Tag Archive for: expansion

After months of installing, calibrating, and troubleshooting our new equipment, we finally have the various components of our expansion dialed in. We’ve done several runs now with everything in place and though we’ll continue to make adjustments as we go along, we’re excited to get into a rhythm and focus on doing what we do best: making great malt.

Here are some of the final pieces of the puzzle to get us to where we are today. (Check out part one and part two of our expansion to get the full story.)


Bag Unloader/Auger

Using a forklift and this bag unloader, we can easily empty a bag of raw grain and load the steep tanks. This procedure can now be safely operated by one person. We load a super sack onto the frame, put the iris valve in the closed position while we open the bag, then open the valve and use the auger to carry the grain into the steep tanks. A control panel operates the auger and allows us to choose which tank to fill.


Brian starts a new batch, using the bag unloader to load the steep tanks.

Grain Conveyor

After the grain germinates on the floor for several days, we use this grain conveyor to help us load germinated grain into the kiln. With a few of us shoveling into the conveyor and one person spreading grain in the kiln, we can load the kiln in just a few hours.

Bucket Elevators

Three bucket elevators have helped us automate the cleaning process significantly. Sure, we still have to shovel grain out of the kiln, but the bucket elevators carry the grain from the kiln to the debearder, the debearder into the seed cleaner, and from the seed cleaner into a hopper equipped with a bagging scale, which we then use to fill 50 lb. bags. No more manually moving grain from machine to machine!

Seed Cleaner

This is the “crown jewel” of the cleaning and packaging operation, a refurbished Clipper seed cleaner, built in the 1950s! (We’re thinking of calling her “Bertha.”) It sorts malt through a series of screens, removing anything too small or too big for disposal. A large fan blows dust off the malt so the brewer gets a clean product. We can now clean and package nearly four tons of malt in half a day!

Dust Collector

This was one part of the system that presented some challenges. The dust collector we originally ordered just didn’t have enough power to handle the dust coming out of the seed cleaner, which uses air to blow the very fine material off the grain. A friend helped us source this bad boy, which provides more than enough suction to keep most of the dust out of the air.

Over the next several months we will enjoy our expanded capacity and a steady production schedule, but always in the back of our minds…what’s in store for phase 3?

Although we’re waiting on a few more pieces of the expansion project to arrive (thanks to January’s awful weather), the basic framework of our new system is in place and we’re making more malt more efficiently than ever before. Here are a few of the components that have helped us increase our capacity.


Bucket Elevator

One of our three bucket elevators is in place and it is rocking! We’re able to load two tons of grain into a steep tank in less than an hour.  Here’s Brian rigging it up:

malt house

Brian Simpson hooks up a new bucket elevator.

Bigger Steep Tanks

The new steep tanks each hold about 4000 pounds of dry grain. In addition to the capacity increase, we have improved the design to allow for increased air exchange during the dry phase of each steep cycle. Thanks to ProSteel for custom-building these bad boys for us!

Steep Tank 1, by ProSteel

Bigger Germination Room

The increased square footage of the new germination floor will allow us to make up to 8,000 pounds of malt per batch. For scale, here’s Brian and Craig with our first two-ton run of barley on the floor – a 4,000 pound batch! Just wait ‘til we fill up the rest of the room!

Our first 4000 lb. batch of barley!


The “crown jewel” of the expansion, our new kiln features several improvements over the old design. Not only is it bigger, but the heating elements bring us up to temperature in minutes instead of hours. Our custom-designed control system allows us to manage fan speeds, temperatures, and air circulation with the touch of a button, whether at the malt house or on the road. Here’s Brent and Brian loading the kiln with barley!

Brent and Brian load the new kiln with barley.

So what’s next?

We haven’t retired our buckets and shovels just yet. We are waiting on a conveyor system to load the kiln more efficiently. The additional bucket elevators will also be installed to connect the debearder to the larger seed cleaner and packaging line.  Our plan is to clean and package full batches in 4-5 hours once everything is installed. Wish us luck!

There comes a time in most every business owner’s journey when they have to decide: are we going to really commit and take this thing to the next level? For us, the answer was yes.

We knew from the beginning that for this operation to be successful we’d have to scale our production. We’ve already made a lot of progress, from the early 500 pound batches up to our current runs of 1250-1400 lbs. But we’ve run out of room to keep growing incrementally — it’s time to make a big jump.

This summer, we started planning the changes that will enable us to produce malt in proportions that will keep our customers satisfied year-round. As we find our malt in more beers and bigger batches, the increased capacity will allow us to work with new brewers across the state and throughout the South.

Here are some of the changes that have been happening over the past six weeks:



These new storage racks will hold up to 100 tons of bulk grain storage, plus capacity for 15 tons of finished malt. Along with our increased storage, we’re going to start packaging our malt in one-ton “Super Sacks”, which should make things easier for some of our larger clients. For those who work with 50 lb. bags, we’ll still be using those too!

expansion update

Can you spot our new sign?

Steep Tanks

We can’t wait for our new, shiny, 1,500-gallon steep tanks to arrive from our local fabricator (ProSteel). These are where the grain will steep for three days, soaking up the water that will signal it’s time to grow.


Germination Room

Our new germination room will give us much more space than we had before. Once it’s been deep-cleaned, we’ll be able spread some 8,000 pounds of grain on the floor to germinate. While we could look at buying automated or mechanical rakes for turning all that grain, we’re going to stick to traditional floor malting as it imparts additional flavor and character to all of our products. Applying this approach to a much larger batch will take more time and effort to manage, but the quality and flavor will be worth it!



Over the past two years we’ve learned a lot about building and maintaining a small malt kiln. Our first few (failed) attempts in 2011 led us to implement a vastly improved ductwork design and a stronger fan. Once we got the basics taken care of, we teamed up with our friends at Control Specialties, Inc. to help with automation and process controls. Byron Watkins and his team have been invaluable to us, helping maintain our current kiln and designing the next one. Kiln 3.0 will mark a tremendous leap forward for us in terms of capacity, automation, and efficiency.

Putting the final touches on the insulation.

This new fan’s gonna purrrr as it blows warm air through the kiln.

Seed Cleaning Machine

Thankfully, our current debearder has the capacity to grow with us, so we were able to “save” some money on that front.  However, a new, high-capacity seed cleaner was definitely in order. A refurbished beauty (circa 1960) is set to arrive in late December and should allow us to clean the entire 8,000 lb. batch in less than 2 hours!


The Great Unknowns…

You must be thinking, “Wow, these guys have this thing completed dialed!” Not so fast my friend. We’ve got some new equipment coming in that we’ve never worked with before. Bucket elevators, v-belt conveyors, bagging scales…the list goes on and on.  We know that they’ll fit and what they are supposed to do, but we still have to put them into action! Stay tuned to the Kiln Blog — I’m sure we’ll have a few good stories to tell.