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How do microbreweries and larger breweries heat their water?

I see a lot of steam and electric methods but for companies that can produce more than 2 barrels of beer per batch how do they decide to heat everything up?

Steam, direct fire and electric are all viable options for microbreweries. Steam is probably most common for larger breweries.

This^^^^^ the brewery that I help out at has 15bbl system that uses steam from some large boilers that are in the basement.

That’s what I figured but I have not been able to find any type of floor plan or actual equipment to show me the process on exactly how steam brewing works for brewing. Like a needle in a haystack, man.

This may not help us as home brewers but I was at a major brewery and noticed the extremely violent boil in the tank. They said they use a Calandrias Boiler.
This is a steam jacketed device that sits in the boil tank and looks like a jet engine. As the wort travels through it gets super heated and boils out the top like a geyser. Here is a better explanation.

That is an interesting way to boil beer and makes for a good show.

I am slowly starting to find the information I am looking for about the process but still have questions.

What do breweries use to heat up their vessels that make steam? Since the steam only transfers heat, not create it, why not just use the direct heat source? I know that carmelization is an issue when using a direct heat source but does steam distribute the heat more evenly?

And how do the breweries control the temp? It seems you still have to continuously play with the steam and manually regulate the flow.

With steam, they have 2-3 zones on the boil kettle. They can heat only the bottom portion until the wort is above that level. Then start to apply heat to the middle. With this you have a better transfer of the heat, verses a flame.

Also, you should use less energy in the boiler to create the heat. Verses a direct fire flame.

As for controlling the heat, automation. The computer opens and closes the valves to keep the temp just right. Only necessary in a heat controlled mash tun.

I would add that most larger commercial breweries invest heavily in heat transfer systems which would use boiling wort that needs to be cooled to warm up water going into the HLT.

This is all really flipping cool. I found some interesting reads and this article about a mini steam system for homebrewing that uses a pressure cooker. ... jones.html

I’m starting to really get a basic understanding on how the boiler and steam system works but I’m still left with one question…what do breweries use to heat the boilers?

With being a pressure system it does not take as much to heat up the water in the boiler so less water and a smaller energy source are needed but still what are they using for the heat source on the boiler?

What I found really cool was if a steam jacket system is used all that condensation on the outside that is created is collected and sent back to the boiler. Talk about efficiency.

They use gas to heat the boilers

Industrial Hygiene (IH) and environmental issues are why natural gas is used in boilers. Direct-fired would still need exhaust points, and wood combustion is not that far away from coal in how “dirty” it is. So, boilers are used to heat water to steam, and the steam is piped to where the heat is needed.

Additionally, from a logistics standpoint, gas is piped to the facility, and is practically “automatic” compared to other fuels. No brewery wants to be responsible for fuel oil tanks, coal yards, or piles of lumber–let alone delivery and/or conveyance systems–just for the functionality of their boilers. Again, that’d be an IH and/or environmental issue that most breweries would do better avoiding altogether.

Pike Brewery in Seattle taps into a city run steam plant. They have this cool schematic of the brewery

I’ve never been there while they were brewing, but some day. The kettle is in the middle of the bar.

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