Spike Brewing generously provided the Flow Brewing Pump for the purposes of this review.
Brewing pumps have often been an overlooked part of the brewing process. Moving several gallons of wort and water is no easy feat without a pump. While gravity works to an extent, most homebrewing setups require 1-2 pumps for the most efficient process. The Flow Brewing Pump is one of the latest accessories in Spike’s expanding product portfolio. A heavy-duty brew pump capable of moving 9GPM with 9.5 PSI of pressure, making it the most powerful pump at the homebrew scale. Let’s jump in.
The Spike Flow is a high-pressure and high-flow brewing pump with lots of nice features. At a glance, you’ll notice a few similarities to the body of Blichmann’s Riptide. I’m not going to use this article as a comparative product review, however, as a longtime Riptide user and avid supporter, I think it’s beneficial to discuss some of the key differences and similarities.
The Flow features a convenient removable stainless steel TC head for easy access to the pump’s impeller and inner components. This is great for troubleshooting and or deep cleaning. Many competing brew pumps require a screwdriver to remove the pump’s head….which is a major pain. The body of the pump features a heavy-duty mounting bracket with predrilled holes, an Air Relief Valve (via turn nozzle), an ON/OFF switch, and a 6-foot power cord.
The pump itself does not have any built-in flow control capabilities. Instead, you will need to invest in a TC or NPT ball valve to attach to the pump’s output. In my experience, this is the best means of reliably controlling flow in a consistent and repeatable manner. The Flow comes in both 1/2-inch NPT and 1.5-inch tri-clover connections, with a forward-facing connection for the pump’s inlet and upward-facing outlet. (more on this later).
Upon opening the pump head for the first time, I was elated to find there was no thrust washer in the pump’s impeller construction. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s a very tiny washer that can easily be misplaced or washed down the drain while cleaning if you aren’t careful. It’s not expensive to replace, but a massive nuisance if you lose it because the pump will not function properly without it. Glad to see Spike eliminate this part.
Just to note, some of you may be wondering why earlier renditions of the Flow featured a more metallic pump head. The switch to the matte black finish is a cosmetic change to give the product a sleeker on-brand look.
Using the Pump
I’m thrilled I was able to test the Flow on two very different brewing scales. So far, I’ve used the pump on my own homebrew setup as well as a commercial Spike Nano system. My first impression of the pump was its pure power. Seeing a pump successfully whirlpool a barrel of hot wort in a very large kettle is pretty impressive. While this might be more flow than most homebrewers actually need, it certainly hits the mark for a larger system.
That’s not to say this pump is overkill by any stretch of the imagination. Other pumps have left me wanting a little bit more in terms of clean-in-place (CIP) power and pure whirlpooling velocity. For example, I usually whirlpool through my counterflow chiller as a dual means of heat sanitizing the unit prior to chilling. When you add 25 feet of tubing to any procedure, you need additional flow to meet the heavier demands. The Flow is the only pump I’ve used that delivers the results I’m really looking for.
Great products ultimately come down to the smallest details. What I especially love above the Flow is the placement of the wort in/out ports. The forward-facing pump inlet makes for easier connections and better mounting options, especially if placed on the floor. Because the “out” port is positioned upwards, it also makes for easier priming.
In terms of priming, most pumps can be easily primed assuming they’re placed below your kettle and there is enough water/wort in your kettle to fill the pump head with liquid. Sometimes air can get trapped inside your brew tubing and prevent wort from traveling successfully through the lines. This is where the Air Relief Valve (ARV) comes in handy.
Turning The ARV enables you to release the pressure in the lines without needing to disconnect your tubing and release the pressure by other means. The ARV eliminates big spills and unnecessary tinkering. The ARM can be easily unscrewed and removed for cleaning as needed.
Flow vs. The Competiton
Prior to the release of the Flow, I swore by my Riptide as arguably the best overall pump for homebrewers. While I still consider it a very solid choice, I can’t help but endorse the Flow as a better option. I think the Flow incorporates some of the best features of all homebrewing pumps into a single product.
The easy breakdown, mounting options, quiet operation, performance, and port placement combine a few highly sought-after features that not one product has combined until now. While I can’t speak to the longevity and reliability of the Flow as I’ve only had it for a few months, I would probably recommend it over any other pump currently on the market.
If you’re a March or Chugger pump owner, you will be blown away by the night and day difference of being able to hear yourself think while brewing.
The Spike Flow is a fantastic brew pump with a lot of powerful features. Starting at $229 for NPT and $249 for TC, it’s a highly competitively priced pump with unmatched power. I honestly don’t have any negative things to say about it other than noting you will need to invest in an additional ball valve for proper flow control. As mentioned previously, this is the superior way to control flow with any pump! Over the years, I’ve abandoned My Riptide’s linear flow valve and now leave it 100% open in exchange for a ball valve down the line.
As always, I hope this review was helpful. If you’re a Flow owner, let me know what you think about it in the comments!