Keg washer ... etc
I am in the market to buy a keg washer for a new brewery and I have heard great things about Rob's washers at Premier Stainless. I always like to compare equipment and the internet is letting me down. Does anyone have any recommendations on a good keg washer?
Also, for those who are using Premier Stainless's washers, are you using the semi-automatic version or the manual? Can you share reasons why you bought one over the other? I am trying to justify the extra cost for myself.
We have the 2 station manual from premier. It works great, is easy to use, but you have to monitor it during the entire cycle. If you have enough kegs to wash this can be a part time job in itself. With the semi auto you load it and walk away and whenever you can get back the kegs are clean. This gives you the flexibility so you can clean kegs while brewing or doing any other task with no problem. As with most things you have to balance cost with manpower. The semi-auto would be great but it had to be a down-the-road upgrade for us with a limited startup budget.
I used to use a 2 head automatic washer from them. It was an older unit, as this was 5 or six years ago that I was using it, and it was a few years old at that point. It is still in use at that brewery, which has grown from probably 2000 bbls when they bought it to over 15000 bbls now. So they are obviously quality equipment that is built to last as long as you treat it well. The last brewery I worked for used a pretty expensive IDD washer/racker, and though I never personally used it, it seemed to breakdown every once in while, as well as have the same issues with timing out that the Premier washer had.
My major annoyance with the Premier system was it timing out constantly. The automatic units are very sensitive to changes in water pressure, air pressure, and CO2 flow. In a busy brewery if canning was going on (sharing the air compressor), or if the brewer was knocking out (we used city water at that time as we didn't have a CLT), or even if someone in the tasting room flushed the toilet, the machine would take outside of it's programmed time to finish the air purge, or rinse, and kegs would time out and you would have to start the process over again. I never was completely able to walk away from it, other than to scrub the outsides of the next two kegs. When it was running well I was able to get 24 kegs an hour off it, when it was running crappy it was about 16. I kind of like manual washing because it will never time out and you instead of a computer is responsible for monitoring cycle times, etc. I built my manual washer out of parts already in the brewery, and am able to get the same amount of kegs per hour as the automatic washer. It's alot more monitoring and valve flipping, and taked 30 minutes to setup, but I'm only doing it once a week for 4 or 5 hours so I don't mind it too much.
Thanks for the replies. It really looks like, that if someone is going to put in an set amount of time to clean kegs, then the manual washers seem to be the best. Considering, a 2 keg semi-auto one will do 20+ kegs / hour, so every 6ish minutes, you are needing to swap out kegs. Not a lot of time to put towards anything except replying to emails and social media. However, if someone is going to wash kegs throughout the day and as time permits, the semi-auto washer would work great.
Anyone else have any opinions?
I would definitely NOT undervalue that repetitive 6 minutes that might allow me to reply to social media, emails, pay bills, accounting, etc etc.
If I had located enough money at start up, I absolutely would have purchased a semi auto keg washer...and I'm still considering it now. Instead, we have a 4 head manual DME... work horse, for sure... but it takes an entire 8 hour day to wash enough kegs for 15 to 20 barrels worth of beer. If we continue to grow, it will take 2 days a week of keg washing...
We've had both...From Premier..
Also don't under estimate the value of having "anyone" being able run...anyone can run the semi auto one....but the person who runs the manual one must be well trained and attentive.. And care about the results. Personally we'd advise you to buy the semi automated...and we've been there...
It's the last thing that happens to beer before the customer gets it...why not guarantee that it's done right!
Grassrootsvt - Good point.
Capecodbeer - That is the info I've been looking for. We are going to be small enough in the beginning that an owner will be washing kegs, but as the brewery grows, we will need to be hiring some help. It would be nice not to worry about the quality work being done with all the other worries of hiring someone. Did you go with the standard semi system or did you add any of the options?
We added One option...
On ours we had him add extra insulation to the hot caustic reservoir...to reduce utility(electric) costs in keeping the caustic hot...not sure if that is standard or not now...we upgraded a couple years back from manual to semi.
We like buying from rob/premier...we've done well by him.
As someone who has used a manual keg washer on a weekly basis, I will chime in that it is a huge investment in time and concentration to operate a manual washer. Go auto. Be parsimonious. Dont look back.