Getting the Most Out of Your Compressor: A Guide for Breweries

Posted on: March 6, 2020

Compressed air is a mainstay in almost any independent or craft brewery. You likely already take steps to keep your boilers, hoppers, fermentation tanks and other equipment working its best — shouldn’t you be doing the same for your air compressor?

In this article, we look at some easy ways to make your brewery more efficient by taking care of your air compressor. Keep reading to learn more!

Why Is Efficiency Important for Breweries?

There is no shortage of great reasons why compressor efficiency should be a priority for any brewery. Here are three key ones:

  • Lower expenses: A more efficient brewery is, ultimately, a more cost-effective one. Even with a great product, overhead expenses can mean the difference between running a profitable business and barely scraping by. This is especially true in the world of craft beer, where demand often requires running equipment around the clock. If you rely on a compressor at any stage of the brewing or bottling process — or even for general maintenance and cleaning — a more efficient air compressor means lower fuel costs, which in turn means more profit to invest in your business.
  • Longer equipment life: A compressor should be efficient — machines that burn more fuel have increased maintenance requirements and, in all likelihood, a shorter lifespan. Choosing the right machine for the task — and keeping it running its best through regular preventative maintenance — will ensure your investment in a quality compressor is one that will deliver years of cost-effective, trouble-free use. It’s also worth it to look into extended warranty coverage when shopping for a new machine.
  • Improved reputation: As a craft brewery, your customers are a savvy bunch — they respond to passion and respect businesses that work outside the mainstream. While there’s no requirement that independent brewers have to be proactive about protecting the environment, these are the efforts that discerning customers respond to. Taking steps to manage your overall footprint sets you apart from the competition and establishes your company as one that is committed to doing the right thing.

Clearly, there are benefits to making your brewery more efficient. While there are a lot of ways to get started with this, you’ll see the most immediate benefit by focusing on your big-ticket machines. Here are four tips for keeping your air compressor working its best.

Tip #1: Choose the Right Machine for the Job

Compressors are most fuel efficient when running at between 50-75% of their rated capacity. While an underpowered machine can slow productivity or cause other issues, choosing too large a compressor will lead to wasted fuel and higher operating costs. Your first step in buying a new compressor should be to take a thorough account of your compressed air needs and select a machine that will deliver the pressure, capacity and horsepower you need to get the job done right.

Since compressed air plays a number of roles in the typical brewery — including bottling, keg washing and more — choosing a variable speed compressor may be your best bet. Get in touch with a Quincy representative to learn more about your options.

Tip #2: Look for Hidden Sources of Waste

There are a number of ways an air compressor’s efficiency can be compromised without your knowing it. Disconnect any equipment that isn’t in use from your compressor. If you use a variable speed unit, make sure it is set to the correct pressure for each task.

You should also be vigilant about shutting down your compressor when it isn’t needed. Be sure to check at the end of the day and before going on break to be sure it has been powered off completely.

Tip #3: Use Compressed Air Only When You Need It

An air compressor is a tool designed for use in specific situations. It should be treated like any other type of specialized equipment and used only for its intended purpose. For smaller operations, tasks such as labeling, sealing, warming and rinsing may be more cost-effective — and energy efficient — to perform by hand. If you’re serious about running a more efficient brewery, conducting a thorough energy audit is the best way to start.

Tip #4: Make Preventative Maintenance a Priority

Preventative maintenance is by far the most important thing you can do to improve the efficiency of your compressor — and overall brewery. Perform a thorough inspection for leaks and make sure filters and other hardware are changed according to the manufacturer’s specifications. In addition to improving the efficiency of your compressor, you’ll also extend its life and reduce the risk of a sudden breakdown bringing your productivity to a halt.

Ultimately, every operation is different, and the steps it takes to improve efficiency will vary according to the size and nature of your business. How do you keep your brewery running efficiently? Let us know in the comments section.