Cleanroom bottling process crosses international borders

Cleanroom bottling process crosses international borders

Aseptic beverage filling implemented as flash pasteurization replaces tunnel-type pasteurization

by Carlos Florez

The first cleanroom for BAF in South America may signal a change in the brewery and juice industries due to its reduced cost, use of limited space in the facility, improved product characteristics and friendly environment.

In fact, aseptic beverage filling operations may soon be commonplace in South America. Control de Contaminacion de Colombia (C4), a South American company that specializes in building clean environments for the food, pharmaceutical and industrial areas, has added a Class 100 and Class 1,000 cleanroom for an aseptic filling for beer, juices and soft drinks to its portfolio.

The traditional filling of beer and juices includes a tunnel-type pasteurization process that consumes between 3,000 and 9,000 pounds of steam per hour. This is reduced to approximately 600 pounds per hour with flash pasteurization and a cleanroom; power consumption goes down from 5.8 kW/hr to 0.35 kW/hr, and there is also a large reduction in water use and maintenance costs.

Tunnel-type pasteurization in the traditional system submits the product to varying high temperatures, which generates a product with varying characteristics. Aseptic filling with controlled pasteurization and lower thermal punishment, by contrast, improves the product in several ways. In beer, it improves the organoleptic characteristics such as the aroma profile and freshness. It also ensures greater product stability, which results in longer shelf life. Juices are spared from denaturalization resulting from exposure to high temperatures for long periods, which occurs with tunnel pasteurization. As a result, organoleptic characteristics such as aroma, taste and color are improved.


The cleanroom comprises five areas.

A Class 100 area with vertical laminar flow, modified with sectored air returns that control negative air flows (currents) and provide distributed protection considering the location of the product, the operator and the critical zone.

A Class 1,000 cleanroom for the bottle transportation area that goes from the washer to the entrance of the filler. This is an open cleanroom with unidirectional air flow based on bottle flow.

A technical area for conditioning (temperature and relative humidity), filtering and air handling.

A viewing area, which was created to limit access to the Class 100 area. Modular and acoustic manufacturing was incorporated to attenuate the reverberations and to allow visibility.

An area of access and air locks.

The cleanroom is controlled by an automatic system based on a programmable logic controller with a standby function that controls filter and room pressure, relative humidity, temperature and air flow 100 percent of the time.

Compared to the components used in pharmaceutical cleanrooms, alternatives were used, particularly in the ceilings, floors, partitions, air flow patterns and materials. Modular structures allow for major maintenance on machines, and they are resistant to contaminants that may exist in the multiproduct environment. A material called Fibratane, which offers high chemical resistance, low weight, ease of disassembly, noise reduction and high resistance to humid environments, was developed and used for the partitions.

Bottling vs. traditional cleanroom

This type of cleanroom differs from those built for the pharmaceutical sector or the microelectronics sector. In most breweries of the world, there is a culture of “brewer`s tradition” without good manufacturing processes (GMP) for cleanrooms. The brewers have always produced beverages with the security of a final tunnel pasteurization where contamination from the process is cured. Hence, in addition to the cleanroom project, some new processes were implemented such as:

Implementation of GMP in the product preparation process by tracking the bacteriologic population from the raw materials stage onward and identifying the critical places in the process line. The cleanroom project was able to reduce bacteria levels in the product before pasteurization from around 3,000 CFU to 0 to 100 CFU max.

Change from tunnel pasteurization to flash pasteurization, with a microbiological follow up to establish the special pasteurization units required for each product.

An additional sterilization stage had to be added to the regular bottle washer.

In the transportation lubrication system, use of a non-contaminating lubricant.

Change from free access of personnel to restricted access in the cleaning and maintenance methods for the area and the filler machine.

The final change was to implement training on contamination control basics, because personnel in the beverage industry (and in the food industry) traditionally control contamination by means of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and are unfamiliar with production in clean environments where contamination is controlled in a dynamic way.

Special features

Aside from being one of the first cleanrooms for filling of beer and juices, this project has special features, including the following:

It was completed over an existing traditional filling line with a Simonazzi 120-20, Model 1979 filler (the second of this type manufactured in the world).

It was conceptualized for aseptic cold filling in glass bottles, which can also be used for aseptic hot filling.

Due to Colombian market characteristics, the filling line is a multi-product type, providing filling operations for a variety of products such as natural juices, oat based beverages, beer and soft drinks.

The cleanroom employed techniques traditionally used in microelectronics and pharmaceutical facilities, but were adapted to the beverage filling process. This process differs in many aspects, mainly in the volume of product handled, the level of moisture generated, and conditions of the air currents of the process itself. Study methods of the TSC type (time, susceptibility and concentration) were used to establish the protection levels required. Some special adjustments were made, for example, to accommodate the different requirements of a bottle-filling operation. For example, because of the types of currents used in the process, conventional perforated floor for cleanrooms could not be used. One that allows adequate flow patterns was constructed instead.

Additionally, the cleanroom had to be conceptualized in a different manner because the infrastructure of a brewery is different from a pharmaceutical or microelectronics facility. For example, there is no access control, meaning, there is no area around the process with any type of air filtration, there is only a roof covering the process.

Because of the characteristics of the washing, transportation and filling lines the area had to have a 77 -square-meter Class 100 cleanroom and a 120-square-meter class 1,000 cleanroom.

Carlos M. Florez is founder and general manager of Control de Contaminacion de Colombia (C4), a company that specializes in the pharmaceutical, food and industrial clean areas markets. He is a senior member of the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (IEST) and a member of the International Society For Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE).

Click here to enlarge image

Click here to enlarge image

A C4 technician tests the filters in the Class 100 filling machine area. Note the special floor, Fibratane walls and ceiling.

The output of the filled bottles from the Class 100 area.


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