Getting flooring right in a brewery
The floor plays a crucial role in a brewery as it needs to provide protection from the risk from slips, trips, bacteria build-up and unsightly blemishes.
With beer brewed in Australia accounting for 93% of the nation’s beer consumption, the functionality and hygiene of brewing facilities are key factors to ensure consistent high standards and high turnovers.
All brewing, kegging and tourist routes need a floor that can provide protection against the challenging on-site conditions while complying with the sanitation regulations and surface characteristics of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
The ingredients, cleaners, temperatures, impacts and workload inherent to beer production can all take a toll on the floor finish and the material underfoot needs to be made of stern stuff in order to shrug off these conditions.
Polyurethane provides resistance to corrosion, organic and inorganic alkalis and solvents, and has a low porosity of 0.5%. Epoxy systems on the other hand have a porosity that is dependent on the sealer used, and offer a limited resistance to the organic acids that are found in a large quantity of beers.
Chemical attack is typically described as the breaking down of a floor’s structure, such that it is no longer able to fulfil its function. It is not only the reduction in functionality of the floor that is a problem, but erosion can also lead to an unsanitary surface, where bacteria can hide and multiply, affecting the cleanliness of the facility.
There are many factors that will affect the chemical resistance profile of a resin flooring system, including its thickness, resin formulation and reactivity of the chemical agent. Certain systems will be able to withstand intermittent exposure to a chemical, but not prolonged exposure, therefore not only the type of chemical but also the amount on site and the frequency with which it is likely to come into contact with the floor needs to be known.
During the mash process in beer production, long chains of carbohydrates (starch) are transformed into fermentable sugars using enzymes naturally found in the grain. The two most common types of enzymes (alpha-amylase and beta-amylase) are responsible for breaking the large starch molecules into small bits of sugar.
In addition to sugars, such as the fermentable maltose, or unfermentable maltodextrins, hops contain a range of chemical compounds that affect the flavour of the beer, such as the alpha and beta acids. Daily exposure to sugars and acids can lead to corrosion of the floor, especially if they are not cleaned away on a regular basis.
The high cross-linked density of polyurethane means that it can survive intense and sustained contact with the corrosive chemicals and damaging substances most often found in brewing areas. As well as the previously mentioned substances, this can also include:
- caustic CIP cleaners such as sodium hydroxide (30-60%) used at a solution of 1–3% strength at up to 85°C;
- mixed acid detergents like phosphoric (10–30%)/nitric acid (10-30%) blend used as a solution of 0.5–1% strength at up to 85°C;
- hydrogen peroxide and peroxyacetic acid (PAA) mix acid sanitisers;
- hot water up to 95°C;
- high sugar concentrations;
- residual beer and yeast at 0–20°C with around pH 3.8–4.5.
In addition to chemical resistance, polyurethanes can be tailored to minimise slip and trip risks, improve cleanability and even actively attack bacteria. A positively textured finish can greatly reduce the chances of slips and trips, making the area safe for both staff and visitors alike. Thanks to the seamless nature of polyurethane, even textured surfaces can be cleaned quickly and easily, with germs and bacteria having no joints to hide in.
The HACCP internationally certified polyurethane flooring range Flowfresh was developed by Flowcrete to meet the stringent hygiene needs of the food and beverage sector. This makes it suitable for Australia’s breweries thanks to the functional, clean and long-lasting surfaces that can be created. The product is claimed to reduce the bacterial population on the surface of the floor by up to 99.9%, and so, when teamed with a regular cleaning regime, can help to keep the facility as sanitary as possible.
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