In today’s article we ask “what equipment do I need to start a brewery?” looking at costs too. As a brewing consultant I get asked about this subject a lot. So, I thought why not put it into an article; and do a deeper dive myself.
They are a growing number of homebrewers worldwide and some of them are looking to turn their hobby in a to a full-time business. Other people see successful craft breweries and want to get in on the action themselves.
Whatever you reason for starting a brewery one of the big questions to answer is what equipment do I need to start a brewery and how much is it going to cost me?
In a previous article called; how to start a brewery, we looked in depth at what steps need to be taken to get into the brewing business. This is a continuation of that and a look into the financials.
Brewing Isn’t Cheap
We need to point out first that brewing requires a significant capital outlay before you can brew beer. We are going to concentrate on the equipment for today and it doesn’t come cheap. If you want to have your own brewery it is a major commitment.
However, the cost of equipment varies widely depending on your circumstances such as:
- The size of the brewery
- Do you buy used or new?
- If you buy new where you buy it from
- What style of beers you plan to make?
- What level of automation to you want?
Before we look at specific equipment, I would like to bring up the first point above…the size of your brewery. As a professional brewer with 25 years’ experience I have some thoughts on the subject.
Please note we will use hectoliters (HL) in this article.
1 hectoliter = 100 liters => 10HL = 1,000L
What Equipment Do I Need to Start a Brewery? The Size of your Brewery
All breweries are dependent on outside criteria such as budget, floor space, your market and even local regulations. However, when it comes opening a brewery small isn’t always beautiful. If you start too small, you’ll find it hard later to expand your operations.
Yes, I know budget is a constraint but a 5HL brewery isn’t half the price of a 10HL brewery. The cost of brewing equipment isn’t linear.
A very simplistic take is when buying equipment comparing 5HL to 10HL; is you’re simply buying the same equipment but more stainless steel for bigger tanks.
The amount of times I’ve heard brewers say “I wish we went bigger when we first started”. They find that they soon reach their brewery capacity and if you have a 5HL system it is hard to increase volumes easily.
What is a good starting size for a brewery?
A lot of breweries start with 5HL tanks and a mixture of 5 and 10HL fermentation vessels. If you’re in a brewpub with not too much seating this may suffice. However, 1000L of your biggest selling beer with losses through production may give you 30 x 30L kegs.
If you sell 5 x 30L (150L) kegs a day; that’s a brew finished in 6 days. A quick beer to brew such as a wheat may have a 10-day turnaround time. You will be selling it quicker than you can brew it.
The optimum capacity for a brewhouse on start-up has many variances but most professional breweries would say a minimum of 10HL. This will allow you to brew 20HL easily in one day (double brew days).
If you work with your manufacturers; they can help to figure out a floor plan and layout to make bigger tanks work.
This means for your biggest selling beers you will get around 1800-1900 of sellable beer per batch (less for a heavily hopped IPA). You can still have half brews of 500L to some dedicated tanks for niche beers that you know will not sell in big quantity.
Anyway, this is a tangent from the main article. However, I wanted to point out a factor that a lot of people overlook when they think about setting up a brewery.
Read our guide Sizing a Microbrewery to get more assistant on how big to start.
What Equipment do I need to Start a Brewery?
The first place to start is your brewhouse. It’s where you will make the sugar that the yeast will turn into alcohol. A brewery can be a 2,3,4 or even 5 vessel system. It will have a mash mixer, lauter tun, brew kettle and whirlpool.
- The mash tun is where you mix the water and malt that will turn starch into sugar
- A lauter tun is the vessel where you transfer you sugar liquid (wort) from; going to the brew kettle leaving the malt behind.
- The brew kettle is where you boil your liquid, sterilizing it, there is a color change and also where you add the hops that give you beer bitterness.
- A whirlpool is a vessel where you create centrifugal forces to create a cone of matter to be left behind when you collect your wort to the fermentation vessel.
The most common choice is a 3-vessel system. You will have a combined mash/tun later and a brew kettle and whirlpool. The other option is a mash mixer, lauter tun and combined brew kettle and whirlpool.
In my experience if you have a combined mash mixer/lauter tun with separate brew kettle and whirlpool it provides a quicker brew day.
When it comes to price there a number of factors as we said before. However, as I am based in China and know the market here well. I will use figures from my past installations to show costings for a brewery.
Cost of a Brewhouse
If you were to buy a 3-vesseel 10HL brewhouse from Jinan, China with mash/tun lauter tun, brew kettle and whirlpool you could pay around US22,000 for the brewhouse itself. This would depend on supplier and having little automation.
In Europe or the US, the price could be around US$70,000 minimum for something similar and more if you wanted some automation. Look at the prices below of SS Brewtech equipment from the US.
In this article I will price out the equipment as if buying from Jinan, China. Many breweries around the world are buying equipment from here.
You can read more about this in another article I have written where we compare the two main brewing equipment manufacturing regions in China that are Jinan and Ningbo.
What Equipment Do I Need to Start a Brewery? Hot Water Tank
The hot water tank stores the hot water used for “mashing in”. Mashing in is where you mix hot water and malt to make a porridge that will convert the starch in the malt to sugar. The hot water tank will be a minimum of two times the volume of your brewhouse.
So, you if you have a 10HL brewhouse your hot water tank will be at least 20HL; most likely more. This is to allow you to brew twice in one day and also have hot water for cleaning after the brew day.
The price for a hot water tank and pump for a 10HL would be around US$5,500 from Jinan in China. In the West you are looking at close to US$17,500 for something similar.
A malt mill is for crushing the malt to be able to access the starch in the grain so it can be converted to sugar in the mash. They are simple devices with rollers that crush the malt as it passes through.
They can be 2 or 3 rollers; with the latter being able to give a more even crush for a 10HL system you want a mill that can do around 300-350Kg per hour.
From Jinan you can expect to pay around US$1,400 for a mill.
A heat exchanger is where you cool down the wort from 100C to 12-25C from the whirlpool or kettle to the fermentation vessels. This allows you to add the yeast for the fermentation. As you can see below it is a small bit of kit but is very important to the brewery.
They can vary in price with Alfa Laval being one the world leaders in the heat exchange technology. From Jinan you can expect to pay US$2,200 for a heat exchanger for a 10HL system.
When brewing you need a lot of hot water and to be able to boil the wort in the kettle. This means you need a heating system. The option is electric or steam. For a larger brewery anything over 7HL steam is always the better option.
Steam is cheaper and also gives a more even heat source. With electric you can caramelize the wort close to the heating elements which isn’t a good thing in most instances.
For electric steam heating for a 10HL brew system you would look to pay around US$4,750.
Fermentation vessels (FV) are the tanks where you ferment the beer. These days most breweries have uni-tanks. These tanks are for the fermentation and maturation of the beer.
You ferment the beer, then cool it to drop the yeast to the bottom of the tank. Then dump or save the excess yeast for the next brew.
The beer is stored in the tank until it’s ready with a little bit of yeast still in suspension. For ale it may be a few days or for lager it can be 28 days. Lager is the German word to store.
From Jinan a 10HL FV is around US$4,000 with a 20HL FV around US5,500 (as I say the price for larger sizes isn’t linear).
OK let’ say 5 x 10HL FV’s and 3 x 20HL FV’s you would pay $36,500.
Bright Beer Tanks (BBT’s)
A brighter beer tank is for the clear beer to be sent to after fermentation. It’s the tank where you package the beer from. You can clear the beer a number of ways from fining, filtering or with a centrifuge.
A 10HL bright beer tank would be around be around US$3,500 with two needed for your 20HL double brews.
Glycol System for Beer Cooling
When you brew beer, temperatures are very important. The way you control temperature is with a glycol system. This is a tank of cold glycol that has its own pipe work to pump cold glycol (around -3 to 4C) to where it is needed.
So, for example FV’s have a “false Jacket” they have an inner tank wall and a cavity that has houses insulation and also glycol pipework.
The glycol goes through this pipework and can cool the FV down when it gets hotter during fermentation. The glycol doesn’t come into contact with the beer as it is inside the glycol pipework between the FV inner and outer walls.
For your system you need a glycol tank, pipework and a pump. The price for a system able to cope with a 10HL brewhouse and 130HL of cellar tanks (FV’s and BBT) would be a 12HP chiller unit, glycol tank and pump costing altogether around US$10,500 from Jinan.
Cold Water Tank
The water from a cold-water tank is used by the heat exchanger to cool the wort down on the way to the FV’s. The reason I put it last of the main equipment list is because it is optional. It’ss possible to use city water and your glycol system instead.
However, I quite like having a cold-water tank. It takes pressure of your glycol system somewhat and also from cold water you make hot water after the heat exchanger. This gives you water to clean and for the second brew of a double brew day.
I always recommend clients go with the cold-water tank option but it’s a personal preference. From Jinan for a 10HL system and double brew days look to pay around US$5,500 the same as your hot water tank.
Most breweries need a keg cleaner. They can semi-automatically clean kegs saving you time. The more actions you need them to do the more they cost. For a semi-automatic keg cleaner that is suitable for a 10HL brewery look to pay around US$6,500.
What Equipment Do I Need to Start Brewery? Auxiliary Equipment
There are some other pieces of equipment you will need that don’t warrant their own section. So, I will put them together
CIP Cart (US$2,500) – This is for cleaning FV’s and BBT’s after they are empty and dirty. They hold you cleaning chemicals and allow you to reuse said chemicals.
Movable pump (US$1000) – Also used for cleaning FV’s and BBT’s as well as transferring beer from FV to BBT.
Yeast Brink (US$500) – For storing yeast that you can reuse from fermentation to fermentation.
Hose (US$1500) – You need beer hose to transfer beer from one tank to another as well as for cleaning tanks. It should be food grade, anti-vacuum and be able to deal with temperatures above 100C.
Control panels – you will need control panels to regulate FV temperatures and brewhouse. For both panels look to pay around US$3,250.
Cables and piping – You need piping for hooking up your FV cooling and other stuff. You also need cables for the electrics. This is for control systems for the brewhouse and FV’s. Look to pay around US$1,750 for this equipment.
What Equipment do I need to Start a Brewery? A Conclusion
So, when you add it all up:
That’s $US 90,350 for all the main equipment you need to brew. Do remember the SS Brewtech system prices for a 10-barrel system (12HL).
The starting price was $76,295 starting price. That is just for the brewhouse itself! The price of $90,350 from Jinan is for all the equipment you need.
->This isn’t the cheapest price you could get; but an average of what you’d pay from Jinan.
So, there you have it, an answer to “What Equipment do I need to Start a Brewery”. I hope this breakdown helped; if you need more information or assistance sourcing equipment from China then I am happy to help.
Need Help With Your Brewing Project?
I am 25-year brewing veteran and have worked in a number of countries but now call China home. I am brewing consultant helping breweries source and/or install equipment.
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Thanks for taking the time to read my article and have a great day.