Ensuring Reliable Process Cooling at Coppertail Brewing Co.


It’s no secret that craft beers, stouts, ales and porters have rapidly changed the beverage landscape in the United States. Leading the revolution are micro- and regional breweries like Coppertail Brewing Co. in Tampa, Florida.

Coppertail Brewing Co. is a growing microbrewery with beers on tap, as well as packaged/growlered beer to go.

One of the biggest challenges brewers such as Coppertail (www.coppertailbrewing.com) face is maintaining the dedication to their brand’s mission and their loyal following, while expanding their reach and growing market share. That challenge means not compromising on ingredients and utilizing the best equipment available for the fermenting, brightening and packaging of their product. But, for any growing business, reliability, uptime and power costs must be quantified in order to maximize margins to make the business viable. So, when a four-year old chiller began misbehaving at Coppertail Brewing, a call was made to their long-time compressed air systems solution and service provider Compressed Air Systems (https://www.compressedairsystems.com) in Tampa who reached out to nano-purification solutions to investigate and sort out their process cooling challenges, once and for all.

Providing Florida-brewed Beer to the Masses

Coppertail is an independently owned production brewery and tasting room and was founded on the desire to bring more quality, Florida-brewed beer to the thirsty masses.

The brewery became operational in the summer of 2014. The company’s staff brews on a state-of-the-art 50-barrel (bbl) Rolec brewhouse. In all, it has 1,000 bbls of fermentation space with tanks ranging from 30 to 200 bbls. The company expects increases in production of 40% due to a new channel to market through a supermarket chain and new high-speed canning line to fulfill this requirement.

Coppertail’s tasting room features a full service bar with 20 taps and a wine list. It sells Coppertail merchandise and packaged/growlered beer to go. Its kitchen makes small plates to share, as well as full meals for one. It also has a loft space available for private events that features a six-tap bar and large balcony that overlooks downtown Tampa.

Brewery Process Cooling Assessment

To assess the Coppertail process cooling system, Kyle Randall of Compressed Air Systems (CAS), along with Mark Lauterwasser and Don Joyce from nano, met with Derrick Gough from Coppertail.

One takeaway from their meetings was the current chiller was unreliable and required some type of service once a week to keep running. Since the chiller was out of warranty, Coppertail was spending money each week to keep it running in addition to wasted internal resource to complete many maintenance tasks. Chiller outages would last for one to two days and could happen once or twice per quarter. Downtime costs for the brewery can be as high as $20,000 worth of product per day. As such, lost revenue potential stood somewhere between $80,000 and $320,000 per year in product and more in sales, excluding lost productivity or personnel losses.

Another takeaway from the series of meetings related to crash cooling, which is a process many breweries use to clarify beer before bottling. Cooling rapidly to near freezing temperatures allows any particulate e.g., yeast, etc., which could remain in the beer, to coagulate and sink. Crash-cooling product at Coppertail was a major constraint and amount of cooling needed varied from product to product, tank-to-tank, and season to season.  Energy consumption was extremely high since the existing chiller had only two 30 kW compressors and two circuits. Due to the typical operation of the facility, Coppertail needed to run its old chiller at full load at all times during production and was unable to cycle off a compressor – regardless of demand.

The team agreed Coppertail required a more energy-efficient and reliable process cooling system able to serve the full plant requirement during its 16-hour, five-day operation effectively, including their projected production increases yet, have backup ability in the event of a failure.

Coppertail Brewing Team

Mark Lauterwasser of nano purification solutions, Derrick Gough of Coppertail Brewing Co., and Kyle Randall of Compressed Air Systems (left to right).

nano proposed the installation of a nano model NCS-1004-US, a 43-ton, air-cooled, cycling chiller with four 21 kW compressors and two cooling circuits. The NCS-1004 at full capacity can remove 515,712 BTU’s at a 30 oF supply/40 oF return, and perhaps most notably, is the ability of the chiller to also run comfortably at 25%, 50% 75% and 100% of load, while reducing amp draw and inrush electrical current which effectively allows Coppertail to reduce chiller operating costs at Coppertail by 25%.

nano chiller

Compressed Air Systems installed the nano model NCS-1004-US 43-ton, water-cooled, cycling chiller on the roof of Coppertail’s microbrewery.

Cooling for Fermentation, Brightening Tanks

The new chiller was installed at Coppertail in fall 2018 and provides chilled water to eight fermentation and three finishing tanks called bright tanks. Expansion plans call for Coppertail to brew beer with 20 tanks.

Since the unit would be running in a hot and humid environment, it was important the unit could be installed outdoors on the roof of the brewery. With IP65 controls as standard, outdoor installation even in a tropical climate would not be a problem. See the video of the installed unit below. (Video compliments of CAS).

“The Florida market is a great opportunity to sell canned beverages since so many of our customers enjoy their drinks at the beach, around pools and on boats,” said Gough. “Cans are a recycle-friendly product which is important to our younger, environmentally-conscious customer-base. Coppertail is listening and we are installing a canning line which can produce 600-plus cases per hour as compared to our bottling line which currently bottles approximately 200 cases per hour.”

With the demand for more product and the ability to produce more beer comes the requirement for the better reliability necessary to crash cool and package the product in a timely fashion.

“The nano NCS1004 chiller is an entirely different machine from what Coppertail had been using,” said Randall. “The old chiller utilized troublesome, dual reciprocating compressors and HX circuits. With an integrated backup circuit and multiple cycling compressors on the NCS-1004, Coppertail has had zero down production time since installation and the multiple circuits and compressors are only brought up and employed as required. Our initial power studies have shown potential energy savings of approximately 25-30 percent. At $.10 per kW, bottom line energy costs and with the lower inrush current required to start the multiple, smaller, scroll compressors, the unit will pay for itself quite quickly.”

In making its cost savings calculations, the team determined each of the 11 crash-cooled product tanks at the brewery require approximately 10 kW of refrigeration to crash cools the product from 70 oF to between 27 oF and 30 oF. The old chiller would have required at least three or more tanks operating in standby mode to afford the ability to cycle off a reciprocating compressor.

nano schematic

The roof-mounted nano chiller supplies process cooling water at the appropriate temperatures to Coppertail’s eight fermentation tanks (left) and three bright tanks (far right). Water is supplied at 28 oF and returned at 68 oF for continued cooling.

Click here to enlarge

Coppertail may not have all of its tanks full, or at the same point of fermentation. The old chiller needed three tanks to be offline before it was possible to shut down a refrigeration compressor. The new chiller, however, can shut down compressors and save money if only a tank or two happens to be offline.

The new unit is estimated to save 21 kW for every two tanks taken off line. The decision to take a tank offline depends on the brewing schedule, what products are being brewed, and other factors – adding to the importance of greater process cooling flexibility as part of the process. In addition, the new chiller with additional capacity can process eight to ten tanks at any given time, increasing capacity while cutting power costs. Additionally, the chiller is expected to allow Coppertail to save an additional 5% of energy given the efficiency of rotary scroll compressors and the use of the no-frost heat exchangers.

“Due to great swings in ambient temperatures and product temperatures in their tanks, which can contain any number of different styles of beverages, the chiller is able to make all the adjustments on the fly,” said Lauterwasser. “What also helped was the service record of CAS. If not for their past stellar service record at Coppertail, the brewery may have gone another direction.”

Going the extra distance is what separates CAS from many distributors. Since reliability was so critical, CAS worked with Coppertail to install PLC-based controls used to control actuators and valves for the fermentation and brightening tanks – all of which can be remotely monitored from workstations and tablets.

“We can look at performance, flow, refrigeration temperatures, control valves, heat exchanger delta P’s, fermentation tank temperatures, etc. all from home if necessary. After our previous challenges, these capabilities have given us peace of mind like you wouldn’t believe and allows us to troubleshoot without necessarily being in front of any of the mechanical equipment,” Gough said.


Striking the Right Balance

Energy savings, high reliability, service before, during, after the sale combined with a system that enhances Coppertail’s product and brand…not an easy goal to achieve but the partnership of Compressed Air Systems, nano-purification solutions and Coppertail Brewing achieved just that balance.


About the Author

Tony Hergert is a managing member of nano-purification solutions. For more information, visit https://www.nano-purification.com.

All photos courtesy of Kyle Randall of Compressed Air Systems. For more information visit Compressed Air Systems (https://www.compressedairsystems.com).

To read similar Chiller System Assessment articles, visit https://www.coolingbestpractices.com/system-assessments/chillers.