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September 17, 2020

A Guide To Brewing System Sizing

Brewing beer is a careful science. For a successful brewery, it isn’t enough to have the right types of machines. A brewer must carefully select each machine with a brewery’s purpose in mind, taking into account everything from the material of the tanks down to the size of the tanks. Choosing the correct equipment size, especially, can make or break a brewery when it’s starting up, no matter the size of the operation. Since the size is so crucial, a guide to brewing system sizing is crucial for a brewery’s success.

How Much Do You Brew?

This is probably the most important question to ask when it comes to brewery system sizing. How much beer your operation is trying to produce and how many types of beer you want to produce will determine both the size and number of systems you will need in your brewery.

Total Output

If you know the total number of barrels that your brewery plans to produce annually, you can calculate the approximate size of the tanks you should purchase using this helpful equation:

Annual production = (brewhouse size) x (# of brews/week) x (# weeks/year)

Breaking this down, the number of barrels of beer you intend to brew every year is equal to the size of the fermenters, multiplied by the number of times your brewery brews every week, multiplied by the number of weeks you brew during the year.

Let’s say a brewery brewed 5,000 barrels a year about three times a week for fifty weeks a year. We can plug that into the equation with s standing for the tank size. 5,000 = s x 3 x 50. Some simple algebra helps us conclude that the tanks should have a capacity of approximately 33 barrels every time you brew. That should give you a rough estimate for the size of stainless steel brewing equipment you should shoot for.

Types of Beer

Of course, not every beer has an identical process, so the types of beer should also factor into the decision when choosing equipment size. For instance, ale and lager take a different amount of time to ferment, so you should consider how much of each type of drink you are brewing when you go on to calculate how many fermenters your brewery should have.

Take the example above and pretend that 3,750 barrels of the total production are ale and 1,250 are lagers. Ales take one to two weeks to ferment fully, while lagers take four weeks to ferment. That means your ales will go through more cycles a year than your lagers and that you’ll need separate fermenters for each beer. You will have to keep in mind how much of each kind you’ll want to make every year and make sure that you have the carrying capacity for both.

Cold Storage

But you don’t only need containers to hold the beer while during processing. After the beer has finished processing, you will need to consider how much tank space you have in your brewery’s cellar to keep brewed beer while it’s waiting to go out to customers or distributors. This size will depend both on how much beer you’re brewing and your distribution patterns. If you mostly distribute your beer locally, you will probably need less storage space than you would if you distributed your beer to a wider radius. You can also consider using Uni-tanks for your fermenters in order to increase how much storage space you have available if your brewery can handle having its fermenters in use longer.

Rate of Sale

The last thing you want is to have tanks full of old beer when it’s time to brew new beer. Not only is it an extra, tedious step in the process, but it’s a waste of resources. Make sure you do your best to match your brew length to about how much you are selling. This may take some experimentation once you get your operations up and running, but it’s worth it to reduce waste and expand your profit margins.

How Much Do You Think You’ll Grow?

When it comes to brewery system sizing, you can’t just think about how much beer you are currently producing; you have to think about growth and how much beer you think you will produce in the future. It is natural to want to start small until you and your brewery have gotten into a rhythm. But you will want to have a brewery system that you can grow into, not one that you will grow out of. Develop a growth plan for three to five years out, and base your sizing on those projections. And if you find yourself on the fence between a small and medium-sized brew system, go for the medium. Use your best judgment, of course. As we mentioned, you don’t want to make an excessive amount of beer that will go stale before you can sell it, either.

How Much Manpower Do You Have?

Different brew systems will require more or fewer people to run them, so take this into consideration when settling on size. Surprisingly, smaller brew systems actually require more labor to run than larger systems. That means that if you are brewing a larger variety of beers with smaller systems, you will likely need more people to run it. That is something to factor into your budget. It takes less labor to produce more beer that may go bad if you produce too much, but it takes more labor to produce less beer, which uses fewer resources but makes less profit.

Considerations for Brewhouse Sizes
No conversation about brewery equipment sizing is complete without discussing the space that the equipment takes up. Obviously, square footage costs money, but you want to have enough of it to safely house all your equipment with room to grow if necessary. A rule of thumb for brewhouse sizing is one square foot per barrel you produce annually. You must also consider ceiling height, which must be high enough to fit equipment during installation and when it’s running.
A Guide To Brewing System Sizing infographic

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