Starting with this machine (pictured above, and first launched in autumn 2012) Maus told us that speeds range anywhere from 100 bottles/minute to 1,600 bottles/minute, and revealed that 19 out of the top 20 craft brewers in North America own the machine.
“The low oxygen pickup that you experience with your beverages when they’re filled on our machines is considerably different. Cost effective, sanitary construction and design, easy cleaning, low maintenance – it’s all built into this package,” he said.
Describing this filler as the “gold standard by which other companies are measured”, Maus said you still had to brew at least 20,000 barrels per year “before you can even look at a machine like this”.
“If you’re just getting started and you’re brewing in your basement – you can say, ‘Now I’m going to buy a 5, 10, 20 barrel brewhouse. You need to get your business up and running before you can invest in one of these machines,” he told us.
“You need to have some sort of critical mass. Even 100 bottles per minute is still 100 bottles per minute. You’ve got to be able to do something with those bottles," he said.
Discussing the trend towards scaled-down filling machines to suit craft brewers, Maus said: “This machine is the result of recognizing that making the largest, fastest filler is a good thing. It’s great, and at KHS we’re very good at it. But we also need to recognize that there’s a burgeoning new market out there, and this Innofill Micro platform is our reaction to the craft brewing industry.
“You need to have some sort of critical mass. Even 100 bottles per minute is still 100 bottles per minute. You’ve got to be able to do something with those bottles." (Gary Maus, KHS USA, VP sales and marketing)
“We’ve utilized the same valve technology that we’ll incorporate into a large machines that we’ll sell to top soft drinks manufacturers and brewers. It’s the same technology, but we’ve scaled it down, slowed the machine down, optimized these valves for this operational speed,” he added.
Maus agreed that it was becoming more common for KHS to partner smaller brewers who would grow with them.
“It’s not uncommon that they grow with us, sell us back the machine that we refurbish then sell on to another craft brewer. It doesn’t happen a lot but it does happen,” he said.
Moving on to the Innofill DVD40 can filler - which can also be used for CSDs, juices, still beverages and tea and coffee, Maus (who is pictured, left, by the machine) explained it had a top speed of around 300 cans/minute. “We have 375 installed here in North America – a crazy number,” he said.
“We can scale this back and go to a 30-head filler, but we make them all the way up to 160. Again, it has all stainless construction, it's direct driven, direct linked straight to the can seamer.”
Asked about the sales split between KHS’s glass bottle and can fillers, Maus agrees that there is a craft tendency towards beer in cans, which (these are my words, not his) are lighter, tend to be cheaper, can be used more safely at outdoor events and (avatars argue) offer better branding potential.
“Everyone’s looking at them – but we’re selling more of these," Maus said, pointing at the can filler. "I’m quoting for more than I am for bottle fillers."