Import Brewery Equipment From China – Fermenters Part 1

Import Brewery Equipment From China

When discussing the import brewery equipment from China there seems to be a lot of interest. Many brewers see it as cheap equipment, which is largely the case. It seems that every micro brewery I have visited also had their kit manufactured in China. I wanted a local custom brewhouse but fermenters were just too much cheaper off shore, so I considered China for these. I priced up local options through manufacturers I use regularly at work and I kid you not they were 6 x more expensive. That was with a 5% handling fee only from the supplier! So I went to the land of China for fermenters.

I was initially in the market for 2 x small 250L fermenters just to trial the process of importing from China and to assess the quality. As I started working through the pricing it looked like shipping wasn’t going to be much more to order more fermenters since I was getting a full 20ft container anyway. So I ordered a couple of 750L fermenters, a heat exchanger and a bunch of kegs as well.

Since ordering I have had quite a few people ask what is the cost of importing brewery equipment from China. Here I will detail some of the basics. More info will follow at a later stage once I sort through some issues with the supplier.


After deciding I was going to China for the fermenters it was time to start contacting suppliers for quotes. There was a lot of variability in pricing with some 3 x more expensive than others. I tried the usual suspects that have supplied quite a few Aussie breweries recently as well as some random’s that I found on Alibaba. In the end I settled on a supplier based on price and communication. I reference checked the two other Aussie breweries they had supplied and had good feedback.

I don’t want to go mentioning supplier names until I resolve some minor issues with my order, however I am happy to provide info to anyone serious about ordering brewery equipment from China in person. Quite a few months was spent researching and gaining info so I do have some useful information. This information will likely be detailed out in a future part 2.

The Risk

Like anything from China, there is a quality risk attached. This was a risk I was prepared to take given the massive price gulf. I work in food and beverage so I factored into the costs having to spend up to a week tidying up welds and doing any required remedial works. As it turns out I will only require about 2 days of this now that I have seen the fermenters.

To mitigate the risk I did some reference checks on other breweries they had supplied. I also spent a lot of time emailing back and forward with drawings and photos of work they had done.

In the end I determined about a 70% risk factor that they may not turn up or may turn up nothing like the drawings and photos I was being sent. With a small order value I didn’t see a benefit in travelling to China for a pre delivery inspection. If I was ordering a full kit or spending over $100K then I most definitely would be. I was happy with this risk vs the cost savings.


Every Chinese supplier will try push you into them arranging the shipping, often forcefully. They will make claims such as “free” shipping etc. They actually got a bit agro when I explained I wanted to organise my own transport to Australia and that they need only transport to a Chinese depot. This was a decision I queried often as my budget estimates from freight companies were between $5k-$10k and the 4 x fermenters were only costing me $10k or so. As a firm believer in if it sounds too good to be true it usually is, I opted to sort my own freight.

I found it amazing that you cant get a fixed quote from freight companies. There are a lot of fees and charges that you may or may not attract depending on customs, quarantine and seemingly the distance of the moon from earth on the day. I ended up using a company I have used at work in the past who were excellent and the final figure came in within 10% of their initial estimate so I was happy since I budgeted 50% on top.

I will detail the various shipping methods in a future post however I ended up using Less Container Load(LCL) freight. Initially I was going for Full Container Load(FCL). In hindsight I should have stuck with FCL. More on this later.

The Cost

I think a lot of people fall into a trap when getting cheap quotes from China. They see the quote and underestimate all the costs on top of that to get the equipment to the land of Oz. There’s conversion to USD, bank conversion fees, freight to the depot, sea freight, freight to the final destination, tax, fees, tax, fees, more tax and more fees. I tried to factor in plenty of contingency and had a budget of $20k. I was also well aware it could vary +-20%. Final costs came in under that as per below:

 $  4,750.00 250L fermenters x 2
 $  9,300.00 750L fermenters x 2
 $  1,460.00 GST on imported goods
 $     152.00 Customs entry
 $       42.00 Quarantine entry fee
 $       15.00 ICS/EDI fee
 $       42.00 Origin agent handling fee
 $     828.39 Inward sea freight
 $  2,170.60 Australian port charges
 $       90.00 Delivery order fee
 $     125.00 Agency and attendance
 $     240.00 GST
 $19,214.99 TOTAL

Hopefully these budget numbers will give others an idea on total costs. This only applies if using a local freight company. If you leave delivery up to the Chinese then its a total gamble, I have heard some real horror stories. Check out for one example and a humorous read.


A note on packaging, I was quoted and paid extra for, individual timber enclosed boxes. The supplier in their wisdom decided the two 750L fermenters would be best sent in an open steel frame. Terrible idea as both fermenters came free of their mounts and sustained cosmetic damage. Lucky I expected some rework would be required! Insist on enclosed timber crates, especially if you plan to use LCL shipping.


In general I am happy with the quality and feel vindicated in my decision to go Chinese fermenters for value. There is one section on all 4x tanks where the weld has not been purged and will require re work. I budgeted for some rectifications so I’m not too worried. More on this in a later part 2.

More Info

This is a pretty brief summary of what was actually quite a time intensive process. I will add further detail at a later stage which will include info what could be done differently next time. I also have info on documents to ask of from the suppliers to save customs costs.


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