Considering that beer is one of the oldest drinks ever produced (dating back to at least 3000 years BC), it is understandable that the beer brewing equipment and processes have changed over the centuries. In Ancient Mesopotamia, brewing and religion were closely intertwined, with beer requiring blessings from at least three separate deities before it could be enjoyed.

Needless to say, it’s nothing like that today – the global beer market rakes in hundreds of billions of dollars every year. About 60% of this market belongs to beer brewing giants such as AB InBev, which owns Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois. However, craft breweries are cropping up across the world, standing tall against these corporate conglomerates and fighting for their revenue share.

Craft beers are skyrocketing in popularity because of their unique take on the ever-popular beverage. The flavor of beer is no longer universal, with only slight differences between brands. No matter how big or small, each beer company has a signature taste it is proud to present to the public. Beer brewing has become an art form, where everything needs to come together just the right way – the beer recipes, the conditions, and the equipment.

With microbreweries and brewpubs increasing in numbers, it is important to understand how the modern home brewing starter kits and beer brewing equipment operates and where beer brewing technology is heading. After all, innovation and refining your process are what will set you apart from your brewing competitors.

Technological Innovation

In the 1980s, when the first independent breweries started setting up shop, they had to be creative when it came to their equipment. Sierra Nevada had to weld their brewing system and import parts from Germany, a beer-haven that was much more technologically advanced at the time.

Automation redefined the entire process of brewing commercial beer in those early days. You probably can’t imagine brewing without remotely adjusting the crush of the grain during milling or without setting the precise temperature of the mash tun (and perhaps even setting the rate of the temperature change during the mashing process). The automatic fermentation temperature control features that are taken for granted today have been the stuff of dreams in the early 90s.

Here are some equipment innovations that you might have overlooked in the past year:

  • Oil-free compressors

Compressed air has a multitude of purposes in a beer brewery: pushing fluids through pipes and tanks, modulating valves, providing energy for pneumatic transportation, and the keg systems washing process. Many breweries also use compressed air during canning. An oil-contaminated compressor would be a liability in an environment as strictly regulated by quality and purity standards as a beer brewery.

Many are now relying on oil-free compressors to keep their products free of contamination. Their craft beers aren’t at risk of getting ruined by oil, and the air circulating through the brewery is pure, posing no threat to the brewing process.

  • Mash filter

A standard lauter tun takes advantage of gravity to separate the grain from the wort. On the other hand, a mash filter is all about pneumatics and pressure that squeezes the liquid wort from malted grains. The process takes place in 45 chambers, all of which are outfitted with a special membrane filter that ensures maximum separation.

The main benefit of mash filtration is that you can experiment  with any type of grain, like rye, oats, or wheat. You no longer need to use malted barley to prevent gumming up the equipment. That being said, a downside of this filtration system is that it can be quite costly.

  • Precise CO2 control

If you are still manually managing your CO2 cylinders in the brewing process, you likely know that this is quite an inefficient method. It is difficult to determine when a CO2 tank is empty. If you switch it out too soon, you’re wasting CO2. If you switch it out too late, it could under-carbonate your batch of beer.

The solution to this problem is a regulator and valve combination that fully automizes the CO2 distribution. An automated process provides you with insight on just how much CO2 you have in any given tank. It also speeds up the process, reduces manual labor, and reduces the potential for workplace accidents.

  • Compact palletizer

If you have a limited budget or insufficient floor space for packaging, look into a compact palletizer, such as the one from A-B-C Packaging Machine Corporation. A compact palletizer takes up far less space than a standard palletizer, even if it is low-level. If you choose wisely, you can have complete control over the product feed and pallet configuration.

As with any other equipment in beer brewing, go for a fully automated system that will eliminate the risk of injury. Your workers will no longer have to perform repetitive actions when palletizing, which will significantly benefit their physical and mental health.

  • IO-Link technology

If you’re running a relatively large business, you are likely faced with an automation-tracking overload. Your workers and managers are constantly carrying around electronic devices, looking at different interfaces, and keeping track of dozens of parameters across all the different platforms you have installed. Even with an automated system, you can have too much of a good thing.

IO-Link technology is stepping in to streamline this process. It is a globally standardized technology that allows easy point-to-point communication between sensors and actuators. All the data you’re gathering is centralized and can be adjusted at the blink of an eye, without much fuss on the worker’s part.

  • Digital beer bottle labels

With BrewEXPO America postponed indefinitely due to the world health crisis, plenty of businesses couldn’t present their new solutions in the brewing and packaging processes. One of those businesses is Weber Packaging Solutions, a company that intended to showcase its most popular labeling system.

The labeler in question digitally prints labels in a wide variety of label materials. It can label anywhere between 30 and 35 cans per minute, and everything is easy to control through a one-touch screen. If you need a short label run, like for your next experimental craft brew, the Weber company has printer options for that, too.

Safer Workflow

The beer you’re making is only as good as its ingredients. This saying is especially true when it comes to brewing grains. The conditions in every step of the process, from the grain mills to the mash tun to lautering, need to be set up in precisely the right way for maximum quality and consistency of the product.

One of the big questions is how to transport grain – a delicate material – with as little breakage as possible from one side of the brewery floor to another. And the answer is – conveyor systems.

Cablevey conveyors are designed to handle fragile materials, such as barley and wheat, with maximum care. Grain materials are transported slowly and gently, reaching the mash tun precisely the size they need to be. There is little to no material waste, which is of key concern in craft breweries.

Enclosed tube systems that Cablevey offers are essential for keeping your materials clean and safe. The clear tubes allow you to visually track the journey of your grain without worrying what’s going on inside. Cablevey’s systems are ideal for moving both wet and dry materials in all steps of the brewing process. Once you turn to these custom solutions and the full range of cleaning and transfer components, you’ll realize that, thanks to Cablevey, there is no space too small or corner too tight to fit in a transport system that suits your brewery perfectly.

Conveyor systems are not only effective for preserving the shape and size of the grain; this type of automation means less manual labor is required. Workers are no longer hauling grain by hand or heavy machinery around the brewery, resulting in less risk of injury, higher efficiency, and a safer, more convenient workflow. A robust, reliable conveyor system will ensure that your brewery is operating without a hitch, while making your workers’ health a priority at the same time.

Conclusion

Most craft breweries are eager to get their hands on new brewing tech and new brewing innovations. They are always looking for ways to increase productivity and profit, as well as workplace safety.

Not only that, but beer brands are also turning towards sustainability and ways to reduce waste and incorporate renewable energy into their production systems. Take the examples of beer made from recycled water or wattleseed (a sustainable beer ingredient) or even beer packaged with edible labels – you get a beer and a spicy treat at the same time!

Slow, labor-intensive brewing and spoiled batches are becoming a thing of the past. Modern equipment is a balance of durable, reliable, and clean materials, machines that operate smoothly, and software that makes everything easy to control. We honestly can’t wait to see what the future holds for this booming industry and its penchant for always being ahead of the curve!