Buying A Brewing System? 3 Things You Need to Know First

Buying a brewing system? Here are 3 things you need to know first to get the best deal and equipment for your money.

By Jeremy Martin




Image of two hands holding a pencil and a clipboard with a checklist [on it] Investing in a brewing system can be a complicated, not to mention expensive, process for a small business. If you're thinking of buying one, here are 3 things you need to know to save time and money:

Step 1. Buy Brew Systems In Advance

First, brewhouses come in a range of shapes and sizes. Each type of brewing system takes a different length of time to build. That means you'll need to factor time to manufacture the equipment into your production goals.  

Good suppliers manufacture brewing systems to your exact specifications and needs. Few suppliers carry spare stock. Similarly, orders from trade shows and high-season(s) can increase lead times for manufacturers. What that means is with busy pipelines and labor-intensive manufacturing techniques, buying is only the beginning of the process for any supplier.

Given these supply-side constraints, consider manufacturing and delivery timelines when you're looking to buy. If you need to buy a brewing system right now, chances are you're already too late. Plan in advance. For example, if you need a brewing system by the end of the year, make sure you research and buy your system at least 6 months ahead. Learning how to buy a brewing system starts with understanding when to buy. 

Step 2. Buy the Right Sized Brewing System 

If you're thinking about buying a brewhouse, you need to know your brewing facility size and production goals. This might seem obvious to an established operation but new businesses will often overlook how important these areas for for buying the right brewing system for their current - and future - needs.

To decide what brewing system to buy, start with your brewery's target production volumeImage of a graph displaying 5 coin stacks, which become increasingly taller from left to right

A brewery's annual production is calculated by using this formula: (brewhouse size) x (number of brews per week) x (50 weeks per year) = annual production

  • A 5 BBL system x 2 brews a week x 50 weeks = 500 BBL annually
  • 5 BBL system x 3 brews a week x 50 weeks = 750 BBL annually

Once you know your target production volume finding the right brewing system is a case of matching that volume to the system's potential capacity. For example, a nano/craft brewery or brewpub system usually ranges between 5 - 15 BBL, which produces between 500 - 3,000 barrels per calendar year. On a macro scale, a full production brewing system would be 15 BBL or greater, with the ability to produce upwards of 3,000 barrels per year. Each of these systems are sized differently, which is why knowing the size of your existing or future facility will be an important deciding factor in a brewing system purchase. 

Suppliers typically also ask about the size of your facility. These questions help them design a brewing system that can be installed for maximum efficiency and output. Learn more about how to calculate additional brewing system requirements in advance here.

Step 3. Buy For Your Brewing ROI

Just like any other business investment, brewers need to know their anticipated return on investment (ROI) for equipment purchases too. While it sometimes pays to invest in a premium piece of equipment, other times, it's simply not worth the cost. Your ROI calculation will help inform that. To start that calculation, first decide how much you want to invest into your equipment. 

The price of a brewing system depends on a variety of factors, like:

  • The scale of the brewhouse;
  • Whether the components are built by a domestic or foreign manufacturer;
  • Materials used in the manufacturing process;
  • Whether the equipment is purchased new or used;
  • Delivery and installation of the entire system.

These factors lead to a wide range of overall pricing as well. For example, a used 3.5 BBL system may cost $30,000, whereas a new 3.5 BBL system may cost $200,000. The least expensive brewhouses are typically manufactured in China, while pricier ones are designed and built in the US, Canada and Europe. Aside from cost of labor, there are other manufacturing expenses, including the components listed above. Image of two pots, one sprouting a plant with gold-coin leaves, the other one empty with a hand dropping a single gold coin into it

Some may be upfront costs, while others may include expenses further down the line. Depending on the scale of production, suppliers will be able to provide you with quotes based on your specific brewing needs.

Take time to weigh these costs against planned business goals. This trade-off should help you figure out when - and what - is right to invest in. Your ROI calculation can help inform these decisions. To complete that process look at post-investment aspects of the equipment like total lifespan, total production capacity and how much profit that capacity will generate. These calculations should give you a clearer picture of what you can afford to spend.

Working through each of the 3 steps above should give you everything you need to know if you're planning on buying a brewing system. To recap, buying ahead of anticipated production datesplanning production goals and calculating ROI based on those goals will help you get there. These 3 things will help you figure out what's most important for your business. 

Ready to take the next step? Check out the video below for advice on what to look for in a brewhouse as we follow Joe Watzig, manager of Portland Kettle Works in Oregon, on his tour of a brewing system manufacturing site:


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