Today there's a lot of talk about beer filter systems and the pros and cons of using diatomaceous earth (DE) versus membrane filter systems. As a DE producer, we're very pro-DE, no surprise, but the FAQs below tell the story of why.
The most experienced brewers in the world today use diatomaceous earth (DE) filter systems. Why? It's all about art. And personality. Does that make sense? Well, if you're a brewmaster, it certainly does.
DE filters (diatomaceous earth filtration) remove fine particles from beer without affecting the color, flavor or body of the beer. DE is natural, adaptable and flexible, allowing brewmasters to adjust the filtration to their brewing standards to bring out the true "personality" of their beer. DE also allows brewmasters to continue the art of brewing throughout the filtration process, producing the finest beer possible. DE filtration systems are also proven to provide the best quality beer at the lowest cost and DE is still the predominant filtration system of choice for over 90% of
Here are some of the common questions asked today: (Thanks to Niels Mastrup, our Western Region Sales Manager and filtration expert for the good information!)
Q: Why would you choose a DE filtration system?
A: DE filtration technology has been and remains the dominant filtration technology of the brewing industry for over 80 years. Thousands of systems have been installed around the world. DE filtration is usually selected to filter beer for several reasons:
• Low acquisition costs
• Readily available
• High efficiency, high throughput
• Excellent flexibility and adaptability (to achieve certain filtration characteristics)
Q: Why do brewers prefer DE filtration?
A: Beer making, and therefore beer filtration, is an art. A DE filtration system, by the sheer nature of the system, being adaptable and flexible, allows the operator to adjust the system to bring out the best taste and best quality in beer.
Q: What is the overall best liquid filtration system?
A: Natural filtration is always best. Beer is a natural product and will exhibit variability at the filter. That variability requires a filtration system that is adaptable and flexible. You want a filtration system that will produce the finest beer possible, especially from a taste perspective. A natural DE filtration system works best for the following reasons:
• Adaptability to varying filtration requirements is easy
• A wide variety of filter aid permeability choices exist to meet specific beer brand challenges
• High throughputs with minimal footprint in the cellar
• Up to 6 times lower water consumption than membrane filters
• Up to 2 times lower energy consumption than membrane filters
• Low capital investment required. Low cost for filter media.
• DE filtration systems are indeed sustainable. The spent cake that is produced is recyclable.
Q: What is the main challenge in beer filtration, no matter the type of filtration technology?
A: The most difficult particles to remove from a liquid are those that are:
• Small (sub-micron)
• Biological in nature (soft & compressible)
Very small particles are not really solid particles at all, but are in a gray area of being partly solubilized macromolecules. In beer, some of these are important as they contribute to the foam stability, the color and texture of the brew and what’s called “mouth feel.” Other small particles cause haze and instability and need to be retained in the filter. The problem with a filtration system (membrane) which is 100% based on particle size is that important components can be lost – components that add to the taste and “personality” of the beer. Only DE filtration technology is capable of a more selective filtration
process, producing the finest quality beer.
Q: Is DE green?
A: DE is an natural filter. Membrane filtration manufacturers have touted membranes as a safer, greener, and more convenient alternative to diatomaceous earth. It is true that "spent cake" is produced when using DE. Membrane filter companies have indicated that spent cake is not recyclable, but that has been proven incorrect, especially with recent developments in DE spent cake recycling, in composting, farming, fertilizer, and other applications.
Q: What are the challenges with a membrane filtration system?
A: A membrane filtration system will significantly increase water and energy costs, simply because of how the technology works, leading to increased capital and operating costs. Membrane filters are complex to operate and maintain and require special sanitizing additives (enzymes, peroxides) and additional cleaning and maintenance procedures.
Membrane filters can strip flavor and foam characteristics from the beer and are also prone to fouling, decreasing flux rate, and breakage/leaking problems that result in decreased production and increased maintenance costs. Membrane filters remove specific sized particles based on the size of the aperture in the surface membrane installed, so there isn’t the adaptability that you’ll see with a DE filter to make changes. Furthermore, the membranes are not commercially interchangeable with other suppliers systems reducing options for the brewer.
So, as you kick back with a beer to watch all the basketball playoff games, consider the "personality" of your beer choice. Enjoy it - it's like a piece of art!