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Things to consider:

Malt savings v CAPPEX v time savings

One of the most common questions I get asked is ‘how much could we save if we switched to bulk malt’. It’s a reasonable question, and the answer depends on many things, but it will be about £60 per tonne. The problem is the installation cost is going to be over £120k for the silo, conveyors and mill! If you are using 300 metric tonnes of malt, that’s a payback of 6 and a half years so it’s a significant investment with a long payback time. If you are moving from crushed malt to whole malt, you should see some extract savings from mill optimisation. This could be as high as 10%, depending on your brewing equipment and brewing skills.

In reality, I don’t think cost saving is the biggest reason for a silo installation. In my opinion, one of the biggest rewards is time and space savings. You don’t need a body to offload pallets from the delivery truck, move the pallets to storage and then move them to the point of production. You will also see time savings when grinding, you don’t need a body to load the malt sacks into the mill or grist case, the brewer can select the recipe and automation will take care of the rest. They only need to add the adjuncts. On adjuncts, remember to add a hopper for bag additions. You may need one before and one after the mill. As an added bonus, all those time savings also lead to the biggest reward. Saving the brewer’s back and reducing the manual handling requirements.

Malt use – it’s just about payback isn’t it?

How much I use does not matter. Bulk supply is not right for every brewery. If you are not turning the silo over every 12 to 16 weeks you open yourself up to potential issues. While barley is quite stable, when its malted it becomes more susceptible to the environment. Moisture is the enemy and if the moisture in the malt increases, it will yield less extract, become difficult to move and mill and possibly become to taste sour. On top of this, you are more likely to experience issues with malt variability. Barley is a natural product and the quality shifts as we move through the crop and seasons, so the brewer is more likely to notice it.

How will the barley be moved around?

In the maltings it takes the same route as sack malt, except instead of being sent to the sack plant silo, it goes directly into a lorry. Simple right? Not exactly, depending on the brewery install will depend on what kind of lorry we need to use. Malt is transported from the silo to the mill via a conveyor system, of which there are many different types. To fill the silo, the brewery has the option to install an ‘intake pit’, where the malt is tipped into the pit and then conveyors and elevators transport the malt to the silo.

Or they can ask the maltster to supply the malt on a ‘blower lorry’ which uses a donkey engine to blow the malt into the silo pneumatically. The latter is usually the option brewers take as the capital cost is much lower. There are downsides. Tipper trailers are common, and malt can usually be delivered within 5 days of order. When a blower lorry is needed the time from order to delivery can increase to 10 working days. You will also pay a little more for delivery as the blower lorry does not hold as much malt as the tipper. The location of the silo needs to be carefully considered to ensure the lorry has good access. There must be no danger to pedestrians or traffic, and no damage to property.

There are more considerations on how malt is transported around the brewery. While barley is hard, malted barley is friable and it can be easily damaged as it moves about. We need to restrict this damage as dust and breakage can cause brewing issues, stock losses, respiratory sensitisation and increase the risk of explosion. Blowing malt around causes more damage than conveyors and elevators, and runs need to be kept as short as possible. The lorry needs be able to unload close to the silo. The longer the run the more damage. If you have a long run from the lorry to the silo, a conveyor system should be considered.

Extra considerations…

We visit breweries with many different silo sizes and configurations. The silo is a relatively small part of the total install cost, and the price difference between the different sizes is not massive. Often the plinth they sit on is a greater expense. Planning restrictions may dictate the silo size so sometimes several smaller silos are needed. While they add costs, they can aid with stock control. Emptying the silos before being refilled is better for traceability and allows cleaning to reduce dust build-up. The main thing to consider is keeping to the maximum capacity the lorry can deliver this ensures delivery is optimised and costs kept as low as possible. If you are paying X per tonne based on 25t loads and only take 18t, you will not be paying X per tonne / 25t * 18t. The extra delivery costs will be added.

In the maltings, malt is cleaned (screened) every time it moves (well at Crisp we do). This keeps dust to a minimum and removes any unwanted ‘Chaff’ (twigs and stuff), but they won’t remove stones. As mentioned, barley is a natural product and will contain stones from the farm. These will follow the malt through the malting process and into the brewery silo. Big brewers have screens and de-stoners installed to protect the mill but more often than not, small brewers won’t. The brewer needs to be aware of the potential damage this can cause the rollers if they choose not to install one. I am not aware of any issues or complaints from customers so I don’t know how much of an issue it is, but please be aware of it.

mikeb
Posted by
Mike Benson
on 28/05/24

About Me

Mike is the sales manager for Wales and the West of England and is located in Wigan.

You can read my bio by clicking the button below

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Throughout my rambling several health and safety points have been raised, both positive and negative. There are legal obligations you need to be aware of when operating silos, conveyors and mills. The ATEX directives and DESAR regulations place duties on the employer to eliminate or control the risks of explosions. As we move malt and mill malt we create dust and an explosive environment. I am in no place to lecture anyone on these, if you need more information, please visit www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion/atex.htm

There are lots of good reasons to install a silo and plenty to consider. If you would like to know more about how it would work for your brewery or would like some advice on the companies who install silo projects please drop us an email.

mikeb
Posted by
Mike Benson
on 28/05/24

About Me

Mike is the sales manager for Wales and the West of England and is located in Wigan.

You can read my bio by clicking the button below

Read Me
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