Disclosure: This article is a sponsored advertisement. Thanks to Bühler Group for their support as the 2023 Craft Malt Conference Platinum Sponsor.

The rich and varied flavors and golden hues of craft beer created by malt delight consumers the world over. Malt adds essential and distinctive characteristics to many food products and beverages. It is an indispensable ingredient and of particular interest to the craft market where small, but quality-conscious operators create exciting new products. However, up until now, most malting solutions have not been an option because they are designed for large industrial-scale production and fixed capacities. With Bühler’s new flexible RimoMalt plant, this is about to change.

Many maltsters are stifled by the hefty investment cost of large-scale malt production and inflexible plant designs that do not scale and adapt to changing requirements. For small to medium-sized craft maltsters, this quantum leap in investment severely limits the avenues for growth.

The big idea takes shape

In 2019 Johannes Kolb, Sales Manager Malting & Brewing enjoyed a hike in the beautiful Appenzell Alps in Switzerland. “During my walk, I kept thinking about Bühler’s malting plant business. With a 75-80% market share, Bühler is the market leader. We are known for plant designs for large-scale industrial production with capacities of more than 200 tons. Yet, despite the continuous growth presented by the craft market, we offered no solutions for this exciting but underserved segment,” says Kolb.

The idea for an affordable, efficient, and sustainable plant design that grows with customers’ needs was born. The concept was finalized and within months first drafts and prototypes proved the viability of the project and Bühler applied for a patent in the same year.

So, how does RimoMalt work?

RimoMalt’s setup consists of one cylindroconical steeping unit, one central heating unit, and one unit for germination and kilning. The advantage over fixed-size systems is the completely modular concept of the construction. Each component can be easily extended, and additional parts can be added to adapt to changing capacity requirements.

Starting with a batch size of 16 tons, each process box can be extended via intermediate modules to reach a batch size of 56 tons providing a maximum annual throughput of between 1,000 to 17,000 metric tons of malt.

With changing requirements, extension rings are simply added to the Cylindroconical steep without changes to the diameter. RimoMalt offers three expansion stages for batch sizes of 16, 32, and 56 metric tons. The germinating and kilning units can be extended in 8-ton steps up to 56 tons by sliding intermediate modules into the existing units. Moreover, each unit can be extended individually within the plant’s configuration.

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Changing business requirements and market conditions may require very specific alterations to the existing setup. Whether growing demand warrants increased capacities or the development of new or niche products parallel processing, RimoMalt offers operators maximum freedom on their individual journeys.

In practice, an operator may start with the 16-ton version capable of an annual output of approximately 900 tons of malt. With rising demand, the overall capacity can be incrementally increased by simply extending the steeping unit and adding intermediate modules to the existing germinating and kilning units. The plant can also switch to a 24-hour batch cycle by adding more germinating kilning units. Independent of previous configurations, the plant design can be altered to simultaneously cater to different types of malt with the main production lines dedicated to produce, for example, a base malt and additional lines installed for niche products and specialty malts. The energy-efficient central heating and ventilation system extends with the core components. The options are as varied as the individual needs.

A unique system based on tried and tested technology

The system can deliver the best results for all typically required malt types. The individual components are built based on our proven malting systems – yet the smaller capacities and flexible modular design are new. It is the only system of its kind on the market,” says Marc Helmers, Product Manager of Malting & Brewing for Bühler. “Today, RimoMalt is a market-ready matured system, it combines the best of both worlds: innovative thinking focused on market and individual customer needs and proven technology from the market leader in malting technology. Customers can rely on the latest mechanical and digital technology providing an efficient malting process.”

Additional benefits

Several additional benefits complement the key advantages of RimoMalt.

The installation of RimoMalt requires a minimum of space and effort. Designed for outdoor operation the plant does not require any additional buildings keeping investment costs low and offering flexibility in the choice of location. The smallest version of the space-saving solution requires a floor area of only 15 by 24 meters. At a maximum annual output of 17,000 tons, the plant requires a space of just 55 by 45 meters.

As a turnkey solution, the only preinstallation requirement is a foundation for the installation. Thanks to the premanufactured modules any extensions can be undertaken with a minimum of downtime further reducing cost.

RimoMalt was designed with sustainability in mind. In addition to oil and gas-powered versions, the plant can be operated with heat registers and heat pumps replacing less sustainable solutions.

Digital services have become indispensable in the running of modern plants. RimoMalt offers full automation. If required, the entire plant can be operated remotely via smartphone or tablet. Optional access to Bühler’s Insights platform provides customers with Bühler’s comprehensive processing knowledge, smart data analytics offer advanced management of KPIs and helps improve efficiency and sustainability.

Upstream and downstream extensions

RimoMalt comes with several optional up and downstream extensions that fit harmoniously with the system’s concept. A silo plant was specifically designed to grow with the malting plant when required. Operators wishing to further diversify their product portfolio benefit from malt roasting units. In order to treat resources with utmost care a washing screw can be installed upstream for optimal food safety and hygiene.

Good for business, good for the planet

Craft malting is an old industry being reborn. More and more, craft brewers are seeing the need for non-standardized malts, reclaiming the richness of ingredients once supplied by regional malthouses that didn’t survive Prohibition. In fact, craft malting is less a trend than it is a realization – a realization that, but for some modernization, crafting beers with their own regional flavors and significance makes more sense now than it ever did. Malting regional grains back in 1880 was a necessity due to the lack of infrastructure. Today’s craft maltsters and brewers now have the choice to deliver unique, place-based beers while using planet-friendly methods. Win-win-win for the consumer, the producer, and the planet.

It’s with sensitivity to today’s climate that RimoMalt was conceived. The processing of local grain reduces the heavy environmental footprint caused by extensive supply chains. Operators also benefit from becoming independent of fluctuating resource prices on the global market and vulnerable supply chains and bottlenecks.

“The RimoMalt helps craft maltsters and brewers make the best of their ideas without the constraints of high investment costs and inflexible technology. It truly unlocks businesses’ potential. With much better sustainability inherent in the concept and applied in the technology, the unique solution contributes to safeguarding valuable resources and alleviating the burden on the environment,” says Helmers. “It’s good for business and it’s good for the planet.”

Contact Sales Manager Kevin Rodriguez (Kevin.Rodriguez@buhlergroup.com) to learn more about the RimoMalt system and how Bühler can help you meet your malting equipment needs.