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Help me choose a boiler for my brewery!

Frank_the_Tank Member Posts: 20
edited July 2016 in Strictly Steam
Hello Wall,

This forum has been a great resource for me as I restore the steam heating system in my house. I would love to pull on that same expertise as I finalize the steam system design for the brewery I am opening up in Downtown Cleveland, OH.

We just sent the first progress payment on our 100% American-made 20 barrel brewhouse, consisting of:

1 steam-jacketed brew kettle with an internal calandria (fancy name for a steam to water heat exchanger inside of the kettle). This is where the beer is boiled with the hops for 60-90 minutes prior to cooling and transferring to the fermenters.

1 steam-jacketed mash mixer, where pre-heated hot water is mixed with the grains to convert starches to sugars. This vessel hangs out in the temperature range of 120F - 165F.

1 insulated 40 barrel tank for hot water. There is a pump-driven circulation loop that pushes this water through a steam to water heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is rated for 150 PSI steam. The steam jackets on the previously-mentioned vessels are rated at 15 PSI.

Other information:
The brewhouse manufacturer claims a maximum steam consumption of 1150 lbs per hour. In practice, it would be really rare to see that amount of steam being consumed at the same time. In the middle of a brew day, the system would be consuming closer to 600 lbs per hour.

The local gas company agreed to snake a high pressure gas line through the old low pressure black iron line at no cost to us, so now we have 47,000,000 BTU /hr available to us as opposed to the measly 2,500,000 we had before.

The building we are leasing was built in 1921 and used to be heated by a massive coal-fired steam boiler in a small basement. We would like to put this boiler down there, as we don't have any other use for the basement and we are trying to preserve as much space on the first floor as possible. The basement is very close to the brewhouse.

Access to this basement is rather limited. The freight elevator doesn't go down into it. The coal chute, which has been bricked in, doesn't have great access for swinging in a boiler because the HVAC unit is in the way and the vertical clearance is a bit tight. My two options for getting equipment into the basement is to cut through the concrete floor and create an access hatch between the joists, which are 44'' at the widest. This clearance greatly restricts the style of boiler that I can get down there.

The other option is to deconstruct the brick wall that forms one side of the stairwell into the basement, temporarily remove the staircase, and drop it down that way. In this scenario, we have 60'' of width to work with, but my gut tells me this avenue for rigging will be more expensive than the access hatch.

Based on my discussions with other brewers, I'm leaning towards a high pressure boiler around 30 to 40 HP. This would allow me to send the full 15 PSI to the kettles to get the most heat energy into the process as possible. With a low pressure boiler, I would be stuck with about 12 PSI.

Another benefit of using a high pressure boiler is getting very consistent and dry steam at the point of use by running the boiler at a pretty high pressure, say between 80 and 115 PSI, and using a pressure reducing valve to step down to 15 PSI. This allows the boiler and the high pressure piping to act as a steam reservoir.

If I go with the floor hatch option, I need a boiler with a pretty narrow diameter. I am looking at the Hurst VIX vertical series. The 40HP shell is 42.8'' in diameter without any trim on it. Very open to suggestions and opinions on vertical boilers.

Very little steam/condensate is lost in the brewhouse, so very little makeup water will be required aside from what is lost during blowdowns and general evaporation.

We actually have a district steam heating system in downtown, but the cost of the steam was wildly expensive per unit, and although I wouldn't need a boiler if I used it, I still needed $50,000 of piping and controls to get the steam to where I needed it.

Now, for the questions:

Our brewhouse manufacturer has said that some of their customers pipe high pressure steam over to the steam to water heat exchanger that provides hot water to the 40 barrel storage tank. This allows them to heat up the water very quickly in the morning for the brew day. This sounds like it would make my steam and condensate systems rather complex. From what I read online, I would need a pressure reducing valve for the kettles @ 15 PSI, and then I wouldn't use a PRV for this heat exchanger. My condensate returns would be at two different pressures, which I think means I would need two different condensate receiver tanks, each with their own pump to get the water back into the boiler. I am also concerned that when this heat exchanger called for steam, that it could starve the PRV that feeds the kettles, as it is very efficient at collapsing steam. Thoughts on this?

Does anyone have any experience with vertical boilers?

I am planning on purchasing whatever water treatment system I need to ensure I never need to haul this thing back out of the basement. With as little water as this system will be consuming, I'm not too concerned about the cost. Does anyone have any recommendations for water treatment equipment suppliers?

What brand and style of steam traps should I be using for the kettles and on the outlet of the steam to water heat exchanger? What sort of air vents and vacuum breakers do I use in this commercial setting?

Since I am using the boiler and the piping before the pressure reducing valve as an accumulator, is there much benefit to buying a fancy 5:1 turndown power burner vs the standard hi-low fire burner? My thought is that I would be in high fire until I reach 100 PSI or so, then kick to low fire, then back to high fire if the boiler pressure drops to 80 PSI or so. Turn the burner off completely if I hit 120 PSI.

Anyone have any thoughts on boiler sizing, between 30- 40 HP? Obviously the 40 HP would cover my needs by being able to produce 1380 lbs/hr, but the 30 can produce just under my peak requirements @1035 lbs/hr. Everyone in the brewing industry tells me get a bigger boiler if you can. Obviously this conflicts with what I've learned on this site regarding residential boiler sizing.

My only thought with possibly getting the 30 HP model is that I could accumulate enough steam on the high pressure side of the system to ride out any rare periods of very high steam consumption.

If you'e read this far, I really appreciate it. There are certainly beer and t shirts available for those who can help out a fellow steam enthusiast!

For those who are interested, our website is mastheadbrewingco.com and our Facebook page is www.facebook.com/MastheadBrewingCo/ . We'll be open this fall.




  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,880
    Better check with the local code department, many jurisdictions require an operator when over 15#'s.

    Personally i would go with 2 boilers with each being able to handle 60% of capacity. This gives you a back up if and when needed.

    As far as chillers were having great results dealing with G&D Chillers.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,688
    edited July 2016
    If it were me, the only recommendation I would take from anyone online would be to hire a professional mechanical engineer to design it, and pick someone from the wall who has the proper experience to install, maintain, troubleshoot and fix this system.
    I can't imagine any jurisdiction would allow installation/operation without an engineers stamp on some blueprints. This also protects you.
    As far as access, consider something more permanent. If you ever have to replace a section or the whole boiler, time is of the essence and you don't want to get caught waiting for a whole different crew of people to do/redo access.
    Also consider the water used in the system. I'd bet you need a consistent source for processing.
    And, you'll be making alot of steam and heat. Hopefully you can use that to heat other parts of the building, provide domestic hot water, electricity (power),etc.
  • Frank_the_Tank
    Frank_the_Tank Member Posts: 20
    Thanks for the perspective. Does anyone have any recommendations for engineers, local or not, who could design the system and stamp the drawings? I met with a few firms that have professional engineers on staff but none of them inspired any confidence in me that they could design a process steam system.
  • Sam81
    Sam81 Member Posts: 37
    We just installed a Fulton downshoot 80hp vertical boiler and the company was very helpful with designe and installation processes
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,880
    X-2 on Fulton
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,831
    District steam can be a bargain at any price. Larger industrial users than you often choose to purchase steam.
  • Frank_the_Tank
    Frank_the_Tank Member Posts: 20
    @jumper I did a lot of research on district steam, and many of my fellow brewers use it in other cities because it is more economical that producing your own. Unfortunately, here in Cleveland that is not the case. I met many boiler installers that have taken entire buildings off of the district steam system as savings projects that pay back in as little as 2.5 years vs district steam.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Engineering drawings should be available from the manufacturer or integrator, quite likely as part of the package.

    Cleveland? You're in luck https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/g-w-gill-plumbing-and-heating
  • Frank_the_Tank
    Frank_the_Tank Member Posts: 20
    @SWEI I have used Gerry a couple times for steam work around the house. He's great. I wasn't sure if he did commercial high pressure work. I'll give him a call.

    @Sam81 @pecmsg I just reached out to Fulton for more information and to meet with their local rep. Thanks for the recommendation!
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 953
    I have been doing some research for my new book on boilers for breweries and agree with the comments above and have a couple options to consider:
    Engineer: I would talk with an engineer or designer with specific experience on steam systems and hopefully one that knows breweries.

    Multiple Boilers I like using multiple boilers as well Pecmsg as it allows you to track the steam load of the building and you some backup in case of a malfunction. As you know, no one seems to stock parts.

    High Pressure Boiler An industry rule of thumb is to use a low pressure steam boiler if brewery is less than 50 Bbls and a high pressure one if greater than 50 bbls. If using a high pressure boiler, many municipalities require a full time operator and your insurance rates may be much higher for a high pressure boiler versus a low pressure boiler. For some insurance companies, high pressure means high liability. In some locales, you may not need a boiler room if they follow International Building Code Table 508.2.5.2009 which only requires a boiler room if the boiler is over 10 BHP and over 15 Psig.

    Dry Steam The key to a good system is to assure dry steam to the plant. I see many boilers with improper piping and the wet steam affects the rolling boil required for a brewery.

    Vertical Steam Boilers I like the vertical steam boilers and have sold the Triad ones for years with good success. They are now owned by Superior boiler and you could contact their local rep. I am familiar with Fulton and they seem to be a good piece of equipment.

    Type of Trap Armstrong recommends an Inverted Bucket or a F&T trap for a jacketed steam vessel.

    Good luck and hope this helped.
    Ray Wohlfarth

    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Erin Holohan HaskellSWEI
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Great to have Ray's experience here. I'll just add that based on what we have all come across in the field (and regardless of who engineers the job) I'd ask Gerry to review and comment on the proposed piping before I signed on the dotted line. Ensuring the delivery of dry steam across the full range of operating conditions is hardly rocket science, but the sad fact is that a majority of so-called experts these days don't actually have a clue how to do that.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,329
    SWEI said:

    Great to have Ray's experience here. I'll just add that based on what we have all come across in the field (and regardless of who engineers the job) I'd ask Gerry to review and comment on the proposed piping before I signed on the dotted line. Ensuring the delivery of dry steam across the full range of operating conditions is hardly rocket science, but the sad fact is that a majority of so-called experts these days don't actually have a clue how to do that.

    I'll second that. If anyone in or near Cleveland can pipe a boiler so it produces dry steam, Gerry can.

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,831

    @jumper I did a lot of research on district steam, and many of my fellow brewers use it in other cities because it is more economical that producing your own. Unfortunately, here in Cleveland that is not the case. I met many boiler installers that have taken entire buildings off of the district steam system as savings projects that pay back in as little as 2.5 years vs district steam.

    That's the boiler guys' version.And they're talking about heating a building. You're going to do much more. You need varying amounts of steam. You need to brew batches precisely. You need to clean equipment. With boilers you'll also have to operate and maintain them.

    So calculate your energy savings as a percentage of your over all budget.
  • Frank_the_Tank
    Frank_the_Tank Member Posts: 20
    @jumper As much as I wanted the district steam option to work for us, after about 10+ hours of spreadsheeting comparing the two options, it was wildly more expensive than producing my own steam, even taking into account maintenance on the boiler, amortization of the purchase of the boiler equipment, insurance, etc. Unfortunately my steam usage was tiny compared to the skyscrapers that use it for building heat, and our district steam company's rate on small users of steam is pretty awful. Pound for pound of steam relative to other districts, it's just very expensive here. They have had a lot of people drop off the network, they've been hit with sizable EPA fines for discharging waste into the Cuyahoga River, I've seen failed steam traps billowing steam into the street for months. etc. I have no other district steam system to compare it to, but it doesn't seem to be a highly functioning organization. It was a pretty big waste of time overall, but many things have been throughout this process of starting a company. Glad I did the due diligence up front to make the right decision. It's only my livelihood at stake! The guys up at Founder's Brewing in Grand Rapids love their district steam, but it's just a different situation.
  • Frank_the_Tank
    Frank_the_Tank Member Posts: 20
    @RayWohlfarth Thanks for the response. Glad to have your expertise here. I've gotten a lot of quotes from local firms who have done work at breweries, and for some reason, some of them start to see dollar signs every time a brewery is mentioned. I've had some quotes come in 3x of others for the exact same scope of work, which blows my mind. All of them have included stamped drawings. A few have a PE on staff or have a good working relationship with local engineering firms.

    Running tandem boilers certainly has its advantages. I'll have to take that under consideration as I move forward with this process. My gut feel is that purchasing and installing two smaller boilers would be maybe 30 - 40% more expensive overall than buying and installing one boiler, which would probably throw my CFO into convulsions. There's what's ideal, and there's what fits in the budget. My partners and I have had lively conversations along these same lines, and we typically find some middle ground that keeps the brewers and the finance guy reasonably happy.

    I'll have to find out tomorrow what the city / county requires for high pressure boilers with respect to operators. The Ohio Division of Industrial Compliance's website was no help. Our insurance company has more craft beer clients than any other, so they should be able to tell me if there is any increase in premium from low to high pressure.

    I emailed Gerry Gill, and although he is licensed for high pressure work, he no longer carries the insurance.

    Best of luck with your book!
  • Frank_the_Tank
    Frank_the_Tank Member Posts: 20
    I did confirm with the Ohio Division of Industrial Compliance that dedicated and trained boiler operators are only required when a steam boiler, low or high pressure, exceeds 360 sq ft of internal heat transfer surface. The boilers I am looking at aren't close to that.

    He mentioned that if a boiler has more than 360 sq ft of transfer surface, the 24/7 operator requirement can be waived if a qualified boiler tech keeps a daily log of the testing of the safety devices, blowdowns, etc, and if the boiler meets some sort of ASME qualification.

    My insurance agent said the insurance premium wouldn't change between the use of a low or high pressure boiler, which is nice.

    Thanks for the feedback so far!
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,831
    If they're still available,consider Lattner tubeless boilers. They're compact and I believe that factory will derate them. Testing is according to what ASME stamp says, not according to operating pressure. So the lower the pressure rating the easier it is to do pressure testing. It is easier to obtain a lower pressure boiler than to derate it afterword. Frankly if you don't need pressure boiler you should ask yourself why you want one. There are other ways to dry steam and low pressure accumulators aren't that expensive.
  • Sailah
    Sailah Member Posts: 826
    I would use F&T traps for your supply, inverted bucket traps aren't good for startup loads because their air venting is limited. If you were running 24/7 then they would be a great option.

    Most distilleries I have visited for work use F&T traps and I have to think their design would be very similar to yours.

    F&T traps vent very quickly especially considering the pressure you are running so you can get steam to your gear quickly

    We have a Hurst boiler at Barnes & Jones that runs 5am-3pm Monday-Friday year round. It's been very reliable. I dont know the model but it's 50psi.
    Peter Owens
  • Frank_the_Tank
    Frank_the_Tank Member Posts: 20
    @Sailah thanks for the info Peter. One of the vertical boilers on our short list is a Hurst, because the shell diameter is less than the 41'' clearance we have between our floor joists.

    I will be sure to spec out F&T traps for our kettles and heat exchanger. I am actually headed down to Kentucky in a couple weeks to visit a few distilleries to firm up our supply of used bourbon barrels and I will take note of whatever steam traps they are using.

    I've narrowed it down to a few boilers, based on the fact that we will be cutting an access hatch to the basement with a width of 41'':

    Hurst VIX Series vertical firetube boiler 30 HP

    Superior / Triad Series 1600

    And possibly the Lattner WLF series, depending on how easy the insulating jacket can be taken on and off: http://www.lattnerboiler.com/UserFiles/Literature/Lattner Boiler Company - WLF Brochure 2016.pdf

    Thanks to everyone for the recommendations so far. Let me know if there are any skinny vertical boilers out there that I am missing. Also if anyone has any experience or opinions to help me decide between the three of those, that would be much appreciated!
  • DavidMitten
    DavidMitten Member Posts: 16
    One thing regarding engineers and brewing processes: Chemical engineers are the ones to consult on design of such system. They design such processes, and actually have little to do with actual chemistry. I know this is an old post, but there is confusion and misunderstanding about the role of chemical engineers.