Overview of Brewing Equipment for Small Breweries
Setting up a small brewery requires carefully selecting the right brewing equipment to match your production goals and budget. The core brewing equipment for small 5-10 barrel brewhouses includes a brew kettle, mash tun, lauter tun, fermenters, brite tanks, and other supporting infrastructure.
small brewery brewing equipment buying guide covers key considerations in choosing the optimal system for your needs:
Brewing System Guide
|Brew Kettle||Heats wort, boils hops||5-30 barrels|
|Mash Tun||Mixes grist and water for mashing||5-30 barrels|
|Lauter Tun||Separates wort from grains||5-30 barrels|
|Fermenters||Ferments beer after boiling||5-60 barrels|
|Brite Tanks||Clarifies and carbonates beer||5-60 barrels|
|Whirlpool||Settles hops and coagulants||5-30 barrels|
|Heat Exchanger||Cools wort quickly||Matched to brew length|
|Brew Kettle||Boiling wort, hop additions|
|Mash Tun||Mashing in grains|
|Lauter Tun||Lautering to separate wort|
|Brite Tanks||Clarifying, carbonating, storing|
|Whirlpool||Settling trub and hops|
|Heat Exchanger||Wort cooling|
|Dimensions||Varies by capacity||ASME, OSHA, TEMA|
|Material||Stainless steel, copper||SS304, SS316L|
|Insulation||Foam, jacketed||Thermal efficiency norms|
|Automation||Manual, semi-auto, fully automated||Level of control needed|
|Voltage||208-480V, 3 phase||Electrical safety codes|
|Pressure rating||15-30psi+||ASME vessel design standards|
Suppliers and Pricing
|Stout Tanks||$10,000 – $100,000||Custom fabrication|
|JV Northwest||$15,000 – $150,000||Turnkey systems|
|Pro Refrigeration||$20,000 – $250,000||Glycol systems|
|Brewmation||$25,000 – $500,000||Automated brewhouses|
|Specific Mechanical||$30,000 – $1,000,000||Complete turnkey|
Pricing varies based on capacity, material, automation features, and additional equipment. Economies of scale apply – larger systems over 15 barrels see lower per-barrel costs.
Installation, Operation, Maintenance
|Installation||Rigging, plumbing, wiring, welding|
|Operation||Training staff on procedures|
|Maintenance||Cleaning, inspections, part replacements|
Work with equipment suppliers to plan installation based on brewhouse layout and utilities. Thoroughly train brewers and cellar workers on operating procedures. Schedule periodic maintenance checks on valves, gauges, motors.
Choosing a Reliable Supplier
|Reputation||Years in business, client reviews|
|Offerings||Range of brewing equipment|
|Customization||Ability to modify designs|
|Support||Installation help, training, maintenance|
|Certifications||ASME, OSHA, UL, BREWCERT|
|Location||Proximity for support, shipping costs|
Select an established small brewery brewing equipment company with expertise in small brewhouse design and a track record of successful projects. Prioritize suppliers who can provide customization, support, and are located closer to your brewery to minimize logistics costs.
Pros and Cons of Different small brewery brewing equipment
Manual Brewing Equipment
Manual brewing systems require more hands-on labor but have lower upfront costs.
- Lower capital investment
- Simpler design and operation
- Easy to control process manually
- Labor intensive with repetitive tasks
- Risk of human error
- More intensive cleaning
Semi-automated systems automate some processes like boiling and cooling while retaining manual control over mashing and fermentation.
- Moderate upfront costs
- Automates tedious tasks
- Flexibility in control
- Still labor intensive in parts
- Complexity in system integration
- Training staff on manual and automated operations
Fully Automated Brewhouses
Fully automated systems control nearly all aspects of brewing via programmable logic controllers.
- High consistency and repeatability
- Increased efficiency
- Less labor required
- High upfront capital costs
- Complex programming and controls
- Less direct control over process
Key Brewing Equipment Components
Brew kettles are one of the core vessels in a brewhouse where wort is boiled with hops and coagulants. Key factors in selecting a brew kettle include:
Brew Kettle Considerations
- Capacity – 5-30 barrel range typical
- Dimensions – fit brewhouse space
- Material – stainless steel vs copper
- Direct or indirect heat – steam, gas, electric
- Automation – manual vs automated
Stainless steel kettles are the most common, with jacketed kettles used for indirect steam heating. Copper kettles can improve heating efficiency but have higher costs. Kettles may be bottom filled or have top manways for loading ingredients.
Mashing and Lauter Tuns
Mash tuns mix grist with hot water for mashing, while lauter tuns then separate sweet wort from spent grains.
Mash Tun Functions
- Mixing mash – combine grist and strike water
- Maintaining temperature – direct steam or electric heating
- Recirculation – vorlauf to clarify wort
Lauter Tun Operations
- Sparging – rinsing sugar from grains
- Separating – filtering wort from spent grains
- Wort collection – runoff valves and piping
Both vessels may be integrated or separate. false bottom screens and rakes help filtering and extraction. Automated systems control mixing cycles, heating and pump speeds.
Fermenters and Brite Tanks
Fermenters hold beer during primary fermentation with yeast. Brite tanks clarify, carbonate, and store beer after fermentation.
- Construction – stainless steel or plastic
- Size – 5 to 60 barrel range
- Shape – conical or cylindrical
- Temperature control – glycol jacketed, cooling loops
- Yeast handling – bottom dump valves, top cropping
Brite Tank Functions
- Maturation – clarifying and conditioning
- Carbonation – adding CO2
- Serving – direct to taproom
- Storage – holding filtered beer
Conical stainless fermenters and brite tanks allow compact sedimentation. Automated monitoring and cleaning minimizes risk of contamination.
Heat exchangers quickly cool hot wort after the brew kettle to pitch yeast. Options include:
Heat Exchanger Types
- Shell and tube
- Plate and frame
- Copper immersion chiller
Key factors in selecting a heat exchanger:
- Cooling capacity matched to batch size
- Materials resistant to wort acids
- Ease of cleaning
- Single-pass vs multi-pass design
Plate heat exchangers offer the best efficiency in a compact package. Copper immersion chillers can also provide rapid cooling for smaller batches.
Additional Supporting Equipment
- Whirlpool – Settles hops and coagulants after boiling
- Hot liquor tank – Heats strike and sparge water
- Pumps – Wort, transfer, glycol circulation pumps
- Grist case – Stores and feeds grain
- Mill – Crushes malt
- Laboratory equipment – Hydrometer, microscope, testing
Cost Breakdown for Small Brewing Systems
Typical capital costs for a small 5-10 barrel brewhouse can range from $100,000 to $1,000,000 depending on the components chosen.
Sample Equipment Cost Ranges
|Equipment||Typical Cost Range|
|Brew kettle||$10,000 – $100,000|
|Mash-lauter tun||$15,000 – $150,000|
|Fermenters||$15,000 – $150,000|
|Brite tanks||$10,000 – $100,000|
|Glycol chiller||$5,000 – $50,000|
|Heat exchanger||$5,000 – $50,000|
|Piping, pumps||$10,000 – $100,000|
|Controls, automation||$10,000 – $250,000|
|Installation, rigging||$10,000 – $50,000|
|Total Turnkey System||$100,000 – $1,000,000|
Key factors impacting system costs:
- Capacity – volume per batch
- Construction – stainless, copper, plastic
- Automation – manual vs automated
- Additional equipment – grist handling, chilling, cleaning
Economies of scale apply, with equipment costs decreasing on a per-barrel basis for larger 10-30 barrel systems.
Layout and Design Considerations
Optimal brewhouse layout depends on production goals, space constraints, and budget.
Key Layout Factors
- Production capacity
- Workflow and material handling
- Utility connections
- Future expansion capabilities
- Tasting room integration
A linear layout allows an efficient workflow from raw materials to packaged beer. Utility connections for steam, water, glycol and drains should be planned. Leave room for expansion and additional tanks.
Equipment Height and Floor Loading
- Check building ceiling height
- Account for mezzanines
- Size platforms for tank weight
- Plan rigging access
Consider mezzanines for equipment above while maximizing use of floorspace. Engineer concrete pads and platforms to support heavy vessels.
Energy Usage and Efficiency
Brewhouse energy usage depends on heating, cooling, and pumping needs.
Opportunities for Efficiency
- Insulated vessels
- Steam recovery
- Variable speed drives
- Glycol heat recovery
- Automated controls
Look for insulated kettles, tuns, and tanks to reduce heat loss. Recover waste steam heat for hot water production. Use variable frequency drives on pumps. Automated systems optimize energy and water use.
Sizing and Selecting Equipment
Right-sizing brewhouse equipment involves balancing production goals, batch frequencies, and growth plans.
- Current and future production volumes
- Number of batches per day/week
- Packaging workflow
- Ingredient storage capacity
Don’t maximize batches per day to leave room for seasonal fluctuations and maintenance. Plan enough cold storage for lagering and packaged product. Standardize vessels for flexibility.
Allow space for additional tanks as production increases. Optimize packaging line speeds to match brewhouse output.
Manufacturers and Suppliers
Reputable brewing equipment manufacturers include:
Leading Brewery Equipment Suppliers
- JV Northwest – brewhouses, fermentation, brite tanks
- Specific Mechanical – custom stainless, steam systems
- AAA Metal Fabrication – vessels, automation, controls
- Craftwerks – brewhouse, cellar tanks, glycol systems
- Prospero – ergonomic brewhouses, grain handling
- Stout Tanks – fermenters, brite tanks, custom vessels
- Portland Kettle Works – brew kettles, accessories
- Brewmation – automated brewhouses, controls
Factors in choosing suppliers: experience with small breweries, ability to customize, local support services, responsiveness, and fees. Get quotes from multiple vendors.
Operation and Maintenance
Proper operation and preventative maintenance ensures maximum uptime and beer quality.
- Staff training on all equipment
- Following standard operating procedures
- Cleaning between batches
- Recording fermentation activity
Maintenance Best Practices
- scheduled inspections of vessels, valves, gaskets
- preventative maintenance on motors, pumps
- regularly replacing seals, gaskets, hoses
- tuning up automation systems
- cleaning tanks and line parts
Document all procedures and maintenance plans. Have spare parts like seals and fittings on hand. Be vigilant about contamination risks.
Conclusion and Key Recommendations
Selecting brewing equipment for a small brewery is a complex balancing act between many factors. Focus first on your production goals, budget, and growth plans when designing the brewhouse. Partner with suppliers who understand small brewery needs and provide support services. Favor flexibility and standardization over maximizing batches. Seek modular, phased expansion capabilities. Implement automation judiciously based on staff skills and complexity tolerance. Get quotes from multiple vendors and negotiate contracts thoroughly.
What are the typical costs for a small 5 barrel brewhouse?
A 5 barrel brewhouse can range from $100,000 to $500,000. At minimum, budget for a 5 barrel brew kettle, mash-lauter tun, one fermenter, one brite tank, and glycol chilling system. Expect costs around $50,000 for core manual stainless steel vessels. Automation and additional equipment add costs.
What size batches can a typical pub brewery produce?
A typical pub brewery might have a 3-7 barrel brewhouse capable of brewing 120-240 barrels per month. This scale allows a small tasting room to serve fresh beer while distributing draught to local bars and restaurants. Larger restaurant breweries may have 10-15 barrel systems producing 500+ barrels monthly.
Should I buy new or used equipment?
Buying quality used equipment can save money initially. But beware that repairs, wear and tear, and missing parts can add hidden costs later. Newer equipment has more support and warranties. Assess any used gear thoroughly for condition and maintenance needs before purchasing.
How much space do I need for a small brewhouse?
Allow at least 750-1000 sq ft for a 3-5 barrel brewhouse, plus room for fermenters, brite tanks, and storage. A 10 barrel system needs around 1500-2000 sq ft. Ceiling height should be 18+ feet. Consider an additional mezzanine for equipment. Easy tank access simplifies maintenance.
How many batches can I brew daily on a small system?
For a 5 barrel brewhouse, plan on 1-2 batches per day, 3-4 days per week to leave time for cleanup and maintenance. Attempting to brew too frequently leads to rushing, shortcuts, and quality issues. Size tanks so packaged beer inventory covers 1 week of sales if the brewhouse is down.
What degree of automation should I choose?
Consider your budget, staff skills, and tolerance for complexity. Fully automated systems have the highest costs but the most consistent results. Semi-automated offers a compromise of automated boiling and cooling while retaining manual control over mashing and fermentation. Simpler manual systems have lower startup costs but need experienced brewers.
How much glycol chilling capacity do I need?
Plan for 6-8 BTU/hr of cooling per gallon of wort for a plate heat exchanger. For example, a 5 barrel batch (155 gallons) needs around 1000 BTU/hr chilling capacity. Glycol chillers typically oversize by 25% for safety factor. Size the chiller reservoir tank to match batch frequency – plan 2-4 hour residence times.
Should I use a combined mash-lauter tun or separate vessels?
Combined mash-lauter tuns save on costs and space while enabling brew-in-place workflows. Separate mash tuns and lauter tuns provide flexibility for larger batches and higher gravity brews at the expense of added complexity. Evaluate your recipe range and production schedule when choosing.
How many fermenters and brite tanks should I have?
Plan to have 2-3 times as many fermenters as brewhouse capacity to accommodate multiple batches ageing. For a 5 barrel brewhouse, have 10-15 barrels of primary fermentation. Have at least 1 brite tank per fermenter. For packaging, have 2-3 weeks of packaged beer inventory in brite tanks to allow for production variability and lagering.
What maintenance practices are critical?
Top priorities are preventative maintenance on valves, pumps, motors, and gaskets on a quarterly basis. Check vessel welds and insulation regularly. Document all procedures. Track hours on equipment. Take tanks out of service annually for deep cleaning. Keep spare seals, fittings, and common parts well stocked. Stay vigilant for any contamination or quality issues.