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Boiler benefits for brewery

12 September 2016

Employing a steam boiler on its kegging line has offered energy saving benefits as well as other cost savings, for a craft brewery. 

Battersea-based craft beer specialist, Sambrooks Brewery, is using steam for keg sterilization. This has allowed it to utilise stainless steel kegs instead of a more expensive disposable option which as resulted in extended distribution to more outlets and national accounts, as well as resulting in significant production cost savings.

Prior to installing the new kegging line, Sambrooks had two kegging options. It could purchase disposable sterile kegs, at a cost of around £40,000 every two months or it could wash the stainless steel kegs by hand in hot caustic rinse, and fill by hand. The washing option, however, was very labour intensive and led to a certain amount of spillage and waste.

Steam cleaning
Keg cleaning using steam was its preferred solution and so CFB Boilers visited the site to offer advice on the size of boiler that would be required for sterilizing the stainless steel kegs. It recommended using a 15hp steam boiler. Not only would this accommodate the needs of the kegging line, but would also offer low operating costs as it runs on gas – which is around five times cheaper than electricity. The 4VT Steam Boiler is also said to offer an efficiency advantage over similar vertical boilers due to its four-pass technology which means that combustion gasses pass generated heat over water heating surfaces four times, maximising the opportunity for heat transfer. The result is better energy efficiency and low exit flue temperatures.

“We looked at a few suppliers but CFB Boilers provided us with a solution that best suited our present needs, as well as our plans for future expansion,” explained Sean Knight, head brewer at Sambrooks Brewery. “It was clear that the 4VT steam boiler was the most cost effective solution for our kegging line in comparison with an electrical steam raiser. Since we didn’t have any other steam on site we are now looking to move our hot liquor tanks and new 40-barrel brewhouse boiler to being steam heated too. The latter has come about following recent investment in a larger fermentations capacity. Ultimately we are also hoping that our electrical usage will drop rapidly once steam is used more extensively throughout the brewery. One of our core business aims is to lower utility costs through the efficient use of energy.”

The new automated line now washes and sanitises the stainless steel kegs before rinse, fill and sealing operations are performed. The boiler takes just 15 minutes to reach full capacity after initial power-up, whereon it is ready to supply steam to the kegging line. “The fire-up time for the boiler is perfect for our usage and the boiler is very simple to use,” said Knight. “Furthermore, it has a small footprint, which is helpful in a brewery of our size.”

Installation was completed without problems. “CFB Boilers took care of the pipework installation,” said Knight. “The pipes had to be run right through the brewery and this was achieved without any disruptions to production. Boiler commissioning was completed in a single day and CFB Boilers has not needed to return other than for a scheduled service.”

The kegging line and 4VT steam boiler represented a sizable investment for the brewery, but the savings in disposable kegs, along with reductions in staff labour and time, as well as product wastage, means that the equipment will pay for itself within six months.

“We have seen an increase in our keg sales which has helped accelerate payback for the investment,” concludes Knight. “We have tripled keg sales over the past 12 months. Without doubt, being able to use stainless steel kegs has been the biggest benefit of having steam on site. In the near future we will be upgrading our brewhouse and hot liquor tanks, which will see large energy and financial savings from the use of steam. I think that as any brewery grows and expands it needs to think about energy efficiency and costs, and steam is definitely the optimum solution.” 

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