Brew house pumps are the unsung heroes of the brewery, silently working their magic…until they decide to call it quits! Although the types, sizes, and quantities may vary, their primary function is to transfer liquid. A typical brewery will have at least two pumps, but sometimes three or four.
The first pump is responsible for transferring heated water from the HLT (Hot Liquor Tank), which can be filled directly from the water source, to the mash tun.
The second pump, known as the wort pump, is used to recirculate the wort and transfer it to the kettle. Since recirculation and lautering processes don’t occur simultaneously, this pump can multitask.
The third pump, the dedicated kettle pump, is used specifically during the whirlpool stage to recirculate the wort. Most likely, all of these pumps are centrifugal pumps, designed to handle hot water and sticky wort efficiently, especially when paired with the correct pump head design. Additionally, their pumping speed can be adjusted using a variable frequency drive (VFD).
In some cases, a sparging pump is included in the system. It uses a peristaltic action (as opposed to a centrifugal action) to push water through the sparge arm. Peristaltic pumps offer the advantage of positive displacement, meaning that each revolution of the roller corresponds to a precise volume of liquid. This allows for precise control over the amount of sparging water used, helping to achieve the desired pre-boil volume and gravity. Another peristaltic pump is used to transfer wort from the mash tun to the kettle, ensuring a continuous flow to maintain the liquid level above the grain bed throughout the lautering process. While peristaltic pumps are reliable, centrifugal pumps paired with flow meters can achieve the same results with greater flexibility and lower maintenance.
The last type of pump you may encounter is the diaphragm pump. Unlike the electrically powered pumps mentioned above, diaphragm pumps are operated with air. These pumps are commonly used in distilleries where explosion-proof equipment is required but can also be used in a brewery for transferring grains from a mash tun to either a dedicated lauter tun or a filter press.