Craft beer is gaining popularity worldwide, and many brewers aspire to start their own brewing business and turn their brewing dreams into reality. However, establishing a craft brewery is a complex endeavor that requires the right equipment, knowledge, and space to operate effectively.
Choosing the best craft beer production equipment can be challenging as there are numerous manufacturers in the market. To help you make an informed decision, our engineers will guide you on how to select a reliable beer equipment manufacturer based on the following factors.
Containers needed for brewing
Commercial brewing necessitates various large stainless steel vessels. Firstly, a specialized container known as a hot liquor tank is used to heat the water (referred to as “liquor” in brewing) for the brewing process. The heated water is then transferred to a vessel called a Mash/Lauter Tun, where it mixes with crushed grains to extract sugars and flavors.
Afterward, the carbohydrate-rich liquid is transferred to a boiling pot adjacent to the Mash/Lauter tun. It is heated to boiling point using gas burners, indirect burners, steam, or electrical components. Hops are added during the boiling process. Once completed, the boiling kettle creates a vortex that separates water from larger particles in the solution.
The Boil Kettle/Whirlpool and Mash/Lauter Tun are usually positioned side by side with a platform and stairs in between, allowing brewers to observe the process and add ingredients. This area is referred to as the Brewhouse. As breweries expand, they often add a third container for a dedicated whirlpool, resulting in increased efficiency and capacity.
The hot liquid is then cooled and transferred to a fermentation vessel, where yeast is added to initiate the conversion of sugars into alcohol. After fermentation is complete, the beer is transferred to a bright beer tank for further cooling and clarification. Finally, the beer can be kegged, canned, or bottled for consumption.
Choice of size
Most startup microbreweries begin with a brewery size of 10-30 barrels and corresponding fermenters. Determining the appropriate size for a brewery is a balancing act, considering sales projections and potential growth. Starting too big can strain initial investments and result in poor-quality beer, whereas starting too small may lead to difficulties meeting demand and higher costs per batch of raw materials. Additionally, smaller systems have lower hop utilization efficiency.
It is advisable to evaluate the available space in the brewery before selecting a larger brewing system. If space is limited, it may be wise to start with a smaller mash room and potential for future expansion by adding a dedicated whirlpool. The size of the fermenters can be adjusted accordingly. This approach allows for flexibility in managing production during both slow and peak periods while optimizing capacity and costs.
Number of tanks
Fermentation is a critical stage in beer brewing where yeast converts malt sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. A beer fermenter is used to facilitate this process. As a general rule, it is recommended to have a sufficient number of fermenters and bright tanks to meet production demands for the first 2-3 years.
To determine the annual capacity of a fermenter, consider the following metrics:
Daily Usable Fermentation Amount = Number of Vessels multiplied by Vessel Volume
RPM per year = Brew days per year divided by days required to ferment the average beer
Annual production capacity = Fermentation volume multiplied by annual RPM
A simplified approach assumes 80% ale production, 20% lager production, and a 50-week brew time. It also takes into account the availability of enough bright tanks to handle the beer. If multiple beer varieties will be served simultaneously, maintaining a similar ratio of bright tanks to fermentation vessels is recommended.
Brewery heating method
When it comes to brewery heating, there are several options available:
Direct Fire: This method involves heating the outside of the tank using an open flame. It is cost-effective and suitable for small systems. However, it can lead to scorching of wort and inefficient energy use. Direct fire heating is not recommended for systems larger than 10 barrels.
Indirect Combustion: In this method, the flame heats the air in a separate burner box, which is then circulated in a jacket around the tank. It offers similar pricing to direct heat while avoiding searing. However, it is less efficient than electric or steam heating and not suitable for systems larger than 10 barrels.
Large Electric Heating Elements: Similar to a domestic electric water heater, large electric elements are placed inside the kettle. This method is cost-effective compared to steam heating and highly energy-efficient. However, it requires high-power three-phase electricity and may not be suitable for systems larger than 10 barrels.
Steam: Steam heating is the industry standard for brewing systems of 15 barrels and above. A separate boiler generates steam, which circulates through an insulated steel jacket around the kettle. Steam heating is effective but expensive, requiring a separate boiler and ongoing maintenance.
Choose a supplier
Finding a reliable brewing vessel supplier can be challenging, considering the multitude of suppliers in the market. Most suppliers do not manufacture the containers themselves; instead, they import them from manufacturers in China or other countries. While this reduces costs, it also leads to variations in design, materials, and build quality.
If you are new to brewing, it is advisable to choose a simple and practical manufacturer with good service. Opt for beer equipment with strong brand reputation, high quality, and excellent brewing technology and craftsmanship. This ensures the production of delicious beer and the reliable operation of the equipment.
If you decide to purchase imported equipment, consider choosing a supplier that employs Chinese engineers for equipment design. ACE Craft in China is known for higher-quality food-grade steel and superior manufacturing standards.
Plans to build a craft brewery
If you are new to the craft beer industry or planning to open or expand a brewery, our team is here to assist you. Our engineers can provide professional solutions and turnkey beer equipment tailored to your brewing process. Contact us directly for customized solutions and a complete turnkey package. We look forward to working with you!