Thorny Devil: Filtration for that surreal Australian Craft Beer

Thorny Devil: Filtration for that surreal Australian Craft Beer

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Here is some pragmatic advice provided by  Peter McAppion from thorny beer, a proud WA local and zealous beer nut. On how to approach filtration for Craft Beer .With the move away from traditional large-scale corporate breweries, like Breweries in Mandurah, to Breweries in Perth/WA. Australia’s alcohol consumption is making a progressive trend towards naturally brewed options like craft beer and ciders, With encouragement from various social conventions (Beer weeks) like Melbourne beer week, Perth beer week, Sydney beer week,etc, The craft beer industry has many challenges when scaling down various large scale filtration methods implemented generally on an industrial scale. A true challenge is faced by the craft beer industry,

The Craft of making Craft Beer

Craft breweries face a number of challenges. Typically they produce a broad range of beers in relatively short runs and the filtration needs to meet 3 primary purposes – to reduce sediment/yeast load, to provide clarity and ensure long term stability. These requirements vary from style to style. For example wheat beers are traditionally cloudy so little filtration is required but many lagers are expected to be clear. Flexibility is the key.

Broadly speaking there are 3 styles of filtration to consider. Firstly there is sediment/yeast reduction. This usually sits downstream of DE or centrifuge and before the bright beer tank. It can be achieved with a number of formats from bag filters through to absolute rated cartridges. While bag filters can be used on some styles where clarity and consistency are less important, these filters are usually in the range of 5-10 mic absolute but depending on the available pretreatment a more open rating or staged filtration may be required.

Traditional methods

Traditionally absolute rated filtration has been in a “stick” filter format and depending on the flow rate can be expensive. 3M has recently released its High Flow cartridge format to alleviate these costs. Available in a fully sanitary housing and a wide range of absolute ratings it combines high surface area with a small footprint to provide the most economical solution for sediment control.

Another application where High Flow stands out is water filtration. The quality of the water goes a long way in determining the quality of the beer and High Flow provides an economical way to filter process water to 1 mic absolute.

The next consideration is clarity. Not all beers demand this but some certainly do. Absolute filtration will reduce sediment but has limited effect on the hazes that can adversely affect the appearance of a beer. Haze removal is achieved with charge and this is usually done with pad or lenticular filtration which are essentially the same style of filtration in a different format. The closed lenticular systems are favoured as they are faster to set up, minimize any oxygen pick up and reduce wastage. It can be placed before the bright beer tank or downstream en-route to bottling. Again it comes in a wide range of grades and the choice is dependent on the level of prefiltration

Craft beer membrane filtration

Finally there is sterile or membrane filtration. This is still relatively rare in craft brewing but as the market grows and beers travel further from their home breweries it becomes more critical. Excess yeast or bacteria in the bottle will change the characteristics of a beer over time and, without pasteurizing, membrane filtration is the only way to ensure stability. These membranes are typically 0.45 micron and require correct prefiltration to avoid short life and high costs.

The craft brewer faces a number of challenges in filtration, not least of which is the variety of beers they are producing. While the choices in filtration are well established they can vary from beer to beer and a “one size fits all” filtration train is difficult to define. Flexibility is the key and a combination of absolute rated, lenticular and membrane housings provides this flexibility. These housings may be used in differing combinations to achieve the desired result for each beer style. The choice of grades of sediment and clarifying filters will vary but correctly staged filtration will produce sediment free, clear and stable beer. Thorny devil has extensive experience in this field and can provide the products, advice and support to successfully filter a wide range of craft beers.

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