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Use of wort concentrates in microbreweries

Microbreweries are built usually in complex with a restaurant (so-called restaurant breweries), or they can be independent and produce beer for sale - distribution in keg´s (usually to contract restaurants and pubs). It is not uncommon that a well-situated industrial companies have set up their restaurant breweries to strengthen the image and for its own use, such as organizing meetings and as a catering for employees, etc.

The advantage of restaurant breweries is the ability to serve beer in the place of its production. Most often the beer is not filtered there and the customer gets original in its most natural form. The presence of live yeast increases the biological value and health benefits of beer.

Currently, when the brewing industry is experiencing along with society certain period of economic recession, the popularity of microbreweries is growing. This is probably caused not only by the aesthetic effect of usual combination of brewery and restaurant  which positively contributes to the taste sensations, but especially by the fact that in the present-days excess of total production the consumers are looking for high quality together with something new and unusually. Without any problems they are willing to pay a higher price, if they get something special. Production of special beers, non-standard procedures, experimentation and production of beer with a short shelf life - all these things are impossible for big breweries which cannot  afford it in the regular production. There is more than 200 restaurant and production microbreweries in the Czech Republic nowadays and the number is growing. In 2011 the Bohemian-Moravian Association of Microbreweries was founded to serve as a professional organization providing consultations and defending the interests of it´s members (more on www.cmsmp.cz).

Investment costs to build a microbrewery currently have a quick return. From a technological point of view, the construction of a microbrewery is not a problem. It is only very important to define what products and what quantities will be produced  and according to it to select individual technological units in its design and implementation.

Regardless of size, the basic  configuration of all breweries is similar. The main production blocks are:  brewhouse, "cold block", filtration and bottling - filling plant.

Malt and hops are processed in the brewhouse. The water soluble extract in a mixture of water and malt is converted  into fermentable sugars during controlled heating. Subsequent  boiling brings about enzyme denaturation and izomerizations of added hop bitter substances. The resulting intermediate  is wort.

In the cold block - (formerly the fermentation room and the beer cellar) yeast is added to the wort, subsequently main fermentation occurs and maturation of young beer follows in lager tanks. After maturation the rest of yeast is removed from beer in filtration device , beer is eventually stabilized and saturated with carbon dioxide.

Clear beer is finally bottled - filled into the appropriate transport containers.

Minibreweries in most cases are not equipped with two final production blocks - beer is usually not filtered but straight tapped or filled into containers brought by customers.

Skip the production processes in "cold block" is impossible. Necessary equipment in every brewery are therefore a chilled vessels for fermentation and maturation of beer. Cooling can be passive (vessels are placed in cold room - cellar) or active (cooling system).

Another situation is the preparation of wort - in the way of realization the brewhouse.

In the classical variant of the brewery, for processing standard raw materials, the brewhouse include vessels for mashing, lautering and hops boiling. Heating and adequate mixing must be provided in the vessels. The number of vessels may vary according to the technology, but  transport of hot liquid between them must be secured.

However, if for the production is used "intermediate product", which is a wort extract-concentrate, it is possible to greatly simplify the brewhouse. Only one simple vessel is necessary in "the concentrate brewery", which doesn´t have to be heated or insulated. It is not used already for brewing, but only for mixing - dissolving the concentrate in the correct ratio with water. (The concentrate is of course possible to use even in the brewery with traditional brewhouse as a replacement for part of the malt or to obtain stronger malt for the production of stronger special beers, or during the  shutdown of the brewhouse or a cut-off of malt supply.)

When considering the construction of a new microbrewery it is necessary to consider which of the two variants of the production will be more profitable.

Investment cost
In terms of initial investment  the microbrewery using "the concentrate" is obviously better:
-         no need to invest in brewhouse, what is usually 25-70% of the brewery price depend of difficulty level (level of automation, measurement of various parameters, material ...)
-         it is not necessary to have an income of malt, malt mill and weighing machine,
-         less space requirement for the technology (less devices, smaller storage space).

The total investment cost may be at the concentrate brewery up to 55% lower than at the classic brewery.

Operating expenses
Here the situation is not so simple. In some areas, the costs are lower in the classic microbrewery,  in other fields in the concentrate microbrewery.

 

Classic layout.
•  Significantly lower cost of the raw materials.

 

Production from extract-concentrate.
•  Significantly lower operating energy costs due the absence of hot block beer production - brewhouse. (Operation of standard brewhouse consumes about 30-40 percent of the energy used in the brewery, depending on the technology and the type of brewhouse.)
•  Absence or simplification of number of manufacturing steps. There is no waste from grains or sludge that must be disposed  (lower load of wastewater). Also no dust during grinding malt, no manipulation and storing of malt.
•  Cheaper and easier transport of raw materials - less material in more compact packages (wort is concentrated to a dry weight of about 80%) is transported.

Therefore when  small production volumes are produced, the total operating costs of the brewery using wort concentrate are less than for a classic brewery.

The limit of the production, where operating costs for both types of microbreweries are approximately comparable, is currently in range  2-4 thousand hectoliters a year.

A simple example showing operating costs for the production of 2,500 hectoliters of beer for both of the microbreweries types is in the following table.

Classic microbrewery

Microbrewery using wort concentrate

Brewhouse

Costs (CZK)

Brewhouse

Costs (CZK)

 Energy(brewing, cooling)

990.000

  Energy(mixing, pumping)

100.000

 Sanitation(solution, water, energy for heating)

45.000

 Sanitation(solution, water, energy for heating)

25.000

 Total

1.725.000

 Total

1.425.000

The cost of operation fermention room, beer cellar, bottling are identical for both breweries.

 

Professional knowledge, skills and experience of the brewery operator play  very important role in the production of beer.  The expertise is required not only for processing of raw materials in the brewhouse but also for  their purchase. It is advisable to have an expert who knows what the brewery needs and who at first glance reveals serious problems in delivery or storage of malt and hops. The situation is simpler when purchasing concentrate, because in this case it is sufficient to know only the required amount.

Standard quality of wort concentrate, which guarantees its manufacturer, allows the brewery operator to focus only on the process of fermentation and maturation. (Opertor doesn´t need to know how to operate the brewhouse and handle all the secrets of preparing wort.)

Other differences in the financing of the operation may be in wages.

For classic microbrewery are usually needed two workers educated in the field and possibly one helper. The microbrewery using concentrate needs only one worker educated in the field and one helper, because the total scope of work and a summary of the necessary professional knowledges are less than in the production with a classic microbrewery.

Taking into account all costs including water, gas and average labor costs (brewmaster 25.000 CZK, assistant 17.000 CZK) based upon the intended size of the brewery (2.500 hl / year) the costs for one liter of beer is:

classic microbrewery 11.6 CZK / 1 liter
microbrewery using concentrate 10.0 CZK / 1 liter

In addition to purely economic indicators talks in favor of the realization of a microbrewery using concentrate even more facts.
  • Less storage space for the wort concentrate than for malt and hops. (To keep the malt and hops get  moldy, the storage should be well ventilated, with minimal moisture. There should be stable  lower temperature if possible, it should be secured against rodents and insects. Compare the premises for the storage of unopened packages of the concentrate are placed minimum requirements.)
  • Wort concentrate can be the only possible solution in a microbrewery in areas with problematic availability of quality brewing ingredients or with absence of a qualified professional.

The final decision what type of microbrewery to build is of course on the investor and it will depend not only on the factors mentioned above.

Classic layout of  microbrewery with a brewhouse might be prefered by those, who want to have the entire production process fully in "their hands" and want to experiment with such  the composition of the wort during its preparation. Although even here the customer can arranged changes in the composition of extract-concentrate in advance.

Who decides to build a brewery that will use the wort concentrate produced by "VÚPS", may rely on the corresponding complex technical and technological service and advice.

An interesting new applications where the wort concentrate can be very effectively used, it is the emerging technology with simplified design brewhouse Lite-WC (Wort Concentrate). Manufacturers breweries association Czech Mini Breweries offer this production technology in two versions: built-in restaurant microbrewery BREWORX Lite-WC and a special mobile container microbreweries MOBBEER Lite-WC. The second is characterized by world-unique solution - a microbrewery with all equipment built into a container that is brought and seated in place only, connected to the appropriate network and is ready for production of beer from wort concentrate. Simplification of beer production from wort concentrate along with the purchase of a microbrewery as a "turnkey project" can facilitate the beginnings of many new business owners in this area.

The above mentioned microbrewery solution using wort concentrate is not the only one of course. Most technology companies that supply equipment for microbreweries are able to design and manufacture the brewery adapted for wort concentrate.