Is it safe to buy Brewing Equipment from China?

Is it safe to buy brewing equipment from China is the subject for today as it is one we have been asked about a lot. Buying Chinese brewing equipment is an attractive proposition for breweries because simply put it is cheaper.

Be it your first brewhouse where buying from China means your budget goes further. So the savings can be spent elsewhere. Maybe you want to upgrade your filtration and opt for a centrifuge.

You could pay US$75,000 for a entry level European or US centrifuge or pay $US28,000 and get a centrifuge from China. The Chinese option is compelling at that price point for a smaller craft brewery. When larger capital investments lead to longer ROI (return on investment).

Let’s stay with this centrifuge example. Whilst we discuss the pros and cons of buying Chinese brewing equipment. Most breweries are concerned about build quality, real world use and after care service. Breweries are even concerned with whether they will what they purchased after payment.

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

The brewing equipment industry in China has come a long way in the last 10 years. It was fair to say in the beginning when breweries first bought equipment from China there horror stories. However but times have changed.

Chinese Brewing Equipment Manufacturing Has Evolved

The fact is several US brewing equipment manufacturers buy their tanks from China. Then fit them to specification as the customer wants. The brewing world is buying from China more than ever before.

Many breweries around the world are now opting for Chinese brewing equipment. Why? Because of price point plus the shipped equipment is well made and works.

I recently talked to a brewer in Greece and he’d paid off his fermentation vessels after 4.5 turns! He also loved his equipment. Anyway back to the centrifuge example.

Chinese Small Brewing Centrifuge
Chinese Small Brewing Centrifuge

Now centrifuges are for clearing beer ready for packaging. They are a good option for a brewer because of low DO pick up, increased yields and ease of use. Obviously once you’re familiar with the the equipment. Which usually takes 3 or 4 runs.

Back to the Chinese Centrifuge Example

With a Chinese centrifuge you’d be most worried if it worked properly. As well as also how much DO (dissolved oxygen) pick up there is. If the DO pick up is too much (over 20-30ppb) then the shelf life is going to compromised in the long term.

I’ve been in touch with Chinese manufacturers and the centrifuge pictured above is US$28,00 and guarantees minimal pick up. They say below 10 ppb as many Chinese breweries have targets they need to be below for distribution contracts.

See the video below that was sent to me of the DO levels after the centrifuge using a Haffmans Pentair using the centrifuge above.

Chinese Centrifuge Dissolved Oxygen (DO) Pickup

Yes the reading does say 2.7 ppb after centrifuge which seems low I admit. It does depend on your beer going in though. However as said these centrifuges have to work.

As contracts within China depend on the outcomes. It could lead to lawsuits if shelf life wasn’t as contracted due to DO pickup and oxidised beer. I know two other breweries using this equipment and bottling DO levels are in spec (below 20ppm) and have 6+ months shelf life.

It is About Doing Your Research

That’s the thing when Chinese brewing equipment you have to do your research. You need to get legitimate references from the manufacturer you are thinking about using.

This is becoming easier to do as more breweries around the world buy their brewing equipment in China. The legitimate Chinese equipment manufacturers will happily supply you with contacts who you can speak to who are using their equipment.

Chinese Fermentation Vessels
Chinese Fermentation Vessels

It doesn’t have to be a gamble anymore. Once you decide to go for Chinese brewing equipment be it a tank, brewhouse or filtration. You can soon narrow down your research to a few options just by talking to a few people after reaching out to the manufacturers themselves.

So for the centrifuge you can reach out to the manufacturer. Get more information on it check if it is up to the specifications you like. You ask for and speak to past buyers about the equipment even ask for videos if you can.

When Buying a Full Turnkey Chinese Brewery

For larger equipment purchases say a full turn key brewery it makes sense to visit the manufacturers. After you have have narrowed down your list of potential companies.

Chinese Larger Brewhouse
Chinese Larger Brewhouse

Many of the main brewing equipment manufacturers are based in one area around Jinan and it is quite easy to visit several in a few days and see their factories and equipment. You could easily spend a month in China and spend less than US$3,000. That’s not including your flights.

Then once you’ve decided on the manufacturer you can keep in close contact with the manufacturer. Then go see equipment again before it is shipped.

Even with two trips to China the price is still much cheaper for a full turn key brewery than buying elsewhere plus you know exactly what you’re getting before it is shipped.

There is one note of caution I’d like to add. You HAVE TO BE SPECIFIC about what you want with the brewery. You’d need to go over all aspects of the equipment and ask questions in details and make sure the Chinese manufacturer understands.

Chinese Brewhouse and Cellar Tanks
Chinese Brewhouse and Cellar Tanks

Now most brewers will do this wherever they buy their equipment from. Also the good brewing equipment manufacturers in China will supply PID and tank specification drawings to help make sure there isn’t any confusion.

So yes it can be safe to buy Chinese brewing equipment. End up with solid well made equipment that’ll prove a valuable investment.

Using a Service to Help Purchase Chinese Brewing Equipment

If you still want to buy equipment from China and are not sure you feel confident dealing with Chinese manufacturers directly. Then there are now companies in China that can help.

They are usually ex-brewers (from Europe and the US) who’ve spent many years in China and have built up a large network of contacts. So can help secure the brewery that fits your needs without dealing with the manufacturer directly.

Buying Chinese Brewing Equipment

They speak English and with their brewing experience understand your needs. They can go into technical detail which when dealing direct with the Chinese manufacturer maybe lost in translation.

Most of these companies will have a questionnaire to try and evaluate your needs. You can give them your budget and requirements such a predicted beer types and volumes and they do the heavy lifting for you.

They will source the equipment, often from more than one supplier for a full turnkey project. However make sure you’re aware of what’s going on every step of the way.

Will Using these Services Mean I Pay More?

Will the brewery you buy cost a little more? Yes it will but these bespoke services understand the culture and how to deal with the local manufacturers.

They understand your technical needs and speak “brewing” and will answer all your questions to put your mind at ease understanding buying a brewery is a stressful business.

Another Style of Chinese Brewhouse

To Sum Up About Buying Chinese Brewing Equipment

If you know exactly what you want, willing to do some research and follow-up to speak to previous buyers then you can get some great equipment in China.

If you aren’t confident in this approach and still want to buy brewing equipment from China. Then the option to use a service where ex-brewers based in China can help you every step of the way then is a good option.

If you have more questions about buying a Chinese brewing equipment then please feel free to contact us here at Asian Beer Network. We will try to answer any questions you have and are happy to help.

Just fill out the form below:

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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