How a centrifuge helps craft brewers meet demand for premium beers
Craft brewers in Australia and New Zealand are keeping up with consumer demand for exciting new flavours and premium beer styles. Read the interview with Alfa Laval's Global Business Manager for Breweries, Fernando Jimenez, to understand how a centrifuge helps brewers differentiate their beer styles and grow production.DATE 2022-02-03 AUTHOR Isabel Wagner
- What are some of the key challenges for small craft brewers as they are trying to grow their business?
Craft brewers need to look at the challenges that come with producing at larger scale. Consistency and quality, which means consistency in recipe, being able to deal with product losses and being able to produce multiple recipes at a time. But most importantly, repeatability of the product is one of the key challenges as they grow production volumes.
- What’s the global uptake for centrifuges in the craft brewery sector?
Globally, centrifugation technology is a topic of major interest. It’s a proven technology and the craft brewery industry is aware of the multiple benefits of centrifugation technology in the beer process. Consistency, quality, faster turnaround of tanks, control of losses, you control contact time of ingredients with beer, all these benefits associated with centrifuges are very well known in the market. I would say that craft brewers when they reach a certain scale, the first piece of equipment they are looking to upgrade their production is definitely a centrifuge. A centrifuge onsite is the only way they can scale up production in the most efficient way.
- How much beer can brewers recover with a centrifuge?
Well, how much beer a brewery can recover with a centrifuge depends on how much solids you are adding at any given time in the process. When it comes to dry hopping, craft brewers tend to dose a much larger volumes compared to legacy brewers. For some beer styles they use an insane amount of dry hopping. At any point of time during the process, you have to deal with a portion of the tank, so called bottoms which is basically a slurry and try to recover as much as possible of the beer contained on it and here is where the centrifuge technology comes to play . Typically, 50% of tank bottoms is valuable beer.
What am I going to get in the real deal? Well, it depends, but it can come from all the way from 5% up to 15% increase in beer yields, that’s what we see normally in users of centrifugal technology. Generally speaking, it’s a significant increase because in the centrifuge you basically dehydrate the solids as opposed to dumping the bottom of the tanks to the drain where typically you waste 50% of that bottom of the beer. With the centrifuge, normally solids are discharged with 23% dry matter. The centrifuge is definitely helping the brewer to minimise beer losses and the amount of beer that you recover depends on the amount solids present in a given recipe.
- What are you seeing in Oceania in terms of trends and uptake?
The craft brewery market in Oceania is growing in a very rapid pace. The market is literally exploding, with consumers looking for premium products. They are very much tired of legacy products, and always exploring new flavours, new recipes and new beer styles. Australia and New Zealand are very much in the middle of that trend where people are trying new things and new brands. All beer producers are extremely busy coping with this market. In some areas such as the US it’s a more mature market. There are literally hundreds of brands on the shelf and consumers are having trouble picking one. But in markets such as Australia, New Zealand, and also Scandinavia, France, Italy and India where the market is growing very fast, in some cases with double digit growth, it’s indeed a market with a lot of opportunities, and an opportunity for every technology that helps the brewer to deliver premium products to the market.
- What are the pros and cons of centrifuge technology versus traditional earth filters?
First of all, I will say that they are completely different technologies. Centrifugal separation works with mechanical separation. You remove particles by weight. You can easily remove heavier particles with centrifugal force. Lighter particles are more difficult to separate. Filtration means that you separate particles by size. That means that when you have a very large particle that is lighter than the liquid phase, then you really need the filter because otherwise that particle will be impossible to separate with mechanical separation. That said the two technologies complement each other very well. In brewery application you run the separator and then the filter afterwards.
Why do you need both technologies at hand? I would say that depends on the expected shelf life of the product. If you expect the product to be shipped overseas or it needs to have a long shelf life in the supermarket, you might want to filter that beer, otherwise chill haze might be an issue.
If you want to produce unfiltered beers, and your inventory is rotating fast, then centrifugation alone is a very good option because beer will preserve aromas and volatiles. But if you want a bullet proof solution, for wider distribution, the best solution is to work with the two technologies combined. A separator is a great tool but is not a “magic box”.
Meet the expert
About Fernando Jimenez
Global Business Manager, Brewery & Beverages, Alfa Laval
As Global Business Manager for Breweries, Fernando focuses on centrifuge applications within the fast-growing craft brewery industry. He also works with major global brewery customers on improving their performance and optimising their processes. A mechanical engineer by trade, he joined Alfa Laval in 1997 and was involved in the development of Alfa Laval’s patented and innovative bottom fed, Fully Hermetic Separators. He also held roles as product engineer, startup/test engineer, and positions in global sales and global technology. Fernando is currently based in the United States, and regularly travels to Australia and New Zealand to meet with local brewers there to discuss their centrifuge requirements and installations.
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