Industry Applications


Discover the advantages of stainless steel use in beer brewing and learn about common applications and brewery equipment, popular grades, maintenance practices, and potential hazards

The origins of brewing date back thousands of years.

While much of the process is shockingly similar to those original ancient processes, technology and materials allow modern brewers to work with a level of precision previously impossible and brew on a scale that would blow the minds of brewers even a few hundred years ago.

Stainless steel is a cornerstone of modern breweries, allowing for great flavour and outstanding consistency from batch to batch.

In this guide, we'll explore the advantages of stainless steel in modern brewing, typical stainless steel brewing applications, popular stainless steel grades used by commercial breweries and home brewers alike, best practices for cleaning and maintenance, and any risks to keep in mind associated with its use.

Table of Contents:

Benefits of Using Stainless Steel Brewing Equipment

Stainless steel is an ideal material for brewing beer due to its durability, corrosion resistance, low reactivity, and ease of cleaning and sanitizing.

It is also a relatively low-cost option compared to other materials such as copper or aluminum—especially when accounting for the cost across its entire service life.

Let’s look at each of these benefits in more detail.

Stainless Steel Durability and Longevity

Brewing is a high-temperature and high-pressure process.

This makes stainless steel an excellent choice as it can withstand frequent heatings and higher temperature ranges without deforming or corroding as long as you follow proper care and maintenance guidelines.

High Corrosion Resistance and Low Reactivity

Compared to regular steel, iron, or aluminum, the corrosion resistance properties of stainless steel are far greater—especially when you factor in the moisture, acidity, and temperatures involved in most modern breweries.

This means that brewers don’t have to worry as much about oxidation damage to their expensive brewing equipment.

Additionally, stainless steel does not react with acidic substances or impart or alter flavours in any way, allowing for safe use batch after batch without affecting consistency or influencing the final product.

This also makes stainless steel popular in the food service and production industries.

Easy Maintenance and Cleaning

Stainless steel surfaces are nonporous, making them easy to clean with ordinary cleaners and a bit of elbow grease or pressure washing.

Additionally, the passivation layer on stainless steel surfaces is smooth enough that sanitization via chemicals or steam is simple.

This saves time and money while ensuring proper sanitation practices are maintained throughout all stages of production at a brewing facility.

Common Applications of Stainless Steel in The Beer Industry

The previously discussed benefits make stainless steel a popular material across a range of standard brewing components, including:

  • Kettles or brew pots
  • Mash tuns
  • Fermenters
  • Bright tanks
  • Beer cooling systems
  • Piping systems
  • Valves and fittings
In this section, we’ll look at the benefits of stainless steel for some of these often-used components.

Kettles and Mash Tuns

Kettles and mash tuns are two essential pieces of equipment in a brewery.

The mash tuns are used to convert the starches found in crushed grains into sugars, which then fuel the fermentation process, resulting in the alcoholic content of the beer.

Mashing is the first step in a great-tasting beer, and stainless steel helps to ensure that the wort comes out consistently every time while providing outstanding tolerance for the temperatures and pressures encountered during heating and fermentation.

They are typically made from stainless steel because it is durable, corrosion-resistant, and easy to clean.

While some breweries prefer classic copper kettles, stainless steel is increasingly common.

Stainless steel kettles and mash tuns also resist bacterial growth, keeping the beer safe during fermentation and reducing the risk of microbial corrosion or contamination.

Fermenters & Bright Tanks

Once the wort leaves the brewing kettles, fermenters or fermenting vessels hold everything while the yeast works to convert the sugar created during mashing into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Bright tanks—the next step in some brewing processes—are where additional carbon dioxide is introduced to the fermented wort to add that distinctive beer fizz and where the resulting beer will be clarified before packaging.

Again, stainless steel plays a key role here.

Not just due to its ability to handle heat and liquid exposure but because it can easily withstand the pressure of the resulting carbon dioxide production, providing a safe and reliable means of containing the fermenting process from start to finish.

Beer Cooling Systems

Stainless steel beer coolers use ammonia refrigeration to allow large quantities of beer to be held at precise temperatures at various stages of the processing system.

Ammonia is used as the refrigerant, and a solution of water and salt, called brine, is used as the coolant.
The ammonia is compressed and cooled in the condenser.

As it travels through the evaporator coils, the ammonia evaporates and absorbs heat.

The brine also circulates through the coils, absorbing the heat from the ammonia before carrying it away to be dissipated through radiators, fans, and other means.

The cooled beer is stored in the insulated compartment of the cooler, and the process continues to keep the beer at a consistent, cool temperature.

Throughout the process, stainless steel provides reliable performance despite regular temperature
 fluctuations, provides corrosion resistance against ammonia and brine, and avoids impacting the beer's flavour, clarity, or consistency.

Piping and Monitoring Systems

Finally, piping systems made of stainless steel connect these various systems, while valves and fittings help brewers monitor and control the entire process.

The result is an efficient system with minimal waste, no contamination, long-lasting performance, and easy maintenance.

Popular Grades of Stainless Steel for Brewery Equipment

As with most implementations, the exact grade of stainless steel you choose can drastically impact your experience.

While many grades are suitable for use in brewing, we’re going to explore two of the most common: 304 and 316.

For additional information on appropriate grades of stainless steel for your intended brewing application, consult one of our expert sales analysts.

Grade 304 Stainless Steel

304 Stainless Steel is the most commonly used grade of stainless steel in brewing. It offers excellent corrosion resistance, durability, and ease of cleaning and sanitizing.

It is commonly used for kettles, mash tuns, fermenters, bright tanks, piping systems and valves, as well as other components exposed to harsh environments such as high temperatures or caustic chemicals.

Grade 316 Stainless Steel

316 stainless steel is suitable for applications requiring increased corrosion resistance, such as breweries located near the ocean or those using brackish water sources for their process needs.

The increased levels of nickel and molybdenum compared to 304 stainless steel help to provide this while also improving overall strength.

It’s also commonly used in heat exchangers and steam systems due to its increased thermal tolerances.

While it should only be used over grade 304 when required due to its increased cost, it is a reliable alloy that will provide an outstanding service life for the additional price.

Recommended Brewery Cleaning and Maintenance Practices for Stainless Steel

When it comes to stainless steel equipment used in beer brewing operations, proper cleaning and sanitizing are essential for ensuring the safety of your product.

But it’s critical to understand what you can safely use to avoid causing additional harm to the protective chromium oxide layer on the surface of the metal.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Brewery Equipment

In most cases, all you need to clean stainless steel components is a mild detergent or soap solution with warm water and a soft cloth or sponge.

Never use bleach (especially if you’re heating cleansing solutions), as this can rapidly lead to the onset of pitting corrosion.

Use a non-abrasive cleaner such as baking soda paste or white vinegar mixed with water for more stubborn stains.

Stronger solutions are usable, but it is critical to understand proper use methods and minimize contact time to avoid harming your stainless steel tanks, kettles, and other components.

Examples include using sodium hydroxide to dissolve organic carbon-based compounds, phosphoric or muriatic acids to remove beer stone (or calcium oxalate), nitric acid to help passivate stainless steel, and trisodium phosphate (TSP) to clean soda kegs.

If you must scrub or scour the surface of your stainless steel kettles, kegs, mash tuns, fermenters and other equipment, avoid using metal scrubbers such as steel wool, copper wool, or abrasive pads with harsh chemicals.

In most cases, the proper cleaning solution and a plastic scouring or scrubbing pad are all that is needed.

Make sure to rinse thoroughly after cleaning.

Sanitizing Stainless Steel Brewing Equipment

Sanitization is also essential when maintaining stainless steel equipment used in brewing operations.

Iodophors—a combination of iodine and a solubilizing agent such as polysorbate—are a popular sanitization solution because of iodine’s low toxicity and good efficacy against a broad range of microorganisms.

These solutions are gentle with your stainless steel when appropriately used—protecting your equipment investment.

The solubilizing agent helps the iodine to remain in solution and makes it more effective as a sanitizer.

While you should always consult the MSDS for any cleaning solution, most iodophors are used by applying them to the surface of the stainless steel brewing equipment and leaving them to sit for a few minutes.

This ensures the surface is fully covered and saturated.

You then rinse the equipment or surfaces with generous amounts of clean water and allow them to air dry completely before using the equipment again.

If your brewing system includes components of other metals—especially aluminum or zinc—be sure to research reactivity with iodine before using this sanitization approach.

Other Preventative Maintenance Tips

Cleaning and sanitizing is only one facet of ensuring long-lasting performance from your stainless steel brewing components.

Brewers should follow some preventative maintenance tips to ensure optimal performance from your stainless steel components over time:

  • Frequently inspect fittings, valves, fasteners, and supports for signs of wear and tear and quickly replace damaged parts.
  • Monitor temperatures based on your stainless steel grade to avoid warping, distortion, and other damage.
  • Take care when welding stainless steel brewing components to avoid warping, cracking, or diminishing the passivation layer. If damage occurs during welding, pickling and passivation treatments can help to restore performance.
  • Avoid scratching or damaging stainless steel surfaces with tools whenever possible. Covering nearby components when performing maintenance, using appropriate equipment, and keeping surfaces free from debris can help keep your stainless steel looking—and performing—its best.

Potential Corrosion and Contamination Hazards when Using Stainless Steel in Brewing

Using stainless steel in brewing is a popular choice for many brewers due to its durability, corrosion resistance, and ease of cleaning.

However, potential hazards can arise when using stainless steel equipment during beer production.

Brewing Process Contamination from Other Metals or Alloys

One potential hazard with using stainless steel in brewing is the risk of contamination from other metals or alloys.

This danger comes from two fronts.

If different types of metal come into contact with each other during the brewing process, they can react and cause off-flavours in the finished product.

But given that beer is conductive, it can also initiate galvanic corrosion (also known as bimetallic corrosion).

While stainless steel will almost always be the cathode in the reaction and spared from oxidation, degradation of the anode material can happen at a surprising rate.

To minimize these risks, ensure that all interacting components in the brewing process are made of compatible materials such as 304 or 316 grade stainless steel.

Keep any non-stainless components away from the production area to avoid contact with the beer and further eliminate risk.

Neglecting Maintenance Can Lead to Corrosion Woes

While stainless is corrosion resistant—highly so in most cases—it is not corrosion proof.

So if you fail to maintain and inspect your stainless steel brewing equipment regularly, you could find yourself facing an unpleasant surprise.

Inspect for signs of wear and tear regularly, paying particular attention to physical damage, abrasion, and discoloration of any surfaces.

These steps will help ensure that your brewery remains safe and free from rusting or corrosion issues while producing quality beers.

Commonly Asked Questions Related to Stainless Steel Use in Beer Brewing

Why is stainless steel used in brewing?

While exact reasons might be personal to the brewery or business, it often comes down to stainless steel’s ability to resist corrosion, provide long-lasting performance, and not influence the final product's colour, taste, or aroma.

It’s also exceptionally well suited for dealing with the rapid and frequent temperature cycles encountered through the various parts of the brewing, fermentation, and bottling processes.
Finally, it’s easily sanitized and easy to clean.

Maintenance is equally simple, allowing breweries to spend more time on production and less on upkeep and repairs.

Can stainless steel beer brewing equipment be repaired if it becomes damaged?

Repairing stainless steel—including removing corrosion, replacing sections, or adapting fabrication—is possible.

However, fabrication and welding with stainless steel often require different approaches than other metals.

Image credit: Brewery Service | Ultimate Brew Service | New York

As such, to avoid further damage—and possible contamination of product—repair should only be attempted by qualified professionals with in-depth knowledge of stainless steel repair and the functionality of your brewery components.

What type of stainless steel are beer kegs made from?

Typically made from 304 grade stainless steel, beer kegs are highly corrosion-resistant while offering excellent temperature tolerances.

This means they’re just as functional in the brewery as they are at the bar.

They're also very durable, dealing with the bumps and bangs of the production line, shipment, and storage with little worry.

If they get dirty, clean-up is easy with plenty of warm water and mild soap.

Finally, they’re affordable, so whether you’re a brewery purchasing them by the thousands or home brewing and looking for a place to keep your beer safe before consuming it, you’ll likely find they fit the bill nicely.


  • There are few metals as well suited to the specific demands of brewing as stainless steel.
  • Its durability, corrosion resistance, low reactivity, and ease of cleaning offer benefits during almost every facet of the brewing process.
  • Typical brewing applications for stainless steel include kettles, mash tuns, fermenters, bright tanks, beer cooling systems, piping systems, valves, and fittings.
  • 304 grade and 316 grade stainless steel are the two most popular stainless steel alloys used in brewing.
  • 304 grade is affordable yet capable and suitable for most situations.
  • If you need additional corrosion resistance or strength, 316 grades stainless steel builds on the traits of 304 grade stainless steel at an increased price.
  • In most cases, warm water and mild soap or detergent are all that is needed to clean stainless steel.
  • Baking soda paste or diluted vinegar can provide additional cleaning power while remaining gentle.
  • Other more powerful cleaners often used include sodium hydroxide, phosphoric acid, muriatic acid, nitric acid, and trisodium phosphate (TSP).
  • Never scrub or scour stainless steel with metal scrubbers such as steel or copper wool.
  • Iodophors are a popular option for sanitizing stainless steel brewing equipment but should not be used with aluminum or zinc brewing or piping products.
  • Frequent inspections and repairs are essential for long service life.
  • Be mindful of temperatures when using stainless steel to avoid warping, distortion, or damage to the passivation layer—particularly during welding.
  • Always be mindful of the stainless surface when using tools to assemble, repair, or replace systems or components.
Unified Alloys serves companies throughout North America. Our decades of experience and comprehensive selection of stainless steel pipe and other products allow us to service industries of all sizes.  Contact one of our experienced sales analysts today to discuss your needs and explore how we can help you source materials and components for your next project!