Water treatment is of fundamental importance for the food and drink industry, which is why the Gold Ochsen brewery in Germany invested $290,000 in a reverse osmosis plant.

Water treatment is of fundamental importance for the food and drink industry, which is why the Gold Ochsen brewery in Ulm, Germany, has invested approximately $290,000 in a reverse osmosis plant to desalinate and treat the water it uses to make its beers. Biological contaminants can interfere with the brewing processes, generate unnecessary costs and negatively impact the environment. The new plant replaces an ion exchanger technique it had been using with a membrane process.

The historic Gold Ochsen brewery has been run by the same family since 1868, producing about 510,000 barrels of beer and nonalcoholic drinks every year. The water used to make the beer is pumped up from the deep factory well.

A beer's flavor depends in large part on the quality of water used. Water, in terms of chemical-biological composition, generally varies from producer to producer, depending on the type of beer and origin of the untreated water. Constant availability of water must be ensured during production.

To satisfy its strict requirements, the brewery contacted water treatment company Grünbeck Wasseraufbereitung GmbH, in Höchstadt an der Donau, Germany, which partnered with ITT Lowara, in Großostheim, Germany, a company specializing in pumping systems, for the RO system. Electricity consumption with the ITT variable-frequency pumps model SVH4606 fell by more than 30 percent, a significant savings for Gold Ochsen, ITT Lowara notes.

The water treatment plant desalinates the well water, which then is mixed with 10 percent filtered well water to create "an excellent water for making beer," says Armin Eisenhofer, Grünbeck's drinks sales and food technology director. "The value ‘m’ is set to approximately 0.8 to 1 val/m3." Desalination with reverse osmosis occurs by pressurizing the water with a semi-permeable membrane, which produces pure, sterile water with hardly any salt, Eisenhofer says.

Using reverse osmosis does not require the use of aggressive products such as acids or alkaline solutions, the companies note. The variable-frequency pumps add other benefits. Regardless of pressure variations in the RO plant inlet duct, operating pressure remains constant, and elimination of water hammering prolongs the useful life of the membrane.