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Electric VS Steam VS Direct Fire

Brewhouse heating options: Electric VS Steam VS Direct Fire

Many craft beer lovers, especially those who want to invest in opening a craft brewery, do not know which heating method is most suitable for their brewing system.
For craft breweries, there are three popular heating methods, namely electric heating, steam heating, and direct fire heating. The heating method will affect the brewing process, and of course, the design of brewhouse equipment will be different. What is the best heating method for brewing equipment? This long-running but unanswered question is that there is no “best” heating method. Our brewing equipment is designed for various heating methods, and our suggestions for you will be based on your brewing needs and settings. Each heating method has its own advantages and disadvantages. To provide you with convenience, Micet Craft will list these advantages and disadvantages for you below.
Electric VS Steam VS Direct Fire
Electric heating brewhouse

Electric heating

Electric heating systems are a popular choice for 200L-1000L commercial brewing systems. Electric heating brewhouse equipment includes the heating tube in the kettle to ensure the highest heating efficiency. 100% of the heat generated by the electric heating will be transferred to the water or wort. This heating method is very common in homemade brewing systems and small commercial breweries, and the temperature can also be easily controlled.
But, electric heating brewhouse equipment usually requires up to 300-500 amperes and 3 phase 480 volts of electricity. These requirements are not operating standards in most parts of the world, meaning that your craft brewery will have a large number of permits, electrical service upgrades, and infrastructure construction before it can safely make the first brew. Also, the ongoing cost of electricity is a more monthly cost that may significantly affect the profitability of craft breweries. Also, electric heating is notorious for its slow heating rate, which will extend your brewing time. We recommend electric heating for smaller brewing systems below 1000L.

Advantages of electric heating:

  1. High-efficiency heating method for small brewery equipment, 100% of the heat generated is transferred to water or wort;
  2. There is no need to worry about the appearance of carbon monoxide or open flames or explosive gases;
  3. Cost-effectiveness is relatively high for 200L-1000L brewery equipment. If necessary, highly automated control can be carried out;
  4. Excellent temperature control during the brewing process;
  5. Predictable cost;

Disadvantages of electric heating:

  1. The cost of electric heating is usually higher than that of steam heating, but it is usually offset by higher heating efficiency;
  2. The initial cost of equipment is usually higher than that of direct fire heating, but lower than that of steam heating;
  3. In the craft brewery, there needs to be enough current for heating the kettle and other operations (varies according to the size of the brewing system);
  4. The heating speed of electric heating is very slow, which will extend your brewing time;
  5. After the brewing is completed, the electrical components need to be removed for cleaning, which is time-consuming and labor-intensive;
Direct Fire heating brewhouse

Direct fire heating

Direct fire heating is a popular choice for home brewers and small commercial breweries. Direct fire heating is to install a power gas burner outside the kettle, and the burner projects a forced-air flame onto the baffle or diffuser in the completely enclosed firebox below the kettle. This design significantly reduces the risk of scorching, while also providing good temperature control and a heating rate like steam heating. The forced air burner has low nitrogen oxide content, is efficient, safe, and has a wide range of uses. Micet Craft believes that this design can achieve the best combination of cost and performance.

Advantages of direct fire heating:

  1. The craft brewery can be started at the lowest upfront cost;
  2. Many brewers are accustomed to using gas kettles;
  3. Some brewers prefer the caramelization that the gas system may bring;

Disadvantages of direct fire heating:

  1. The heating efficiency of gas is usually only 25% to 50%, which may become the most costly heating method;
  2. You may need to provide supplemental air and exhaust systems for direct combustion gas systems. Your city may need a professional mechanical engineer to provide planning and installation for your brewery;
  3. Some craft breweries will need fire extinguishing systems;
  4. In some states in the United States (such as California and Texas), the emission regulations and requirements of gas burners will cause a significant increase in costs and reduce the efficiency of opening a brewery;
Steam heating brewhouse

Steam heating system

The steam heating system is a popular choice for professional brewers and large commercial breweries. The brewhouse equipment usually welds the steam jacket to the inner shell. Because the steam jacket is in contact with the equipment, the steam can provide the fastest heating rate. As the fastest heating method, the steam jacket requires a lot of initial brewery construction costs to increase the special pressurized steam jacket, steam trap, and condensate return. Also, most local authorities must have expensive permits and inspections to operate steam generators/boilers, which may slow down your brewery’s startup time. You also need to hire a professional and expensive contractor to pass the inspection and safely connect the high-pressure steam optical fiber to your kettle. Finally, installing a steam system will greatly reduce the versatility and expansion potential of the brewhouse equipment, without having to pay for a larger brewing system.

Advantages of steam heating:

  1. Rapid heating method for large brewery construction;
  2. When combined with a gas boiler, you can get good (but not the best) heating efficiency and lower energy costs;
  3. It is easier to clean compared with electric heating;

Disadvantages of steam heating:

  1. Because of the need to build a boiler system and a steam system, it is the most costly heating method;
  2. It is usually not very cost-effective to use in small-scale brewery equipment;
  3. Local authorities in some countries/regions must inspect and operation of steam generators/boilers and must have high permits and inspection fees, which may slow down your brewery startup time.
Micet Craft has sorted out the characteristics of the three heating methods, and you can determine which heating method is more suitable for you based on these characteristics. If you are still not sure which heating method to use, you can contact us and our engineers will provide you with customized turnkey brewery solutions.
Heating Options Direct Fire Heating Steam Heating Electric Heating
Tank structure features The kettle/HLT is built with a fire chamber with an inspection manway, burner mounting port, and flue port The kettle/HLT is welded with a steam jacket to be able to heat by steam The kettle/HLT is mounted with electric heating coils inside
Extra equipment 2 burners: burner for the kettle(1 Set), burner for HLT(1 Set) The kettle and HLT share the same set of steam boilers, and also suitable steam piping& valves, etc No
Fuel requirement It can be LPG or natural gas. Please kindly let the burner supplier advise the suitable burner capacity according to the required thermal power. For example, 300L kettle thermal power: 18kw It can be LPG or natural gas or electricity. Please kindly let the boiler supplier advise the suitable boiler capacity according to the required thermal power No
Building construction A vent port to let flue extend outside the room Better have an independent small room(1-2 square meters) to put the steam boiler, just beside the brewhouse Enough electricity powerm
Electric requirement Within 30kw for the whole set of the brewhouse(including pumps, chillers, motors, etc) Within 30kw for the whole set of the brewhouse(including pumps, chillers, motors, etc) Normally big. For example, 500l system: More than 80KW.
Recommended use capacity 500L-2000L Brewhouse Brewhouse above 500L 50L-1500L Brewhouse
The brewing system installed by each customer is unique. We believe that gas systems are most likely to be the best choice for home brewers and small business operations. For small commercial systems (2 to 10 barrels), electric heating is most likely to be the best, while steam heating is most likely to be the best choice for large systems. In general, Micet Craft customizes and designs various sizes of brewery equipment with many heating methods according to the conditions and preferences of the brewer.
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