How to reduce brewery running costs

Dominic Smith, Director at Collective Motion Brewing, offers advice on the steps that brewers can take to reduce their running costs amid the ongoing energy crisis.

The prospect of energy bills substantially increasing from April is a major concern for countless breweries and cider producers. The government has confirmed the next stage of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme for businesses is being allocated £5.5bn over a year, compared with the original scheme’s £18bn for six months.

The cut still offers some support, but thousands of pubs and breweries will still face a huge uphill struggle. Thankfully, breweries can undertake a range of measures to significantly reduce their running costs.

Simple steps

Keeping equipment in good shape can deliver valuable annual savings. For example, a simple check of the temperature sensor for calibration could save a few hundred pounds per year. Making sure the heating element is descaled is also an effective step. Limescale build-up can dissipate the heat and prevent correct heat transfers between water and heating elements.

Look for leaks

Checking for leaks can make a huge difference. Leaky compressed air pipes make compressors work harder and use more electricity to perform. Water valves should also be kept leak-free. Investing in water-saving technologies can deliver savings in the long-term. Automated washing machines such as cask washers, keg washers, and CIP systems can reuse grey water to pre-rinse containers/tanks and save water that would otherwise go to drain. 

Chemical dosing

Maintaining correct chemical dosing is also important in increasing efficiency and reducing expense. It’s worth introducing a standard operating procedure to ensure that the process is consistent. Alternatively, the built-in consistency of automatic dosing equipment is another investment that will deliver long-term returns, saving hundreds of pounds in overdosed chemicals as well as being more environmentally responsible.

A unified approach

We advise many brewers to review their processes across both production and packaging. It’s rarely given much thought in the busy day-to-day running of a brewing business, but a thorough review can form the basis of a standard operating procedure, which is a superb way of unifying the approach across all teams and functions. Generating a skill matrix helps to ensure the best coverage of skills across all departments and shifts, thereby increasing efficiencies and reducing waste. It’s worth getting in touch with machinery and raw material suppliers to see if there is a skill gap in the operation of a certain piece of machinery which may need addressing with a ‘toolbox talk’ or a refresher course. 

Bespoke equipment changes

In some cases, bespoke changes to equipment configurations can make facilities more energy-efficient. One such example is a project we carried out for Cockermouth-based Bottled in Cumbria. The company needed to install a single-head keg machine, but prohibitive costs and a limited electric supply precluded the use of a large electric steam generator or a gas-fired steam generator to supply hot water for the detergent set.  

As an alternative to feeding mains cold water to the detergent set and steam-heating it, we developed a system which used a separate hot water tank to feed pre-heated water. The tank offers added value as an efficient means to heat bulk amounts of water for cleaning and other internal processes. It delivers greater efficiency through dual use and a less energy-intensive system in service of the detergent set. It’s a solution which has the potential to serve the same purpose for many other brewing facilities.

Cold rinse techniques

Brewers can also consider trialling cold rinsing techniques to dramatically reduce energy costs. We recently worked with a microbiological laboratory on a series of tests carried out at Workington-based Tractor Shed Brewing to determine whether decreasing the rinse temperature applied to kegging equipment would increase the risk of microorganisms and product contamination. The results showed there was no significant difference between a hot rinse and cold rinse when followed by the steam sterilisation cycle.

A combination of factors determines levels of cleanliness – time, temperature, the turbulence and velocity of fluids and the chemical strength and composition of fluids. The tests showed that a reduction in temperature can be compensated by the other factors.

Preventative maintenance 

We would advise brewing businesses of all sizes to conduct a periodic health check on their facilities and service their machines on a regular basis. Costly downtime or product recalls are the last things that breweries need in these challenging times. Yearly maintenance or, better still, a structured programme of Planned Preventative Maintenance will help to avoid the emergence of a fault or breakdown in equipment, providing peace of mind in the knowledge that facilities will remain in smooth operation.

The energy crisis is giving pubs and breweries a major headache, but giving some thought to their operating procedures and applying a little TLC to their equipment can alleviate a lot of the pain.

For further guidance on how to save on running costs, please Collective Motion Brewingtoday:

Dominic Smith

Email [email protected]

Tel 07857 347472