Is it possible to use the same process technology for beer in the production of plant-based milk alternatives?
The answer, in a word, is yes.
This is because the brewhouse can be used not only for brewing, but also for the production of oat milk. This is precisely what Free Flow, a contract manufacturer based in New Zealand, is doing, thanks to Krones and Steinecker for its process technology.
People are consuming more and more plant-based drinks. This is why soya, oat, almond or coconut-based drinks are now a permanent fixture on supermarket shelves. There are many reasons for this development. Some consumers turn to plant-based milk alternatives because of intolerances, others want to live more sustainably by doing without animal products in their diet.
Data suggests that this trend will continue. This year, 2023, the global plant-based beverage industry is set to reach $19.7 billion, double that of 2017.
The popularity of plant-based drinks, especially oat milk, is also growing in New Zealand. Until now, retailers there have been heavily reliant on importing milk alternatives. This is exactly where Free Flow and its customer, the oat milk producer Otis, come in.
Founders of Otis Oat Milk, Tim Ryan and Chris Wilke, explain: "In a country that is already almost too good at producing milk, we made it our mission to start a plant-based revolution that creates positive change for people and nature".
Both received support from Free Flow. The company originally only planned to add a brewing division to its portfolio but came to realise the potential of dairy alternatives. As a Free Flow customer, Otis is now working on its first "Made in New Zealand" oat milk.
Currently, their oat milk is still being subcontracted in Sweden. The oats used by Otis in this process come from New Zealand and are 100% organically grown. The emissions caused by transport are offset by 120% and can be saved in the future with Free Flow. And the goal of the two Otis founders to offer oat milk "Made in New Zealand" is also within reach.
Using brewing technology to make oat milk
There are three different ways to produce oat milk:
- Blending a ready-made oat base
- The use of ready-made oat flour
- The use of whole oat grains or flakes
After examining the three production options, Free Flow opted only for the use of whole grains or flakes. This offers a number of advantages:
- Due to the hydrolysis necessary during production, the product properties and thus also the taste can be defined in detail
- The use of whole grains is the most energy-efficient
- Production costs are lower in the long run
When it came to placing the order, the decision was quickly made in favour of Krones and Steinecker. "The partnership with Krones is built on trust and commitment – with Krones there is always a solution," explains Adam Sorensen, co-founder of Free Flow.
The current order includes, among other things, a CombiCube brewhouse from Steinecker, in which, not only will beer be brewed, but oat milk will also be produced in the near future. Additional downstream machines, such as a decanter as well as conditioning and mixing tanks, will enable Free Flow to use the new brewhouse to produce both beer and oat milk – and perhaps even whiskey and other grain-based spirits in the future.
The line is complemented by a homogeniser from Krones' subsidiary HST, plus the Krones Variostore sterile tank and a VarioAsept D Ultra Heat Treatment (UHT) system. The Steinecker Botec F1 process control system will also be used, enabling production processes to be controlled safely, reliably and repeatedly.
Process technology for plant-based milk alternatives
Free Flow Manufacturing
Auckland, New Zealand
Planned for late 2023
Process technology for making beer and plant-based milk alternatives
- Combined grist mill for malt and oats
- CombiCube brewhouse with two combined mash tuns/enzyme tanks
- Brewery’s cold section: universal-tank cellar, centrifuge, filtration module and carbonator
- Oat-milk process: decanter, conditioning and mixing tanks, and dosing unit for additives
- Combined CIP station for both processes
- Botec F1 process control system
- VarioAsept D UHT system
- VarioStore aseptic tank
- Homogeniser from HST
All from a single source
Krones offers everything from a single source and this is a particular benefit for Free Flow. Within the Krones Group, they have just one contact partner across all the components of the process technology. This has been reflected in the rapid implementation of the project. The first brew is scheduled for 2023. The oat milk production, with a capacity of 50 million litres, is then scheduled to start in spring 2024.
"With New Zealand's oat milk innovators Otis and world-class technological innovations from Krones and Steinecker among others, at our side, we can hardly wait to get started,” says Scott Day, co-founder of Free Flow. “To all the beer and plant-based milk alternative brands out there, bring us your recipes and ideas and let's get started."