Need advice on buying a malt handling system for your beverage business? We asked experts Malt Handling, LLC for their advice on how to select the right piece of equipment based on your operational and production needs:
The Best Advice? One Size Does Not Fit All with Malt Handling Systems
Malt Handling, LLC are malt handling experts based Chicago who customize essential grain handling systems for craft brewers and distillers. Since opening their doors in 2012, the company has shared their advice with a number of brewing and distilling businesses.
What's their main piece of advice? Well, according to Andy Myers, the Director of Marketing and New Business Development at MaltHandling.com, there's no one size fits all when it comes buying a malt handling system. “Everyone has unique production needs and ways of dealing with the grain they have coming in - and going out - of their operation,” says Myers.
Each individual brewer or distiller's situation must be considered on a case-by-case basis: “If you're just starting a brewing company or even a distillery, bulk storage and automation probably aren't very high up on your list of main concerns - especially if you're operating on a smaller-scale,” says Myers.
So how does a business figure out that bespoke part of their operation? Understanding your business needs is the staring point for deciding what type of malting system will work best.
The next step is using that to calculate return on investment and where you start to see ROI. Myers goes on to advise, “It's always a good idea to at least have a basic understanding of the malt handling process and ideally, a plan for purchasing the equipment for malting at some point in the future. The more you invest upfront, the more you stand to save down the road.”
If You Know the Equipment's History, Consider Agricultural Auctions
A surprising resource to consider when it comes to buying a malt handling system is purchasing used malting equipment at a farm auction, which can be conducted either online and in-person. In fact Erik May, President of Pilot Malt House in Michigan advises: “Malt handling equipment is essentially just farming equipment being re-purposed to fit the needs of a different industry.”
If you choose to go the agricultural auction route though, it's important to research the equipment's origins. In particular, May adds it pays to find out what materials it previously handled, if possible. Trace residues can often be present on the machinery, which could ultimately impact your end product - your craft brews and artisan spirits - and more importantly, your customers' experience of that result.
Uncertainty around prior usage is the main reason why some malting professionals advise choosing new malt handling systems.
Consider Equipment Longevity
Malt handling systems are designed for a range of budgets and uses.
As such, some equipment is designed to last longer than others. Myers' main advice is to consider this aspect of the equipment.
"If it’s a flex auger with PVC tubing that’s going to wear-out, then it makes sense to go ahead and invest in a new piece of machinery. But if you have a mill that’s working just fine and all you need to do is make a few adjustments to it, you're probably good,” says Myers.
Whether you choose to invest in a malt handling system that's designed to last the distance depends on your future needs, of course. If you're looking to test out a new product or fill a temporary gap in production before new equipment arrives, a less durable piece of equipment may have its benefits.
As ever, it pays to seek advice from experts. For many, buying a malt-handling system is an afterthought. Both our experts suggest this piece of equipment shouldn't go overlooked. Factor it into your inventory and expenditure plan before you need it.