Home brewing has become an increasingly popular hobby over the years. As interest grows, many homebrewers start thinking about taking their craft to the next level by opening up their own microbrewery or taproom. However, starting a commercial brewing operation requires an investment in professional-grade equipment that can handle large batch production. This guide will provide an overview of the essential professional brewing gear and systems needed to brew beer on a commercial scale.
Overview of Professional Brewing Equipment
Setting up a commercial brewery requires carefully selecting and installing specialized equipment for each stage of the beer production process. Here are the key components found in a typical professional brewing system:
|Insulated stainless steel vessel where milled grains are steeped in hot water to extract sugars, starches, colors, and flavors.
|Mashing process – converts grain starches to fermentable sugars.
|Vessel with false bottom and sparge arms used to separate sweet wort from grains after mashing.
|Lautering process – straining of mash and sparging to separate wort.
|Large stainless steel kettle where wort is boiled with hops and other ingredients.
|Boiling wort sterilizes and extracts hop flavors/aromas.
|Swirling vessel used to separate hop debris, coagulated proteins from boiled wort.
|Removes trub and precipitates after boiling.
|Insulated temperature-controlled vessels for primary fermentation.
|Allows yeast to ferment sugars into alcohol and CO2.
|Pressurized vessels for clarifying, carbonating, and storing finished beer.
|Clarification, carbonation and storage of beer.
|Food-grade stainless steel pipes, valves, and pumps to move liquids.
|Transfers liquids between vessels and stages.
|Heat exchanger to quickly cool boiled wort before fermentation.
|Rapid wort cooling prevents contamination.
|Centralized electrical control panel to operate equipment.
|Allows automated control of timings, temperatures, transfers etc.
Additional specialty gear like grain mills, yeast propagators, bottle fillers, keg washers, labeling machines, and more may be needed depending on the specific production goals. Proper installation, cleaning, maintenance and operation procedures must be followed. Food-grade quality and precise process control is critical.
Professional Brewing Systems by Size
Commercial brewing equipment comes in different sizes and configurations to match batch production volumes.
|Typical Use Cases
|1-3 BBL per batch
|Brewpubs, tasting rooms, small taprooms
|3-15 BBL per batch
|Microbreweries, restaurant breweries
|15-6000 BBL per batch
|Expanding microbreweries, regional distribution
|6000+ BBL per batch
|Major craft breweries, national distribution
The batch size, number of units, and layout can be customized to meet specific production goals. Nano systems allow brewpubs to brew small test batches on-site while microbreweries can scale up with more tanks as demand increases. The equipment footprint, power requirements, and costs increase dramatically for large regional or national-scale breweries producing thousands of barrels per batch.
Key Components of a Professional Brewing System
While the equipment can vary widely in size, material, and configuration, here are some of the essential elements found in a typical professional brew house:
The mash tun is a large insulated stainless steel vessel designed to hold the mash during the mashing process, allowing starches in the grain to be converted to fermentable sugars. Commercial mash tuns are temperature controlled andcome in single infusion or stepped-temperature designs. They have a mixer for mash stirring and a false bottom to allow wort separation.
- Capacity: 10-600 hectoliters
- Construction: Stainless steel (304, 316 grades)
- Insulation: Foam or cladding insulation to maintain temperature
- False bottom: Perforated stainless sheet allows wort collection
- Mixer: Motorized rakes for mash stirring and temperature consistency
- Controls: PID controllers for automated temperature regulation
- Heating: Direct steam injection or external heat exchanger
A lauter tun or mash filter separates sweet wort from spent grain after mashing using physical filtration. It usually consists of a steel cylinder fitted with a false perforated bottom and sparge arms for rinsing the grains.
- Capacity: Matches mash tun batch size
- Construction: Stainless steel with false bottom and sparge arms
- Filtration media: slots or tubes for solid/liquid separation
- Sparging system: Spray nozzles for rinsing grains with hot water
- Wort collection: Central outlet pipe for draining sweet wort
- Spent grains discharge: Removes wet grains after lautering
Grist Case/Malt Silo
Grist cases are hoppers used to hold milled malted grains ready for mashing. They have an agitator and bottom screw auger to feed a consistent flow of grist into the mash tun.
- Capacity: 1-20 MT
- Construction: Steel or stainless with dust-tight seals
- Milling: Attached roller or hammer mill for grain crushing
- Agitator: Keeps grains mixed and flowing
- Screw conveyor: Meters grist transfer to mash tun
Wort Production Equipment
The brew kettle is a large stainless tank where the wort is boiled with hops and other ingredients to extract flavors, aromas, and sugars while sterilizing the wort. Commercial kettles have automated features for temperature control, boiling, whirlpooling, and knockout.
- Capacity: 10-600 hectoliters
- Construction: Stainless steel (304, 316 grade)
- Direct fire/steam heating: Achieves boiling temperature
- Wort aeration: For hot wort oxygenation pre-fermentation
- Internal calandria: Prevents scorching from direct heating
- Automated wort knockout: Smooth transfer to whirlpool or chiller
The whirlpool is a tank used to separate hop debris, coagulated proteins, and trub from the boiled wort after knockout. Spinning the wort creates a vortex that collects solids in the center for removal.
- Capacity: Matches brew kettle batch size
- Construction: Stainless steel tank with tangential inlet
- Spinning mechanism: Rotating rakes or fixed inlet tube
- Trub collection: Conical bottom allows removal of sedimented solids
- Wort outlet: Side outlet for transferring clarified wort
Fermentation and Processing Equipment
Insulated stainless steel fermenters allow commercial beer fermentation under controlled conditions. Temperature regulation, air injection, and cooling jackets promote rapid, healthy fermentation by yeast.
- Capacity: 10-600 hectoliters
- Construction: Stainless steel sanitary fermenters
- Insulation: Foam or panel insulation to maintain temperature
- Temperature control: Electric heating and glycol cooling jackets
- Pressure capable: Allows closed transfers and carbonation
- Yeast handling: Top cropping, bottom harvest, or cone options
- CIP sprayballs: Clean-in-place sanitation heads
Also known as bright beer or serving tanks, brite tanks are for clarifying, carbonating, and storing the finished beer ready for packaging and distribution. They are highly polished stainless tanks capable of withstanding pressure.
- Capacity: Varies based on packaging line capacity
- Construction: Mirror-finish stainless steel (electropolished)
- Insulation: Often uninsulated since beer is cold
- Carbonation: Infusion of CO2 for natural carbonation
- Serving: Direct draw to taps, fillers, and packaging
- CIP sprayballs: Clean-in-place sanitation heads
A plate and frame heat exchanger provides rapid cooling by transferring heat from hot wort to cold water or glycol, bringing the wort down to pitching temperature for yeast inoculation.
- Construction: Stacked stainless steel plates for heat transfer
- Flow configuration: Counterflow cooling as fluids pass through alternating plates
- Cooling media: Chilled water or propylene glycol
- Cooling jackets: Additional exchangers for fermenter temperature control
- Automatic control: Modulating cold side flow based on wort temperature
The glycol chiller is used to cool and recirculate chilled propylene glycol to the fermenters, brite tanks, and heat exchanger to maintain proper temperatures.
- Construction: Pump tank with external evaporator unit
- Glycol concentration: Food-grade propylene glycol solution
- Redundancy: Multiple refrigeration circuits for reliability
- Chiller capacity: Sized to match total connected load
- Pumps: Circulation pumps for good heat transfer
- Controls: Thermostats, VFDs to maintain setpoint temperatures
Fully automated bottling lines allow for rapid small-batch runs ideal for craft breweries. They generally include a depalletizer, rinser, filler, capper, labeler, packager, and palletizer.
- Fillers: Gravity or counterpressure fillers ensure proper fills and dissolved CO2 levels
- Cappers: Spinning heads apply crown caps or twist-off closures
- Labelers: Automatic self-adhesive label application
- Output: Up to 30,000 bottles per hour (small systems are much slower)
- Changeover: Tool-less change parts allow rapid product changeover
- Controls: Touchscreen HMI with recipe storage for each product
Keg Washer and Filler
Keg processing systems clean, sanitize, purge, fill, and seal kegs while maintaining sanitary fills. Fully automated models have integrated washers, fillers, crowners, and conveyors.
- Washer: Hot caustic wash and pressurized rinse cycles
- Purge and Pressureization: CO2 purge and pressurization of empty kegs
- Counterpressure filler: Ensures precise fills without foaming
- Crowner/Seamer: Automated keg lid fitting and seaming
- Output: Up to 300 kegs/hour (dependent on keg size)
- Conveyors: Automated infeed and outfeed with keg turnover
- CIP cycles: Clean-in-place of filler valves and lines
High-speed canning lines are designed for larger output needs. They integrate a depalletizer, rinser, filler, seamer, pasteurizer, labeler, packager and palletizer with full automation.
- Fillers: Volumetric or gravity fillers calibrated for precise fills
- Seamer: Spinning heads that seal the can lid and rim
- Pasteurizer: Tunnel pasteurizer for packaged product stability
- Output: Up to 300 cans/minute (dependent on can size)
- Changeover: Tool-less change parts for rapid product changeover
- Controls: Programmable PLC recipe storage and control
Professional Brewing Equipment by Function
Here is an overview of the main equipment types used in commercial breweries categorized by the key functions in the production process:
|Roller mill, hammer mill, grist case
|Mash tun, direct fire kettle, steam jacketed kettle, infusion tank
|Lauter tun, mash filter, grant
|Direct fire kettle, steam jacketed kettle, whirlpool
|Plate heat exchanger, glycol chiller
|Uni-tank, CCT, open square fermenter, cone or top cropping tank
|Uni-tank, brite tank, horizontal or vertical beer tank
|Plate and frame filter, diatomaceous earth filter, centrifuge
|Brite tank, uni-tank, carbonation stone
|Bottling line, keg washer/filler, canning line, pouch filler
|Spray balls, pumps, tanks, cleaning chemicals
Additional equipment like grain handling, water treatment, laboratory testing equipment, piping, steam, compressed air, and process control systems are also required.
Professional Brewing Equipment Design Considerations
Designing a brewhouse involves many considerations including production goals, space constraints, budgets, and workflow. Here are some of the key factors in selecting and laying out professional brewing equipment:
- Batch size – The required finished batch size(s) dictates fermenter and brewhouse sizes.
- Production volume – Current and 5-year production volumes impact equipment capacity and expansibility.
- Floor space – Equipment footprint and vertical clearance must fit within the available plant space.
- Process flow – Optimized layout and piping reduces transportation distances and manual effort.
- Utility requirements – Electrical loads, plumbing, drainage, ventilation, and other utility needs must be met.
- Equipment heights – Proper height differences allow use of gravity flow transfers.
- Automation level – Manual, semi-auto, or fully automated systems impact labor requirements.
- Cleaning – Equipment should be easy to access and clean-in-place compatible.
- Flexibility – Ability to handle different batch sizes, new products, seasonal changes.
- Upgradability – Ability to easily expand capacity in the future by adding modular tanks as needed.
- Budget – Matching capital expenses to financial capabilities and growth plans.
Careful planning is required to create a smoothly functioning professional brewhouse tailored to your specific brewing goals.
Professional Brewing Equipment Suppliers
There are many equipment manufacturers and suppliers that offer commercial brewing equipment and complete brewery installation services. Here are some of the leading suppliers in the market:
|Canby, Oregon USA
|Brewing systems, fermentation, brite tanks, filtration, automation
|Premier Stainless Systems
|Escondido, California USA
|Manual and automated brewhouses, cellars, steam systems
|Louisville, Kentucky USA
|10 bbl to 30 bbl brewhouses, fermenters, brite tanks
|American Beer Equipment
|Lincoln, California USA
|Nano and microbrewery systems, fermenters, bright tanks
|AAA Metal Fabrication
|Portland, Oregon USA
|Brewing vessels, fermenters, serving tanks, distillation equipment
|Brew houses, fermentation, filtration, controls
|Complete brewing lines, packaging equipment
|Alpha Brewing Operations
|Pompano Beach, Florida USA
|Brewpub systems, fermentation, brite tanks, parts
|Everett, Washington USA
|Glycol chilling, cooling systems, refrigeration
When selecting a supplier, it is important to consider their experience level with commercial brewing projects, equipment quality, design services offered, lead times, and ongoing support capabilities. Consulting with a qualified professional can help navigate the complexities of planning and purchasing professional brewing equipment.
Professional Brewing Equipment Pricing
Price ranges will vary significantly based on the level of automation, capacity, materials, quality, and features. As a rough estimate, here are typical price ranges for professional brewing equipment:
|1-3 bbl direct fire brew system
|$25,000 to $60,000
|7 bbl electric brew system
|$100,000 to $250,000
|15 bbl automated brewhouse
|$250,000 to $500,000
|30 bbl steam brew system
|$400,000 to $800,000
|60 bbl brewhouse and cellar
|$1,000,000 to $3,000,000
|$2,000 to $8,000 per barrel
|$1,500 to $4,000 per barrel
|$20,000 to $60,000
|Grain handling system
|$10,000 to $100,000
|$50,000 to $150,000
|$100,000 to $500,000
|$200,000 to $1,000,000
Quotes from equipment suppliers should be obtained during the planning and budgeting phase to get accurate pricing for your specific production goals and features needed. Completing a brewhouse design package will also provide an estimate of total installed costs including installation and site work.
How to Choose a Professional Brewing Equipment Supplier
Selecting qualified brewing equipment suppliers, designers, and installers is one of the most important decisions in starting a brewery project. Here are some tips for choosing professional brewing equipment partners:
- Review past brewery projects in your desired size range
- Look for equipment expertise with your preferred brewing styles
- Evaluate quality of workmanship and components
- Understand lead times and availability for the planned timeline
- Assess capabilities for installation and ongoing service
- Check references from existing customers
- Review feedback and ratings on brewing forums
- Ensure availability of parts, manuals, and troubleshooting assistance
- Consider providers that offer design, installation, and controls
- Compare pricing between several vendors
- Assess financial stability and longevity of vendor
- Evaluate options for shipping, customs, import duties
- Clarify all warranty terms and conditions
- Look for CE, ASME, UL, OSHA conformance as applicable
- Choose flexible, customizable, and upgradeable systems
- Consider automation capabilities and ease of use
- Review options for remote telemetry and troubleshooting
- Develop long-term partnerships beyond the initial sale
Taking the time to thoroughly evaluate suppliers using this criteria will help find the right partners to bring your professional brewing dreams to reality.
Installing and Operating Professional Brewing Equipment
Once the brew system arrives onsite, proper installation and operation is key to efficiency, safety, and product quality. Here are some best practices for brewery equipment:
- Follow all rigging and installation instructions from the manufacturer
- Use experienced contractors for any required plumbing, electrical, HVAC, or site work
- Check for any shipping damage and test components prior to hookup
- Verify all utility connections meet equipment requirements
- Perform calibration and test runs initially with water
- Examine welds and joints for any leaks after line pressurization
- Review control system programming and sensor tuning with equipment technician
- Document as-built configurations and baseline operating parameters
- Follow standard operating procedures and recipes developed for each system
- Check hot and cold side temperatures at established intervals
- Take samples throughout the process to confirm mash conversion, OG, etc
- Monitor fermentation progress with gravity and temperature readings
- Inspect vessels, valves, gaskets, and fittings regularly for any leaks
- Perform preventive maintenance as scheduled
- Follow all cleaning and sanitation procedures
- Track batch/lot information for traceability
- Record any deviations or issues that occur
- Establish routine inspection and PM schedule based on manuals
- Lubricate pumps, motors, chains, bearings, and moving parts
- Watch for unusual vibration, leaks, fouling, noise, loose fittings
- Repair or replace any worn or damaged components
- Descale heat exchange surfaces and steam equipment periodically
- Regenerate filters and ion exchange beds when needed
- Keep spare gaskets, seals, fittings, and common parts on hand
Following proven startup, operating, and maintenance practices will help achieve consistent quality beer production and maximum uptime.
Key Takeaways and Recommendations
- Carefully select equipment to match your production scale, growth plans, budget, and styles. Get quotes from multiple vendors.
- Design an optimized brewhouse layout for work flow, production expansion, and ease of operation.
- Choose high quality equipment built to sanitary standards out of stainless steel.
- Automate processes like boiling, fermentation, cleaning for labor savings.
- Partner with suppliers and contractors who understand brewing and provide ongoing support.
- Plan installations for sufficient utility capacities and site work requirements.
- Develop SOPs and train staff on proper use, cleaning, and maintenance.
- Monitor and log key parameters throughout the process. Follow recipes closely.
- Perform preventive maintenance and take care of equipment to maximize longevity.
With careful planning and selection of professional brewing equipment tailored to your needs, you can produce consistent quality beer from the nano to mega brewery scale.
What are the typical costs for a 7 bbl microbrewery system?
A complete 7 bbl microbrewery system typically ranges from $250,000 to $500,000 including the brewhouse, fermentation tanks, brite tanks, chilling system, and other equipment. Per-barrel pricing averages $10,000 to $20,000.
What size mash tun do I need for a 5 bbl brew house?
For a 5 bbl brew house, a good rule of thumb is to size the mash tun 130% of the batch size. This allows adequate room for mash stirring and partitioning during sparging. A 7 bbl mash tun would be appropriate.
Should I choose stainless or copper kettles for my brewery?
Stainless steel is recommended for modern commercial brewing systems. Stainless provides excellent corrosion resistance and sanitary properties. Copper looks beautiful but requires special liners to prevent metal pickup and has higher maintenance.
How many fermenters and brite tanks should I plan for my capacity?
As an initial estimate, plan for 3-4 times as many fermenters as your brewhouse batch size and 2-3 times as many brite tanks. For example, a 10 bbl brewhouse would require about 30-40 bbl of fermentation capacity and 20-30 bbl of brite tank space. Scale up or down appropriately for your batch size.
What are the power requirements for a typical 7 bbl electric brewery?
For a 7 bbl electric brewery, estimate the power needs at 25-35 kW. This provides sufficient power for pumps, heaters, chillers, and equipment needed during a full brew day. consultation with an electrical contractor is recommended to properly size panels, wiring, and circuits.
Should I automate the brewing or go with a manual system?
It depends on your budget, labor considerations, and production environment. Automated brewhouses allow a single operator to run different recipes and collect data points unattended. However, manual systems require lower capital investment and give brewers more hands-on control. Many breweries start with a manual process and add automation later as production increases.
What are critical spares I should have on hand for the brewhouse?
Must-have spares include seals, gaskets, fittings, hose clamps, pumps seals, electrical components, bearings, sprockets, heating elements, replacement thermowells, spare hoses, and common expendable parts for your equipment make and model. Keep an inventory of recommended spares to minimize downtime.
How often should I expect to service or rebuild the brewhouse vessels?
With proper maintenance, brewhouse vessels should run for decades before needing major work. Rebuild frequency depends on usage and wear. Many brewers go 10-20 years before vessel tear-down and rebuilds. Preventive maintenance is key to maximize lifespan. Major reworks or new kettles may be needed if significantly increasing capacity.