Having Trouble Determining Your Heating Method?
In large commercial breweries, steam is essentially the only viable heat source. With the rapid expansion of smaller craft breweries, however, other less expensive alternatives are now commonly used, such as direct-fire and electric heaters.
Steam Heating - Recommended for 15 BBL Brewhouses and Larger
Steam heating is almost universally accepted as the preferred heating method when cost is not a concern. Steam distributes heat well across the tank shell and allows for quick and effective heat transfer. Additionally, steam can be used for equipment throughout the brewery, like keg washers and hot liquor tanks. The downside to steam can be additional costs, particularly installation, permitting, maintenance, and training costs. Additionally, safety is a concern with all heating methods, but can be particularly concerning with a boiler and steam lines. Craft Kettle recommends Low NOx boilers in all installations. Low NOx is required by law in several states.
A 3.5 BBL Direct-Fire Brewhouse Built by Craft Kettle
Gas-Fired - Recommended for 3.5 BBL to 15 BBL Brewhouse
Craft Kettle’s direct-fire (referred to as indirect-fire by some manufacturers) systems use a powered gas burner installed on the outside of the kettle to project a forced-air flame onto a deflector plate or diffuser inside a fully contained fire box beneath the kettle. This design significantly reduces the risk of scorching and allows for greater control and kettle temperature ramp speed similar to steam(some suppliers refer to this design as “indirect fire”). Forced air burners are efficient, relatively safe, and versatile. Craft Kettle recommends Low NOx burners in all installations. Low NOx is required by law in several states.
Electric - Not Recommended
It’s hard to make good beer with electric heating elements. Electric kettles are notorious for slow temperature ramp speeds, product scorching, and difficult cleaning -- all of which prolong and toughen your brew days. The primary issue with electric elements is that they localize the source of heat that you are using to heat your wort. Additionally, we want the wort in your kettle to come to a boil quickly, so we need to increase the amount of electricity pumped into the system. Wort is basically sugar water, and excessive heat will caramelize the sugar in your wort. Caramelised sugar is not a caramel, it is just partially decomposed sugar with a wide variety of breakdown products that don’t lend the best of flavors to your beer.
Additionally, heating a liquid with electricity requires a lot of amperage and is generally more expensive than heating the same liquid by burning gas (that’s why it is generally ideal to purchase a gas hot water heater in your home). With an electric heated brewhouse, you’re going to pay more for both the building electrical service and on your monthly bill from your utility company. If you’re hellbent on avoiding gas power, we suggest installing an electric boiler and a steam-heated brewhouse.
Still not decided? We have some very experienced brewers and engineers on staff that can help you make your final decision. Don't hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 855.953.8853.
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