Is your laboratory equipment up to scratch?

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Consistent beers are made by lab testing. In this Brewery Pro article the team at Spark Breweries provides a comprehensive checklist for laboratory equipment for every size of brewery.

Which style is best? I hate hoppy crap. This beer tastes way better than that beer? I can’t believe people drink that mass produced swill? Now that’s drinkability!

Have you ever heard similar phrases to these? I think you have because I certainly have. The truth of the matter is that someone’s experience with what they eat and drink is totally subjective and everyone’s palate is different. Some people might be dipping their toe into their first craft beer, while others are crushing double oat cream chocolate hot cross bun flavoured IPAs on the regular.

What undoubtedly is the most important aspect we can control as brewers is the consistency of our beers, so no matter what beer is preferred by our customers they can expect the same thing the next time they pick up a beer. How do we achieve consistency? Well that’s done in the Lab.  If you’re not measuring something it’s not science, I think that’s what my biology lecturer said…

What should I even be testing?

Enter the Analytica EBC if you want to know the best practice laboratory testing method and every test that is available to conduct within your brewery this is the place to go.

This will form the basis of your in house laboratory checks to maintain quality within your brewery. The relevance of a particular test is up to you, your process and the skills of those conducting the test.

Starting Small

What lab equipment does every craft brewery need at a minimum? 

  • Plato hydrometer & refractometer this can be inexpensive glass versions for the hydrometer and a simple or digital refractometer.
    • Inexpensive option:
      • a lab quality glass plato hydrometer for measuring apparent extract (FG) and a digital refractometer such as the Hanna instruments HI96841 for measuring original extract and mash extract (before fermentation), or brewhouse checks. Or
      • The Anton Par Easydens, which will do all your brewhouse and cellar checks all in one.
    • More expensive option: a DMA 35 Basic from Anton Paar which will also do all your brewhouse and cellar checks all in one.
  • Laboratory Thermometer
  • Laboratory pH meter and calibration buffer solutions
  • Trade weight certified scales
  • A device to measure C02/carbonation in your bright beer tanks or uni tanks – where ever you carbonate
    • Inexpensive recommendations:
      • The Taprite Beer Carbonation Tester or
      • The Zahm SS-60 Volume Meter.

If you package beer in house:

  • A dedicated area to store packaged beer which has been assigned a unique batch code for traceability.
  • Can double seam inspection tools
  • Crown seal crimp gauge to ensure an adequate seal is made

Medium Sized to Large Production Brewery

If your brewery is starting to reach the 5000hl annual output range then the following equipment is worth its weight in gold:

  • A dedicated climate control room as a lab
  • A trained quality manager/microbiologist!
  • A bench top digital density meter
  • O2 meter (ppb)
  • Digital CO2 metre
  • Autoclave
  • Microscope
  • Haemocytometer
  • Can or bottle headspace tester
  • Magnetic stir plate plate with sti bars
  • Carlsberg flask for yeast propagation
  • A dedicated yeast propagation tank
  • double -seam cross-section inspector
  • Torque meter for bottles
  • Manual bottle cap torque tester
  • ATP test kit

What about lab consumables and additional equipment?

  • Sterilisation indicator tape
  • Inoculating loop and handle
  • Petri dishes
  • Screw-top vials
  • Parafilm
  • Bunsen or portable butane burner
  • Laboratory glassware
    • Beakers
    • Erlenmeyer flasks
    • Pipettes
    • Test tubes
    • Graduated cylinders
  • Funnels and paper filters
  • Pipette pump
  • Aluminium foil
  • Microscope slides and cover slips
  • Immersion oil
  • Methylene blue solution
  • First aid kit
  • Titration burette
  • Isopropyl alcohol (70%)
  • Plastic spray bottles or wash bottles
  • Selective beer spoiler media
  • Sterile containers or bags for forced wort test
  • Sterile swabs and sample vials
  • Cleaning agents, sanitising agents
  • Test tube rack
  • Handheld counter
  • Sterile cotton stoppers for flasks
  • Water bath (commercial or homemade)
  • Permanent markers
  • Laboratory coat
  • Gloves (with thermal protection)
  • Disposable gloves
  • Eyewash bottle/station
  • Eye protection (safety glasses or goggles)
  • Fire extinguisher

Large production and wholesale brewery

The works! Advanced lab equipment:

If you grow to such a point that you can justify testing everything in house then the following equipment will take your lab to the next level.

  • Burettes and stands for titration
  • Grist sieves/ a laboratory plansifter for grist analysis
  • Laboratory vacuum pump
  • Hot air oven for sterilisation
  • Laminar flow hood (commercial or DIY)
  • Anaerobic incubator
  • Shaking/rocking/rotating device
  • Spectrophotometer
  • Turbidity measuring device
  • Analytical disc mill
  • Laboratory centrifuge
  • Friabilimeter
  • Dissolved O,/CO, measuring device
  • Membrane filtration of samples for microbiological analysis multi-function device to measure extract, alcohol, density, colour, etc.

Further reading and reference: The Beer Brewing Guide EBC Quality Handbook for Small Breweries.  


Why choose Spark:

There are many questions that may come up when you are planning your brewery build. Spark has installed 50 breweries Australia wide and have all the answers. We work closely to support your decisions before, during and long after a project is complete.

We don’t just supply equipment, we deliver profitable operating businesses and every project gets an engineer, project manager and brewer to ensure high quality beer and speed to profitability.

If you want a long term partner not just an equipment supplier – click here to get in touch.

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