Brewery Pumps: Boosting Productivity & Lowering the Bottom Line

By: Cheryl Gray 

Whether a small craft brewery or a large-scale operation, pumps play a vital role in making beer. While breweries large and small understand the invaluable relationship between pumps and products, such a capital investment begs the question, “Which pump is best?”  

  Pumps are used in breweries for a wide range of functions, from handling yeast to managing filtration to dispensing measured doses of additives. According to industry experts, the most popular pumps are the most versatile, meaning they can be used in multiple areas of a brewery operation. That math adds up to money spent that can result in a solid return on investment when it comes to improving a product, boosting productivity and lowering operating costs.     

  FLUX Pumps Corporation has spent 70 years being a global leader in making pumps used in virtually every industry, including craft brewing. Its six subsidiaries and a huge roster of distribution centers give FLUX the capability of servicing customers in more than 100 countries.    

  The company’s innovation streak began in 1950 when it earned a patent for the world’s first electric-powered drum pump. A year later, FLUX introduced the first explosion-proof drum pump designed to be used in hazardous areas. In the years since, FLUX has firmly established itself as a frontrunner in drum and container pumping technology. The company’s global headquarters and manufacturing plant is located in  Maulbronn, Germany. It also operates corporate offices in the United States, India, Thailand, France, United Kingdom and Belgium.  

  Glenn Mulligan is the President of FLUX. His product advice, he says, is the same for all craft breweries, no matter whether it is a start-up or an established operation.    

  “Whether a new or old facility, I would offer the same advice to both customer types: Product longevity and performance is critical. Performance keeps your process running efficiently, perhaps even helping to increase productivity by moving away from tasks operators had to complete by hand. Product longevity helps to keep operating expenses low, which increases the bottom line. When you are using a pump, which offers an overall cost of ownership second to none, you know you have the right equipment in place. Don’t let drum pumps become ‘throwaway’ equipment.” 

  Mulligan shares why FLUX products are a versatile choice for breweries:   

  “By default, the most popular products in the brewing industry are those which conform to sanitary and hygienic standards. Brewing customers need to meet the strict sanitary standards of food and beverage processors, but typically also need the flexibility to use their equipment in various areas of the facility. Simple product disassembly, assembly and cleaning are crucial to minimize downtime and increase productivity.  

  From versions that can handle thin, water-like products, to models which can pump honey, fruit purees and products as thick as peanut butter, FLUX has the solution you need. Some models can quickly and easily be broken down into two main components for cleaning. This allows a pump to be used in multiple areas of the facility.”   

  Mulligan cautions craft breweries against investing in pumps that may seem simple to operate and don’t cost much. What might be a bargain at first sight, he says, can quickly become a drain on finances as well as valuable production time.    

  “It is a common misconception that air-operated, double-diaphragm pumps are best suited in these applications due to their cheap costs and simple operating principle. However, these pumps can very quickly become expensive to maintain as well as run with compressed air. A recent brewing customer had purchased one of our units to move a fruit puree from 55-gallon drums into their process. They were using 1.5” air-operated, double-diaphragm pumps to transfer the puree, which would take about an hour to empty the drum. When they switched over to FLUX progressive cavity drum pump technology, this transfer time was shortened to under six minutes.” 

  Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group is another global leader in providing pumps to the craft brewing industry. The company, based in the United Kingdom with operations worldwide, was founded in 1956. It entered the United States market in 1991 by establishing Watson-Marlow, Inc. The company offers a broad range of peristaltic and sinusoidal pump products designed to handle nearly every pump requirement for every stage of brewing.    

  Among other features, the products boast a rapid cleaning time and simplicity of use. Watson-Marlow explains that by reducing CIP cycles, along with the amount of water and cleaning agents needed, its pump designs save breweries money over time.    

  Pumping brewer’s yeast is a tricky business. One wrong move can ruin the delicate yeast and, in turn, an entire batch of beer. That’s why a number of breweries are looking for the latest technology in pumps that offer features that provide, among other things, low shear and low pulsation, which experts say is ideal for transferring yeast. Watson- Marlow offers its MasoSine Certa 100 pump. The product is fully portable and mounted on a specially designed cart for easy transfer of yeast. Unlike more traditional pumps with rotors cutting through the fluid, Certa’s sinusoidal rotor gently moves fluid through the pump to significantly reduce shear. Russell Merritt is the company’s marketing manager. 

  “Certa sine pumps accurately dose the yeast while maintaining its quality. Certa pumps reduce shear damage to yeast cells by eliminating backflow seen with screw and lobe pumps. Also, with the high suction capability of the sine pump, even challenging yeast strains can be transferred at full capacity. Due to the virtually pulsation-free flow, the transfer rate at the yeast harvesting pump can be accurately controlled. Certa pumps can handle variable viscosities with ease, which means the yeast dosing process is under control regardless of the type of beer and yeast strain.” 

  Another key function of pumps in brewery operations is resolving wastewater, which is often injected with chemicals not environmentally friendly. As such, that wastewater has to be filtered and purified before it is discharged.  

  Blue-White Industries, Ltd., based in Huntington Beach, California, touts a solution through its Flex-Pro A2, a peristaltic chemical metering pump designed to tackle the kind of harsh chemicals found in brewery wastewater.    

  Among the company’s success stories in helping brewery clients achieve optimal wastewater treatment is California’s Stone Brewing, the ninth-largest craft brewery in the U.S. With brewery operations on both coasts, Stone Brewing celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. It recently installed four of the Flex-Pro A2 pumps. Blue-White says that the product’s ease of use and electronic features offer the kind of precise chemical metering that Stone needed to meet industry-standard wastewater purification requirements.    

  Carlsen & Associates, a family-owned business based in California’s Sonoma Valley, services wineries, distilleries and craft breweries. The company, founded in the 1980s by Jim Carlsen, is a manufacturer, fabricator and customer service enterprise with representatives covering all 50 states. Carlsen & Associates thrives on the industry knowledge base of its founder, whose background as a manager and electrician helped to distinguish the company’s products as those with precision and ease of use at the forefront of all design.   

  Jon Johnson, who has been with Carlsen & Associates for 24 years, is well-versed in the pump needs for brewery clients. He offers some recommendations from the company’s extensive product line, starting with the Waukesha 30, which features single o-ring seals for easy cleaning and replacement, stainless steel housing and rotors, along with 50-foot remote speed control.  Additional options include pressure, float and timer controls.   

  The  features a flow of up to 90 GPM, variable speed control, pressures up to 20 psi and auto cavitation correction. Options for this pump include float and timer controls as well as remote start and stop. Johnson says that both products rate high with craft brewery clients.   

  “For brewing, the Waukesha 30, for barrel work and transfer, is very popular. The Waukesha 2045 Centrifugal is primarily for transfers. A less expensive option for start-ups is the NDP-25 air diaphragm pump. Both will provide about 30 GPM of flow. The Waukesha 30 and the Centrifugal 2045 are electric and can be used in single or three-phase applications. The NDP-25 does require an air compressor to provide its power. For distilling applications only, the air pump can be used in the explosive environment. Please check your local codes for these restrictions. We also offer a full line of valves, fittings and hoses for either application.”  

  Time spent on research is one of the most critical investments for craft breweries when deciding which pump is best for any operation, large or small. Experts agree that a full consultation with an industry specialist is by far the wisest upfront investment that a brewery can make before any money is spent. This important step ensures that the brewery can fully assess pump needs for the long and short term and, with the help of an expert, can objectively navigate through the innumerable pump options on the market. It is the best way to look forward to a return on investment into an essential equipment item that should operate to maximize production efficiency and product quality. 

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