large fermentation tanks

500l brewing system

The world of craft brewing is brimming with creativity and passion. But as your brewery scales up, you’ll need a system that can keep pace with your ambition. Enter the 500L brewing system, a powerful workhorse that bridges the gap between small-batch experimentation and mid-volume production.

This guide delves into everything you need to know about 500L brewing systems, from understanding their core components to navigating the brewing process and choosing the perfect supplier for your needs.

Understanding the 500L Brewing System

A 500L brewing system, also known as a 4-barrel system (based on US beer barrel measurements), is a complete brewing setup designed to produce batches of beer around 500 liters (approximately 132 gallons) in volume. These systems are ideal for established microbreweries or ambitious brewpubs looking to increase their production capacity without sacrificing the quality and control associated with smaller systems.

Features of a 500L Brewing System

A typical 500L brewing system comprises several key components:

  • Mash/Lauter Tun (MLT): This vessel is where the grain is mashed with hot water to convert starches into sugars. 500L MLTs are typically constructed from durable stainless steel and often come jacketed for precise temperature control during the mashing process.
  • Brew Kettle: The wort (sugar-rich liquid) is transferred from the MLT to the brew kettle where it’s boiled with hops to add bitterness, aroma, and flavor. Heating elements within the kettle bring the wort to a rolling boil, while a whirlpool function can be used to separate the wort from spent hops.
  • Fermentation Tanks (Fermenters): Once the wort is cooled and transferred to the fermenters, yeast is pitched, and the magic of fermentation begins. Fermenters are typically cylindro-conical tanks (CCTs) designed to withstand the pressure build-up during fermentation and allow for easy separation of yeast sediment from the finished beer. A 500L system will typically have multiple fermenters to accommodate a continuous brewing schedule.
  • Brite Tank: After fermentation is complete, the beer is transferred to a brite tank for conditioning, carbonation, and final filtering before packaging. Brite tanks are often equipped with a carbonation stone to precisely control the level of CO2 in the finished beer.
  • Hot Liquor Tank (HLT): The HLT stores and heats water for various stages of the brewing process, including mashing and kettle cleaning.
  • Cold Liquor Tank (CLT): The CLT stores chilled water used for wort cooling after the boil.
  • Piping and Valves: A network of sanitary piping and valves connects all the brewing vessels, allowing for efficient transfer of liquids throughout the brewing process.
  • Control Panel: The control panel is the brain of the system, housing the controls for temperature, pumps, and other brewing parameters. Modern systems often incorporate automation features to streamline the brewing process.
500l brewing system

Capacity, Space Requirements, Design & Layout Considerations

  • Capacity: While a 500L system is designed for 500-liter batches, the usable capacity will be slightly less due to factors like grain bed depth and headspace in the fermenters. The number of batches you can brew per day will depend on your fermentation times and tank configuration.
  • Space Requirements: A complete 500L brewing system requires a dedicated space. The footprint will vary depending on the specific equipment layout, but generally plan for an area of at least 1000 square feet to comfortably accommodate all the brewing vessels, walkways, and cleaning stations.
  • Design & Layout: When designing your brewery layout, prioritize efficiency and safety. Position equipment strategically to minimize excessive wort transfer distances and ensure proper drainage. Allow ample space for cleaning and maintenance tasks.

Customization Options for 500L Brewing Systems

The beauty of these systems lies in their customizability. Here are some common options to consider:

  • Number of Vessels: You can choose a system with a dedicated lauter tun (separate from the mash tun) or an all-in-one combi tank that performs both mashing and lautering functions. The number of fermenters will impact your brewing frequency.
  • Heating Methods: Direct fire, steam, or electric heating elements are available for the brew kettle, each with its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of efficiency and cost.
  • Automation Level: The level of automation can range from basic manual controls to a fully automated system with touch-screen interfaces and recipe management software.

Suppliers and Price Range of 500L Brewing Systems

The brewing equipment market is vast, with numerous manufacturers offering 500L systems. Here’s a breakdown of factors affecting price and some supplier examples:

FactorAffects Price
System Features: The number of vessels, level of automation, and material quality (e.g., 304 vs. 316 stainless steel) all influence cost.More features and higher quality materials generally lead to a higher price tag.
Reputation and Brand: Established brands with a proven track record may command a premium price.Weigh brand reputation against the features offered by lesser-known manufacturers.
Location: Freight costs can vary depending on the manufacturer’s location relative to yours.Consider domestic manufacturers to minimize shipping expenses.

Supplier Examples (Price ranges are approximations based on online sources):

SupplierLocationPrice Range (USD)
Micet Craft Brewing EquipmentChina$30,000 – $50,000
SpeidelGermany$40,000 – $50,000+
Carry BrewtechCanada$35,000 – $45,000
HG MachineryChina$25,000 – $40,000

Remember: These are just a few examples, and countless other reputable manufacturers exist. Conduct thorough research to find a supplier that aligns with your budget, needs, and long-term vision.

Installation, Operation, and Maintenance of a 500L Brewing System


  • A qualified brewing equipment installation specialist should handle the installation process. This ensures proper equipment assembly, calibration, and adherence to safety regulations.


  • Operating a 500L brewing system requires a working knowledge of brewing principles and the specific functionalities of your system. Consulting the manufacturer’s manuals and attending brewing workshops or training programs are highly recommended.


  • Regular cleaning and maintenance are crucial for ensuring the longevity and optimal performance of your brewing system. Develop a comprehensive cleaning schedule that addresses all equipment components, from tanks to valves and piping.

Choosing the Right 500L Brewing System Supplier

Selecting the perfect supplier for your 500L brewing system is a critical decision. Here are some key considerations:

  • Experience and Reputation: Look for a supplier with a proven track record in designing and manufacturing high-quality brewing systems. Research online reviews and testimonials from past customers.
  • System Customization Options: Does the supplier offer the level of customization you require to fit your specific brewing needs and future growth plans?
  • After-Sales Support: A reliable supplier will provide ongoing support, including spare parts availability and technical assistance in case of issues.
  • Price vs. Value: While cost is important, prioritize value. The cheapest option might not be the most economical in the long run if it compromises on quality or lacks essential features.

Consider creating a shortlist of potential suppliers and requesting quotes that detail equipment specifications, pricing, warranties, and after-sales support offerings.

500l brewing system

500L Brewing System: Pros and Cons


  • Increased Production Capacity: Scale up your brewing output significantly compared to smaller systems.
  • Greater Efficiency: 500L systems often incorporate automation features that streamline the brewing process, saving time and labor costs.
  • Commercial Viability: This size system is well-suited for breweries aiming to distribute their beers to bars, restaurants, and retail stores.
  • Flexibility: With proper planning, you can brew a wider variety of beer styles with a 500L system compared to smaller setups.


  • Higher Investment: 500L systems require a significant upfront investment compared to smaller brewing setups.
  • Increased Space Requirements: You’ll need a dedicated space to accommodate the brewing vessels, piping, and cleaning stations.
  • Complexity: Operating a 500L system demands a higher level of brewing knowledge and technical expertise compared to homebrew systems.

Ultimately, the decision to invest in a 500L brewing system depends on your specific needs, budget, and future brewery goals.

Brewing with a 500L System

The brewing process with a 500L system follows the same core principles as smaller setups, but with the advantage of scale and potentially more automation. Here’s a simplified overview of the brewing process:

  1. Grain Milling: The malt and any specialty grains are cracked in a mill to expose the starches for optimal enzymatic conversion during mashing.
  2. Mashing: The milled grain (grist) is mixed with hot water in the mash tun to create a mash. Here, enzymes naturally present in the malt convert starches into fermentable sugars. Precise temperature control during mashing is crucial for extracting the desired flavors and fermentable sugars from the grain.
  3. Lautering: After mashing, the sweet liquid wort is separated from the spent grains (draff) through a lautering process. In a dedicated lauter tun system, a layer of grain hulls helps create a natural filter bed for efficient wort separation.
  4. Brew Kettle: The collected wort is transferred to the brew kettle where it’s boiled for several reasons:
    • Sterilization: The boiling heat eliminates any unwanted bacteria present in the wort.
    • Wort Concentration: Boiling reduces the wort volume, concentrating the extracted sugars which are essential for yeast fermentation and eventual alcohol content in the beer.
    • Hop Utilization: Hops are added during the boil to contribute bitterness, aroma, and flavor to the beer. Different hop additions at various times during the boil result in a variety of hop characteristics in the finished beer.
  5. Whirlpooling: Many kettles incorporate a whirlpool function. After boiling, the wort is spun rapidly, creating a whirlpool that forces the heavier hop particles to settle in the cone-shaped bottom of the kettle. This allows for easier separation of the wort from the hops before transferring the wort to the fermenters.
  6. Cooling: The hot wort must be chilled to a suitable temperature (typically around 68°F / 20°C) for yeast pitching. This is often achieved with a dedicated heat exchanger that utilizes cold water or glycol to rapidly cool the wort.
  7. Fermentation: The cooled wort is transferred to sanitized fermentation tanks where yeast is pitched. During fermentation, the yeast consumes the wort sugars and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. The fermentation process takes several days and plays a significant role in shaping the final character of the beer.
  8. Conditioning, Carbonation, and Packaging: Once fermentation is complete, the beer undergoes conditioning in a brite tank. Here, the beer clarifies further, and some brewers may choose to add additional dry hops for further aroma and flavor enhancement. Carbonation is achieved by sparging the conditioned beer with pressurized CO2. Finally, the finished beer is packaged into kegs or bottles for distribution or enjoyment on-site at your brewery.

Key Considerations for Brewing with a 500L System:

  • Scalability: Recipes developed for smaller systems need to be adjusted for the larger volume of a 500L system. Brewers should account for factors like grain bills, hop additions, and fermentation times when scaling recipes.
  • Cleaning and Sanitation: Maintaining a rigorous cleaning and sanitation routine is paramount to prevent contamination and ensure the quality of your beer. With a 500L system, cleaning procedures become more involved due to the size and complexity of the equipment.
  • Quality Control: Implementing a quality control program allows you to monitor your brewing process and finished product to ensure consistency and identify any potential issues early on.

By understanding these considerations and diligently following best practices, you can brew high-quality beers on a consistent basis with your 500L system.

500l brewing system
Kombucha brewing system-Brewhouse


Q: What is the difference between a 3-vessel and a 4-vessel 500L brewing system?

A: In a 3-vessel system, the mash tun, lauter tun, and brew kettle are separate vessels. This offers more control over each stage of the brewing process but requires more equipment and space. A 4-vessel system often combines the mash tun and lauter tun into a combi tank, simplifying the brewing process and reducing footprint requirements.

Q: How much does it cost to operate a 500L brewing system?

A: Operating costs will vary depending on factors like utility costs (water, electricity), malt prices, and hop varieties used. Additionally, factor in cleaning chemicals, maintenance costs, and potential repairs.

Q: Can I operate a 500L brewing system by myself?

A: While possible for some experienced brewers, operating a 500L system is often a team effort, especially during tasks like grain out (transferring spent grains) and cleaning. The level of assistance you’ll need depends on your brewing experience and the specific brewing

Q: I’m a homebrewer interested in scaling up to a 500L system. What are some key differences I should be aware of?

A: Here are some key differences to consider when transitioning from homebrewing to a 500L system:

  • Complexity: Homebrew systems are typically simpler and more manual. 500L systems often incorporate automation features and require a more in-depth understanding of brewing science and process control.
  • Regulations: Depending on your location, commercial brewing may involve adhering to specific licensing and regulatory requirements. Research local regulations well in advance.
  • Safety: The larger scale of a 500L system necessitates prioritizing safety procedures. Familiarize yourself with proper handling techniques for hot liquids, pressurized vessels, and cleaning chemicals.

Q: Where can I find additional resources on 500L brewing systems?

A: Several resources can be helpful on your journey into 500L brewing:

  • Brewing Associations: Join a local or national brewers association to connect with experienced brewers and access educational resources.
  • Online Forums and Communities: Online forums and communities dedicated to craft brewing offer valuable insights and troubleshooting advice from brewers of all experience levels.
  • Brewing Supply Stores: Many brewing supply stores have knowledgeable staff who can answer your questions and offer guidance specific to your brewing needs.
  • Brewing Education Programs: Consider enrolling in brewing education programs or workshops to gain a deeper understanding of brewing principles and best practices for operating a larger brewing system.


The 500L brewing system represents a significant step up in brewing capacity and capability. By carefully considering the factors outlined in this guide, you can make an informed decision about whether a 500L system is the right fit for your brewery’s needs and aspirations. With proper planning, dedication, and a thirst for knowledge, you can successfully navigate the exciting world of large-scale craft brewing with your 500L system as your trusty companion.

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