Since 2009 the beer brewery business has been booming. With government subsidies and popular demand, the craft brewery bubble is not about to go flat anytime soon. In Ontario alone, the number of breweries has tripled over the past 6 years.
Although growth is huge, the margins are often slim. Even though craft beer sales continue to grow, the overhead costs are resulting in some brewers closing down. In addition to increasing competition in the craft beer market, they are also taking on macro-brewers. Large brewing companies can offer lower prices, and many are offering their own microbrews in order to compete.
The craft brewers that will continue to succeed need more than just a great product. They need to find a way to increase efficiency and reduce overhead costs, all while maintaining quality. But where do you cut the costs? Paying less for ingredients could drop quality. Less spent on marketing affects sales and brand value. Your best bet is to take a look at brewery heating equipment options.
For new craft brewers or brewers who are looking for new equipment, choosing more efficient heating systems can mean big savings on overhead costs. There are three main phases of beer brewing where an industrial heater comes into play:
Hot liquor tanks are not used in every brewing process. Extract brewers or brewers using two-tier gravity systems generally skip the hot liquor tank. This tank is essentially a hot water tank, heating brewing water to mash temperature.
Almost all forms of immersion heaters can be used to heat water in the hot liquor tank. Using electric heaters allows for precise control over temperature, which will help ensure that each new batch of beer is consistent with the last which is important when building a brand.
The mash tun is an essential process. You need a good mash for a good brew. The heat needs to be just right and maintained carefully. Typically the temperature is kept between 75-78℃. The end product of mashing is the wort.
Due to the precise temperature requirements of this step of the beer brewing process, electric heaters are almost always used.
The boil kettle is a large tank where the wort is boiled with hops, herbs and/or sugars. This stage is responsible for most of the aroma, colour, and flavour of the brew. So precision and consistency are absolutely critical.
For all three of these processes you need heating that can offer precise, efficient, and reliable heating. The best options for these are electric industrial heaters.
The advantages of electric industrial heaters are directly applicable to beer brewing. These include:
For both large and small breweries, the operating costs for production can make or break profitability. The energy source for your heaters has a direct impact on your bottom line. The cost of natural gas is high and rising. For many, this reason alone is enough to switch to electric power.
We looked at the heating costs for one small brewer using natural gas. For a single unit, his average heating cost in gas per unit was $0.86. His profit per unit was ~$0.15, by getting that heating cost down, he could significantly increase his net profit.
We compared his heating costs for gas versus electric:
Gas was measured in therms, electric in kwh. To compare we used 1 therm = 29.3001 kwh
Their natural gas cost was $0.072/therm.
For the same energy usage in electricity the cost was $0.011
Electric power could increase his per unit profit to $0.211 per unit, a 140% increase.
Electric industrial heaters are also less expensive to maintain. They require repair and replacement less often than gas heaters. Gas heaters use a combustion process which will inevitably cause damage to the system over time. Electric heaters are easy to maintain, and use SAE 316 Stainless Steel for brewing. This material is designed specifically for food industry applications involving water. It is corrosion resistant so it lasts longer and keeps the brewing environment sterile.
Electric heaters are not only longer-lived and less expensive to operate, but are much more efficient as well. There is less energy wasted, and have quicker heat up times.
Electric power is capable of reaching higher temperatures, and reaching them faster, than gas. Screw plug, flange, and immersion heaters offer direct heating making them even more efficient.
As the name implies they are immersed in the tank or container they are heating. The heater elements are in direct contact with the fluid they are heating so there is no wasted energy in the transfer. As a result, temperature can be achieved faster with greater efficiency. That means faster processes at lower costs, as well as more accurate temperature readings.
Accuracy is essential to the heating process. This is for two reasons:
Equipping industrial electric heaters with temperature control panels allows for complete control over your brewing process. Temperatures are monitored and maintained with a high degree of accuracy.
Digital control panels allow for automation for more efficient processes, as well as displaying ambient and target temperatures. With relays, fuses, connectors, and shut off switches, they are the brains of the heater.
Temperature regulation results in a consistent, reliable product. It also prevents damage to the medium being heated and the brewing equipment. If temperatures fall below the target the temperature is increased. If it overheats, the shut off switches turn off the heater. This is both to protect the product and for safety.
Additionally, you can opt for sensors that monitor the levels in the tank. If the level gets low enough to expose the heater elements, it is shut off. This prevents damaging the heater and avoids potential safety hazards.
Brewing beer comes with a degree of danger. If not managed properly, all the required elements for an explosion exist within a brewery.
Beer production results in ethanol. Fermentation and mashing create flammable dust. All it takes is an ignition source for a potential explosion. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take.
Choosing an electric heater over a natural gas heater is one good safety step. Gas heaters use large quantities of gas which is flammable and potentially explosive.
Add-ons like a low-level shut off switch help to prevent an ignition source. They stop exposed heater elements from operating. Exposed elements are capable of igniting trapped gases in a container, which could lead to a potential explosion.
Temperature regulation through digital controllers also maintains safety. Before temperatures can reach an unsafe level, the heaters are automatically shut down. Opting for a manual reset switch ensures there is an inspection before the process starts back up.
The controller housing can be built for explosion resistance, as well as moisture and weather resistance if the environment poses a risk. It also serves to avoid having exposed wires, which are potential safety hazards.
Watt density selection is important as well. For beer brewing, low density wattage is ideal, even in large containers. This makes screw plug heaters ideal for brewers. They are highly efficient and can operate at low densities. A low density wattage is less likely to cause ignition, thus reducing the risk of an explosion.
Other considerations include regular maintenance. Checking the equipment and heaters for signs of damage or corrosion. As well as ensuring the boil kettle is electrically grounded. An ungrounded kettle can become energized, posing a danger for employees.
It is important to take all precautions when explosion is a risk. There are many resources available to help with this. Including free brewery safety training courses online.
The beer brewing industry continues to change and grow. Fortunately the industrial electric heater industry is growing with it, able to address the current needs and demands. Contact a Wattco representative today to help select the right electric heater for your beer brewery.
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