conical fermentation vessel

Beer Canning Equipment

Beer canning has seen a major resurgence in recent years among craft and microbreweries looking for an efficient way to package and distribute their products. This guide will explore all aspects of beer canning equipment needed to can beer, from an overview of the entire canning system to a breakdown of the individual components.

Overview of a Beer Canning Line

A complete beer canning line is comprised of several pieces of equipment that work together to clean, fill, seamer and package filled beer cans. Here is a high-level overview of the typical beer canning line process:

  1. Empty Cans – Cans arrive to the brewery empty on pallets via a can supplier. Cans move through the canning line on a conveyor system.
  2. Can Depalletizer – Takes layers of empty cans from pallets and places them onto the conveyor.
  3. Can Rinser – Cans are rinsed clean prior to filling. Usually a hot water spray system.
  4. Can Filler – Filled with beer to the proper level, often using vacuum and CO2 purge cycles.
  5. Seamer – Seals the lid onto the filled can using rollers that crimp the edge.
  6. Pasteurizer – Quickly heats filled cans to stabilize beer and kill bacteria.
  7. Labeller – Labels are wrapped around cans if required.
  8. Packaging – Six packs, cases, pallets for distribution.

Additionally, a canning line will also need all the standard brewery equipment like fermentation tanks, brite tanks for beer storage, filtration systems, cooling systems and more. Automation and control systems are also critical for monitoring throughput, efficiency, carbonation levels and other parameters.

Now let’s break down the major components of a canning line in more detail.

beer canning equipment

Beer Canning Equipment Guide

The following table provides an overview of the typical beer canning machinery:

EquipmentFunction
Can DepalletizerTakes layers of empty cans from pallets and loads onto conveyor
Can RinserCleans and rinses interior + exterior of cans
Can FillerFills cans with beer to correct level
SeamerSeals lids onto filled cans
PasteurizerStabilizes beer by quickly heating filled cans
LabellerApplies labels to cans after filling

Can Depalletizer

A can depalletizer, sometimes called a destacker, is used to transfer layers of empty cans from pallets provided by the canning supplier onto the conveyor of the canning line. This automation equipment uses vacuum plates to lift entire layers of cans, separating them from pallets as needed to feed the canning line. Models are sized based on the dimensions of pallets and cans being run.

Can Rinser

Since cans come directly from the manufacturer, a heated can rinse system is needed to wash both the interior and exterior of cans before filling. Most can rinsers use a hot water spray system to vigorously clean cans just prior to filling. Some use ionized air rinses too. This ensures no debris, oil or contaminants enter the cans during the filling process.

Can Filler

Can fillers handle the precise filling of each can with carbonated beer. Most systems use volumetric filling logic by measuring CO2 levels. Typically a two-step CO2 purge and vacuum process is used prior to bottom-up filling. No oxygen should touch beer to avoid oxidation. Fill levels are electronically monitored to ensure each can is filled equally for consistent packaging. Automated systems can fill at very high speeds.

Can Seamer

Also referred to as a seaming unit, the can seamer is critical for applying lids and sealing cans air tight through a process called double seam crimping. Two rotating wheels fold the lid over the rim of the can in multiple stages to create two sealed folds. This protects beer from oxygen and contamination. The seaming wheels must be precisely aligned to the can diameter, often with change parts, to create a hermetic seal.

Pasteurizer

While the canning process should be sanitary, beers are quickly pasteurized after packaging by heating filled cans to stabilize flavors and kill bacteria. Pasteurizers use a hot water spray or bath process for rapid heating. The pasteurization time and temperature depends on the beer recipe and packaging materials. This extends shelf life for distribution while minimizing beer taste impact.

Labeller

High speed label application systems can be integrated into canning lines if branding cans is desired. Pressure-sensitive label applicators quickly and accurately wrap labels around each can after filling and pasteurization. Labels serve to build brand recognition and inform consumers about the beer. Clear or opaque labels are options.

Beer Canning Line Capacity and Layout

Canning lines are typically categorized by the maximum number of cans that can be filled per minute, which also determines overall output. The following table provides some typical benchmarks:

Canning Line SpeedCans Per MinuteCans Per Hour
Small30 cpm1,800 cph
Medium60-100 cpm3,600-6,000 cph
High Capacity150+ cpm9,000+ cph

The physical footprint of a canning line varies based on configuration but they often have length around 100 feet to allow inline space for each process. Conveyors provide product travel through rinsers, fillers, sealers and pasteurizers in order. Height is another factor for ergonomic access and lift systems.

Given their complexity, custom-designed solutions are common to match equipment to production environment and output targets in the most compact, efficient floorplan. Modular systems provide flexibility as needs change. Consult an experienced canning line integrator for layout recommendations. Budget, production goals, beer types and packaging formats impact possible configurations.

Factors When Choosing a Beer Canning Line

Selecting filling and sealing equipment for a craft brewery project depends on weighing several factors against budget:

Speed – Desired hourly canning throughput based on demand. Scalable growth options.

Automation – Improves speed, efficiency and consistency. Sterile.

Size – Dimensions based on space. Height for lifts. Length of conveyors.

Output Volume – Total barrels packaged per year. Various can formats.

Beer Varieties – Lagers, IPAs, stouts all have different carbonation and foaming profiles.

Customization – Tailoring equipment specifications to production goals and space.

Budget – Total capital expenditure for all primary filling and packaging equipment.

Aftermarket Support – Installation assistance, training, service plans from the equipment supplier.

Leading Global Suppliers of Beer Canning Equipment

There are a number of equipment manufacturers worldwide that offer canning machinery solutions. The table below lists several established providers:

CompanyCountryPrice Range
Cask GlobalCanada$$-$$$
Wild GooseUSA$$$
ComacItaly$$$
CrockerChina$-$$
IC FillingUSA$$
MadellSpain$$

Pricing indicated by $ symbols where one is the lowest and three is highest cost equipment.

Cask Global Canning Solutions is one of the original micro canning innovators working with over 1,000 breweries globally. Offers a wide range of semi and fully automated equipment.

Wild Goose Canning produces the popular WGC filling systems rated up to 300 cpm. Designed for high speed, mass production.

Comac manufactures monoblock rotary rinser, filler, seamer systems used by leading beverage companies worldwide. Highly configurable, up to 1,200 cpm.

As shown by just a small sample, there are many equipment builders with various technology strengths and budgets. Work with a qualified dealer representative to compare specification needs against these global suppliers when researching the optimal beer packaging machinery solution.

Beer Canning Line Installation and Operation

Implementing a turnkey beer canning line requires considerable coordination during each phase:

Planning & Design – Allow ample time to specify goals, select equipment, draw floorplans and order well in advance due to lead times and shipping scheduling.

Delivery & Installation – Have a qualified technician on site for setup, assembly, calibration, testing and safety reviews. Electrical, mechanical, pneumatics skills needed.

Trial Runs – Make initial test packs without product to confirm speed, change part sizing, settings and stability. Tweak configurations as needed.

Production – Develop efficiencies, best practices for operation, sanitation, maintenance over weeks of ramp up runs. Monitor allFILL parameters.

Ongoing training is essential for brewery staff who will operate and maintain the packaging equipment. Consult your equipment provider about service contracts for periodic maintenance if desired. Schedule routine check-ups around production schedules for adjustments, parts replacement, cleaning and calibration by experienced technicians.

How to Choose the Right Beer Canning Equipment Partner

Selecting reliable machinery and an equipment builder with robust customer service for a major brewery investment requires careful due diligence across these key considerations during the vendor selection process:

  • Reputation & Experience – Research history, client testimonials, number of systems installed. Seek referrals.
  • Customization – Ability to match specifications and throughput goals with space, budget constraints. Avoid over or under buying.
  • Responsiveness – Do they understand needs, provide quotes quickly and welcome calls?
  • Offerings – Assess product line breadth, technologies, innovations related to project.
  • Delivery Commitments – Guaranteed ship dates and installation support are vital to stay on time.
  • Local Support – Ability to service equipment proactively is important for productivity.
  • Value – Compare proposals in detail quantifying TCO against quality, reliability and yields over lifetime.

By developing a criteria scoring grid and ranking each vendor accordingly, buyers can make an informed decision weighing technical requirements against the total long term partnership opportunity.

Pros and Cons of Can Packaging for Craft Beer

Canning beer provides unique advantages but has some limitations to consider as well:

Advantages of Beer Cans

  • Cans block all light and oxygen from beer
  • Most stable and secure container compared to bottles
  • Lighter weight reduces shipping fees
  • Custom printed labels for branding
  • Convenient recycling

Disadvantages of Beer Cans

  • High upfront capital cost for canning line equipment
  • Additional steps of rinse, seam check in process flow
  • Can feel cheaper than glass to some consumers
  • Not resealable like bottles

For most micro craft breweries seeking to maximize distribution and revenue growth opportunities, the small compromise on perception far outweighs the multitude of benefits offered by this most modern packaging format. Particularly as canning system costs decline while capabilities improve.

When weighing packaging options, conduct in depth cost modeling on a total cost of ownership basis. Evaluate capacity needs over a 5+ year horizon to right-size investments, calculate all operating expenses for materials, labor and utilities plus maintenance. Compare glass bottles via bottle filler and labeler solutions as well to make data-driven equipment purchase decisions.

beer canning equipment
3 vessel CIP station System

FAQs

Some frequently asked questions related to purchasing and implementing canning lines include:

Q: What is the total cost for a turnkey canning line system?

A: Basic equipment costs range from $50k to $500k+ for integrated filling, seaming, pasteurizing solutions depending on desired automation and throughput. Installation and auxiliary supplies are additional expenses to account for.

Q: What is the best canning technology – rotary or inline filling?

A: Both provide excellent performance. Inline filling historically offers faster changeovers while rotary is capable of very high volume filling. Consult experts to compare to usage patterns.

Q: How much space is needed for the equipment?

A: dimensions vary greatly by configuration selected but roughly 500-1000 sq ft would accommodate options from 30-150 cpm with all core machinery.

Q: What production volumes make canning cost effective?

A: Due to upfront investments involved, most industry estimates suggest a breakeven yearly volume around 2500-3500 barrels to cover equipment acquisition. Evaluate your growth forecasts accordingly.

Q: Should I work with a beer packaging equipment integrator?

A: Yes. Experienced developers can save buyers time specifying needs, comparing proposals and project management for full line implementations customized to brewery space and budgets.

Q: What are common stumbling blocks with new canning lines?

A: Undersizing storage and cooling capacity relative to packaging throughput is a frequent issue disrupting operations. Model true output volumes needed factoring in downtime and cleaning as part of the capacity planning process.

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