History of beer filtration

Filtration of beer is quite a new development, considering the 6,000 year old history of brewing. The first beer filter was presented at a brewing exhibition in Munich in 1880 by German developer Lorenz Adelbert Enzinger. The filter was designed in a horizontal configuration, with individual plates having inlet and outlet channels, similar to modern plate and frame filters. Back then, the plate material was black iron; valves and meters where made from copper and brass. Filter media was made of paper leaves which had to be changed after each filtration.

The next generation of beer filters was developed early in the 1900′s, again by Enzinger. This filter was a vertical design using brass bowls (Enzinger Schalen) to house pulp cakes. Pulp cake was prepared from cotton fibers mixed with asbestos. The main advantage of pulp filtration was the possibility to re-use the material for 3 to 5 filtration batches, reducing labor and downtime. Once spent, the pulp cake was removed from the brass bowls, rinsed and reprocessed in a pulp press to make new cakes. Pulp filtration was the first recycling technology used in a brewery; however it required high water consumption and labor.

Pulp filtration dominated the brewing industry until 1930, when the first Diatomaceous Earth (DE) filter was proven in the US. Shortly after WWII, US, English and Japanese breweries adopted the process and made DE filtration industry standard for primary beer clarification.

The first design for DE filters was based on a plate and frame filter using support sheets. Soon following, Schenk (today Pall Food & Beverage) introduced the horizontal leaf filter and Enzinger developed the candle type DE filter. These three filters, while improved from early models, remain the most common platforms for primary filtration in breweries. Recent advances in beer filtration technology are based on cross-flow membrane systems, which eliminate the use of DE as a filter aid. Drivers for this DE-free movement are primarily the health risks and logistics of DE handling and increasing awareness about solid waste disposal, water consumption and production efficiency.