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Carl began his brewing career in 1987 as a lab technician at Websters Brewery in Halifax, after a short spell at Tetleys Brewery, he went back to Websters as a bottling line manager in 1990.
As your brewery grows you’ll get to a stage where the number of bags of crushed malt you’re handling becomes strenuous and inconvenient.
This post will explain the steps towards moving from crushed bags to whole grain brewing malt delivered in one tonne bags or in bulk into a silo. It’s a big decision with lots of factors to consider but once you’ve made the switch it will simplify your brewing malt ordering and be so much easier than humping bags of malt around the brewery.
Pre-crushed brewing malt is only available in 25kg sacks due to the fact that the particle fractions separate during transportation. As your requirement for brewing malt increases, this means a lot of manual handling and frequent orders for malt which all takes time.
Pre-crushed malt is crushed by the maltster to work in all craft breweries and is not optimised for your brewery. The yield from the malt may be improved if milled at the brewery to suit the specific conditions there.
Whole grain brewing malt is £20 a tonne cheaper than crushed malt and if delivered in large loads could be cheaper still as it costs less for transportation.
There will be a capital outlay for the equipment but this will be paid back from the lower raw material costs and improved yields (2 to 15%).
A ballpark cost for a big bag handling system is £45k installed, for a silo system it’s around £75k.
Bulk handling can be done in two ways. For breweries using 50 tonnes a year or more, whole grain brewing malt can be delivered in 1 tonne bags. For breweries using 150 tonnes a year or more, whole grain brewing malt can be delivered in 20 or 27 tonne loads in a trailer which is then elevated or blown into a silo.
The big bags arrive on a pallet and delivery costs around £40 per tonne, the same as a pallet of 25kg sacks. The bbags are suspended from a cradle and hoist which feeds the mill through conveyors and elevators, the crushed malt is then conveyed and elevated to a grist case ready for use in the mash tun or mash conversion vessel.
An articulated lorry with a tipping trailer is used to deliver 20 or 27 tonne loads and costs around £650 per delivery. The more malt there is in the trailer, the lower the cost per tonne of malt, so around £32.50 for 20 tonnes and £24 for 27 tonnes. The amount of whole grain brewing malt that can be delivered will be governed by the size of the silo(s) to be installed.
Silos are big, and each will need a concrete base of 4m x 4m and a depth appropriate for the amount of malt they will store. A fundamental question then is, do you have room for the silo(s)? Another consideration is the height of the silo(s), the larger the capacity, the higher they are (a 31 tonne silo is around 9metres). Most local authority planning departments will allow an outside silo height no taller than the apex of the building that the brewery occupies. If the silo(s) can be installed inside the building this is less of a planning issue but there will obviously still be height restrictions and installation will probably be more complicated unless the silo(s) are fabricated inside the building. Bespoke silo(s) are available but tend to be more expensive. Installing silo(s) outside in urban areas may not be permitted by the local authority.
To summarise ask yourself the following questions before considering moving to bulk handling;
The most important thing to think about is space;
The next thing is complexity, think about the brews you make and may make in the future;
Once the above has been considered you should have an idea what you need for your bulk handling system and you can have a chat with your local authority planning officer about vehicle access and silo placement if necessary.
Armed with the knowledge that you know you have the necessary space and permission to install bulk handling you can start to think about the detail of what the installation might look like.
The basic components of a bulk handling system are as follows;
The system will need an electrical control panel to house the starters for the conveyor, elevator and mill motors and any necessary air manifolds and solenoids. The latter would be used for automated slide valves on the silo(s), grist case and grist conveyor outlet.
The conveyors and elevators have to be started and stopped in sequence to ensure that the system isn’t left with malt or grist in it. The control of this can be done manually with switches but is normally controlled with a PLC in the panel. The PLC will also be able to read load cell outputs so that you can add the correct amount of malt to the grist case.
The load cells can be on the malt storage device or the grist case, the grist case is the best option as there is less cabling.
We’ve covered some of the options already but let’s recap;
Hopefully by now you will have an idea of whether the possibility of bulk handling is feasible and the basics of what you would expect the facility to look like.
The next step is to talk to the experts. If you’re building a new brewery with a contractor ask them to sub-contract the bulk handling to either a bulk handling contractor or people who can supply the different components;
Your new brewery contractor will also need to source load cells, slide valves, grist cases, electrical panels and PLC software specialists all of which they should be familiar with.
The last 3 companies on the list can also do turnkey installations either for your brewery contractor or for you directly if you’re adding the bulk grain handling facility to your existing brewery.
Ensure that they understand where you want the equipment and how quickly it needs to mill malt and convey grist.
Clearly explain what elements you want them to be responsible for (including any integration with the brewhouse in terms of mash thickness and PLC control)
Once you’ve got proposals back from the people you asked to tender for the job, go through them carefully and consider everything, including the smallprint.
Cheapest isn’t always best, check what you’re getting for the money;
Once the contractor is approved be prepared to pay an initial deposit to get them to start fabrication, if you’ve agreed some delivery timeframes (advisable) insist on them giving you regular progress updates.
Don’t forget to lay the pad for the silo(s), it’s unlikely that the contractor will do this.
As the time approaches for equipment to start arriving make sure that the areas where the elements are to be sited are clean, tidy and clear of obstructions.
Build in some brewing downtime on your production plan for final tie-ins with the brewhouse and commissioning.
Here’s what needs to happen on commissioning day 1;
The following day it’s time to mash the grist;
Going to bulk whole grain brewing malt is a big decision for a brewery. It makes perfect sense when malt usage gets to the point where manual handling is a concern and malt ordering becomes onerous.
I hope that this post has gone some way to explaining how the systems work and how to take the steps to getting one installed.
Here at Crisp Malt we have supported many of our customers with bulk handling installations. There is no one size fits all for a bulk handling system, every brewery is different, so get in contact with us so we can help.
Just give the sales team a shout: 01328 829391 or email firstname.lastname@example.org