What Makes a Great Craft Beer Pump? Part 1

At Triplex Sales, our passion is to enable and empower entrepreneurs and small business. We also love to drink beer. When you couple those two with 50+ years of sanitary process experience, you can a tremendous amount of beer pump knowledge. In this series of posts, we will take a look at what makes a great craft beer pump and what you should consider before you dry hop your next batch.

Type- What kind of pumps do Craft Brewers Use?

We will start with the basics. What kind of pumps do craft brewers use?

SPXFlow C114 Pump

Centrifugal Pumps

Most commonly, we see sanitary centrifugal pumps in craft breweries. Beer is a relatively “clean” water like product. While it often has a high amount of protein and sugars, the low viscosity makes it ideal for centrifugal pumps. Sanitary centrifugal pumps are economical and robust, handling product viscosities up to 1000 cps (depending on who you ask). They can also be dead headed and are available with a variety of seal configurations (more on that later).

Flexible Impeller Pumps

As craft beer becomes even more eclectic, there is a need for pumps that can handle higher viscosities. For applications where we are handling things like fruit puree, we like to recommend flexible impeller pumps. Flexible impeller pumps use an eccentric pump housing and rubber rotor to create a vacuum in the suction side as the turns, drawing product into the impeller vanes. Because the housing is eccentric, the blades bend, increasing pressure, and discharging product.

Air Operated Double Diaphragm Pumps

AODD pumps also play meaningful role in the day-to-day operation of the brewhouse. We often see these feeding counter pressure fillers. AODD blur the line between sanitary centrifugal and positive displacement pump. While they put out a constant volume regardless of discharge pressure, you can dead head them like a centrifugal pump, making them ideal for pumping into a charged fill bowl. AODD pumps are also easily controlled with a regulator and can handle higher product viscosities. And while they are driven by air, there is no mechanical seal, which can help reduce oxygen pickup, the bane of many packaging supervisors existence.

Rotary Lobe Pumps

Less often, we see the need for External Circumferential Piston Pumps, often known as rotary lobe or just plain ole’ sanitary PD pumps. These pumps, mainstays of the food and dairy industries, are great for metering or gentle product handling applications. While the cost per volume moved is higher than AODD, centrifugal, or flexible impeller pumps, ECP or sanitary rotary lobes pumps can accurately and repeatably deliver consistent volumes of liquid per revolution or unit of time. We will talk more about batching systems in upcoming posts.

Progressive Cavity Pumps

Another pump we see in some craft breweries are progressive cavity pumps. Using a rotor/stator combination, progressive cavity pumps, such as Netzsch’s NEMO BO pump, can be easily outfitted with a rectangular flange and auger, making it ideal for handling spent grain pump out. Spent grains can either be disposed of or sold as animal feed. Because progressive cavity pumps are positive displacement pumps, they can pump long distances and handle the higher differential pressure that centrifugal pumps can’t.

Twin Screw Pumps

The final type of pump we will talk about in this post are twin screw pumps. Twin Screws, such as Waukesha Universal Twin Screw or UTS, are great for whole hop handling, as well as applications where we want both CIP and process fluids. Twin screw pumps are positive displacement pumps that have higher shear than other pump technologies, they can handle whole hops, which helps reduce vegetal pickup during dry hopping. They also feature robust seals that reduce oxygen pick up. And because of the axial drive mechanism, they can run at both low speeds for process applications and the high speeds needed to generate turbulence for CIP.

This post provides the basics of the pumping technologies we see throughout the craft beer space. Future posts will focus more on the specifics of each pump type and will help you select the right pump for your next craft beer pumping application. If you have any questions, please contact a Triplex Sales Engineer today!

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