Where to begin.

Most cafés start out small with cold brew coffee, brewing with a Toddy system on a shelf in the back room.  But what if you run multiple cafés, and each of them needs cold brew in the summer?  What if you are a roaster, and selling your beans to multiple cafés, restaurants and offices, and they all want cold brew coffee?   How do you scale production to meet the growing demand?  Lucky for you, it is not as hard as it sounds.


We have developed a number of cold brew coffee systems for roasters all over the country, and there a few basic questions you have to answer first before we begin to design your system for you.  How many gallons per day will you serve from each location?  That will help you decide what kind of containers you will use, from bottles, to growlers, to bag-in-a box, to “Corny kegs” or the more professional “Sankey” kegs.  If you choose kegs, you can have 1/6 barrel kegs (around 5 gallons), 1/4 barrel kegs (around 7.75 gallons) or 1/2 barrel kegs (15.5 gallons).  Each of these containers can effectively be doubled by offering concentrate or ready-to-drink strengths.

Nitro or still?

The question of whether to serve your cold brew on nitro or still, is up to you.  Nitro creates an incredible mouth feel and enhances the flavor of cold brew, but it requires an investment in equipment to nitrogenate the coffee, and the ability to serve nitro cold brew from the tap.

Whether you plan to serve it still or on nitro, we can help you get your coffee into kegs.

Gallons per day per location.

For each of your accounts, whether they are your own cafés or wholesale customers of yours, you have estimated the gallons per day of cold brew that each location is likely to sell.  Gallons per day will depend on your foot traffic, the number of customers you serve per day, and the local weather conditions around your store.  Most people are discovering a greater demand for cold brew than they originally thought, so plan big.


Gallons per day will drive a lot of your decisions for your home brew system.  It will determine how often you will deliver to each location, what kind of containers you will deliver your cold brew in, and how strong you brew your cold brew.

Coffee is best fresh, and cold brew is no exception.  The fresher your cold brew, the more your customers will learn to love the flavors and come back for more.  The good news is that as you scale your production to larger batch sizes, there is more you can do to keep your cold brew fresh.

Once you know the gallons per day, you can make some decisions about the kind of container you use to deliver, how often you will deliver, and what kind of brew system you want to build.  When you scale your cold brew program, you can create efficiencies so you can make greater cold brew with less labor time.

Ready to Start Cold Brewing?  Check out some of our cold brew equipment and make sure to visit the Cold Brew Coffee section of our website to learn more about what it takes to be successful in the cold brewing business.  And don’t forget… we are here to help in any way that we can.




We are in the midst of a revolution in the brewing industry that is as important as the emergence of craft brewing in the 1980’s, or the repeal of prohibition in the 1930’s.  It is the emergence of the tap-room, and the rise of Nano-brewing.  According to the Brewers Association, the number of new breweries continues to grow rapidly in the U.S.  As of November, there were a total of 5,005 breweries in the U.S., a new record high.  That… is a lot of beer.    While the amount of beer Americans consume has not changed, the WAY Americans consume it, has.  Understanding this cultural sea of change is the key to succeeding economically as a brewer.



The best way to understand the key to financial success is to understand the economics of your beer production.  The way you  choose to sell your beer, matters.

You can sell a half barrel keg to a distributor for $100, or you can sell your beer one pint at a time over the bar for $5.50 a pint, if not more.  That works out to be at least $711 per keg[1].  By selling your beer through distribution, you are giving 85% of the value of your beer to the distributor and the retailer, and keeping only 15% for yourself.

How to make money brewing

Here is another way of looking at it.  By developing a retail sales model, you can pay yourself 6 times more per barrel as a brewer than you could earn in a distribution model.  You can make the same money by making only 15% of the beer. This simple lesson in economics makes the revolution in brewing easy to understand.


So what is driving this change?  Beer is changing from a “Product” to an “Experience”.  There is a difference between “buying a 6-pack” and “having a beer” with a friend.  When you buy a six pack, you are purchasing a product that is similar to all the other products on the market.  A six pack of Bud is not all that different from a six pack of Miller or a six pack of Coors.  The choice comes down to price and availability.  How cheap is the beer, and where can I get it?  This is where distributors make their money; by bringing massive amounts of beer to every conceivable outlet… every grocery store, every convenience store, every corner market.


Contrast that to the experience of having a pint with a friend.  People want these occasions to be special, social, and unique.  You get together with a friend to make the evening enjoyable, you seek out an interesting place to meet, and you look for some new flavors to enjoy and discuss.  The experience is about community, connecting with the important people in your life.  It is also about the beer.  What makes this beer special?  What makes it different and unique?  Those questions can be answered by the brewer behind the bar.  When the consumer is in the tap room of the brewery, they can see where the beer is made.  They can talk to the people who made it.  Their connection to the beer is that much closer and more interesting.  Their experience of the beer is that much richer.



The old craft beer model of distribution has hit some limits.  There is a limit to the shelf space in a grocery store.  There is a limit to the knowledge of the average convenience store clerk has about craft beer.  The experience of buying craft beer in distribution can only get so interesting.  This is why beer drinkers are seeking out something more in the form of a tap room.  Craft beer is about connections.  Connecting the beer drinker with the beer brewer, so the brewer can explain what they are trying to create with the beer, and the beer drinker can understand what drives the flavors, and how ingredients, and the brewing process and fermentation and temperature all combine to create wonderful flavors.  Craft beer is about connecting the beer drinkers with their friends and neighbors.  Bringing people together in a comfortable environment where conversation is encouraged, where people can be close to the important things in their lives.  Close to work, close to home, close to friends, close to family.  Craft beer is about connecting the flavors of beer with the flavors of food.  The subtleties of flavor in the meat and the spices matching with the sweetness and bitterness of the brew.   These connections are best made in a tap room.


This is all reflected by the recent growth of nano brewery tap rooms.  The opportunity is vast and ongoing, because you do not have to battle other breweries for that limited shelf space and limited number of tap handles in the market.  Instead of Joe’s Bar, there’s now Joe’s Brewery and Tap Room.  There can be one in practically every neighborhood, with nearby residents taking great pride in “their” brewery.  They patronize it by drinking a pint or two in the tap room or stopping on the way home to pick up a growler to go.  By focusing on small, neighborhood tap rooms, new brewers are capitalizing on this wide open opportunity and fueling the continued growth of the craft beer market.

brewery equipmentThis change in the way that beer is bought has a corresponding change in the way that beer is brewed.  The brewery has to be scaled to the sales model.  If beer in the taproom is worth 6 times more than beer in distribution, then the brewery has to be about 1/6th the size.  Instead of a 50 barrel system, maybe you brew on a 10 barrel system.    Instead of a 30 barrel system, maybe you brew on a 5 or a 7 barrel system.  At Stout Tanks and Kettles, our customers are buying 2 to 10 bbl systems in much greater numbers than they were even a few years ago.   Our brewery design consultants can talk you through the options available at every size of system.


But it’s more than just the size of the batches you brew.  It’s about the quality of the beer you brew.  If craft beer drinkers are going to pay top dollar for their experience of drinking a beer, they want the quality to be top notch as well.  That means your small brewing system has to have all the capabilities of a large system, and more.  You need to be able to do more with your small system than you could with a larger system.  You need to brew more diverse styles, experiment with a variety of flavors.  You need to highlight different ingredients.  Your system has to be more flexible, and better designed than a system that creates thousands of barrels of the same beer every year.


We have been designing all of the key functionality of larger brewing systems into smaller breweries longer than anybody else.  We have a wide variety of mash tuns, brew kettles, hot liquor tanks in all sizes.  Our cellar tanks are designed to fit in the small spaces offered in today’s tap rooms.  We can fit your fermenters and brite beer tanks in the tight spots of your brewery’s cellar.


No discussion of the economics of brewing is complete without a discussion of capital investments.  Any investment in a brewery still has to earn a return on investment, no matter what the scale of the operation.    If the size of your brewery is limited, your investment in capital also has to be proportional.   Our engineers at Stout Tanks and Kettles have designed every size of our brewhouses to be as cost effective as possible.  Because of our direct industry experience, we understand that that the capital investment in a small brewery system is directly related to the revenue that system produces.  Our brewery design consultants can talk with you about the size of investment you are prepared to make in your small brewery, and how to get the most out of every dollar you spend.  The plan for your brewery should be scaled financially to your sales strategy.


Stout Tanks and Kettles is here to help.  









[1] Most pours in a taproom are somewhat less than 16 full ounces.

The Myth about Big Electric Brewing:

There is a myth out there that electric brewing systems won’t work on brewhouses larger than 3 or 3.5 BBL.  Some equipment suppliers don’t even offer electric systems larger than 3.5 BBL.  The myth is that you can’t effectively control the temperature or the rate of the boil, or that it is not possible to get enough power to run the brewery.

Well, it just isn’t so.  At Stout Tanks and Kettles, we have been designing and building electric brewhouses all the way up to 15 BBL for years, and our customers will testify that their larger electric systems not only work great, but are much more effective and easier to use than steam or gas fired equipment.  If your building has the power available, you can have a larger electric system than you thought possible.

Brewing Equipment

The advantages of electric brewing are well known.  Electric heat is practically 100% efficient, meaning that all of the heat generated by the electric element goes into the wort or into the hot liquor tank.  In direct and indirect fire systems much of the heat generated by the flame is wasted on heating the air around the kettle instead of heating the contents of the kettle and then going up and out the chimney.  Likewise, steam boilers lose a significant amount of power depending on their heat source, and how far the heat has to be conveyed from boiler to brew kettle.  Safety is also a big factor in favor of electric.  Open flames from gas fired systems can be dangerous in environments where flammable grain dust and hops can be readily found.  Also, carbon monoxide can kill you.  Every combustion system has to provide a way to safely ventilate the dangerous exhaust gasses, and also to provide fresh make-up air to replace the volume of air that goes up the chimney.  Ventilation can be a significant expense in your build out.   If you can avoid that expense, why not?   With proper use of ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), the risk of electric shock is effectively eliminated with a properly designed electric system.  The result is that an electric system can be a safer and cheaper option.

Electric  brewing will often cost less than steam or direct fire.  Installing the system can cost less because there is no ventilation or expensive steam piping to install.  In many cases, the cost of buying and installing steam pipe is much more than the cost of the boiler itself.  The cost of operating the system can also be less, depending on the price of energy in your area.  In many areas of the country, electricity’s cost is favorable to natural gas, especially when you factor in the efficiency of the system.  There are other operating costs to consider as well.  Boilers require a state license to operate, with annual inspections and fees.  Plus, it is necessary to conduct monthly tests on the boiler water chemistry – due to the expertise and equipment required, most breweries outsource this job for a monthly fee of $100 or more, plus the cost of the chemicals themselves.  Steam boilers can take considerable amount of space in your brewery, space that you are paying rent on.  So it’s not just a matter of the price per BTU to figure out which system is cheaper to operate.

Electric systems may also have the added benefit of carbon neutrality.  Depending on your electrical utility, your electricity could largely come from wind or solar.  The environmental benefits are sometimes important to your consumers.  According to a recent article by Forbes, 90% of millennial consumers would be will ing to switch brands because of a social or environmental cause.[1]  Being able to tout carbon neutral brewing has been a feather in the cap of more than one of our customers.

Some people have a negative view of electric brewing systems.  This is because there are some suppliers and “do-it-yourselfers” who didn’t design their systems well.  By not providing enough kilowatts to achieve an acceptable evaporation rate or heating times, not providing temperature control of the elements, or by not ensuring that the temperatures in the kettles are well controlled, these systems cannot perform as required.  The experienced brewer-designers at Stout Tanks and Kettles and our controls partner Brewmation have thought through the potential pitfalls and designed the equipment to ensure that it not just works, but makes the brewer’s job easier so he or she can brew the best beer possible.

The main reason people like electric is because it is easy to use and just better.  It’s more comfortable to work in a brewery that does not unnecessarily heat the entire brewery and the people in it.  You can

also set your automated system to begin heating the water in the hot liquor tank early in the morning so that by the time you get the brewery, your water is hot and ready to go.


Precise temperature control is necessary at all stages of brewing, especially mashing.  Temperature has a big impact on the enyzmes that convert complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars during the mash.  Different enzymes catalyze reactions at different temperatures.  Precisely controlling the temperature during the mash dictates how the enzymes catalyze the starches into sugars.   The temperature profile of the mash and wort over time is responsible for the flavor profile of the beer.  Being able to reproduce the temperature profile over time allows consistency of flavor from batch to batch.  A well-designed electric system will provide hot liquor at just the right temperature to the mash.  And, by adding optional HERMS or RIMS to your electric system, you can easily perform more complex step mashes.

The chart below shows the optimal rest temperatures for several of the major enzymes at work during the mash.[2]  Brewers very carefully raise the temperature of their mash for specific periods of time.  Care must be taken.  Once the temperature goes up, the enzymes are denatured, and stop working.  There is no going back.  Mashes must be precisely stepped by temperature and time.

Optimal rest temperatures for major mashing enzymes



Once the mashing is complete, and you have completed sparging and lautering, it is time to boil the wort.  This is where electric brewing shines, even in larger systems.  The chart below shows how long it takes to bring wort to a boil.  With a properly sized electric system, you can bring your wort to a boil in about 8 minutes.

Electric brewing equipment

The key to designing a good electric brewing system, even up to 15 BBL, is to be able to control the temperature of the water and the amount of power going to the elements.  At Stout Tanks and Kettles, we design our tanks to place all of the components of an electric brewing system in the right place, including float switches, thermowells for thermometers and temperature sensors, and of course the optimum placement of heating elements.  This means that the water heats evenly and consistently throughout the kettle.


Brewmation, our partner for controls, provides industrial-duty control panels capable of providing all the electricity to the elements, with precise control over the temperature and the amount of power delivered.  These control panels can deliver any amount of power from 1% to 100% of maximum power.  This level of precision will give you the control over your boil that you need, from reducing the heat after adding hops to ensuring a consistent evaporation rate from batch to batch.

The boil is an essential part of the brewing process, and controlling your temperature and evaporation rate precisely can mean the difference between a pretty good beer, and a great beer.  Lots of things are happening during your boil.  One of the simpler functions of the boil is simply to sterilize the wort.  In order to kill off the Lactobacillus bacteria present in your wort, you have to achieve a good boil.

Beyond simple sterilization, the boil is a critical step in building the flavors in your beer.  Boiling affects the flavor profile of the beer by allowing certain proteins to combine with polyphenols and tannins in the wort.  The time, temperature, and evaporation rate of the boil can affect how quickly this process occurs, and thus how the flavor evolves.

Some recipes depend on Maillard reactions between amino acids and reducing sugars that create a “caramelizing” or “browning” effect in the wort, adding flavor and color.  Maillard reactions do not require enzymes, but do need temperature high enough to sustain the reaction.  Much of the Maillard reactions happen in kilning the malts.  But some also occur in the boiling kettle at the right temperatures.

The duration and intensity of the boil also affects the isomerization of the acids in the hops.  Isomerization is the process by which one molecule becomes another molecule by rearranging the atoms into a different sequence.  During the boil, the acids in the hops actually change their molecular sequence, and thus their flavor and aromas.  Being able to reproduce the temperature and time profiles of a brew will allow you to create the same isomers of your hops every time.  Electric brewing systems have an advantage over direct fire because it is easier to reproduce the heating profiles from batch to batch.

The boil can also affect the amount of Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS) in your beer.   DMS is a sulfide molecule that is formed in the wort, and is responsible for that “creamed corn” smell in your wort.  All malt contains S-Methyl Methionine (SMM).  This is an amino acid formed during germination and malting.  During mashing, and even in the boil, SMM is converted to DMS.  The only way to get rid of the DMS is to boil it off.  The half-life of DMS is about 40 minutes, which means that half of the DMS disappears after 40 minutes of a vigorous boil.  Many brewers like to boil for at least 90 minutes to get rid of about 2/3rd of the DMS in the wort.  Rapidly cooling your wort after the boil with a heat exchanger will minimize the amount of DMS that forms in the wort after the boil is done.

Clean up with electric systems is straightforward.  With high quality all stainless steel elements, you should see minimal scorching or caramelizing of sugars on the heating elements.  With a good CIP (Clean In Place) system, your electric brew system should stay clean, requiring element removal about once a week, typically.


In sum, electric brewing systems can be a very effective option all the way up to 15 BBL systems.  Installation costs can be much lower than steam or direct fire because no ventilation and no steam fitter is required.  Operating costs can be significantly lower too, because electric heat is so much more efficient.  But the biggest advantages come from automating your brewing process and having precise control over your brew at all stages.  The magic of beer happens through invisible chemical reactions that all all controlled by heat.  Control the heat, and you will control the magic.