Electric vs. Steam vs. Direct Fire?

Electric, Steam, and Direct-Fire have emerged as the four most popular heat sources that can power a commercial brew house.  

We would like to offer our perspective on why we believe your brewery would be best served by a Direct Fire Brewhouse.

  1. Electric. Getting a brewery off the ground comes down to strictly managing costs.  Electric brew houses typically require upwards of 300-500 amps of electricity and 3-phase 480-volt power. These requirements are not standards running in most locations around the country. This means that your brewhouse will require significant permitting, electrical service upgrade, and infrastructure build-out before you can safely fire-up the kettle up for your first brew.  Furthermore, the ongoing cost of electricity versus gas is an additional monthly cost that can weigh significantly on profitability. Electric kettles are also notorious for slow temperature ramp speeds, which can prolong your brew days.
  2. Steam. Although steam provides the fastest kettle temperature ramp rates as a result of shear surface area contact. Steam jacketed kettles require large up-front brew house construction costs for the addition of specialized pressurized steam jackets, steam traps, and condensate returns.  In addition, most local authorities require costly permits and inspections for operating steam generators/boilers, which can slow down your start-up timeline.  Furthermore, specialized and costly contractors must be utilized to pass inspection and safely plumb high pressure steam lines to your kettle.  Lastly, settling on a steam system greatly reduces your versatility and expansion potential without completely reinvesting in the cost of a larger system
  3. Direct fire. Direct Fire is a powered gas burner installed on the outside of the kettle which projects a forced-air flame onto a deflector plate or diffuser inside a fully contained fire box beneath the kettle. This design significantly reduces the risk of scorching and in-turn allows for greater control and kettle temperature ramp speed similar to a steam jacketed kettle. Forced air burners are low NOX, efficient, safe, and very versatile.  We believe this design allows for the best juxtaposition between cost and performance. 

While proponents of these more complex heat sources will try to explain their added costs of touting a "softer" boil, quicker heat times, reduced kettle caramelization, or a unique flavor imparted on the finished product.  Don't be fooled, for the added cost, there is no replacement for fundamental recipe creation and process control.

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