Freight & Logistics Management of Your Brewery Equipment

Shipping – Sea, Air and Inland Freight

Freight & Logistics Management of Your Brewery Equipment. What you see written below is an extract of knowledge, based on my own experiences with shipping equipment, primarily out of China and the USA, and into Australia, including the inland component on both sides of the journey. I am by no means an expert on shipping and freight, nor do I want to be. I have an expert shipping agent for that! So let’s get you some insight into what happens when you need to get your gear from there to here.

Got the Basics Sorted – Now What?

So, you’ve decided to go ahead with that new toy of yours – the brewery. Right?

  • Business plan; check
  • I have my eye on premises; check
  • DA submitted; check
  • Equipment sized up and priced; check
  • Finance; check. Maybe…

Hey, what about getting the gear from wherever it’s being manufactured, to your new premises? Oh yes; we will ship bits from China, the USA, Italy, maybe the UK. When it comes, we’ll grab the forklift, unpack it all and place it where we need it.

Okay let’s have a closer look at those ideas. Thera are some things you should know.

  1. MOST IMPORTANT! Shipping begins at the factory and ends at your premises
    1. When a supplier gives you a shipping price, it is usually accompanied by an abbreviation: have a look at the shipping term they use on their quotation (commonly called “Incoterms”). Some of the common Incoterms we use are FOB, CIF, EXW
  2. So what do these terms mean?
    1. The Incoterms® are a set of 11 individual rules issued by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) which define the responsibilities of sellers and buyers for the sale of goods in international transactions. Of primary importance is that each Incoterms rule clarifies the tasks, costs and risks to be borne by buyers and sellers in these transactions. Familiarizing yourself with Incoterms will help improve smoother transaction by clearly defining who is responsible for what and each step of the transaction.
    2. DHL has a great explanation with explicit graphics; see here

As you can see in the DHL incoterms model, the Incoterms® 2020 rules are grouped into two categories reflecting modes of transport. Of the 11 rules, there are seven for ANY mode(s) of transport and four for SEA or LAND or INLAND WATERWAY transport.

Brewery Equipment

The seven Incoterms® 2020 rules for any mode(s) of transport are:

EXW – Ex Works (insert place of delivery)

FCA  – Free Carrier (Insert named place of delivery)

CPT  – Carriage Paid to (insert place of destination)

CIP –  Carriage and Insurance Paid To (insert place of destination)

DAP – Delivered at Place (insert named place of destination)

DPU – Delivered at Place Unloaded (insert of place of destination)

DDP – Delivered Duty Paid (Insert place of destination).

The four Incoterms® 2020 rules for Sea and Inland Waterway Transport are:

FAS – Free Alongside Ship (insert name of port of loading)

FOB – Free on Board (insert named port of loading)

CFR – Cost and Freight (insert named port of destination)

CIF –  Cost Insurance and Freight (insert named port of destination)

In practical terms, you need to be sure you’re getting the full picture of how your new toys (and rather large investment!) are going to get from the manufacturer to your doorstep. One way is to simply ask the person quoting whether their shipping quote is door to door, all paperwork, everything.

Is my quote a “locked-in” price? – Freight & Logistics Management of Brewery Equipment

In the shipping game, each quote is an estimate. There are many moving parts that make up the journey between the manufacturer and your premises, and each moving part is subject to seasonal events (Christmas, Easter and other major holiday-type events etc.) environmental, economic and political changes. These changes reflect back on the consumer in the form of price changes (mostly increases!)

The parts of the journey which are most likely NOT to change, or to change very little are generally:

  • Government fees and charges
  • Local shipping agent’s fees and charges
  • Local freight rates
  • Demurrage / storage rates

What we have no control over are the costs that are affected by international events. These can be very volatile:

  • Sea freight –
    • affected by Covid outbreaks, dock strikes, fuel prices, outbreaks of violence, etc. there is no way to predict what is going to happen between the time you get your first shipping quote, and the day you have to pay the final invoice
    • Peak periods, much the same as holiday peak periods, can in some cases, double or even triple the cost of your sea freight. Major peak periods are normally October till around February, and Easter
  • Air freight
    • Much the same as Sea Freight
  • Local fuel charges – where inland freight is concerned

Sea Freight

Freight & Logistics Management

First off, sea freight as you would probably guess, is a slower mode of shipping than air freight. Both have their pros and cons.

You may have noticed that when you speak to someone about sea freight (or “shipping” in general), one thing that is almost always mentioned is “containers”. Containers come in various sizes and configurations. What we would be mostly concerned with for shipping equipment via sea freight are things like:

  • How large the piece of equipment is that we’re transporting (dimensions)
  • How many items there are

These will determine the size and quantity of the containers to use to find the most cost efficient method of transporting your goods between origin and destination ports.

For instance, a larger brewery could quite easily take up one or more 40’ containers. Each container will be costed at the going price on the day we get the quote. Consequently, a 40’ container costs more to ship than a 20’ container – it comes down to space on the ship and how many containers the shipping line can fit on board.

There are various configurations of containers for loads that may for instance be more bulky than others.

If the load is small enough, it may require only some space inside a container. In other words, you can share space in a container with other goods destined for someone else. This would commonly be referred to as a LCL or loose Container Load. It follows that this is a cheaper way of transporting goods by sea than hiring a full container for something that doesn’t need all the space (within reason).

Generally, if you fill a 20’ or 40’ft container with your equipment, the dimensions and weight of the equipment is of no consequence. The pricing is done by container size and configuration.

If you equipment is too large for even a 40’ or 45’ container, the shipping agent will source a frame. The frame is basically a container without a roof – or sides – or both. It’s a skeleton to which the equipment is secured. Frames are typically more expensive than regular enclosed containers, due to several factors – the frame handling equipment may differ from regular container handling equipment at different ports; frames take up more space n the ship than regular containers; when goods are removed at different ports, the frames may have to be taken off then replaced n the ship in order to get other containers offloaded – the ports would need the necessary equipment to do this.

Air Freight

Brewery Equipment

Air freight is mostly costed by dimensions and weight. Cubic meters and Kilograms. There is also a height consideration that affects goods transported by air. If the packaged goods are too tall for say the loading door of the aircraft, it may have to be loaded in another section of the aircraft, and that could result in higher costs. Generally, air freight is more costly than sea freight. The obvious advantage of air freight is shorter delivery time. – a week as compared to several weeks at sea.

Inland Freight

Trucks and trailers are a common and effective method of getting your equipment from the destination port to your premises. If the final destination is a rural area, an inspection is most likely to be mandated. This is called a tailgate inspection. It attracts a fee.

The alternative is to put the goods on a train; however some container companies are reluctant to send a truck somewhere just to collect their container/s. It is far more cost effective to use a trucking company to take the goods to a site, offload the goods, then return the container as part of a round trip.

Freight & Logistics Management

There are a few methods of delivering inland freight by truck; these are what we commonly use:

  • Truck arrives at premises; customer offloads the container while it’s still on the truck. Driver waits one hour (typically) before returning the container to depot. If the load is not out of the container within the first hour, the trucking company will charge the end user a nominal rate per hour for the extra time taken to offload
  • Truck arrives at premises, offloads the container on the ground, leaves the premises (perhaps to deliver other loads). Customer has more time to offload the goods – sometimes a couple of days. Truck returns at a predetermined time to collect the container and return it to depot. Again, if the container is not unloaded by the time the truck arrives to collect it, the trucking company will charge a nominal rate per hour for the extra time taken.
  • Goods are offloaded from the container at the destination port and loaded onto the truck (loose load – secured of course!). Truck delivers the loose items, which the end user has to unload on premises. The one-hour timeframe limit and penalties apply here too, as above.

Between Factory and Destination – Freight & Logistics Management of Brewery Equipment

After your equipment has been manufactured, the various components need to get to the nearest port so they can be loaded onto a ship. In the case of air freight, the same applies to get your goods to the nearest airport.

When your equipment arrives at the airport, it will have to be transported to your premises after being cleared by customs.

In both cases, there is documentation to be completed by the sender (manufacturer) and fees paid to get the goods onto the transport and off on its journey.

When the goods arrive at the destination seaport or airport, again there is paperwork to be completed, customs clearance, perhaps customs (Border Patrol) wants to inspect the load for their own reasons. Everything here attracts a fee.

Once your new toys have cleared customs, they will need to be transported to your premises. In Australia this is normally conducted using a truck or several trucks as described above.


When you spend a good sum of money on investing in your future business, you’d want to be sure it is in good order when it arrives. If something happens along the way, you would want the problem resolved, right? This is where transit insurance comes into its own. For the relatively low cost of transit insurance, if say your container falls off a ship (yes, we know this is known to happen!), you’re covered. Dents; covered; breakages, covered. You probably know all of this, but it’s worth noting, because this is often a forgotten factor when budgeting for your business.

Australian GST

Once the shipment arrives in Australia, the ATO will determine the actual cost of the goods, according to their guidelines, and current rates of exchange. They will apply GST to this price. This is one of the reasons why a shipping quote is always an estimate, not a hard and fast quote.

What about Import Duty and GST on imports?

As our imports are mainly from countries like China and the USA, the free trade agreement between Australia and these countries means that you don’t pay import duty on new manufactured goods. A good place to find out information on what goods attract import duty and what doesn’t, start here:

Almost everything you can think of to import is classified into categories, and each item (or group of items in some cases) has a reference number attached to it. That number will tell you how much import duty (if any) you will have to pay on it when it hits our shores.

Synergy Custom Solutions Value-Add

At the end of the day, a shipping agent or freight forwarder is pretty hard at work most of the time conducting these tasks not only for Synergy, but for all their other clients too. It’s what they do.

Our value-add is looking after our customers’ interests by communicating frequently with them, telling them where their shipment is on its journey. We are well aware of the things in a customer’s world that a shipping agent wouldn’t need know about. Marketing plans for instance, launch plans, social media releases, supply deliveries and other expectations that all fit together like a puzzle to make a brewery opening, or launch a success. Any or all of these things could be affected by delivery delays for whatever reason that may occur, and no entrepreneur wants to disappoint their potential customers. We want our customers to be as prepared as possible, so they can plan around their equipment delivery.

We know that preparations for a delivery may include hiring lifting equipment and the scheduling involved with that task; ensuring that there is adequate staff on site to assist with offloading so that activity is completed in as short a timeframe as possible. Staff is not cheap, so payment for getting people in to help needs to be factored into the delivery/offloading exercise. So, we also make sure we stay close to the truck driver’s schedule, so we can predict reasonably well when the truck is likely to arrive on site.

There is so much more to shipping / freight than meets the eye. If you have any questions, or need clarification on anything written here, please contact us any time.

Further Content Related to the Topic

Gavin featured in Series 1 of the BMAB Podcast in the Brewery Equipment Sourcing Segment, where he talked in some detail on the important considerations brewery owners should be aware of in relation to freight and logistics management when sourcing equipment from overseas.


Starting A Brewery Part-Time

Starting A Brewery Part-Time – An Overview and Tips

I get asked by potential owners if starting a brewery part-time is possible? These people are generally looking at the hyper local model with a brewhouse at 500 liters (4.2 US beer barrels) or less.

Opening a brewery is a costly business and some people want to keep working in their daily job for some time, until the brewery is able to support them. It goes without saying, you work load is going to be huge.

Running a brewery means you’ll wear many hats and with small breweries, the responsibility usually falls to the owner. You will be:

  • Administrator dealing with the paperwork
  • Brewer, cellar man and dispense person
  • Manager of staff – if you have servers, they’ll need direction and a schedule.
  • Maintenance person – stuff will break in a brewery having electrical, plumbing and DIY knowhow is useful
  • Logistics person – ordering raw materials and monthly brew schedule

Yes, some maintenance issues will require a tradesman to fix, but the more you know how to fix minor issues yourself, the better off you’ll be. In my 25 years in brewing, I’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks to keep a brewery operational along the way.

If you add food into the mix, then you become a restaurant which sells beer made in-house. With these smaller breweries the food options are usually super simple. We will discuss this in more detail later.

People Do Start Breweries Part Time – Find and Chat with Them

I was speaking with a potential client this week who is planning the part time route. He understood he’d have to take some time off at the start of his venture to get the brewery operational.

Once the brewery was up and running then yes, it would be a part time gig whilst still working his daily job. He’d spoken to others who did the same as he’d planned. The feedback was, it’s doable.

So, let’s look at some of the factors involved…

Choosing Employees

You going to need to have some staff, you can’t do everything. I know small brewing operations where one spouse is front of house while the partner is back of house (brewing and kitchen). If you bring someone in from the outside the right choice is critical.

There are going to be times when you will rely on them to critically think on behalf of your business. You want to have confidence in anyone you choose. They also need to believe in the concept as well.

Time Management – Starting A Brewery Part-Time

This is an obvious place to start. You have to be disciplined with your time. The chances you’re going to have to wake up earlier and go to bed later.

Starting a Brewery Part TimeIf your beer needs to be dry-hopped on a particular day, then it can happen in the evening after you’ve finished the day job and the bar is open. Or you might do it before you start your shift at work.

If you need raw materials, delivery times need to be correctly schedules so there’s someone there to sign for and put it away. If you’ve a family, you need to be clear at the start, there’s less time you’ll be able to spend with them.

Planning and having a proper schedule for the brewery is key. Plus, prioritizing what are the most important tasks then making sure they are taken care of first. Will help you stay on top of brewery operations.

Write out a “success plan”, it’s a document where you write your goals and expectations for the brewery. Write out how many hours you plan to work on the business. You can’t just say you’re going to try hard; you need to DO IT!

List out milestones for the brewery and what you plan to achieve. Also, reason what you plan to sacrifice for the brewery, and what type of return you expect to receive.

In the first year it might be worth writing out monthly goals and as well longer yearly targets. It may sound harsh; but set out how what you think it’s going to take, write it down and then double it.

Family and Friends – Starting A Brewery Part-Time

As I’ve already said a part-time business can put a strain on you and your family. Family wants to be kept in the loop, know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how it will affect yours and their lives.

When you find yourself working into the night and at weekend it can hurt relationships with a spouse or child if they aren’t fully onboard or aware of the challenges ahead.

One way to alleviate some of these issues, is to involve your family in the process. They can actually help with making your plan a reality and for the brewery to become successful.

Support can be in many forms, from sharing and bouncing off ideas about initial plans to helping at the coal face when the building is being prepared for installation and furnishing.

Starting a Brewery Part Time

An Accountability Partner

As we said before when running a brewery, it can be taxing. You might already be tired from your day job and know there’s stuff needed done at the brewery. You’ll have days when you’ll be lacking motivation and those tasks feel like a millstone round your neck.

One way to combat this is having an “accountability partner”, this person can be a paid coach, a friend or spouse. Yeah, you may be starting your venture so, you can “be your own boss”, but having someone to report to, helps get work done.

This partner needs to be solid and someone you respect. It needs someone you can bounce ideas off and have regular conversations with. Importantly this person needs to have business acumen you trust.

There are going to be some serious conversation and times when you’ll get feedback you don’t like. The right person will be able to find holes in your plan but also help keep you motivated and on track.

You’re Not Going to Always Get It Right First Time – Starting A Brewery Part-Time

You need to embrace your failures; they are going to be several as you start a business from the ground-up. When getting my brewing consulting business up and running I made mistakes.

For myself to learn effective, clear and direct communication with multiple people across a project took time to understand. I’ve not mastered it yet, but the from feedback from clients over time, I know I’ve become much better at it.

It’s why I started using images a lot more in communication. As often I’m working with different native languages on a project. Having images make communication easier and more effective. To use an old cliché, a picture speaks a 1,000-words.

When starting a brewery, you can often learn more from your failures as you do from your success. Failure is not only an option, it’s entrepreneurship and on-the-job training.

I’ve a saying in brewing…

“Make a mistake once, it’s a learning experience, make it twice you’re an idiot, make it three times and you’re an asshole” …even I’ve found myself an asshole in my 25-year career, but I try to keep it to a minimum.

Tips from the Brew-Deck to Make Your Life Easier

I’m going to switch tack here, and go into some ideas on how to make your part-time brewery time management easier. There are also some tips to keep costs down too, as with any new business lowering you running capital expenditure is always good.

Plan A Monthly Schedule – Starting A Brewery Part-Time

At the start, if you’re on the smaller scale, you might not need a brewing software to run operations in the brewhouse. Excel can be your friend, I’ve a sheet I’ve created and tweaked over the years which I use on projects I run, or consult on.

I like to have a quick snap shot of beer inventory, typical weekly sales and upcoming brewing schedule in one document. Excel makes this much easier as you plug-in your numbers and then the right formulas do the heavy lifting.

A good spread sheet will tell you how many weeks stock of each beer you have according to sales. It’ll make planning the upcoming monthly brewing schedule easier plus, assists with raw materials inventory too.

Re-Using Yeast

On the smaller scale and getting up to speed I’d always recommend using dry yeast. You’ve a lot to take on-board without worrying about yeast health and inventory. You can make award winning beer with dry yeast.

Now if you’ve plugged in all the numbers to your monthly plan. You can schedule brews to re-pitch yeast. The beer you made to use a blonde ale can be used to make an IPA for instance. If you plan to re-pitch dry yeast it’s best to use wort aeration on the way to the FV too.

Dry yeast is expensive so, if it can be re-used, it’s a nice saving. In general, I don’t re-use dry yeast more than 4 generations. They say you can go as high as 10 re-uses, but I find consistency issues after too many re-pitches.

Cost Breakdowns – Starting A Brewery Part-Time

You need to understand the raw material costs of every beer you plan to brew. Several high hopped IPAs might seem a good idea, but a lager which will be in your top three sellers, needs to be cheap to brew material wise.

A fortune doesn’t have to spent to make a good pilsner; it’s about getting your technique right (which will take few turns). Cascade is generally a cheaper hop and works well for aroma in a lager in my opinion.

Breaking down the costs for each brew might lead you into choosing a different core range. High volume, cheaper to make beers can be the engine to profitability. They generally are some of the less labor-intensive beers to make as well.

Wheat beers are generally cheap to make, have a quick to turn around and easy enough to brew. Get some double some sized FV’s, throw wheats in there and they can really help with profitability if they prove popular.

It’s a light beer and with the addition of some orange peel or coriander seeds it can be an approachable beer for some of your less “crafty” clientele.

Get a Keg Washer – Starting A Brewery Part-Time

If you’re budget is tight and you’re starting with a lean equipment set-up, keep a keg a semi-automatic keg washer on the list. They can save you a lot of time. They work by pressing a button and then going through a cycle until kegs are clean ready to take off the machine.

It means you can clean kegs while your brew or are say doing some cellaring. The first cycle or two; make sure the keg cleaner is working as programmed. But once you’re happy, let it work and do other things.


If you’ve the budget, having some automation on your brewing system can be a time saver. Your time in the brewery is precious so, some higher up font costs will pay for themselves over time.

The right automation can make the brewery a manageable one-man operation and cut out the need to hire an assistant. Automation can be anything from programmable step mashing to setting the temperature of your wort on collection to FV.

Serving Food – Starting A Brewery Part-Time

One caveat; what you can provide in the way of food options maybe restricted by your plans and local regulations. Feedback from people who have gone this route is “keep it simple”. Workarounds I’ve seen are:

Just doing one type of dish – There’s an establishment called Hop Project in Shanghai, who only served different forms of grilled cheese sandwiches.

Partner-up – Have a partner who takes care of the food and runs it almost as a separate business.

Food trucks – Pretty self-explanatory.

Take-away food – Allow people to have take-away delivered.

Prepared foods – Only serve pre-made dishes like cold cut platters, which can be provided by a third-party.

Having food options really helps a brewery. People are likely to stay longer and drink more. It’s more profitable if you’re providing the food yourself, as a nice margin can be made on food offerings.

Starting A Brewery Part-Time – Conclusions

As I said people have successfully started a brewery part-time but it’s a lot of work. Therefore, you need to be properly prepared and understand you’re not going to have a lot (if any) free time.

It would make sense to build some down/family and/or friend time into your schedule to keep you sane. Everybody needs a break from time to time, we aren’t machines…being a martyr is going to guarantee success.

Starting a brewery is hard, let alone doing it part time. But with the right goals, support and work ethic it’s possible. Your lean team needs to be tight, plans properly scheduled and communicated too.

If you plan to open a brewery part-time then you have my respect. If you’d like to share your plans or reach out to like-minded people then we have our own Build Me A Brewery Facebook group.

We have people from all walks of life in the group; from commercial brewers to people also planning their own breweries. It’s free to join and they’re a friendly bunch.

I hope you found this article on starting a brewery part-time useful. If you’ve any feedback or follow-up questions, please feel free to comment or send me a message.


Gypsy Brewing Pros & Cons – Is It Worth It?

Another subject suggestion from Chris was to look at the pros and cons of gypsy brewing or contract brewing. It was a red hot topic in Series 1 of the BMAB Podcast and has come up on the Build Me A Brewery (BMAB) Facebook group a few times now for discussion.

One reason people look to gypsy or contract brew, is to establish a brewery brand before investing in their own brewery. I recently had an email from someone in the UK looking to;

“Contract brew a couple of recipes to test the market with my product and branding”.

The emailer seemed keen to set up his “own brewing space”. But in lieu of opening his own place wanted to discuss the gypsy/contract brewing route.

I replied to the guy’s email and thought I’d share some of the points I made in this article. But before we do…what exactly is gypsy brewing?

Gypsy Brewing Explained

Gypsy brewing is where you brew your beer at someone else’s facility using their equipment paying them a fixed fee. Generally, the rest is up to you; from putting up the money for materials, the marketing to selling the beer in the wild.

As a British brewing consultant based in China, I mostly help people source brewing equipment here. However, if I think a potential client isn’t ready to have their own place or sense some unease.

I’ll suggest to take a step back, evaluate their numbers (again) and look at gypsy brewing to prove their concept. Plus test the market, without investing too much money.

I don’t want to take on a client I don’t think is ready. Gypsy brewing can bridge the gap from inception of an idea to owning your own commercial brewery.

Here’s a response I wrote to someone on Facebook a while back when they initially approached me about Chinese brewing equipment.

Gyspy Brewing

Gypsy Brewing Pros and Cons – Different Models

There are several models with contract brewing, one being an alternating partnership. With an alternating partnership the host brewery assumes ownership of the beer throughout the production phase.

Please note: I’ll use “host” for the people who own the venue where the beer is brewed and “guest” for the gypsy brewer, whose beer is made at the host venue.

In this model the brewery will use their own ingredients. The title/ownership passes to the guest brewer only when this person receives the beer.

Furthermore, another option is for the guest brewer to rent time in the host brewery. In this instance the guest brewer will pay for their own ingredients; using the host equipment and venue to physically brew the beer.

The guest brewer “owns” their product from start to finish and is responsible for all the parts of the process from labelling, certification and taxes. There may be some variables in responsibility, depending on the contract agreed.

So, when can gypsy brewing be beneficial?

Looking to Start a Brewery? Gypsy/ Contract Brewing Pros and Cons

Similar to the email reply I mentioned earlier, gypsy brewing allows a person to prove concept for their beer and brand. The world of brewing is an expensive one to enter.

One of the major outlays is purchasing brewing equipment. Then there’s the timelines involved; you need to wait for:

  • Equipment fabrication
  • Find and prepare a venue
  • Understand and pass local regulations
  • Train staff

…And a whole lot more. Time and expenses soon add up. Yes, gypsy brewing leads to a higher cost of goods. The host brewery needs to make a profit out of the beer brewed at their venue. However overall, the business is mostly variable costs with few overheads.

When gypsy brewing one doesn’t have to pay the usual costs such as:

  • Rent
  • Brewing equipment
  • Maintenance costs
  • Staff payroll

…and so on. The guest brewer is free to spend additional capital on branding and marketing to yield a higher return on the investment.

Gypsy brewing allows someone to get product to market quickly, without huge capital costs. As well as establishing a brand and proving concept at the same time.

Brewery Expansion (Bridging the Gap) – Gypsy Brewing Pros and Cons

I used to brew just outside Kunming in Yunnan, China. There I had a great assistant called Yang. He now owns his own contract facility. One of his biggest contracts was when Bravo Brewing signed on for six months, to brew at his facility.

Bravo Brewing had outgrown their current facility so, were in the process of building their own production brewery. However, before this brewery was ready, they needed greater volumes of beer than they could produce.

Yang had a number of 6,000 litre fermentation vessels and Bravo signed a 6-month contract to brew into them. Using another brewing venue whilst you build a bigger production facility, allows a guest brewer to serve a growing customer base, in a cost-effective way.

It offers breathing room whilst making internal plans a reality, in a structured way. Yes, this beer will be more expensive to brew per litre. Plus, there’s more complicated logistics to get the beer to clients. It is however, a good compromise overall.

Importing Beer

On a semi-regular basis, I get approached by breweries wanting to discuss contract brewing in China. So, they can expand into the local Sino market.

Honestly, I’ve spoken against this model because Chinese craft beer consumers prefer to drink foreign beers produced in their country of origin.

There was great episode with Bryant Soorkia, in the first series on this subject. To listen to the episode on Exporting Beer to China click the link.

I worked for AB InBev, where I witnessed even them having problems when switching production of Goose Island from Chicago to China. However, China is a unique market.

In other examples, like Gweilo from Hong Kong brewing their beer in the UK for the British market, they’ve seen their beer well received.

If a brewery is looking to crack a new market in a different country the expense of transport and import fees can make the unit cost much higher. Plus, for some beer styles like hazy IPA’s, the beer may not travel well

Meaning the experience drinking the beer in the import country is much different from country of origin. In this case, contract brewing in the country you intend to enter makes sense if…

The cheaper cost of producing beer in the target market (plus it’ll be fresher) will be accepted by the target customers. Since it’s not brewed in the country of origin.

Gypsy Brewing Is Becoming More Widespread

In the last 5 years, I’ve seen the instances of gypsy brewing increase. Breweries are now being set up solely to act as contract breweries.

With larger breweries ramping up production or when they don’t have the space, leasing/renting tanks from these contract breweries.

Then there are homebrewers making the jump to commercial. Who see gypsy brewing as bridging the gap. Till they’re confident enough or financially ready to invest in their own brewery. This has led to a fairly new concept called incubator breweries.

Gypsy Brewing

Tony Dichiera from the Suburban Brew (SA) & Adam Betts from Edge Brewing Project (VIC) both feature in Series 2 of the BMAB Podcast to discuss the Gypsy Brewing model in more detail.

Gypsy Brewing Pros and Cons – The Incubator Brewery Concept

These incubator breweries work slightly different to the traditional contract brewing model. They offer formal training to a potential owner/hobby brewer looking to go pro.

This type of business allows them to learn the ropes and understand the brewing industry on a deeper level. Furthermore, incubators can help with marketing and distribution too.

I know these incubators are on the rise in the US. Where they act as a co-working space, helping would be brewers off-set the initial start-up costs.

Through offering a shared space with access to brewing equipment plus, allowing collaboration and interaction between participants.

The Downside

The relationship between guest and host brewer is symbiotic. The guest brewer is always at the mercy of the host.

I’ve seen the downside here in China where a guest brewer witnessed the host mess up a centrifuge run, ruining a batch of his core beer.

The host offered to pay for a new batch, but the beer had already been allotted so, there was a delay in delivering to the customers. The initial bad batch had DO (dissolved oxygen) number in the hundreds so, was compromised and not fit for sale.

This is why a contract has to be water tight. As a guest brewer, you’ll rarely have full control of the brewery and staff. The beer brewed will only be at the standard of, or below that of the host brewery.

One positive though, is contract brewing may give you access to equipment you might not otherwise have…like a centrifuge.

Further Negatives

Lack of Community, Presence

Ultimately, you don’t own the brewery, your beer is being brewed on. This can make it hard to sell your brews to the local craft beer enthusiasts.

However, this is becoming less of an issue, as contract brewing becomes more popular and accepted by the craft beer drinking community.

Smaller Profits

The fact you’re paying another company to do a significant amount of the heavy lifting to brew your beer, doesn’t come cheap.

Yielding Control

You will always be a “guest”. If there are critical decisions to be made, you’ll always come second to a host brewery, if they make their own beer for sale.

There are some great host breweries out there. You just need to carry out your due diligence before choosing your host brewery.

Relationship Pressures

I’ve been brewing for 25 years; it can still be stressful times. You just learn to deal with it better with more experience. I’ve witnessed arguments between brew crew, sales and management.

The relationship of guest and host is one step removed from internal issues. You might not be aware of internal brewery conflict. You’re entrusting the production of your beer to another company, at the end of the day.

Steve ‘Hendo’ Henderson’s Opinion on Gypsy Brewing

Those who followed Series 1 of the podcast, might recall an interview Chris did with one of Australia’s most prolific gyspy brewers, Steve ‘Hendo’ Henderson. Being the founder of the famous BrewCult brand, and taking out the Australian International Beer Awards Trophy for Champion Gypsy Brewer, Hendo has had a first hand taste and experience of what life is like being a full time gypsy brewer.

The BrewCult brand developed a massive following, and appealed to the hardcore ‘Beer Geeks’ who were quite prepared to pay a handsome price for his unique style of beers. Still without his own brewery, Hendo was able to build a demand for his beers all over Australia.

However, Hendo is honest to admit that the BrewCult business model may of been a little bit too ambitious. Trying to be in multiple markets and locations and having to wear many hats as ultimately the sole business owner, and having to stock several lines of his beers in warehouses all over the country since moving to a core range. This also limited his ability to focus on developing and putting out new and creative beers, which the BrewCult brand was founded on.

During the interview, the gypsy brewing model topic got brought up. Hendo, being Hendo, dished out his brutal honesty about it. Below is a very brief extract from the initial conversation on the topic:


Chris – What would you say it the sweet spot for having a successful brewery these days? What sort of model would you recommend?

Hendo – There’s two models, that you could do depending on how much money you got. Be a brewpub, and sell takeaway cans or whatever, or get big and be a big production brewery. There’s no in between

Chris – But you looked at the Gypsy brewing model as a potential springboard into owning your own brewery? 

Hendo – I would not recommend that. It used to be viable, but it soon quickly became unviable. Although you are not dipping into your pocket in the beginning to outlay large capital to build a brewery, but essentially you are paying for someone’s else’s.

So with your unit cost you get no economies of scale. If I was a gyspy brewer, making a million litres a year, you pay what it is called a Copack fee to the brewery. A copack fee includes the costs of the brewery to make your beer, like electricity, labour etc. Its not your raw materials or your packaging,

Now if I make a beer and the co-pack fee is say $20 (to pull a random number out) and if you make 10,000 litres a year or 1 million litres a year, your co-pack fee is still going to be $20. Where if I owned my own brewery and had my own space, a lot of the costs become fixed costs such as rent, rates, wages etc. And so, then it becomes easier for you to be come profitably, because if you can squeeze out more beer faster through the same amount of rent, you are making money.

Chris – I understand that gypsy brewing isn’t a sustainable business model long term. It’s a tough slog, and if you are breaking even, you are doing quite well. But my perspective on Gypsy brewing is one as dipping my toes in the water, building a brand and a bit of a following about my beers before investing half a million in a physical brewery.


Check out the full gypsy brewing topic conversation with Hendo in the video excerpt below.  It’s a great listen for anyone wanting to gain further insights about the realities of the gypsy brewing model.

To listen to our full interview with Steve Hendo, check out Part 2 – Brewery Consulting & Quality Management

Gypsy Brewing Pros and Cons – Conclusions

Gypsy brewing can’t be the right option in many instances. I’ve recommended this route to several clients and lost out on potential revenue. As craft breweries continue to open around the globe competition simply gets fiercer.

You need to bring you’re A-game if you want to survive and thrive in the market. Gypsy brewing could be the logical step in making it happen.

Yes, I admit you’re ceding control and placing a lot of trust on a host brewery. However, they are also having to trust you also. Furthermore, not having your own “bricks and mortar” facility which people can associate you with, can make brand recognition harder.

You’ll also be dealing with smaller profit margins too, as the unit price to produce beer on someone else’s facility is higher. However, the upsides are many.

  • Initial costs and lead time to get to market is reduced
  • You’re not buying equipment
  • You don’t have to pay insurance
  • You’re not paying for staff and for your own building
  • No equipment headaches, if a pump breaks the host brewery fixes it.
  • Brewing is 80% cleaning, a lot of this will be taken care of by the host brewery (depending on the contract)

Contract Brewing

If you do your research and agree on an arrangement which works for you. Then success with the gypsy brewing model can be yours. It can even be appreciated by the host brewery too, allowing them to increase profits. If they’ve spare capacity.

Chris also aims to explore the gypsy brewing model in much more detail in the coming soon Series 2 of the Podcast, so stay tuned.

I hope you enjoyed our article on gypsy brewing pros and cons, if you have any feedback or follow-up questions, please feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message.


Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – Part 2

How was that beer? We now continue with Part 2 of Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation.

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – Hops

Hops provide beer with two main characteristics. Hops add bitterness to a beer and also aroma. There are hundreds of hops to choose from. Some hops are bred for bittering, some are for aroma whilst others can be used for both and are called dual purpose hops.

As with malt, hop additions require more math. Again, this is where brewing software comes in handy. Hops contain alpha acids, which are a bittering compound.

When you boil hops in wort, these alpha acids become isomerized into iso-alpha acids. Iso-alpha acids are more soluble in wort and more easily impart their bitterness during the boil.

When it comes to brewing, most smaller breweries only have a best “guestimate” about overall IBU (international bitterness units) in the final beer. IBU’s can only be measured accurately in a lab.

There are many factors which can influence overall bitterness and your perception of it:

  • Length of boil
  • pH of the wort
  • Gravity of the wort
  • Size of boil and system (smaller systems tend to have lower utilization)
  • The hop used – there are pellets, hop cones/flowers and hop extracts

If you are unsure about hop utilization on your system a good percentage to aim for is 24% when brewing on a commercial system. If it’s above 1,000 liters in volume you might be able to bump that up to 27.5%. It’s not an exact science and might require some tweaking to get right.

The later you add hops to the boil the less they impart bitterness. Additionally, when hops are added later in the boil, the hop oils which impart aroma have less chance of being boiled off.

Most brewers prefer to add hops 5 minutes before the end of the boil or after flameout. Furthermore, some brewers also like to cool their wort to between 75 to 80°C (167 to 176°F) when adding their whirlpool additions. It leads to more aroma being carried through to the final beer.

Brewers these days are moving away from big whirlpool additions and instead concentrating on dry-hopping. A rule of thumb seems to be 10g per litre for IPA’s and 15g per litre for DIPA’s (double IPA’s).

Dry Hopping

Again, this a subject I could write a book about. Scott Janish has written some great stuff on the subject and about hops in general. Dry-hopping refers to any hop addition after the beer has been cooled and mostly done in the primary fermentation vessel.

Dry-hopping is done to get as much as the hop aroma in the final beer as possible. In general, it doesn’t add bitterness to a beer. Although Scott Janish in trials found if a beer was below 30 IBU’s, dry-hopping could add more bitterness to the beer.

There are several techniques to dry-hopping. Every brewer over time refines their own process. It’s also dependent on the equipment you are brewing on too. I’m not going to suggest one technique over another.

Although, personally I’m a fan of hop cannons and written about them here and here. One downside to dry-hopping is it can sometimes make the beer “grassy”. Especially if the hops are in the beer for too long, giving it a vegetative or grassy aroma, which isn’t pleasant.

Many brewers like to dry hop for around 4 days and then dump the hops from the beer as much as they can. As I say all brewers are different when it comes to dry-hopping.

Dry-Hop Volcano!

Please be aware, when dry-hopping the pellets can be a nucleating point for the CO2 in the beer. If you’re going traditional, adding the hops through a manway into the beer, please be careful.

Some brewers like to add a few pellets, close the FV back up, wait a while then add more. It’s another reason I like using hop cannons, I don’t have to worry about hop volcanos.

Good Hop Combos – Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

Chris asked me to add some suggestions about good hop combinations. I’ve been brewing since the 90’s and an old classic is Willamette and Cascade. I use this combo for my lager now and really enjoy it.

It does depend on the beer you’re brewing, but here are some suggestions:

Altbier – Hallertau, Spalt and Tettnang

Wheat Beers – Hallertau, Liberty, Tettnang and Willamette (U.S. wheats)

Lagers (light and dark) – Hallertau, Tettnang, Saaz, Liberty, Mt. Hood, Ultra, Hersbrucker, Lublin.

Please note: Any combination of the above for each style would work well.

For IPA’s and Pale Ales

When it comes to combos for hoppy beers, you’ll get different suggestions from every brewer you ask. Here some combos I like.

Citra and Chinook – Those second wave US hops can make some killer combos                                                                                                                                      .

Simcoe and Mosaic – Mosaic is a brewer’s favourite but getting more expensive now and often hard to find on the spot market.

Nelson & Motueka – A nice New Zealand hops combo for sure

Amarillo, Centennial and Cascade – Another classic US combo

Sorachi Ace – a hop people shy away from, but I’ve used it before in small quantities with other hops and it gives a nice lemon aroma (cold side) and worth considering. Works really well with Kevik Voss (more on this yeast later).

People are starting to look at European varieties from Germany and France for dry-hop additions. They are cheaper than some of the new world varietals. So, worth considering when price per liter is being calculated.

I’ve recently gone down this route and currently have some IPA’s in the tank with Mistral, Polaris and Comet. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you have your own personal hop combo favorites, please feel free to share them by commenting below.

Step-Mashing – Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

When it comes to commercial brewing recipe formulation, mash profile needs to considered too. Granted if you’ve no jacket on your mash tun you can’t step mash. Furthermore, people will tell you with modern modified malts there’s no need to step mash but I still like to.

I will not go into too much details here as there are plenty of articles on the subject across the web. However, it’s good to note moving between specific temps through the mash influences the enzymatic activity creating a wort profile more suited to the beer style you’re producing.

Water Treatment

Knowing the profile of your water and calculating your salt additions can really elevate a beer. Again, I will not go into too much detail here, it’s a subject covered elsewhere. Brewing software can be your friend again here too.

You can add you water profile to the software, then input what beer you’re brewing, how much water you’re adding and it’ll tell you what additions you need. In NEIPA’s, water profile is crucial.

Brewing Process

You need to be on the higher side for chlorides as they provide the “soft pillow” taste and mouthfeel of the style plus helping with the haze. You will want to be around 175-200ppm chloride and 75 – 100 ppm for sulfates.

Depending on you water, adding magnesium sulfate for those sulfate additions can be beneficial. So, you’re not too high in calcium and effect yeast health. I just wanted to add a short section here to drive home the point how water treatment is important.

Boil Length

As craft beer evolved, higher abv beers have become more popular and widely brewed. Boil time has become a major consideration as part of recipe formulation. Those pastry stouts, imperial stouts and barley wines all need extended boil times.

It’s taken to extreme by some breweries in the US, who are doing 36-hour boils for a pastry stout. It’s worth noting lagers and beers with major percentage of pilsner malt often needs a 90-minute boil. This helps drive off as much DMS as possible.

Pilsner malt contains more SMS than ale malt, the precursor to DMS. Boiling the wort for longer will avoid the dreaded corn off-flavor which presents, when DMS is in a beer.

Yeast – Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

Yeast is the final ingredient in brewing and a key component in recipe formulation. Most styles have recommended yeasts to use. Yeast is where brewers have a chance to create something unique.

We spoke about yeast being the next hop craze in my last article on this site. I don’t usually use more than one yeast in a beer in my core range, because it’s hard to be consistent. One yeast might become dominant over another one brew-to-brew plus, it’s hard to predict.

However, for one-offs or specials; yeast blending or sequential pitching can make a beer unique and excite customers. Furthermore, even when using just one yeast, the chosen fermentation profile can influence the final beer, and what we’ll cover next.

Fermentation Profile

I believe cellaring to be as, if not more important than your brew day. Cellaring can be used to cover mistakes of a brew day. However, you mess up in the cellar and it can lead to beer being dumped.

Every recipe I make, I’ll spend some time working up the fermentation profile. It really effects the final beer. Here are some examples to prove the point:


This isn’t a true wheat beer yeast, but used when brewing a Hefeweizen by many. At its lower temps (18 – 20°C or 64.4 – 68VF) it can provide more clove like aroma’s and at higher temps (22 – 24°C or 71.6 – 75.2°F) more banana notes come through.

Pro-tip: I’ve recently been experimenting with adding glucose to my Hefeweizens in the kettle. I found the following below and tried it out, it works well.

“The wort concentration of isoamyl acetate can be increased by increasing the glucose concentration of the wort.  This may be done by adding Dextrose (corn sugar) to the wort on an average of 1 ounce per gallon. ” Quote

More isoamyl acetate in the wort can lead to more banana esters in the final beer.


This is my go-to dry lager yeast of choice. It can produce a really clean lager; I like to ferment the first part at 12.5°C (54.5°F) to around 55% attenuation.

I then let it free rise to 18°C (64.4°F), to clear up the beer quicker and lower those VDK numbers. A good resource is the Fermentis app. In the app Fermentis cover a lot of information on W-34/70. It’s a hardy yeast and fermentation temperature doesn’t affect the final beer too much.

Kveik Yeast

This is a brewer’s favourite. It has quick turnaround times, as it can be fermented at high temperatures but still produce a clean beer. When brewing with the Voss strain, fermenting at a 25°C (77°F) produces clean beer with a neutral yeast flavour.

However, crank this bad boy yeast up so, you’re fermenting at 38°C (100.4°F) to 40°C (104°F) and you’ll get a real citrus/orange kick from the yeast.

The point is study you’re yeast and see what flavours it can impart. What’s the optimal temperature for the fermentation and if a change in temperature can positively affect the final beer?

Spunding a Beer

When a beer is fermenting it makes CO2. You can “shut off” the CO2 outlet using a spunding valve and more of the CO2 will be absorbed by the beer. I covered spunding in my article here, so if you are looking for the methodology, please read it.

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

The idea is spunding makes finer bubbles, helps with head retention and even makes a beer cleaner (although that’s up for debate). I like it, as it also saves in CO2 needed for the brewery too. Anywhere you can save money in brewing is a bonus.

It’s not good for all styles of beer; you don’t want to spund a beer you plan to dry hop (hop volcano!) for instance.

Beers which depend on the yeast for a lot of their characteristics are better when you don’t spund them. For instance, I’d never spund a saison during fermentation; same if I’m using wine yeast too.


You need to consider carbonation level of the final beer. Carbonation levels for different beer styles are also set down in beer guidelines. I’ve also covered carbonation in another article which you can read here.

Some accepted norms include, Belgian beers having higher carbonation levels whilst British ales have lower CO2 volumes. A good tripel is elevated by cranking up the CO2, it makes some of those funkier flavor’s pop.

Conclusions to Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – We’re Over 4,000 Words…Sorry People!

We all approach recipe formulation differently, there aren’t many right or wrongs when it comes to this subject. As craft beer evolves, old “rules” have been broken and the canvas from which to create is wide open.

Some of my main considerations are when putting a recipe together are:

Costs – We need to pay the bills

How the beer fits into the current range – Color and ABV is a big factor for me here

Current season I’m in – I’m not going to make a 12% imperial in the hot summer months.

Yes, I like to base most of my recipes starting off a particular beer style. As it’s a good way to end up with a balanced final beer. You don’t need to, it’s my personal preference.

A recipe is more than just ingredients, it’s all parts of the process. Everything from mash profile to carbonation level needs to be agreed and set out before brewing.

Creating a new beer recipe is one of the fun parts of the job. The first time you create a commercial beer recipe is a rite of passage. I hope you enjoyed our article and learnt something new. I’d love to hear you’re feedback and observations.

So please feel free to comment below. Thanks for reading and happy brewing.


Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – Part 1

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

Time to tackle a big one today and cover commercial brewing recipe formulation. It’s a subject Chris brought up and one I needed to work on, to do justice to.

It’s a deep subject to write about and why it’s been a while since my last article as I’ve been tackling this beast. So, instead of writing a book, this article covers some of the “key concepts”.

Putting a new beer together is one of my favourite roles as a brewer. The brewing life isn’t as glamourous as most people believe, being mostly cleaning. So, when I’m given scope to put a new beer together, I relish it.

When brewing on a commercial scale, creating a new beer doesn’t mean you’ve carte blanche on recipe design. There’s generally caveats involved, such as:

  1. Needs to complement other beers already on tap
  2. What season of the year you’re in
  3. Target market for the beer
  4. What has done well before
  5. Is there a “hot” style right now people are looking to drink
  6. Costs, how much will the beer cost per litre?

Other Factors

There are more factors involved when it comes to recipe creation; these a just some of the main ones. Where I live, China I see many breweries with 60% of the beers on tap being IPA’s, this can lead to customer confusion.

Yes, IPA’s are popular however, many Chinese drinkers don’t like bitter beer. Additionally, IPA’s are expensive to make, due to their high hop loads.

I see tap houses with IPA heavy line-ups and believe they are missing out on sales. IPA’s are usually higher in alcohol and more flavourful compared to say a crisp pilsner so, people tend to drink less. Even if the beer is higher in price, the spending per customer may be smaller.

I see it as breweries in China going off worldwide trends. Not considering their own customer base, what they might like to drink and/or using more local flavours their clientele know and understand.

I talked about “commercial styles” on the BMAB Facebook group and one person spoke about how using local fruits in Korea was key in his thinking. Some feedback provided by the BMAB group to assist in the writing of this article topics below:

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – Where to Start

One of the keys to recipe design, is being aware of the big picture. But also, being on top of the small details. Recipe formulation starts with the beer style you’re planning to brew.

When brewing you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Yes, new styles pop up over time such as pastry stouts, however, there are many beers you can brew which people know, want and are balanced.

When designing a recipe, understanding the beer style you’ve chosen to brew and the history behind it, is a good start. Yes, brewers can add their own twist or tweak a recipe. But basing the heart of the recipe on a proven style is where most commercial brews start.

A “beer style” is where a beer has found widespread popularity, at a given time and location, becoming a local standard. To be brewed with the same general parameters. Basing your recipe on a particular beer style doesn’t have to limit you.

BJCP Guidelines

You only look have to look at the BJCP beer style guidelines to know there’s a wide range of beer styles, all with their own unique qualities, open to you as a brewer.

There’s a skill involved in understanding the origins of a beer, the original ingredients used and the requirement to brew it successfully.

Yes, you can create a beer from scratch, I have and know many brewers who work this way. Brew what you think people want. However, 95 times out of a 100, I’ll base a recipe off a style.

The Evolution of the IPA

Let’s take a look at IPA’s which we discussed before, the original IPA’s (India Pale Ale) were brewed in the UK and sent to India for British troops to drink from the 1760’s onward. The beer was fortified with hops to act as a preservative ensuring the beer was drinkable when it reached its destination.

Now, we have many different iterations of IPA. We have Black IPA’s (Cascadian Dark Ale) and NEIPA’s (New England IPA’s) for instance. IPA’s have evolved over time with new variations accepted and their parameters standardized. So now we have:

  • English IPA
  • Rye IPA
  • West Coast IPA
  • New England IPA
  • Double, Triple and Imperial IPA
  • Session IPA
  • Black IPA
  • Sour IPA
  • White IPA

And there are a few I’ve probably missed too!

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – The Steps

Let’s look at a breakdown of how a beer can be put together:

  1. Choose your beer style
  2. Look at the style guidelines
  3. Set your parameters for OG (original gravity), FG (final gravity), IBU’s (bitterness) and SRM (color of the final beer)
  4. Grain bill selection
  5. Put together a mash profile with salt additions, pH adjustment and temperature steps
  6. Choose hop varieties with addition times and quantities used
  7. Decide the length of the boil
  8. Select yeast strain
  9. Choose your fermentation profile; fermentation technique, yeast needs, oxygen (O2) requirements, pitching rates and fermentation temperature schedule
  10. Actually brew your beer

Choose Your Beer Style

When you choose your beer style, you’ll have general guidelines to follow. This includes; OG and FG giving you the alcohol content plus, bitterness, color, mouthfeel, appearance, presence of esters, characteristic ingredients and even a list of other commercial examples.

These are the building blocks from which you can build a recipe from. This doesn’t mean you’re beholden to the guidelines. The choice of grains, hops, fermentation options and maturation techniques are still open to you, allowing you to put your own stamp on a recipe.

Base Malts

All recipes start with your base malt. This is usually a simple choice. The standard base malts are:

Ale malt – For the aforementioned IPA’s, English styles ales and more

Pilsner malt – For lagers and many European beer styles including Belgian ales.

Wheat malt – Used in quantities (usually 50% and above) for Hefeweizens and Belgian wit beers.

Munich/Vienna malt – For some more unique beers such as Festbiers and bocks.

How much malt you need depends on the malt extract potential. The data needed can be provided by the malt supplier. The actual yield you’ll get depends on the efficiency of the brewhouse. In most commercial breweries you’ll get 72% efficiency and upwards.

Every brewhouse is unique and losses in efficiency will make a large difference to the final gravity. If you’re working on a new brewhouse, where efficiency is unknown.

It’s always worth playing safe so, working to a lower efficiency percentage. More liquor can be added during a brew day to reach target gravity if it’s too high. Keep an eye on your gravity of your running’s to the brew kettle, if it gets too low you will pull tannins and make your final beer bitter.

Brewing Software – Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

There are many different software’s available to brewers today, to figure out malt (plus hop and water treatment) needed for a brew. Some of the most popular are:

Brewers Friends – for a link to the free recipe calculator click here

Beersmith – For the site please click here

Brew30 – A paid and popular brewing software

Brewd – I’ve not used it but seems popular amongst brewers, click here for more info

Ekos – More than just a recipe formulator, it’s a fully-fledged brewing software through to beer stock and more. The recent price hike is making this one less attractive…I’m not a fan.

There are a many more, some free, others expensive and do more than just calculate recipes. I’d rather not suggest one over another. There are various brewing forums on the net where brewers talk about their preferences.

Please note: It’s always good to know how to calculate malt needs by hand. There are various guides on the internet and a quick Google search will give you access to a lot of good info. Yes, most brewers use software but being able to do it the old school way is always handy.

Specialty Malts

Once you’ve decided on your base malt next comes the specialties. Your specialty malts typically take up 5 to 25% of the total grain bill but can be even higher in some modern styles.

These malts provide flavor and colour contributions which allow you to brew a beer to style. There are literally hundreds of malts to choose from for the modern brewer. Here are some my personal favourites:

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation

Please note: Some suppliers provide similar malt under different names. Malt substitution charts for malts made by different companies are readily available online. Google is your friend here too.

Commercial Brewing Recipe Formulation – Adjuncts

Adjuncts often have a bad reputation in craft brewing circles due to their association with macro-brewing. Where the big boys derive 30-50% of the carbohydrates from rice and corn when brewing lager.

I use adjuncts in brewing several beer styles, as they allow me to brew the beer with the characteristics desired. I’ve written a dedicated article on brewing with adjuncts, which you can read here.

However, I’ll go into a bit of details here too. Adjuncts play a role in many classic beers. They can provide a brewer the ability to create much more fermentable wort than all-grain brewing alone.

Using adjuncts to provide 10-30% of your carbohydrates when putting a recipe together can lead to a lighter beer and balance than with solely malt alone.  I love using oats in several beers such as stouts or some IPA’s variants if I want a “smoothness or silkiness” in the final beer.

Depending on how the adjunct has been processed, it might require some steps before being adding to a mash. Raw grains need to be cooked in a cereal cooker before they can be used. As I say for more information, please see my dedicated article on brewing with adjuncts.


Color is important when it comes to producing a recipe. Again, this is where brewing software can help. When you input your malt bill, the software can calculate the color. Color comes from the different specialty malts you use.

It’s the role of the brewer to think about what flavor a malt imparts as well as how it effects color. When it comes to craft brewing, sometimes you might be a little off in color when brewing a new beer. It happens, especially the darker you go. Sometimes tweaking is needed to dial in a recipe.

In one of my previous articles on brewery boiling tips, we also speak about how boiling wort leads to a color change. The beer will darken as it boils due to Maillard reaction. To learn more please read the article. If brewing to style it’s important to be in the color range listed.




Installing And Commissioning A Brewery

The process of installing and commissioning a brewery (either new or used) varies widely. The type of system and complexity of it determines what is checked and the procedures used. For example, procedures for a simple two-vessel manual brewhouse will be very different than a four-vessel automated system. However, one thing that is common to all is the cleaning and passivation procedures before a brewing system is put into service.

Regardless of whether a system has been checked at the factory prior to shipping (i.e., the FAT or Factory Acceptance Test) once it is onsite and installed everything must be tested again. The FAT is to test what can be tested (vessel, electrical/electronics, piping system, pumps, valves, some devices, etc.) and determine if any significant changes need to be made before disassembly and shipping. It is easier and cheaper to fix or make changes in the factory than in the field.

Installing and Commissioning a Brewery

Brewery layout and hanging grist hydrator


Typically, the brewery equipment supplier will provide a layout of how the equipment should be positioned onsite. What is often lacking is the order in which the vessels should be placed. Sometimes it is quite logical but sometimes not. An example is a four-vessel brewhouse positioned linearly versus that with the vessels placed in a square. I would place the lauter tun first in the linear brewhouse configuration (regardless of where in the line it is located), but in the square configuration, I would place the vessels in the back of the square first (if there is a back). The reason for picking the lauter tun (LT) is because it is usually the heaviest and therefore the most difficult to position. Once it is placed the other vessels can be positioned using the LT as the anchor. In the square configuration, this may not be possible. In some instances, say where there is a hanging grist hopper, the mash kettle (or, depending on the system, mash tun) may be the anchor vessel. In most cases, the structural challenges of hanging a grist hopper determine the location of the vessels below it. In other words the grist hopper is not moveable, so we’ll have to adjust the vessels to suit its position.

Once all the equipment is in position, they must be leveled (and anchored – but usually after all the piping connections are made – just in case). To many, this may sound obvious, but I have seen many brewing systems where the owner is anxious to see his equipment fully assembled and overlooked this step. If there is a platform that is usually installed and leveled as well. If the system was pre-piped, pre-placement of the pumps and reassembly of the piping will go together easier with properly placed and leveled equipment.


After everything is fully assembled, and all the electrical is connected it is time to start testing. I usually get the local electrician to power up the panel with the internal breakers opened and check for faults as each breaker is closed. If any trip immediately there is likely a fault somewhere. I say that, but I have seen breakers trip due to current in-rush (from transformers, or VFDs) from initial start-up, not so much as a fault in the electrical system.

Setting up your brewhouse

Electrical expert monitoring automation components during testing

The next step with the electrical is to check motor rotation. Do not assume anything is going to rotate in the proper direction.

Again, this should be done alongside the local electrician. He may not know which way something is supposed to rotate but he will know how to correct it safely.

(I have skipped the connecting of water, steam/condensate, malt handling, and glycol systems for brevity purposes. This article is intended to summarize starting up a typical brewing system, not so much as a comprehensive set of instructions for all types of breweries).


Once everything is deemed to be operational electrically, we can prepare for moving water around. The first thing I do is visually inspect inside the vessels for foreign objects (such as nuts, bolts, washers, rags, etc.). The next thing is to disconnect the lines going to the suction side of the pumps (I know, you just finished connecting them!). Then open all drain valves. Now you can start hosing out the loose debris that has accumulated inside the vessel over the previous months. Pay particular attention to the lines going to the pumps. I have run a lot of debris through pumps during start-up, so learn from me.

After thoroughly rinsing and inspecting we can button up the disconnected lines and close all valves. I like to start from a known position; that is why I ask to close all valves; it helps reduce the number of surprises. Now, we can simulate a brew, or as some say, do a water brew. I would typically do this first one with cold water in case we need to make some changes on the fly – I hate doing that when everything is hot. If this test goes well get a little more serious and simulate with hot water if available.

During this phase, I check to make sure the pumps are running within their designed current load rating. I will cycle them up to the point of cavitation (if possible) and then back down to their lowest rotational speed. All the time listening for any unusual noises and vibrations.

Before we get to cleaning, we will test the vessel heating. With direct-fired systems (both forced draft burner and electric) it is straightforward. Steam, however, requires a bit more involvement from other professionals. Usually, the company (or person) who installs the steam boiler/system will either fire it or will commission a local expert to fire it up and dial it in as required. When firing up the steam system for the first time, I like to open the condensate at the “Y” strainers and let the steam/condensate blow out any debris that may have accumulated during installation. I will usually run this for 10 to 15 minutes. It can be noisy, hot, and humid but at least you likely won’t have to open up a faulty (read leaking) steam trap.


Passivating always seems to be a bit of voodoo art to most, and, if you have done any searching you are likely to agree. I have read many different articles on how to “properly” passivate stainless steel using many different acidic compounds. Most methods call for a strong acidic solution (like nitric acid) circulated for some time at a particular temperature. What I like to reference is ASTM A380/A380M-17 which defines a standard practice for cleaning, descaling, and passivation of stainless steel. These were adopted by the U.S. Department of Defense. For what we need, the basics are rinse, clean (alkaline detergent), rinse, acid passivate, and rinse.

Something that never seems to come up is the potential to damage a lot of brewery components with a strong hot acid (such as nitric). I have witnessed damage to manway gaskets, pump seals, other seals, corroded pump motor shafts, etc. So, if you can try to isolate those items which may be damaged during this process you will save yourself plenty of grief.

(As a side note, when running these procedures hot be aware of the potential of collapsing a vessel if it is not properly vented (i.e. Hot Liquor or Cold Liquor tanks). A small amount of cold rinse water can lead to a catastrophic event).

Once the system is passivated, I will do more water brews to ensure everything works and no damage was caused during cleaning and passivation procedures. Plus, this also gives the system a good rinse. Now is the time to check and verify flow rates of any flow meters, and the same for any temperatures devices (either digital or analog). I usually use a known-good thermometer (certified) to verify temperatures. Any device that has a function should be tested at this time (not while brewing the first brew).


Concurrent to running the cleaning and passivation of the brewhouse vessels, I will work on the malt handling system. One of the obvious things is making sure all motors run in the proper direction. Augers, conveyors, and the malt mill all need to be checked for proper rotation or direction. Once it is determined all the malt handling components work, I will run a couple of bags of sacrificial malt (i.e., malt that I am willing to dump) through the system. This helps to clean out any debris and polish up auger flighting and remove thin oil coatings. The mill can be set up for both flow rate and gap to get a reasonable crush for the first brew. If screens are available, I will use these to dial in the mill roller gap width.


Once water brews are trouble-free, I will set up for the first brew. That means fill both hot and cold liquor tanks and set their temperatures and monitor to ensure they are working as expected. The malt recipe will run through the malt handling system and into a grist hopper (if one is included) allowing the checking of motor performance (i.e., heat and amperage draw) and to balance flows between conveyors and the malt mill.

Installing and commissioning a brewery

Brewer taking notes during installation


On mashing-in, water volume is normally measured with a flow meter, and liquor temperature may be manually monitored and adjusted or by automation, depending on the system. If the mash vessel has heating jackets and an agitator, both will be checked for proper operation. Mash agitator drive will be run up to 100% and the mixing performance observed. Keep in mind the lower the liquor to grist ratio the poorer the mixing performance (i.e., less than 2.8:1). During heating steps, the times to hit the various setpoints will be noted and heat rates calculated.

Prior to transferring the mash, foundation water is added to the lauter tun. Temperature stability noted. Normally the amount will be just to the top of the false bottom screens. If there is a flow meter on the hot liquor line this volume is noted and used for subsequent brews.


If the mashing vessel is dedicated for this purpose, then at the end of the mashing program, a transfer over to a lauter tun is next. Both speeds of transfer and how well the mash vessel drains (vortexing? complete emptying?) are noted. Always listening for any unusual noises and constantly checking for leaks. I like to see this transfer occur within 10 minutes for a “normal” brew.

During this time, a handheld ammeter is used to check the amp draw of the motors while under load. An example is during mash mixing (above) when the variable frequency drive is sped up to 100% the motor is likely to draw close to the motor tag FLA (full load amperage).  A quick check of the motor temperature (by hand) will tell you if the motor is working hard. If a motor heats up significantly within a few minutes you may have a problem, an ammeter check will verify this.

After the mash has settled vorlauf or recirculation of the wort back into lauter tun is started. After a predetermined amount of time (usually 10 to 20 min), the wort flow will be switched to the brew kettle. During vorlauf and run-off, I will carefully monitor the differential pressure either visually (if no pressure transmitter) or with the installed devices (pressure transmitters).

If the system has variable height rakes, then during lautering, I will run these to their limits while at raking speed. Even though these would have been tested many times prior I am cautious the first time with a grain bed.

Sparge temperature stability, flow rate, and coverage pattern are monitored, and any abnormalities are noted for further review.

At the end of lautering, I will take a sample of the spent grains and do a starch test (iodine) for residual unconverted starch. This will help me dial in the malt mill. If any starch is detected, that tells me I am losing extract and need to adjust my mill settings (gap width, feed rate, etc). As most brewers know there is a fine line between too tight and too loose malt mill roller gap. So some caution must be exercised when making these adjustments.


With steam-fired systems, I will turn on the heat in the brew kettle as soon as the bottom jacket is covered. As the kettle fills, I will note the temperature and volume and try to maintain a wort temperature of 90℃ to 95℃ (194℉ to 203℉). Once the kettle full mark is made maximum heat is applied and the time to get to a full boil is noted.

Over boil sensor: During previous water brews, the overboil sensor (if installed) is tested by manually grounding the probe to the vessel dome. This is not the same as wort foam during boiling. The device’s sensitivity may have to be adjusted to react more accurately to the conductivity to wort foam during boiling. So, I carefully allow boiling wort to foam up to the overboil sensor to make sure it reacts correctly. If it does not respond quickly enough, I will increase the sensitivity until I get the response I want.

Brew kettle evaporation rate is calculated based on starting volume, end volume, and boil time. The most accurate way is by using a dipstick. An external sight glass can give erroneous readings, so I like to verify with a manual method.

During wort boiling, the lauter tun will be emptied. If there is a spent grains removal system in place, this will be tested. Assuming the lauter tun has adjustable rake height, I will usually start with the rakes and plows in the full-up position. With the spent grains manway open, I will set the plow-out speed at half and slowly lower the cutting rakes (plows still up) into the grain bed, all the while listening for any unusual sounds and watching the rotation. Once the rakes reach the bottom limits, I will bring them to the full-up position and then drop the plows and repeat the process, but I will lower according to the amount of spent grain being removed.


On completion of boiling, the wort is either whirlpooled in situ or transferred to a whirlpool vessel. My belief is this should be as brief as possible. If whirlpooling in situ, run the whirlpool pump only long enough to get the wort moving (~ 5 min). Once you reach the terminal rotational speed, shut the pump down and allow the wort to settle. Do not keep running the pump for another 15 min – all the pump does is homogenize the protein flocks you created while boiling. Settling occurs after the pump is turned off.

If there is a separate whirlpool, the pump should be sized for a 10 to 15 min transfer. My preference is a high volume, low speed (RPM) pump. Since most pumps these days are run with a variable frequency drive, the pump speed is usually not an issue. Pumping/transferring problems will arise if the pump is sized incorrectly or the piping is of a poor design.


Once the trub has settled, the wort can be cooled and transferred to an awaiting fermentation vessel. I will usually start the process slowly. Wort is allowed to gravity feed the pump and then the heat-exchanger (this is system-dependent). Coolant flow is turned on and verified, and then the wort pump. Wort temperature at the discharge side of the heat exchanger is closely monitored and adjusted as required. Temperature can be controlled by varying the coolant flow rate or varying the wort flow rate (pick one). Usually the coolant flow rate becomes fixed, and the wort pump speed is adjusted to trim the temperature. Heat exchangers are engineered with somewhat fixed parameters. However, there is quite a range they can operate within.

Almost without exception, air or oxygen is injected, post-heat exchanger. The aeration device always has an inline sight glass which must be checked to ensure the device is operating correctly. Oxygen (or air) flow should be ramped up and down to ensure the flow gauge is reading (and the check valve is not installed backward).

Once knock-out is complete, any deficiencies noted should be addressed as soon as reasonably possible.

Installing and commissioning a brewery

Brad assisting with brewery installation

This article is not a comprehensive manual about brewery start-ups but an overview of important and often overlooked considerations.  There are numerous configurations and permutations to take into account, but the main takeaway is to check everything and assume nothing.

KONIG BREWING SYSTEMS offers world-class brewing solutions. From 1BBL Pilot Systems to 150BBL Production Brew Houses, commercial and craft distilleries KÖNIG has the experience, skill, and facility to take on various project types.


Visit our Articles section to gain further insights and info to assist in your brewery planning & build. You can also listen to both our Brewery Consulting & Equipment Sourcing segments on Series 1 of the Podcast for related advice and info.


Are Yeast Driven Beers The Next Hop Craze?

So are Yeast Driven Beers the Next Hops Craze? Ok so Neil so what does this title even mean? The subject was suggested by Chris, to write an article about.

My interpretation; hops experimentation has reached a certain level of maturity in brewing. We have many styles of IPA (India pale ale) such as

  • Double IPA
  • Triple IPA
  • Belgium IPA
  • Black IPA
  • New England IPA
  • Milkshake IPA
  • White IPA

And so on. There exists accepted forms of dry hopping which have developed from traditional methods, to the advent of the hop rockets to some great research and writing by the likes of Scott Janish.

There’ll be more written on the subject and great studies on hops and brewing in the future. However, I feel a lot of the basics have been covered, understood and universally accepted by the brewing community.

Then we come to yeast, which I believe is where the next evolution in brewing will come from. I’ve started writing more on the subject of yeast. Plus, about my appreciation of Milk the Funk (MTF) wiki and the accompanying MTF facebook group.

This article aims to be a jumping off point for further research, introducing the basics of how yeast can be used to make new and unique beers.

The Discovery of Kveik

Yeast evolution in brewing has already started. I think one of the main drivers was the discovery of Kveik yeast by the outside brewing world, of this obscure Norwegian yeast. This article is a great look at how the brewing community came to know about kveik .

It’s possible to ferment Kveik yeasts at crazy temperatures. With some strain working at 38 -42°C (100 – 107°F). It can finish fermenting in 2 days and still be a clean beer. It’s fair to say Kveik, took the brewing world by storm.

The rapid rise in use and acceptance of Kveik yeast in commercial brewing. I believe opened many brewers’ eyes to the myriad of possibilities, when it comes to yeast and brewing.

The Love for Brett – Yeast Driven Beers Are the Next Hop Craze

Yes, I accept Belgium has been doing wild fermentations for centuries with the brewing of Lambic beers.  However, the use of coolships and the capturing of wild yeast in craft brewing is on the rise around the world.

Brewers are sharing their experiments, with techniques being refined, adopted and used to make commercial beers. Furthermore, since the early 2000’s, craft breweries have been looking to yeasts such as Brettanomyces bruxellensis and Brettanomyces anomalus for creating beers with unique profiles.

But it is safe to say, the adoption of these yeasts is on the rise as more brewers discover the versatility they offer. Also, the informed craft drinking public understand and enjoy these beers plus, there is a market for them.

Classification Taken from Milk the Funk (MTF) – Yeast Driven Beers Are the Next Hop Craze

When it comes to putting yeasts into categories for this article it was difficult so, I looked to MTF for guidance. Here is what we have:

Mixed Fermentation

This is fermentation involving a combination of Saccharomyces (brewer’s yeast), Brettanomyces (wild yeast), Lactobacillus (lactic acid bacteria abbreviated to LAB) and Pediococcus (lactic acid bacteria) or other microbes not necessarily associated with brewing.

These beers don’t necessarily have to be sour but, might be tart due to some acetic acid production. The primary fermentation is completed by a Saccharomyces and/or Brettanomyces yeast in most cases.

Spontaneous Fermentation / Coolships

We are back to lambic beers here. A generally accepted definition of spontaneous fermentation is the inoculation of wort for fermentation by local ambient microbes. Brewers use a vessel called a coolship, please see the picture below.

Yeast Driven Beers

Coolship Brewing – Yeast Driven Beers

The coolship should be shallow to allow a large surface-to-volume ratio. This allows for more affective cooling but also makes it easier for microbes to inoculate said wort.

The wort will be left to cool overnight and exposed to the air. Where native yeast and bacteria are introduced to the wort. One term commonly used to describe these beers is “wild ale”.

In Belgium (and now adopted elsewhere) these beers are produced between autumn and spring, when ambient night temperatures are around -3.9 to 8°C (25-46°F).

The reason being these temperatures are ideal for cooling the wort. Plus, some people suggest these times are best for the ambient microbial balance, as the summertime has more acetic acid bacteria.

Wort Souring

A process of mixed fermentation where lactic acid bacteria, usually Lactobacillus is pitched before the primary fermentation yeast to produce lactic acid to sour the wort. Typical non-sour beer has a final pH between 3.8 and 4.6.

Whilst these sour beers will have a pH range between 3.0 and 3.7. The most popular method to sour wort is kettle souring. Typically, the wort is left in the brew kettle overnight, up to 3 days.

A pure strain of lactobacillus is introduced, where it consumes sugars in the wort transforming them into lactic acid. This is how sour beers get its tart flavor many of us love.

Typically, he wort is boiled after the target pH has been reached to pasteurize the wort, stop the souring process, it’s then cooled and sent to FV where the primary yeast is added for fermentation.

There are other methods to sour wort, such as commercial yeasts developed to ferment the glucose in the wort into lactic acid in FV (fermentation vessel). One such yeast is Fermo Acid Brew which I’ve written about here.

Once the souring yeast has finished, the primary yeast for fermentation is added to finish off the fermentation to the desired final gravity.

Brettanomyces – Yeast Driven Beers Are the Next Hop Craze

I learnt something new today, Brettanomyces is Greek for “British Fungus”! Brewers use the term Brett or Bretta. It was an important yeast for producing the desirable characteristics in English ales in the 17th century and earlier.

However, from the 1800’s onwards, Brett was seen as a spoilage yeast. Except when used in Belgian Lambic and Flanders beers. But in the last 20 years Brett has been making a comeback in craft brewing circles.

Brettanomyces, produces high levels of fruity esters which brewers seek in some styles of beer like saison, lambic and sour beers. Please see the aroma wheel below.

Yeast Driven Beers - Brett Aroma Wheel by Dr. Linda Bisson and Lucy Joseph at UC Davis.

Brett Aroma Wheel by Dr. Linda Bisson and Lucy Joseph at UC Davis.

Historically Brett was considered a “wild yeast”, due to its ability to spoil beer and for the funky aromas and flavors it produces. Some of the main descriptors include “floral”, “earthy” and “horse blanket”.

Thankfully brewers have been able to wrangle this fickle organism through culturing to produce known and desired results in finished beer. Thus allowing Brett to be used and understood by brewers with a little research using commercial strains readily available.


We brewers call this “Lacto” or abbreviate it to LAB. Lacto produces acidity and sour flavors though the formation of lactic acid.

Common beer styles produced this way are lambics, Berlinerweisse, sour brown ales gueze and gose. We covered how LAB is used in brewing in wort souring and mixed fermentation above.

The Love for Sours and Wild Yeast

Sour beers are no longer a “niche beer”, they’ve hit the mainstream. There are brewers like Wild Wave in South Korea who exclusively make sour and wild ales.

In Australia, they are several breweries known for their wild and sour ales. These include:

Wildflower – Specializes in wild yeast ales barrel age blending. Chris recently interviewed one of the owners Topher Boehm for series 2 of the podcast.

Future Mountain Brewing – Based out of Reservoir, Victoria who are well-known for their farmhouse inspired, mixed fermentation and barrel aged beers

Dollar Bill brewing – Based out Ballarat, Central, Victoria and well-known in the wild ale space.

You have all forms of sour beer, from sour IPA’s, dark sour beers, to many styles of gose to sour fruited beers. Brazil even has its own style called Catarina Sour.

Brewers are getting really creative with these brews and there’s a wonderful sharing of knowledge. People are sharing their wild yeast captures techniques and cultures. Please see this great post by Bootleg Biology for the basics of yeast capturing.

The unique flavors these yeasts are producing is akin to the discovery and research done into many strains of Kveik. There’s still so much to discover. But the possibilities are endless and why I believe yeast driven beer are the next hop craze.

Wine Yeasts

This is a subject I’ve covered in an article at Asian Beer Network which you can read here. So, I’ll just go over the basics here.

Wine Yeast and Beer Wort – Yeast Driven Beers Are the Next Hop Craze

Many wine yeasts don’t ferment the main sugars in beer wort, maltose and maltotriose. They ferment other simpler sugars in the wort so, you’ll need to use a beer yeast to ferment the beer to your desired final gravity.

The term for using two yeasts in this manner is called “co-pitching” or “mixed fermentation”, which we looked at earlier in this article. One other way to ferment the wort with wine yeast is to use an enzyme to breakdown the complex sugars into simple ones, which the wine yeast can ferment.

Kill Factor

A lot of wine yeasts have what we call a “kill factor”. Meaning, it’ll kill other yeasts if they’re added at the same time or later. In brewing, if a wine yeast has the kill factor you need to pitch the beer yeast first and then wine yeast later.


Split the batch, with say 70% of the wort fermented by the beer yeast, and 30% fermented by the wine yeast. Again, use an enzyme to break down the complex sugars so the wine yeast can work. Once both worts have been fermented and ready, you can blend the batches together.

POF+ and POF-

The majority of wine yeasts are POF+ (phenol off flavors), meaning when they ferment beer, they create undesirable off-flavors. However, there are some POF- wine yeasts which are more suitable for brewing beer. Please check the main wine yeast article for more on this subject.

Wine Yeast Conclusions

The use of wine yeasts in beer is on the rise, with some commercial breweries producing beers made with wine yeast for market. It’s still a newish development, with little research available on the subject.

The main driver is wine yeasts offers the potential for new natural flavors and aromas in beer production. Some yeasts offer wonderful fruity aroma such as stone fruit which you get from K1B-116 white wine yeast or you can use L22-26 a red wine yeast, which gives off a general berry flavor.

Being Unique – Yeast Driven Beers Are the Next Hop Craze

As more breweries pop up around the globe and the competition gets fiercer, breweries look to offer beers which are unique and standout. There are a lot of heavy hopped beers on the market, it’s harder to stand out or be creative with hop forward beers.

The use of different yeast strains is not as developed in the brewing world as with hops. It’s easier to be unique or create something which can make you stand out. In the drive to get people to drink your beer, yeast exploration could be the way forward as it:

  • Offers the chance to create unique flavours
  • Works across multiple beer styles so creating something new is easy
  • Make you stand out from the hop hype / adjunct breweries

Financial Sense

There’s another advantage to exploring yeast, cost. Hops are expensive with certain varieties in demand being extremely costly. Plus, the more hops you use the less sellable beer you have.

Now, if you go down the yeast route it can be much cheaper. You can develop your own inhouse strains and re-use them time and time again. You can also end up with more “sellable” beer from every batch if you’re not heavily hopping the beer.

If a brewer can produce beer cheaper, plus, still be unique as well as sold for a premium it’s a win-win. These yeast driven beers are still seen as special by the consumers, as they are unique. Yes, they take a few extra steps to produce but, it makes selling them for a premium price point is acceptable.

If you can reuse the yeasts, then the price point of the beers will be attractive, especially when compared to heavy hopped beers.

Australian Breweries Playing in the Yeast Driven Beers Space

There has been a number of breweries in Australia that have also been pushing the envelope within the yeast driven beers space. Chris was able to catch up with Topher Boehm from Wildflower just recently for the upcoming series 2 of the podcast, where he discussed their unique business model and beer offerings specialising in brewing with wild yeast and barrel age blending.

Wildflower Brewing & Blending

Other breweries include Slow Lane who specialise in yeast driven European ales, and Harvest Berry Mountain, who under Master Brewer Neal Cameron, has adopted old traditional brewing methods by doing open fermentations of their beers. These two breweries are also expected to appear on the podcast, as well as some behind the scenes video footage of their operations (stay tuned for this). And let’s not forget some of the bigger guys such as Van Dieman Brewing, La Sirene, Future Mountain & Dollar Bill Brewing as well.

Slow Brewing & Harvest Berry Mountain

Yeast Driven Beers Are the Next Hop Craze – Conclusions

So, there you have it. My thoughts on yeast driven beers. As I say this article is to be a jumping off point for your own further research. I’ve my own experiments ongoing right now.

For example, two weeks ago, I took some wort from regular stout brew and put 100 litres in a pilot FV and pitched Fermo Acid Brew into it.

I let the beer sour, it went to pH 3.9, which not particularly low but I didn’t pre-acidify the wort and also the mash temperature was quite high.

Then pitched some BE-134 Fermentis yeast in the wort and let it ferment out, it’s a Saison yeast. I added some coconut and dried hibiscus flower just before terminal gravity. It’s crashing now, but so far really happy with the results.

I’ve ordered some wine yeasts and will be playing with wort streams in the future. To see what flavor profiles, I get. I’m brewing in Shanghai and I don’t know of another local brewery experimenting with wine yeast. I could offer something unique to the city.

I’m excited to trial these beers and see what feedback I get. I’ll share my experiences and results in future articles. Will yeast driven beer be the next hop craze? I don’t know but there’s one way to find out and that’s…just brew it.

One final Note

When working with new yeasts and microbes be careful of cross contamination. When you bring something new into a brewery, you need have proper measures in place.

For example, in some breweries their sour program is completely separate from the normal production facility, with their own beer hose and packaging line.

Further Content on the Topic

Check out Series 1 Episode with Avi Shayevitz from Lallemand brewing who gives in-depth insights about the importance of yeast in the brewing process and exciting prospects yeast will play in the future of craft beer.

Sourcing Brewing Equipment From China

Price, is the main motivator’s breweries have for sourcing brewing equipment from China. Setting up a brewery is an expensive business and your biggest outlay is the kit you’ll make the beer on. The big concern with many brewers is…how do you go about sourcing brewing equipment from China and more importantly make sure the kit is good?

We’ve all heard horror stories, with brewery owners having bad experiences sourcing equipment from China like this one. Which, I read about a few weeks ago. I even heard on the brewer’s grapevine about one brewer, who’d been told the container carrying their equipment fell off the boat, and was currently at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean! I had another brewer share the pictures below, of equipment a friend had bought. The equipment had bad craftmanship and unsanitary welds.


When they reached out to the equipment supplier, they were told “well for the price you paid, what do you expect?” Let’s say the aftercare service was non-existent. So yeah, your concerns are valid.


People buy online for the many items these days; be it electronics, gardening tools or books. When purchasing online you…

  • Shop around
  • Look for reviews
  • See how the seller is rated
  • Get recommendations from a friend or family
  • Potentially speak with the seller directly

You don’t blindly purchase from the first site you visit, which happens to have the item you want. You don’t necessarily go with the cheapest option. But, with a seller or company with a good reputation, you feel you can trust.

It’s the same when sourcing brewing equipment from China. If it’s too good to be true, then it usually is…always do your research and due diligence.

Now, I need to be upfront, I’m a UK brewer based in China. I work as a brewing consultant helping people who want to source Chinese kit.

So, putting a positive spin on buying from China is in my best interests. However, as I’ve already written, not all Chinese equipment suppliers are trustworthy and equipment made equal.

I want to share with you my experiences in China, installing Chinese made brewing equipment. Plus, helping breweries overseas sourcing Chinese made brewing equipment.

Furthermore, there are many well-known breweries who’ve had good experiences with Chinese made brewing systems.


Have you ever heard of Carlton United Breweries? Just kidding…anyway take a look at the quote below:

As you can see in the image above, Carlton United Breweries were happy with the equipment they bought from Bespoke Brewing Solutions. Bespoke are a Chinese equipment manufacturer run by a Brit and an American.

Here are some other breweries from around the world, who’ve bought brewing equipment from China.

  • Black Hops Brewery – Australia
  • AB InBev – Placed breweries made in China in India and South Korea
  • Distant Shores Brewing Company – Japan
  • Gammelbacka Bryggeri AB – Sweden
  • Little Island Brewery – Singapore
  • Lamborghini – Their brewpub experience

Like with any purchase, doing your research and due diligence is key. However, even before doing your research on different suppliers, you need to make your equipment list.


To give your brewhouse project a greater chance of success, you need to be properly prepared. It all starts with your list. You need to be very clear about what equipment you want. For example:

  • How many vessels will your brewhouse have (2,3,4 or 5 vessel system)?
  • What is your preferred heating option? If steam, do you want it to be electric or gas powered?
  • How many cellar tanks do you need plus, what sizes and configurations?
  • Will you be making a lot of high ABV beers? Do you need an oversized mash tun?
  • Are you planning to make mostly lager? Would horizontal tanks be best?


Below are just some of the basics, you’ll need cover when getting more granular in your needs and requirements. I recently worked with an established Australian brewery looking to source a pilot system for their production facility.

They bought from China previously, but not worked directly with any manufacturers. So, they reached out to me for help. The list they put together was impressive, they knew what they were doing.

They wanted the pilot system to match up with their production brewhouse. So, required the same brand names for a lot of their key components. Which they clearly stipulated on the equipment list. All their auxiliary equipment had specified brands they wanted to use for their…

  • Flow meters
  • Pumps
  • Steam fittings
  • Heat exchanger
  • PID
  • PLC / HMI
  • Pneumatics

Why were they so insistent?

Well, they needed to be able to replace parts easily. Which meant they didn’t want local Chinese brands but international brands which could be sourced in Australia.


As the brands stipulated were also installed on their big production brewery. It made it easier for the maintenance team to fix any issue on the pilot system. As they would know the parts already. The brewery also wrote on their brief:

  • Electrical to be wired and installed to Australian standards
  • Fermentation / pressure vessel tanks must carry design registration in Australia

The above makes government inspection easier to pass, as they’ll have all the necessary paperwork. What else did the client specify?

Well for their fermentation tanks, here were some of their requests:

  • Tanks with individual temp controllers, PID’s and glycol solenoids wired-up on-board skid
  • Spunding Valves
  • 9” dry hopping ports on the top of each tank
  • Carbonation Stones in Each Tank
  • Racking Arms
  • All Tri Clover Fittings 1.5”

Plus, for the brewhouse here is some of the list:

  • Steam Condensing Stack on Kettle Heat Exchange
  • Mash Rakes and Plough
  • Supplied with steam pipework, traps, strainers and valves fitted to vessels ready to connect to single 1.5” BSB fitting from existing steam network

The more specific you can be, the better the project will go. Think about the height of the grain out manway for spent grains for example. The more precise you are, the less you’ll leave decisions up to the manufacturer, leading to fewer surprises later on.

Being clear in your instructions during initial communications with different manufacturing companies, is a good way to assess how the company operates. Their feedback, questions and responses are good indicators of how the overall project might go.

For instance, you’ll soon know if the manufacturer has a good engineer on their team. As they will make initial drawings plus layouts based on your requests in a timely manner. Plus, be happy to work with you to change the layouts/drawings over the course of the project.


Like trawling through reviews; when making an online purchase, you need to talk with previous clients when choosing a manufacturer. Any legitimate Chinese brewing equipment supplier should be happy for you to speak with breweries they’ve supplied before.

The ideal scenario is to visit a brewery local to you in person. A brewery which has equipment made by a supplier on your short list. Nothing can beat the eye test to put your mind at ease.
Most equipment manufacturers have a list of previous clients who they have worked with and who are willing to chat with potential customers. I’ve done this myself and actually just last week connected two brewers so, one brewer could get info on a manufacturer they were looking to use.


  1. How was the communication during the project – was the company easy to get hold of when needed, and did they keep you up-to-date during the whole process?
  2. How did the installation of the equipment go? When planning layout and brewhouse design, how was the communication?
  3. How was the aftercare when the project was finished?
  4. Every brewery has some issues when it’s been operation for a few months; how did the manufacturer help with these issues, what did they do and what was the solution?

For example, point 4; last year I helped install a 2000-liter brewery in Kunming, China. There was a chain and disk system to automatically feed malt to the grist hydrator and onto the mash tun.

The grain was moving too quickly and causing the system to seize up. The equipment supplier…

  • Sent us a VDF controller
  • Sourced a local qualified electrician
  • Contacted the local electrician and paid him to fix our malt delivery system
  • Put a new button on the touchscreen to control the speed. Which was done remotely via the internet

This was all done in 48 hours and a great example of good aftercare. I’d chosen this supplier as I’d had good feedback about them from two brewers I trust. The research I done paid dividends when it came to fixing issues.


I should quickly note here; many “overseas manufacturers” have their equipment fabricated in China. For example:

  • SSV Limited
  • DME (have a facility in China as well as Canada)
  • Brewtech
  • ABE
  • Willis European

Are just some of the western manufacturers who have equipment made in China. Some are more open about this than others. It’s just an aside, but worth noting.

In essence you’re paying a middle man to help with purchasing. It does have its advantages if you’ve the right contract.


Now seems to be a good time to look into some of the reasons why Chinese prices are cheaper. I’m going to start with the price of Nickel.

Nickel Pricing Plus State Ownership
Nickel is vital in the production of stainless steel; Indonesia has the largest Nickel deposits in the world. In September 2019, the Indonesian government announced it was banning export of raw Nickel ore.

Now Chinese companies like Tsingshan, have their own stainless-steel plants within Indonesia. So, the ban didn’t affect them as much as other steel companies in Europe, Canada and the US.
Chinese stainless-steel firms are also embracing technology to make their plants more modern, efficient and cost effective too. The combination of innovation plus, having access to cheaper raw materials makes their steel much cheaper.

Furthermore, some Chinese steel manufacturers are State-Owned-Enterprises (SOE). They can take advantage of economies of scale plus other factors which are explained here. Let’s explain by example. Say Canadian steel plant pays their worker $75,000 per year.

In all likelihood, $35,000 of this will be taxes and other costs. In China when the company is an SOE you are really paying the worker $40,000 per year, since the government would be collecting the taxes anyway. Hence the true cost of labor is cheaper.

Other factors to competitiveness include:

China’s Business Ecosystem
Within China industrial production is linked together; you have a network of suppliers, component manufacturers, distributors, government agencies and customers. Together, they’re all involved in the process of production through competition AND co-operation.

Lower Compliance
There’s less health and safety, although this is changing, especially in big cities like Shanghai. Chinese manufacturers operate under a more lenient permissive regulatory environment. This allows for cheaper manufacturing with less rules and regs in place.

Currency Manipulation
I hope the Chinese government doesn’t read this, as I might get in trouble. They don’t ever admit currency manipulation takes place. However, most financial experts know China does manipulate its currency to make its exports more attractive, especially during the current trade war with the US.

Tax and Duties
A lot of industries in China have tax rebate policies to help make their products and good competitive on world markets.


If you go on forums, you’ll see people talk about Chinese brewing equipment stating you can’t trust companies in China. They say these companies just want your money and when they have it, they don’t care.

To be fair 10 years ago, this might have been true, however times have changed. Chinese companies realize they’re competing in a world market. They understand a one-time sale isn’t going to support them long term.

Chinese equipment manufacturers realize they need to deliver on three core elements:

  • Competitive pricing
  • Quality equipment
  • Good service and aftercare

The brewing world maybe big, however it’s connected. People in the industry speak to one another. If someone has a bad experience, they are more likely to talk about it than if they’ve a good experience.

Bad suppliers will soon be identified and avoided. It pays to offer good service and aftercare because it’ll lead to more business and setting up the manufacturer for long term success.
A lot of sales for many manufactures, is via word of mouth. It makes sense for them to look after their clients.

Ningbo and Jinan
There are two main areas in China; where brewing equipment is fabricated. The first is Ningbo (not too far from Shanghai) and Jinan. A majority of manufacturers are based in Jinan where prices are generally lower than Ningbo.

The equipment made in Ningbo though, is generally of better quality. Although the gap is slowly closing. As companies in Jinan begin to employ fabricators originally from Ningbo.

There are dozens of companies making beer equipment in China so, how do you choose the right one?

Well, let’s take a look back in time. Many of the companies making brewing equipment weren’t founded as such. They were diary equipment or soft drink equipment manufacturers.

However, as craft brewing became popular these companies wanted a piece of the pie. So, they started to make brewhouses. Well let’s just say; it wasn’t always a seamless transition. Mistakes were made with some really bad kit going to market.

However, in the last 15 years a lot has been learned and now a majority of the world’s brewing equipment is made in China.

This includes European and American suppliers having their kit fabricated in China. Once this kit has been delivered Stateside or to Europe; the local supplier will do some finishing touches before it’s delivered to the customer. It’s proof-positive good brewhouse equipment is being made in China.


As we begin rounding up this article, I wanted to give some takeaways:

You get What You Pay For

If you make a decision based solely on budget it might not represent a good long-term investment. You’re brewing kit will work hard over its lifetime. Ideally, you want your brewhouse to last a minimum of 5 years.

It’ll do over a thousand brews easily in this time. Brewing is a multi-step process where timings and temperatures are key. Spending money on kit which will last and works as intended will save a lot of heartache and man hours over its lifetime.

Buying a system which meets certain standards, allows for less man hours to brew and makes standardization of your beers easier, giving you a greater chance of long-term success. It’s worth assessing equipment on many levels not just price.

We’ve covered this above but, always good to reiterate this point. There are enough brewhouses made in China operating overseas for reputable suppliers to offer references and case studies of equipment being used.

Always reach out to breweries using equipment of a supplier on your shortlist of potential manufacturers. Speak with them and learn what you can.

Remember to be precise when it comes to your equipment list. If you’re not sure about something ask. There are many resources online; from Facebook groups like the Build Me A Brewery Discussion Group.

Often it is worth reaching out to other local breweries and asking if they’d be willing to chat. Sometimes they’ll say no, but other times they’ll be willing and their insight can be invaluable.
Communication with manufacturers, allows you to understand what you’re getting for your money. There’s an old saying “quality begins with the buy”. A good manufacturer will provide proper PID schematics of any build, if you ask.

If communication isn’t clear from the start, you’re giving the manufacturer free reign to do as they please. This might lead to some nasty surprises down the line.

Furthermore, you need to keep lines of communication open throughput the fabrication process. A good manufacturer will happily keep you abreast of the build as it goes along.

Where possible; it makes sense to visit China and the manufacture’s factory. Many buyers visit once, to check out several manufactures to compare them. Then visit China a second time to sign off on the equipment before shipping.

Even with the costs of travel and accommodation the total price will be cheaper than buying elsewhere. It also allows the buyer peace of mind.


When you’ve finished your research and have a short list of potential manufacturers, it’s time to get quotes. Depending on who is on your shortlist, the difference in price should be around 20 to 30% between manufacturers.

Once I have quotes from each supplier, I like to break down their quotes into smaller blocks So breakdown and compare prices between:

  • Brewhouses
  • Cellar tanks
  • Glycol system
  • Heating systems
  • Keg cleaner

These are just some examples; it might throw up some anomalies. If something stands out compared to other suppliers it is worth questioning the costs with the manufacturer.


Thanks for taking the time to read this article, I hope you found our breakdown on sourcing brewing equipment from China useful. Many breweries are now buying their equipment from China, including some of the big boys like Carlton United Breweries and AB InBev. As well as many craft brewers from around the world.

Just this week for instance, I’ve spoken to people from Israel, Quebec, Italy and Greece about potential brewing projects. It’s all about doing your research, having good communication, and remember don’t make a decision purely based on price.

If you have any question or feedback, then please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me at:

Thanks, have a great day and happy brewing!


For further content on this topic have a listen to our Equipment Sourcing Segment on Series 1 of the BMAB Podcast

Brewing Heating Options Part 4 – The Verdict

We’ve reached the final part in our brewing heating options series, it’s time to draw some overall conclusions on Steam Brewing, Direct Fire Brewing and Electric Brewing systems. The aim of this post is to help you decide the right brewery heating option for you.

A quick recap on the different heating options covered in the articles series are:

Steam – One advantage of steam is it offers even heat distribution, read the main article here

Direct Fire – It can be a quick when heating up wort in the kettle, for the full article click here.

Electric – Electric is often the easiest to install as there are fewer local regulations to pass compared to direct fire and steam. For our dedicated electric heating article click here.

All brewery heating options have their pros and cons when brewing. So, how do you choose the right heating system for your brewhouse?

Well let’s start by looking at the table below for all the information we’ve learnt so far:

Brewing Heating Options

Let’s take a closer look at the each of the categories we’ve used in the above table. So, we can do a deep dive into the merits of each heating option. We’ll start with brewery size.


How Big Will Your Brewery Be?

The size of your brewhouse, will go a long way in deciding the right option for you. In smaller systems, 500 litres (4.25 US barrels) and below electric is most used. At this size you’re more likely a brewpub in a residential area.

Your main concern with electric heating is venting the steam from you brew kettle. If you can’t vent to the outside, you can run a steam condenser off your brew kettle steam outlet. These condensers run cold water through then vent turning steam to water which goes to the drain.

In residential areas there’s likely to be tighter regulations, which can rule out the installation of a steam generator and the use of an open flame. When you’ve electric heating, you’re only using electric elements meaning less red tape.

Easier Setup

Furthermore, using electric elements inside your brewhouse vessels means there are no boilers, pipes or water treatment needed unlike when using steam. So, if space is tight, electric makes sense plus, it’s cheaper too.

The main concern with elements, is if they blow out during your brew day. It’s always good to keep spare elements in stock to reduce downtime.

As you can see for a smaller brewery, the low initial start-up costs, ease in setting up and the fact it takes up little space makes electric attractive. Electric is ideal up to 1,200 litres (10 US barrels), with bigger electric brewhouses existing.

When you go bigger it becomes an issue of being able to draw enough power. In many locations, it would be cost prohibitive to convert the building to three-phase electric to run bigger elements.


Brewhouse between 5HL (4.2 US barrels) to 17.5 HL (15 US barrels) in Size

If you’re location can’t provide the electrical power needed for elements; direct fire becomes a viable alternative. Yes, the setup costs are more than with electric, however they’re still cheaper than steam.

Furthermore, the space needed for direct fire is manageable, depending on the system chosen. At this brewery size range, you’re mostly likely a taproom or large brewpub where space is still a concern.

Direct fire advantages over steam, are no boiler, boiler room or piping are needed. Additionally, if you’re in a residential area, direct fire is probably easier to install than steam factoring in local regulations.

Direct Fire Heats Up Wort Quickly

Direct fire heats up wort quickly (the quickest of the three methods). However, it’s prone to hotspots and a higher probability of caramelization particularly if heating using a firebox underneath the kettle.

If you’re use direct fire jackets on the kettle, there’s less chance of caramelization but it’s still something to look out for.

In this brewhouse size range, steam is of course and option too. However, you will most likely use an electric steam generator rather than a dedicated gas boiler. As they take up less room and are easier to maintain.

If you decide to buy your brewing equipment from China, they will often recommend an electric steam generator. Please note: Chinese regulations for housing a steam generator are less strict than elsewhere.

So, check with your local authorities first about what is and isn’t allowed before any equipment purchase. I’ve actually seen a 200-litre brewery in Shanghai run with an electric steam generator.

To conclude, with a brewery between 5HL (4.2 US barrels) to 17.5 HL (15 US barrels) in size all heating options are viable.


Steam – Ideal if you’re local regulations allow it, you’ve the budget and if you would like to use steam elsewhere (more on this point later).

Electric – If you’re building can draw enough power, you’re on a tight budget and local regulations take steam and direct fire off the table. One downside of electric, is it can take longer to reach a boil the bigger your system becomes, plus the boil maybe less vigorous too.

Direct Fire – If you’ve the budget and local regulations allow, direct fire is a decent option. Especially if you’re in a remote location where propane is handy fuel source.


Breweries at 1,750 Liters (15 US barrels) and Above

Where larger breweries are concerned, I’d always recommend steam where possible. You’re more likely a production brewery so, being able to use steam elsewhere is handy. Steam is good for keg/cask cleaning and for sterilizing wooden barrels if you have a program. Steam can be used for sterilizing compressed air for wort aeration too!

When you’re running a production brewery, you’re more likely to have a 3,4 or 5+ vessel system. Having steam so you can heat all vessels including your HLT at the same time is labour and time saving. When you’re doing multiple brews per day these savings really start to add up, to the point the extra costs of installing steam are recovered.

The bigger you go when using steam, the more attractive it becomes to use a calandria. Having greater control of the boil and evaporation rate, makes consistency from batch-to-batch easier to achieve.


Start-up Costs

If you’re planning a small brewpub (less than 500 litres) on a limited budget, electricity is perhaps the right choice. The physical installation of the equipment plus passing of local regulations is easier.

Furthermore, electric is the cheapest option to install compared to the others. Yes, it most likely the most expensive to run but the space saving plus, less maintenance required make sense.

Above 500 litres to 1,000 litres, it’ll likely come down to which utility is cheapest to run at your location, gas or electric. If you’ve access to natural gas, then direct fire is a good choice. The start-up costs are higher, however, over time you’ll recoup the extra expense in cheaper running costs compared to electric.

Additionally, if you’re in a remote location, propane is a nice choice. However, it really comes down to price and availability at your site.

Steam as we say is expensive to install, however above a certain size of brewhouse it makes sense. The heating is efficient, you’ll have even heat distribution, colour pick up is low, it’s relatively quick and can be unitized in other parts of the brewery.


Regulations and Efficiencies

The first table in this post highlights the efficiencies of the three main heating sources. Electric with its low-density elements is least efficient. However, it worth noting as the as the elements are immersed in the wort, heat transfer itself is quite efficient.

Electric is the preferred option dependent on brewhouse size and utilities available at your location. With direct fire the choice is a little more elusive.

Let’s recap the three main choices:

  • Direct fire heating from the kettle bottom
  • Internal helical coil
  • Jacket with indirect fire

When deciding which of the above choices best suits you; the factors are, how big is your budget and what are the local regulations at your location. The helical coil is the most expensive option.

However, like many expenses in brewing, the more expensive the equipment, the more likely it will pay for itself over time. Helical coils are extremely efficient and will save on ongoing gas running costs.

Direct fire under the kettle is the cheapest option so, those on a budget it’s a good choice. Please note however, there’s a greater chance of localized hotspots and caramelization so, be mindful when brewing lighter more delicate beers.


Hotspots and Differential Temperatures

Steam is the most consistent of the brewing heating options. Steam jackets don’t get as hot as direct fire jackets and offer more even heating therefore you’ve less chance of hotspots and caramelization.

Direct fire under the kettle leads to more hotspots, to the degree where clean-up after the boil is tougher due to “caked” on deposits.

Electric with its low-density elements, will lead to some localized hotspots in some brewing set-ups around the elements. However, modern elements and the improvements in technology makes this less likely but some caramelization will most likely occur.

Please note: Caramelization is desirable in some beers or even true to style. For instance, in some Scottish ales longer boils and caramelization are sought. Therefore, if you’ve a core range of beers where caramelization is desired, direct fire might be the way forward.


Color Pickup

Depending on the brewery heating options you choose, you’ll see different levels of colour pickup. In some beers like Barleywine, colour pickup is desirable. The picture below shows a Barleywine made with all pilsner malt.

Brewing Heating Options

The colour was achieved by boiling the wort for 18 hours in the brew kettle. Ever since I saw this picture, I’ve wanted to try this myself. As with caramelization colour pickup from the Maillard reaction in the boil is desired in some beer styles.

When comparing the main heating methods, the colour pickup is:

Steam Brewing

With the advancements in modern brewing technology, colour pickup on a brew day is less of an issue than before due to advancement in equipment fabrication. However, it’s always good to be aware of the issue.


Brewing Heating Options: Speed of Heating

This subject is more important if you plan to do multiple brews per day. Being able to heat up the mash quicker is preferred. It’ll save on time and labour costs. Electric with low-density elements takes longer (HERMS and RIMS) plus, the boil in the kettle maybe less vigorous.

Direct fire is able to heat up the kettle quickly however, a lot of the “heating power” is lost to the air. So, the helical coil and indirect fire with the coil being immersed in the wort is preferred if the budget allows.

Steam heats up wort quickly enough and is definitely the preferred method for heating your mash. The mash doesn’t need to be transported anywhere else (unlike electric) and heating is usually 1°C per minute. Furthermore, there’s less chance of “scorching” the mash compared to direct fire.

Also, when using a HERMS on an electric system for heating your mash, the HLT temp needs to be at the required mash temperature. This is less than ideal, adding time to your brew day, as you’ll need to heat up the HLT after the mash is at the right temp for lautering.

When using direct fire in your mash tun, localized hot spots are a concern, Yes, you’ll be heating the mash up quickly BUT, enzymes can become denatured or the grain scorched leading to off-flavours in your final beer.

When it comes to speed, even heating and convenience steam wins every time.


Versatility Around the Brewery

This is where steam comes to the fore, it can be used for many other tasks around the brewery:

  • Heating all brewhouse vessels using a central boiler, including CIP units
  • Cleaning and sterilizing casks/kegs on a dedicated cleaning line
  • Sterilize compressed air for wort aeration
  • Cleaning wooden casks if you’ve an in-house barrel program

There are other uses for steam too, which I’ll add later when I think of them. If you’re a larger brewery being able to use steam elsewhere, really makes it attractive when deciding among brewing heating options.

Brewing Heating Options: The Vigour of the Boil

Having a good roiling boil is preferred by brewers for decent evaporation rates and to drive off unwanted volatiles such as DMS…

Let’s Look at DMS (Dimethyl sulfide)

DMS (Dimethyl sulfide), is an off-flavor/aroma which presents as “corn” in finished beer. You really don’t want DMS in your brew. The best way to guard against DMS is on the hot side of brew day during your boil.

In lighter malts such a pilsner, SMM ((S-methylmethionine)) the precursor to DMS is present in larger numbers. This is why lagers are generally boiled for longer than ales when brewing.

The act of boiling wort drives off SMM leading to less likelihood of DMS being present in the final beer. When using electric, the boil maybe less vigorous so, please be aware of this issue.


Brewing Heating Options Conclusions

As you can see there’s much to consider when it comes to choosing the right brewing heating option for you. The key factors to consider are:

Utilities – Is three-phase electric available at your location? What are the costs of gas and electric where you are? Is propane a more convenient fuel for you as you’re in a remote location?

Location – Are you in a residential area, industrial zone or a farm brewery?

Budget – How big is your budget?

Building – Is space a premium? What are the local regulations or building codes like?

What Size System – If you’re small, then electric might make sense. If you’re bigger then steam is probably the way forward.

You’ve also other parameters like colour pickup, vigour of boil, speed of heating and the likelihood of hotspots which need to be considered. All together there are many variables to consider so, we hope our brewery heating options series has given you the tools to make a more informed choice.

With the advancements in modern brewing technology, colour pickup on a brew day is less of an issue than before due to advancement in equipment fabrication. However, it’s always good to be aware of the issue.


Brewing Heating Options: Speed of Heating

This subject is more important if you plan to do multiple brews per day. Being able to heat up the mash quicker is preferred. It’ll save on time and labour costs. Electric with low-density elements takes longer (HERMS and RIMS) plus, the boil in the kettle maybe less vigorous.

Direct fire is able to heat up the kettle quickly however, a lot of the “heating power” is lost to the air. So, the helical coil and indirect fire with the coil being immersed in the wort is preferred if the budget allows.

Steam heats up wort quickly enough and is definitely the preferred method for heating your mash. The mash doesn’t need to be transported anywhere else (unlike electric) and heating is usually 1°C per minute. Furthermore, there’s less chance of “scorching” the mash compared to direct fire.

Also, when using a HERMS on an electric system for heating your mash, the HLT temp needs to be at the required mash temperature. This is less than ideal, adding time to your brew day, as you’ll need to heat up the HLT after the mash is at the right temp for lautering.

When using direct fire in your mash tun, localized hot spots are a concern, Yes, you’ll be heating the mash up quickly BUT, enzymes can become denatured or the grain scorched leading to off-flavours in your final beer.

When it comes to speed, even heating and convenience steam wins every time.


Versatility Around the Brewery

This is where steam comes to the fore, it can be used for many other tasks around the brewery:

  • Heating all brewhouse vessels using a central boiler, including CIP units
  • Cleaning and sterilizing casks/kegs on a dedicated cleaning line
  • Sterilize compressed air for wort aeration
  • Cleaning wooden casks if you’ve an in-house barrel program

There are other uses for steam too, which I’ll add later when I think of them. If you’re a larger brewery being able to use steam elsewhere, really makes it attractive when deciding among brewing heating options.


Brewing Heating Options: The Vigour of the Boil

Having a good roiling boil is preferred by brewers for decent evaporation rates and to drive off unwanted volatiles such as DMS…


Let’s Look at DMS (Dimethyl sulfide)

DMS (Dimethyl sulfide), is an off-flavor/aroma which presents as “corn” in finished beer. You really don’t want DMS in your brew. The best way to guard against DMS is on the hot side of brew day during your boil.

In lighter malts such a pilsner, SMM ((S-methylmethionine)) the precursor to DMS is present in larger numbers. This is why lagers are generally boiled for longer than ales when brewing.

The act of boiling wort drives off SMM leading to less likelihood of DMS being present in the final beer. When using electric, the boil maybe less vigorous so, please be aware of this issue.


Brewing Heating Options Conclusions

As you can see there’s much to consider when it comes to choosing the right brewing heating option for you. The key factors to consider are:

Utilities – Is three-phase electric available at your location? What are the costs of gas and electric where you are? Is propane a more convenient fuel for you as you’re in a remote location?

Location – Are you in a residential area, industrial zone or a farm brewery?

Budget – How big is your budget?

Building – Is space a premium? What are the local regulations or building codes like?

What Size System – If you’re small, then electric might make sense. If you’re bigger then steam is probably the way forward.

You’ve also other parameters like colour pickup, vigour of boil, speed of heating and the likelihood of hotspots which need to be considered. All together there are many variables to consider so, we hope our brewery heating options series has given you the tools to make a more informed choice.


Brewing Heating Options Part 3 – Steam Brewing System

Steam Brewing System Pros and Cons

Today’s article on the pros and cons of using a steam brewing system will complete our look at the three main brewery heating options. We’ve already looked at brewing with electric and direct fire brewing, once we’ve covered steam today, we can draw some conclusions in our final round-up article.

As we’ve mentioned in our previous heating articles, steam is a popular choice for brewers, especially on systems of 11.75 HL (10 US Bbl.) and up. A typical steam brewing system uses jackets on brewhouse vessels, as it’s the easiest plus cheapest way to implement steam heating.

Steam Jackets

Steam Brewing

To get a better understanding take a look at the picture below:

In the drawing opposite, there are two steam jackets on this kettle. The bottom jacket has steam going in N3 and coming out N2. Whilst the second jacket for the side walls has the steam going in N5 and coming out of N4.

The steam continually passes through these two jackets heating up the wort in the kettle. Having a jacket on the bottom allows a brewer to begin heating the wort as the kettle is filling from the mash/lauter tun. Saving some time during the brew day.

In most brewhouses you’ve the ability to regulate the flow of steam going into a vessel, similar to controlling a gas flame on a stove top. With a steam brewing system there are three alternate methods you can employ to heat your brewhouse, we will look at internal calandrias first.

Internal Calandrias – Steam Brewing System

Please note, when using an internal calandria your brew kettle will most likely have jackets too. So, you can heat up the wort whilst it’s filling like with steam jackets. There are several reasons why a brewer might opt for an internal calandria:

  • Increase the evaporation rate during boil – this can lead to shorter boil times.
  • Research suggest you see increased hop utilization and hop break – need to do some further research to confirm this.
  • Lowers the likelihood of DMS in your final beer – due to the vigorous boil and evaporation rates.
  • Lowers the incidence of caramelization in the kettle – when compared to some other systems due to wort movement.
  • Increases movement in the wort kettle – which can mean less energy input needed.
  • Shortens the brew day – it’s more efficient than steam jackets alone.

When using a calandria, the efficiencies come from the large amount of heating area they represent; combined with a small amount of heat loss to the atmosphere. The increased boil off rate is accounted for by greater heating efficiencies as well as increased wort movement.

Picture heating a pan of water on a stove top, the water will heat up and evaporate quicker if you’re stirring the pot. The act of stirring increases the surface area of the water in contact with atmosphere thus more water molecules escape as steam.

The increased efficiencies and possibility of shorter boil times means over time an internal calandria can pay for itself. They’re often used in larger breweries doing multiple brews per day, as the energy and labor savings make economic sense.

How Do Internal Calandrias Work?

An internal calandria stands vertical inside a brew kettle, using convection currents which forces the wort through the tubes inside the calandria where its super-heated by steam.

There aren’t any moving parts in a calandria, it’s works through convection (heat rising). Like in jackets, the steam can be controlled. It has a wort spreader (see the drawing above) which prevents boilovers plus promotes wort movement.

Note: Brewers tend to tun off the side jackets (and potentially the bottom ones too) of the kettle when boiling as it can affect the agitation of the wort.

External Calandrias – Steam Brewing System

External calandrias are mostly used in larger breweries as they are expensive. However, I’ve heard of breweries as small as 500-liters (4.2 US barrels) incorporate them.

The reason breweries pay the extra money for an external calandria is greater control of boil off rates as compared to internal calandrias. The speed of the pump can be controlled thus agitation from batch-to-batch can be replicated.

Furthermore, the steam rate to your EWB (external wort boiler) can also be adjusted too. If you look at the drawing above you can see the heating takes place outside the kettle.

The wort is pumped through the EWB, super-heated then returned to the kettle onto a spreader plate/cone which is just above the surface of the wort. The wort is pumped at a rate of 8 to 10 times the volume of the kettle per hour.

Unlike an internal calandria there are moving parts with an external one. This means there’s more which can go wrong, and some maintenance required. The extra piping, valves and pump needed also increases the start-up costs as well.

Steam Coil in Kettle

This method was used at the first brewery I worked at in the UK. Although, it’s not so common to see a steam coil in the brew kettle these days.

In fact, when I was looking for a picture of a steam coil used in a kettle, I had a hard time finding one. The coil below is actually for use in a hot liquor tank.

The main benefit of a coil is the heat transfer efficiency is high, as the “heating coil” is immersed in the liquid itself. They are hard to clean though (speaking from personal experience). In my first job I had to get inside and clean the coil by hand.

So, when it comes to steam brewing systems, there are really 3 main options and an “outmoded” option.

  • Internal calandria
  • External calandria
  • Steam jacket
  • Steam coil (rarely used)

In a HLT (hot liquor tank) a coil makes sense, it’s water and so doesn’t need regular cleaning. Most breweries might clean the HLT with a regular acid CIP once every one or two months and have scheduled passivation.

You’re not looking for a vigorous boil just getting the water to temp, usually around 77-80°C. If properly designed a HLT should heat up by 1°C per minute when full.

Steam Brewing System – Mashing In

The mash mixer/tun depending on your system will use steam jacket to heat up the mash, similar to the brew kettle we explained earlier.

There’s an agitator or paddle inside the vessel to mix the mash, like the one in the picture below on a 25HL (21.3 US barrel system) to ensure a homogenous mix and even heating.

In smaller breweries sometimes the mash is mixed by hand with handheld mash paddle. It’s always great exercise to the get the blood flowing at the start of a brew day.

Brewery equipment manufacturers calculate the design of brewhouse vessels to heat up liquid (wort/water) 1°C per minute, it’s the same for mash tuns/mixers too. Having the ability to heat your mash is preferred as it allow you to step mash.

For some styles of beers like Hefeweizen for example, being able to mash in at a lower temperature, say 50°C for a protein rest can help guard against a “stuck mash”.

Step Mashing

When you step mash, you raise the temperature of the mash over the course of the mash stand. It helps brew beer to style, say if you’re making a sweet stout.

You might want part of you mash stand to be at a higher temperature so you’ve some “unfermentables” in your final beer for residual sweetness. I like to be able to step mash for my lagers, wheat and some ales too.

One more thing: Seems a good idea to explain here, if you’ve a separate mash and lauter tun. The lauter tun doesn’t usually have a steam jacket. You heat up the mash in the mash mixer to say 78°C for “mash out”.

Whilst you’re heating the mash you pre-heat the lauter tun and leave enough hot water in the vessel to cover the lauter plates/screen. The lauter tun will be well insulated so you’ll not see much drop in lauter temperature during the lauter rest and vorlauf.

The vorlauf is when you recirculate the wort out of the bottom of the lauter tun back into the side of the lauter. To clear it (using the mash bed as a filter), prior to sending the wort o the kettle.

The Advantages of a Steam Brewing System

As we said earlier steam is popular with breweries for a number of reasons. Yes, it the most expensive to purchase and install but for many it’s worth the cost.

Steam Has Many Uses in a Brewery

The one big plus is how versatile steam is for use in a brewery. For example:

CIP Unit Heating – As part of your CIP unit you need to heat your caustic and hot water, this is easier and more efficient with steam.

Cask/Keg Cleaning – Many keg/cask cleaners use steam as part of the cleaning/sterilizing process. You can get options without steam, but it’s better if you can utilize steam.

Sterilizing air for wort aeration – many breweries use pure O2 for aerating their wort, ordering oxygen bottles from an outside company. If you have an air compressor in your brewhouse you can use that to aerate wort.

Air from the compressor isn’t clean, but you can use steam to “sterilize” the air making it suitable for wort aeration. Even if you don’t like the idea, it’s nice to have the backup in case of emergencies.

Cleaning barrels – If you’ve a barrel program, steam is great for cleaning those barrels.

That’s just a few uses of steam I can think of, I’m sure there are more. When I think of them, I will add them later. Anyway, as you can see having steam in your brewery is rather handy.

Other Advantages of Steam

Faster Temperature Increase

When you utilize steam in your brewhouse you’ve a large heating surface area, whichever method you employ. It means you’re able to heat your wort quickly, maintain a vigorous boil and have good evaporation rates.

Even Distribution of Heat

Having a large surface area for heating leads to more even heat distribution. Meaning you’ve less chance of scorching or sticking during your brew day. Furthermore, less sticking as compared to direct fire or electric makes cleaning up easier too.


As we said before steam has so many uses in a brewery from cleaning kegs to compressed air for wort aeration.


If you use the right equipment manufacturer when sourcing your brewhouse. Plus, the system is designed well, steam is easy to control in the brewhouse. Having finer control allows a brewer to more easily replicate procedures and produce a more consistent product.

The last brewery I set up had a touchscreen where I could control the steam valve open rate as a percentage. It’s nice figure to have and record it on your brewsheet for historical data over time.

Expandable and Long Lasting

We said earlier steam is expensive to install, it’s also more work to maintain too. However, a well-looked after steam generator where preventive maintenance is carried out can last a long time and provide a sound investment.

Also, quite popular with Chinese equipment manufacturers is the use of electric steam generators. These generators can be run in sequence. So, if you expand and need more steam, your brewery you can run the original steam generator alongside a new one thus minimizing the cost of expansion.

Disadvantages of Steam Brewing System

More Expensive

Yes, I’ll say it one more time the cost of installing a steam boiler/generator is higher than direct fire of electric. Then there’s regular work needed to maintain the equipment. You need to keep an eye in the water treatment feeding the boiler and backflush your coils on a regular basis too.

More Regulated

You’ll need to check with your local authorities about the use of steam at you chosen location. In some places steam might not be allowed or there might be a cap in the size of steam boiler/generator you can have. Then local emission regulations could significantly increase installation costs and reduce efficiencies as well.

Cost Effectiveness

If you’re start a small (under 300 litres) brewery, taking into account start-up costs of steam and maintenance involved, it might not be worth it. If you really want to steam then go with an electric steam generator.

Steam Brewing System – Conclusions

As a brewer who has worked on many different systems over the years, I’m a fan of steam personally. I wouldn’t consider any other heating method in a brewery bigger than 15HL (12.8 US barrels).

For a larger brewhouse, the greater control, versatility and heating speed of a well-designed brewhouse as well as ease of clean-up, make it an easy choice for me. When using steam, I can be heating my HLT, mash tun and kettle all at the same time. When doing multiple brews per day it all helps.

The up-front costs are paid back in cheaper heating plus, time saved during a normal brew day and through labour costs as well. Steam is versatile and makes a brewer’s life easier too.


Brewing Heating Options Part 2 – Direct Fire Sytems

We are going to look at direct fire for brewing today, as the second in our series of brewery heating solutions. The first article was on electric heating and can be read here.

Direct fire as the name applies uses an open flame to heat up your brew kettle. There are few different options open to brewers and we’ll look at them all in this article.

The technology has evolved over the years and there exists good option for brewers in most situations. Historically direct fire brewing used coal as the main fuel source however, in modern brewing gas or oil is used to run the burner.

What Does Direct Fire Brewing Look Like?

The burners are generally housed in a cast iron combustion chamber underneath the kettle distributing heat across the kettle bottom.

It can be one main flame or more commonly several flames allowing for better heat distribution across the kettle. A newer design I’ve recently seen “pushes heat through a coil” inside the kettle for more efficient heat transfer, as the coil is immersed in the liquid.

Options using direct fire for mash tuns exist but they’re rare, as the mash can easily stick or scorch due to localized hot spots. The other main issue with most direct fire systems is their inefficiency.

The open flame heats up the air around the kettle as well as the wort. You can lose up to 60% of the “heating” depending on the system in place. In modern craft brewing 10 US Bbl. (1,170 litres) is the usual top end for a direct fire brewery and 15 US Bbl. (1,760 litres) for indirect fire, although bigger systems do exist.

The Difference Between Indirect Fire and Direct Fire for Brewing

Direct fire brewing means your heating source is directly under the brew kettle. The heating source can be a firebox or an open flame gas burner running on either gas or oil.

If you look at the picture above you can see the gas burner is actually outside the kettle. The heat generated by the burner goes into the firebox underneath the kettle heating up the wort.

As we said before, this type of direct fire system is good to about 10 US Bbl. (1,170 liters) with most suppliers and experienced brewers recommending steam for a larger brewhouses.

Indirect Fire for Brewing

The system is similar to direct fire but the burner “blows” the heat into a jacket rather than a firebox. They work similar to steam jackets in brewing, the advantages being more even heat distribution and greater efficiency over simple direct fire.

Internal Coil Direct Fire Solution

The last and maybe most interesting option when it comes to using a direct fire for brewing is an internal helical coil. A burner is still used, but the heat is pushed through an internal coil inside the kettle which is immersed in the wort.

With the coil immersed in the wort there’s greater contact time and surface area to heat exchange with the liquid, leading to more efficient heating. It’s likely the most expensive option out of the three but it’s a tradeoff due to increased efficiency.

Direct Fire for Brewing Safety Issues

Anytime you’re working with an open flame there are going to be some safety considerations. The are some standard safety measures you can put in place to help keep the systems safe, such as the following:

  • When turning the brew kettle heating on, it triggers a solenoid valve allowing the electric ignition of the pilot to light.
  • If the systems detects an issue the whole system automatically shuts down.
  • If there’s no issue detected and the pilot light is lit, it triggers another solenoid allowing for full flow of gas to the main sensor.
  • There’s also an air blower feeding the burner to help it burn too.

Direct Fire for Brewing and Mash Tuns

I’ve not seen too many direct fire mash tuns incorporated into brewing systems. Although I recently saw one being proposed for a smaller system in South America. So, they do exist.

They’re usually a (forced air) burner under the mash tun to heat it.

Some of the advantages of using a direct fire mash tun are:
  • They heat up the mash quickly
  • The mash doesn’t need to pumped elsewhere (unlike an electric system)
  • It’s possible to do a decoction boiling or gelatinization rest directly in the mash tun, with the liquid then pumped to the lauter tun.

The Disadvantages of a Direct Fire Mash Tun

The heat from a direct fire system can be strong, hard to control leading to localized hot spots and/or scorching of the mash plus denaturing of enzymes.

If you scorch the grains in the mash it can lead to undesirable off-flavors in the final beer. Additionally, it’s going to hard to clean as some of the mash will be “caked” on to the mash tun. Lastly the general wear and tear on the metal from the open flame is also worth noting.

Mash Tuns and Indirect Fire for Brewing

The advantages are the same as direct fire, but with the additional benefit of more even heat distribution with the use of jackets. The heating up of the mash would likely be even quicker to boot.

The downside to the jackets is they’re hotter than steam so denaturing could be an issue. Also, the whole jacket needs to covered. So, decoction might not be possible unless you’ve more than one jackets in the mash tun and they can be controlled independently.

The Advantages of Direct Fire for Brewing

Costings and Space Requirements

Steam is the most expensive heating solution to install when brewing. Direct fire is cheaper to install and calibrate. Plus, direct fire takes up less space as there is no need for a boiler. Direct fire is also cheaper to run than electricity in most places.

Easy to Use

As we said it’s cheaper than steam to set up, but it’s also easier to install too. Direct fire doesn’t require a boiler, boiler room, piping and traps unlike when using steam. It means you’ve less ongoing operational headaches or parts which can go wrong.

Option Fuel Source

If you are smart with your direct/indirect fire set up, you can have the option to switch between propane and natural gas to run the burner. If supply may be issue, having the option to switch is an advantage.

Disadvantages of Direct Fire for Brewing

Local Regulation and/or Building Codes

As you’re working with an open flame with direct fire, there’ll be local regulations you need to understand and follow. Operating a forced air direct fire system in your brewhouse might trigger certain requirements to pass building code and local regs. It could be as simple as installing a fire suppression system but needs to be addressed.

Heat Dissipation

The inefficiency of direct fire systems often means the exhaust off the flue can get very hot. Having proper venting or insulation to deal with the heat is key to avoid any health and safety issues.

Maillard Reaction / Caramelization

The chances of increased Maillard compounds being produced with direct fire are real. Caramelization is the reaction taking place when sugars are exposed to temperatures in excess of 176°C (350°F).

In wort boiling temperatures doesn’t really go over 100°C (212°F) however, Maillard compounds are produced, ranging in flavors from caramel to toast.  The increased chance of localized hotspots and scorching with direct fire systems means more Maillard compounds are likely formed.

In some beer styles like a Scottish Wee Heavy these compounds are desir, in others like lager not so much. It’s something you need to be aware of as a brewer.

Also, one last issue to note is even after flameout your firebox will have some residual heat transferring to your wort. It’s key when installing a direct fire system, your burner supplier comes to test and dial in the system.

The Clean Up

As we mentioned above direct fire systems can be messy. The heat of a firebox on the bottom of a kettle can lead to hard to remove deposits inside the kettle. The fire over time will “char” the outside of your tank, which will look unsightly and be hard to clean up after.

Direct Fire for Brewing Conclusions

There’s a sweet spot for brewers where the choice of direct fire for brewing represents the right option. The initial start-up is easier plus less expensive than steam, takes up less space and easier to maintain too. Furthermore, as a heating solution its cheaper than electric in most cases.

Taking into consideration your local regulations and building codes, for a smaller brewing operation direct fire maybe the idea solution. Always, remember there’s an increased likelihood of Maillard compounds being produced with direct fire which can affect lighter beers adversely.


As we said localized hotspots can make clean-up harder than with other heating solutions. Plus, there’s increased wear and tear on the tanks too. I’d also suggest paying extra to have the system set-up correctly, because I’ve seen brewing vessels warped or burnt due to poor installation.

If the option to have a “turbo” system, exists the extra costs are worthwhile. The use of air blower will help the burn. A naturally aspirated system (without a forced air blower) takes much longer to heat up wort and is less efficient.

Overall, the best option takes into account many factors, if you’re unsure then a good equipment manufacture can help guide you, or hiring a consultant to help with the commissioning could be a sound investment.


Brewery Heating Options

Brewing Heating Options Part 1 – Electric Brewing Systems

In this article we’re going to take a look at electric brewing systems. When opening a brewery, a key decision is which brewery heating option to choose. The three main brewery heating options to choose from are electric, direct fire and steam.

Deciding the best option for you isn’t an easy one, with many factors at play. The first heating solution we’ll look at is electric, it’s common to use this option for smaller brewhouses as it’s generally the cheapest option to install.

Electric Brewing Systems – Your Brewhouse

The difference with electric heating compared to steam or direct fire is the heating is applied internally rather than externally in the brew kettle. The electric elements are inside the vessel so, immersed in the liquid being heated.

This makes energy transfer higher and depending on the size of your vessel, you’ll most likely have between 2 and 4 elements per tank.

You control these elements and heating one of two ways:

  1. Each element has a separate on/off switch, so a brewer can turn them on/off as needed.
  2. Use a dedicated control panel for finer accuracy so, you can regulate percentage output for each element and/or have a set point for your chosen temperature.

Mashing In

There are two main way to mash in, where you mix hot water and malt, converting the starch in the grain to sugar. The first is single infusion mash, where you go in a set temperature and rest for one hour at this temp.

Then you’ve step mashing, where you heat the mash to different temperatures “steps” over time. If you’re making a Hefeweizen for example; you might want to mash in at lower temperature at first for a protein rest. Then heating later for further rests, such an amylase one at a higher temperature.

If you’re happy with a simple infusion mash then it’s the cheapest option. As you don’t need any form of heating in your mash tun. It’s possible to make good beer this way with today’s modified malts.

With single infusion you use the temperature of your mixing water (strike water) to regulate temperature of the mash. If you want a mash temperature of say 65°C, then you’ll set temperature of your strike water to 72 to 75°C. Knowing that adding of malt will lower the overall temperature.

The one downside to this option is you can’t heat up the mash to “mash out”. Nevertheless, as your sparge water is going to be hotter for lautering 78°C (172.5°F), your mash will slowly raise the temperature anyway.

Electric Brewing Systems – Step mashing

It is possible to heat your mash in an electric brewhouse with there being two main options. Neither is perfect (and will raise you CAPEX) but here they are:

HERMS (Heat Exchanger Recirculating Mash Systems)

With a HERMS system, the mash is recirculated out of you mash tun through a coil inside your HLT (Hot Liquor Tank) and back to the mash tun. The temperature being regulated by the water temperature inside you HLT.

The main advantage of this system, is it’s impossible to heat the mash above the temperature of the HLT. Meaning there’s no risk of overheating the mash and extracting bitter tannins.

The downside is having to regulate the temperature of the HLT according to the mash temperature needed. This could make your brew day longer, needing to wait on you HLT temperatures at different times throughout the brew.

RIMS (Recirculating Infusion Mash Systems

When you’ve a RIMS system in your brewhouse, the wort is pumped over a heating element in a tube. The element heats the wort, raising the temperature of the mash to your desired target.

Having an external dedicated heater is an advantage over a HERMS system as you don’t need to make changes to your HLT temperature on your brew day. The downside however, is this system is less efficient than HERMS.

The Pros and Cons of Electric Brewing and Mash Control

If you opt for an electric system and step mashing, having a form of fine control is advised. You’ll want temperature probes in the thermo-wells inside your various tanks.

Proportional integral derivative controllers (PID’s) are needed to set the target temperature of your mash tun and HLT. Having solid state relays (SSR’s) allows you to control the percentage output of electrical elements as well.

Also, with a HERMS system when heating your mash, please keep your HLT pump on to avoid temperature stratification in the tank. If you’ve variable speed control for your pumps it’ll help even more.

Electric Brewing Systems – The Kettle

When boiling your wort in the kettle, a good target is 5 to 10% evaporation rate per hour. You’ll want temperature control for your kettle as well to avoid dangerous boil overs.

A proper understanding of the input energy needed to reach boil and achieve your desired evaporation rate can allow you to program a control panel. So, allow you to reach your targets batch after batch for better consistency. Let’s take a closer look at input energy (wattage) for further clarification.

Electric Brewing – Wattage

The heat applied in your kettle is dependent in the overall wattage of your elements. In brewing the standard elements are ultra-low density and between 5,500 and 10,000 watts. Ultra-low means density means their configured to produce less heat per square inch.

Depending on the size of your brewhouse, you will have anywhere between 1 and 6 elements in your kettle. As a rough guide you need about 40-45 watts per liter of wort in your kettle for appropriate heating. Please note: there are 1000 watts in a kW.

The size of equipment you choose, determines wattage you must draw so, you need to check if your chosen site can handle those requirements.

Electric Brewing Systems

Electrical Costings

It can soon get expensive if you need to upgrade your electrics to achieve a higher output. You also need to check if one or three phases is needed, plus what voltage too.

You need to think about the all the equipment which may be used at the same time. If you’re a brewpub you might have a kitchen running, a boil in the kettle, the HLT heating and a cold room running. What’s your total load and can your system keep up?

Breweries up to 3.5 US barrels (around 400 liters) will work with either single or three-phase, 208 or 240 service and require 60 to 100 amps.

When you move up to the 7 to 10-barrel range (820 to 1,170 liters), you’ll need three-phase 208 service and 200 amps of power available. You can go above 10-barrels for electric heating but it’s not usually recommended as the power drawn needed is high.

The price of electricity can vary from place to place so, I comment on costings on your region. However, please check if there’s a “peak time” charge in your area which may increase costs considerably.

Start-Up Costs of Electric Brewing

The price of tanks for an electric brewhouse are on the lower end. They’re certainly cheaper than steam which require extra jacketing. Plus, the costings for elements are cheaper than a burner (direct fire) and a fraction of the cost of a steam generator.

The cost for your control panel for your electric system depends on the system you order. If you opt for a simple system, with LCD readouts and manual push buttons the price will less that with a programmable touch screen.

Overall, the price for an electric system is going to be cheaper than for both direct fire (in general) and steam when heating your brewery.

Building Codes and Local Regulations

If you choose to have your brewery in a built-up or residential area, then electric could be right option. There’ll likely be more local regulations and building codes in place when it comes to the use of direct fire and steam.

Direct fire (open flame) and steam (the actual steam generator), could require the need for permits, venting, fire suppression, limits on size and/or inspections before installation and going online.

Depending on your location, with electric the one and only issue might simply be proper venting of steam during the brewing process for local authorities.

Electric – Safety and Environmental Concerns

When using electric, there’s less risk of fire than with a direct “fire” system as there no open flame. Furthermore, as long as the systems has been installed correctly with proper wiring and grounding there’s little chance of electric shock.

In the summer direct fire can be a nightmare. Direct fire is inefficient, as it heats up the air around the kettle as well as the wort itself. Electric has better heat transfer with elements immersed in the wort, so not heating up your brewing area as well.

Direct isn’t just hot it can be noisy too; overall electric is more “comfortable” than direct fire to brew with.

Electric Brewing Systems – Conclusions

Electric brewing is an attractive solution for aspiring brewery owners because:

  • The equipment is cheaper
  • Set-up cost are less
  • The path to opening is easier, where local regulations and building codes are concerned
  • Heat transfer is higher as the elements are immersed in the liquid

The disadvantages are, electric generally more expensive to run than direct fire and steam plus, you might have to pay even more at “peak” times. If you’re looking at bigger system then, you’re building might not be able to supply the electric demand needed.

If you’re on the smaller side say around 3.5 US barrels (around 400 liters), I’d seriously consider electric, as most buildings can support the electrical needs. Also, with a smaller system, it might be for a brewpub, where the use of space is at a premium.

In this situation electric makes sense, because it’ll take up less room that steam or direct fire as you don’t need a firebox or boiler/generator

When you go above 10 US barrels (around 1,200 liters), electric becomes less attractive as power needed becomes significantly higher.  One last issue we’ve not covered is the potential for “scorching”.

In the past brewers have been concerned about localized heating around the elements when boiling wort “scorching” or caramelizing the liquid. As technology improves and ultra-low-density elements have get better, it’s becoming less of an issue, but still worth highlighting.

Thanks for reading the first in our series on brewery heating solutions, we’ve direct fire and steam coming up shortly. Please subscribe to get first access.