How to Choose the Right Pumps & Drives for Your Brewery

Certain pieces of equipment are essential to breweries of every shape and size, while others become more necessary as operations grow. Commercial brewers use various types of pumps, and an increasing number of breweries are incorporating drive technology into their beer production process as well.

The Uses of Pumps in Breweries

In the modern craft brewery, pumps a variety of purposes, and are essential to the brewing process, regardless of the size of the brewery. These devices raise, transfer, deliver and compress fluids with a suction side and a discharge side. Some pumps have a single purpose, while others perform a multitude of functions.

Pumps transfer hot water into the top tier of the brewery and recirculate mash, as well as circulate wort through counterflow chillers and in and out of fermenters. Other pumps are used to transfer beer between kettles, recirculate ice water during chilling, and to incorporate a counter flow chiller. They are used for wort transfer, keg filling, for bottling, and as a filter aid as well.
It is common to have a brew house pump, HLT pump, CIP pump, and a cellar pump. Meanwhile, a broad range of beverage companies use pumps for syrups, juices, concentrates, and sweeteners. Stainless steel is often the preferred material for brewery pumps because it’s easy to clean and cost-effective.

Types of Brewery Pumps

Centrifugal pumps spin at high speeds and transfer energy in the form of pressure and velocity into the liquid. These are commonly used by breweries, especially open-impeller, liquid ring, and submersible types of centrifugal pumps. What sets these pumps apart from others is that they transfer liquids without solid content and require high volume and low pressure. The disadvantage is that they are not self-priming, so you can’t let them run dry or start before the liquid enters the pump.

Based in Houston, Flowtrend’s most popular brewery pump is the Flowtrend C-Series Centrifugal.

“When grouped with an inverter and cart, you have one pump that will perform well for different brewery applications and flow rates,” Flowtrend’s Charlotte Emetom told Beverage Master Magazine in an interview.

This particular pump has a simple design that works well for craft brewery operations.

“The cost of ownership is low due to low-cost repair kits that are quick and easy to install,” Emetom said. “We also maintain high stocking levels for quick delivery.

On the other hand, positive displacement pumps (PD) transfer liquid from an inlet to an outlet during each of the pump’s rotations. You’ll often see progressive cavity, flexible impeller, and positive rotary positive displacement pumps used in breweries. These pumps are useful for transferring thick liquids, such as syrups, liquid sugar, and mash-in wort.

One variation of a PD is the peristaltic pump, which uses a rotating roller that presses against flexible tubing. These are advantageous because a brewer can choose the exact amount of fluid released and establish a more automated and efficient process.

Twin screw pumps are sometimes considered a hybrid of centrifugal and PD pumps. They can operate at specified speeds and have versatile applications. Twin screw pumps were designed to be the only type of pumps a brewery will need, due to a wide range of temperatures, longevity, and the ability to run at various speeds.

Emetom said that twin screw pumps can pump efficiency from 1 cps to 1 million cps at speeds up to 4,000 RPM.

“This allows the pump to be used for transfer of the very viscous products at low speeds and then be sped up to recirculate CIP fluid without the utilization of a CIP booster pump; thus, totally cleaning the pump in the process with no take down required,” said Emetom.

Eccentric disc pumps are another type of brewery pump that can be used to transfer liquid from storage to bottling tanks. They are built without mechanical seals and create a strong suction and compression. Accurate and pulse-free flow rates are significant advantages of these pumps.

Peristaltic pumps pass liquid through them by releasing it through flexible and compressed tubing. Favored because they reduce the risk of contamination, these pumps are self-priming and make clean-up easy.

As the name suggests, diaphragm pumps use a diaphragm to increase and reduce pressure to move liquid. These are often used to transfer low-temperature liquids and for transferring cooled wort into fermenters.

Because they are gravity fed, magnetic-driven pumps allow brewers to slow the flow of liquid without burning out the pump’s motor.

Straightforward and economical, drum pumps are designed to remove fluids from brewery containers. They have many different applications, are made with materials resistant to corrosion, and have motors that work with air and electric service.

In an interview, Kevin Weaver of Brewmation told Beverage Master Magazine that cart-mounted pumps are the preferred product for breweries.

“They offer modularity so they can be used for various functions such as whirl-pooling, wort chilling, transfers, and CIP,” Weaver said. “The cart mounted pumps are variable speed, which is required to handle these various applications.”

Brewmation’s pumps stand out because their 1/2HP to 1HP pumps plug into standard 120V wall outlets. Although larger pumps will require a 240V outlet, the smaller ones do not require installing extra outlets in the brewery.

“Our pump carts also have the largest wheels in the industry,” Weaver said. “We find this makes it much easier to move the pump around, especially if it needs to be rolled over brewery hoses.”
Tony Krebs of Ampco Pumps Company, based in Glendale, Wisconsin told Beverage Master that Ampco sells three primary products to the brewing industry. The Rolec DH Induction Line utilizes a modified SBI pump and has three model sizes for safe and efficient dry-hopping.

“[The Rolec DH Induction Line] offers breweries of all sizes the ability to safely and efficiently induce hops and much more into their beers. The idea that this system can induce not only hops but coffee, wine must, fruit, spices and more, expanding the creativity level in craft brewing exponentially,” said Krebs.

Ampco’s CB+ Craft Brew pump for hot wort is a modified AC+ pump with specially designed seals for wort and hot liquor that help eliminate leaking and product loss. Ampco’s Matt Sato told Beverage Master that many brewery manufacturers have standardized this pump for their brewhouses.

“Our CB+ not only offers a substantial increase on seal life over standard C series and other similar competitor’s pumps, but it also is priced very reasonably with competitive products. Any C series in the field can even be retrofitted at a much lower cost than purchasing an entirely new pump,” Sato said.

“Ampco has not only made several upgrades to seal and pump reliability and longevity, but we have patented dry hopping technology that efficiently utilizes hops while being safe and limiting dissolved Oxygen pickup,” Krebs and Sato said. “Unlike many of our competitors, all of our products are manufactured and assembled here in Wisconsin, and we have unbeatable delivery times and a tremendous parts inventory. The third relevant type of Ampco product for sale are their cellar carts for beer and CIP.”

Tips for Choosing the Right Pump

That are many things to take into considerations when selecting pumps and drives for a brewery.
Breweries need to consider the size of the pumps that they’ll need based on production levels and other equipment used. Flow rate should be calculated before buying a pump because fast pumps may need to have the flow restricted during certain processes. Highly critical, pumps must be made with food grade steel to be safe for brewing purposes.

Components and seals, as well as GFCI outlets, mounting, and appropriately-sized tubing needed to go with new pumps should also be considered.

Some pumps, such as peristaltic pumps, tend to cost more than centrifugal or diaphragm pumps, so that is also a consideration. But while easier on the budget, diaphragm pumps, for example, are a bit harder to clean, and you would need other types of pumps as well for hot liquid transfers.
Flowtrend’s Emetom told us that the price of twin screw pumps is now more within reach for breweries.

“The relatively low price of the Wangen twin screw pump shortens the brewers’ return on investment,” she said.

Since Brewmation has two types of pump heads – internal seal and external seal – it’s important to know the end use of the pump, so the right one is chosen. External seals are ideal for CIP, and beer transfers.

“The pumps with the external seal can also be used for hot wort; however, the seals will require frequent cleaning and replacement,” said Weaver. “The pumps with the internal seal are ideal for hot wort circulation, whirl pooling, and transfers through the plate heat exchanger.”

It’s also a smart idea to pay attention to the pump curves and know that head pressure in a system will affect the flow characteristics of the pump.

“It is very easy for a brewer to think they are buying a pump that has a high flow rate based on the seller’s description,” Weaver said. “However, it is common for a seller to post a flow rate that correlates to a very low head pressure that is not normal or even possible in the brewing environment.”

“To ensure you get the best pump for the job, make sure you provide the correct product info, flow rates, discharge head, and other information for all scenarios/applications the pump will be performing,” said Emetom.

The Uses of Drives in Breweries

Drives serve a very different purpose than pumps in the brewery but are an important piece of equipment to consider nonetheless. Drive systems are most commonly used to automate the bottling process and to produce more bottled beer at a faster pace.

Simply put, mechanized bottling allows breweries to work faster and produce more beer. After choosing the best pump for a brewery’s operations, it is also common to look into drive technology that integrates mechanical parts, electronics, and an easy-to-use software system.

Drives are ideal for large breweries and may not be necessary for small ones. However, smaller breweries can also make use of drive systems to maintain purity with the washing system, check for bottle damage, and reject defective bottles before filling.

Drive systems also sort beer bottles by type and transport them onto a conveyor system. After removing the caps, the belt moves them to a washing system to check for dirt, damage, and defects. Then the bottles are filled, fitted with caps, packed on to crates, and stacked onto pallets.

Key Features of Brewery Drive Systems

While every drive system works a bit differently, there are common goals that breweries have when choosing a system to bring into their space. Conveyor systems should be tested and proven for speed and efficiency, and position precision is also necessary to eliminate waste and spillage. Since many breweries have a limited amount of space to work with, a compact design is also a consideration when choosing a drive system.

Breweries will want to choose a drive system that coordinates easily with other mechanization processes, and connected software should coordinate well with the electronics and mechanical parts. Consider the converters, low-voltage motors, geared motors, and safety-integrated products that are needed to make a new drive system work. Finally, stainless steel is the preferred material for drives because it’s easy to clean and maintain.

Packaging, palleting, and conveyor functions can all be wrapped into one drive system, improves the coordination of brewery processes. Brewers should look for a system that has a detector that can stop or restart on command and that is easy to program.

Deciding on a Drive System

When looking at different drive systems, energy efficiency, health code compliance, safety, and eco-friendliness should be the top goals. Some drive systems, like the ones from NORD Drivesystems, for example, use eco-friendly paint and biodegradable oil for lubrication.

Some drive system manufacturers can customize the system to your exact specifications so that you get what you need. It also helps to work with a company that provides assistance with system implementation and ongoing customer support in case any issues arise down the road. It is ultimately up to each brewery team to decide which equipment is beneficial for onsite operations and then to provide adequate training for employees to use that equipment safely and efficiently.