Brewery Flooring 101: Floor coatings and maintenance

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For Americans, beer is one of the most popular alcoholic drink choices around. So, it makes sense that there are countless beer brands for Americans to choose from. Along with all these different beer brands, you need the right place to make them—which is where breweries come into play.

Modern Breweries

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The concept of commercially brewing beer has been around since 2500 BC in ancient Mesopotamia. While it began as something brewed in the home in what was known as the "cottage industry", it eventually became a large-scale operation. This led to the creation of breweries, places where beer can be both brewed and sold in larger quantities. These days, breweries come in different sizes, from large commercial ones to smaller microbreweries.

Parts of a Brewery

Compared to someone who brews their own beer in their basement, a commercial brewery uses a lot of big equipment. There are pieces of equipment to help facilitate the brewing of beer, from machines that crack the grain to ones that help with bottling and capping the final product. No matter the size of the brewery, you are likely to find much of the same equipment.

One of the most recognizable parts of a classic brewery is, of course, the large stainless-steel kettle where the beer is actually brewed. But, there is also a smaller version of the brewing kettle that is called a mash tun. If the brewery also produces lager style beers, they will have a third kettle called a lauter tun. All three of these vessels are vented using stacks, which carry the steam out of the brewery and into the open air.

After the beer has passed through these vessels, it is cooled and pumped into a big tank within the brewery called a fermenter. This is where the mixture of ingredients truly become beer. For sanitation purposes, fermenters are airtight and only allow carbon dioxide to escape, which builds up within the vessel.

After the initial fermentation process, the beer is transferred to another vessel—this one called an aging tank—to let the beer ferment further. From there, it is finally moved to a finishing tank, where the beer is prepared to be bottled and sent out for public consumption.

Importance of Good Brewery Flooring

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While in some industries flooring is based on appearance more than anything, the same cannot be said for businesses in the food and drink industry. Breweries have a lot of rules and regulations that they are required to follow, not just in terms of how they run overall, but with their setup, as well. Everything from the process they use to create their products down to the type of floor system they have installed needs to meet legal standards in order for them to be allowed to legally operate. While a brewery's choice in flooring may not sound like a big deal, it is important because it must meet a number of requirements, such as:

  • For hygienic purposes, a brewery's floor needs to be made of a non-porous material, with no cracks or gaps. Flooring system must also have antimicrobial properties. This is to help prevent the collection and growth of bacteria and other harmful organisms.
  • Floor coating must also be moisture and chemical resistant so that it will not degrade too quickly due to repeated exposure. If a floor degrades too quickly, it not only becomes unsafe, but it also becomes more susceptible to bacteria growth.
  • For breweries, it is especially important that a coating system works well in both wet and dry conditions. Because of the nature of the industry, the floor is likely to see a lot of moisture, and it needs to be able to withstand constant exposure to such conditions.
  • Along with being able to function well in wet and dry conditions, it is crucial that the floors of a brewery offer skid resistance. This is a safety consideration because if a floor is not skid resistant, it can lead to serious injuries to employees and visitors of the brewery.
  • Because of the push for industries to "go green" in their facilities, flooring should also have a low environmental impact.

Brewery Floor Coatings

With the regulatory requirements listed above, there are some specific types of floor coatings that breweries should consider. Some flooring types and materials breweries should consider using include:

1. Epoxy

An epoxy coating is a thick super-glue type of adhesive coating that is used to stick materials together. It is a popular option because it is cost-effective, fairly durable, and easy to install. But, an epoxy floor does not last long, meaning it will have to be redone every so often as it begins to wear down.

2. Urethane

Urethane is another type of floor coating that is popular with the food and drink industry because it checks all the boxes for flooring requirements. It is a high-quality and long-lasting option that is skid resistant and highly hygienic. It can also cover any cracks with ease, ensuring bacteria cannot get caught and grow.

3. Methyl Methacrylate (MMA)

Because time is money, MMA is a popular brewery floor option due to how fast it cures. But, it still provides all the same benefits as other flooring systems like the previously-mentioned Urethane. The big difference between MMA and the other options already mentioned is that MMA comes in a wide range of colors, and additives like quartz crystals can be mixed in with it for a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.

4. Metallic Epoxy

A metallic epoxy is essentially the exact same as a normal epoxy in terms of the benefits. What makes it different from a normal epoxy, however, is the look. Metallic epoxy has a unique look and texture, looking very glass-like, which makes it popular for breweries that get a lot of visitors. Additionally, metallic epoxy floor can be treated to make it, even more, skid resistant.

Brewery Clean Up and Drainage

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Just as it is important to use the right equipment and flooring system in your brewery, it is equally important to ensure everything is cleaned and sanitized properly. There are a number of different and effective methods and the best one will vary brewery to brewery. But, it is important to note that cleaning and sanitizing are two different steps. Cleaning is the first step, which helps to ensure there is no dirt or residue on any of the equipment, which would stop the sanitizer from reaching every corner and potentially leave bacteria to grow and multiply.

Having a good drainage system is also an important part of the brewery, particularly when it comes to cleaning and sanitation. A proper drainage system will help improve wastewater management and reduce general water usage, maintenance costs, and utility expenses.

There are a few different types of drainage options for breweries to choose from. One drainage option includes pot drains, which can appear to save brewers money due to the low cost of the individual drain. However, the downside is that they require the floor to be sloped in 4 directions in order for the various drains to work. The installation expenses add up between the sloping of the floor, additional plumbing required for each drain, and expenses relating to clogging and maintenance. The slope required for pot drains can cause uneven surface and damage to the very expensive brewing equipment. It's a pain for pallet jacks and forklifts. Workers are also required to squeegee liquid towards the drain, which takes more time unnecessarily and make it a less-than-ideal drainage option.

The next best option includes trench drains, which come either grated or grateless. Unlike pot drains, trench drains slope continuously in a single direction, to the drainage channel. Grated trench drains have a heavy covering on them that allows you to see what has been caught in the drain. The downside to grated trench drains is that when it comes to cleaning them, these grates have to be removed and cleaned as well, which takes more time and money and has the potential to cause injury. Over time, these grates also have to be replaced as they will erode from exposure to chemicals, high temperatures, and heavy machinery, which creates an additional cost.

Then there is the Slot Drain system. Slot Drain provides all the same benefits of a grated trench drain with one major difference: there are no grates. This helps make Slot Drain capable of bearing Class F-level loads with no fear of a grate breaking from the pressure and needing replacing. It will also minimize the risk of injury from tripping over a grating edge or having to lift grates to clean the drain.While the floor will still slope slightly, the liquid waste will need no help in reaching the drain, as gravity will do all the hard work. The Slot Drain system is also much easier to clean, especially since there is no need to worry about removing grates to reach the drainage channel. It is just a matter of pushing out the waste and thoroughly sanitizing the channel at the end of each day.

For consumers, breweries are a cool place to see how beer is made and to sample a brand's different offerings. But, what they may not realize is the level of detail that goes into every choice made. From the brewing equipment to the flooring, everything requires careful consideration. Regardless of what they choose in those areas, however, there is only one drainage option to truly consider: Slot Drain. While more money may be spent for initial installation, the money that can be saved over time would make it well worthwhile.

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