Our new centrifuge

by Robin on September 17, 2013

separatorWe got a fun new piece of brewery equipment that’s being commissioned this week: a giant separator / centrifuge.

What does that do? In order to answer that question, we first have to answer another one:  Why don’t we filter our beers?

From the beginning, I’ve taken a strong stand as West Sixth’s head brewer (and owner) to never filter our beers. Filtration exposes the beer to a huge surface area of either diatomaceous earth, paper sheets, or cartridges.  It can be done well, without too much detriment to the beer, but not typically at the craft brewing level of investment.  There is a huge opportunity for oxygen pickup, potential taste taint from the filter media, damage to head retention, and removal of certain hop characteristics.

I also chose not to filter for other reasons.  For one, diatomaceous earth is a regulated respiratory health hazard.  I don’t and don’t want anyone else to breath the stuff.  Furthermore, filter media has an environmental footprint: mining, manufacturing, high heat processing, iron oxide removal, transport, and commercial pulp forests versus native ecosystems.  Not to mention the fact that the spent media needs to be disposed of and that typically means in a landfill.

So that’s why we don’t filter.  But now, with a separator we can achieve a similar process throughput and consistency for our distributed products as a filtering brewery but without the downsides.

In a nutshell, the separator runs the beer through a series of cone shaped discs that spin at high RPM.  The short distance between the discs coupled with the centrifugal force causes any solids to collect on the inside of the discs.  The solids are discharged by a quick lifting of the discs off their base and they “sling” out.

To be fair, it is not an apples to apples comparison because a separator will not make a beer super “brite” like filtration.  It cannot, for instance, remove chill haze like a filter can.  But we are only looking for a “near brite” effect on the product not a brilliantly clear presentation that comes at the potential expense of other characteristics of the beer.

So, we’e excited to add this new process to the brewery.  We think you’ll love the results.  Actually, we hope you won’t even notice — that’s is, after all, the point.

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