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

MAKING LIFE EASY (INSTALLING & COMMISSIONING A BREWERY)

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.

THE ELECTRICAL SIDE & TESTING IT ALL OUT

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).

FILLING IT UP FOR THE FIRST TIME

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.

PASSIVATION (INSTALLING & COMMISSIONING A BREWERY)

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).

MALT HANDLING SYSTEM CHECKS

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.

THE MAIDEN BREW

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

MASHING-IN

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.

LAUTERING

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.

LETS GET IT TO BOIL

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.

WHIRLPOOLING

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.

HEAT EXCHANGER & COOLING

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.

FURTHER CONTENT ON THIS TOPIC

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.

 

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.

Versatility

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

Control

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.