Here are the most frequently asked questions about brewery wastewater.  Please us the Contact form at the bottom if you need elaboration on any of this.  We’re here to help.

Q#1.  I am planning a brewery not connected to a sewer system…

A#1. A brewery on septic is a challenge, see this pageShort story is the septic tank will turn in to a fermenter. It will fill with dead yeast and you’ll need to pump it often. And some of that yeast and a lot of sugar will wind up in the drain field, eventually causing it to plug. The high BOD will also cause excessive bacterial growth in the drain field which doesn’t help things (bacteria die and plug things).

Further adding to my message of good news is there is no good solution. Even if you get 100% BOD removal, you still have a lot of water to dispose of everyday. And even getting 50% BOD removal is tricky.

Q#2. The city tells me I need to install an onsite wastewater treatment system, I need to lower my BOD and TSS.  Or our brewery is interested in reduction of BOD and TSS due to industrial waste surcharges rising annually.

A#2. There is an easier, less expensive way to lower BOD and TSS.  You simply can’t afford a little wastewater treatment plant at your brewery ($200k minimum), and you don’t want one either- they are complicated to operate and maintain.  See this page for more info.

Generally what I advise is to not put the BOD and TSS down the drain to begin with. Collect them at the source and haul it off site as fertilizer or animal feed (this is called side streaming, see here), you can get the BOD down to 3000 mg/L and TSS to 700 mg/L pretty easily.  Still high compared to domestic wastewater, but much lower than without side streaming.  In general side streaming removes about 75% of BOD and TSS load, but only about 10% of total wastewater volume.

I don’t offer biological pretreatment and in general I don’t recommend it, you’re usually better off financially with side streaming.  Another thing I tell people is anything is technically possible, but financially possible is another story.  So just be aware of that.

Q#3. My architect and realtor went to the first meeting with the city regarding our startup brewery. Would you be able to give me some direction based on the City’s feedback?

A#3.  Of course!  It’s what I’m here for. Let me know what the city said, your brew kettle size, and projected gross annual production for the first 5 years.

Q#4. Our city is now mandating that all new breweries have a pH neutralization tank for all process wastewater and we’re looking at options.  How much does an automated pH adjustment system cost?

A#4. An automated pH adjustment system should have an installed cost between $15k-$75k (depending on size).  When comparing quotes you need to pay attention to what is and isn’t included. For instance, if its a skid mounted system you will need a lift station to collect ww from the drains and pump it up to the skid. Is the lift station tank, pumps, controls, valves, and piping to get the water to the skid included?  What about plumbing from the skid to the discharge point?  Shipping, installation, startup, etc?  You also want to make sure the equipment they offer is well suited to the application, I’ve seen drinking water equipment installed in brewery wastewater applications and it fails almost immediately.

If the price is too steep, I can help you phase in a system, starting with a manual system then upgrading to automated over time as patience and cash flow allows.

Q#5.  I am an equipment supplier and I have the best thing since sliced bread…

A#5. Here is my typical response when various technology providers contact me. When looking at various technologies I always say anything is technically possible, the issue for a brewer is financial- and often space. Can they afford it? Do they have space for it? Do they have the skills, desire, and patience to operate it? The answer to that set of questions is almost always no, no, no.

Another issue to consider, rough numbers here: There are 9000+ breweries in the US. 8000 of them are very small (<1000 bbls/yr), so that leaves at most 1000 breweries big enough for something like this. 75% of those don’t have any wastewater restrictions, so now we’re down to 250 or so in the whole country and there are other technology providers competing for this numbers already. Just a little reality check.

Q#6.  The grad student…

A#6. Bear in mind that I get a lot of requests like this, so I can help but keep it short. The short story on wastewater and breweries is it depends on what town they’re in, wastewater treatment plants are generally town specific.  Some treatment plants have plenty of excess capacity, others have none.  Some breweries are small, others are bigger; it all depends on the combination of those types of factors. 

There is a ton of free information on this site.  But understand that I have to keep a lot of it very general.  Like you, I am in business to make money, not give all of the details away on a free website. Imagine giving all of your beer away… And both of us probably feel like we’re giving away too much ‘free beer’ anyway.

We hope you enjoy this web site and feel like you receive value from your time spent here.  Please use the Contact form if you need more information.

We usually give the first hour for free as we get acquainted with your project, then charge $150 per hour for services.  Most projects have a total fee between $500 and $6000.  We invoice on the 15th of the month with 30 day terms.

Who’s that hairy guy in the picture?  That is John in Sichuan Province, China in 2011 during their 2 year bike tour.  He has more gray hair now and no beard…

Email works best for the first contact, use the Contact form below.  Thank you very much.

John Mercer