I’m seeing a lot of debate online, over the whole “serving tanks cold room or jacketed” argument. It seems brewers are split as to which option is better.
So, today I wanted to present the advantages of both, in a single article for people to reference. Allowing people to make up their own minds. We’ll explore the different choices; taking a look at serving tanks in cold rooms first.
Serving Tanks in Cold Rooms
When you’ve serving tanks in the cold room, they are single shell tanks. Please note, all the tanks will be the same temperature as they’re kept in the same room. From there the beer is drawn direct from the bottom of the tank, to the taps at the bar.
In most brewpubs, the tanks are around the outside of the cold room, with the raw materials like hops and yeast stored in the middle for easier access.
So, what are some of the advantages keeping the tanks in the cold room rather than having jacketed vessels?
Advantages of Serving Tanks in The Cold Room
As tanks in the cold room are cooled by the air around them, they are single walled. Single walled tanks are much cheaper to buy than jacketed vessels because they require less engineering and material to make.
Serve the Whole Tank of Beer
With jacketed serving tanks, often the jackets don’t cover the whole tank. Therefore, when the beer level gets below the bottom jacket it’s no longer being chilled
This can lead to warmer beer and foaming issues when pouring pints. However, with serving tanks in a cold room, the beer is kept cold to the bottom of the tank, therefore no pouring issues.
Can be Multipurpose
If for some reason you find yourself jammed up for tank space. A serving tank in the cold room can be used as an emergency brite beer tank if needed.
Disadvantages of Having Serving Tanks in A Cold Room
All the tanks will be at the same temperature in the cold room. This isn’t ideal, as you might want some beer, say an imperial stout served warmer. If all the tanks are in a cold room, that’s not an option. With a jacketed serving tank, the set temperature is adjustable.
Cleaning the Tank
There are several issues here including:
1. When you CIP a tank to clean it, you usually use hot caustic as part of the process. The ideal working temperature for 2% caustic is 70°C. In a cold room it’s hard to maintain that temperature.
2. If you do a hot CIP the tank in the cold room, it can raise the ambient temperature. However, special chemicals which are effective at lower temperatures are available. However, they maybe more expensive, plus means you’ll need to carry another chemical in your brewery.
3. With all brewery’s, drainage is important. Drainage is a cold room is probably not great making CIP’s harder work.
4. Also it’s cold, some brewers don’t like working in cold conditions…I certainly don’t!
In some breweries, cooler space is a premium, and serving tanks take up room. Furthermore, cold room efficiencies are reduced, the bigger they are. Then factor in serving tanks are often half empty, thus your losing mass to help maintain cold room efficiency.
Conclusions for Serving Tanks in a Cold Room
The upfront costs for single wall serving tanks are less than those of a jacketed tank. However, do they make sense financially?
We ask because, the chilling capabilities of cold air is less than that of using a cooling liquid in jacketed tanks. So, keeping serving tanks in cold room cost more to run.
However, let’s take a look at jacketed tanks first, before we jump to conclusions.
Jacketed Serving Tanks – Serving Tanks Cold Room or Jacketed
Jacketed tanks are double walled, having a cooling coil between shells, which holds cold glycol, to chill the beer on demand. The cooling is turned on and off automatically by a solenoid connected to a control panel.
These tanks are in a normal room and all tanks are controlled individually. So, they can be set at different temperatures.
Advantages of Jacketed Serving Tanks
Individual Temperature Set
Having the ability to set the temperature of the tanks individually, allows different beers to be set to the desired temperature to serve true to style.
More Efficient Chilling
Using glycol, the heat transfer efficiency is higher than cooling with cold air. It means you’ll use less power plus; cooling will be quicker as well. Also, you’re cooling is more directed, chilling the tank itself, rather than the air around the tank too.
Easier to Clean
You can run your normal tank CIP protocols on a jacketed serving tank. So, able to use hot caustic without any issues. You also have more room to work in, and have proper drainage. Furthermore, not working in the cold is a bonus too.
Jacketed serving tanks are truly multipurpose, they can be used a brite tanks too. The fact the temperatures of the tank can be lower than those in a cold room make them better brite beer tanks as well.
Also, in a real pinch you could potentially ferment beer in them. Although such a scenario is less than ideal. Overall, as you grow this flexibility might prove more valuable.
Disadvantages of Having Jacketed Serving Tanks
The Whole Tank Is Not Chilled
Unfortunately most of these serving tank aren’t jacketed all the way to the bottom. Meaning below a certain level the beer is no longer chilled.
However this issue is often mitigated because brewers will usually keg off a beer near the end so, the tank can be re-filled.
As we explained previously, double jacketed serving tanks are more expensive in upfront costs. Although, over time, they might be more economical due to other efficiencies explained earlier. Thus, being the cheaper option over the life of the tank.
Jacketed Serving Tanks Conclusions
The upfront costs of jacketed tanks are much higher, but over time they’ll most likely pay themselves back with lower ongoing costs. Then there’s the fact, you can use your regular CIP protocols when cleaning these tanks which appeals too.
So, we’ve made the case for both tank types. When choosing serving tanks cold room or jacketed, it depends on the individual needs of the brewery.
If you’re under 3 barrels, I’d actually choose to keg and have a cold room to store those. Total volume is low, requiring a small number of kegs so, cleaning them will take as much time as a tank CIP.
When you’ve tanks over 10 barrels, I would choose jacketed serving tanks. As the size is larger, it means the cold room must be bigger.
The bigger your cold room, the less efficient it will be. You’ll have a lot of empty tank space too.
It’s between the 3- and 10-barrel range where you’ve an option for both. If you’re looking at less than say 150 sq. ft. for all your tanks, then the cost savings and single wall tanks might prove beneficial.
However, when a larger cold room is required, needing industrial sized cold storage the cost starts to become prohibitive. Overall, I like having jacketed serving tanks myself, as there’s more flexibility for tank use plus the ease of cleaning is a big plus point for me.
However, I appreciate this isn’t the same for everyone. So, if you’ve a different opinion or any feedback I’d love to hear from you. Therefore, please feel free to comment below and add to the conversation.
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