Designed by Dutch-Based Pentair Systems, the XFlow units make use of special membranes to filter out the haze particles left after the fermentation process. Beer is fed through the unit at speeds upwards of 1.2metres per second and then forced through holes in the membranes just 0.5 of a micron in diameter.
More traditionally used in water purification to create clean and safe drinking water, the XFlow system creates virtually sterile filtration and is already well-established in the wine industry. The brewing industry has been slower to pick up on the technology due to the delicate nature of beer and the specific requirements of beer filtration. However, the system is now coming under close scrutiny as a means of replacing the more traditional ‘Kieselguhr’ systems, which make use of filter powders based on fossilised fishbones to clean haze from the beer.
St Austell Brewing Director Roger Ryman summed it up by saying, “This isn’t new technology but it is certainly new to brewing. The Kieselguhr system uses primitive resources that are limited and hard to dispose of, so while the XFlow has already been adopted by one or two of the largest breweries around the world, a lot of eyes are on us as an early adopter of the system.”
As the first brewery to install the system in the UK, St Austell Brewery is leading the field in terms of investment in the technology. Not only will the XFlow system ensure a reduction in beer losses during the filtration process, it is also fully automated to reduce human error and will lead to a dramatic cut in energy usage to make the whole process more sustainable.
As Roger Ryman added, “While investment in new technology always carries a risk, this is a proven system that will replace one that really doesn’t belong in the modern, more environmentally-friendly world and I predict that in 10 years’ time all beer will be made using the Xflow Filtration System.”