Improving Brewery Profitability AND Sustainability with Innovative Bottom-Fed Centrifuge Technology

Beer consumers are increasingly paying attention to the environmental and economic impact businesses have on both the local and global community. Sustainability can be an important differentiator that sets you apart in an increasingly crowded marketplace, and at the same time it can make you more profitable.

Why not partner with technology suppliers committed to providing equipment designed and optimized for sustainability, performance, and quality?

Reduce Losses and Improve Yields

One immediate way to improve sustainability is by addressing inefficiencies in the brewery process. Beer that is lost to the drain is a waste of ingredients, labor, time, and utilities as well as the lost revenue from sales. Reducing inefficiencies by getting more beer in the keg, bottle or can means less waste and more profit!

The biggest source of brewery waste is dumping tank bottoms to drain post-fermentation. Modern styles like IPA’s, fruited sours, flavored stouts, etc. include the addition of copious amounts of solids into the fermenter. These solids impart desirable aromas and flavors, but also absorb beer and are difficult to process without a separation/filtration step.

Using a centrifuge to separate solids from beer is the fastest way to increase yields and reduce losses. A centrifuge uses centrifugal force to immediately separate solids from liquid, and many modern centrifuge technologies are available for Brewery applications specifically designed to maximize yield and have minimal impact on beer quality. More on this later.

Reduce Wastewater Treatment Demand

By recovering beer and not putting it to drain means it is also not being processed at a downstream wastewater treatment plant. However, it’s not just beer you’re putting to drain, it’s also all that spent yeast, hops, proteins and other solids that must be processed and transported away from the wastewater treatment plant.

When using a centrifuge, the solids ejected from the machine can be side-streamed and sent to a farm as cattle feed; be land-applied as fertilizer; or otherwise diverted from downstream wastewater treatment that consumes additional resources, time, and utilities. This impact can be significant over time and the beneficial use of the by-products is lost when sent to the treatment plant.

Alfa Laval has extensive process and equipment experience in wastewater treatment. This provides us a unique perspective on how breweries impact these facilities. We use this knowledge to address inefficiencies upstream and minimize the waste sent to municipal treatment.

Improved Production Capacity

Historically, to get solids like yeast, hops, etc. out of beer you would wait until fermentation has completed, turn the glycol down, and wait for time, temperature and gravity to settle solids out of the beer. Even after the beer reached final temperature, you still might wait days for additional solids to fall out of suspension.

With a centrifuge, once you determine the beer is ready, you don’t have to wait any additional settling time. Whereas gravity imparts 1 G of force on the particles in your beer, a centrifuge can impart 5,000-10,000 G’s in an instant.

This means you can turn your tanks faster and naturally increase your production capacity (by 20% in some cases) without adding additional tanks. You don’t need to run your glycol as much, thereby either consuming less electricity or using your glycol refrigeration system more efficiently.

Improve Yields without Compromising Quality

Manufacturers may say their separator or centrifuge is “hermetic”, but not all centrifuges are created equal. Product quality is important to all of us, so it’s important to know how different kinds of hermetic designs affect dissolved oxygen pickup, temperature pickup, and retention of volatile oils, aromatics and flavors. The technology differences can also have a significant impact on the yield, and therefore the sustainability impact of your process.

Older top-fed, hydro-hermetic centrifuges are still very popular in Brewery applications, but their design dates to the mid-20th century and feature a water seal. To achieve lower dissolved oxygen pickup, this technology typically requires deaerated water and/or carbon dioxide. Hydro-hermetic machines are not 100% hermetic because they allow oxygen into the bowl, normally during every discharge.

Alfa Laval’s innovative bottom-fed design doesn’t allow oxygen into the bowl at all – it’s fully-hermetic. Once filled with liquid, bottom-fed machines are fully-hermetic and don’t suffer from high dissolved-oxygen spikes during discharges like traditional top-fed, hydro hermetic technologies.

Besides no oxygen pickup, bottom-fed machines also offer many other important quality considerations that affect beer quality and the customer experience.

Better Retain Aromatics and Flavors

As Brewers, you spend a lot of time, money and effort to impart delicate hop aromas and flavors into your beer — shouldn’t you do everything you can to preserve these sensitive compounds?

With a bottom-fed, fully-hermetic machine, there is no place for those aromatics to disappear to and are less affected by oxygen pickup, temperature pickup and shear stress compared to older top-fed, hydro-hermetic machines.

Lower Temperature Pickup through Lower Friction

Older top-fed, hydro-hermetic machines feature internal fixed paring discs that naturally generate friction as the beer is pushed out of the centrifuge. This friction converts mechanical energy into thermal energy, and results in increased temperature pickup to your beer. High-temperature pickup in top-fed, hydro-hermetic machines is especially evident in low-flow rates or high-solid applications like dry-hopped or heavy-adjunct beers.

Bottom-fed, fully-hermetic machines, like the ones produced by Alfa Laval, feature an outlet on the top of the machine at the center of rotation. Exiting through the center of rotation and with an impeller that spins with the bowl reduces mechanical energy and therefore friction. Bottom-fed machines offer lower temperature pickup — across the entire flow range — to better preserve the quality of your beer. This means consistent, great tasting product with less rejects due to compromised quality.

Lower Power Consumption

Another great sustainability impacting benefit of reducing friction is that it also reduces power consumption, as it takes more energy to push the beer through a fixed paring disc (kinetic energy that is transformed into thermal energy of friction).

Bottom-fed machines on average offer 30% less power consumption that traditional top-fed machines (of similar size) by exiting through a spinning impeller at the center of rotation.

Power consumption savings could be reduced by as much as 70% in a bottom-fed, fully-hermetic design, when combined with Alfa Laval’s latest centrifuge innovation – eMotion™.

Partnering with Alfa Laval

It matters who you partner with, and Alfa Laval is committed to helping your Brewery achieve your sustainability goals, as well as exceed your profitability targets. As a company rooted in Nordic culture of environmental responsibility, discovering sustainable and innovative solutions for our customers is a core value across all markets-served and technologies-offered.

In Brewery, our innovative Bottom-fed centrifuges uniquely offer minimal impact on beer quality while simultaneously promoting sustainability goals like reducing product waste, improving process optimization and efficiencies, and lower utility consumption.

Besides offering bottom-fed, disc stack centrifuges in Brewery Cold Block applications, Alfa Laval also offers decanter centrifuges to process whirlpool tank bottoms to reduce losses, improve yield, and reduce fresh-water consumption during whirlpool cleaning. They also offer an extensive range of process equipment designed to optimize many of the operations in brewing.

Learn more how you can improve your brewery’s profitability while also improving the sustainability of the process by speaking to our experts. You can find them here: