Tips for Buying Fresh Beer Brewing Equipment

Table of Contents

Overview of Fresh Beer Brewing Systems

Homebrewing fresh beer has exploded in popularity in recent years as more people discover the joy and creativity of brewing their own craft beers. While extract brewing is a simple way to start, advanced homebrewers and microbreweries need more sophisticated all-grain brewing systems to unlock the full potential of recipe formulation and process control.

This guide covers everything you need to know about fresh beer brewing equipment including:

  • Key components of a brewhouse
  • Different types of systems: manual vs automated
  • Sizing considerations and production capacity
  • Vessel materials: stainless vs plastic
  • Options for mashing, lautering, boiling, whirlpooling, cooling
  • Fermentation systems: conical vs cylindro-conical
  • Accessories: pumps, automation, controls, cleaning
  • Supplier overview and pricing
  • Tips for selection, installation, operation, and maintenance

Properly outfitting your brewhouse allows efficiently producing consistent, high-quality beers time after time. Let’s dive in!

fresh beer brewing equipment Overview

The main vessels and components of an all-grain brewhouse include:

Equipment Function
Mash tun Mixes crushed grains with hot water for mash conversion
Lauter tun Separates sweet wort from spent grains
Brew kettle Boils wort with hops for aroma and bitterness
Whirlpool Settles trub and hop particles
Wort chiller Quickly cools hot wort after the boil
Fermenter Ferments cooled wort into beer

Additional equipment like pumps, valves, sensors, and control systems help automate the brewing process. Proper cleaning and sanitation equipment is also a must.

While simple systems can be manually operated, automated brewhouses allow a hands-off approach after mash-in. This allows the brewer to focus on recipe design, quality control, fermentation, and cellaring rather than physically moving liquids around.

Brewhouse System Types

Homebrewers and pros have several configurations to choose from when selecting a brewhouse system:

Manual Brewing

  • Single vessel – Uses one kettle for mash and boil. Labor intensive but inexpensive.
  • Two vessel – Separate mash tun and brew kettle allows lautering while boiling.
  • Three vessel – Adds a hot liquor tank for heating strike and sparge water.

Automated Brewing

  • All-in-one electric systems – Self-contained brewhouses with integrated vessels. Plug and play but limited flexibility.
  • Modular propane systems – Customizable professional setups with individual vessels.
  • Hybrid systems – Combine automated vessels with manual transfers and process control.

The optimal brewhouse configuration depends on your budget, space constraints, production goals, and level of hands-on involvement required. All-in-one electrical systems offer an easy entry for homebrewers who want automation. Modular pro-level builds provide the most customization for larger production or unique recipes. Many microbreweries use a hybrid approach with some automated vessels and manual transfers.

Sizing Your Brewhouse Correctly

Matching your brewhouse size to your brewing goals and production schedule prevents undershooting or overbuilding capacity. Key factors influencing brewhouse size include:

  • Batch size – Total volume per brew day, typically in barrels (BBL)
  • Annual production – Yearly barrelage based on number of batches
  • Growth plans – Allow extra capacity for increased production over time
  • Brewing frequency – How many days per week the system will be used
  • Beer styles – Lighter beers require more malt and kettle volume

Oversizing your system substantially raises the equipment cost. Undersizing can limit your ability to meet production goals and expand. Leave room to grow, but don’t overbuild capacity you won’t use for years.

For small breweries, balance upfront costs with flexibility. Three-vessel breweries with 7-15 BBL systems are common starter sizes. Smartcontrol and automation also helps maximize capacity.

Here’s a quick sizing reference based on annual barrel production:

Production Goals Recommended Brewhouse Size
Up to 500 barrels/year 3-7 barrel system
500-2,000 barrels/year 7-15 barrel system
2,000-7,000 barrels/year 15-30 barrel system
7,000-15,000 barrels/year 30-60 barrel system

Brewhouse Vessel Materials

The materials used to construct brewhouse vessels directly impact performance, longevity, and cost:

Stainless Steel

  • Resists corrosion from wort
  • Easy to clean and sanitize
  • Durable for heavy use
  • Professional appearance
  • Better heat transfer
  • Long lifespan

Plastic (HDPE, PET)

  • Lower upfront cost
  • Easy to modify or replace
  • Lightweight for portability
  • Won’t dent like stainless
  • More difficult to clean
  • Can scratch and harbor bacteria
  • Shorter lifespan with heavy use
  • Less efficient heating

Stainless steel is the clear choice for pro and semi-pro breweries that value consistency and longevity. Homebrewers on a budget often start with plastic buckets and kettles from their local homebrew shop. For 10+ gallon batches, upgrade to stainless when possible.

Mashing Equipment

Mashing is the first step in the brewhouse process. The mash tun mixes crushed malt with hot water to convert starches into fermentable sugars. Homebrewers use basic insulated plastic bucket mash tuns for 5 gallon batches. Commercial mash tuns use stainless steel for durability and temperature stability.

Key mash tun features:

  • Cylindrical or rectangular stainless tank with false bottom
  • Insulated walls to maintain saccharification temperature
  • Sparge arm for rinsing sugars from grains
  • Removable false bottom helps lauter spent grain
  • Sight glass and thermometer to monitor mash
  • Automatic temperature control for precision mashing
  • Various capacities from 5-600+ gallons

Larger mash tuns over 100 gallons should have a rake or mixing paddle to prevent dough balls and uneven mashing. Commercial mash tuns feature ports for cleaning and transfer pumps.

Lautering Equipment

After mashing, the sugary wort must be lautered (separated) from the grain husks and other solids. Homebrewers often batch sparge using just the mash tun. Larger batches require a separate lauter tun.

Lauter tun attributes include:

  • Cylindrical stainless tank with false bottom
  • Grant screen over slots for filtering
  • Sprayball for rinsing sugars from grain bed
  • Wort collection below false bottom
  • Sight glass to monitor runoff clarity
  • Valves and ports for transfers
  • Optional internal rake to prevent stuck sparges

Many automated brewhouses combine mashing and lautering into a mash filter unit. These systems clarify all wort in one vessel before pumping to the kettle.

Boiling Kettle Types

The brew kettle boils wort for hop isomerization and sterilization. Many configurations are available:

Kettle Types

  • Open round stainless kettles
  • Jacketed kettles with steam heating
  • Direct fire kettles with gas burners
  • Tilting/dumping kettles for easy trub removal
  • Multi-vessel automated boil kettles
  • Hybrid steam and direct fire heating

Key factors when selecting a boil kettle include batch size, efficiency, ease of use, and automation needs. Gas-fired and steam kettles offer rapid heating and boiling for lager production. Open kettles with submerged electric elements work for ales and pilot batches.

Automated boil kettles feature electronic temperature control, automated hop additions, and whirlpool capability via tangential inlets. These improve efficiency, consistency and free up the brewer for other tasks.

Whirlpooling Equipment

After the boil, chilled wort must be whirlpooled to separate hop trub and coagulated proteins before fermentation.

Whirlpool vessel options:

  • External pump recirculated into brew kettle
  • Tangential inlet on kettle for whirlpool action
  • Dedicated whirlpool tank post-boil
  • Inline whirlpool with fixed spin equipment
  • Centrifugal separator for very clear wort
  • Settling tank whirlpool with valve rotation

For small batches, chilling in the boil kettle followed by settling is sufficient. Larger volumes benefit from pumps or inline whirlpooling for rapid trub separation. This prevents excessive trub carryover into fermenters leading to off-flavors.

Wort Cooling Systems

Chilling hot wort quickly after boiling inhibits bacterial growth and locks in hop flavors. Homebrewers often use ice baths or immersion chillers. Commercial wort cooling options include:

  • Immersion chillers – Direct contact coil in wort
  • Plate heat exchangers – High efficiency via metal plates
  • Counterflow chillers – Reuses cold outlet wort
  • Glycol chillers – Recirculates chilled glycol
  • Coolship open cooling – Exposes wort in shallow pan

For lagers and crisp ales, maximize cooling speed and minimize oxygen uptake. Plate and counterflow exchangers are most efficient for larger systems. Gravity-fed counterflow chillers also simplify automation.

Fermentation Vessel Types

After cooling, wort must be pitched with yeast and fermented into beer:

Fermenter Characteristics

  • Cylindroconical – Sloped bottom with cone below. Compact because yeast settles.
  • Conical – true cone bottom improves yeast collection. Take up more space.
  • Square – Cost effective. Requires rousing yeast.
  • Open – Allows direct yeast harvesting. Risk of infection.
  • Closed tanks – sealed and pressurized. Best for production.
  • Wooden barrels – Impart flavor complexity from wood. Difficult to sanitize.

Conicals and cylindrocons made of stainless steel are ideal for most craft breweries. Their cone-shaped bottom naturally separates yeast for harvesting and reuse. Pressure-capable units also allow carbonation and fermentation in one tank.

Homebrewers often start with simple 6-7 gallon glass or PET carboys, then upgrade to stainless conicals around 7-15 gallons for more advanced brewing.

Fermentation Temperature Control

Consistent fermentation temperatures are critical for clean, well-attenuated beer. Use these temperature control options:

  • Ambient areas – basements, wine rooms, or natural caves
  • Refrigerated rooms – converted refrigerated warehouse space
  • Glycol jackets – recirculates chilled glycol around tanks
  • Fermentation chambers – insulated chest freezer or fridge
  • Conical jackets – integrates cooling channels in vessel
  • Space heaters – warms area for Belgian and English ales

For homebrewing, converted chest freezers make excellent fermentation chambers. Add a temperature controller to run a space heater or refrigerator.

Larger breweries need calibrated tank temperature control. Integrated glycol or electric jackets work for cylindrical tanks. Conicals often have cooling built into the cone for efficiency.

Accessory Equipment

Beyond core brewhouse vessels, additional equipment improves process control, efficiency, automation, and final beer quality:


  • Electric actuated valves for transfers
  • Pumps move liquid between vessels
  • Level sensors track volumes and temperatures
  • Integrated control systems tie everything together


  • Refractometer measures specific gravity
  • pH meter tracks mash and wort acidity
  • DO meter prevents oxygen pickup
  • Lab equipment for yeast health, IBUs, etc


  • Plate and frame filters clarify beer
  • Centrifuges rapidly sediment solids
  • Carbonation stones saturate beer with CO2

Cleaning / Sanitation

  • CIP sprayballs efficiently clean vessels
  • Hot liquor tank provides hot water
  • Ozone system sterilizes post-cleaning
  • Chemical mixes (PBW, StarSan, acid)


  • Emergency shutoff switches
  • Lockout/tagout for maintenance
  • Ventilation hoods over boilers
  • Protective equipment like goggles, gloves, boots

Don’t cut corners on accessories – a complete brewhouse is more than just vessels. Prioritize automation for reduced labor and human error. Dial in cleaning/sanitation to prevent infections and off-flavors.

Brewhouse Supplier Overview

Many equipment manufacturers can outfit your entire brewhouse. Here are some of the top suppliers:

Homebrew Scale:

  • Northern Brewer – Kits, kettles, conicals, chillers, accessories
  • MoreBeer – Full systems, parts, ingredients and recipes
  • Adventures in Homebrewing – Equipment, kits, ingredients
  • Williams Brewing – Kettles, burners, conicals, fittings

Pro / Commercial Scale:

  • Specific Mechanical – Customizable, modular stainless brewhouses
  • Premier Stainless – Custom fabrications, tanks, vessels
  • JV Northwest – Brewhouse engineering and manufacturing
  • AAA Metal Fabrication – Custom brewing equipment
  • Psycho Brew – Manual and electric brewhouse systems
  • American Beer Equipment – Brewhouses, fermentation, serving

Shop around to find the right balance of quality, customization options, and cost. Many pros recommend buying vessels and accessories separately for maximum flexibility. Local equipment suppliers also simplify installation and servicing.

Brewhouse Pricing

Prices vary based on size, features, materials, and degree of customization. Here are some representative price ranges:

Homebrew Systems

  • Small kits – $100-$300 for kettles, carboys, and hardware
  • Partial mash – $400-$800 for kettles, mash tun, fermenters
  • All grain starter – $800-$1500 for kettles, MLT, chiller, pumps
  • Advanced electric – $2000-$5000 for integrated control, automation

Pro / Commercial Systems

  • Pilot brewery – $10,000-$30,000 for manual 3-7 bbl system
  • Semi-automatic – $50,000-$150,000 for 7-15 bbl, some automation
  • Fully automatic – $150,000+ for 15 bbl+ automated brewhouse

For professional systems, get bids from multiple vendors. Look for deals on pre-owned equipment as breweries go out of business or upgrade. Focus budget on core vessels, automation, quality parts that will last.

Installation and Layout Basics

Proper brewhouse installation and floor layout improves efficiency, reducing lifting and risks of burns/spills. Consider:

  • Floor drain placement to simplify cleaning
  • Access doors large enough for vessels
  • Overhead gantry or crane for heavy lifting
  • Fall between vessels no more than 12” for easy transfers
  • Leave space around tanks for service access
  • Locate control panels for easy view of process
  • Consider future expansion needs in layout
  • Outdoor installation may require insulation/enclosure

Draw your floorplan to scale prior to equipment purchases. Locate utilities like water, power, and drains first. Leave room to maneuver fork lifts or pallet jacks for deliveries and movement. A good brewhouse layout prevents injuries and damaged equipment. Consider hiring consultants to design your system.

Operating Tips

Follow best practices when using your brewhouse to maintain efficiency and prevent stuck mashes or kettles:

  • Follow manufacturer operating manuals exactly
  • Develop consistent checklists for each brew session
  • Label valves and equipment clearly and safely
  • Clean and sanitize between every use
  • Monitor temperatures and volumes in HLT, mash tun, kettle
  • Stir mashes and sparge slowly to prevent stuck runoff
  • Don’t overfill kettles to avoid boil overs
  • Use grain mill gap setting appropriate for equipment
  • Wear personal protective equipment like gloves and goggles
  • Install safety railings and shields where needed
  • Develop lockout/tagout procedures for maintenance
  • Monitor equipment condition for leaks, damage, wear
  • Track brewing logs to improve processes over time

Take the time to learn your system’s quirks through trial batches. Customize procedures for your unique equipment setup and specs. Don’t push excess volumes or speeds to avoid stuck sparges or other issues. Focus on consistency over maximum efficiency.

Maintenance and Cleaning

Regular brewhouse cleaning and preventative maintenance is required to keep your system running smoothly:

  • Follow manufacturer maintenance schedules
  • Inspect vessels, valves, pumps, sensors periodically
  • Replace gaskets, o-rings, seals when worn
  • Verify calibrated sensors and controls
  • Check pipe and hose connections for leaks
  • Test safety relief valves frequently
  • Monitor equipment condition and record issues
  • Develop a daily/weekly cleaning schedule
  • Use proper cleaning chemicals and procedures
  • Disassemble valves and fittings for deep cleaning
  • Perform preventative maintenance during downtime
  • Winterize equipment and drain lines if shutting down in cold climates

Addressing minor leaks quickly prevents corrosion and unsafe conditions. Documenting equipment issues helps diagnose problems before failures occur. A good maintenance log also provides records for warranty and insurance purposes.

Choosing a Brewhouse Supplier

Selecting the right brewhouse equipment partner involves balancing quality, customization, and budget:

Key Supplier Considerations

  • Offers equipment meeting your specifications
  • Quality construction and materials for longevity
  • Customization options for your unique needs
  • Experience with brewhouse manufacturing
  • Specializes in your production scale
  • Provides design and consulting services
  • Can integrate automation

Planning Your Brewhouse Layout

Carefully planning the layout when designing your brewhouse simplifies workflow and prevents inefficient bottlenecks. Follow these tips for optimal floorplan:

Arrange vessels in process order

Place equipment in order of the brewing process flow – from raw materials to packaged product. This minimizes lifting and carrying distances.

Allow adequate space around tanks

Leave room for transferring, cleaning, maintenance access. At least 2-3 feet clearance recommended.

Minimize gravity fall distances

Use adjustable platforms to get less than 12 inches of fall between vessels. Reduce heavy lifting.

Locate utilities conveniently

Position water, drains, power, and gas lines close to needed connections. Simplify utility hookups.

Leave room to expand

Allow space for additional tanks and storage. Growth requires extra room over time.

Separate clean and dirty zones

Keep raw materials, spent grains away from fermentation and serving. Prevent contamination.

Optimize for easy cleaning

Floor drains and smooth surfaces speed cleaning. Reduce hazards from slipperiness.

Consider fork lift access

Make sure lifts and pallet jacks can maneuver between tanks and walls.

Design for maintenance access

Leave space around vessels for inspections, valve/gasket service, repairs.

Practice safe design

Include railings, cages, shields to prevent burns or falls where needed.

Allow viewing access

Arrange so key vessels and processes are visible from control room.

Thinking through material flow, safety, and expansion upfront prevents having to move equipment later. Hire contractors experienced in brewhouse design to optimize layout.

Key Brewhouse Design Considerations

Designing an efficient brewhouse requires balancing many interrelated factors:

Batch Size

Match vessel capacities to target batch volume. Allow room to scale up over time.

Production Volume

Size the system to produce the barrels per week needed for business goals.

Beer Styles

Configure the mash tun, boil kettle, and fermentation tanks appropriately for the type of beers brewed.

Level of Automation

Determine degree of manual versus automated vessels and transfers.

Cleaning and Sanitation

Incorporate CIP spray balls, heat exchanger, reservoirs, and drains for easy cleaning.

Temperature Control

Include glycol, steam, or electric heating/cooling to maintain temps.

Future Expansion

Allow space for additional tanks and equipment as production increases.


Weigh cost versus quality/longevity. Look for used equipment deals.

Installation Requirements

Consider space, utility hookups, ventilation, drains, lifting access.

Local Regulations

Adhere to codes and comply with alcohol production licenses in your area.

There are always tradeoffs to weigh. Focus first on reliable temperature control and consistent sanitation. Smart automation and a well-planned layout prevent wasted time and effort over thousands of batches.

Tips for Buying Used Brewhouse Equipment

Used brewing equipment can provide major cost savings when starting or expanding a brewery. Here are some tips for finding quality pre-owned brewhouse gear:

Check Online Listings

Regularly browse resale sites like and for tanks, fermenters, and other listings. Deals go quickly.

Time Purchases Strategically

Look for used equipment when breweries go out of business or upgrade systems seasonally.

Inspect Thoroughly Before Buying

Examine all valves, fittings, seals for damage prior to purchasing. Confirm dimensions.

Ask About Maintenance History

Choose vessels with logbooks documenting proper cleaning and maintenance.

Test Heating and Cooling Functions

Have seller demonstrate working pumps, glycol systems, steam, etc.

Evaluate Condition of Metals

Check for dents, corrosion, pitting, and wear on stainless steel.

Replace Gaskets and Fittings

Swap out worn gaskets, o-rings, fittings with new parts after purchase.

Detail Any Imperfections Cosmetically

Minor dents or marks that don’t affect function won’t impact performance.

Clean and Sanitize Thoroughly

Disassemble valves and fittings. Scrub, sanitize, and reassemble before use.

Compare Pricing of New Systems

Calculate potential repair costs and lifespan to confirm value.

Finding quality used tanks requires persistence and quick response when deals pop up. Inspect equipment thoroughly yourself rather than relying on seller descriptions. Refurbishing used gear can still cost less than buying new.

Common Brewhouse Hazards

Operating a brewhouse involves working with hot liquids, pressurized systems, heavy equipment, and hazardous chemicals. Follow these safety guidelines:

Thermal Burns

  • Wear insulating gloves when handling hot vessels or wort
  • Clearly label high temperature equipment like the HLT
  • Ensure pumps and lines are fully drained before service

Slips and Falls

  • Clean up spills immediately to avoid slick floors
  • Install anti-slip flooring in wet areas
  • Place railings and fall protection near open tanks

Boil Over Prevention

  • Never overfill boil kettles
  • Leave adequate headspace for hot break formation
  • Watch hot break closely and reduce heat if necessary

Equipment Hazards

  • Properly ground all electrical systems
  • Guard belt drives and rotating shafts
  • Install protective covers on pumps and motors

Chemical Safety

  • Use recommended PPE when handling chemicals
  • Carefully measure and dilute cleaners
  • Provide good ventilation over tanks during cleaning

Lifting Injuries

  • Use hoists, winches, or cranes for moving heavy items
  • Employ proper lifting techniques and get help
  • Store heavy equipment and ingredients at waist height when possible

Other Considerations

  • Develop lockout/tagout procedures for maintenance
  • Train staff on equipment hazards and emergency procedures
  • Keep first aid kits and fire extinguishers accessible

Making safety a top priority protects your staff and keeps your brewhouse running smoothly. Take time to identify hazards specific to your equipment and facility layout.

An Overview of Brewhouse Pumps

Pumps circulate wort, transfer hot and cold side liquids, and simplify the brewing process. Here’s an overview of common brewhouse pumps:

Types of Brewing Pumps

  • Centrifugal – Affordable workhorse pump with rotating impeller
  • Rotary lobe – Handles solids well, gentle on liquids
  • Diaphragm – Self-priming, dry run capable, adjustable flow
  • Peristaltic – Precise metering, gentle transfer, easy cleaning
  • Flex-impeller – Combines centrifugal pump head with magnetic drive
  • Positive displacement – Very accurate dosing using rotating screws

Key considerations when selecting pumps:

  • Flow rate and pressure rating match application
  • Single-use pumps prevent contamination
  • Self-priming models speed start up
  • Adjustable speed for variable flow rates
  • Gentle transfer to avoid shearing proteins
  • Easy cleanability, especially on cold side
  • Able to run dry safely if line drains
  • Resistant to hot side temperatures and wort

Strategically place pumps near tanks requiring transfers. Install valves to control flow direction. Use variable frequency drives for speed control and gentle transfers.

Typical Brewing Applications

  • HLT or hot liquor pump – transfers hot water to mash tun
  • Grant pump – transfers wort to kettle, whirlpool
  • RIMS or HERMS pump – recirculates wort through external heating system
  • Glycol chiller pump – recirculates cool glycol to jackets
  • CIP pump – sprays hot cleaning chemicals
  • DO metering pumps – pure oxygen injection
  • Transfer pumps – send beer to fermenters or brite tanks
  • Carbonation stone pump – injects CO2 into beer

Tips for Dialing in Brewhouse Efficiency

Achieving optimal mash efficiency takes trial and error dialling in your brewhouse. Gain valuable points through:

Malt Crushing

  • Set roller mill gap based on grist analysis
  • Avoid floury crushes that impede lauter and lower efficiency
  • Do sample mashes to test sugar extraction from crush

Water Chemistry

  • Add salts to match style and adjust mash pH to 5.2-5.6
  • Ensure adequate calcium for enzyme activity

Precise Temperature Control

  • Minimize temperature drops during mashing and sparging
  • Verify thermometer calibrations for accuracy

Mixing and Recirculation

  • Recirculate to set grain bed and distribute sugars
  • Maintain temp with RIMS/HERMS or direct heating
  • Stir periodically to avoid dough balls and channeling

Sparging Technique

  • Spray evenly across grain bed surface
  • Sparge slowly and pause if runoff slows
  • Collect sweet wort for reuse as sparge water

Preboil and Boiloff Rates

  • Factor in evaporation rates when filling kettle
  • Use defoamers and watch heat to prevent boil overs

Yeast Health

  • Aerate wort adequately before pitching
  • Ensure sufficient cell count for strong fermentation


  • Track pre-boil gravity, volumes, temps, and efficiencies
  • Review logs to isolate improvement opportunities

It takes 10-20 batches to really optimize your system. Be patient, control variables, and make incremental process tweaks over successive brews.

Strategies to Streamline Brewhouse Operations

Running an efficient brewhouse operation requires optimizing workflows, prevent downtime, and eliminate bottlenecks. Consider these tips:

Schedule Effectively

  • Coordinate raw material deliveries to sync with production schedule
  • Plan brew days to maximize equipment usage
  • Balance brewing and fermentation capacity

Simplify Measurements

  • Mark volumes on vessels to speed readings
  • Create vessel level calculators to determine fills
  • Weigh ingredients when possible for speed and accuracy

Automate Where Possible

  • Use pumps, sensors, valves to reduce manual labor
  • Automate temperature control and recordkeeping
  • Look for touchless options to improve sanitation

Clean As You Go

  • Follow each task immediately by cleaning gear
  • Develop end-of-day cleaning checklists
  • Consolidate cleaning tasks to use solutions efficiently

Reduce Downtime

  • Schedule preventative maintenance during off hours
  • Stock backup parts like seals, gaskets, fittings
  • Train staff across positions to fill gaps

Monitor Efficiency

  • Track batch times, yields, losses, and costs
  • Fix issues lowering utilization rates
  • Regularly assess processes for improvement opportunities

Communicate Clearly

  • Use brewhouse logs to document each batch
  • Note any equipment issues or process changes
  • Debrief after brew days to exchange feedback

Consistency and reducing errors takes time but leads to a smoothly operating brewhouse. Brewing should be fun – don’t let tedious inefficiencies make it feel like work.

Key Things To Validate When Commissioning a Brewhouse

Before starting production on a newly installed brewhouse, be sure to thoroughly validate:

Equipment Function

  • Test valves, switches, pumps, and instruments
  • Ensure vessels hold pressure and temperature
  • Verify all sight glasses are clear and readings accurate

Electrical and Utilities

  • Confirm power supplies are properly grounded and bonded
  • Check water and drain flows and pressure
  • Test glycol and steam heating/cooling

Safety Systems

  • Verify emergency stop buttons disable equipment
  • Ensure guards are installed around moving parts
  • Check that relief valves route safely

Automation and Controls

  • Validate temperature probes and transmitters
  • Prove out automation sequences end-to-end
  • Confirm SCADA and software reads values correctly

Gaskets, Clamps and Fittings

  • Check for leaks at connections
  • Tighten clamps to specified torque
  • Replace any damaged or worn gaskets

Cleaning and Sanitation

  • Test CIP spray balls coverage and flows
  • Verify hot water supply temperature
  • Make sure vessel interiors are smooth

Calibrations and Clearances

  • Re-calibrate any sensors or instruments
  • Confirm clearances for opening lids and doors
  • Validate measurements marked on vessels

Material Handling

  • Ensure cranes/hoists operate safely
  • Clear forklift access and provide drivers training
  • Practice loading and transferring between tanks

Take your time and don’t rush the commissioning process. Better to find and address issues prior to starting production.

Key Maintenance Tasks for Brewhouse Equipment

To maximize uptime and extend brewhouse lifespan, perform regular maintenance:

Daily Maintenance

  • Inspect vessels, valves, hoses, and fittings for leaks
  • Verify pumps are lubricated
  • Check glycol/refrigeration system pressures and temperatures
  • Confirm kalrez seats, PRVs, air actuators are operational
  • Calibrate sensors and measurement instrumentation

Weekly Maintenance

  • Test emergency stop functionality
  • Inspect gear boxes and drives for wear
  • Clean level indicators and verify operation
  • Check chain and belt drives for tension
  • Confirm proper cleaning head alignment
  • Test relief and blowdown valves

Monthly Maintenance

  • Inspect welds for corrosion and cracks
  • Remove and clean scoring valves
  • Swab out TC fittings and confirm temps
  • Fasten loose or vibrating panels
  • Lubricate electric actuators and linkages
  • Verify chemical concentrations and metering pumps

Quarterly/Annual Maintenance

  • Rebuild pumps, replace seals and bearings
  • Pressure test vessels and calibrate PRVs
  • Inspect insulation and cladding
  • Confirm vessel volumes and dimensions
  • Check drive chains, motors, gearboxes
  • Clean and service heating elements
  • Update equipment logbooks

Following regular PM schedules prevents unexpected downtime. Customize for your specific equipment and usage.

Key Things to Include in a Brewhouse Operations and Maintenance Manual

Well documented operating and maintenance procedures are essential for keeping a brewhouse running safely and efficiently over the long term. Be sure to include:

Equipment Overview

Cover the main functions, specifications, and ideal operating ranges of each system.

General Operating Procedures

Provide startup, shutdown, cleaning, batch workflow checklists that staff can follow.

Equipment-Specific SOPs

Detail safe usage procedures for vessels, valves, pumps, sensors, etc.

Temperature and Pressure Ranges

List proper temp and pressure parameters for mashing, lautering, boiling, etc.

Cleaning and Maintenance Schedules

Define daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning and maintenance tasks.

Automation Details

Explain how automated sequences and control systems function.

Troubleshooting Guides

Help diagnose issues like slow runoff, low efficiency, off flavors.

Safety and Hazards

Identify risks associated with noise, heat, chemicals, heights.

SDS Information

Include safety sheets for all chemicals used.

Emergency Procedures

Outline steps if leaks, injuries, or other incidents occur.

Equipment Drawings

Dimensioned drawings indicate valves, part numbers, and accessories.

Spare Parts List

List gaskets, seals, fittings, and common consumables to have on hand.

Manufacturer Manuals

Include manuals for all equipment.

Thorough documentation allows passing on institutional knowledge. Update whenever procedures or equipment change.

Selecting Fermentation Tanks and Vessels

Choosing the right fermentation tanks and vessels requires balancing factors like batch size, fermentation type, temperature control method, and budget:


  • Match vessel capacity to batch volume, fermentation stages
  • Allow extra headspace for active fermentation
  • Consider compact conicals or cylindroconicals to save space

Temperature Control

  • Glycol, steam, or electric heating/cooling jackets
  • Ability to ramp/lower temperature as needed
  • Cooling integrates with fermentation when possible


  • Conical bottom improves yeast collection
  • Cylindrical if using separate yeast collection
  • Square or rectangular for maximizing capacity

Construction Material

  • Stainless steel for durability and cleaning
  • Food-grade plastic for economy
  • Glassed lined can observe fermentation

Serving Vessels

  • Brite tanks for clarity via settling
  • Unitanks allow fermenting and serving in one
  • Kegs for smaller volumes or portability

Future Expansion

  • Choose a modular, standardized size
  • Select vessels that can accommodate larger batches
  • Design adequate space for more tanks

Focus first on stainless steel construction for longevity and ease of cleaning. Dial in precise fermentation temperature control for consistent results. Size tanks in incremental volumes to allow scaling up.

Designing an Effective Glycol Chilling System

An efficient glycol chilling system is essential for precise fermentation temperature control. Follow these design tips:

Evaluate Needs

  • Determine target fermentation temperatures and tolerances
  • Size system based on tank volumes and heat load

Select Chiller Equipment

  • Modular chillers allow expanding capacity
  • Match cooling power to heat load
  • Choose pump with flow and pressure for circuit

Design Glycol Loop Layout

  • Minimize total pipe/hose length
  • Use recommended size piping to reduce pressure drop
  • Slope pipes back to reservoir for drainage

Specify Glycol and Concentration

  • Propylene glycol minimizes environmental impact
  • 30-35% concentration optimizes heat

How to Select the Right Brewhouse Equipment

Choosing the optimal brewhouse system for your needs requires carefully weighing several factors:

Match Equipment to Production Goals

  • Consider your target batch size, batch frequency, and annual production
  • Leave room to scale up over time
  • Get quotes for different equipment capacities
  • Reputable suppliers can help optimize sizing

Evaluate Feature Sets

  • Determine which vessels and accessories are essential versus optional
  • Look for automation capabilities like pumps, sensors, valves
  • Choose between manual, semi-auto, and fully automated options
  • Prioritize quality, precision, and consistency

Assess Material Options

  • Compare stainless steel versus plastic or aluminum
  • Stainless is best for durability and sanitation
  • Plastic can save on upfront costs for homebrewers

Examine Total Costs

  • Account for all equipment, shipping, installation and utility costs
  • Get multiple quotes for comparison
  • Consider used equipment to save substantially
  • Factor in maintenance, repairs and operating costs

Research Manufacturer Reputations

  • Verify expertise in brewhouse manufacturing
  • Look for specialization at your scale (home vs commercial)
  • Ask for references from existing customers
  • Check for reviews and testimonials online

Evaluate Customization Flexibility

  • Look for modular components versus all-in-one systems
  • Custom tanks improve upgradeability later
  • Some automation can be added later as budget allows

By taking the time to properly assess your needs against equipment attributes, you can configure the ideal brewhouse to match your brewing goals now and in the future.

Brewhouse Automation Options

While manual systems are common for homebrewing, larger commercial breweries benefit from brewhouse automation. Here are some automation possibilities:

Process Monitoring and Control

  • Computer automation platforms
  • Touchscreen interfaces
  • Temperature and level sensors
  • Flow meters
  • Pressure sensors
  • Valve control systems

Liquid Transfer

  • Centrifugal and positive displacement pumps
  • Electric actuated valves for routing
  • Flow control assemblies
  • CIP sprayball cleaning systems

Measurement and Analysis

  • Refractometers measure gravity/Brix
  • Turbidity meters check clarity
  • pH probes monitor acidity
  • DO sensors prevent oxygenation

Safety and Alerting

  • Overpressure relief valves
  • High/low level alarms
  • Leak detection sensors
  • Emergency stop buttons

Recordkeeping and Logging

  • Data historians track temps, gravity
  • Brewing software records batches
  • Material tracking (barley, hops, yeast)
  • Maintenance logbooks

Benefits of Brewhouse Automation:

  • Consistency – Repeatable processes batch to batch
  • Efficiency – Optimal energy and water usage
  • Scalability – Meet production goals easily
  • Safety – Reduce risks of injury or contamination
  • Cost Savings – Decrease labor, downtime, and errors
  • Data tracking – Improve recipes and procedures

Evaluate automation upgrades over time. Start with monitoring sensors, then add pumps and valves. Train staff on using the new systems. Automating progressively provides the best ROI as breweries expand.

Key Factors When Buying Used Brewhouse Equipment

Purchasing quality used brewhouse equipment can save substantially compared to buying new systems. Here are key factors to evaluate when going the used route:

  • Age and wear – Older systems may need repairs and replacement parts. Examine thoroughly.
  • Manufacturer – Reputable brands hold value better.
  • Reason for selling – Ask why current owner is switching systems.
  • Condition – Well maintained equipment lasts longer. Look for corrosion.
  • Parts availability – Ensure you can get replacement parts if needed.
  • Cost to transport – Factor in takedown and shipping fees.
  • Upgrades included – Some sellers add new parts and valves.
  • Automation – Older manual systems may need controls upgrades.
  • Warranty – See if any warranty transfers over or can be purchased.
  • Resale value – Quality equipment holds value if you later upgrade.
  • Consult inspection experts – Have a pro examine prior to buying if possible.

Buying used can get you premium equipment at bargain prices, if you evaluate condition and maintenance history carefully. Examine logbooks to gauge past use and care. Verify all parts are intact. Hire specialists for large purchases.

Common Problems and Troubleshooting Tips

Even well designed brewhouse systems can develop issues. Here are some common problems and troubleshooting tips:

Stuck Mash or Stuck Sparge

  • Adjust mill gap for proper grind
  • Don’t overfill mash tun
  • Check for dough balls or compacted grain
  • Slowly add water and stir during sparge

Boil Overs

  • Don’t overfill kettle
  • Use ferulic acid rest to reduce hot break foaming
  • Add a drop of vegetable oil to prevent boilovers

Slow or Stalled Fermentation

  • Verify healthy yeast pitch rate
  • Check fermentation temperature
  • Avoid transferring excess trub into fermenter
  • Ensure no sanitizer residue in fermenter

Infection or Off-Flavors

  • Improve cleaning and sanitation procedures
  • Replace worn gaskets and tubing
  • Isolate source – pitch yeast, fermenter, packaging

Equipment Leaks

  • Inspect valves, seals, gaskets for wear
  • Check pump shaft seal condition
  • Ensure fittings properly tightened
  • Verify tank pressure relief valves function

Pump Cavitation

  • Reduce flow and head pressure
  • Check supply line for restrictions
  • Increase pipe diameter to reduce friction

Monitoring brewhouse operations closely allows catching issues early before small problems become big failures. Always track volumes, temps, gravities and brew logs to diagnose equipment problems.


Q: What are the essential brewhouse vessels for all-grain brewing?

A: The core vessels are a mash tun, lauter tun, brew kettle, whirlpool, and fermenters. Most systems also need a hot liquor tank.

Q: How big of a brewhouse system do I need?

A: Base your brewhouse size on target batch size and annual production goals. Allow room to scale up over time.

Q: Should I buy new or used equipment?

A: Buying quality used professional equipment can save substantially. Examine condition closely. New gives predictability and warranty.

Q: What degree of automation should I get?

A: Start with basic automation like temperature sensors and data logging. Add pumps and valves later as production increases. Fully automatic systems are ideal for large commercial breweries.

Q: How much space does a brewhouse system require?

A: Homebrew systems can fit in a garage. Commercial systems require at least 1500+ sq ft. Have 15+ foot ceilings for tank height.

Q: Should I buy an all-in-one system or individual vessels?

A: All-in-one systems are simpler for beginners but limit flexibility. Assembling modular vessels allows customization and upgrades.

Q: Where can I find brewing equipment for sale?

A: Homebrew shops sell starter systems. Welding/metal fabrication shops can build commercial systems. Also search for used professional gear from decommissioned breweries.

Q: What are the most important accessories beyond primary vessels?

A: Pumps, hoses, valves, and fittings for transfers. Gauges and sensors for monitoring. Grain handling equipment. Adequate cleaning and sanitizing gear.

Q: How much does a 10 barrel brewhouse cost?

A: 10 barrel commercial brewhouses typically range from $100,000 to $250,000. Costs vary based on materials, automation, customization.

Q: Should I hire consultants to design my brewhouse?

A: Consultants are extremely helpful for optimizing layout, floorplan, utility requirements, equipment specs and automation for larger brewhouses. Well worth the investment.

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