Q&A: How to avoid common water filtration mistakes in beverage bottling
Water filtration systems can be overlooked in busy facilities, which could mean deteriorating beverage quality
For any beverage producer, water quality is a critical ingredient of the finished product. No one wants a product that’s off color, has a strange taste or contains sediment. Without crystal-clear water, a processor wouldn’t have a viable product.
Considering how important water is, there is a lot at stake for beverage manufacturers and bottlers. That’s why it’s essential that those in the industry use quality water filtration systems to ensure they have consistent, high-quality, and safe water in all areas of the beverage-making and bottling process—production, cleaning, and utility uses.
If you are using a water filtration system, you know that a perfectly operating filtration system is vital to the success of your business. Mark Ligon is product application manager at Commercial Filtration Supply (CFS), a distributor/supplier of industrial filtration products, including strainers, bag filtration, cartridge filtration, and replacement parts. At CFS, he handles major filtration brands like Eaton, Titan Flow Control, Shelco, MAHLE and more.
In this article, Ligon looks briefly at common mistakes that should be avoided when buying and installing water filtration systems and offers a few other suggestions as well.
FE: Mark, what are some of the issues in the installation and placement of filtration systems? Any suggestions?
Mark Ligon: When buying a water filtration system, hiring an expert to install the equipment is highly recommended. It’s important that the filtration system is installed in the best location for your set-up. An expert will help you determine exactly where that is. He or she will likely discuss with you points of contamination, starting with where contamination is first introduced and then move into other critical control points. An expert is likely to advise and discover high risk points and a last-chance-of-removal point. He will also help determine the size of the filter you will need. The filter should match your housing size, and the housing size is determined by what you need to filter out and how much water you will have going through the filter.
FE: What about replacement filters? Just how critical are they?
Ligon: Another common mistake happens when it’s time to replace filters in a system. It may seem fairly simple—just order the same type that is currently being used. However, filters are price competitive, so it may seem obvious to choose a different brand or type that is more cost-effective. That’s where some beverage manufacturers and bottlers go wrong. If the filter you choose isn’t exactly right, it may throw off the whole filtration system.
One key thing to keep in mind is that micron ratings and mesh sizes matter. A micron (aka, micrometer, or one-millionth of a meter) is the unit of measurement used to determine the average size of the openings within the filter. For example, a 15-micron filter has larger openings than a 3-micron device, therefore, the 15-micron filter allows larger particles to pass through the filter. The lower the number in the filter’s micron rating, the better it will perform in removing extremely fine particles. However, a mesh number is defined as the number of openings per inch in a filter. This correlates with the number of particles allowed to pass through the mesh. So, a large mesh number is preferable because there are more openings per inch, thus the more it filters out smaller particles.
You can see how getting the wrong filters can make a big difference in the final product. That’s why it’s recommended to speak with an expert to ensure you are purchasing a filter with the correct size and filtration level.
FE: When do you replace the filters?
Ligon: Just as every car needs a regular oil change, every water filtration system needs a regular filter change. The trick is understanding when to change the filter, which varies based on the system, its workload, and how it was installed. It is recommended to change a filter cartridge if:
- There is noticeable “scale” or mineral deposits on any equipment.
- The water that has gone through the filtration system begins to smell or taste funny.
- There is a noticeable drop in water pressure.
While there isn’t a sensor you can use in the filter, a measurable way you can determine whether a filter needs replacing is by using pressure gauges on the input and output sides of the filter. If the differential pressure drops by 10 psi then it’s likely the filter needs to be changed.
FE: How should the type of filtration system be chosen?
Ligon: Different types of beverages and bottling methods require different types of water filtration systems. For example, you wouldn’t use the same filtration system for bottling water as you would for use in a soda fountain machine. Ensuring that you have the right system in place requires that you consult a water filtration expert to advise you what is best. A single filter system isn’t always enough. For example, if the water is too hard you will need more than just a carbon block filter because the water would need to be softened too, and carbon block filters don’t soften water. Sampling and testing the water is an important step to take. This helps you determine if you need more than just particle filtration. Harmful bacteria, other organic content, minerals, and chemicals such as PFAS should all be tested by a lab in a water sample you provide. This will help identify what needs to be removed from the water and what filtration systems you need to develop.
FE: When are carbon filters necessary?
Ligon: This would depend on the water sampling/water analysis results. If those results show that there is any chlorine or chloramines in the water, you’ll want a carbon filter if you wish to remove those. Removing those chemicals mainly helps improve the taste.
FE: When treating for hard water or excessive minerals with a water softener, where should water filtration typically be applied: before softener treatment, after it or both?
Ligon: When treating for hard waters or excessive minerals with a water softener, I would recommend using a 20-micron filter prior to softener treatment. This would be to remove any solids from getting into the water softener.
FE: How should a processor compare water filters from different suppliers? Are there any other important specifications such as the type of material used in the filter, plugging and/or expected lifetime vs. actual filter lifetime?
Ligon: I think it would be tough to compare filters from different suppliers. Your best bet would be to work with each supplier individually to have them help select the right products for your application. Once you’ve done that it may be easier to compare. It all depends on the application; this will determine which product from which supplier is right for you.
For more information, Mark Ligon can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.