Guide to Air Compressors for Microbreweries

Posted on: May 24, 2021

If you know anything about brewing beer, you probably know the main ingredients. Water, yeast, hops and grains create the base of countless brews. But there’s another essential component you might not have considered — air.

As you prepare to start a microbrewery or enhance your current setup, you’ll probably wonder — what equipment is needed for a microbrewery? And the answer includes an air compressor, or perhaps various air compressors, depending on your operations. In this guide to air compressors for microbreweries, you’ll discover how operations from microbreweries to at-home brewing use these machines. We’ll also help you decide which systems could work best for your business or hobby. Read on for more information about air compressors and microbreweries and how to use these systems in home applications.

Air Compressor Uses in Breweries

You may be starting a microbrewery or considering amping up current production with air compressors for brewing. In that case, you might be wondering what you can use the machinery for. Brewing beer is a complex process that takes lots of time, ingredients, steps and care. Air compressors make many parts of the process more streamlined, which helps your production time and efficiency. Some common air compressor uses in breweries include:

  • Moving: Compressed air makes moving beer from conditioning tanks to bottling or canning machines easier. Air compressors help keep the lines clear and dry between moving batches. You can then easily transport beer in various stages throughout your facilities.
  • Aerating: As beer ferments, yeast needs oxygen to help convert sugars into alcohol. Air compressors deliver that vital oxygen in a controlled, clean and efficient way. The result is better control of the fermenting process.
  • Clarifying: When you remove solids from beer, you eliminate the hazy look. That creates a clearer appearance and a cleaner taste, which many beer lovers appreciate. Breweries have air compressors to power centrifuges that clarify the beer and create quality results.
  • Cleaning: Compressed air helps clean equipment used throughout a microbrewery. Clean equipment means there’s less risk of contamination from previous batches or other materials. Brewers clean tanks, kegs, bottles, lines and other components with compressed air to ensure they don’t have to toss batches of beer.

Best Air Compressors for Brewing

With all those uses for air compressors in microbreweries, you should consider adding one or more to your operation. There are many types of air compressors out there to consider. Some options are more versatile than others, while certain air compressors work best for specific uses in a brewery. Consider these three types of air compressors for use in a brewery based on their functions, qualities and purposes:

Oil-Free Air Compressors

To reduce the risk of contamination during the aeration and moving processes, choose an oil-free air compressor. Industries from food and beverage to textiles and electronics choose oil-free machines because they require oil-free air for clean operations. With an oil-free air compressor, you reduce the risk of contaminating batches of beer, which you’d have to toss. That would waste your product, your time and your money. Instead, you’ll end up with a clean product that has a pure taste. You can then bottle that batch and pass it on to customers.

You can find food-grade oil that some manufacturers use, but you shouldn’t select that for air compressors that contact the beer. When oil goes into your brew mixture, you risk killing the yeast and flattening the froth or head. Again, that ruins a batch of your brew, meaning you have to toss it out and start over. Your best choice is to use oil-free air compressors for any application that contacts your beer throughout the brewing process.

Rotary Screw Air Compressors

Rotary screw air compressors are a popular choice, especially for breweries. They’re versatile, efficient and long-lasting, and they provide a consistent flow and quiet operation. You get high pressure that you require throughout various brewing processes. Rotary screw air compressors are suitable for long-term applications and can operate all day throughout brewing hours or operating hours at a brewpub.

Part of what makes rotary screw air compressors useful for long-term operations is that they’re easy to maintain. Some models have 70% fewer components than other air compressor options. That means you won’t have to worry about small components breaking down often and having to replace them. With a simpler construction, rotary screw air compressors can save you time and money.

With those benefits and versatility, you may choose a rotary screw air compressor for your brewing processes. Most rotary screw air compressors use an oil-flooded system. Avoid using them for aeration or cleaning certain pieces of brewing equipment. Instead, use a rotary screw air compressor to operate a centrifuge for clarifying purposes or other tools that don’t directly contact the beer.

Reciprocating Air Compressors

These machines are also called piston air compressors. They’re common in general manufacturing and packaging applications. A brewery may use reciprocating air compressors to help wash kegs and to use in other low-pressure applications, as well. If you do choose a reciprocating air compressor for your brewing process, use it only for pneumatic tools or cleaning tasks because oil and moisture may leak into the lines. You’ll most often see reciprocating compressors in small microbreweries rather than larger operations.

If you do want a reciprocating air compressor for your brewing needs, you may have to choose between single-stage and two-stage models. They work in similar ways, with a piston moving up and down to fill the upper part of a cylinder. The cylinder moves upward, compressing air and creating pressure. Most systems are single-stage, meaning they have one piston and one cylinder. But you’ll also find two-stage options with two pistons in their own cylinders. The machine can then maximize the strength of the two cylinders.

As you look for air compressors for your brewery, you could see natural gas compressors and multistage air compressors as possible options. Natural gas compressors are more suitable for manufacturing and chemical plants. Multistage varieties are often used in auto repair. Select from the above options for your brewery needs, instead. Pick one type for different operations or select many for various functions. Ensure you get an oil-free air compressor for jobs that require contact with your beer.

 

Choosing the Right Air Compressor for Your Brewery

Air compressors come in various types, sizes and powers. Ultimately, what you select will depend on your specific needs. Every brewery is different, whether you’re a microbrewery or a brewpub. To choose the right air compressor for your brewery, you should consider:

  • Your budget: Getting any kind of equipment for your operations should involve evaluating your budget. Factor in short- and long-term costs when you consider your budget, as well. An air compressor comes with an initial cost, but you’ll also have to pay for power, maintenance and repairs down the line.
  • Your machinery preferences: When you decide to get machinery, you’ll have to choose between new and used air compressors. Consider what you prefer for your operations as well as your budget for this decision. A used machine will likely have a lower up-front cost but could have higher costs in power and repairs over time. A new one will have a higher up-front cost, but you could save money on power with an efficient system.
  • Your production needs: If you’re a larger brewery, you’ll want air compressors that can handle a lot of demand. For a smaller business or one starting out, select a smaller machine that will save you money and provide the amount of pressure and power you need. If you select the wrong size and pressure output for your needs, you may impact your efficiency. A smaller air compressor for large jobs will have to work harder, which means it could break down more often. A larger machine for smaller productions will use more power than you need, increasing energy costs.
  • Your facilities: Remember how much space you have for new machinery when you buy an air compressor. Combine that consideration with your production needs to determine the size of the equipment you get. You can also decide if you need a storage tank and how big that tank should be. Try to place your air compressor somewhere with clean air to keep the system’s filters maintained longer.
  • Your return on investment (ROI) concerns: You may want to focus on getting equipment that offers a positive ROI for your brewery. In that case, you should select an efficient air compressor that won’t incur high power costs. Rotary screw air compressors typically offer the highest efficiency over other options, giving them the best ROI. You could improve that ROI by getting a new machine, as well.

Air Compressors for Homebrewing

With a deep love for and interest in beer, you may have tried homebrewing in the past, or perhaps you want to get into it now. Homebrewing is an exciting process where you control what goes into your brew. The result is a homemade version of your favorite beverage that you can give as a gift or enjoy yourself to celebrate the work you put into it. An essential part of homebrewing is to have all the right equipment on hand, and that can include an air compressor.

Homebrewers most often use air compressors for bottling their brews. The machines move homebrew from conditioning tanks or containers to the bottles. You can also use an air compressor to ensure your lines are clear of moisture, just as a microbrewery would do.

When you choose an air compressor for homebrewing, you won’t need the same specs a microbrewery or other industrial setups need. Instead, you’ll want one that’s suitable for home use. Compare air compressors for homebrewing, and consider selecting one that’s:

  • Quiet: Maybe you have other household members or neighbors close by. You don’t want to disturb them with the sounds of industrial-grade air compressors. You also don’t want to deal with distracting loud noises as you’re trying to create or bottle your homebrew.
  • Affordable: Since you can’t legally sell homebrewed beer, you have to spend your own money on homebrew equipment rather than subtracting from sales. A big appeal of brewing your own beer is saving money on what you’d usually spend on store-bought brews. You don’t want to waste those potential savings by buying a machine that’s too big and expensive for your needs.
  • Portable: You likely don’t have an industrial-sized space to store your homebrewing equipment. You might be working in a garage, workshop, basement or somewhere similar. You might even have to bounce from space to space, depending on where you have room in your house to work. In that case, a small or portable air compressor will be best. It’ll be easy to store it in your workspace, and you can transport it to different areas with ease.
  • Versatile: Perhaps you have household power tools or other things you could use an air compressor for. Selecting a versatile machine will help you get your money’s worth and justify your purchase. Most air compressors for home use are designed for tools and similar attachments, anyway. So as long as you keep the components for homebrewing clean, you can use an air compressor as a multitasker.

With all that in mind, the best air compressors for homebrewing will be portable versions. Portable air compressors are efficient yet small. They come in the perfect package for home and do-it-yourself purposes, thanks to their assembly. These machines most often feature a single-stage design with one valve and piston. Their design also means they’re lighter, making them easy to move. You should note that their size does impact how much power they can put out. Because of that, portable air compressors are better for home use than demanding industrial projects.

Contact Quincy Compressor for More Information About Air Compressors for Brewing

Whether you’re trying a new hobby at home or need equipment for a microbrewery, Quincy Compressor is here to help. Our products provide premium performance, no matter your industry. You’ll get everything from reliable machines to high-quality parts and service with us. And if you’re not sure what type of compressor would work for you, our knowledgeable air experts are happy to offer some advice.

Contact us today to learn more about how Quincy’s air compressors play a role in brewing. Discover what equipment will work best for you with our expertise.