Always looking for a reason to fish and enjoy a craft beer with friends.
Industries served: Craft beer and spirits Grain milling systems for bakery/livestock/export trans-loading, rail car to truck, to totes, to bags Full design, automation Project management
Experience: 1983 – current
Projects executed: Hundreds, if not thousands – big and small
Consulting: Large and small brewhouse manufacturers, North America wide
Contact: Newleaf Equipment Solutions
Email: [email protected]
SEASON 2, EPISODE 8: BULKING UP, GOING FROM BAGS TO SILO
PODCAST HOST: TOBY TUCKER – DIRECTOR OF SALES, COUNTRY MALT GROUP
GUESTS: JACK PAULSON – SENIOR TECHNICAL BREWING ADVISOR
- Jack’s long history in the malt game and what he is currently keeping busy with.
- The passion and excitement that Jack feels for the creativity and innovation in the brewing industry.
- Differentiating between pneumatic versus belly-dump and how they relate to distillery size.
- Jack’s recommendations around silo size and some of the mistakes that breweries make with deliveries.
- Selecting a silo for a craft brewery, weighing the best options for different projects and budgets.
- The introduction of new kinds of silos into smaller municipalities and the inevitable learning curve.
- Benefits of powder-coated epoxy lined silos, allowing for more thorough cleaning and more.
- The end of a silo’s cycle and the critical step of complete emptying.
- Reasons to consider installing a pressure-reducing valve or PRV!
- Difficulties with inventory measurement and some ways to manage this effectively.
- The pros and cons of the options available in regards to malt conveyance systems.
- Jack’s position on grist cases for silos and how this can impact productivity.
- The right time to take a step up to a silo operation; considering constraints and ROI.
- The range of timeframes involved in the implementation of a new silo on site.
- Typical costs for silo purchases and installations.
- The kinds of distillation systems that still get Jack the most excited after all these years!
- Jack’s favorite beverage at the moment: Driftwood Brewery’s Fat Tug.
Transcript - Bulking Up - going from malt bags to a malt silo
EPISODE S.2, E.8
[BULKING UP – GOING FROM BAGS TO A SILO]
[00:00:09] TT: Yet another episode of the coveted BrewDeck Podcast begins right now. I’m your host today, Toby Tucker. One of the most common questions we get here at Country Malt Group from breweries is, “When should I consider switching from bag malt to bulk silo malt?” or “Does it make sense to transition to totes before jumping to silo, or do I do both at the same time?” Obviously, a complex question, and we could spend all day talking about it. But really, it boils down to return on investment in cash flow of that particular brewery.
It’s so many questions and so many considerations for brewers looking to make the leap. Our territory manager, Country Malt Group of the Northeast, Jeff Hughes, put together an excellent article on this subject, called “To Silo or Not to Silo, That is the Question.” I encourage all of our listeners to give it a read after this show today, and you can find it on our website, countrymalt.com/mashing-in. It will probably answer many questions you have that we cannot attack today, specifically speaking with our special subject matter guest.
Enough of me talking. I’m going to hand it over to our extraordinary guest today, and I appreciate his time jumping on, Mr. Jack Paulson.
Jack, how are you doing?
[00:02:41] JP: Good morning, Toby.
[00:02:42] TT: Hey! I really appreciate you jumping on. We’ve been talking about getting you on the show for quite some time. It is a welcome surprise, and I know your time is valuable. You’re probably extremely busy right now. Just give listeners a little bit of what Jack does; he’s been around in this field for 34 years, specifically in malt handling for brewers, distilleries, and malting companies. Jack, tell us a little bit more about yourself and currently what you’re up to?
[00:03:08] JP: It’s actually a couple of years behind me in malt handling than I do in front of me. But more importantly, I’ve been kind of a specialist in storage, conveyance, milling, weighing systems. It’s always interesting to hear from a brewery’s point of view what their challenges are. There’s a lot of really good questions regarding the transition from bag to super sacks or a silo. I’ve spent most of adult life working with silos, screw waters and weighing system. It’s no surprise to hear that breweries, distilleries need help. First off, to understand the process.
[00:03:56] TT: We get a lot of it. Jack, we go back for quite some time, and you specifically do a lot of design and install work throughout North America as a reference for Country Malt Group, Canada Malting, Great Western. You’ve seen a lot with us and seen a lot of different customer bases, and honestly, probably responsible for a large chunk of the systems out there right now in North America.
[00:04:20] JP: It’s been a lot of fun. There’s a lot of great people. I just can’t believe the enthusiasm and the creative minds that are in this industry, and it’s a pure joy to be a part of every brewery when they jump from bag to super sack or super sack to silo. It’s always a lot of fun, and we rarely get a super challenging application, but every job is great. It’s nice talking to and meeting new people. I can say that these businesses are all competitors, there’s still all good comrades, there’s very, very rare do you find somebody that is difficult or awkward. These guys are outgoing; they’re real forward, they’re real happy, they’re enthusiastic. It sure makes it a lot of fun. It’s been a great industry to be a part of, and I truly enjoy every phone call and every customer, whether it’s a seven-barrel brewery or 100-barrel brewery.
If I can share a story about how I got involved with the Country Malt at Canada Malting Group, it was about 2005. I was working with a young fellow by the name of Matt Phillips in Victoria, BC. He had just started a brewery; he was growing rapidly, and he reached out. I was quite impressed with his attitude and his philosophy. I jumped in my truck the next day and drove to Victoria. And dang, I would have given him the equipment at no charge just to be a part of his success story.
Shortly after, I got a call from a fellow by the name of Don Moore, one of your colleagues asked me if I was interested. Then another colleague of yours, Matt Letki, reached out. We met in Calgary, Alberta; they asked me if I would like to help them or assist them in piloting their customers, their customer base in storage, conveyance, and milling systems. I jumped in with both feet. I couldn’t wait to get involved with these guys. I love them; their enthusiasm, the sparkle in their eye when they talk craft beer, and distillation were just all that I needed to get involved. It’s been a lot of fun.
[00:06:38] TT: That’s cool. Both Don and Matt are still chugging along with and still doing great work. Very good. Well, you’re into fishing, so for lack of a better term, I’m just going to throw out the bate and get right to it. Let’s start with talking glossary of terms. Pneumatic versus belly dump, what are they, and what’s the difference?
[00:07:02] JP: Well, when you’re in that craft brewery or distillation size of, I’m going to say, even 60 barrel or less, 99% of the time, it’s going to be pneumatic delivery. You have a bulk truck that rolls into the yard; he’s got a four-inch soft line that connects to his truck and connects to your silo on the sidewall. He uses air to convey it to the tank, and it goes into storage.
If we talk about belly dump, that’s a different scale of economy. The truck rolls in; it’s a tractor. It has two trailers. It will hold between 42 and 44 US tons. There’s a gate on the bottom of these trailers, and we’d crack them manually, and we flood feed receiver in the ground or a portable, what we call pivot or swing way hopper. Then that will take it to storage. I guess we need to differentiate at what point you look at that.
[00:08:05] TT: Yeah. We see some belly dumps out there, and I think you’re right. Most of the larger craft that are doing very high volume certainly are kind of in the realm of the belly dump. But I think you’re right, 60-barrel production and less is generally taking silo fills by pneumatic truck, either from a transload, which is a railyard, which the malt house sends the malt to stay at, and the pneumatic truck comes and is filled with malt there, and it takes it to the brewery. But yeah, I think the larger breweries are certainly considering or currently using belly dump.
[00:08:41] JP: One of the considerations when you are buying malt in that size, obviously your infrastructure, it takes a bigger footprint. We need to take longer trucks. These trucks will be in the neighborhood of 70 feet in length, so you need the room to get this truck in and out. Often, what they’ll have to do is drop a trailer in order to accommodate the unloading process. And added to that, whenever we receive malt via a belly dump, it needs to be conveyed to a bucket elevator, and that bucket elevator will take the malt vertically and then using gravity to deposit it into the bin.
Now, the size of the bin increases substantially. We go from typically 30-ton capacity to minimum, 55 or 60-ton capacity. Your capital cost and ROIs need to be reviewed when you’re at that level. But I guess anybody at that level has already got pretty healthy cash flow. This just simplifies the process and eliminates bags.
[00:09:48] TT: Yeah. That’s the main goal when — well, I’ll say main, but there are several considerations where people are looking to transition away from a 50, 55-pound bag. There’s convenience, there are savings, but there’s a lot of considerations, as mentioned earlier. You mentioned space. There are some craft breweries out there that just don’t have the space to be able to put up a silo, and/or they have restrictions locally that prevent them from dropping a silo outside. Then again, as you mentioned, Jack, there are complications in some form or fashion where some people don’t have the space to get a truck right up next to the silo. Some of those pneumatic trucks come with additional hoses, so they can fill up to 50, 60 feet away, but you’re putting a little bit more pressure on the malts to try to get it in your silo.
That’s kind of when we suggest brewers really taking a look if they want to make some sort of transition to volume, really looking into going the tote route; most vendors that I know have pretty substantial savings and cost to the product from bag to tote. Obviously, it’s less of a footprint. However, there’s still going to need conveyance, and there’s obviously a lot of people that kind of go in one fail swoop and put in a silo, and at the same time throw in tote handling system for their specialties. There are so many different applications and so many different layouts, but that’s why I’m glad there are people like you to talk to.
Jack, what size silo do you tend to recommend knowing a standard load on a pneumatic truck is give or take 48,000 pounds? Are larger silos that much more than smaller sizes, pros, and cons? What do you see on your end? What do you suggest?
[00:11:37] JP: Well, most of the time, these breweries are located in pretty accessible territories for your trucks, for your delivery systems. What I see is lead times of usually three, or four, or five days at a maximum. What we always try to do is push the customer into at least 25% increased added capacity on top of the delivery. For instance, if you’re at 24-US ton deliveries, we want to add 25% of that number and get them into 30-ton minimum capacity. This way, yeah, he’ll get the first load in, and he’ll enjoy the push-button automation. On the second load, he can look at it and say, I’m ready for delivery; I’ve got five or six tons left in my hopper. I’m good for four or five days of brewing. That 24-ton delivery can come in. The truck can fill them up and leave empty.
Often, there’s a mistake made when breweries don’t consult somebody that’s actually in the know. I get 24-ton delivery, so I need a 24-ton bin, and I’ve seen it. That’s a huge mistake. What happens is, they have to wait till that tank is completely exhausted, not a drop left in it, so he can put that 24-tons in it. They may sit on their hands for three or four days waiting for malt to come, so it interrupts production. When it comes to the cost of the bin, adding two or three feet of sidewall height is the least expensive investment that you can make. You can only imagine a structure that size, the cost involved in a silo build is the hopper, the legs, the bracing, and the roof. Sidewall material might only cost you $600 and $700 per elevated foot.
I always try to push people into that 30-minimum. If I can see these guys are in maybe a remote location, and malt is a week —10 days out, which I don’t see that maybe in Northern BC or even in Alaska. You don’t see longer lead times. I push guys into larger bins, so they can keep production going and not worry about the truck leaving with two or three tons of malt in it that you’ve paid for.
[00:14:12] TT: Yeah. One thing to mention too is the trucking side of the delivery from some of like Great Wester Malting, Canada Malting, the cost for a pneumatic truck is the same whether they bring out 21, or 22, or 23 metric tons. The trucks don’t charge you by how much they got in the truck, so keep that in mind. If you install a smaller silo or you’re piggybacking with somebody else, the cost of that malt is definitely going to be higher than if you can take a full load. Jack, when you’re recommending silos, is there a difference between the product that’s in that silo. You mentioned 30-ton. Is that on barley malt? Is it different for wheat? Is it different for rye based on the weight of the product in the silo?
[00:15:04] JJ: Absolutely! Great question. In our work with breweries, we always talk about the cubic capacity of the bin. Just to back up slightly, the magic number is 1850 cubic feet for malted barley, whole malted barley. That is based on 34-pounds per cubic foot. If the customer tells me he’s going to store rye, it’s more dense, so that weight actually goes up to 37 or 39 pounds per cubic foot. If it’s wheat, it goes to 40-pounds per cubic foot. We always want to discuss what the commodities are that the customer wants to store. We do have customers that put multiple silos in for multiple commodities. At that point, it’s got to be really clear what they’re going to use and how much of it they’re going to buy. In that respect, yeah.
One of the things that we do is we commonly use a 12-foot diameter bin that is 26-feet tall. Our cones are 55 degrees, and that’s a magic number because that cone holds six US tons. If we have a silo that holds 30 US tons, and our cone is 6 tons, we know that we can take a 24-ton delivery on top of that cone when it’s full. I put sidewall view glasses right at the eve of the bin so the brewer can look at it and go, “Hey! We’re down to that window. Pick up the phone and order.”
[00:16:41] TT: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
[00:16:43] JP: It’s kind of a visual tool, and it’s very, very inexpensive.
[00:16:46] TT: Yeah, it’s a great idea. Can you walk us through the different types of silos you commonly see at craft breweries? We see some cheaper corrugated types. I’ve seen people using stuff out of dairy farms. What are some pros and cons of each that you can provide to our listeners?
[00:17:05] JP: Well, the most important thing I guess is, is everybody has a budget in mind. It doesn’t always follow what I call a good practice. Corrugated bins, there are some pros. The cost is the lowest. The ability to ship it is low. It’s often liked for its farm-style appearance. It gets rusted up; it gets kind of beat up, and people kind of like that retro look. It’s not always the best for malt.
One of the other considerations when you do buy a corrugated bin, or what we call a farm-style bin or also knows as a bolt-up type corrugated bin, the pneumatic filling systems are very substandard. Most of the time, there’s not a lot of thought or consideration into the design. They lack long radius bins so that malt is actually getting damaged as it’s entering the top of the bin. Then second, the filtration system or the venting systems and are weak, and probably the most important thing is the cost of assembly. It often gets overlooked.
Now you get 1,800 and 1,850 cubic foot bin delivered to your brewery. Someone has to put this thing together, and it has to be done right. If it’s not done right, you’re going to have leaks; you’re going to have water ingress, snow is going to sit down there. Probably the other most important thing is when you’re in a municipality, or a city, or whatever jurisdiction you’re in, it might not meet the building code. It may work for farmers out in the middle of a field or at a chicken coop, but it won’t meet the building code. Commercial businesses need to understand that there’s a seismic code, and that seismic code lends us to understand what wind, snow, and earthquake can do that vessel when it’s challenged.
[00:19:10] TT: All good comments there. You also consider the lack of complete ceiling of some of these corrugated or your local welder who doesn’t have a whole lot of experience standing these things up, or writer or putting them together. It always lends the potential of infestation of bugs as well. Once you get hit by infestation, there’s a lot of problems that you’re going to have. Obviously, in the malt there, it’s completely unusable at some point. It’s potentially bringing that into the rest of your brewhouse.
Jack, this is not one of the questions I sent over to you, so feel free to pass on this one, but just thinking about it. We have — obviously, some brewers that are not in major municipalities that are in smaller neck of the woods. Some of these cities or counties or municipalities, as you suggested, have never dealt with, or it might be the first silo from a brewery they’ve ever seen, as far as the request to get these stood up. Is that something like someone like yourself would assist with where they need some support in explaining to some of these cities, “Hey! Here’s what silo is. Here’s what it does. Here’s what I need from you guys.” To kind of answer some of those questions?
[00:20:29] JP: Yeah, that’s pretty common. It’s a handholding process to get these guys operational into bulk. The cities will often ask, “Oh geez! How big is it? What color is it? Where are you going to put it?” You have to engage with either an architect — a lot of times; breweries now are using architects to develop an image. “What color is it? Well, we don’t want white because it jumps out. Do you have other color options?” Then you’ll get into the actual permitting side of it, and they’ll be asking, “Well, you know, we get 90-mile an hour wind. Is going to stand out to that?”
We have all the support documentation for our builds when it comes to smooth-walled, welded bins. That’s why smooth wall bins are the most desired. We look at the location by zip code. Everything is managed by the zip code. The zip code tells us where you’re at, what forces of nature you’re dealing with there. We build that tank according to that jurisdiction and to meet the jurisdiction and the building code so that you’ve got a piece of paper in your hand that says, “I’m good for 110 miles per hour. I can take snow loads of 60-pounds per square foot on the roof, and I’m good for one in 10 or one and 20 earthquake events.”
[00:22:06] TT: The other thing is, a lot of places are going to require drawings or designs from a structural engineer. Maybe think about how much weight you’ll have, not only with the silo itself but the 22, 22, 24 ton that’s in there when it’s full. I didn’t even know this until I was looking over some notes today, but is there a food-grade epoxy that some folks put on the inside walls of these smooth silos?
[00:22:35] JP: Yes, good question. First off, that is standard in our bins. We use powder-coated epoxy paint, which lends to what I call 100% cleanout, as opposed to a corrugation, which has got, I believe it’s like a 2.6-inch ripple. The corrugations tend to hold up dust and not allow the bin to clean out properly. There’s going to be a one or two, or three times a year where you get a large flush of dust into your brew, and that will cause you some pretty serious problems. When people do go corrugated, I encourage them to at least evacuate the bin completely once or twice a year, either blow it down or wash it down, which is a pretty big task. You’ve already got enough work on your hands in the brewery packaging, brewing, warehousing. To take that on, it’s just daunting because you have to drop your discharge equipment; you have to don anti-fall protection. Get somebody up on top of the bin to do this, and they really don’t get it until they have that problem.
Corrugated bins are designed for livestock operations. They just flat aren’t designed for distillation or craft brewing. With the smooth wall bin, like what we provide, we’re epoxy coated, smooth-walled, welds are ground so that we don’t get any build-up. When the tank is discharging, we get a clean flow; we get a sheer vertical drop of all the inventories, so we don’t recycle used malt that’s been hanging out in there and just keeps in there for batch after batch after batch or delivery. In that respect, it truly is the best option for our brewery.
I know the capital cost is higher, but it’s rewarding to pull up to your facility and see that bin there. It stands bold; it’s strong, it’s clean. It can be used for more than just storage. You can put your logos on it. Many breweries have put wraps on this. I encourage people to think about custom colors that match your brewery’s marketing strategies. You can up light, and you can downlight; you can use it as a landmark. So some really good, positive things about smooth wall bins and your ability to use them as more than just storage.
[00:25:10] TT: Going back in, maybe we didn’t spend enough time on it, but you mentioned obviously several times a year completely emptying that silo. I think it’s definitely worth mentioning that there are several reasons for that. But tell me a little bit about what happens towards the end of that silo fill, specifically with chafe and kind of — I’ve gotten calls where people got their first silo stood up, they’re going through their first load, they’ve got five-ton left, and they call me like, “There’s something wrong with the malt.” Can you tell us kind of what happens there, specifically with the cone, and why it’s important to completely empty those silos?
[00:25:51] JP: Well, Toby. When we have pneumatic deliveries, we’re using air to push the malt. It weighs 34 or 35 pounds per cubic foot. Your delivery truck can sit on your driveway for a minimum of two hours and up to three hours, depending on the distance between the truck and the silo. We’re pushing it vertically. The air was being controlled to the center of the bin. It’s not a surprise that you’re going to get separation. That separation is natural. You’ll get a small amount of dust, you’ll get a small amount of chafe, and eventually, what happens is, the natural progression would be for the solids to fall straight down, the chafe to go to the outside of the bin because it’s light and it’s airborne.
Eventually, what will happen is, when we’re emptying a bin completely, you will find small amounts of chafe and dust that slide down the sidewall vertically. Then when it gets to the cone, this inventory collides. You might get a couple of pounds; you might get maybe a little bit more. It really depends on the delivery, which I think is one of the most important things. The longer that the truck sits there to deliver, the greater the quality of malt.
There are times where drivers are forced to push real hard and get out of the way because maybe the nature of the complex that you’re in or the distance. You can experience that. I don’t see it a whole lot. Again, I encourage breweries to empty those bins at least once or twice a year. I know breweries that never do it; they’ve never touched it, never looked at it, never consider it, and they don’t have any complaints. I guess from a brewer aspect; it really depends on how discerning they are, I guess.
[00:27:47] TT: One other thing, too, you mentioned the pneumatic truck, the length from the truck to the silo. But it’s also important to know about the speed, the PSIs that they’re working with from truck to silo. Some brewers are pretty adamant about a certain speed they expect for the truck to unload that malt. There are usually pretty standard PSIs, and that obviously can vary. But the people that are delivering silo malt for us have been doing it a long, long time, and they’re a great resource to kind of help those brewers get a handle on kind of what that target PSI is. But if they’re sitting there too long, there’s going to be issues. If they’re not there long enough, there’s going to be issues.
[00:28:34] JP: Yeah. That’s a careful balance. But I think in technical terms, four and a half or five PSI is about standard. Is that what you think is normal, Toby?
[00:28:44] TT: Yep. I would agree.
[00:28:47] JP: One of the things that’s important when you’re are pneumatically conveying at that pressure, that is the sweet spot. That is an ideal situation where the malt is being conveyed. It is the least amount of damage. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to design your filling system on your silo. Long radius elbows, we want to avoid sheer points. Any point where the malt will collide into sharp, or projections in the pipe, or transitions from elbows to straight or where couplings are located. Probably the most important thing to consider when you’re receiving pneumatic malt is to make sure you design your silo with what we call a PRV. It’s a pressure-reducing valve.
In the event that your sidewall vent with its filter on it hasn’t been managed, hasn’t been looked after, or has an obstruction in it. We could technically blow the bin up; even the four-and-a-half pounds does not sound like a lot, you can implode the bin. It’s primary to have a PRV in the top of your bin so that it will relieve the air, and your truck driver will probably find out real quick that there is an obstruction or blockage, and it can be really simple. It could be that the filter hasn’t been removed, and it’s collected fines over the course of the year, and it just can’t take anymore and relieve the air to avoid catastrophic failure.
It’s only happened twice in my, I guess, over 40 years now that I’ve seen it happen. One was in sugar in a bakery, with fine sugar because it’s so hygroscopic. Another one is malt; somebody stuffed a wet rag up a vent, they were thinking to keep out rodents or birds, and the rag froze overnight. When they took the delivery, the top of the bin blew off.
[00:31:01] TT: I think you and I might, but I know about — I don’t know if that’s the specific one, but I experience something very similar with that rag in the past like two months. You’ve got to be careful with them for sure. You mentioned a sight glass. We’ve seen brewers trying to track their silo either visually or just with a, honestly, a pen and a paper. Like, “Okay. This batch I used two-ton.” I got a full load last week, and they just try to do the math and figure out how much they had still in their silo. A lot of times, we go out to put malt in that silo, and it overflows, or the truck still has six-ton left in it. It can be problematic. What are your recommendations here?
[00:31:49] JP: Well, that’s a really good point. The deductive method of inventory management is great until it fails. I standardly put on what we call our standard malt bin, which is 12-foot diameter, 26-feet tall. We’ve got 12-feet of sidewall. I’ve put five windows in there, and those five windows are a great visual. We make sure that they can be seen from the back door at the brewhouse or wherever you’re located. Every time you walk by, you can look up and see it. The windows are fantastic. They’re about five inches in diameter. They’re made from Lexan glass, they’re gasketed with a stainless-steel ring, and they’re sealed. They can actually hold liquid.
Then as I said earlier, we like to put the first ring right at the edge of the hopper cone and the sidewall because I know that that gives me six tons. I can actually give you and calibrate the bin for you, showing you for every vertical foot up the sidewall what tonnage that is so that you can mentally keep track. That’s one good way. It’s usually the most economical way, and people have adjusted to that quite well. If your budget allows you, there are other options. Load cells are industry standard in all kinds of processes for inventory management. In this case, they tend to be a bit expensive. If you can only imagine, you got 48,000 pounds of malt, you’ve got a vessel that weighs near 5,000 pounds, so now you’re at 53,000 or 55,000 pounds of equipment. That load cell needs to be quite robust, and often, we have to change the design of the bin from a six-leg bin to a four-leg bin to accommodate that. There’s no extra cost for that, but it needs to be considered. We don’t put six-load cells on a bin because you’re $9,000 to $10,000 per load cells on a bin that size. That would give you your digital readout or control.
The other method that we have been using the last few years is radars. They’re quite inexpensive, so we roof mount them. We input the data on the software that shows the diameter of the bin, the slope of the cone, the height of the cone, and the overall height of the bin. It can actually self-calibrate, so we know that we got either by cubic feet or cubic meters or bushels. We can also input our density, so pounds per cubic foot. We actually get a reading that says, “Hey! I got 14,378 pounds in the bin. I’ve got 34% buoyed, which means I’m two-thirds full. It’s great. It’s iCloud-based. You can monitor it from your iPhone or an android, or an office-based PC. We can also set it up so that you do auto reordering, so you don’t even pay attention. It’s cloud-based to the Country Malt Group or the Canada Malting Group. They’ll get an email from our system that says, “Hey! Send me another 48,000 pounds.”
[00:35:14] TT: That’s cool.
[00:35:15] JP: It’s really fantastic. This technology is super cool, and it’s very inexpensive. When I say very inexpensive, it’s about a third of the cost of load cells. I’ve been to job sites where I watch accountants with a handful of gravel, throwing it up against the sidewall of the bin, waiting for the sound change to say, “Hey! I’m third, or I’m half full.”
[00:35:39] TT: No. Really? You’re kidding me.
[00:35:44] JP: I stood there with my jaw all slacked, going, “What are you doing there?” “Oh! I’m just checking stocks, so I know when to reorder.”
[00:35:55] TT: That’s pretty funny. I’ve don’t this before. I think it’s kind of like the common dude that’s looking for a stud behind their drywall. They do the knock technique. We’ve all done it.
[00:36:07] JP: Yeah.
[00:36:10] TT: Well, let’s bounce over to malt conveyance systems. What are the different types? There is a chain disk; there’s an auger. Give me some pros and cons of each, and what do you personally recommend and why?
[00:36:22] JP: Well, again, Toby, this is a budget, something that you need to keep in mind. Obviously, malt conveyance, malt storage, malt handling, malt milling is one of those things that’s left last. They’ve looked at every aspect of the brewery between chillers, and boilers and keg washing lines, and packaging, and racking. They’ve got everything all sus right out perfectly, but all of a sudden, the light bulk goes off and, “Jeepers! What about my milling? How am I going to — where am I going to put that? I got to get it out of the way because I know it generates a bit of dust.”
Flex augers are probably your most economical way to manage that. There are many sizes that will accommodate every scale of production. My focus is always to steer them into a larger auger than what they need today because they’re going to need more capacity further down the road, whether it’s a year, or two years, four years, or five years. Just to describe flex augers, it’s a coreless spring inside of either a PVC or a hardened steel tube. They can climb vertically. They are not recommended in breweries. Livestock, sure. Just to confirm, flex augers are really designed for agricultural uses: cattle, chickens, hogs. But they’ve really, really taken a stronghold in the brewing industry.
There are some things that we want to manage when we use them. One, they’re very inexpensive, and they’re easy to install. Avoid vertical climbs. Limit them to 50 degrees; 45 is a sweet spot, 30 is even better, but just limit your vertical climbs. Because as you increase your angle, you’ll get more degradation. The big consideration is, let’s put the mill where it works best for access with pallet jacks, skids, and malt, and what works best for the flex auger. But in terms of flex auger sizing, there’s two-inch, there’s three-inch, there’s three-and-a-half-inch, and there’s five-inch. What we see most and what I sell mostly through our brewhouse manufacturers is a three-and-a-half-inch system and that has a nominal delivery rate of 100 pounds of whole barley per minute. It’s very economical.
The most important thing about flex augers is making sure that you’ve got a good charge on them. When I say by good charge, if you took a cross-section of the tubing, we want to see that tube about 75% or 80% full. That’s the point where we have eliminated almost 99% of the degradation. You might end up with 1%. It’s very hard to measure, but we know that it’s 75% or 80% charge, the screw is actually floating inside of the tube, it’s not beating against the sidewalls, and pinching, and sharing and damaging the bar. That’s the most important thing.
I always encourage to flood feed the auger and performance match the screw to whatever your process is by using a variable frequency drive. If you can only imagine a situation where a fellow has a slide gate, either from the mill or from the silo, that you are choke feeding, and you’ve got a screw that’s rotating at 350 RPM or 358 RPM, what happens to that malt if that screw was not completely charged? You might as well just eliminate the mill and send it straight to your [inaudible 00:40:21] or straight into hydration.
By slowing the screw-down, we are actually encouraging more gentle handling, less sharing, less degradation, and we’re not running the screw — why run it at 358 when 200 RPM will do it? You’ll actually hear it when you’re operating it. The screw will settle down; there’ll be less vibration, it will really quiet down. There are many benefits. One, we eliminate degradation. Two, we eliminate the wear in either the PVC tube or in the steel tubing itself, and it’s a lot quieter.
[00:40:59] TT: All good stuff. It’s been done before, but not a lot of people recommend it, but I want to get your opinion. Should silos have a grist case? What are your recommendations here?
[00:41:10] JP: That’s a really good question. For me, I prefer a grist case because really guys that are into the silo-sized volumes of production, they’re looking to compact their brewing processes from a typical two brews a day to as many as five or six per day. To do that, we utilize our time when the brewhouse is at rest, whether it’s a 60-minute rest or a 90-minute rest. That allows us to pre-charge in-house hoppers. This can be done in many, many different ways. We can convey to a pre-hopper, so pre-mill. What I like to do is actually put a hopper over top of my mill. I’ve got a full base malt grain bill sitting in a hopper over top of my mill. What we like to do is get that pre-hopper charged with a full-grain bail of base malt while the other brews are already in the tank resting.
This way, the second these guys have completed their cleanout, they just literally start their mill, pull a slide plate on the pre-hopper, and we’re going again. That really helps us compress our brewing schedule, and we’re not standing around waiting for augers to deliver. The other part of that is, we can actually run our base malt from our silo through our mill, and we can go to grist case. Well, that grist case can be charged again while we’re in a resting stage in the brewhouse. Again, it just accelerates the whole process. When you got manpower standing around waiting or twiddling their thumbs, there’s always lots to do, but there’s always an excuse to find a place to rest and hang out while augers deliver.
Yeah, pre-hoppers are always a great asset, and whether you call it a pre-hopper, a post-hopper, or a grist case. Always give that consideration and keeping in mind that we need to weigh somewhere in this process. We need to weigh between the silo and our hydrator. How are we going to do that? What’s the best? There are pros and cons to that. If we decide that we want to put load cells on our silo, that’s great. Capital cost is, like I said earlier, $9,000 or $10,000. There are benefits to that, but there are also some disadvantages. Talk about the benefits. You got a visual, digital display of your current inventory at any minute of any day. When you’re dozing off of your silo, you’re going to give up some accuracy, and the accuracy is typically one-tenth of 1%.
[00:43:46] TT: When you say dozing off your silos, do you mean like adding, especially malt?
[00:43:50] JP: — it’s a subtractive method of taking inventory out of that bin.
[00:43:55] TT: I got you.
[00:43:58] JP: The load cells are signaling to a controller that I’m going to pull out 1,700 pounds of malt. That 1,700 pounds gets kind of blurred when you’ve got 48,000 pounds plus the weight of your vessel. Yeah, you’re going to give up. Really, at the end of the day, as long as your brewer is hitting its gravity, he’s happy. He can adjust his recipes accordingly. But where we find the biggest benefit is if these load cells are installed either on a pre-hopper, post-hopper, or on a grist case. One, we’re dealing with less weight. We’re actually dealing with the weight of the grain bill and not the vessel and the rest of the inventory, so our accuracy can be within a pound or even a couple of pounds.
Your cost goes down substantially by almost half, but what I do like to see is I like to see my load cells on my grist case. More often, you’ll see three-legged grist cases over four-legged grist cases. And three-legged grist cases obviously are going to be cheaper because you’re using less hardware to do your measurement, but it’s more accurate. Three legs are more accurate than four legs, so I encourage that.
[00:45:15] TT: Yeah, absolutely. There are customers or brewers that you talk to that are pretty adamant about going to a silo, and we get it too. There are situations where we ask them to take a step back and talk to them about, “This may not be the right time as far as what you’re doing as far as production.” Let’s take a look at going the tote handling route if when you get to the point where it makes a bit more sense financially and production-wise. We can always come back and take a look, and tie in that silo, and utilize the tote handling in line for your specialties. You have that conversation quite a bit with folks?
[00:45:57] JP: Yeah. We started fielding inquiries for what we call totes or also known as super sacks, 10, 12, 15 years ago. It’s always been a conversation that every brewer wants to have because they can see a saving. Any time you can get away from bags and get into a larger bulk volume, there are immediate savings. The brewer needs to understand that there are costs associated with that. One, you need a frame to support the sack. You need a discharge method, so either it’s going to be a chain disk, or it’s going to be a flex auger. We still need a weighing system. Those are considerations that everybody has to make what’s right for them.
Years ago, I had customers that were using multiple specialty malts, and they wanted to swing over to super sacks. We did something that was very interesting. We developed what we call a load cell table that held 3, 4, 5, 6 super sacks simultaneously. We could actually recipe drive the opening and closing of the valves on each super sack to dose in our specialties. The savings are quite good. Your expense is maybe a little higher, but when you’re in that scale of production, it eliminates human error. There’s a lot of different ways to look at it. Super sacks are great. Again, you need to have additional racking to support your inventory. It needs to be managed so that you don’t run out in the middle of a brew.
There are lots of different advantages to it. I think the savings are higher to go bulk as in silo. I think a lot of times, I tend to see a bit of a shock when people go, “Oh! I just want to buy super sacks.” And then you say, “Your load frames are going to cost you $5,000, and the conveyance is going to cost you $2,000.” They’re in it for $7,000 just for a single sack.
[00:48:05] TT: Yeah, and it’s certainly something you’re going to look at. We talked about return on investment. How long is it going to take to recoup that money you put into it based on the savings from the actual material, from bag to tote? One of the cool things that we do at Country Malt Group is we offer custom-blended recipe totes if somebody wanted to go that route and like, “Hey! I want to take advantage of some savings. I’m going to put it in the rack. Just let us know. Here’s what my recipe is, and we will blend it, so you don’t have to do anything else.” It’s a pretty cool offering that we have.
[00:48:45] JP: I understand that you actually mill for your end-users.
[00:48:49] TT: Yeah, we do both, absolutely. Whatever they need.
[00:48:52] JP: That’s fantastic. I have actually supplied super sack discharging frames for customers like that. There’s a number of advantages for them. One, they don’t have to worry about milling. They’re trusting you bring them a high-quality finished product, and it’s just a matter of dispensing off that super sack frame straight to a grist case or a hydrator, and that’s extremely attractive.
[00:49:18] TT: There are some municipalities that either because of space, or dust whatever, sometimes they can have a mill on-site, and we can definitely assist with that. Jack, what’s a good realistic timeframe for planning purposes of implementing a new silo from start to finish? I’m sure it depends on the application size how many, but what’s a general timeline for a typical craft brewer?
[00:49:43] JP: Most of the time, I get inquiries that start a year out. What’s important is to formulate a budget for storage, conveyance, weighing. Getting a good handle on the space requirements, plan your location for the silo, plan the integration of lighting or up lighting or down lighting, engage with a structural engineer so that you’re fully aware of what your responsibilities are. Find yourself a good contractor, get yourself a competent electrician that could integrate the mechanical conveying and weighing systems. A year is about normal, and I would say that nine out of ten times a year is fantastic. We’ve had opportunities where this has been compressed into four months, and we absolutely have no problems doing it.
To have the silo manufactured and ready for shipping is all within 90 days. We’ve done them as quickly as 30 days, so there are not very many limitations other than making sure that you’ve done your due diligence on your side. Making sure that if you are going to the permeating route, be prepared to engage with your city, municipal, or county authorities to fulfill their requirements. We assist you in that. Whatever it takes, whether it’s drawings or understanding how the bin was seismically designed for winds, snow, or earthquake. California is different than Denver, and Denver is different than North Carolina. These are things to consider, but conveyance systems are off the shelf, weighing systems are off the shelf. The biggest component and usually which is the most important is your silo and your municipal regulators to make sure that you’re doing the right thing, making good decisions, and it allows you to move forward.
[00:51:55] TT: This is a lot of information. We’re chatting with people, and probably one of the questions that come to mind right off the bat is how much does a typical silo install cost? I know, again, there’s a lot of different applications, a lot is involved. But for, let’s say, a production brewery looking to get into a silo, what’s the general rule of thumb as far as cost on these things?
[00:52:20] JP: $45,000 to $50,000 would be a strong number. That would give you the storage, conveyance, and a weighing system. Obviously, we can build a higher budget if you’re looking for more bells and whistles. But $45,000 or $50,000 is very typical. The only variance would be transportation. We have five manufacturing plants in North America, four of them in Canada and one in Storm Lake, Iowa. We service the Western US and Canadian West via those plants, so freight. We’ve got a large vessel with a double drop trailer; we’ve got pilot vehicles, we’ve got permitting. We actually have to select a route from our plant to your location where we don’t have overhead conditions that obstruct us.
You might think, yeah, it’s just 450 miles, but it might take us 700 to get there to avoid all the overhead obstructions. Those costs can vary. We’ve got freight that would only cost you maybe a thousand dollars, sometimes it will cost you $5,000. It all comes down to your location.
[00:53:47] TT: Yeah, and it seems today everything on the freight side is expensive.
[00:53:50] JP: It is.
[00:53:52] TT: A lot of struggles. All good. I know you’ve done some very large projects. You have been involved in some very hefty projects. Tell me about the coolest malt handling setup that you ever worked on, or you’ve seen personally.
[00:54:07] JP: Well, the coolest system is when you get to use every single tool in the toolbox, so storage, multiple conveyance methods, super sack dischargers on load cell tables, chain disk, flex auger, grains in and grains out. I’ve got involved in projects all across the US, 50, 60 barrel, 100 barrel, cross Canada for all the big guys. The most recent project that I enjoyed the most was in Victoria, British Columbia, for Driftwood Breweries. This was a nice opportunity for us to show all of our skills. The customer has outgrown his current facility, was taken on a 70,000 square foot building, wanted to increase his storage capacity, wanted to receive B-trains. We put in twin 55-ton silos, 65-foot bucket elevator. We put in the receiving for the B-trains, so what we call a pivot swings underneath the truck. We convey vertically into storage. We used radars for inventory management. We used the flex augers to get the whole malt into the building. We transitioned the chain disk because the overhead obstacles were far too complex for a flex auger to manage.
We didn’t talk heavily about chain to systems, but the beauty of a chain disk is we can change horizontal planes 90 degrees, we can go vertical, so there’s no obstruction that we can’t get around. They have amazing capabilities, systems, 1,900 lineal feet, and as many as 24 corners to manage all of the obstacles that go into a brewery. Whether it’s overhead piping, glycol, electrical, junction boxes, pillars, post, sheet metal, ducting, there’s nothing that we can’t get around. That was executed at a pretty high level, on budget, on time, and then we supported the brewery with their grains out.
We provided all of the piping from their existing pond or routed it out to storage. 1,600-cubic foot stainless steel spent grain bin on extended legs. Ten-inch stainless screw to fill out farmers’ trucks and other end-users for spent grains. All the automation, all the electrical components that start and stop, and speed control, all of the apparatus. It was just fantastic—a really exciting project. Since then, we’ve got inquiries, very similar but not to the scale. Only because this job was such a high-profile installation, it was a lot of fun. Great people, great beers.
[00:57:12] TT: Yes. I’ve heard about that project, and maybe we could snap our fingers and have a chat with those guys over at Driftwood, specifically about that project and kind of more of a brewers’ perspective on silos and systems, et cetera. Jack, I might lean on you to hug you to make that happen at some point, and we can get them on.
[00:57:33] JP: Yeah. I just got a text message from him just now; he’s not available.
[00:57:37] TT: Well, maybe we can schedule him and tie it into the backend here, and it might be some good listening for everybody. I do most of these recordings on Friday, and every time I start getting thirsty and obviously talking about anything, everything, adult beverages. What do you enjoy these days as far as adult beverages?
[00:57:56] JP: Well, Toby. One of my favorites.
[00:58:00] TT: Oh, here he goes. Let’s keep in mind, you’re in a different time zone, like two hours earlier than me, so it is still breakfast.
[00:58:08] JP: That’s right, I’ve been a huge fan of the Driftwood Brewery’s Fat Tug. This brew is just simply one of the best beers that I’ve ever had. When it comes to the hop, the IBUs, it’s just delicious; it’s just simply delicious. I’m a big fan; in fact, it’s a Northwest-style India pale ale with an intense hot profile, featuring Cascade, Columbus, Centennial, Amarillo, and Citra. Citra is one of my favorite hops, and it’s juicy. Between the grapefruit, and the mango, and the melon and the passion fruit. It comes in just around 7% and 80 plus IBUs. It is just super refreshing. It’s my go-to Friday beer, and frankly, any time I can drink one of these, I’m the happiest guy in the world. You talked about fishing early. If I had my choice, I would put that name on my boat. Fat Tug. It’s nice to say, and it’s better to drink.
[00:59:21] TT: Oh, I wonder if you have to get permission from those guys over there. Screw it; I’m going to get a beer. Thank you for contributing to my addiction over here, Jack. Hey, so Jack, do you want to give the listeners some info on how to get a hold of you. The folks at Country Malt Group, generally our sales team, most or everybody has worked with you at some point. Same with the guys and girls over at Canada Malting and then Great Western Malting as well. We’ve always got your contact info, and folks can certainly reach out to our sales folks for that. But if you want to give that out to the folks that might want to reach and contact you directly.
[00:59:58] JP: Fantastic. Currently, I’m in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. It’s a great place on the West Coast. We enjoy the salt air and obviously the boundaries of that with the company called Newleaf Equipment Solutions. I’m the senior technical brewing advisor. My phone number is 604-355-7681, and I answer my phone seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and help people out wherever I can. I just love hearing from all walks of life and every brewery in between.
[01:00:38] TT: I can attest to that. You always answer the phone.
[01:00:41] JP: Yep.
[01:00:42] TT: You’ve always been good to us. Hey, it’s been a really fantastic show and really some great information. Again, we can probably go on and on talking about this stuff. But I will again let the listeners know, Jeff Hughes, our Northeast territory manager with Country Malt Group, put together a really nice kind of beefy article, if you will, on the subject that goes into a little bit more detail. It’s called To Silo or Not to Silo. Again, you can find that on our website at countrymalt.com. I encourage folks to read that if they haven’t. He’s a knowledgeable dude as well and would certainly field some questions.
Jack, hey, I appreciate your time today, and I hope you have a fantastic weekend and hopefully, we can catch up sooner rather than later.
[01:01:23] JP: Always a pleasure, Toby. Thanks for having me.
[01:01:26] TT: No problem. Hey! Thanks again to all of our listeners. That does it for another episode of The BrewDeck. We’ll catch you on the next one. Cheers.