Carbotek has developed an innovative bag-in-box solution for beer that lowers shipping costs and eliminates the need for kegs. Once delivered, the boxed beer is carbonated using a Carbo-Box powered by Xylem’s Flojet beverage pump.
Bag-in-box systems for drinks are already widespread. They are available for wine, fruit juice and soft drinks. Carbonated beer, on the other hand, is usually tapped from kegs. Carbotek Systems, located in Nördlingen, Germany, aims to change this with its beer-in-box system.
The trouble with kegs, according to Florian Koch, CEO of Carbotek, is that they cost a lot to ship and return, and their availability is not always guaranteed. This can particularly be a problem when brewers want to export to markets farther away.
“The very first time we thought about this solution was during the hot summer of 2003, when there were not enough kegs available,” Koch says. “Another issue with kegs is that if you stock up on them for peak sales months, then the rest of the year many of them are unused and not generating revenue.”
How the Carbotek system works
When using the Carbotek system, the beer is brewed in a traditional manner. The beer is then degassed, removing the carbon dioxide. This reduces pressure, so heavy kegs are not needed. The beer is then pasteurized and packaged into lightweight, plastic-lined boxes. The ultraclean filling technology ensures the highest quality. The boxed beer is then shipped on pallets at a significantly less cost than kegs.
When dispensing the beer at a bar or restaurant, the boxed beer is connected to Carbotek’s Carbo-Box system. This system adds the defined amount of carbon dioxide to the beer just before it pours from the tap.
The Flojet beverage pump
Inside the Carbo-Box, Xylem’s Flojet G55 pump uses carbon dioxide or compressed air to move the liquid.
“The Flojet brand is extremely well-known,” Koch says. “The Flojet G55 that we have chosen has proven itself in numerous dispensing systems for wine, syrup and juices. In my opinion, Xylem’s Flojet pumps are a market leader in this sector.”
Carbotek chose a Flojet beverage pump with a vacuum switch, which automatically switches off when the bag is empty. The pump has a capacity of up to 26.5 liters per minute and a delivery pressure of up to 6.9 bar. Xylem also provides a five-year warranty.
From idea to product
Koch first began developing the bag-in-box system for carbonated beverages in 2006. He was then working at Ankerbräu, a medium-sized brewery in southern Germany. By 2009, the first system was on the market. TUI Cruises became the first customer, since the cruise line wanted a lightweight alternative to kegs. The bag-in-box packaging was also much easier to dispose of.
In 2014, Koch left Ankerbräu to focus solely on the Carbotek system. He sees the company as a small, agile start-up with ambitious goals. Interest in the beer-in-box system is growing. Koch says a keg system is much more expensive in terms of production equipment, packaging material and logistics costs for distances over 500 kilometers.
Today, about 35 percent of Ankerbräu’s annual beer production is carried out via the Carbotek system. Koch has plans to expand the system’s use to other carbonated drinks, like cider.