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The Worst Energy Offenders in the Craft Brewing Industry

MARKS - January 24, 2023 - 0 comments

In Part 1 of our series, we looked at how craft brewing energy costs can take a bite out of your profits. In Part 2, we will look at some of the worst energy offenders in the brewing process so you can focus your own time and energy in managing and reducing these costs from the start of your new business. This makes sure you can improve your profit margins and give yourself a bigger paycheck with every barrel brewed.

As we mentioned in Part 1 of this series, according to the Brewers Association and data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the lion’s share of electricity costs in brewing come from refrigeration, packaging and compressed air (some 70%). Refrigeration alone accounts for nearly half of that according to many experts, and so this is your largest area of opportunity for savings.

The cold, hard facts about craft brewing refrigeration energy costs.

Craft brewers need to use refrigeration for fermenting and storing beer. These two things take time and require a lot of energy to complete. Managing your refrigeration costs provides a major opportunity for you to squeeze out some of your overall costs without having a significant impact on your overall brewing quality or taste.

The first way you can start squeezing more profits out of your business is to manage the temperature settings on your refrigeration tanks. Did you know that fluctuating storage temperatures, by even just one degree Fahrenheit, can increase your energy consumption by 1-2% and thereby increase your refrigeration energy costs? Seems crazy, right? Putting in temperature monitoring and focusing on the small stuff is how you will improve your profit margins accordingly.

Another way to reduce your refrigeration costs is found from inspiration from the “coozies” that jacket our beloved craft beers. Knowing that the consumer wants to keep their beer as cool as possible, they wrap them while drinking. The same jacketing, or insulation, concept is true in our refrigeration process. Single-walled tanks are void of any insulation. Therefore, your prized, craft beverage—which needs to be held at a certain refrigerated temperature—is fighting against warmer, ambient room temperature to do just that. The ongoing fight to keep the tank at the perfect, cool temperature (34°F) results in wasted energy.

It isn’t just insulating the side of the tank that is important. Having sufficient “jacketing” or insulation for the dished bottom of your tanks, like that on a brite tank, can really help keep energy costs in check. MARKS Design and Metalworks is one of the few manufacturers that insulates the bottom of the tank as part of our standard design.

If you already have or intend to purchase a single-walled cellar tank, the tank must be placed in a refrigerated walk-in cooler. This means more energy is needed once again. Additionally, when you clean the tank with 150°F water, you are heating up the tank and putting an additional load on the refrigeration system to cool it down again. All this requires additional energy.

Another simple modification to save money in the craft brewing process includes checking that air compressors are operating at 100% and that there aren’t any leaks anywhere in your system. If either of these things are not optimized, you could be losing out on even more precious energy costs that could be going into your wallet instead.

What to know about glycol chillers.

Since cooling beer is such an important part of the overall brewing process, it’s important to know two things about glycol chillers: size matters and so does placement.

If you have too small of a glycol chiller, bad things can happen that impact your energy efficiency. First and foremost, too small of a chiller can overload the cooling system, thereby leading to a shortened lifespan. Additionally, overloaded chillers can actually mean they get hot and that your glycol temperature rises. Too much heat in the chilling process can spoil a perfectly good batch of beer.

On the other end of the spectrum, using too large of a chiller requires a lot of unnecessary energy and leads to higher energy costs. If you intend to buy an oversized chiller for future needs, consider purchasing a dual compressor chiller. A dual compressor chiller allows you to split a larger batch up into two smaller chillers and only use one chiller at a time for energy efficiency and cost savings.

Enough about size. Now let’s talk about placement of your chiller. Your glycol chiller removes heat from various brewery operations and sends the exhaust into the air via an evaporator coil (basically a radiator with a fan). Many people will place the chiller inside their building where the building’s HVAC system must then remove that heat a second time. Sounds pretty exhausting, doesn’t it? To save energy and keep your chiller from getting flat out exhausted, it’s better to place the chiller outside.

Now that you know to keep it outside, the next question is this: do you keep it up high or down low outside? The answer is it depends! It depends on the climate in which you live first and foremost. But most roofs get pretty hot regardless of where you live. If the sun is out, a roof can get hot! For best results and the least energy requirements, search for a place on the ground on the side of the building that gets the least amount of sunlight.

Energy needed for heating in a craft brewery-the devil we know.

There’s no doubt that heat is needed to brew your favorite batch of delicious craft beer. After all, those grains aren’t going to convert themselves into a malt without it! It’s estimated that the heating process accounts for some 25-35% of energy usage. Managing your heating costs is well worth the effort here.

Knowing that we have to boil in order to create beer, how exactly can you keep these costs in line? Just like with cooling costs, you start with the basics. Identify if there are any leaks in your system. If heat is leaking from your system inadvertently, so are your profit margins. Additionally, you still need insulation to keep your beer at certain temperatures for a certain amount of time and can decrease the need for new heat if your insulation is working hard enough. Ensure that you have the proper insulating jackets on your heating tanks to do the job.

One of the largest opportunities for reclaiming your energy costs comes from profits that are literally escaping through the roof. That’s right – steam. Almost all standard brewhouse system designs put the condensate stack to stick out of the top of a building’s roof—without any opportunity to recapture or recycle it for brewing another batch. Retrofitting a brewhouse with a condensate stack that captures and recycles the steam in an effort to reduce heating costs and increase profit margins can be very costly. You should consider specific condensate stack designs that reclaim and recycle from the start of your brewhouse purchase.

Follow us for Part 3 of our Smart Brewing Series: How to take the heat off your craft brewing energy costs and stay tuned for our smart, energy-saving solution announcement coming in April 2023!

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