If you have a genuine passion for homebrewing and are considering starting your own business, I can provide an overview of how to begin with your own microbrewery.
There are two types: brewpubs and microbreweries. A brewpub is smaller, typically ranging from 3-7 barrels (1 US barrel equals 31 gallons). A microbrewery, on the other hand, is larger, usually starting from 10 barrels and going up to 30 barrels or more. The barrelage is determined by the brew kettle, which refers to the amount of wort produced in one batch.
Microbrewery Equipment List
1) Grain mill
If you decide to purchase a grain mill, a three-roller mill is the best option, although it is more expensive. The malt husk of the grain needs to be evenly split and mostly intact in order to effectively filter the mash during the sparge process. Using a mill with three rollers will yield the best results.
You can choose to buy pre-milled malt or crack your own for freshness and cost savings. Investing in a grain mill is worthwhile and will save you money in the long run. Additionally, you can consider adding an auger to directly transfer the malt into the mash tun, which will ultimately save labor.
2) Mashing system
Your primary piece of equipment for the mashing system is a mash/lauter tun, which is a tank or vessel. In this vessel, you will mash your malt and extract sugar from the raw grain. It also serves as a lauter (washing) vessel. After mashing, you will run a specific amount of water through the mash to reach the desired wort volume.
You will also need an electric stainless-steel pump for transferring liquids. For heating the kettle, you can use an electric or a steam boiler. The kettle serves as a large pot for boiling and is typically vented through the ceiling, with steam being the more efficient option.
A hot liquor tank is recommended for bulk hot water heating. Although it is not necessary, it plays a crucial role in heating water for mashing and provides water for cleaning the equipment. Brewers often use hot caustic washes to clean the inside of tanks.
A cold liquor tank is useful but considered a luxury. It is used to store cold water exclusively for cooling the wort after boiling.
ACE mill machine and mashing system
3) Heat exchanger
Your brewhouse pump will transfer the raw wort through a heat exchanger. This device consists of layered plates and has a block-like shape. One side of the heat exchanger receives 200°F wort, while the other side receives 40°F (or ambient temperature) water. This counterflow process cools the wort in approximately 30-40 minutes. Having a cold liquor tank is advantageous in this process.
Double-bank heat exchangers are the most effective as they chill the incoming water with glycol, potentially eliminating the need for a cold liquor tank.
4) Fermentation system
Fermenters are vessels where the raw wort transforms into beer. As shown in the photo, they are cylindroconical in shape and have a cone with an angle of 45-60°. This cone facilitates the settling of solids such as dead yeast, proteins, hops, and healthy yeast once fermentation is complete. This process effectively clarifies the beer.
Fermentation is a time-consuming aspect of brewing. It typically lasts 7-14 days for ales and 21-35 days for lagers. It is essential to have sufficient fermentation equipment set up and ready to store and monitor the progress of your beer.
5) Brite tanks
Brite tanks are used for storage, conditioning, carbonation, and packaging of beer. They have dish-shaped bottoms and sight glasses (thin glass tubes running vertically on the tank). Additionally, they have ports for a carbonation stone and sample cocks (small spigots) to measure CO2 volumes.
Brite tanks are less expensive than fermenters as they have single-walled dish bottoms, which are easier to manufacture than cones. Brewpubs often serve beer directly from brite tanks. In this case, taxes are based on the volume in the tank. Production brewers, however, pay taxes based on what is packaged, whether it’s in steel, bottles, or glass containers.
ACE fermentation tanks and brite tanks
6) Cooling system
Beer tanks are equipped with cooling jackets and are made of double-walled stainless steel. These tanks are insulated and have large sections for coolant circulation, typically using propylene glycol.
A glycol chiller consists of a large reservoir and a refrigeration compressor. It maintains the glycol at 28-30°F. By circulating glycol through the fermenter or brite tank jackets, the beer is cooled and prepared for packaging or aging. Glycol chilling stabilizes the beer, inhibits bacterial growth, and prepares it for sale.
7) Valves and Hoses
You will need at least 100 feet of 1.5 – 2-inch Brewers and Vintners sanitary transfer hose. The cost depends on quality and fittings. The sanitary fittings for the ends of the hose will need to be purchased separately.
In addition, you will require 200 feet of ⅜-inch ID braided reinforced gas hose. This is needed for cellaring purposes and to supply CO2 and O2 to various parts of the brewery.
Your equipment usually comes with various types of valves such as butterfly, ball, pressure valves, and others. It’s advisable to have extra valves on hand.
8) CIP system
You will need a portable clean-in-place (CIP) tank, which can house your sanitation solutions, caustic washes (alkaline cleaner for organic materials), and acid washes (mainly for removing mineral build-up). The CIP tank may come with a built-in circulation pump or can be paired with a portable pump.
While you can use the vessels themselves as reservoirs, having a portable CIP tank streamlines the process. With the CIP system and pumps, you can sanitize all your production equipment as well as empty tanks, enabling you to run multiple processes simultaneously, such as racking, filtering, and wort production.
Without the appropriate sanitation equipment and chemicals, it is not advisable to start brewing a new batch of beer in your facility.
ACE CIP system
9) Control system
You will need temperature controls for your beer tanks. Depending on the level of automation in your brewhouse, you might also have a centralized control panel.
A main control panel mounted directly on the tanks is optional. Brewhouse switches can be operated manually depending on your budget and brewery priorities. Control panels also serve as safety measures to halt production and prevent accidents in your facility.