Finding the Best Brewing Equipment Supplier for Your Craft Brewery

brewing equipment supplier

Craft brewing has exploded in popularity over the last decade, with small independent breweries popping up in communities across the country. As a new brewery owner, choosing the right equipment is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when starting your business. The brewing system you select will impact the quality, consistency, and efficiency of your beer production. That’s why partnering with an experienced brewing equipment supplier is key.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about choosing the best brewery equipment and finding a reputable supplier. We’ll cover:

  • An overview of the types of brewing systems and main components
  • Key factors to consider when selecting a brewery equipment supplier
  • Leading and emerging suppliers of brewhouse systems and fermentation tanks
  • Brewhouse system options from 2BBL to 30BBL for different scales
  • Pros, cons, costs, and specifications of the top brewing systems
  • Installation, operation, maintenance, and sourcing considerations
  • Pricing ranges for various system sizes and configurations
  • How to evaluate and choose the right brewing equipment supplier for your needs

We’ll also include detailed comparison tables so you can easily view specifications and pricing across different supplier packages and models. By the end of this guide you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to source the ideal brewing system for your new brewery. Let’s get started!

Overview of Brewing Equipment and Systems

The main pieces of equipment in a brewery include the brewhouse, fermentation tanks, bright beer tanks, and a bottling or canning line. The brewhouse is where the magic happens – this is where you’ll convert grains into sweet wort through the mashing process and add hops for bitterness, flavor, and aroma during the boil.

The typical brewhouse setup includes:

  • Mashing equipment – Mash tun, lauter tun, rakes, pumps
  • Wort boiling equipment – Brew kettle, heat source, wort chiller
  • Filtration gear – Whirlpool, heat exchanger, pumps

After boiling, the wort is cooled and transferred to fermentation tanks where yeast is added. The yeast consumes sugars in the wort and converts them to alcohol and CO2 during fermentation. Once fermentation is complete, the beer is transferred to bright beer tanks for clarification, carbonation, and aging prior to packaging.

The major components and options for each piece of brewing equipment are outlined in the tables below:

Table 1. Brewing Equipment Guide

Equipment Types & Options
Mash Tun / Lauter Tun Insulated stainless steel vessels, single vessel or separate mash tun and lauter tun, automated rakes
Brew Kettle Direct fire or steam heated, multi-vessel (e.g. mash tun + kettle in one), automated temperature control, gas or electric heating
Whirlpool Part of kettle or standalone tank, rotating arm for removing trub and hop debris
Heat Exchanger Plate or shell and tube type, single-stage or multi-stage for wort cooling
Fermentation Tanks Closed / uni-tanks or open fermenters, stainless steel or plastic composite, glycol chilled or direct expansion, conical or cylindro-conical bottom, variable capacity
Bright Beer Tanks Pressurized stainless steel vessels, glycol chilled prior to carbonation and dispensing
Filtration Depth or membrane filters (DE, cartridge, plate and frame), centrifuge, pasteurizer
Cleaning and Sanitation CIP sprayballs, pumps, tanks, chemical metering systems
Control Systems Brewing software, PLCs, automated valves, sensors, process monitoring and control

Table 2. Brewing Equipment Applications

Equipment Purpose
Mash Tun Mix milled grains with hot water for starch conversion to sugars
Lauter Tun Filter sweet wort from spent grains
Brew Kettle Boil wort with hops for bitterness, flavor, and aroma
Whirlpool Settle out hop debris and coagulate proteins
Heat Exchanger Rapidly cool boiled wort before fermentation
Fermentation Tanks Ferment wort with yeast to convert sugars to CO2 and alcohol
Bright Beer Tanks Clarify, carbonate, and store beer prior to packaging
Filtration Remove haze particles for crystal clear beer
CIP Systems Clean and sanitize equipment between batches
Control Systems Monitor and automate the brewing process

When selecting your equipment, keep your production goals and target beer styles in mind. The right equipment will provide efficiency, repeatability, quality, and flexibility as your brewery grows.

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Key Factors When Choosing a Brewing Equipment Supplier

With so many equipment options and suppliers to choose from, it can be tricky evaluating all the variables that go into building your brewery. Here are the key factors brewery owners should consider when selecting a brewing equipment supplier:

Table 3. How to Choose a Brewing Equipment Supplier

Factor Description
Reputation & Experience Look for an established supplier with years of experience designing and installing brewing systems. Ask for referrals from other breweries.
Scale & Production Range Choose a supplier that caters to your size brewery and future expansion goals – both very small and very large systems.
Equipment Quality & Construction Ensure equipment is constructed from food-grade stainless steel and built to last for years of continuous production.
Customer Service Pick a supplier that provides design consultation, responsive support, and after-sales assistance.
Custom vs Pre-Configured Systems Pre-designed systems are simpler to install but offer less customization. Custom systems are tailored to your recipes and specs.
Installation & Training Choose a supplier that can handle equipment installation and provide operator training.
Ongoing Support Look for suppliers that stock spare parts and can quickly service equipment issues.
Price & Financing Options Consider upfront equipment costs along with financing options like leasing or rent-to-own programs.
Sourcing & Lead Times Evaluate purchasing options – imported, domestic, new vs used. Factor in lead times for manufacturing and shipping.

Take the time to thoroughly research potential suppliers by checking references, reading reviews, inspecting example systems, and requesting quotes. Be sure to get detailed bids outlining exactly what is included, from hardware to installation and training.

Leading National & Regional Brewing Equipment Suppliers

There are well over a hundred companies supplying brewing equipment in the US alone. The market is still fragmented with many smaller regional suppliers and manufacturers. But there are several larger national suppliers with a long track record in the industry:

Table 4. Leading Brewing Equipment Suppliers

Company Location Offerings
SS Brewtech California Complete stainless steel brewhouses, fermentation, brite tanks, filters
Blichmann Engineering California Kettles, burners, conical fermenters, accessories
Newlands Systems Washington Customizable brewhouse systems, tanks, controls
Premier Stainless Systems Washington Custom fabrication, brewhouses, fermentation, serving tanks
Specific Mechanical Victoria, Canada Brewing systems, fermenters, bright tanks, filtration
Rite Boiler Oregon Electric and gas-fired brew kettles, hot liquor tanks, accessories
Psycho Brew New York Manual and electric brewhouses, fermentation tanks
Colorado Brewing Systems Colorado Turnkey brewhouse systems, tanks, design and installation
AAA Metal Fabrication Oregon Brewhouses, fermenters, serving tanks, custom fabrication
Portland Kettle Works Oregon Electric and gas-fired kettles, accessories, custom work
MW&L Ohio Mixing, mashing, lautering, and brewhouse control systems

In addition to these larger suppliers, there are many smaller regional and specialty manufacturers to evaluate. Custom fabrication shops can be a good option for custom tanks and vessels. Used equipment is also available, but do your homework to ensure quality and condition.

Brewhouse Systems from 2BBL to 30BBL for Different Scales

One of the first big decisions you’ll make is choosing the size of your brewhouse system. The barrels brewed per batch (BBL) refers to how many US beer barrels (31 gallons) your mash tun and brew kettle can produce each brew day. Typical small to mid-size brewhouse volumes are:

  • 2 BBL system – brewpub or nano-brewery up to 300 BBL per year
  • 7 BBL system – production up to 1000 BBL per year
  • 15 BBL system – regional brewery producing 2000-5000 BBL annually
  • 30 BBL system – full-scale microbrewery 5000-15000 BBL capacity

Larger commercial systems go up to 100 BBL or more. Let’s take a look at popular brewhouse configurations for different scales:

2 Barrel Brewing Systems

Two barrel breweries are great for new brewpubs, taprooms, and small batch craft producers. Output per batch is approximately sixty 31-gallon barrels.

Table 5. 2 BBL Brewhouse Equipment Overview

Component Description
Mash Tun Insulated 2 BBL stainless mash tun with temperature control and automated rakes
Lauter Tun 2 BBL stainless lauter tun or filter bottom mash tun for lautering
Brew Kettle 2-3 BBL direct fire or electric brew kettle with automation
Heat Exchanger 1-2 stage stainless plate wort chiller
Control System Turnkey brewing control panel with temperature sensors, pumps, and valves

Complete 2 BBL turnkey brewhouse systems typically cost $50,000 to $150,000 depending on options. Tanks, fermentation, cleaning, and bottling/canning equipment will be additional expenses.

Leading 2 BBL System Suppliers: Specific Mechanical, Premier Stainless, Psycho Brew, Rite Boiler, Colorado Brewing Systems

7 Barrel Brewing Systems

Seven barrel breweries can produce up to 1000 barrels annually. Batch size is approximately 215 gallons or seven 31-gallon barrels.

Table 6. 7 BBL Brewhouse Equipment Overview

Component Description
Mash Tun Insulated 7 BBL stainless mash tun with rakes and sensors
Lauter Tun Integrated in mash tun or separate 7 BBL lauter tun
Brew Kettle 7-10 BBL direct or steam heated kettle, gas or electric
Whirlpool Incorporated in kettle or standalone whirlpool tank
Heat Exchanger Multi-stage plate or shell and tube heat exchanger
Control System Automated control panel with programmable recipe management

Complete 7 BBL brewhouse system costs range from $150,000 to $350,000 depending on options. Tanks and fermentation equipment will be additional capital expenses.

Leading 7 BBL System Suppliers: Specific Mechanical, SS Brewtech, Blichmann, Premier Stainless, Psycho Brew

15 Barrel Brewing Systems

Fifteen barrel brewhouses are a popular size for production craft breweries doing 5000-10000 BBL annually. Batch size is approximately 465 gallons or fifteen 31-gallon barrels.

Table 7. 15 BBL Brewhouse Equipment Overview

Component Description
Mash Tun Insulated 15 BBL mash tun with automated rakes and lauter manifold
Lauter Tun Integrated in mash tun or standalone 15 BBL lauter tun
Brew Kettle 15-20 BBL direct fire or steam heated kettle
Whirlpool Dedicated whirlpool tank for settling out trub
Heat Exchanger Multi-stage plate heat exchanger for wort cooling
Control System Touchscreen control panel with full brewing process automation

Complete automated 15 BBL systems from most suppliers will be $350,000 to $500,000. Additional fermentation and cellar equipment will be extra.

Leading 15 BBL System Suppliers: Specific Mechanical, Premier Stainless, Psycho Brew, SS Brewtech, AAA Metal Fabrication

30 Barrel Brewing Systems

Thirty barrel commercial brewhouses are designed for larger microbreweries looking to produce 10000-15000 barrels annually. Batch size is approximately 930 gallons or thirty 31-gallon barrels.

Table 8. 30 BBL Brewhouse Equipment Overview

Component Description
Mash Tun Insulated 30-40 BBL mash tun with rakes and automated grain handling
Lauter Tun Integrated or standalone 30-40 BBL lauter tun
Brew Kettle 30-40 BBL steam heated brew kettle
Whirlpool Dedicated 30-40 BBL whirlpool for trub separation
Heat Exchanger Multi-stage plate heat exchanger for wort cooling
Control System Advanced brewing controls with touchscreen interface

Complete 30 BBL turnkey brewhouse systems from leading suppliers typically range from $500,000 to over $1 million depending on options.

Leading 30 BBL System Suppliers: Specific Mechanical, Premier Stainless, Psycho Brew, SS Brewtech, Newlands Systems

This covers the most common small to mid-size brewhouse configurations. Larger 100 BBL commercial systems are also available from the major suppliers. When requesting quotes, get itemized breakdowns for every component and option.

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Comparing Pros, Cons, Costs, and Specs of Top Brewing Systems

To help compare options, here are some detailed capsules reviewing the major brands and models of brewhouse systems and highlighting the pros, cons, costs, and specifications of each:

Specific Mechanical Gravity Brewhouse Systems

Specific Mechanical is a Canadian brewing equipment company offering pre-designed and customizable gravity-fed brewhouse systems from 3.5 to 30 BBL.

Table 9. Specific Mechanical Gravity Brewhouse Systems

Attributes Details
Pros Gravity designs, high quality stainless steel, customizable options
Cons Can have longer lead times for fabrication
Cost $$$ – $$$$
Sizes 3.5 to 30 BBL standard, up to 60 BBL available
Kettles Steam heated with auto temp controls
Mash Tuns Insulated stainless with internal rakes or agitator
Lauter Tuns Separate or integrated, auto vorlauf and wort collection
Controls Touchscreen control panel with recipe management
Options Grist case, whirlpool, heat exchanger, grain handling

Specific Mechanical offers completely customizable brewhouse solutions. Their systems are on the more expensive side but built to high standards. Lead times can take 4-6 months.

Premier Stainless Uni-Brew Brewhouse Systems

Washington-based Premier Stainless Systems manufacturers the Uni-Brew line of affordable brewhouse equipment.

Table 10. Premier Stainless Uni-Brew Brewhouse Overview

Attributes Details
Pros Competitively priced, modular components
Cons Less automation features than some systems
Cost $$ – $$$
Sizes 3.5 to 30 BBL, custom sizing available
Kettles Electric or gas fired kettles
Mash Tuns Insulated single or dual vessel mash lauter tuns
Controls Manual or electric actuated valves and pumps
Options Grist case, whirlpool, heat xchanger, sparge arms

The Uni-Brew systems offer a lot of value for the price point. The more basic manual configurations keep cost down while still ensuring quality.

SS Brewtech InfuSsion Brewing Systems

SS Brewtech is known for their innovative InfuSsion line of electric brewhouse systems.

Table 11. SS Brewtech InfuSsion Brewing Systems Overview

Attributes Details
Pros Electric designs, highly automated, fast heating
Cons More expensive than similar sized gas fired systems
Cost $$$$
Sizes 2 to 7 BBL, custom on request
Kettles Electric heated brew kettles with precision control
Mash Tuns Electric mash tuns with automated mixing and temp control
Controls BrewCommander touchscreen controls and cloud-based monitoring
Options Grist case, whirlpool, pumps, integrated fermentation

The InfuSsion systems focuses on fully automated electric brewing for the ultimate in consistency and control.

Psycho Brew Electric Brewhouse Systems

New York-based Psycho Brew offers electric brewing systems from 3.5 to 30 BBL.

Table 12. Psycho Brew Electric Brewhouse Systems Overview

Attributes Details
Pros Electric powered, automated features, modular flexibility
Cons Electric can cost more to operate than gas systems
Cost $$$ – $$$$
Sizes 3.5 to 30 BBL, custom on request
Kettles Electric heated kettles with precision digital controls
Mash Tuns Insulated stainless mash tuns with rakes
Controls Automated valves, pumps, and state logic controls
Options Lauter tuns, whirlpool, grist case, fermentation tanks

Blichmann Engineering Equipment

Blichmann Engineering manufactures a range of innovative brewing equipment like the popular Blichmann TopTier brewing systems.

Table 13. Blichmann TopTier Brewing System Overview

Attributes Details
Pros Innovative features like thermoDivide heat shielding
Cons Pricier than comparable kettles from other brands
Cost $$$
Sizes Up to 15 BBL systems
Kettles TopTier thermal jacketed kettles, gas or electric fired
Mash Tuns Power Controller automated mash tuns
Controls BrewCommander control panel and automation
Options Grain handling, lauter tuns, whirlpool, fermentation

Blichmann is known for high-end kettles and accessories. The TopTier brewing systems integrate many of their innovations.

Colorado Brewing Systems (CBS)

Colorado Brewing Systems offers complete brewhouse solutions from 2 to 30 barrel systems.

Table 14. Colorado Brewing Systems Overview

Attributes Details
Pros Reputable supplier, wide range of system scales
Cons Less customizable than some competitors
Cost $$$ – $$$$
Sizes 2 to 30+ BBL systems
Kettles Steam, electric or gas-fired kettles
Mash Tuns Jacketed mash tuns with rakes
Controls Touchscreen control panel
Options Grist case, whirlpool, lautering, fermentation

CBS provides good value on their pre-designed systems backed by their decades of brewing industry experience.

This covers some of the major brewhouse suppliers and system options to consider. Be sure to get multiple quotes to compare pricing and capabilities from different vendors.

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Pricing Ranges for Different System Sizes and Configurations

So how much will a new brewhouse system cost? Pricing can vary dramatically based on the size, features, level of automation, hardware options, and supplier you choose. Here are typical price ranges:

Table 15. Brewhouse Pricing by Size and Features

System Size Manual Config Semi-Auto Config Fully-Auto Config
1 BBL $15,000 – $30,000 $30,000 – $50,000 $50,000 – $100,000
3 BBL $30,000 – $60,000 $60,000 – $100,000 $100,000 – $250,000
7 BBL $80,000 – $150,000 $150,000 – $250,000 $250,000 – $500,000
15 BBL $150,000 – $300,000 $300,000 – $500,000 $500,000 – $1,000,000
30 BBL $250,000 – $600,000 $600,000 – $1,000,000 $1,000,000 – $2,000,000

Manual systems will be the most affordable options but require more hands-on brewer involvement. Fully automatic systems offer incredible consistency and control but at a premium price.

Make sure quotes clearly specify what is included – from equipment components to installation, controls, and training. Get an itemized breakdown of all costs rather than bundled pricing.

Beyond the brewhouse itself, factor in budget for fermentation tanks, brite tanks, cleaning systems, cooling, and packaging lines. This can easily add hundreds of thousands in additional expenses. Proper planning and budgeting early on will ensure you get the right system within your investment means.

Sourcing New and Used Brewing Equipment

When researching brewing equipment suppliers, you’ll find options for purchasing new equipment, used systems, and imported equipment. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of each approach:

Table 16. Sourcing Brewing Equipment – New vs Used vs Imported

New Used Imported
Cost Most expensive upfront but warrantied Significant cost savings over new Cheaper than domestic equipment
Quality Latest technology and materials Varies greatly depending on age and brand Often lower grade materials than US
Lead Time Weeks to months for fabrication Much faster if in stock Can take months with shipping
Customization Fully customizable to your recipe specs Limited if pre-owned system Some customization possible
Support Full tech support and service from seller Limited support Lack of local service can be an issue

When buying used, be extremely diligent inspecting equipment condition and history. Get written warranty from the seller on used equipment. With imports, work with an experienced broker and inspect before shipment.

For a new brewery, starting with brand new purpose-built equipment from a reputable supplier is recommended if budget allows. This will provide the best results, performance, and peace of mind.

Key Considerations for Installation, Operation, and Maintenance

Once you’ve purchased your shiny new brewing system, what’s next? Proper installation, operation, and maintenance will be critical for keeping your equipment running smoothly.

Installation and Training

Ideally your equipment supplier will handle turnkey installation of the system. This should include:

  • Offloading equipment at your facility
  • Placing vessels, tanks, and hardware in position
  • Making all electrical, plumbing, steam, glycol, and ventilation connections
  • Integrating control panels and automation programming
  • Testing the system operation end-to-end before handoff

Thorough training is essential – don’t assume you can figure out a complex new system yourself! At minimum, the supplier should provide:

  • Operator training on standard brewing processes
  • Instructions for CIP cleaning and sanitation
  • Preventative maintenance overview
  • Troubleshooting training for common issues
  • Review of all operating manuals, schematics, warranties

Schedule hands-on training time where you actually brew several test batches yourself while the supplier observes. Video record procedures for reference.

Table 17. Brewery Equipment Installation and Training Checklist

Task Description
Setup Unpack, place, mount, assemble all equipment at facility
Connections Electrical, plumbing, glycol, steam, ventilation hookups
Automation Program and test any PLCs, sensors, control panels
Trial Run Test system operation with a trial batch
Training Provide operator training on standard brewing process
Cleaning & Maintenance Review CIP cleaning procedures and maintenance
Troubleshooting Train on diagnosing and fixing common problems
Documentation Review operating manuals, drawings, warranties

Ongoing Operation and Maintenance

Once installed and handed off, brewhouse operation and preventative maintenance is your responsibility. Critical tasks include:

  • Following standard operating procedures for each beer recipe and batch
  • Performing full CIP cleaning protocol between every batch
  • Monitoring operation during brewing and promptly addressing any issues
  • Tracking key metrics like mash efficiency and fermentation progress
  • Completing regular maintenance on pumps, valves, gaskets, motors and moving parts
  • Checking calibration of temperature sensors, flow meters, pressure gauges
  • Testing back-up systems and safety devices periodically
  • Addressing wear and tear, leaks, corrosion, other damage as needed

Document everything in daily logs including recipes, operating conditions, cleaning, and maintenance tasks. This provides critical data for tuning your system.

Service and Support

Even with diligent operation and maintenance, problems inevitably happen – a pump seizes, the mash heat scorches a batch, a gasket fails. Having strong ongoing service and support from your equipment supplier is essential for a quick fix to get brewing again.

Look for suppliers that:

  • Offer service contracts for scheduled preventative maintenance
  • Stock common replacement parts and can quickly provide
  • Have experienced technicians that can troubleshoot issues
  • Provide warranty repairs and replacements as applicable

For maximum uptime, some breweries keep critical spare parts on hand. Remote system monitoring tools can also notify suppliers of brewing issues for fast response.

Proper installation, training, operation and maintenance will keep your brewery’s equipment running smoothly for years of quality beer production. Leverage your supplier’s expertise through this process.

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Choosing the Right Brewery Equipment Supplier for Your Needs

Selecting the right equipment supplier for your new brewery is a huge decision. Follow this checklist when researching vendors and requesting bids:

Table 18. How to Choose Your Brewing Equipment Supplier

Task Description
Define Needs Outline your production goals, budget, beer types, quality needs, future expansion plans
Develop Specs Create detailed requirements for the brewhouse system and all other equipment needs
Research Suppliers Identify reputable suppliers that cater to your size operation
Request Quotes Get at least 3 quotes with detailed scope and pricing breakdowns
Compare Options Contrast proposals on equipment specs, quality, services, costs
Check References Talk to other breweries about their experience with the supplier
Visit Facilities Tour the supplier’s facilities and inspect work firsthand
Evaluate Installation Understand who handles equipment installation and site prep
Review Maintenance & Support Ensure supplier can provide training, service, and parts
Negotiate Contracts Clarify terms, schedule, responsibilities, and post-sale support
Get Guarantees Secure supplier guarantees and warranties in writing

Take your time doing due diligence during the supplier selection process. Getting the right equipment partner is critical for building an efficient, scalable brewing system that crafts great beer.

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