Brewing up change in beer filtration

Diatomaceous earth, also known as kieselguhr, is a sedimentary rock made up of the fossilised remains of diatoms (a type of algae). It may not sound very quaffable, but thanks to its unique high porosity it is widely used by the brewery industry as the de facto filter for beer products.

But according to industrial filtration specialist Pall Corporation, this conventional method is energy-intensive, requires a high volume of water, and produces a lot of waste, making it environmentally unfriendly. It is urging brewers to switch to newer membrane-based filtration systems.

Packaging usually steals the focus when it comes to sustainability considerations in beer. But the company says that having a sustainable manufacturing process plays a crucial role in determining a brewer’s environmental footprint and is often overlooked by the average consumer.  

An increased sustainability push is assisting the shift among breweries away from using diatomaceous earth-based filration, says beer market manager, Dr Roland Pahl-Dobrick. Image: Pall Corporation

Diatomaceous earth has “a very bizarre structure”, explained Pall Corporation’s beer market manager, Dr Roland Pahl-Dobrick. This gives it a large internal surface, making it an ideal filter for a host of liquids including beer, wine, edible and non-edible oils and even honey.

Unlike the wine industry, which has successfully transitioned away from using diatomaceous earth-based filtration, most of today’s beers are still filtered with diatomaceous earth.

The substance comes with “a big energy backpack”, he told AgTechNavigator. “Once you’ve dismantled it and ground it, every bit of it needs to be heat treated at 900°C. Only then does it come in a shape and form that people can use for industrial purposes.”