By: Alyssa L. Ochs
In a distillery setting, tanks are used for various purposes, including blending, fermenting, storing, distilling and filtering. But in addition to the actual tanks, several tank-related products and accessories help distillers do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.
When choosing tank wraps, insulation, meters and stands, it is essential to consider these products’ functionality, cost, maintenance and ease of cleaning and sanitation. Meanwhile, there are unique tank-related considerations for distilleries that other types of beverage producers may not need to address. Fortunately, many specialized suppliers serve the distillery market to meet these needs and solve common issues that arise while making craft spirits.
Essential Distillery Tank Supplies
Craft spirit distilleries use tank wraps to provide fluid temperature control and help fluids circulate properly inside the tanks. Wraps, such as glycol-styles on the sides and bottoms of tanks, also reduce condensation and moisture loss.
Similarly, tank insulation ensures that temperatures stay as hot or as cold as necessary. Insulation on tanks prevents freezing pipes, corrosion and mold while also controlling humidity levels and saving energy. For example, Syneffex insulation is a popular option among distilleries to reduce energy usage and emissions for more environmentally sustainable operations. Distilleries can find storage and fermentation tanks that have optional heating and cooling jackets to maintain optimal temperatures.
Distillers use tank meters to gauge pressure levels in their tanks and monitor the liquids’ temperature inside them. Meters also help distillers monitor the flow to minimize product loss over time. Pressure-relieving and venting devices are optional features on some distillery tanks. Also, tank stands are important in the distillery to hold and secure tanks in a safe way. Frames built for this purpose come in various sizes to fit different levels of production.
Distilleries also use CIP spray balls, hydrators, valves and racking arms. Cooling coils, air compressors, aging barrels, clamps and condensers are other accessories that craft distilleries may need to replace or upgrade over time.
Choosing the Right Tank Supplies
Distillers should choose tank wraps that are flexible and easy to put on and adjust as necessary. Tank insulation should have a good track record for energy efficiency so the distillery can save money in the long run. It’s in a distillery’s best interest to work with a supplier that can build storage tanks with as much insulation needed for the operation.
One good option for insulating beverage tanks is the Flextank FlexChill system in a temperature-controlled room. FlexChill is an exterior wrap chilling system with glycol chillers. Useful for cylindrical tanks in sizes from 50- to 300-gallons, this system is designed for maximum insulation performance. With distribution outlets in Washington, Australia, South Africa, Chile and France, Flextank products are used to produce wine, mead, cider and specialty spirits. For heating and cooling, distilleries can also find dimple jackets, open jackets, half-pipe coils and internal pipe coils from Stainless Fabrication, Inc., in Springfield, Missouri.
Distillers should look for meters with hygienic process fittings to maintain clean and sanitized tanks that don’t compromise the quality of the product. The measurement range and temperature compensation capabilities are features to look for when choosing a new meter. Some companies that supply these meters will offer information security standards and even loaner units while servicing an existing product.
Bellevue, Washington-based ATAGO U.S.A., Inc. manufactures refractometers, viscometers, polarimeters, pH meters, saccharimeters, and others. The company’s In-Line Refractometer PRM series is commonly used for craft beverage tank monitoring and equipped with an alarm that signals when valves exceed high and low limit values.
For tank stands, distillers should consider portable products in case there’s a need to move them due to space confines or a potential future expansion. YoLong Distillery Equipment offers support frames that provide standard column support and can be customized to provide additional functions.
It is in a distillery’s best interest to choose reliable suppliers that can provide ongoing support and replacement parts, no matter the equipment.
Maintenance & Cleaning Considerations
Keeping equipment clean is critical in preserving the product’s integrity, keeping customers safe and staying in business. The basics needed for tank cleaning include a pump, clean water, heat, citric acid, dilute sodium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide solution, ethyl alcohol and safety gear. Check tank supplies for any oil, grime, dirt or dust collected during the distilling process or in storage. It is common for residue to accumulate around a tank meter’s surface and make it difficult to read, for example. While cleaning distillery tanks, rubber gloves and safety glasses should be on-hand for protection, and workers should dress in long sleeves, pants, and boots.
Why Distillery Tank Supplies are Unique
Beyond craft distilleries, several industries use tanks, such as manufacturers of chemicals, oil and plastics. However, distillers have unique considerations when choosing tank supplies.
Distillery tank supplies must be food-grade equipment since they are involved in making consumable products. Tanks and supplies must also withstand hot and cold temperatures and perhaps serve multiple purposes in the distillery. Since tanks are large and many distilleries operate in small spaces, multi-functional tanks are a significant asset to maximize square footage. Therefore, it may be necessary to update tank supplies when using an existing tank for a new purpose.
Tank Supply Companies
In addition to the companies already mentioned throughout this article, other reputable suppliers specialize in the craft spirits market and offer high-quality supplies and accessories for tanks.
• Affordable Distillery Equipment, LLC has a wide range of accessories for distillery purposes, including hydrometers, thermometers, cooling coils, air compressors and ingredient kits. Whether your distillery equipment budget is $5,000 or $500,000, their website, Distillery-Equipment.com, offers used equipment for sale in addition to its brand-new water and spirit storage tanks, fittings, tubing, thermometers and pumps.
• Global Stainless Systems, based in Portland, Oregon company supplies distilleries with various types of equipment in addition to tanks, including glycol chillers, valves, fittings and hoses.
• Mile Hi Distilling based in Wheatridge, Colorado, offers distilling supplies specific for fermentation, including several meter options.
Of course, these are just a few of the many U.S. companies serving distilleries’ needs, but it provides a starting point for sourcing tank accessories. Distillers should choose a supplier that regularly works with distillery tanks rather than general tanks for other industries and provides a warranty on the products they sell. While these distillery supplies may seem fairly straightforward on the surface, having ongoing support is a huge help if something goes wrong or during any future expansions.