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Microbrewery equipment

Welcome, aspiring brewers! Whether you’re a seasoned home brewer ready to take the next step or a passionate entrepreneur embarking on a hoppy new venture, this guide will be your hops compass as you navigate the exciting world of microbrewery equipment. We’ll explore essential equipment, delve into the brewing process, and equip you with the knowledge to make informed decisions when selecting suppliers and setting up your microbrewery.

An Overview of Microbrewery Equipment

Microbrewery equipment encompasses the heart and soul of your brewing operation. It’s the orchestra that transforms humble ingredients into symphony of flavors. While the specifics may vary depending on your desired production volume and beer styles, some core elements are essential for any microbrewery.

Here’s a quick rundown of the key players:

  • Brewhouse: This is the centerpiece, where the magic happens. The brewhouse consists of a mash tun for steeping grains, a lauter tun for separating the wort (sugary liquid), a kettle for boiling the wort with hops, and a whirlpool for clarifying the wort.
  • Fermentation Tanks: These stainless steel vessels are where the wort transforms into beer through the action of yeast. They come in various sizes and configurations, depending on your batch size and fermentation needs.
  • Brite Tanks: Once fermentation is complete, beer is transferred to these tanks for conditioning, carbonation, and final filtering before packaging.
  • Cellar Tanks: These optional tanks provide additional storage for finished beer or lagers that require extended cold conditioning.
  • Cleaning System: Maintaining a sanitary brewing environment is crucial. A proper Cleaning In Place (CIP) system ensures a squeaky clean operation.
  • Kegging System: Kegs are a popular packaging option for microbreweries, offering a versatile and reusable way to dispense beer. A kegging system includes a keg washer, filler, and cooler.
  • Bottling Line (Optional): If you plan to bottle your brews, you’ll need a bottling line with a rinser, filler, capper, and labeler.
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Microbrewery Equipment: A Detailed Breakdown

Let’s delve deeper into the functionalities of each equipment category:

Equipment CategoryDescription
BrewhouseThe brewhouse is where the initial stages of beer production occur. It typically consists of:
Mash Tun: Here, crushed malt grains are steeped in hot water, converting starches into fermentable sugars.
Lauter Tun: This vessel separates the sugary wort (liquid extract) from the spent grains.
Kettle: The wort is transferred to the kettle for boiling. Hops are added during this stage, imparting bitterness, aroma, and flavor.
Whirlpool: The wort is spun rapidly to create a whirlpool, separating solids from the clarified wort before fermentation.
Fermentation TanksYeast is pitched into the cooled wort in these tanks, where it consumes the sugars and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide, transforming the wort into beer. Factors to consider when choosing fermentation tanks include:
Size: This depends on your desired batch volume.
Material: Stainless steel is the industry standard for its durability and sanitation.
Jacketing: A jacketed tank allows for temperature control, crucial for different beer styles.
Brite TanksBrite tanks serve multiple purposes:
Conditioning: Beer is allowed to mature and settle out any remaining yeast or sediment.
Carbonation: CO2 is added to achieve the desired level of fizz.
Filtration: Optional filtration can further polish the beer for clarity.
Cellar Tanks (Optional)Cellar tanks provide additional storage for finished beer or lagers that require extended cold conditioning.
Cleaning System (CIP)Maintaining a clean and sanitized brewing environment is paramount for producing high-quality beer. A CIP system automates the cleaning process, ensuring thorough sanitation of all equipment.
Kegging SystemKegs are a popular choice for packaging and dispensing craft beer. A kegging system typically includes:
Keg Washer: Ensures kegs are clean and free of contaminants before filling.
Keg Filler: Fills kegs with beer and purges them with CO2.
Keg Cooler: Maintains kegs at the proper serving temperature.
Bottling Line (Optional)For breweries venturing into bottling, a bottling line is needed. This typically consists of several machines working in sequence:
Bottle Rinser: Rinses empty bottles to remove any dust or debris.
Bottle Filler: Fills bottles with beer at a precise volume.
Capper: Seals the bottles with a crown cap.
Labeler: Applies labels to the finished bottles.

Additional Equipment Considerations:

Beyond the core equipment categories, several other elements play a crucial role in microbrewery operations:

  • Milling System: Crushes malt grains to the desired consistency for optimal extraction of sugars during mashing.
  • Grist Case & Hops Scale: Used for accurately measuring and transferring grains and hops.
  • Pumps: Essential for transferring liquids throughout the brewing process.
  • Heat Exchanger: Used to cool the wort after boiling and control fermentation temperatures.
  • Control Panel: The central nervous system of your brewery, monitoring and regulating various brewing parameters.
  • Instrumentation: Includes thermometers, flowmeters, and pressure gauges for precise brewing control.
  • Cleaning Chemicals & Tools: Essential for maintaining a sanitary brewing environment.

Choosing the Right Equipment:

Selecting the right equipment is a crucial decision for any microbrewery. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Production Volume: Determine your desired annual or batch output and choose equipment sized accordingly.
  • Beer Styles: Different beer styles may have specific equipment requirements. For example, lagers require cold conditioning tanks, while certain ales may benefit from dry hopping techniques that might influence tank selection.
  • Budget: Microbrewery equipment can range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Set a realistic budget and explore financing options if needed.
  • Scalability: Consider your future growth plans. Will your equipment allow you to easily expand production as your business grows?
  • Quality & Reputation: Invest in high-quality equipment from reputable manufacturers. This ensures durability, reliability, and minimizes the risk of downtime.

Supplier Selection:

Selecting the right supplier is just as important as choosing the right equipment. Here are some tips:

  • Get Quotes: Obtain quotes from multiple reputable suppliers, comparing pricing, equipment specifications, and warranties.
  • Experience: Look for suppliers with experience in designing and building microbrewery equipment.
  • Customer Service: Ensure the supplier offers excellent customer service, including technical support and after-sales service.
  • Installation & Training: Inquire about installation and training services to ensure a smooth startup.
  • References: Ask for references from other microbreweries who have used the supplier.

Microbrewery Equipment: Cost Considerations

The cost of microbrewery equipment can vary significantly depending on several factors, including:

  • Size & Capacity: Larger equipment for higher production volumes will naturally cost more.
  • Features & Automation: Highly automated systems with advanced features will carry a higher price tag compared to more basic setups.
  • Material Quality: Higher quality stainless steel construction will be more expensive but also more durable and easier to maintain.
  • Brand & Reputation: Established brands with a strong reputation may command a premium price.

Here’s a table outlining a general range for microbrewery equipment costs:

Equipment CategoryPrice Range
Brewhouse (3-barrel system)$25,000 – $75,000
Fermentation Tanks (per tank)$5,000 – $15,000
Brite Tanks (per tank)$4,000 – $12,000
Cellar Tanks (per tank) (Optional)$8,000 – $20,000
Cleaning System (CIP)$5,000 – $15,000
Kegging System$3,000 – $10,000
Bottling Line (Basic)$10,000 – $25,000

Remember, these are just ballpark figures. The actual cost of your equipment will depend on the specific factors mentioned above.

Brewing Process with Microbrewery Equipment

Now that you have a solid understanding of the equipment, let’s delve into the brewing process itself. While the specifics may vary depending on the chosen beer style and recipe, here’s a general overview:

1. Milling: While malting typically occurs at a dedicated malt house, some microbreweries opt to mill their own grains in-house. Milling crushes the malt grains to the desired consistency, optimizing the surface area for efficient extraction of sugars during mashing.

2. Mashing: The crushed grains are mixed with hot water in the mash tun. This process activates enzymes within the grain that convert starches into fermentable sugars. Mashing temperature and duration are carefully controlled to influence the final beer flavor profile.

3. Lautering: After mashing, the sugary liquid extract (wort) is separated from the spent grains in the lauter tun. A lautering system with a false bottom and carefully positioned grains allows the wort to drain while retaining the solids.

4. Boiling: The collected wort is transferred to the kettle and brought to a boil. During boiling, hops are added. Hops contribute bitterness, aroma, and flavor to the beer. The boiling process also sterilizes the wort and concentrates the sugars.

5. Whipooling: The wort is spun rapidly in a whirlpool tank. This creates a centrifugal force that separates out any remaining solids from the clarified wort before it is transferred to fermentation tanks.

6. Fermentation: The cooled wort is transferred to fermentation tanks where yeast is pitched. Yeast consumes the fermentable sugars in the wort and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide, transforming the wort into beer. Fermentation temperature is crucial and is controlled to achieve the desired beer style.

7. Conditioning: Once fermentation is complete, the young beer is transferred to brite tanks for conditioning. During conditioning, the beer matures, allowing any remaining yeast or sediment to settle out. Carbonation is also achieved in brite tanks by adding CO2. Optional filtration can be used for further clarity.

8. Packaging & Distribution: The conditioned beer is now ready for packaging. Kegs are a popular choice for microbreweries, offering a reusable and versatile way to dispense beer. For bottles, a bottling line is required to rinse, fill, cap, and label the bottles. Finally, your delicious craft beer is ready to be distributed and enjoyed!

Microbrewery Equipment: Advantages and Limitations


  • Quality Control: Owning your equipment allows you to control every step of the brewing process, ensuring the highest quality standards for your beer.
  • Flexibility & Experimentation: With your own equipment, you have the freedom to experiment with different ingredients, recipes, and brewing techniques to create unique and innovative beers.
  • Scalability: As your business grows, you can expand your production capacity by adding additional equipment.
  • Sense of Ownership & Pride: There’s a deep sense of satisfaction that comes from brewing your own beer with your own equipment.


  • Upfront Investment: The cost of microbrewery equipment can be significant, requiring a substantial upfront investment.
  • Space Requirements: Microbrewery equipment requires a dedicated space to house the brewing system, fermentation tanks, and other essentials.
  • Technical Expertise: Operating a microbrewery requires a certain level of technical knowledge and brewing expertise.
  • Time Commitment: Brewing craft beer is a time-intensive process. From initial recipe development to brewing, fermentation, conditioning, and packaging, significant time is involved in each batch.
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Q: What is the minimum equipment needed to start a microbrewery?

A: The core equipment for a microbrewery includes a brewhouse, fermentation tanks, brite tanks, and a cleaning system (CIP). Depending on your packaging preferences, you may also need a kegging system or a bottling line.

Q: How much space do I need for a microbrewery?

A: The space requirements will vary depending on the size of your brewing system and production volume. However, you’ll need sufficient space to house the equipment, storage for ingredients and finished products, and cleaning areas.

Q: Can I finance the purchase of microbrewery equipment?

A: Yes, several financing options may be available for microbrewery equipment purchases. Explore loans or leasing options from banks or equipment financing companies.

Q: What permits and licenses do I need to operate a microbrewery?

A: The specific permits and licenses required will vary depending on your location. You’ll typically need a federal brewing permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and any state or local licenses required in your area.


Equipping your microbrewery is a crucial step in your craft beer journey. By understanding the essential equipment, the brewing process, and the factors to consider when selecting a supplier, you’ll be well-positioned to make informed decisions and establish a successful brewing operation. Remember, the craft beer industry thrives on passion, creativity, and high-quality equipment. With the right tools and dedication, you can transform your vision into delicious craft beers that will tantalize taste buds and quench the thirst of craft beer enthusiasts everywhere.

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