Nothing is better than brewing a great beer in your very own house or apartment. There is a lot of pride that comes along with the hobby as there is nothing better than your friend’s astonishment and praise that “YOU MADE THIS BEER”. Often after the first great batch of homebrew, many people in the hobby begin to dream big. To own your own brewery is perhaps the greatest dream of any serious homebrewer. I’m not even joking when I say the local craft brewery is no ordinary man, but rather the Superman of the local home brewing group. But what is the difference between home brewing and commercial brewing? You’d be surprised to find out that the answer is actually . . . not very much.
Size Does Matter
Honestly, there are some differences but for the most part the stages of the commercial brewing are exactly the same. Mash the grains, add hops the wort, ferment the wort, age the beer and then bottle the beer.
The big difference is obviously the amount of beer commercial breweries are capable of producing. A typical home brew is about 5 gallons per batch compared to a commercial brewer that produces around 1000 gallons. With that amount of beer comes the need for special equipment. This equipment again is the same as home brewing equipment only much larger. When kettles get to be 1000 or more gallons in size, they require an internal heating source called a ‘calandria’ to add more heating surface to the batch. This way all the wort is heated equally.
The other difference that most home brewers dream about is the fact that all commercial beer is moved via in-line pipes. Once the brew s finished its hour long boil in the mash tun, it is drained into the commercial sized fermenter. No more draining wort from one pot to another using plastic tubes! Even the yeast is prepared and sent into the fermenter in this manner.
Constraints of Commercial Brewing
The big difference between the average home brewer and the commercial brewer is the constraints of commercial brewing. The nice thing about homebrewing is that you can make any type of beer that you want. Want to make a chili pepper pizza ale? Sounds gross but sure, let’s try it! If a recipe turns out gross you can just dump it out and you will only lose twenty bucks. If you make 1000 gallons of beer that is gross you will still have to dump it out and you will be out thousands of dollars. Even if a beer like chili pepper pizza ale is good, you still have to sell it. Few sane people are going to buy 1000 gallons of it. Sure I might try a 12 ounce bottle, but that’s it.
In a way, you are losing your creative license when you switch to commercial brewing. Obviously you can still experiment on the side, but you have to produce beer that sells first and foremost.
In the end the commercial brewing process is exactly the same as homebrewing only larger quantities are produced. Since large quantities are produced, special equipment is needed to produce the beer. Since most of this equipment is computerized, the home brewer transitioning into commercial brewing may run into problems with efficiency.
In home brewing, the typical efficiency of sugar from grain extraction is around 75% to 80% but the efficiency of a commercial brewer is around 90%. This means that you can’t simply change the quantities of your favorite stout recipe because it will taste much different with the extra sugars extracted from the grains.
So although the process is exactly the same as home brewing, commercial brewing is still considerably different from home brewing. That being said, I have had amazing home brews that are far better than commercial brews.
Get creative and brew something awesome today!