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  • Writer's pictureSteve Grundy


From the Fall 2020 issues of Brewers Journal.

A properly designed CIP System is essential for your Brewery. Here Steve Grundy, the Founder and CEO of Top 5 Solutions, explores the Fundamentals of CIP and speaks to three industry experts for their best practice advice.

This article will explore the fundamentals of CIP, some of the design traits to look for when sourcing a system, and we’ll tap into the minds of 3 industry experts who will share best practices that will help you turn CIP into a strategic business advantage.

As a beer and beverage producer, you are making food and there is no room for error in the cleaning part of your operation. That means you should literally be able to eat off the floors and the interior surfaces of your equipment.

Fred Havel, a senior brewing consultant with Actemium in Montreal and former senior brewing director at MolsonCoors with 35 years of experience, explains, “It’s called the white bread test. You should be able to swipe that bread on any surface of your equipment and eat it without blinking. If you can’t drink the rinse water after a CIP cycle, you’ve got a problem.”

Any good CIP strategy includes the basics of TACT - Time, Action (Flow), Chemicals, and Temperature. This concept, developed in the 1950’s by chemical engineer Herbert Sinner, is often represented graphically in what’s known as the Sinner Circle. His assertion was that if you don’t have all 4, your equipment isn’t clean. Makes sense, but this is only a starting point.

How much time, how much flow, which chemicals, and what temperature will depend on many variables including the types of products you are making, process and packaging equipment design, and overall layout of your facility.

It is important to work with your equipment suppliers and chemical supplier to develop the right processes and procedures to ensure not just effective cleaning but the ongoing integrity of equipment.

For example, some types of packaging equipment contain components made of aluminum, plastics, or rubber that are not compatible with hot caustic and will deteriorate quickly, even with moderate exposure.

Clean-In-Place (CIP) systems are often overlooked during the initial design phase of a craft brewery or beverage plant, usually due to cost or lack of available space. However, these tools are essential for consistent production of quality products, managing microbiological risk in your facility, reducing workplace injuries, and improving profitability.

A properly designed CIP system will ensure the interior surfaces of all your process equipment, packaging lines, and piping will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after each use without time-consuming disassembly and while keeping people safe.

Single-use CIP systems are common in many small breweries. Normally this means a plastic tote or a single tank on casters to mix chemicals with hot water for dosing into equipment and recirculation using a portable pump cart.

These simple systems provide an easy and cost-effective way to get started, although they invite risks and costs that every brewery should consider.

Stephen Rich, Director of Innovation at Cowbell Brewing, highlights the pitfalls with this common setup, “Every time the brewer needs to move from cleaning to sanitizing they will dump chemical that has plenty of life left.

“That’s a lot of waste that increases your costs and the load on local waste treatment plants. We’re also exposing the brewer to additional chemical handling risks. “What’s more, we’re also trusting that the brewer has properly rinsed the tank, hoses, and pumps before mixing up the new chemical. If not, residual caustic could reduce the sanitizer’s effectiveness and compromise the sanitizer cycle – which, kind of defeats the purpose.”

Re-use CIP systems typically contain 2 or more tanks designed for hot water and chemicals that, as the name suggests, can be re-used multiple times to reduce usage of chemicals, water, and energy which can contribute significantly to sustainability initiatives.

The number of tanks depends on the functionality desired. For example, a 2-tank system normally has hot water in one tank and caustic or acid in the other. A 3-tank system would enable the brewery to reclaim rinse water for use in the next pre-rinse cycle.

Dual-train configurations can clean multiple vessels at the same time, increasing productivity by freeing up time for teams to focus on other tasks in the brewery.

Regardless of the number of tanks, a well-designed CIP system should have intuitive controls, strong pumps, and properly sized tanks.

Heating of water and chemicals with either steam or electric power should take 30-60 minutes max.

For smaller systems, an inline electric heater preferably with 480VAC or 575VAC 3-phase power, will provide the juice needed to get the job done and make utilities integration relatively easy.


The importance of strong flow cannot be understated. Stephen continues, “Pumps must be sized for the pressure needed to clean the equipment, especially the brewhouse heat exchanger. Undershoot this and harmful bacteria can find a home in hoses, tanks, gaskets, and the rest of the equipment downstream.”

Fred Havel agrees and cautions further to pay attention to the details, “Take a fermenter, for example. If your supply pump runs stronger than your return pump, the top of the tank could be clean but the bottom would remain dirty because you flooded the cone and missed the action part in that area of the tank. You can’t soak your way to success.

You need strong, turbulent flow and pumps with enough strength to hit the side walls and clean process piping effectively. Also, pay attention to shadows. You still need elbow grease, even with automated equipment”.

Levels of automation can vary from manual hand-valves, to PLC/HMI control with pneumatic valves, to fully automated recipe control. You don’t manage what you don’t measure, so tanks should be gauged for volume and temperature and piping should be instrumented for flow. A conductivity sensor allows for automatic measurement of chemical concentration and ongoing dosing to maintain appropriate strength.

At the very least, a hand held electronic thermometer and some litmus paper will go a long way. Trending and reporting capabilities are useful to validate results.

Speaking of validation, and this is very important, make it a priority. At least quarterly, you should do an ATP (swab) test in all pipe fittings, valves, and other nooks and crannies to ensure your equipment is as clean as you think it is.

A well designed CIP system will help you make higher quality beer more efficiently and consistently, but bacterial growth can hit you when you are not looking – so be vigilant. Find it before it finds you.

In closing, a thorough, repeatable CIP system will save you time and money. All your process and packaging equipment needs to be cleaned effectively after each use to drive your key performance indicators (KPI’s). Experienced brewers and operations managers also know that investing in CIP is also an investment in their people and the quality of their work life.

As one very smart brewer once told me, “brewery equipment should be a pleasure to operate”. Sage advice.


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