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Craft Brew—Filling

Recent developments, some in Europe and some in the U.S., show the varied approach to packaging that craft brewers are taking these days.

The Innofill Glass DRS-ZMS filler handles 0.33- and 0.5-L returnable glass bottles.
The Innofill Glass DRS-ZMS filler handles 0.33- and 0.5-L returnable glass bottles.

Glass bottles may have gone the way of the dodo bird in the U.S. but are alive and well in Europe. Take the Bavarian brewery Eder & Heyland of Ascheffenburg, Germany, for example. A regional family business built on craft brewing and top-quality beer, the firm recently moved its bottling operations from the town center to the outskirts of town. There it installed two glass bottling lines from KHS. When choosing the new equipment, a high degree of automation was a priority, including such things as recipe selection, automatic overnight heat-up of the bottle washers, and adequate head section disinfection. KHS technology, says Filling Center Project Manager Maximilian Weber, “was able to meet our high demands.”

The Bavarian brewery ultimately opted for two Innoclean SE bottle washing machines and two modern glass fillers. The Innofill Glass DRS-ZMS filler can handle either standardized longneck 0.33-L bottles or 0.5-L standardized bottles at up to 36,000 bottles/hr. The other new filler, an Innofill Glass DPG, can fill up to 15,000 swing-top bottles/hr.

Washing swing-top bottles often poses something of a challenge to breweries. “After washing bottles with caustic, if the swing top falls onto the bottle neck it might prevent caustic that’s still in the bottle from being emptied and rinsed out,” says Stefan Knappmann, KHS Area Sales Manager. “If this were the case, the downstream inspection unit would then channel out any bottles containing residual caustic. If this happens too frequently, these bottles are no longer available for further production. If the detection unit doesn’t work properly, in the worst case bottles containing caustic residue may be filled. This must be avoided at all costs so as to avoid any possible health risks to the consumer.”

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For this reason KHS installed a bottle base spray for the customer to circumvent this problem. It produces a jet of water that pushes the bottle deeper into the individual bottle washer pocket so that the swing top cannot slip in front of the neck. Also worth noting is that the bottle washer on the swing-top line can also process bottles without a swing top.

One of the features that brings savings is the way the warm water is taken from the bottle washers and used in other areas such as the washing of returnable crates. In addition, KHS installed a powerful fresh-water control unit and electricity-saving function for the sprays.

KHS also satisfied Eder and Heyland’s requirements regarding the infeed of empties. “The challenge here was to match the number of empties fed into the system to the amount of beer still to be filled so that at the end of production there were neither too many nor too few bottles and crates on the line,” says Knappmann. A lot of this has to do with logistics—as in, the brewing plant is still at the old production site in the middle of town. Following brewing and storage, the beer is transported in tank trucks by a logistics company specialized in food to the new bottling shop where it is either filled into bright beer tanks or filled directly.

The systems’ low consumption values, including a minimal use of water for bottle washing and of CO2 during filling, also had the Bavarian brewers convinced. Thanks to the filling method developed by KHS, depending on the processing program the filling equipment only uses 240 grams of carbon dioxide per hectoliter of beer. “KHS’ machinery is perfectly adapted to our requirements as a medium-sized brewery. We benefit from this proven technology,” says Weber. “Our production processes have also been greatly simplified and are now much more efficient.”

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