Cypress Brewing, a three-year-old brewery based in Edison, N.J., produces several different varieties of beer, including IPAs, stouts and porters. Best sellers include Insane in the Grain, 17 Mile and Runway Model. As a result of its success, the brewery’s owners decided to increase beer output 10 times — from a two-barrel system to a 20-barrel system. Each barrel produces approximately 31 gallons of beer.

“This was a major expansion, and adding the much larger vessels required us to move from an electric heating elements system to a more robust and precise steam-heating system,” said Charlie Backmann, co-owner of Cypress Brewing.

The Cypress Brewing team tapped Canada-based Diversified Metal Engineering (DME) Brewing Solutions, an experienced systems designer in the craft beer industry, to specify the requirements for the new system. A design/build firm, DME Brewing Solutions offers planning, design, fabrication and management functions. It has handled hundreds of projects for craft brewing customers globally.

Following a design assessment and development process, DME recommended that Cypress implement a steam-heating system to replace its electric heaters. DME provided the necessary BTU ratings and blueprints for the design. Backmann chose a local boiler technician to specify the boiler model and handle the installation of the new steam system. David LaBar, owner of DL Mechanical of Port Reading, N.J., reviewed the design parameters provided by DME and recommended Cypress install a Weil-McLain 88 Series. The cast-iron, low pressure steam boiler would offer ease of maintenance and thermal efficiencies up to 85.7 percent. Also, it is suitable for single- or multiple-unit systems, LaBar noted.

“The boil kettle required about 550,000 BTUs, but we wanted to exceed the heating load requirements to give us some room for future growth,” said LaBar. “The 88 Series boiler is rated at 1,050,000 BTUs.”

LaBar also specified a power plant with gas burner as part of the system.

Steam System Design

In a low pressure steam brewery operation, the boiler converts water into steam. This steam enters the steam main and travels to the boil kettle and the hot liquor tank (a vessel that holds only water) and heats the water. The steam then enters jackets inside the boil kettles, where it unleashes its latent heat.

According to Backmann, there are three different jackets inside the boil kettle, depending on the amount of beer being brewed. “The steam starts in the very bottom jacket, which makes up about five barrels,” said Backmann. “The next level jacket is five barrels to 10 barrels, and the last one on top is 15 to 20.”

A low pressure steam system operates between 10 and 12 psi. Most breweries require a minimum of 10 pounds of steam pressure, which is equivalent to about 240°F (116°C) for the boil.

According to Backmann, an advantage of steam heating is its ability to offer precise levels of heat. “Many larger breweries use steam versus direct fire or electric,” said Backmann. “Electric heat is very direct and constant and, when crafting beer, you can actually scorch some of the wort — the sweet infusion of ground malt or other grain before fermentation — which can alter flavors.”

To add efficiencies to the system, LaBar designed it to include two 5” steam risers from the boiler into a 6” drop header to provide the dry steam. This design ensures the steam used in the process is extremely dry. “The dryer the steam, the more efficient the system,” said LaBar.

Once the kettle condenses the steam, it releases the condensate via float-and-thermostatic (F&T) steam drip traps to a condensate receiver and pump that moves the condensate to a boiler feed pump. The boiler feed pump returns the condensate to the boiler when the water level falls low enough. A total of seven F&T traps were used: three on the boil kettle and one each on the hot liquor tank, the end of the steam main drip, the kettle riser drip and the hot liquor tank riser drip.

Brewery Cheers Benefits

With installation complete, brewery owners brought in inspectors to approve the work so the brewery operations could resume. The Cypress Brewing operation is now in full swing with the production process from start to ready-to-drink brews taking about 28 days on average.

The entire process is automated via a computer. It manages the temperatures and the solenoid valves the control the steam entering the coils.

Backmann reported that one major benefit of the new process is there is less charring of the beer.

“Before, with the lighter beers, we sometimes tasted a slight burnt flavor in the background because the electric element came in direct contact with the beer,” said Backmann. “Now that the vessel itself is jacketed, there is a much better dispersion of the heat. Everything is very balanced and heats from the bottom all of the way to the top.”

According to Backmann, steam heat also is more cost effective than electric heat. “The overall cost for boiling is substantially cheaper via steam versus electricity,” said Backmann. “Plus, with steam heat, there is no waste, which also is a plus.”

Most importantly for the manufacturer, Cypress Brewery customers are now enjoying even more cold-brew options. “We are getting great batches of beer,” said Backmann. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the new steam system and boiler.”