MicroBrewr 033: Wastewater treatment solutions for a craft brewery, with Brewery Wastewater Design.

MicroBrewr 033: Wastewater treatment solutions for a craft brewery

Wastewater treatment is a key issue for a craft brewery. John Mercer from Brewery Wastewater Design in Montrose, Colorado has more than a decade of experience. He shares wastewater treatment solutions for a craft brewery.

For every gallon of beer produced, a typical brewery uses 7 gallons of water. If your municipal wastewater treatment plant can’t handle it, you could be facing high fees for wastewater treatment.

Brewery wastewater can fall into one of several categories:

  • Floor drains in the brewery, which contain alcohol, sugars, and other contaminants.
  • Kitchen drains, which includes grease.
  • Restrooms, which typically go the sewage treatment plant.
  • Side stream, which is a way to divert extremely concentrated wastewater such as spent yeast, waste beer, fermenter blow-off, and trub.

If your brewery is in an area that has municipal sewage service, you might not have to do anything. If you’re in the county with no sewage service, you’ll likely have to build your own brewery wastewater treatment infrastructure.

Solutions will vary depending on your brewery wastewater characteristics, or who designs your system.

Diverting the very concentrated sources through a “side stream,” could reduce the contaminants in your wastewater by 90%. Which could mean reduced fees for treatment.

Key questions to ask:

  • Is the wastewater facility at capacity?
  • How much would the fees cost?
  • Does your consultant have experience designing systems for breweries or other food manufacturers?


Ask John any question about wastewater treatment for your brewery.

Leave your questions in the comments section below.

John will keep watching the comments for the next 30 days to answer as many of your questions as he can.

Be sure to connect with Brewery Wastewater Design and thank John for being on the show and for helping us out with questions.

UPDATE: Thirty days is up, John is no longer monitoring the questions here. You can still reach him through the links below. Thanks for your great questions everyone!


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11 replies
    • John Mercer
      John Mercer says:

      Hey there,
      You do not need a 3 chambered pit. Actually I specifically advise against it. Just 1 tank, no dividers needed. Also, fiberglass may not work for brewery wastewater. Check the upper temperature limits. Brewery wastewater can be 180, will certainly be 140. A collapsed tank would be a major bummer.

  1. A_Field
    A_Field says:

    Brewing on a Septic System
    I am looking to start a small brewery (3-7 barrel) on a property with a septic system. What special considerations are there when putting brewery waste into a septic system? Any suggestions on ways to design a septic system to better handle brewery waste?

    • John Mercer
      John Mercer says:

      As far a septic goes, ask the county what the requirements are as the water leaves the septic tank (before the water enters the leach field). Once you know that, you can design what you need. A brewery on septic can be done, whether its easy or not depends on what the requirements are.

  2. Luke
    Luke says:

    Thanks for the helpful information. I’m in the process of planning a brewery right now, and am interested in finding ways to reduce environmental impact while at the same time being conscientious about cost. Are you aware of smaller craft breweries (15 barrel systems) working out composting arrangements with local compost facilities? It would seem that sidestream waste could be combined with spent grain/hops for composting. More separation would likely have to occur if some was being used for animal feed.

    • John Mercer
      John Mercer says:

      Hi Luke,
      Sorry for the late reply…

      As far as composting the side stream material, dewatering would be the first issue to think about. The side stream material is usually runny like water. However it’s loaded with nutrients and it’s warm. My first experiment would be to put some of it on wood chips- the chips are the carbon, the side stream material would supply the nitrogen. However, even easier is just to directly land apply the side stream material on pasture or hay fields. No composting or dewatering required.

      As far as having a small environmental footprint goes, my advice is to build the brewery fairly typically, then start paying attention to where the energy, water, and chemicals go. How can you improve those processes? There will always be a way to improve every process, think continual improvement, 5S, and lean manufacturing. But I wouldn’t get too bogged down at the very early stages of building a brewery. Build it, get cash flowing, then start looking at ways to improve.

      Of course, the design stage is the most efficient place to design in efficiencies- before things get built. But you (or the engineer, architect, equipment supplier) really needs to know whats going on. And for a start up that’s usually not the case.

  3. Mia Evans
    Mia Evans says:

    Thanks for helping me understand that wastewater designs would be needed when your brewery is in a location without sewage service. I can imagine how important it must be to follow such processes when you are building an establishment to protect your health and environment as well. Also, there would probably be rules and regulations to follow as well regarding that matter to protect the community’s health.


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