Starting a brewery is many people’s dream job. For a determined few, it is a reality achieved through hard work and determination. That determined few know that beer-brewing requires attention to order and detail, and that includes having the right equipment from start to finish. For those determined to take the leap and join the ranks of those who start their own breweries, we have compiled the ultimate brewery equipment checklist for each step of the brewing process.
A Place to Brew
Before discussing what equipment should go into a brewhouse, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss the brewhouse itself. Although history has shown that with enough willpower a person can brew beer anywhere, there are conditions that are more ideal for beer brewing than others. For instance, the size of a brewhouse will impact how much equipment and beer storage you will have access to. Also, this is not only a matter of floor space but also a matter of ceiling height. Depending on how much beer you are brewing a year, you may need much taller tanks and vessels to brew in.
Beyond size, one must consider what the building can physically offer and what one’s needs are as a brewery. Brewing beer requires a lot of water, and not every property will be able to supply it without some kind of upgrade. The building may not have the industrial electric power needed to operate such heavy-duty machinery. If it is a larger scale production or if a brewery grows in size, they will also have to consider whether a property can support a loading dock for deliveries.
Milling, Mashing, and Lautering
The first stages of beer brewing are all about the grains. Whether you are using strictly malted barley or other adjunct grains, your beer equipment checklist begins with the ability to mill your grain, steep them in water to extract the sugar, and then sperate the grist from the wort. For milling, you will need a malt mill that will break up your grain just enough that the sugar can be extracted when it comes time for mashing, but not so fine that you end up with flour. For steeping your grain in water, you will need a mash tun and a thermometer to ensure that the water is at the right temperature to activate the enzymes in the grist. Separating the grist from the wort requires a lauter tun.
When it comes to purchasing this large and necessary equipment, you will want to take your brewery’s needs into consideration. Malt mills, mash tuns, and lauter tuns come with different carrying capacities that may not fit every brewhouse. Material is another factor to consider. Although mills and tuns come in a variety of different metals, we recommend stainless steel brewing equipment for durability, ease of cleaning, and cost-effectiveness.
At this point, you can boil the wort, add the hops, separate out the solid particles, and cool the wort for fermentation. For boiling the wort, you will need a brew kettle with the capacity necessary for your brewery and the means of monitoring the temperature of the wort. For separation, you will need a whirlpool or separating tank. For cooling, you can use a heat exchanger such as plate chillers, immersion chillers, or counterflow chillers.
In the brewing process, fermentation is the coming of age for your beer. Not only does yeast convert the sugars in the wort to alcohol, but flavors are produced, as well as carbon dioxide which will eventually become the beer’s carbonation. A conical fermenting tank is needed to house the beer during this process; you also need a hydrometer or refractor to test the sugar and alcohol levels before and after the fermentation process, as well as adequate temperature control. Because carbonation also occurs here, a system for krausen monitoring is also necessary.
At this point, the beer can begin the aging or conditioning process. Depending on the size of the brewing operation, aging can be done in the fermentation tank or in a separate bright beer tank. Larger operations where packaging is kept separate from the rest of the production process benefit from using bright beer tanks because the beer can be moved from the tank directly into bottling relatively easily. Equipment such as a series of pumps will also be needed to move the liquid from one tank to another. Some breweries even benefit from the use of two bright tanks for a more efficient packaging process.
Packing, Distribution, and Storage
Once the beer has been brewed to perfection, the question becomes how to transport it from the tanks to the consumer. That question can be answered in different ways depending on the size and goal of the brewery, whether it be kegs, cans, or the classic glass bottle, as each will require different equipment. For kegging, you will need the kegs themselves, as well as hoses and pressure fillers. Canning requires machinery, such as semi-automatic canning systems as well as the cans with your company’s label. For bottling, larger productions may consider automatic beer bottling plants to small machines, as well as equipment to place the labels on the machines. Equipment for dispensing is also necessary, such as keg tapping equipment, beer towers, and carbon dioxide regulators.
When it is not being distributed, beer has to be stored in a beer cellar. Because the ideal temperature for a beer cellar is around 50it is important to ensure that cooling equipment is available to keep cellars at the correct temperature year-round.
Anyone who has made the choice to start their own brewery knows that brewing beer is more than just mixing a few drinks. Brewing beer requires hard work, patience, and a lot of resources. In short, brewing beer is a labor of love, and if you love something, you give it what it needs. By checking the boxes of your ultimate brewery equipment checklist, you can know that you are meeting your brew’s needs and making your brewery dreams a reality.