Hot side

Hot Water Source – A lot of hot water is needed to make beer. 170 degree water is much hotter than what comes out of your home hot water heater and requires special considerations to be used safely. The water can be heated via electrical heating elements in small to medium systems but steam or occasionally direct flame is needed for larger volumes of water.

Hot Liquor Tank – A tank to hold and heat water is common for brewhouses. It allows the brewer to prepare and hold significant amounts of hot water. It is useful to have the hot water tank that holds twice as much water as the batch size when brews are made in quick succession and it also enables recovery of the hot cooling water created during the wort cooling step.

On-demand Water Heater – These are very useful for small amounts of water, to boost the temperature of water for purposes such as sparging, or in place of the hot liquor tank in a small to medium size system. They can be quite energy efficient as a large mass of water is not maintained hot all of the time. On demand heaters are available in larger capacities and can be used to create lots of hot water if they have a sufficient source of steam, natural gas/propane, or a very large heating element. They can be also be used in conjunction with a hot water tank, serving to boost the water temperature as needed. For example the hot liquor tank could be kept at 154 degrees, with the on demand water heater boosting the heat of the water used for sparging to 170. The downside to using an on demand water heater in place of a hot liquor tank is that you cannot recover the water and heat that comes out of the wort chiller. It also makes water treatments more challenging.

Other Heat Options – Solar energy can be incorporated, and there are many methods for heat recovery available to save on energy costs. A turnkey brewery system will generally have a hot liquor tank. Adding complexity to the system or requiring the supplier to do things that are outside of their normal procedure will add cost to the system and may greatly extend the delivery time.

* Boilers are not always supplied! The supplier will have recommendations regarding the steam output requirements but the purchase and especially the installation of the boiler is almost always the responsibility of the prospective brewer.

Mash Tun – A vessel used to hold a mixture of milled malt and hot water to enable the enzymatic conversion of the starch to fermentable sugars. While many breweries just combine malt and hot water and get by with a single temperature infusion mash, it is highly preferable to have the ability to heat the mash to 170 degrees in the mash tun. A mixing arrangement is needed to prevent temperature variations. The infamous canoe paddle is typically only used with smaller systems. (Note – canoe paddles have been successfully used on 20+ bbl systems).

Lauter Tun – A vessel used to separate the sugary wort from the non-soluble portions of the malt, the spent grain. It usually has a false bottom with slots in it. The arrangements for mixing, kniving the grain bed, and spent grain removal vary greatly in sophistication and cost. Your brewer will greatly appreciate a high quality kniving and grain removal apparatus on a larger system.

Mash/Lauter Tun – The mash tun and lauter tun are combined into one vessel. This works well and lowers the initial system cost. The main drawbacks are in the lower heating efficiency of the mash tun and in the longer brew cycle if scheduling successive brews is needed. If you do not start out with separate mash and lauter tuns, you could reserve space in your brew house and add the mash tun later (using the mash/lauter tun as a dedicated lauter tun at that time).

Brew Kettle – A vessel dedicated to the boiling of wort. It often has a whirlpool feature built in to aid in the removal of trub and hop residue prior to the cooling step. Considerations need to be made for the use of pelletized versus whole hops and how they will be separated from the boiled wort.

Whirlpool Tank – The addition of a separate whirlpool tank speeds up the brewhouse when brewing two or more batches per day. It enables the brewer to fill the kettle with runoff from the lauter while whirlpooling and cooling the wort from the prior brew. The brew kettle and whirlpool kettle are commonly combined into a single vessel.

Heat Exchangers – A heat exchanger, also known as a wort chiller, is used to quickly and efficiently cool the wort after boiling down to the desired fermentation temperature. It is important for the wort chiller to be able to achieve the results promised by the supplier. The full kettle of wort represents a large mass of BTUs. It takes a lot of cooling power to take a brew from 200+ degrees down to lager fermentation temperature and you will want it to be achieved in under an hour. The ease of properly cleaning and sterilizing the wort chiller is also a critical consideration.

One Stage Heat Exchanger – A single stage heat exchanger uses a single media to cool the wort. This can be fresh incoming water, cold water from a cold water tank, glycol from the cooling system or, more rarely, refrigerants such as Freon or ammonia. Water is generally saved to the hot liquor tank to reuse the heat recovered from the wort. It is unusual to use glycol or refrigerant on a one stage heat exchanger due to the high energy costs and extraordinarily large refrigeration systems required.

Two Stage Heat Exchanger – Two stage heat exchangers relieve the cooling load on the system. The first stage is usually incoming cold tap water that is directed into the hot liquor tank as it comes out of the heat exchanger, now quite hot. The second stage cooling medium will be cold water or glycol. The first stage will do the lion’s share of the cooling, with the second stage bringing it down the final 10 degrees or so. A common problem can be that the cooling step puts such a large load on the glycol system that the cooling to the fermenters and brite tanks is affected. It is important to size the glycol system to support the wort chilling. It is common to temporarily cut off glycol flow to the fermentation and brite tanks during knock-out.


Wort Grant – This is a system that collects the wort from several areas under the lauter tun. It allows for a finer control of the runoff to the kettle, which helps prevent compaction of the grain bed in the mash tun.

Hop Back – This is a setup to infuse big hop flavor and aroma into your wort as it leaves the kettle after the boil. This prevents the leafy material from clogging the heat exchanger used to cool the wort on its way to the fermenter.

Control Systems – Automation can be wonderful when it’s done right and works well. Each step of the brewing process can be automated and interconnected. Human error and variation can almost be removed from the equation. The degree of automated control desired is a definite choice. The control of the time and temperature profile of the mash is relatively simple. The complexity and costs increase greatly when you automate the lautering, spent grain removal and boiling steps. Make sure you have supplier support available for the installation and operation of any control system.