A boiler purchase is one of the most important investments for a craft brewery. Breweries rely on steam heating for a number of reasons — primarily for the kettle and to produce hot water for sanitization. Steam is also required to keep solutions at the right temperatures and is used in pasteurization heating for bottling. Choosing the right boiler is crucial to ensuring that you can meet production demands without wasting time or energy.
As for the criteria you should look for when purchasing a boiler, the following are important:
1. Ability to meet steam demand at production.
Steam demand in breweries can vary widely based on the exact need in that moment. Traditionally, a large single boiler is used so that it will be ready with steam at any moment. However, it is expensive to keep a large oversized boiler ready at all times.
“We have irregular needs for hot water for cleaning our tanks and our lines,” explained Jaime Jurado, director of brewing operations at The Gambrinus Company Breweries, owner of Spoetzl and BridgePort Brewing Co. “However, with the two modular, on-demand boilers we installed from Miura, we can choose between having them both fully fired or having one off and completely cold to the touch — instead of being on all the time, like our old fire-tube boiler. That tells you right there that we’re saving about half the natural gas we were using before. We can get full steam from our second Miura boiler in about five minutes, whereas the old boiler would take hours before it could provide steam.”
2. Ability to do multiple processes at the same time.
Those processes can include brewing (hot liquor and mash tun), CIP, sanitization, sterilization, kegging, canning and bottling. Again, applications and processes can vary from brewery to brewery. A precisely designed steam system, particularly utilizing a modular boiler approach, will help ensure that the right amount of steam is ready at any time — not too much and not too little.
3. Ability to adjust steam supply to fluctuations on demand.
Brewery steam requirements can double or triple in as little as a few seconds. Large fire tube boilers need a long time to react to these demand swings. To overcome that problem, firetube boilers will remain hot. The costs to do this are tremendous. Modular, on-demand boilers can generate steam within seconds when in standby mode. This saves an average of 20 percent in fuel costs.
A recent bulletin on commercial boilers from the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) states, “If building loads are highly variable, as is common in commercial buildings, designers should consider installing multiple small (modular) boilers … Modular systems are more efficient because they allow each boiler to operate at or close to full rated load most of the time, with reduced standby losses.”