Due to the pandemic we live in, we have seen breweries close and limited on-site consumption. It has caused the popularity of go-to packaging to skyrocket.
I think you can agree that there is nothing better than a cold bottled beer on a warm summer’s day. Bottles remain the choice that consumers and some breweries prefer. Because they are protected against light and provide optimal freshness and fantastic flavor.
Canned beer is also an option that offers you portability while being friendly to the environment because it can be recycled.
And for this reason, I want to help you not only choose the best filling machine for your brewery. But also stay up to date with the latest filling machine technology in case a new upgrade or installation is required. So let us dive right into the tips and tricks that will take you one step closer to choosing your best filling machine.
Different bottle filling machines
Today, there are various bottle-filling machines to choose from that have
manual and automatic functions. Let us take a closer look at these different machines:
These types of machines serve multiple purposes, for example:
- Saving space in your brewery
- Offering continuity and efficiency
An example is specialized machines responsible for rinsing, filling, and capping. These different functions are all done by one system.
These are small machines that use long filling tubes and can typically fill one to eight bottles of beer at a time.
These are high-speed machines that use rotary systems and offer greater capacity.
Semi-automatic rinser/filler/corker/cager machines
These machines are generally used for bottle-conditioned beer.
They are available in different configurations to rinse the bottles and sort them out.
So let us get to the process of filling bottles and cans with beer.
How does the process of filling beer bottles work?
If you have ever wondered how the process works exactly, I’m here to tell you!
Before the bottles are filled, they first move along a conveyor belt. While this is happening, the vessel is kept safe with a separating device. It is then situated on a lifting platform underneath the filling component.
The beer filling process starts when the brewery employee removes the bottles from the pallet, they then rinse the bottles and control the amount of oxygen that gets into the bottles before they are filled.
The bottles are filled automatically and are then run through a capping machine that seals the bottle. The process is relatively straightforward hereafter as the machine takes care of the rest.
The last step in the process is the most exciting part: applying the labels to the bottles. This can be done by a labeler or applied manually. Finally, the bottles are ready to be transferred to cartons or crates for sale in your brewery or if it needs to be transported to a distributor.
If you are a brewery and you are uncertain about the machine you should get. Here are some guidelines that can help you make your decision:
- If you are a small to a mid-size brewery, look for a machine that can fill between 700 and 4000 bottles per hour.
- If you are mid-size to a large brewery, look for a machine to fill 4000 to 12000 bottles per hour.
Essential differences between bottle filling machines.
Here are some differences in the filling systems to keep in mind when choosing your bottle filling machine:
- Some systems come with “dummy bottles” and spray balls used forcleaning).
- Other machines fill kegs instead of bottles.
- Some machines have canning add-on kits if your brewery specializes in cans and bottles. This is also a great choice if your brewery only specializes in one but plans to specialize in the other in the future.
Other features to keep in mind when choosing your filling machine.
- A Filling machine that is made with high-grade stainless steel
- A filling machine that has lockable wheels for easy maneuverability
- Machines that are easy to clean
- Machines that have an easy change over from bottles to cans
- Machines that have user-friendly control panel capabilities
- Machines that have a filling cycle speed,
- Machines that have remote operation capabilities
Okay, we have looked at the bottle filling machines and the process thereof, and now it is time to get to the can filling machines.
There are three canning lines: the 50 cans a minute, 100 cans a minute model, and the newest addition to the family, 50 cans a minute. Let us have a look at what each of these canning lines includes:
50 Cans a Minute
This system is open-air, also known as an atmospheric integrated filler, and is for production speeds up to 50 cans a minute.
For who is this canning line for?
This canning line is for those entering the world of packaging cans or for those brewers that have been mobile canning and are now interested in investing in a canning line that offers the autonomy of canning on its schedule. Also, if the brewer is looking for additional upstream and downstream equipment, such as an accumulating table or palletizer, this can be purchased later on.
100 Cans a Minute Model
This is also an open-air integrated filler like the above system, but the difference is that it has a production speed of 100 cans a minute.
Who is this canning line for?
The machine is for the craft brewer who wants to expand his production from entry-level or has been doing mobile canning for a while now and wants a more significant ROI on his canning expenses.
This canning line functions the best when paired with automated upstream and downstream equipment to accommodate the faster speeds. It also comes with a standard buffer tank that will assist with managing the product feed from bright tanks.
The technologies and differences of modern can filling
There are two essential filling technologies in the craft beverage canning market, namely:
- counter pressure
Both technologies mentioned above have variances among suppliers.
The primary technology for linear fillers is open-air filling where product carbonation is not as high, usually less than 2.7 vols.
What is the main difference between open-air fillers?
The difference is how the equipment purges the can of oxygen, controls the foaming, and measures the amount of the product being dispensed.
When it comes to beer filling, the oxygen content must be minimized. So, it is essential to fully and completely purge before filling.
The following can occur when the product is not well maintained:
Inaccurate filling volumes and carbonation loss.
Usually, open-air fillers provide restrictions that prevent the product from getting overfilled. But keep in mind that even though the open-air fillers offer a gentle fill, the product is still susceptible to temperature. This can happen due to breaking out or product foaming.
Break out can quickly occur.
This can occur when the product is not maintained or cold enough. You, as a brewer, can measure the fill by using time pressure, flow meter, or use level sensing.
Counter pressure filling machines
These machines usually use rotary-style fillers, but some linear fillers also use this type of system.
The main difference between the counter pressure filling machines
It is how the product feeds into the pressurized can, and the method of measuring is dispensed. I know this can sound a bit confusing so let me elaborate.
Some counter-pressure fillers use the same product feed process as what is used in the open air filling. Bright tank pressure or buffer tank pushes the product up through the filler and then finally into the container.
Counter pressure is generally used for highly carbonated products. So just as with an open-air system, a gentle filling is essential and pressurizes the container.
The PSA incorporates accurate counter-pressure filling, which is used on the highest production beverage packaging lines.
How to control the carbonation levels and the temperature
- Pressurizing the can to the equivalent pressure of the filler bowl
- Allowing the product to fill the can by gravity
Just as open-air filling, the fill measurement can be done by
- By level
- Time pressure
If you as a brewer are looking for an upgraded or new canning line, you should consider the following
- How your containers will be sealed
- Quality seams (this is very important to keep the product fresh and to maintain package integrity)
- Ensuring that you have high-quality metal to create the seal
You are now at the final part of this article, which will hopefully make the decision-making process of the machine less stressful for you.
Some advice when choosing a Bottle and Can Filling Machines
For many breweries today, bottle filling machines are an essential part of the packaging process, and I want to share some advice for you on how you can make the best decision not just when it comes to bottling but with canning too. Here are 7 pieces of advice to follow when choosing your bottle or can filling machine:
1. It is crucial to gain an overview of the following:
- beer filling,
- cleaning and labeling
2. Consider long tube fillers over short tubes when choosing your machine for its affordability and purging oxygen.
3. Keeping sanitation in mind is very important to keep the bottles clean and bacteria-free.
3. As a brewer, you need to understand what output speeds mean and how it correlates with what you need.
4. You can choose to use used equipment if it is well maintained and in excellent working condition to save you some money.
5. Whether you decide on bottles or cans, make sure to keep flexibility and quality in mind.
6. Ensure to invest in quality equipment so that all materials can be used, and no material goes to waste.
Canning and bottling beer are essential processes when you are a brewer, and that is why deciding what filling machine you are going to get is vital for you as a brewery and the future of your brewery. Whether you choose the beer canning machine, the bottle filling machine, or a machine specializing in both, remember to stay updated with the new and upgraded technologies of the machines.
Congratulations, you are now an expert in the beer bottling and canning processes. And you are now in the position to decide which filling machine will work best for your business. I hope this guide and tips help you to decide which machine is best for you! And remember, when your throat gets dry, please don’t drink your own supply. Happy beer filling!
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