Author Topic: High gravity brewing to increase production volume  (Read 974 times)

Offline nateo

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High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« on: September 17, 2011, 03:08:03 PM »
High gravity brewing is something I've heard in passing that pro brewers use to effectively increase capacity. Basically, let's say you want to make 200L of a 1.050 beer, but you only have fermentor space for 100L. You would brew 100L of 1.100 beer then dilute post-fermentation to 200L.

For people whose business plan is to start out undercapitalized with a too-small system, this might be something to keep in mind while developing your recipes.
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Offline beer_crafter

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2011, 12:58:48 PM »
I don't understand where you you dilute the beer?  If your fermenter is only 100L where are you putting the 200L of diluted beer?

Offline nateo

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2011, 01:06:55 PM »
I don't understand where you you dilute the beer?  If your fermenter is only 100L where are you putting the 200L of diluted beer?

You couldn't do it if you only have one vessel to hold beer. You'd need to have some sort of bright tank or something pre-bottling or kegging. So with a 100L bright tank you'd transfer 50L of beer, add 50L of water, keg, then add the other 50L and 50L more of water. You'd have to rack and keg in one day to free up your fermentor again.

Or you could dilute in the individual kegs if you're kegging straight from the fermentor, but that would be a PITA.
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Offline EHall

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2011, 02:16:38 PM »
I've heard this is what budweiser does/have done....

I've added water after the boil to bring to where I need it if necessary... and I've heard of folks adding water after its fermented... I guess as long as you measure carefully you could pull it off...
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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2011, 02:39:00 PM »
I do a (moderately) concentrated boil since we have a 6 bbl kettle and 7 bbl fermenters, which is fairly common. I've never tried diluting post-fermentation though. I expect that the beer would taste quite a bit different from one fermented at the target OG, especially if the gravity was doubled. Of course, if there was no baseline for comparison, like in the case of a new brewery, that wouldn't matter.
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Offline Thirsty_Monk

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2011, 03:11:36 PM »
One thing to consider is post fermentation oxidation.
Water has some levels of desoled oxygen.
First you would have to boil it to sanitize it and remove the oxygen.
Then you have to chill it.
If you are deluding carbonated beer you would also have to carbonate the water.

It looks like a lot of trouble to do it on small scale.
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Offline nateo

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2011, 04:09:12 PM »
Yeah, it's not really a "Plan A" sort of setup. It's more of a "for financial reasons my brewery is too small for the production required" setup. Everything I've read about it says that when done properly, you can get reasonably good beer in much more volume, but it's no one's first choice. I do get the feeling that a lot of breweries do it. I'm not surprised at all Budweiser does/did it, with the volume they have to produce. 

I think if you formulated your recipes in advance specifically for this type of brewing, you could brew some good beer that way. Probably not as good as an adequately sized system, but still better than most.
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Offline The Professor

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2011, 04:38:25 PM »
On several occasions I've done  high grav brews which were later diluted (post fermentation) to anywhere from 150% to double the original volume.  Turned out great each time.  The only change to brewing factored in was to make the high grav brew very full bodied in order to keep the diluted product from being too 'thin'.

It's not something I want to do regularly, but for the times when I needed the extra volume for parties or other gatherings (especially where I knew that the majority of the people preferred "regular" beer) it worked out great. 

I didn't notice any oxidation issues...however the beer was always consumed rather quickly after dilution and carbing up, so I don't know what effect time would have had on the diluted beer (the post fermentation addition was always water boiled for an hour and cooled via counterflow when adding to the beer).
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jaybeerman

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2011, 09:17:30 PM »
On several occasions I've done  high grav brews which were later diluted (post fermentation) to anywhere from 150% to double the original volume.  Turned out great each time. 

Why did you choose to go with the post fermentation method? Why not avoid the issues of high(er) gravity fermentation by adding the water post boil? Was it due to fermenter space?   Anyway, I'm just curious - I've never done either style of dilution other than for minor corrections post boil. cheers, j

Offline Tim McManus

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2011, 09:41:44 PM »
Yeah, it's not really a "Plan A" sort of setup. It's more of a "for financial reasons my brewery is too small for the production required" setup. Everything I've read about it says that when done properly, you can get reasonably good beer in much more volume, but it's no one's first choice. I do get the feeling that a lot of breweries do it. I'm not surprised at all Budweiser does/did it, with the volume they have to produce.

Not always the best financial solution and in many cases it will cost more and cause more problems.  The amount of energy required to boil water is considerable.  You would need to fill your boil kettle a second time and chill the water prior to dilution.  Essentially you're using the same energy to boil just water, and you'd need to have a vessel large enough to blend the batch.  In-line dilution is impractical and you'd need an extremely expensive valve that would regulate the value aperture based on the flow rate of both the beer and the water.  Otherwise your in-line blending would be inconsistent.  These valves are electronically regulated and you'd need the flow sensors, the valve, and the electronics to run it all.

The blending that Bud does is not a 50% gravity reducer but rather a product consistency process.  If Budweiser has a FG of 1.010 and they have a batch that comes out as 1.012, they will dilute it down to 1.010.  It's not a large drop on gravity.  The most admirable thing about Budweiser is that it's identical from can to can anywhere in the world.  You might not like their product, but they've mastered product consistency better than most any other food manufacturer out there.

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2011, 07:48:37 AM »
You would need to fill your boil kettle a second time and chill the water prior to dilution.  Essentially you're using the same energy to boil just water, and you'd need to have a vessel large enough to blend the batch.  In-line dilution is impractical and you'd need an extremely expensive valve that would regulate the value aperture based on the flow rate of both the beer and the water.  Otherwise your in-line blending would be inconsistent.  These valves are electronically regulated and you'd need the flow sensors, the valve, and the electronics to run it all.

Since no one would have to be around to monitor the boil, you could set a timer to bring the water up to the boil at night when the kettle goes unused anyway (assuming you aren't running three shifts). The next day you'd have room temperature water ready to go. As far as blending, no reason you'd have to do it inline. Just keep an eye on your sight glass/volume markings/whatever during transfer or filtration, stop at the correct point, and top off with water. Maybe recirculate for a few minutes to get it mixed, if that turns out to be necessary. As someone else pointed out, you could also do it in two batches and avoid the need for a double-size bright tank.
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Offline The Professor

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2011, 08:11:18 AM »
On several occasions I've done  high grav brews which were later diluted (post fermentation) to anywhere from 150% to double the original volume.  Turned out great each time. 

Why did you choose to go with the post fermentation method? Why not avoid the issues of high(er) gravity fermentation by adding the water post boil? Was it due to fermenter space?   Anyway, I'm just curious - I've never done either style of dilution other than for minor corrections post boil. cheers, j

To be honest, I don't know why I chose post fermentation.  I never really gave it much thought.
I guess it initially began as an experiment when I poured a half glass of my Xmas Ale and topped it with seltzer just to see what the result would be.  Turned out it was rather tasty.

So as a result,  I saw no reason why it wouldn't work with an entire batch of strong beer (and in the end, it turned out I was correct... there was no reason for it not to work).   
As far as "issues" with higher gravity fermentation, I'm not sure what you mean, as I've never encountered any issues  (and I brew a fair amount of hi-grav beers). 

Of course,  each of the few times I did the dilution thing to have a double quantity of beer for a party, I always reserved a bit of the pre-dilution beer to savor later or to use occasionally as 'top up' ,when needed,  for other brews.
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jaybeerman

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2011, 08:39:08 AM »
it initially began as an experiment

As far as "issues" with higher gravity fermentation, I'm not sure what you mean, as I've never encountered any issues  (and I brew a fair amount of hi-grav beers). 

ah...enough said

I just meant that comparitively speaking, it's easier to produce a 1.038 beer than a 1.076 beer (less yeast needed, less stress on the yeast, etc which isn't that big of a deal)

I was mostly wondering if you had a specific reason

Offline Tim McManus

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2011, 10:03:24 AM »
Since no one would have to be around to monitor the boil, you could set a timer to bring the water up to the boil at night when the kettle goes unused anyway (assuming you aren't running three shifts). The next day you'd have room temperature water ready to go. As far as blending, no reason you'd have to do it inline. Just keep an eye on your sight glass/volume markings/whatever during transfer or filtration, stop at the correct point, and top off with water. Maybe recirculate for a few minutes to get it mixed, if that turns out to be necessary. As someone else pointed out, you could also do it in two batches and avoid the need for a double-size bright tank.

I was more referring back to the original poster's scenario of not wanting to purchase larger equipment and instead blending.  My assumption was since the scenario opted not to use larger tanks, he wouldn't have the capacity to hold all of the liquid to blend in-tank.

I also approached it financially, which adds some voodoo to the mix.

You have to ask yourself if the capital costs of larger tanks is greater than the additional cost of energy over time.  And to do this you need to see where those costs occur and how they are managed in a financial statement.

The tanks are initial capital costs which are depreciated over time.  It's usually a fixed value and very predictable.  The additional water and energy and labor required to create the dilution are part of the cost of good sold.  These are not fixed costs but are variable.  The cost of consumables and energy fluctuates with market prices.  So if one year it costs you $1.00 to brew a batch of beer, the next year it may cost you $1.05 to brew the same batch of beer.  With more variable costs the ability to predict and project profitability over time becomes less probable.  Additionally, the more batches you make the higher the labor cost because of the additional step of blending.  Even if it only increases labor by .5x, it's still a .5 increase with each batch.

Where does this burn you?  In your growth phase, which usually begins around years 3-4.  Inefficient business processes cost money and become expensive as you grow.  It's very difficult to improve efficiency during a growth phase, so capacity planning is key.  It's also very difficult to do.

It's understandable that if you don't have enough capital at the onset you may need to look at different kinds of business process to compensate.  However, part of your business plan should include a path to improve or correct those processes as an ongoing exercise  instead of realizing during a growth phase that you need even more capital to correct them.
Tim McManus
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Offline nateo

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Re: High gravity brewing to increase production volume
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2011, 10:14:34 AM »
I think Tim is entirely correct. Savvy business people plan for that sort of thing. I'd guess 10% of businesses are well planned and well run.

Probably 70% of businesses are poorly planned, under-capitalized, and go out of business quickly. The remaining 20% of businesses are poorly planned, under-capitalized, and somehow succeed despite all the reasons they should fail. I'd say high gravity brewing would be ideal for the latter 20%.

Here's the thread I read about it first. Some of the brewers say "don't ever do it" and some say "I did this and it turned out well enough"

http://www.probrewer.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=412&highlight=high+gravity+brewing

I do really agree with Tim, and can't stress enough how important having sufficient capital is. It's hard to turn a little bit of money into a fair amount of money, but it's relatively easy to turn a fair amount of money into a lot of money.

There are 5 other businesses within a mile of me that sell basically the same stuff I do. Business in the area is down about 15% this year, but my business is up 15%, mostly because I have enough cash to keep paying my supplier to keep stuff in stock, while my competitors are strapped for cash and can't keep their inventory up. I'm expanding while everyone else is contracting, so hopefully, if I'm in the first 10% and not the last 20%, that will mean when the economy picks up I'll be better positioned to make even more money.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2011, 10:25:41 AM by nateo »
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