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How to choose the right beer equipment for you?

Views: 6     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2022-09-06      Origin: Site

Vessels needed for brewing

Commercial brewing requires several different types of big vessels made of stainless steel. First, the water gets heated in a dedicated vessel called the Hot Liquor Tank (“liquor” is referring to the technical term for any liquid used in a process of some kind, not the liquid that gets you drunk).

The hot water is then transferred to a vessel known as the Mash/Lauter Tun where it saturates milled grain to extract the delicious sugars and flavors.

After a little while, the carbohydrate-rich water is transferred to the Boil Kettle right next to the mash tun where it is brought to boiling temperature by steam or electric elements. Hops (and other special ingredients depending on the recipe) are added during the boil. Once that is completed, the boil kettle becomes a Whirlpool tank, forcing the water into a vortex that separates it from the larger particles in the solution (like large clusters of hops).

The Boil Kettle/Whirlpool and the Mash/Lauter Tun are usually right next to each other with a platform and stairs between them so the brewer can visually monitor the process and add ingredients. Collectively, they’re referred to as the Brewhouse. As breweries expand (reach the limit of beer that can be produced from the brewhouse in a 24 hour period), they will often add a third vessel for a dedicated whirlpool (and then a fourth vessel for dedicated lauter). This increases the churn rate and increases labor efficiency so more beer can be produced each day.

The hot liquid is then cooled and transferred to a Fermentation tank where yeast is added and the magic of transforming sugars to alcohol begins for several days to a few weeks. Then the fermentation process is stopped and beer is transferred to a Brite Tank where it is cooled even further to allow remaining particles in the beer to fall to the bottom of the tank. Once finished, the beer can be kegged or bottled/canned for serving.


DEGONG brewhouse and hot liquid tank

Sizing Considerations

Most start-up microbreweries size their brewhouse at 10-30 barrels and have equivalent-sized fermenters/brite tanks.

Sizing the brewhouse is a balancing act for a new brewery that can’t be sure of sales and growth. Starting too big will place a strain on initial expenditures as well as make a bad batch of beer a costly mistake. Starting too small will make it difficult to catch up with demand and increases the cost of ingredients per batch since smaller systems utilize hops at lower efficiency. Many brewers will tell you that doubling the size of your system is much less than double the cost. This is usually true, however, that alone is not a good reason for buying a bigger system.

Consider the amount of physical space available in the brewery. If there isn’t much room to add additional fermenting and brite tanks in the future, starting with a large brewing system isn’t wise. It’s also important to consider the clear height of the ceiling compared to the diagonal height of the fermenting/brite vessels. These are the tallest vessels. Unless your space has a tall dock door, these tanks need adequate ceiling height to be tilted up to standing within the space. Large breweries will often create an opening in the ceiling to drop in these tanks.

Consider starting with a smaller brewhouse with room to add a dedicated whirlpool in the future. Then size the fermenters/brite tanks at double the size of the brewhouse. The tanks can be half filled when business is slow and filled completely with double batches from the brewhouse when demand increases. This allows the brewery to double their capacity with only about 30% higher initial cost compared to having to purchase additional tanks (which would be 100% additional cost).

Number of Vessels

A general rule of thumb is to purchase the number of fermenters and brite tanks needed to take you through the first 2-3 years of production. You can calculate the approximate maximum annual capacity of a fermenter using these metrics:

Daily fermenting volume available = # vessels * volume of vessel

Turns per year = # of brew days per year / days to ferment average beer

Annual capacity = fermenting volume * turns per year

A way to simplify this is to assume 80% ale production (shorter fermentation time), 20% lager production (longer fermentation time) and 50 weeks of brewing (assumes some vacation and/or maintenance time):

Annual capacity = fermenting volume * 42

This also assumes that you have sufficient number of brite tanks to rotate beers this quickly.

If you plan to have a lot of different beers on tap at any given time, consider starting with the same ratio of brite to fermenting vessels.

Brewhouse Heat Source

  • Electric: Large heating elements are placed inside the kettle just like a residential electric water heater.

Pros: less expensive than steam; very efficient energy utilization

Cons: electricity sometimes more expensive than gas; needs 3-phase heavy power; not for use on systems larger than 10 barrels

  • Steam: This is the industry standard for brewing systems sized 10 barrels and up. A separate boiler heats water with gas flame to create steam that is circulated through an insulated steel jacket around the kettle.

Pros: fairly efficient; heats quickly

Cons: most expensive; requires separate costly boiler; boiler maintenance

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