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Thread: Walk In Cooler Questions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    Ashburn, VA
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    8

    Walk In Cooler Questions

    Greetings.

    We are opening a brewery this summer and I would like some opinions on the type/size walk-in cooler. We are looking at a 20X30X12 and considering a 20X30X10 (as it is $3K cheaper).

    We will be a 10 BBL brewery with a taproom, 6-8 beers on tap, serving solely out of kegs. No distribution at first.

    I think either size cold room would be plenty of room for now, but what about as we grow? I need to ensure that we can easily get a standard forklift in/out and stack at least 3-pallets-high (kegs and eventually cans).

    I am mostly concerned about ceiling height and the door width for access (8x8 for the larger size, 5x7 for the smaller).

    What do you guys think? Thanks in advance.

    Cheers!

    MMIII

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    west coast
    Posts
    248
    few thoughts-

    kegs for a taproom/brewpub sucks. get some cheap single wall brites and serve direct from tanks. more cash upfront, but infinitely less labor on ongoing basis. plus a more o2-free environment in tanks vs kegs. if you cant start that way, plan on doing it soon. then you can keg off the tank when you want to wholesale or have a new batch coming online.

    as for cooler, taller is better. you've got built-in expansion room with a taller head height. better for stacking kegs, pallets, cramming in a bunch of tall skinny tanks, etc. plus depending on your build you may be required to add structural elements/supports, fire sprinklers, etc. they can eat up your headroom.

    lastly, get a used walkin. i recently got a 28x17x14 tall box with 2 sets of compressors and condensors for $4k. delivered. which is what you are saying is the price difference on 3-4' of head height on your box.... so i dont want to know what your full quote is, id have a heart attack.

    im guessing a used walk in could save you enough to buy some cheap/used serving tanks. theres a vendor on here who sells stainless single wall pressure tanks that used to be yogurt reactors, pretty sure they were doing 5bbls for like $1500-$2k each a while back.

    so look on ebay, call up refrigeration companies and ask them if they have any used boxes laying around or any jobs/boxes set to be dismantled in next few months, and set up some alerts on craigslist for walkin coolers/freezers. our first brewpub actually got a 30x15x18 tall box with mechanical for free off craigslist!!! you might not get that lucky, but you should still save a ton. your kegs and tanks will not be offended one bit if you store them in a used walk in.
    Last edited by brain medicine; 02-14-2018 at 03:59 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    Ashburn, VA
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    8

    Probably have to buy new

    Thanks Brain Medicine.

    I couldn't agree more. I definitely wanted serving tanks (for many reasons), but the owner didn't. I don't think it'll take long for him to see that he should have.

    A used cold box would definitely save us enough $ to buy a tank or two. We've been looking for a used cold room for months now, but nothing that works for us has come up. We are kinda stuck with the 20x30 size since the brewery drawings are finished and construction has started. Since we are needing it in the next week or so, we are probably going to have to suck it up and buy new. :-/

    I'm leaning to the 12' size because if nothing else, it'll give us some more clearance when stacking. Hate that we have to pay even more on an already very expensive purchase though.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Polson, Montana, USA
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    1,286
    Hi MMIII,
    Having worked in both environments, dispense out of brites in cold room vs kegs in cold room, I will vote for kegs every day of the week.
    It has been my experience that the upfront and ongoing expense of the acquiring and maintaining the brites were fairly significant. Specifically, whenever a brite emptied and it required cleaning/sanitation, I could count on my cold room ambient temperature climbing due to the necessary chemical temp thereby stressing my compressor. I found this would also raise the temp of nearby brites occasionally, monkeying with their carbonation.
    Also, when a brite was empty and being cleaned/waiting to be filled, that beer was off tap at the bar for several days until I could move beer out of the fermenter and carbonate it. Top all of this with some really neat homemade clouds forming in the cold room during cleaning.
    Now, when a keg goes dry, I pop a new one on and take the empty out of the cold room for cleaning/filling off of my glycol-cooled brite in my non-cold room cellar. All products stay on tap and available to customers, my compressor isn't being overly taxed, and my cleaning/sanitation chemicals are able to operate in their respective, optimal temperatures.
    Obviously there are arguments both ways, what you're willing to deal with is up to you. For me, go kegs go!

    My two, non-cold room, cents.
    Prost!
    Dave
    Glacier Brewing Company
    406-883-2595
    glacierbrewing@bresnan.net

    "who said what now?"

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Livermore, CA
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    573
    I also disagree with serving tanks, in general. They work well for pilsners, stouts, reds, and basically most things that arent IPA's. As soon as you start having volatile oils in the mix, as your headspace increases the oils will move from the beer to the headspace. Not a problem if you deplete the tank in a week or less. That is a tall order for a 10bbl serving tank for only on premise.

    The other issue, is these tanks become a choke point. Lets say you have a new beer that you want to release, but you are waiting for your brite to empty so you can clean it, fill it, crash the beer, carbonate and then serve. Ignoring the time that you are waiting before the tank empties, you are still looking at 2-4 days of empty taps before the beer is ready.

    You could keg out what is left in the tank and then load it up, but you might as well just go for kegs from the get go. It will also justify getting a keg washer/filler which even the semi-automated ones are worth their weight in gold compared to to the frankenstein ones.

    Your best bet, and what I would always recommend, get kegs for all your beer, and get brite tanks at a ratio of 3:1(fv:bbt). You will be more consistently happy with the stability of the beers, and you will be ready for wholesale too. And its less iron, you can even lease kegs from companies like keg logistics to keep your up front costs low until you are ready to invest in a keg fleet of your own.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Moab, Utah
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    471

    Interior Ceiling Height

    12 Ft is not tall enough.
    You have to think about clearance overhead and you need your lighting and mechanical very much out of harms way.
    Destruction by forklift can go very high in certain environments when things are too tight.
    It helps to build in some reinforcement measures such as setting angle on the interior walls to keep pallets from being scraped right along the walls and peeling the metal right back.
    Coolers are in real terms very fragile.
    Warren Turner
    Industrial Engineering Technician
    HVACR-Electrical Systems Specialist
    Moab Brewery
    " No Cell Phone Zone."

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    Ashburn, VA
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    Quote Originally Posted by GlacierBrewing View Post
    Hi MMIII,
    ...whenever a brite emptied and it required cleaning/sanitation, I could count on my cold room ambient temperature climbing due to the necessary chemical temp thereby stressing my compressor. I found this would also raise the temp of nearby brites occasionally, monkeying with their carbonation.

    Dave
    Dave,

    Never thought about this. Great point!

    Thanks for your insight.

    MMIII

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    Ashburn, VA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starcat View Post
    12 Ft is not tall enough.
    You have to think about clearance overhead and you need your lighting and mechanical very much out of harms way.
    Destruction by forklift can go very high in certain environments when things are too tight.
    It helps to build in some reinforcement measures such as setting angle on the interior walls to keep pallets from being scraped right along the walls and peeling the metal right back.
    Coolers are in real terms very fragile.
    Thanks Starcat.

    What's the minimum height do you recommend?

    MMIII

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    west coast
    Posts
    248
    If your cleaning regimen is setting off your carbonation you got other problems besides tank v keg. A non caustic clean at 120 does nothing to ambient in our cooler, never has. And how does cleaning a brite and also all your kegs save you labor over just cleaning a serving tank? It doesn’t. We clean a tank in about 40mins. 15bbl. You telling me you gonna clean 30-35 kegs in 40 min? Not without an auto 4 keg unit im guessing. The logic is broken.

    As i stated initially we dont have choke issues as we keg off a tank if we need it for fresh batch. You still want kegs around. They are useful.

    As for hop aromas, i dont buy it, we dont see it. A keg that is almost empty is no different from a tank almost empty. I say the real issue is that hops fade with time, the sooner you move it the better.

    Not sure about your side of the country, but go check out a brewpub that is onsite only. We have a few chains out here in CA that are “corporate” operations. Plus a few that are minichains from respected craft brewers. Never seen one that used kegs over tanks.


    Ponder that.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Livermore, CA
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    573
    As I have seen it and experienced these aroma variations first hand, in both kegs and serving tanks, I can attest to the changes. They are subtle sometimes, but in the very aromatic beers it can be huge, and we don't like to see our customers have any variation. Two weeks is what I consider the maximum time for a beer to be on tap before problems are becoming apparent, and they only get worse. Would love to hear which brewpubs you speak of around norcal that are still off of serving tanks. There aren't many left, I can think of two in my immediate vicinity that still do. And I have had fresh beer and old beer from both, and they are very different. The chains we have out here, BJ's being the big one does not use serving tanks, its all kegs now save for a few spots that still brew on premise. Also know breweries that kegged on demand from large tanks, and can also say the first keg tasted very different from the last one.

    Its also physics and chemistry, its called diffusion, aromatics will go from areas of high concentration to low over time on their own. The bottom line, is if you sell beer quickly a keg lasts less than a week, you wont see any problems. Serving tanks, though more convenient to clean, take considerably more time to go through, and if you are going to go through the process of kegging out beer, you might as well do it all. Doesn't take long. Cleaning wise, with a reasonable system, you can clean 40-60 kegs per hour. We run a two head cleaning system and get about 50 kegs per hour, depending on how dirty the exterior of the kegs are. Its manual loaded and unloaded system, the cycle is automated.

    You also should be doing caustic cycles on the tanks periodically. Acid runs do ok, but they are not perfect. Caustic needs temperatures above 140F to be really effective, we prefer 160-170 because our cycle takes 10 minutes. No way you will maintain that temperature in a cold room and a single walled tank, cleaner will cool, cycle will take longer, and you will warm your room. Might not affect other beers nearby, but it will add heat and stress to the cold room. Cooling air takes a lot more time than cooling a liquid, and it takes even longer to cool air that is then used to cool a liquid, so any big changes in temperature will take some time to overcome.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
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    374
    I'll piggyback on Jebzter. Used both serving vessels and kegs a few times an much prefer kegs. There is a noticeable stability difference to me. I believe I see less oxidation in kegs, possibly due to surface area or maybe purging practices (I haven't always had a DO meter available, and fill my kegs 100% full). Currently use 7bbl servers at the pub and have noticed IPA aroma drops as the volume lowers. Seems to be more impact from volume than from age. Most all beers see one month on the long end, and as little as one week. We end up kegging towards the bottom in order to keep all taps flowing during CIP and transfer. Here we only use a handful of kegs, so we actually outsource the cleaning to a production facility nearby. Semi-auto washers I have used in the past have been right in the 40-60/hr range mentioned. 30-40 in 40 mins is quite doable on a 3 head semi-auto. And you can use less skilled labor than cleaning a serving vessel. Set up the machine, check fluids, punish your kid for ditching school (not that I would advocate that!). Can't use acid wash under pressure in these current tanks due to a standpipe, however this has worked well in the past. Agreed you should do a periodic caustic cycle regardless for organic or bio-film buildup. Our tap lines have a glycol chiller so we have not had issues with foaming when the cold room warms a few degrees. It does warm during cycles & transfers. I much prefer a jacketed bright over the cold room due to individual temperature control. Kegs also has the advantage of switching between styles easier and more often. If you distribute off premise, it is much easier to have full kegs on hand than to fill one for each order.

    Personally I have never gone with the mentality that you should do something because all the other guys are doing it. You should think out the pro's and con's for your specific setup before deciding. A lot of those breweries are designed to look good, not for peak quality. Not to say you can't get quality out of them, but the differences are real. In fact a lot of pubs I have seen around the US and India are using a hybrid of 1-3 SV's for fast sellers and kegs for one-off or seasonals.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    west coast
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    248
    As already stated, even with SV you still needs kegs.

    Re cleaning. Non caustic alkaline at 120F followed by acid. Nice and pretty. No discernible temp change on other tanks. Our cooler was sized appropriately and heat gain was calculated.

    Also I don’t recall refuting volatization. I doubted that it stops occurring by the magic of being in a keg vs a SV. Defies logic. If you sell fast enough you will be fine. Keg or SV. Again, size appropriately.

    As for following others lead, that sounds like personal agenda. SOPs become SOPs for a reason. Not doing something to be different is just as dumb as doing it to be the same. I mentioned chains because they have corporate bean counters. Hard to argue with P&L. If it works, it works.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
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    No “magic” from being in a keg, just less headspace surface area. Less opportunity for diffusion to take place. Perhaps better purging of oxygen, hard to say without a DO meter. You can only properly purge a vessel with a DO meter or by liquid displacement (DAW). Seems logical to me, and probably at least a few others.

    Selling 7 bbl in a week and a half, there is still noticeable loss of hop character. Beer is still plenty good, but changes. The kegs (kegged right after transfer) I give to our rooftop terrace restaurant seem to hold up better. Just anecdotal evidence, but a direct side by side comparison for me. No doubt at all.

    No one suggested doing something differently just for the sake of it. On the contrary it was suggested to weigh pros and cons. I don’t know a smart brewer who wouldn’t.

    SOPs should be written for each facility and process. Not just adapted from other brewers or breweries. There are many ways to skin a cat. For example BrainMedicine chooses to use a non-caustic alkaline as opposed to most who would use caustic as part of their CIP SOP. The reason seems to be temperature related (plenty valid). Point being, variations are plenty acceptable. Outcome should dictate procedure.

    Thinking through process and deciding what is best for each individual situation is a personal preference of mine, hence starting the statement with the word personally.

    Non caustic alkaline followed by acid is certainly a valid option. I use it periodically on canning lines which cannot take caustic (aluminum). The sodium metasilicate usually costs a decent amount more though. Following with acid every time also adds up cost. It may or may not matter to you based upon your situation and how often you clean tanks.

    Cleaning properly is a function of time, temperature, and concentration with a mechanical action factor as well. The hotter your chemicals are, the better they will clean - up to the breakdown point of the chemical used. You can compensate with higher concentration (more cost), or longer times (relatively cheap depending on the brewery).

    Nothing wrong with chains, but not all chains do things exactly the same. Even within the same chain. I know brewers at both GB’s in Dallas and they even vary on how they do certain things.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
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    west coast
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    I still don’t buy it. The surface area ratio is likely similar or smaller in SV. Kegs aren’t very skinny. Our tall 15s are 12.5 tall and a just 3’ wide. The pertinent factor is still likely time.

    As for o2, the best condition I’ve ever seen was a water purge, and the other was an SV purged with co2 from the FV by jumper. Both seem impractical for 30 kegs at a time. Wait, I lie. Absolute best was a unitank after fermentation. No surprise.

    As an aside- a brewpub is a very specific thing in CA. Onsite sales only. Even more reason kegs are back up players. If you are not a brewpub but in fact a Brewery with taproom then your equipment needs vary.

    As OP says no distribution yet I tailor the suggestion to the specific operations, which sounds like brewpub to me. At least for forseeable future. SVs with kegs for back up.

    Not sure about specific location in VA but I’m guessing being close to DC means similar to ours typically, high land and high labor. If OP wants to simply query some local brewpub operations about their equipment I would say insight could be helpful from those who’ve gone before. But again- apples to apples.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Livermore, CA
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    Its all about time and the increased headspace. Diffusion takes time in an undisturbed environment, like a keg or serving tank that is not being shaken up. The difference is, serving tanks take quite a bit longer to clear than do kegs. You will absolutely have aroma losses in kegs, if given enough time on tap. With good beer sales, this rarely happens, but when you have a tank that is 14 times larger than the keg, it takes 14 times longer to clear(assuming a 7bbl tank). A keg filled to the top sitting in a cold room un-tapped has no headspace for the volatile compounds to go, so they stay in the beer, once tapped and dispensing its a race to finish the keg before a noticeable amount have dissipated. Its the same reason why when carbonating, you should under no circumstances vent the brite tank, you are just stripping aromas out, even faster because you are bubbling co2 in which is rapidly moving the volatile stuff out.

    Bottom line, my money is on kegs, not serving tanks and I have experience, science and even other breweries that back that up. What is best for your beer is also best for your brand, people will notice and they probably won't tell you that they did, but they might come in less often because of it. This is the mentality we all need to have.

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