A casual treadmill conversation between two strangers in a hotel gym led to a groundbreaking technology partnership between GEA and southeast Asia’s grain processing giant Interflour Group. This random conversation between a GEA manager and an Interflour executive ultimately led to GEA tailoring and supplying a key energy-saving cooling and heat recycling solution for Interflour’s Intermalt malting plant — the largest facility of its kind in Vietnam.

A cool demand and challenge


The malt used in brewing beer is made from germinated barley grain. Intermalt had been looking to source a cooling system that would help to maintain optimum growing conditions during this critical stage. Germinating barley generates heat, so cool, humidified air is blown through the bed of grain in the germination vessels to achieve the desired temperature levels. Malting plants situated in temperate climates can often use air at ambient temperatures. However, in Vietnam, where the outside air temperature is consistently high, the air must be actively cooled. This cooling is typically achieved by passing it over water-cooled coils before it is circulated through the germination vessels.

Working closely with Intermalt at a very early stage in the project, GEA designed, configured and subsequently installed an efficient, cost-effective cooling solution that has given Intermalt highly controllable and consistent conditions for germination.

From cold to hot


Interflour’s close partnership with GEA was originally focused on supplying cooling technology. However, GEA’s in-depth analysis of the process revealed that it could help Intermalt to reduce fuel consumption, significantly increase energy efficiency and improve their environmental footprint through the installation of energy-saving GEA heat pump technology. The heat pump upgrades the waste heat from the cooling plant and channels it to heat the air required for the kilning process, which is the stage during which the geminated malt is dried.

“The GEA heat pump solution fits quite well with our aim for a sustainable and energy efficient production process,” stated Matthias Benz, operations manager at Intermalt. “Their experts worked closely with us for almost two years to study our processes and configure the optimum system and layout for the Intermalt site. Every member of the team was highly knowledgeable and dedicated to designing the best solution for our needs.”

Intermalt had previously designed a heating system that was solely reliant on gas burners, but a thorough process analysis by GEA experts demonstrated that the heat pump system would not only reduce fossil fuel usage, energy costs and carbon dioxide emissions, it would also provide a swift return on investment.


Matthias Benz added, “The GEA design, project, engineering and installation teams were all great to work with, very supportive and incredibly knowledgeable.  The cooling and heat pump solutions installed have given us top performance from day one.  Partnering with GEA at an early stage gave us the opportunity to interact closely with the design, project, engineering and installation teams who were all completely dedicated to the project. This enabled us to tailor the highest quality solutions that would interface with our equipment to optimize our processes.” 

“We spent many days in discussions with Intermalt, their process suppliers and their head maltmeister, to design the setup and calculate benefits and cost savings,” added Dion Leenhouts, sales support engineer at GEA. “The heat pump plant is one of the largest we have built for this type of application in Vietnam. Working with Intermalt from the ground up meant that we could more thoroughly understand their challenges and aims, which allowed us to tailor sustainable solutions that fit seamlessly with Intermalt’s processes and business plan.”

Sustainable energy solution

With a total order value of Euro 6.75 million, this project has generated significant cost savings for the maltings. 

The heat pump technology has significantly reduced our energy consumption. We are saving approximately 2000t of CO2 per year from the heat pumps. It has enabled us to operate in an environmentally responsible manner, while providing customers with high-quality malt at competitive price points.” - Robert Wicks, General Manager, Intermalt

Going forward

Interflour opened the Intermalt site in 2017. The facility which sits next to the Interflour Cai Mep port — produces the highest quality malt for the southeast Asian brewery markets using barley sourced from around the world. Interflour is looking to double the plant by constructing stage 2, at the site adjacent to the existing facility. GEA will be ready once again to provide its expertise, equipment, and solutions for this new phase of expansion. “The success of our project with GEA at the flagship site means that we will certainly be interested in talking with the company again when the time comes for us to establish second maltings,” said Matthias Benz.

About Interflour and Intermalt

Interflour is one of Southeast Asia’s largest grain processors. Interflour Group brings together some of the finest flour mills in Southeast Asia with 10 mills operating in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Turkey. Interflour's modern mills have a total milling capacity of more than 2 million tons per year making it one of the largest flour millers in the region. The Intermalt facility in southern Vietnam is meeting the growing demand for high-quality, locally produced malt for Vietnam and the Southeast Asian market.