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Choosing and designing a pilot system.

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  • Choosing and designing a pilot system.

    Hello fellow industry people,
    I am currently in the process of starting a brewery and taproom. I currently am doing location research and finishing the business plan and have decided I would like to start formulating batches on a pilot system. The main brewhouse will most likely be a 5 barrel system and I am currently looking to purchase a 1 barrel pilot system.

    How many people use a direct fire pilot system even though the brewhouse will be electric?

    Have people successfully built a system like one available from Ruby Street Brewing or Psycho Brewing from scratch and still gotten commercial grade results? If so was it cost effective?

    Risks to be mindful of when looking at second hand equipment?

    I have years of front of house experience as well as commercial brewing experience and cellar experience , I just have never worked on a system smaller than 7 barrels nor Have I built a homebrew system larger than a 1/2 barrel. So the goal is to have the pilot system match the commercial experience as much as possible. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

  • #2
    In my opinion the single biggest factor in getting your pilot system to mimic what you're planning on brewing on will be fermentation. Make sure you're fermenting with temperature control, and in conical FV's with the same cell counts and temps. That will do a lot to get you close to what your final product will be like.
    There will be differences based on your heat source. Direct fire will create considerably more caramelization than you'll get from electric or steam.


    • #3
      Both the pilot fermentors and production fermentors will be glycol jacketed with temp control. I currently have a large focus on yeast health and pitch rates as well as creating stable generations for re-use. I currently have a friend who can weld me a skid on wheels to build a pilot system on and have been pricing different systems that are all inclusive and comparing them to what I can purchase piece by piece. I have found lots of second hand kettles and pumps etc. But I am weary of purchasing second hand especially stuff coming from out of state. Also most of the prices i'm seeing have not been significantly lower than retail with the exception of someone else offloading a complete system since they got larger.


      • #4
        I'm going through a similar experience, yet, we decided to go the production route. As consistency and quality are major concerns for us, we invested heavily in our pilot brew house. We are working on a 20 gallon unit from and fermenting in 4 heated/cooled conical from the same. It is a fantastic kit and one that I would give my first born for if I had room for one in my apartment. As I said, quality and consistency are key components to our business model, so to that end we have just installed a 500gpm RO water supply, purchased labware, and have otherwise shored up our kit to reflect our goals.

        My suggestion would be to develop a mantra, or criteria to judge yourself against, incorporate the beer styles you [plan to brew, and develop your pilot system to achieve those ends.

        If you have any questions, don't hesitate to PM, I'd be more than happy to let my mistakes act as a guide..



        • #5
          Thanks for the advice! I will touch base with you later on as things move forward.