Typical Questions When Ordering A Brewery

What are some typical questions when ordering a brewery? That’s our topic for discussion today, looking more closely at equipment needs. Brewhouses are all different, but certain questions can be applied to the majority of brewing projects. I thought it would be good to share some of these, with you today.

By this point we know the size of brewhouse needed, number of beers to brew, styles for the core range and what pack types will be used. It’s then a case of tailoring the equipment list to the particular needs of the project.

Typical Questions When Ordering A Brewery
70HL FV’s For The Brewery I Got Operational In Armenia

The questions listed below help me understand the particular needs of the project on a deeper level. So a tailored equipment list can be produced and shared with potential equipment manufactures. Allowing them to put initial quotes together.

Typical Questions When Ordering A Brewery – What Automation do you Need?

One of the first steps is deciding how much automation is required for the project. Automation costs money so depending on the overall budget, there could be need to prioritize a few key areas where you’ll get most “bang for you buck”.

Here are some of main areas where automation is used in craft beer brewing:

  • Control mash and sparge water temperature and volumes
  • Setting the wort collection temperature so it automatically adjusts itself on collection to FV.
  • Foam sensor to cut off of boil so avoiding boil overs and automatic temperature set for the brew kettle.
  • Control for rake speed and height
  • Inline flowmeter from the lauter to the kettle, with screen readout and volume set.
  • Mash tun temperature control and recipe input for automatic step mashing
  • Wort speed control from lauter to kettle

The above list are the key areas I highlight, when a clients ask about automation. They’ll help improve beer quality, brewhouse safety and are not so expensive. Depending on the budget, we can prioritize where automation is best used to fit a particular project needs.

Typical Questions When Ordering A Brewery – Controlling the Mash Temp

For the brewhouse itself, I’d recommend automatic controls to provide the ability to step-mash. Controlling the mash temperature will improve lauter run off plus, enables you to brew beers truer to style.

Do you want automatic valves or will a manifold suffice?

If you want hard piping and pneumatic valves to control the flow of liquid, be it wort or water it’ll prove costly. Stainless steel is expensive and you’ll need more lines to cover all routes.

The more cost effective option for those on a tighter budget is having a manifold. These are panels (like the one below) where you can direct liquid where needed. It means less hard piping and being manual means no need for expensive pneumatic valves.

Typical Questions When Ordering A Brewery - Brewhouse Manifold
Typical Brewhouse Manifold for Directing Liquid

Would a single 1 stage heat exchanger be sufficient? Rather than a two-stage exchanger

Most Chinese equipment manufacturers offer two stage heat exchangers. These use mains water and glycol to chill wort going to FV. I prefer to use a one stage heat exchanger and have a cold-liquor-tank (CLT), full of cold water.

When you have a tank of cold water, it can be used to chill the wort via the heat exchanger. The cold water is now hot (taken the heat “away” from the hot wort from the brew kettle) and is collected back in your hot liquor tank.

Brewing Process Step-By-Step - Brewhouse
Diagram I made for a client to show typical brewhouse operations

It means you have a lot of ready made hot water which is great for back-to-back brewing. Furthermore, it takes the pressure of the glycol system as it’s not having to “flash cool” your wort.

Typical Questions When Ordering A Brewery – Would You Consider a Larger Hot Water Tank?

As I have said in previous articles, having a hot water tanks 25 to 33% bigger will not break the bank. It’ll cost maybe 10% – 15% more.

Sizing your hot water tank 2.5 times your brew length is a good ratio. For example if you have a 1,000 liter brewery, then get a 2,500 liter hot liquor tank. It’ll ensure you have enough hot water for all your cleaning needs and for back-to-back brewing.

What type of beer will you mainly be doing? Why we lock in beer styles…

If you’re doing lager, a larger cold-water tank maybe needed. This is due to the fact lagers ferment at colder temperatures than ales. So you need more cold water to get to the lower temperatures.

If you’re doing many heavy hopped beers, whirlpool design may need modifying. When you’ve bigger hop loads having a two inline hop filters side by side is advisable. If one gets clogged you can switch to the other filter with no down time.

Also if those beers a high in abv, then you’ll need a bigger mash and/or lauter ton for the increased grain bill.

If you’re mostly brewing lagers, then having horizontal maturation vessels, a bigger cold water tank and at least one dedicated brite beer tank would help make the brewery more efficient.

Do you want inline flowmeters?

Having inline flowmeters allows you to

  • Be more consistent brew-to-brew
  • Have more data points for dialing in brew and recipes
  • More accurately see where beer losses are giving you information to make improvements
  • If you run a shift system handover during brew days becomes easier
Typical Questions When Ordering A Brewery - Flow Meter
Flowmeter for Beer Volumes

Knowing how much went into the kettle and what is collected to FV, gives data points to workout the boil off rate. You lose wort volume when using hops and during wort cooling. Flowmeters are the easiest way to track wort volume through the brew day.

Typical Questions When Ordering A Brewery – Conclusions

There are so many variables to consider when putting a brewery project together. You need to be methodical in your planning. So after I’ve asked my initial starting a brewery questions, covering the above issues in follow-up discussions allows us to begin putting an equipment list together.

Every project has a budget so, asking these typical questions when ordering a brewery allows me to understand where the money is best spent to fulfill the needs of the project.

If you need some assistance putting your brewery equipment list together, then please feel free to contact me. My email address is:


Or you can scan the QR code of your preferred network below and directly message me there. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

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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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