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Brew Smarter, Not Wetter: 6 Easy ways to Reduce Water Usage in Your Craft Brewery

Cartoon of water pouring into a pint

Howdy y’all

So water 💧. Pretty important. Water consumption has moved from a good-to-do project to business essential. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) predicts that the demand for water in England will exceed supply by between 1.1 and 3.1 billion litres a day by the 2050s.

So plenty to fear in the long term but in the short term it’s a simple case of business/human responsibility to ensure we are not wasting water.

And unfortunately, craft breweries can use a lot of water to produce beer.

Currently our craft beer industry standard in the UK and Europe is 7.8 hl of water per hl of packaged beer.

Whilst the word 'standard' is used there is a large variance brewery to brewery. The standard deviation of the results is 3.9hl of water per hl of packaged beer.

Commonly, brewers assume those with the greater output have the lower water/beer ratio as they have access to technologies to reduce their water usage that smaller producers don't.

But this isn't fully true, they may have the access to better technologies but that has not proven to reduce water consumption as

the 3 Industry Lowest Water/Beer Ratios have 3 of the 4 lowest packaged volumes per year*

*of data submitted

I think that’s actually really significant.

I could probably suggest 3 or 4 reasons for this. And should you be interested in this discussion please add comments below or direct message me. But for now, we continue.

The True Cost of Water

So it's also easy to look at water as (quantity used * price per unit of water) But we know that isn’t true. Because we also have to pay to:

  • Store

  • Heat/cool

  • Transfer

  • Filter

  • Most importantly waste it

So you can expect to pay an extra of 3.75 times per m3 of water if you waste it.

Where does all my water go?

Here is a great chart from the Brewers Association that gives a general idea of where total water in a brewery goes.

Ok now we are aware of the importance of not wasting water, let's look at 6 easy ways to decrease water usage that you can start using today regardless of the size of your brewery!

1) Leak Detection 👩‍🔧

Breweries have regularly saved 20% of their water usage by fixing all the leaks in the breweries. Pressurised hose leaks require an immediate fix. Look at this chart here again from the Brewers Association

Pretty wild numbers.

And even if your leak is smaller than the ones on the scale, if there is pressure involved it must be sorted ASAP. Leak detection is quick, easy and requires minimal cost to fix and maintain.

“Yeah ok but this tap/joint/valve is not pressurised and is barely leaking”

Challenge for you: Place a jug under the leak for 1 minute, look at the volume (or weight it) that has leaked. Times it by 525600 (minutes in a year). That’s how much water you just saved from that ‘barely dripping tap/joint/valve’. And remember you cost you have just saved is the amount purchased + the same amount wasted.

Don’t be fooled by the insignificant look of a drip/leak, the wastage numbers start to look very scary when you times them by 525600.

2) Measure, track and benchmark 🎯

How do you improve what you don’t know? How do you know what you have improved? You need to measure. Luckily in brewing measuring water is super easy.

Every business has a mains water meter but there are accuracy concerns assigning the whole consumption to the brewery itself when you have a taproom, office or other entity coming off the same meter.

Well, in truth it doesn’t really matter! Your brewery will be well over 80% of your total business water usage and the office and taproom are fairly consistent entities. Even in higher demand seasons the water usage will be fairly marginal in comparison to the increase in production.

Yet, if you are like me and you find inaccuracy demotivating then there are loads of ways to incorporate a taproom or office to fine tune that accuracy. It’s all about offsetting the total water usage with non-brewing usage.

Taproom 🍻 - Is your tap room open in a time where the brewery is not? Then you can take a reading of the water meter at the start and end of that time and use that as a basis of your offset calculation

Office 🏢 – 50l per office worker per working day. That’s the offset you can use. Easy and even you feel you have tea crazy office staff increase this number by 5-15% you will see how little it really impacts the breweries water usage.

There isn’t an obstacle you can’t offset. (definitely another tshirt slogan) 

Finally, get your results and get them ranked against a moving industry standard and against breweries of a similar size FOR FREE.

3) Rinse Water Management 🚱

First rule of rinse water. Burst rinse over Static.

Diversey’s George Agius (MBAA TQ, 46, 1, pp. 1-4) showed that burst rather than continuous rinsing saved up to 50% of rinse water.

50% is a HUGE number. Consider your CIP rinse water makes up 80% of cellar water, cellar water is 17% of your breweries water usage and you have just reduced your total brewery water by 7% with the simplest of process changes.

Also encapsulated in the umbrella of rinsing is hose usage.

Don't be that guy who stands in the middle of the floor and just unloads litre after litre after litre of water to 'clean' the floors. Wet, scrub, light rinse and squeegee the rest away. It's a simple case of not getting over excited with the hose.

4) Map your water, Install Water Meters 🗺️

Water maps aren’t really the reason any of us got into brewing. But they are a great tool for you to learn the entire water ways of your brewery. From there you get a full picture of water pathways and the high usage points. Then you can install flow meters at the strategic points (Brewhouse, CIP set & Packaging) and get the in depth analysis you need to make quick and lasting changes. Once installed they are super low maintenance and can be checked once a day/week/month and you can track your changes. Use those learnings to share with your team, fellow brewers and future breweries.

5) Bottle/Can Rinser 🚿

If you have a bottle or can filler then you will most likely have a water rinser for the empty & full cans/bottles. If you have seen one in action it's hardly surprising that this seemingly endless stream of water is taking up a significant proportion of your breweries total water usage.

Reusing the empty container rinse water to rinse the filled container rinse water is essential.

But in a perfect world, investing in ionised air rinsing is the key to stop the majority of water wastage. They are expensive but offer a great return on investment, remember when you calculate the ROI use the ‘True Cost of Water’ as discussed above.

6) Optimise your CIP 🧼

CIP procedures affect your brewhouse, cellar and packaging water usages. So there could be ~40% of total water usage up for healthy savings.

There will be a full blog/podcast on this topic but a philosophy to apply to your CIP programme is “Reuse before you Refuse”

So look at all your CIP and assess whether you can reuse it before you send it to the drain. Key places to start this philosophical charge is:

  • Pre Caustic Rinse Water

  • Post Caustic Rinse Water

  • Sanitisation

Finally, CIP sets may seem expensive but they can save 60% of your water usage in CIP. Not to mention chemical savings too.

That’s all folks. Please keep in touch with any progress you make and share it with your fellow brewers. We are all in this together and we will only better our industry standards together.

Much love ❣️

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