Making the Choice: Bright Tank or Unitank?

Making the Choice: Bright Tank or Unitank?

There are numerous intricate details in the beer brewing process, and each detail has an impact on the final beer quality. Which hops should you use? How long should they be kept in the wort? What materials do you plan to use for your brewery equipment? One particular issue arises at the end of the brewing process when the beer is fermenting or needs to mature. This raises the question of where to store it, which leads to a debate between using a unitank or a bright tank. Which one should you choose for your brewery? Us is here to solve this problem.

In addition, people may refer to unitanks by different names. There is a client from Ying who calls them DPV (dual-purpose vessels). Although we have been in the brewery equipment industry for 15 years, we have never heard this term before. Bright Tank VS Unitank

Description of the three tanks

When ordering equipment, the main debate about cellar equipment is: what type of container does your brewery need, and how many containers are needed. Let’s first understand the three types of tanks in cellar equipment:

Fermentation tank (FV): FV is where you ferment the wort (sugar) into alcohol. Usually, there is some residual sugar after fermentation. Additionally, carbon dioxide is a by-product of the fermentation process.

Bright tank (maturation container): In the traditional German beer brewing process, the beer that has undergone primary fermentation and has been cooled to 32-39.2°F (0-4°C) is transferred to a separate container for maturation. This container is called the bright tank. Maturation usually takes around 28 days, allowing proteins and polyphenols that cause turbidity to settle and form a clear layer on the bottom of the bright tank. Over time, the beer becomes smoother and the taste more delicate. The bright tank can also be used as a serving tank.

Unitank: Unitanks are an extension of fermentation tanks that include a carbonation stone, allowing the beer to be aerated before packaging. This enables the fermentation, maturation, clarification, and carbonation of beer to take place in a single tank.

Advantages of Unitank

1. Simple: Combining fermentation and maturation steps simplifies the brewing process by eliminating one step. This means fewer equipment purchases, saving the brewery’s capital and space. It also saves workers’ time and labor since they don’t have to move beer from one tank to another, and they can dispense beer directly from the unitank.

2. Reduce pollution risk: Each time beer is transferred, it is exposed to air, potentially introducing dissolved oxygen. Even with the use of sanitary beer pumps, oxygen can still enter the beer in large breweries. This becomes a significant problem if you plan to package and distribute beer to bars. Additionally, the beer may be exposed to other contaminants such as microorganisms. While these organisms do not directly spoil the beer, they can affect its flavor negatively. The use of a unitank reduces the risk of contamination.

3. Flexibility: With appropriate scheduling, you can produce more beer styles using fewer tanks. You can also plan to add special bright tanks in the future to ensure the ability to produce high-quality beer during emergencies.

Disadvantages of Unitank

1. Beer is not clear: If you want to brew clear beer, carbonation through a carbonation stone may present challenges. The use of carbonation stones can agitate the yeast and hops, leading to unclear beer.

2. More impurities: Since fermentation and maturation occur in one tank, sediment, proteins, and yeast can stick to the sides of the container and potentially fall back into the beer, affecting its flavor.

3. Higher cost: Unitanks are more expensive than beer fermentation tanks of the same size and also occupy more space. Bright tanks are usually angled at 5°, requiring less space per volume compared to unitanks. If you transfer the beer to a separate bright tank for maturation, it significantly reduces capital investment since you only need one bright tank to meet your production needs.

Advantages of Bright tank

1. Greater beer production: Some breweries produce large quantities of beer and divide brewing and packaging into separate operations. Brite tanks are suitable for such scenarios as they allow more fermenters to be available simultaneously. Additionally, brite tanks have larger capacities, making them ideal for larger beer outputs.

2. Improved clarity: Bright tanks, also known as “Brite tanks,” produce crystal clear beer. When beer is transferred from the fermentation tank to the bright tank, the yeast is filtered out, resulting in a clearer beer. This additional layer of filtration enhances the desired beer style, preferred by certain breweries.

3. Budget savings: If your brewery needs to convert several fermentation tanks into unitanks, the cost would be much higher compared to purchasing a bright tank.

Disadvantages of Bright tank

1. Takes up space: Using bright tanks for beer maturation requires an additional large tank (typically with double the capacity of the fermentation tank). This may not be the best choice for a brewpub on a tight budget. However, if conditions allow, equipping a bright tank is worth considering.

2. Increased pollution risk: As mentioned earlier, transferring beer from the fermentation tank to the bright tank carries a risk of contamination and oxidation, which can lead to subtle changes in beer flavor.

How to choose?

When to Choose a Unitank: Unitanks are the perfect choice for microbreweries or brewpubs with limited space, producing fewer barrels of beer, and focusing more on serving brews directly. Unitanks work well in these contexts since they save space and labor without affecting the productivity of a separate packaging team.

When to Choose a Bright Tank: Brite tanks are better suited for larger-scale productions, especially those that rely heavily on packaging and shipping their products. Brite tanks allow you to keep more fermenters available at a time and, due to their larger capacity, enable larger beer outputs. If you’re brewing more barrels than a microbrewery, considering a brite tank may be a good idea. Every brewer has their own opinion on this matter. However, Us engineers tend to recommend having a bright tank in your brewery regardless of the beer style you brew. The reasons are as follows:

  • You can store stubborn beers that are difficult to clean in a bright tank for maturation and preservation.
  • If you’re adding adjuncts to beer, it’s preferable to transfer it to a bright tank before packaging. This ensures proper homogenous mixing and makes it easier to monitor CO2 and gas levels if needed.
  • You’ll know the exact volume of beer available for packaging.
  • If you’re in a rush and need a tank for brewing, transferring beer to a bright tank frees up a unitank for the brewing process. Additionally, if you’re running low on beer, you can quickly clear one and have it ready in time (though this is not ideal).

These opinions are based on years of experience. If you have other opinions, we would be more than happy to listen to your suggestions.

Get a turnkey solution for craft breweries: If you’re ready to open a craft brewery, you can contact us. Us engineers will provide you with a list of craft brewery equipment and prices. We can also offer professional turnkey brewery solutions, giving you more time to focus on brewing delicious beer. We look forward to collaborating with you, my friend!

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