By Justin Fox
Head of Sales, Products & Development – Bintani Australia.
It’s summer. The beer is flowing and tank space is at a premium. It’s the perfect time to look at how to get the best bang for your brewhouse buck. We look through the brewing process to highlight a few areas that will help you get more beer out the door without the need to upgrade equipment.
Theoretical brewery capacity is a function of:
- Brew length and Cycle Time
- Fermentation Space (Size and Number of Fermenters)
- Fermentation Cycle time
The first two points require significant capital upgrade to achieve any major benefit, however small tweaks to process can each add 1-2% to the figures involved, which accumulatively can give a decent and much needed boost to output. Reduction to the Fermentation Cycle Time can instantly give a higher brewery capacity. Beyond the listed first degree triggers, there are a host of process aids that help to maximize output at each stage to put more beer in package every tank.
We are going to take a quick look at 7 stages of the brewing process to help you maximize output without investing in more tanks. Every brewhouse has a bottle neck, a vessel that reaches its capacity first and becomes the limiting factor in the brew length. Start by looking directly at that vessel and how you may be able to give it another squeeze for a little more beer each brew.
Key Objective: To open every grain whilst maintaining particle size control, to balance between high efficiency and efficient lautering. The two wins for efficiency here can only be found at the sacrifice of each other, so you need to assess which is more important for your brewery.
TIME: If peak output can only be reached by squeezing in an extra brew a day, then best sacrifice some extract up front at the mill to guarantee a trouble free run off. A 2-3% loss of extract recovery may only cost $10 in raw materials, but save you an hour of processing time and labour.
YIELD: If output yield is on top of the priority list, then dialling the mill in a fraction will ensure that extract recovery is at a peak. Starting the process with 100% of the theoretical extract cracked and available to the process gives you the best chance at recovering the majority of the extract.
Key Objective: To convert the contents of your grist into soluble materials. Efficiency is achieved primarily through degrading starch into soluble sugars as quickly and completely as possible. So how do we get a more efficient mash?
TIME: Modern malts are well modified, providing a barrage of enzymes to ensure sufficient conversion in a short time period. Complete saccharification can often occur before the standard 60-minute mash rest, especially when agitators are involved. Try running iodine tests every 5 minutes for your core beers to learn more about when you reach this point. Don’t forget some key aspects of the iodine test:
- Keep Iodine in the dark, and test at the start of mash occasionally to ensure it is reacting correctly.
- Ensure the test is conducted on cold samples to avoid a false result.
Key Objective: The separation of liquid from solids, with efficiency again a balance between time and extract yield at the mercy of the brewer’s needs.
YIELD: Obtaining the maximum recovery of extract from your lauter tun can depend greatly on equipment, yet there are a few simple checks to ensure you aren’t leaving valuable sugars behind. Take the time to graph the density of your run off at regular 5 minute intervals during the run-off and sparge stages. An early starting yet more gradual drop in density can show preferential sparge flow through an uneven bed, resulting in pockets within the lauter tun that won’t be washed free of sugars.
CAPACITY: Lauter tuns are rarely the limiting bottle neck in the brew house, with brewers constantly pushing the equipment to produce worts well outside the rated density ranges. This can be used to your advantage in lower alcohol core beers by adopting high gravity brewing practices. This is a great option for breweries in which there is spare fermenter volume in ratio to the maximum brew length. Diluting back to target gravity with an immediate dilution at the start of fermentation accesses the efficiencies of high gravity brewing without the need for deaerated water for post ferment dilution. It also allows a standard gravity fermentation that will produce the expected ester profile and behave as the brewer has become accustomed to.
Key Objectives: Boiling is a complex process, achieving sanitation, DMS removal, enzyme denaturing, iso-acid conversion, hot break precipitation, evaporation and colour development, all critical to beer quality. Some simple adjustments can be made to ensure maximum beer output is achieved whilst ensuring satisfactory completion of the big seven tasks of the boil.
YIELD: With beer trends pushing hop loads higher and higher, it is inevitable that kettle loading has pushed past the design parameters of most brew kits out there, resulting in brewers cutting off run-offs early to save the heat exchanger from a slug of hops. Adopting advanced hop products can instantly reduce the hop load, with liquid CO2 extracts providing only soluble components. These products are varietal specific and the higher utilisation rates provide the added bonus of a reduced cost per gram of alpha. With less hop matter, brewhouse yields can return to equipment specification whilst meeting increased bitterness and hop flavour targets.
CAPACITY: The kettle is often the limiting factor of a brew length as prevention of boil overs must be given high priority from a safety perspective. Utilising an antifoam can not only increase the usable kettle volume, but also greatly increase safety for the brewers. Antifoam has no negative effect on beer foam in the final product.
YIELD: Throwing more finings does not guarantee better compaction of the trub cone, in fact it can have an adverse effect and cause a fluffy bottom as similarly charged ions start to repel one another within the trub. It is important to conduct a fining trial to find the sweet spot for your beers and equipment, getting it right can quickly result in an extra 1 or 2 percent more wort out of every kettle which adds up quickly on any size kit! Information on how to conduct a trial.
Key objective: Rapid separation of the hot break, including proteins and hop matter from the wort. In a similar fashion to kettle loading, heavy whirlpool additions result in diminished wort at cast out.
YIELD: A thirst for big hop aroma has pushed brewers to move more hop additions from the kettle to the whirlpool, in some cases up to 100% of the full loading. As equipment limits are again exceeded, advanced hop products again provide the solution by enabling the brewer to add only the fraction of the hop they require. Products like Cryo hops give the brewer access to the separated Lupulin gland, thus avoiding introducing material from pellets and whole leaf products that reduce yield.
With the brewhouse output maximised, it is time to stretch the fermentation space to give all that extra beer somewhere to go. There are countless methods and products available to facilitate these improvements, we focus on one specific for each area, yield, capacity and time.
TIME: Time is money and every day a beer occupies a fermenter, it is a burden on both equipment and cooling costs. Reducing the maturation time is the single biggest point of potential improvement in almost all breweries. Shaving just 2 days from a standard 3-week cycle will allow each tank to produce 2 extra beers a year. Enzymes such as Brewers Clarex are available to facilitate large reduction in maturation times, by actively breaking down haze causing proteins during fermentation rather than waiting for chill haze complexes to precipitate.
YIELD: The increased hopping rates of modern beer styles underpin another opportunity for yield increases when dry hopping is considered. Data from YCHHops in the US has shown that switching to advanced hop products can increase FV yield by between 3 and 5 percent. The below example highlights a substitution of LupuLN2 pellets for standard T-90 pellets and it is clear to see the reduction in the amount of beer absorbed and lost to hop matter.
CAPACITY: Recommended fermentation head space is 20% above working volume, so a 50HL tank is actually able to hold 60HL of liquid. Whilst it is ill advised to fill a tank completely to the top, pushing an extra 10% into your fermenters is a simple way to add 10% to your brewing capacity. It’s important to utilize an antifoam product when utilizing this additional space, to ensure that the high krausen stage doesn’t reach the top of the tank and cause a syphon resulting in loss of product.
Key Objective: The separation of beer from yeast and hop matter. Even at this last hurdle, there are easy changes that can be made to increase output.
TIME: Filtration runs are highly susceptible to blow out when peak production demands a shortening in maturation times, higher yeast loads will quickly block things up. There are multiple fining solutions on the market that will help speed up the flocculation process, cutting days of maturation to quickly realise another increase in brewery capacity. Conducting a fining trial is again essential to ensure you are dosing optimally.
Summer and the festive holiday will always be a peak season for brewers. Despite the continued growth in craft volumes across the country, brewing remains a tough game that demands plenty of hard work. The brewing process involves many stages that result in the loss of beer, focus in these key areas can quickly see an increase to your final yields. Lining up a couple of small improvements in a row, will quickly enable a brewer to squeeze a little more out of every batch and keep the beers flowing over summer.
Article Sponsored By: Bintani Australia