Wine Production Methods & Business Needs Drive Pump Choice


By: Gerald Dlubala

Pumps are an important and core piece in winemaking. A productive and successful cellar operation requires pumps to be tolerant of solids and sediment, easy to clean and maintain and efficient at keeping oxygen out of the wine. Additionally, the winemaker needs the support of a manufacturer that offers constructive advice, critical support and available replacement parts and training when required.

What That Pump Can And Can’t Do Are Both Important

  “When it comes to pumps for a winemaker to choose from, there are really only six basic types,” said Jon Johnson, Service and Sales Representative for Carlsen and Associates, an industry leader in providing the ultimate functional, quality winemaking equipment. “Each can be functional in a wine-producing environment, and each has distinct advantages, disadvantages, and corresponding price point.”

  Johnson explained the assortment of pumps Carlsen and Associates provides to customers.

•    Positive Displacement Pumps “These are the most versatile pumps for a winemaker to have in their facility,” said Johnson. “Positive displacement pumps are great for moving solids and must but are versatile enough for other cellar applications, including bottling, juice transfer, pump overs, and barrel work. They also operate with minimal destruction of solids. Although running the pumps equipped with rubber impellers dry is a recipe for quick pump damage, when equipped with stainless rotors, they can be run dry without that worry. Positive displacement pumps cannot be shut off because the pressure continues building and will potentially damage the weakest link involved, usually meaning a burst hose. The positive displacement pump’s versatility and reliability come with a price tag in the $17,000 range.”

•    Progressive Cavity Pumps “These pumps are gentler on the product and won’t squish or damage things as much as other pump varieties,” said Johnson. “They will sometimes break the grape seeds and, like other pumps, cannot be run dry without damaging the pump mechanics. Progressive cavity pumps can run the winemaker $10,000.”

•    Rubber Impeller/Rotor Pumps “These are the typical low-cost starter pump,” said Johnson. “They’re not usually the first choice because they cannot be run dry, can cause damage to the contents they are moving, and contain parts mostly made overseas, potentially affecting availability and ultimately causing extended downtime. On the low end of the price spectrum, a winemaker can expect to spend around $5,000 on a rubber impeller pump.”

•    Peristaltic or Hose Pumps “Considered an expensive, single-use piece of equipment that uses large rotors and rollers and takes up a large amount of space, peristaltic pumps simply do not offer the versatility of other pump choices,” said Johnson. “Additionally, they are the most expensive pump on this list with around a $30,000 price tag.”

•    Centrifugal Pumps “Centrifugal pumps are generally only good for juices or liquids,” said Johnson. “Any solids get macerated in use, so they are common for waste and end-of-line uses. Large-scale centrifugal pumps are best for large-scale events like tanker-truck loading and unloading or large-scale wine blending. However, they aren’t made to be run dry without causing damage, and a winemaker can expect to spend around $7,000 for the pump, necessary fittings and hardware.”

•    Air Diaphragm Pumps “This is the gentlest of the pump choices,” said Johnson. “They are low maintenance and low cost, in the $5,000 range. Air diaphragm pumps can provide a lot of pressure and can be run dry. An additional feature is the ability to shut off against the pump without damaging any components or equipment. The drawback of these pumps is that they can be tougher to clean.”

  Johnson told The Grapevine Magazine that there are applications where each type of pump can be successful. “The key to choosing the right pump for any cellar application is for the winemaker to make decisions and have a clear path about their winemaking methods before selecting a pump system.

  “It’s critical to know if they are pumping must, what type of fermentation they will be using, if they are planning to screen or not, etcetera. These answers will narrow down the options. Narrow them down more by knowing the distance you’ll want your pumps to move product, including any bends and inclines. For example, long traveling liquids aren’t suited to be pushed with a rubber impeller pump because there won’t be enough pressure to perform the required movement. They also will likely not produce enough pressure to be available for filtration applications. Know your methods, so you know what type of pump system will work and, just as importantly, won’t work. Once you know your methods, you’ll know your pump needs, and then you’ll want to find and work with a trusted, experienced manufacturer that offers parts and service availability to decrease downtime and keep the juices flowing.”

After The Loving: Reliable Pumps To Help With Waste

  After the detailed love and day-to-day dedication that a winemaker puts into their product, there is still waste removal. Gorman-Rupp has been manufacturing pumps and pumping systems since 1933, with many of their designs becoming industry standards. For the wine industry, Gorman-Rupp typically provides pumps for the waste side of the production process.

  “We manufacture solids handling, self-priming centrifugal pumps that are great for pumping stems, skins, seeds and all other types of waste,” said Jeff Hannan, Product Manager for centrifugal pumps with Gorman-Rupp. Additionally, Gorman-Rupp offers their exclusive Eradicator Solids Management System for moving and clearing waste. It includes a lightweight inspection cover featuring an innovative, accessibility-driven backplate that incorporates an obstruction-free flow path and an aggressive self-cleaning wear plate designed to constantly and effectively clear the eye of the impeller.

  “Equip our Super-T Series centrifugal pumps with the Eradicator Solids Management System, and you have the best and most popular choice for pumping clog-prone waste like seeds, stems, skins, and any other stringy type of solid waste,” Hannan said. “In addition, upgrade kits are available for existing Super T or Ultra V pumps already in service out in the field to reach that same level of self-cleaning technology.”

  Hannan told The Grapevine Magazine that his Super T Series pumps can pass up to three inches of spherical solids, so they’re designed to eliminate clogging and effectively increase uptime. The technology was introduced in 2015 by Gorman-Rupp and has proved to be highly reliable in handling all stringy, clog-prone material. With over 4,000 units in operation, it’s not uncommon to have Super T Series pumps with more than 25 years of in-field service. That reliability factor is one of the things that a winemaker should consider when choosing a pump manufacturer.

  “When selecting a pump for any waste application, consideration must be given to the manufacturer’s reliability, reputation and service, along with the total cost of ownership and overall uptime that the pump offers,” said Hannan. “It’s always best to select pumps that are easy to maintain and are specifically designed to prevent clogging. Externally adjustable clearances between the impeller and wear plate, in combination with the new lightweight inspection covers, are just a couple of the features that make routine maintenance of our pumps easier than ever and a favorite for maintenance personnel. Additionally, depending on what is being moved, construction materials can be a huge factor in the pump’s lifespan. Typically, cast iron and ductile iron components are most common in general waste pumping. But if the pumped product has a lot of sand, grit or other abrasives, hardened materials like Austempered Ductile Iron for the wearing surfaces would extend the pump life. If moving caustic products, various grades of stainless steel, such as 316 SST or CD4MCu, can be incorporated into the pump to extend the lifespan.”

  Gorman-Rupp also manufactures a full line of submersibles, rotary gear, and standard centrifugal pumps to handle waste, sump and fluid handling applications. Unlike submersibles installed in the sump, self-priming pumps are mounted high and dry above the waste sump making maintenance easier to perform and eliminating confined space dangers. In addition, Gorman-Rupp’s Super T Series pumps are simple to work on, with the maintenance usually performed by winery personnel.

  “Overall, winemakers should look for the same things that wine drinkers seek in their products, namely reliability, reputation and service,” said Hannan. “If something would happen to go wrong, and it invariably will, I would want to know that I can trust the pump supplier to work with me to resolve the situation. That’s specifically what Gorman-Rupp has been doing for almost 90 years.”

Fixed Base Pumps Help Counter Labor Woes

  There may not be a lot of new movement on existing pump technology,” said Eric Kiser, Equipment and Machinery Sales at Carlsen and Associates. “But the current use of that technology is shifting. There is wider use of fixed base automatic pumps for pump-overs throughout the industry, driven by the ongoing lack of available staff, increased process efficiency and the resulting overall savings for the winery.”

  Fixed base pumps are permanently attached to the tank and mainly used while the juices are breaking down to help maintain consistent color extraction and keep the cap of the tank containing tannins and tartrates moist.

  “The technology has been around for probably three to five years,” said Kiser. “But it was always considered a luxury that carried a price tag of around $7,000. Now, with the ongoing labor shortages and fewer wine cellar workers, it’s become a viable option that allows a winemaker to recover their investment in as little as a year and a half. Some winemakers like to do three pump-overs a day with 20 minutes for each one, and others do multiple pump-overs a day lasting just a few minutes. Either way, pump-overs quickly become a time and labor-consuming practice. A portable pump is brought in, set up, used for a short time, and then has to be broken down, sanitized and readied for the next pump-over session. That’s a lot of labor and time invested for a predictable, repetitive process. Fixed base systems, sealed in an all-in-one unit, eliminate the repetitive labor involved and free up that labor and time for other cellar tasks.”

  Located under the tank with a fixed base pump-over system, it draws in at times set by an automatic timer. Once activated, juices are drawn upwards to an irrigator and sprayed over the tank top, or cap, for moisture retention. All colors, tannins and tartrates are blended and treated as one instead of having the solids sink and the mixture separate. A sealed, automatic system eliminates the setup, break down, clean and sanitize cycle. Additionally, an automated system helps eliminate the human errors that can potentially occur from rushed or overworked employees, including cross-contamination or incorrect tank usage.   “It is an expensive luxury up front,” said Kiser. “A complete setup with pump, drain, controls, devices and fittings can require an initial investment of $7,000. But it becomes worth the upfront cost when you consider the quick return on investment and the ongoing labor issues. The labor shortage is real and likely isn’t going away. The marijuana harvest will only grow, and that’s important because it coincides with the wine harvest. The result is that the two agricultural industries will always be fighting for the same seasonal field workers.


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