We have heard that large breweries use ammonia refrigerant as part of their brewing process, but what is used in smaller systems, and what defines small? Could you point me in the right direction to understand the equipment/refrigerant and brewing capacity parameters.
Thanks for writing with your question regarding refrigeration use in breweries. All brewers use some form of refrigeration systems in the brewing and fermentation processes. Direct ammonia chilling is still used by a few older plants but has largely been replaced with a glycol interface. Typically Freon type or ammonia based systems are used to chill a 30% glycol solution to about 25 deg F (-4C) which is circulated through a distribution system that can send cooling to tank jackets, coils and heat exchangers throughout the plant. The amount, sizing and types of system used depends largely on the size and capacity of the brewery plant. Small brewpubs may require fairly simple 10-20 hp Freon based glycol chillers, larger craft breweries may use multiple units of 50 hp reciprocating ammonia to glycol chillers and of course larger breweries will use much larger and more elaborate systems. For more information I would point you to your local MBAA district Cincinnati where you can attend a meeting and meet brewers from your area including those from the MillerCoors plant in Trenton, AB in Columbus and Boston Beer in Cincinnati as well as smaller regional and brewpub brewers. More information about District Cincinnati.