Incorporating a mash press into your brewery is an easy way to increase your extraction efficiency, double your throughput, and reduce the length of your brew day.
The best kept secret in the industry
Mash press filtration, the go-to lautering method for large scale breweries, is now available to craft brewers. A typical craft brewery uses a false bottom in their mash or lauter tun to filter the spent grains from the wort. While tried and true, this approach comes with some limitations. Every brewer has had to deal with a stuck mash when the false bottom clogs, especially true when brewing with grain bills high in adjuncts such as wheat, oats, or rye. This method of separation can also take an hour or more, extending your brew day and limiting your ability to double batch, and might achieve an extract efficiency of 85%.
Enter the mash press, the lautering method that was historically used up through the 16th century. Instead of relying on a gravity feed to drain the mash through your false bottom, the entire mash (grain and all) is pumped directly from the mash tun into the filter press. As the mash is pumped into the press, the inner chambers (between each pair of filter plates) fill to capacity. Once the chambers are full, the wort begins to pass through the fabric filters, capturing the spent grain and allowing the wort to continue on to the boil kettle. Once all of the mash is pumped through the filter, air pressure is used to inflate the internal bladders, squeezing the grain and removing nearly 100% of the liquid (and in some cases over 100%!)
OK, I'm listening...so what's the advantage?
Incorporating a mash press into your brewery has a lot of advantages over the use of a traditional false-bottom tun:
- No more stuck sparges. The filtration is achieve by pumping the mash through the filters, which have a much larger total surface than a false bottom. The pressure of the pump (typically a diaphragm pump) pushes the wort through the filters, eliminating clogging
- Increased options for your grain bills. High percentages of oats, wheat, rye, alternative starches (rice, ancient grains), or unique additives are all enable by the mash press
- A much finer mill of your can be achieved, reducing conversion time and increasing your extraction efficiency
- Achieve an additional 10% on your extraction efficiency when adding a mash press, with efficiencies as high as 98% being common
- Produce the same volume of wort using 10-20% less grain and 20-40% less water, or produce 10% more wort per batch at a your current gravity
- Reduce the length of your brew session to as little as 2 hours from boil to flame out. If double (or triple!) batching, producing a brew every 2 hours is achievable
- Reduce labor costs through increased production. Brew twice as much beer, or cut your brew days in half
- Easy clean up! The spent grains are much drier than with a mash tun, not wet and sticky. Just separate the plates and wipe down between batches. Dry spent grains can also be stored for days before disposal, if needed.
But what about...?
There are a number of questions we hear about the mash press from brewers. Let's take a look:
"Sounds industrial...is this really craft brewing?"
- Yes, we think so! Macro-breweries are ever striving to produce the most beer at the lowest cost, so it's no wonder they all use a filter press when it comes to lautering, but that doesn't mean that using a press detracts from the art of craft brewing. In fact, it enables the brewer to explore new recipes and ingredients that wouldn't otherwise be possible on a typical mash tun.
And let's face it, today's head brewer is often also filling the role of taproom owner, server, packaging technician, marketing professional, and cellarperson. Who wouldn't want to spend less time in the brew house to be able to spend more time on the other parts of the business?
"More equipment sounds expensive."
- Whether you're looking to expand the capacity of your current brewery or plan for future growth of your new brewery, the mash press will likely save you money in the long run. A little planning and upfront investment can avoid having to replace your entire brew house down the road, saving not only on equipment cost, but eliminating any downtime in your production.
Depending on your production and brew schedule, the ROI on a mash press can be achieved in as little as 13 months. The savings in materials (grain & water) and labor, combined with the additional throughput and efficiencies, are all factors that weigh into the total cost of adding a mash press to your brew house. We can help you work through the number to determine whether the press is a good fit for your brewery.
"Squeezing my grain? What about tannins?"
- We've all read the home brew forums warning of the tannins that squeezing your brew-in-a-bag will produce. In addition, extraction (of both sugars and tannins) is increased through a finer crush of your grains, so won't the finer mill through the press make this worse? This is a common concern, as excess tannins in your beer will result in an undesirable astringency.
Tannin extraction in the mash is a function of the mash temperature and pH, and the filter press is no different from a false bottom in this regard. We've found no data or white papers to support the connection between the extraction of tannins and squeezing, pumping, or milling, and have had a lot of great beer brewed with a press with no indication of tannins. In fact, many brew-in-a-bag brewers squeeze their bags to maximize their output with no effect on the flavor of their beer.
In short, we don't feel that squeezing produces any undesired effects.
Give us a call
to learn more, and discuss whether a mash press would be a good fit for your expansion or new installation.
Our friends at Elkmont Exchange Brewery
in Knoxville, TN included a mash press when they built out their 10 BBL electric brew house with a business plan that included on-site sales through their restaurant, on-site can sales, and distribution through local channels. The mash press has been integral to meeting their production demands while saving on grains, water, and labor.
"The mash filter increases efficiencies in the brew house and provides a great amount of creative freedom to the brewing team."
The video below shows Head Brewer Chris Meadows cleaning out the press. As the filter plates are separated, the dried cake of spent grains drops into the bin, ready to be given to local farmers.