the heat exchanger.

When having a hop strainer before the heat exchanger, make sure it can be isolated and cleaned, in case it becomes blocked.

What Gets Missed Buying a Brewery - Hop Strainer 2
Strainer being taken out of the housing

When Using RO (Reverse Osmosis) Water – Ensure Cold RO Water Can Be Pumped to Your Water Mixing Station

Whatever set-up you have, be it a fully-automatic or manual brewhouse. Ensure the RO water for both mashing and sparging uses both hot and cold RO water.

I’ve seen many setups where the hot water from the HLT (hot liquor tank) is RO water.

However, if this water is too hot, and needs to be mixed with cold water, it’s from the mains rather than RO.

When you use RO water; it’s best to have a buffer tank of treated RO water.

Connect the piping from the buffer tank so, treated cold RO water can be used at the water mixing station, on the brew-deck.

So, all the water used in the brew, is fully RO water. Is the best solution for a brewer.

How to Use Reverse Osmosis in Brewing - Typical RO Water Setup in a Brewery

Real World Brewery Equipment Tips – Sizing Up

This is something I talk about a lot, especially with tanks size. It pays to go bigger with unitanks, as you end up with more available tank volume, for a cheaper price.

Tanks prices aren’t logarithmic; a 2,000-liter FV (fermentation vessel) isn’t twice the price of a 1,000-liter FV.

They take roughly the same amount of time to make, it’s simply paying for the extra materials.

For example, The Philippines project I’m currently working on is a 350-liter system. I advised them to get 1 x 1,000-liter tank. So, they’ll brew in to the FV, three times to fill it.

You’re saying, Neil “3 x 350-liters is 1,050-liters”.

Yes, you’re right…

Factoring in Beer Losses

However, with beer losses from the whirlpool and from chilling the wort, a 1,000-liter tank will be sufficient.

Furthermore, 1,000-liters tanks are standard in the industry. Having one tank which needs to be filled up three times, over the course of two-days is good for this project.

It can ensure the clients have stock of the biggest seller, at all times.

Real-World Brewery Equipment Tips - Pricing for Unitanks

As you can see in the above picture, the price of a 350-liter tank is $2,920, whilst for a 1,000-liter tank it’s $4,930.

3 * $2,920 = $8,760 for 3 x 350-liter unitanks

 —> Which is $3,830 more than $4,930 the price of 1 x 1,000-liter unitank.

There’s a significant saving there. As well as taking up less space too, one big tank instead of three small tanks.

Please note: Most cellar tanks automatically have 20% head space. Meaning a 1,000-liter FV can actually hold 1,200-liters or more.

This extra headspace is for the krausen, to learn more please read this article.

Keg Washer and Other Equipment

This just doesn’t apply for just tanks; it can be the same for other equipment too. It’s always worth asking for the next size up. For example, the project I’m working on for Japan…

The client was insisting a single head keg cleaner, was all he needed. He was looking to save money on the project.

I only work with reputable suppliers.

On this project the supplier quite rightly pointed out, a double head keg cleaner was a better option, as pricing was similar.

If you look at the pricing below, you can see a single-head keg cleaner is $6,700 while the double-head option is only $7,000. Just $300 dollars more to clean kegs, twice as quickly.

It’s worth paying extra, to have the double-head option. It’ll save time in labour plus, will be useful when sales volumes increase as the brewery grows.

Keg washer from China
An Example of Double Head Cleaner – This One is Actually in Stock in a Baltimore Warehouse, click here for more info

Spare Pump with Seals for Hot Liquids – Real World Brewery Equipment Tips

For pretty much every project I advise on, I always add an extra transfer pump to the list. The transfer pump, is a workhorse in every brewery.

It’s used for moving beer in the cellar, mixing adjuncts and finings, can be used with a hop gun and for CIP’ing (clean-in-place) cellar tanks.

I suggest getting an extra pump with special seals. So, the transfer pump, can replace a brewhouse vessel pump, if one goes down.

—> The special seals allow a pump to work with hot liquids; like near boiling wort.

Often my clients live in remote places, where getting a pump fixed, will take some time. So, having a pump on-the-shelf ready to go, means much less downtime.

It can actually save a brew day.

Furthermore, I always ensure extra gaskets and seals are sent with the brewhouse to replace broken ones. Be it for pumps, brewhouse vessels or cellar tanks.

Last note on pumps: Make sure all transfer pumps have VDF (variable drive frequency) controls. So, the speed of a pump can be adjusted as needed.

Breaking Down a Brewery Equipment Quote - Brewery Pump With Cart
Brewery Pump With Cart and VDF Controls

Local Regulations – Real World Brewery Equipment Tips

Make sure you know the local regulations; of the place you decide to house your brewery. A brewery is often subject to quite a lot of protocols/guidelines.

This can vary from waste water treatment to having a separate room for a gas-powered boiler. It also, can relate back to equipment too.

For example, ensuring you have the right paperwork for pressure rated vessels.

There are also laws unique in certain countries, which if you don’t know about, can lead to unnecessary expenses down-the-line.

Pre-Testing of Seals, Gaskets and Hoses

For example, the project, I’m working on for Japan. Japanese regulations require some very unique pre-testing on things like gaskets, seals and beer hoses.

Where it makes sense to send samples to be tested so, everything is tested and passed before the equipment arrives.

Furthermore, vessels need to have markings every 2mm on the tank so, you know how much liquid is in each vessel, via a sight tube.

Real-World Brewery Equipment Tips - Measuring Wort & Beer Volumes in the FV
These Measurements Were Not Allowed – As They Were Only Every 5mm (Not the 2mm Regulations State)!

I’ve never come across these requirements before. However, the equipment supplier and I are working with the client, to ensure these checks and requirements, are taken care of.

If we didn’t prepare for this in advance, we could have had some real issues when we sent the brewhouse, if the proper checks hadn’t been done in advance

A lot of these Japanese requirements, are linked to historic regulations in the sake industry. It’s a pain, but something we simply need to take care of.

As you can see, it’s worth doing your research to ensure you know every local regulation.

To make sure the equipment made will pass inspection, ensuring a much easier delivery process.

Packaging – Real World Brewery Equipment Tips

I understand building a brewery is expensive, with equipment often being the largest capital cost.

However, when it comes to packaging into can or bottle, it’s not the place to try and save money.

I often get people who come to me for assistance, after already contacting some suppliers themselves. They’ve a quote from a Chinese supplier, for all their equipment.

We call these “turnkey project” quotes; which includes everything from the RO machine to the packaging line. 95 times out of a 100, the bottling line is similar to the one pictured below.

Real-World Brewery Equipment Tips - Ghetto Chinese Bottling Equipment
Typical Craft Bottling Machine Sent With A Chinese Turnkey Project

The bottling line is generally costs less than $10,000, the client is happy, and asks me what I think…

Always Look at the O2 (Oxygen Numbers)

When it comes to small-scale packaging lines in China, they generally worthless. The important metric to ask about, is the O2 (oxygen) numbers.

For beer in cans and bottles; you want packaged O2 below 60ppb, ideally below 30ppb is better.

Small Scale Canning for Breweries - Standards for DO in the Brewing Industry

In general, these “bottling lines” provided by Chinese equipment suppliers, get nowhere near these O2 numbers.

Even for Chinese companies, which claim to be “beer packaging specialists”, have some insane numbers in real-word situations.

Here’s a conversation in a WeChat brewers’ group, I saw a while back. Where they are talking about a Chinese company, which makes beer packaging lines.

Small Scale Canning for Breweries - High DO
Always Check the O2 Numbers These Machines Supposedly Produce

Seeing O2 numbers in the hundreds, let alone the thousands will compromise your beer and have little shelf life. Getting all your equipment from one supplier, never makes sense.

Buying packaging equipment from China always needs to be thoroughly researched. There is one small-scale canning line I do recommend.

You can learn more about it, by reading this article, I wrote about it.

Often, I’ll get auxiliary equipment, like a keg washer from a different supplier than the main brewhouse equipment manufacturer…you’ll end up paying less, for a better equipment.

Real World Brewery Equipment Tips – Conclusions

Thanks for reading the article. As I say, I’ve experienced some recent issues on projects, I’m currently working on.

I wanted to share these with you, as they are not uncommon issues. It’s certainly worth knowing about them.

Every project is different, throwing up unique problems I need to overcome for the client. Which I work through with the manufacturer and customer together.

Need Help with Your Own Brewing Project

If you’re currently working on putting a brewery together, and would like some assistance or simply would like to talk it through. Then, feel free to reach out to me.

I’ve been a brewer for over 25-years, having worked on a number of different systems from brewpub to production breweries, around the globe.

I help people around the world with:

Put together equipment lists – From the project scope, a client has shared with me.

Identify reputable suppliers – Who are within budget and can fulfill the needs of the project. I’ve worked on equipment made by the suppliers personally, or have people in my network who recommend them.

Assist in the communications – Help ensure both parties (client and manufacturer) are on the same page; when it comes to the equipment and layouts. For example, ensure the wort outlet pipe is properly placed.

Be there to answer any questions – Often I’m there to make suggestions or answer client questions. We use an instant messaging service so, I can share pictures or videos to explain stuff, as needed.

Plus, a whole lot more. So, please feel free to contact me, my email address is:

neil@asianbeernetwork.com

Or you can message me directly on your preferred network. Simply scan the relevant QR code below, add me and then send a direct message on there.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to discussing your project.

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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