Homebrewing equipment allows brewing small 5-10 gallon batches for personal consumption. However, commercial beer production requires large, industrial-scale equipment capable of high volumes to make it a viable business. This guide covers everything needed for a commercial brewery – space requirements, production capacity, equipment types, design and layout, customization options, suppliers, installation, operation, maintenance and more.
Below is an overview of the major equipment needed in a commercial brewery:
Types of Commercial Beer Brewing Equipment
|Brew kettles||Cook wort and boil hops. Available in direct-fire or steam-jacketed designs. Sizes from 15 to 300 barrels.|
|Lauter tun||Separates sweet wort from spent grains.|
|Mash filter||An alternative to lauter tuns for wort separation.|
|Mash mixer||Mixes milled grains with hot water for mashing.|
|Wort grant||Collects wort after lautering and regulates flow to brew kettle.|
|Wort chiller||Cools hot wort after the boil. Plate or shell-and-tube designs.|
|Fermenter||Ferments cooled wort into beer over days or weeks. Available in open and closed configurations up to 3,000 barrels.|
|Brite tank||Carbonates, clarifies and stores finished beer. Sizes up to 3,000 barrels.|
|Glycol chiller||Cools fermenters, brite tanks, and other equipment like bright beer lines.|
|Heat exchanger||Heats or cools liquids through heat transfer with other fluids.|
|Piping||Transfers wort, beer and other liquids around the brewery. Food-grade stainless steel.|
|Pumps||Moves liquids between vessels and through pipes. Centrifugal or positive displacement designs.|
|Grain handling||Mills, weighs and transports grain to mash tun. Conveyors and grain elevators.|
|CIP systems||Clean-in-place systems to sanitize equipment. Spray balls, hoses, tanks.|
|Air compressor||Provides compressed air for pneumatic equipment, filtering, etc.|
|CO2 recovery||Captures CO2 from fermenters for reuse in carbonation.|
|Control systems||Automated computer controls for temperatures, valves, motors and sensors.|
Brewing Process Overview
Commercial beer brewing involves these key steps:
- Milling – The grains are weighed, milled and mixed with hot water in the mash mixer to start converting starches to sugars.
- Mashing – The mash is transferred to the lauter tun or mash filter for 1-2 hours to extract sugars from grain.
- Lautering – The sweet wort is separated from spent grains which are discarded.
- Boiling – The wort goes to the brew kettle and is boiled with hops for 1-2 hours. This extracts bitterness, flavor and aroma from hops and sterilizes the wort.
- Whirlpooling – The boiled wort is spun to remove sediment.
- Wort cooling – The hot wort passes through a plate heat exchanger or wort chiller to rapidly cool it.
- Fermentation – The cooled wort goes into fermenters where yeast converts sugars into alcohol and CO2 over days or weeks.
- Maturation – The fermented beer may be aged for additional flavor development if desired.
- Filtration – The green beer is filtered to remove yeast and particulates, making it bright.
- Carbonation – CO2 is added to the bright beer in brite tanks to naturally carbonate it.
- Packaging – The finished beer is bottled, canned or kegged for distribution.
Commercial Brewery Design Considerations
Designing a commercial brewery requires careful planning for workflow, capacity, expansion, budget and local regulations.
Capacity and Production Goals
The brewhouse size limits overall capacity. Consider realistic production goals for the first few years and growth projections. This drives equipment sizing.
Workflow and Layout
Optimize the layout for an efficient process flow from raw ingredients to finished packages. Grouping equipment by function saves time and labor.
A tasting room or taproom for direct sales requires extra space and design considerations.
Allow space for potentially adding more fermenters, brite tanks and packaging lines later. This avoids costly rework.
Factor in electrical, water, wastewater, ventilation and refrigeration needs when selecting a facility.
Get clarity on building codes, zoning laws, licensing, and compliance requirements early in planning.
Carefully estimate capital expenditure and operating expenses. Prioritize quality equipment that will support long-term growth.
Customization and Flexibility
While ready-made systems are convenient, custom equipment provides the most flexibility:
- Custom kettles are available in specific materials and volumes to match goals.
- Fermenters and brite tanks can be designed for cooling, heating and carbonation needs.
- Piping, platforms, ladders and railings can be configured for ergonomic workflows.
- Control systems can monitor and automate entire processes end-to-end.
- Mash filters and lauter tuns allow customization of filters, rakes and cycles.
- Glycol chillers, heat exchangers and CIP systems tailored for each setup.
Consulting with experienced brewery engineering firms is advised to design systems optimized for your brewhouse.
Suppliers and Pricing
There are many reputed commercial brewing equipment manufacturers to consider:
Brewhouse Equipment Suppliers and Pricing
|Brew kettles||JVNW, AAA Metal, McDonald, Mile Hi||$50,000 – $500,000|
|Lauter tuns||JVNW, AAA Metal, Polarfab||$100,000 – $1,000,000|
|Mash filters||Meura, GEA, Buhler||$250,000 – $2,000,000|
|Mash mixers||JVNW, AAA Metal, Rolec||$25,000 – $100,000|
|Wort grant||JVNW, Polarfab, AAA Metal||$15,000 – $50,000|
|Wort chillers||GEA, Alfa Laval, DME Process Systems||$50,000 – $250,000|
*Price range for 15-100 barrel systems
Fermentation and Maturation Equipment Suppliers and Pricing
|Fermenters||JVNW, AAA Metal, Polarfab, McDantim||$50,000 – $500,000|
|Brite tanks||JVNW, AAA Metal, Polarfab, McDantim||$30,000 – $250,000|
|Glycol chillers||JVNW, AAA Metal, GEA, Alfa Laval||$20,000 – $150,000|
|Heat exchangers||GEA, Alfa Laval, SWEP||$5,000 – $50,000|
*Price range for 15-100 barrel systems
Additional Equipment Suppliers and Pricing
|Piping||JVNW, Polarfab, AAA Metal||$20,000 – $100,000|
|Pumps||WEG, Grundfos, Alfa Laval||$2,000 – $50,000|
|Grain handling||TMPI, PC Malt, Screw Conveyor||$10,000 – $100,000|
|CIP systems||Allegheny Bradford, Douglas Machines, Krones||$5,000 – $50,000|
|Air compressor||Ingersoll Rand, Quincy, Gardner Denver||$3,000 – $25,000|
|CO2 recovery||Earthly Labs, DC Norris, Liquid Commerce||$50,000 – $500,000|
|Controls||BrauKon, Craft Centric, Briggs||$10,000 – $150,000|
Research multiple vendors to get quotes meeting budget and quality needs. Local dealers may provide better service. Get references from other breweries on reliability.
Installation, Operation and Maintenance
Proper installation, operation and maintenance ensures longevity of capital equipment:
- Hire experienced contractors for equipment rigging, plumbing, wiring and programming.
- Verify utilities are adequate – power supply, water, drains, ventilation, etc.
- Inspect equipment thoroughly and test before starting production.
- Train staff thoroughly on operating and cleaning procedures.
- Follow manufacturer instructions for use of equipment.
- Adhere to safety procedures like lock-outs, confined space entry protocols.
- Monitor process parameters like temperatures and flow rates.
- Inspect equipment routinely for any issues.
- Track production and performance data over time.
Maintenance Best Practices
|Pumps||Rebuild/replace seals annually. Lubricate bearings.|
|Valves||Inspect valve stem packing and o-rings.|
|Gaskets||Replace based on condition annually.|
|Heat exchangers||Monitor pressure drop. Clean plates/tubes regularly.|
|Grain handling||Replace worn augers. Lubricate bearings and motors.|
|CO2 recovery||Change activated carbon filters per schedule.|
|Glycol chillers||Check glycol concentration. Clean strainers.|
|CIP systems||Inspect spray balls and hoses. Replace as needed.|
Preventive maintenance minimizes downtime and extends equipment life. Keep maintenance logs. Schedule annual servicing contracts with vendors.
How to Select a Reliable Brewer Equipment Supplier
Choosing the right suppliers for brewing equipment is critical for starting a successful brewery:
- Experience – Number of years in business and breweries served. Look for at least 10-20 years.
- Reputation – Talk to other brewers about service and equipment performance. Check online reviews.
- Quality – Buy high quality equipment built to last decades, not the cheapest.
- Customization – Ability to customize systems to your exact specifications.
- Lead time – How quickly equipment can be fabricated and delivered. Plan 6-12 months ahead.
- Local support – Suppliers with technicians nearby for installation and maintenance.
- Training – Vendors who train your staff on using the equipment properly.
- Certifications – Check for ASME pressure vessel certification and others.
- Financing – Some offer leasing or financing options to spread out costs.
- References – Ask suppliers for 3-5 brewery references and call them.
Vet potential vendors thoroughly and build relationships with full-service suppliers invested in your success. Paying more upfront for quality often saves money long-term.
Pros and Cons of Commercial Brewing Equipment
|Open fermenters||Lower cost. Easy to access and clean.||Risk of contamination. Requires more cleaning.|
|Closed fermenters||Prevent contamination. Better flavor consistency.||Higher cost. Cannot see inside.|
|Brite tanks||Bright, carbonated, stabilized beer. Easier serving.||Additional equipment cost. Floor space.|
|Lauter tuns||Traditional wort separation. Large capacity.||Slower lautering. Settling issues over time.|
|Mash filters||Faster runoff times. Better extraction. Self-cleaning.||Higher cost. Maintenance of screen filters.|
|Direct fire kettles||Lower upfront cost. Simple operation.||Less even heating. Harder temperature control.|
|Steam-jacketed kettles||Precise temperature control. Even heating.||Higher cost. More complex operation.|
|Plate heat exchangers||Compact size. Efficient heat transfer. Easy to clean.||Risk of fouling over time. Plate corrosion.|
|Shell and tube exchangers||Withstand high pressures and temperatures. Low fouling.||Bulkier. Harder to clean tubes.|
Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages carefully based on your specific production goals, budget and growth plans when selecting brewing systems.
What size brewhouse system should I start with?
Base it on realistic first year production goals considering capital cost, operating expenses, and growth strategy. Starting small, e.g. 10-15 barrels, allows testing recipes and demand before expansion.
What are the most important factors in selecting a facility or building?
- Sufficient power, water and wastewater capacity and space to expand later.
- Zoning allows brewery use and a tasting room if desired.
- Accessible loading docks for raw materials and finished product shipping.
- Enough space for equipment, storage, offices and future growth.
- Room for grain handling, fermentation, packaging and other steps.
- Evaluate costs versus modifying an existing building.
Should I buy new or used brewing equipment?
Buying quality new equipment ensures safety, reliability and longevity. Piecing together used equipment may seem cheaper but involves risks – uncertain condition, maintenance headaches, improper installations and more downtime. Leverage used equipment only if reputable vendors fully refurbish and guarantee it.
How much does a 10 barrel brewhouse cost?
A complete 10 barrel brewery with brewhouse equipment plus fermenters, brite tanks, glycol chillers, packaging lines, grain handling, cleaning systems, etc. can cost $500,000 to $1.5 million. Prices vary widely based on quality, customization and additional infrastructure needed.
What are critical maintenance best practices?
- Create checklists for daily, weekly and monthly preventive maintenance of each system.
- Inspect valves, seals, gaskets, filters, motors routinely.
- Test all safety devices like pressure relief valves periodically.
- Check for abnormal vibrations, leaks, noises indicating problems.
- Lubricate and replace parts like bearings and pump seals proactively.
- Clean equipment thoroughly between batches.
- Track maintenance logs carefully.
Starting a commercial brewery allows entrepreneurs to turn their beer recipes and passion into a business. Carefully designing brewhouse systems tailored to production goals and budget ensures smooth operations, while allowing capacity to grow over time. Choosing high quality equipment and keeping it well-maintained reduces downtime and protects your investment. Partnering with reputable suppliers invested in your success provides peace of mind. With smart planning, commercial brewing can be a rewarding and profitable endeavor.