Last Updated on August 31, 2021
More than 8,800 breweries dot the American landscape, and with more popping up every day, the competition for both microbreweries and established commercial brewing companies continues to rise. Aspiring beer brewers aiming to start a brewery in the growing beer market require a well thought out, efficient workflow.
Those familiar with cleaning and sanitization processes in their small brewing methods will find more complexities in maintaining strict quality control when expanding brewing operations.
Efficient brewery sterilization methods can mean the difference in your great tasting, quality beer hitting the taps or shelves, and ending up in the hands of your customers, versus your microbrewery startup dream going down the drain with the rest of the skunked inventory.
Brewery Sterilizer vs. Brewery Sanitizer
Sterilization is the process by which all forms of life, particularly microorganisms, are killed. Some small operations can sufficiently sanitize their equipment to maintain good tasting beer. But at a higher level of beer brewing, sterilization provides the quality control needed to eliminate the microorganisms that will ruin your beer.
Removes dirt and debris from surfaces, typically in preparation for further disinfection.
Reduces brew contaminants to an “acceptable level”, enough that it shouldn’t affect the taste of the beer.
Eliminates or kills all bacterial spores in addition to fungi, bacteria, and viruses, for superior tasting beer.
For brewery operations, any equipment that comes in contact with your beer must be sanitized or sterilized.
Why Sterilize Brewing Equipment?
Sterilizing brewing equipment to maintain a bacteria-free environment helps to turn your good-tasting beer into high-quality, great-tasting beer.
Palatable Beer? Or Great Beer? When starting your beer brewing adventure, the focus may simply be on getting a palatable beer. But, beer quality quickly becomes a priority, and it doesn’t take long to pick up on the fact that microorganisms in beer production make a huge difference in the overall quality and freshness of your beer.
START UP BREWERY STERILIZATION
As a small-scale hobby brewer, you are probably getting by with sanitizing your beer-making equipment through household cleaning products, maybe your dishwasher, oven, or even your pressure cooker. All of those methods are typically an appropriate brew sanitization method to reduce the microbes, bacteria, fungi, and other contaminants to levels acceptable for hobby brewing. But for the ambitious beer-maker, researching how to start a brewery or start a microbrewery, this article may help you understand the need for beer sterilization equipment that helps you operate more efficiently, and produces better tasting beer.
Microorganisms in Beer Production
Without brewery sterilization methods, microbes, bacteria, germs and other beer contaminants affect the healthy environment of your yeast. Commercial brewers employ harvesting yeast from recent batches, but it is critical to remove contaminants when using your own yeast cultures to prevent contamination.
Microorganisms in beer production will adversely affect the taste of your brew.
You must remove microorganisms from anything coming into contact with the yeast/wort/beer throughout the brewing process in order to enjoy superior tasting beer.
Options for Sterilizing Equipment in a Brewery
Pressure Cooker: Pressure cookers are often used as inefficient, makeshift sterilizers in hobby brewing (and even in some of the early stages of microbreweries). But, paying someone to babysit a pressure cooker quickly becomes an inconvenience when beer becomes more than a casual hobby. At that time, you’ll want to consider upgrading from a small kitchen appliance to a product built specifically for sterilization. A product that can: 1) Accommodate larger loads to reduce time spent sterilizing, 2) Maintain sterility assurance levels, and 3) Perform safely throughout the workflow.
Pressure cookers work for small sterilization needs in breweries. It is not uncommon to have an employee actually “babysit” their pressure cooker while it completes a “sterilization” cycle.
But, to grow as a business, brewers recognize more scalable processes are needed. Processes that don’t take a paid employee away from doing more productive work – we know there is plenty of it to be done.
– TOMY brewing partner
Autoclave: Autoclaves use heat, pressure, and steam to sterilize brewing equipment. From John Palmer, author of ‘How to Brew: Everything you need to know to brew beer right the first time’, “because steam conducts heat more efficiently, the cycle time for such devices is much shorter than when using dry heat.” For most instruments in brewery settings, it will take 20 minutes at 121°C to kill contaminants.
Does My Brewery Need An Autoclave?
Much like laboratories, breweries have a complex workflow for developing new beers and establishing quality control and assurance. Through this quality control process in breweries, an autoclave is one piece of equipment that holds the key to optimization and efficiency through this process.
Pressure Cookers as an Entry-Level Brewery Sterilizer
In a start-up microbrewery, a pressure cooker can function as an entry-level sterilizer, but it is rarely efficient. Operating a start-up brewery with a pressure cooker to sterilize brewing equipment leaves a lot of room for improved efficiencies in the overall brewing process.
Autoclaves (steam sterilizers) are much more conducive to running a productive microbrewery, brewpub, brewing taproom, and even a regional brewery.
Each step in the beer brewing workflow takes time. And time is money.
Of course, there are many steps from harvesting hops to putting a cold beverage in the customer’s hands.
While there are many causes of off-flavors in beer, this article ‘Off-Flavors in Beer: What They Are and How to Identify Them’ by Hop Culture does a good job explaining the reasoning behind each of the tastes you may encounter.
During the brewing process, there are many opportunities to expose your beer to bacteria that will affect the taste of your beer. These tastes, such as mustiness, vinegar, rottenness, go beyond the scope of personal taste and palate. Without removing the bacteria with a consistent cleaning, sanitizing, and sterilization process, you will experience not only off-flavors in your beer but also the impossibility of reproducing a taste of beer you enjoy!
Imagine, finally brewing a beer with the taste profile you’ve been searching for, the perfect blend of bitterness, hops, malty flavor, or a light, crispness with the perfect fruity note…. And then, because of the microorganisms lurking on your equipment, you can never create it again.
This scenario has plagued even commercial brewers, finding themselves with inconsistent tastes when bacteria affect the health of their yeast.
Proper Cleaning in Breweries – Maintaining proper cleaning, sanitizing, and sterilization processes in your brewing helps to:
- Avoid musty, rotten off-flavors in your beer,
- Eliminate dumping ruined batches and starting over, and
- Produce the same tasting beer again and again.
Remember, to avoid huge losses of time and overall productivity in your brewing, make sure to keep your beer equipment free from microbes and harmful bacteria. Clean and remove residue build-up from your equipment, such as yeast sediment and grime. The fermentor, naturally, is one of the most important pieces of brewing equipment to maintain a proper sterilization process.
But, don’t forget the other instruments that come into contact with your beer!
Instrument Sterilization – Spoons/stirrers, funnels, rods, paddles, fillers, airlocks, carboys, and bungs – properly preparing your equipment means all the hard work you put into brewing results in a pint of beer you’re proud to share with your friends and customers.
Investing In an Autoclave for Your Brewery
Investing in an autoclave for breweries is a workflow optimization question each beer brewer needs to answer.
From installation, to start up, and operation, the Tomy Autoclave is built for long-lasting cost savings. Made from the highest quality materials from the experts in autoclaves, Tomy Autoclaves are the workhorses of any lab. Minimize the downtime from inferior equipment – downtime that hurts your bottom line.
To ensure your Tomy Autoclave runs smoothly each and every time you use it, follow the maintenance plan described here.
Learn more about the pricing of Tomy Autoclaves on the Autoclaves page.
“Our first TOMY autoclave purchase was one of, if not the best investments we’ve made as a brewery.”
Even with an outstanding brewery staff, the challenges of workflow inefficiencies from not using a laboratory autoclave are likely wasting time and money. One of our brewing partners (a former microbrewery that’s now a part of the Miller Coors Family) states “our first TOMY autoclave purchase was one of, if not the best investments we’ve made as a brewery.” Even with national distribution channels, this brewmaster acknowledges the performance of their TOMY autoclave significantly improves their operations.
Managing Hurdles with Reliable Equipment
Equipment failure in breweries, like in any commercial business or research setting, is a substantial setback. Choosing an autoclave that is reliable, easy, and safe to operate, as well as maximizes the efficiency of your brewery operations, is key.
Tomy Autoclaves are safe and easy to use and aren’t really any more complex or difficult than running a dishwasher cycle at home – and they certainly don’t need babysitting.
Top-Loading Autoclaves for Breweries – Top-loading autoclaves accommodate large loads, particularly suited for sterilizing otherwise difficult media such as a fermenter/bioreactors. Low profile autoclaves like the top-loading Tomy Autoclave are ergonomic and easy to load, making autoclaving a breeze!
Simply put, brewing beer is not for the faint of heart – it takes guts, and a lot more. Navigating the brewing process – taking malt to mash, and dry hops to distribution – is no easy task. Brewing is a complex process that requires science, education, skill, and even a bit of finesse (the right equipment is also a huge bonus).
For details on operating a Tomy Autoclave for brewery sterilization needs:
Contact a Tomy Autoclave Specialist
Or ask a question in the comments below.