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50-60 gallon still realistic?

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I am in the planing-feasability stage of a small craft distillery. Are the 50-60 gallon stills really feasable? How large have most people started, or how large have they found they needed to start? This will be a small family opperation and more of a second and third job type deal. Family owned building and day jobs so not the pressure to make money right away. Could you produce enough product to get going and later on add a 250-300 gallon stripping still to up production or do we need to bite the bullet and go big right away. We have been eyeballing Artisen still design 60 gallon pot still for rum and white whisky. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Almost everyone I know who has started that small has regretted it. Think of it this way. Of the 50 gallons of beer you put into your still, 5 gallons is product, the rest is waste. That's only true if you're distilling to neutrality, of course, but at the end of the day, that 50 gallons of beer will produce about 12.5 gallons of product, 63-750 ml bottles, which works out to about 5 cases. The math isn't quite right, because you'll probably cut the product with water before you bottle it, but it's still fewer than 10 cases. If you sell anything, you'll sell more than that.

You can do the math a million different ways but the point is that 50 gallons of beer will contain 5 gallons of alcohol or less. Don't think about the 50, think about the 5.

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Thanks for the reply. I understand the math and your right that isn't much product. I guess I don't really know what a realistic sales volume would be to start out. I know it depends on marketing and quality of product. 5- 10 cases a day sounded alright for a small start up, but I guess you would hopefully out grow that volume in a little time.

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drop me a line I'll put you in touch with some folks that have been using that size for production, they can tell you the positives and pitfalls of working that size.

I would venture to say, on or 2 people working weekends and evenings, its sized about right. if you have more hands then that, you might want to consider larger, but then you have much longer run times, which makes weekends and evening a little long.

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If you've got the money then by all means go big.

But, if you're like many of us poor folk, you might think of going smaller till you work out the process. Craft distilling is an art form that needs a ton of practice. From milling to mashing to fermenting to distilling to aging to proofing to TTB reporting (that's if you live in the states), it all takes a great deal of time to learn what not to do. With a small test still you can work on many different recipes and processes without the huge costs that go with making a 50, 150 or 300 gallon wash. Get the process down and how to make your cuts, along with how to use your backset and souring. Once you feel confident, step up to the size that you can afford. This step up includes not only a bigger still, but a bigger mash tun, bigger hot liquor tank, bigger fermentors and a bigger grain bill.

We have purchased a small 26 gall still to learn on and will be keeping our doors open with infused GNS & unaged corn whiskey till we feel confident in our distilling abilities. Then, use the funds of the bulk sales to fund our larger still/mash tun/HLT/fermentors. Sure I wish I could roll with a 150 gallon still, but I'm afraid I'd have 15 gallons of non drinkable spirit because I haven't put in the time to learn the craft. I'll be taking baby steps while learning how to run.

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That is one of the reasons I was looking at this size. With this size the ability to do some stripping runs after hours and then a spirit run on the weekends.

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If you've got the money then by all means go big.

But, if you're like many of us poor folk, you might think of going smaller till you work out the process. Craft distilling is an art form that needs a ton of practice. From milling to mashing to fermenting to distilling to aging to proofing to TTB reporting (that's if you live in the states), it all takes a great deal of time to learn what not to do. With a small test still you can work on many different recipes and processes without the huge costs that go with making a 50, 150 or 300 gallon wash. Get the process down and how to make your cuts, along with how to use your backset and souring. Once you feel confident, step up to the size that you can afford. This step up includes not only a bigger still, but a bigger mash tun, bigger hot liquor tank, bigger fermentors and a bigger grain bill.

We have purchased a small 26 gall still to learn on and will be keeping our doors open with infused GNS & unaged corn whiskey till we feel confident in our distilling abilities. Then, use the funds of the bulk sales to fund our larger still/mash tun/HLT/fermentors. Sure I wish I could roll with a 150 gallon still, but I'm afraid I'd have 15 gallons of non drinkable spirit because I haven't put in the time to learn the craft. I'll be taking baby steps while learning how to run.

Thank you for your input. Yes we are part of the working poor folk. lol! I like the baby step idea, just woried about it not even being able to produce enough to cover the fees, taxes, insurance, etc.. I know it is gonna take some time to get all the recipies figured out. It is disheartening to work hard to go poor. Thanks again.

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We are debating between 60 and 100. I've decided on 100. Surprisingly, the price difference between 60 and 100gal kettle is minimal and you can still do your 50 gal batches before ramping up production.

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Starting with 50, planning on upgrading, is reasonable, that is what we are doing. But it is true, as soon as you get any individual product that has reasonable demand, that 50 will be too small. We can see that. But our limitation is not the still, it is space, because we are an urban distillery. Shelling out another $40K for a 150 still is less of an issue than all the work and expense of making the room for it, once the demand requires it.

I also agree with the others that learning small is smart. We bought our 50 always with the intention and design to be a test and development still in the long run.

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I'm interested in hearing what people think if a 50-100gal kettle should be jacketed or not. Most of these kettles are electric from what I've been noticing.

J

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our 60 can be ordered as steam heated or oilbath/bain marie. if you're distilling with any solids at all, you don't want to direct heat with electric.

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I am in the planing-feasability stage of a small craft distillery. Are the 50-60 gallon stills really feasable?

When writing your business plan, I think that the size of your still will be one of your last decisions. How much income is your business going to need to to become profitable? At what price point do you want your product on the shelf? How much profit does this leave you? What will your sales volume need to be? How many hours per week do you have to produce this volume of spirit?

Once you know the answer to these and other questions, the size of your still will be dictated to you by the circumstances of your business. No need to stress about it prior to that point.

Good luck!

Nick

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I'm interested in hearing what people think if a 50-100gal kettle should be jacketed or not. Most of these kettles are electric from what I've been noticing.

J

Maybe this question should be reposted as a new thread or on another about mash tuns, since I presume you mean a kettle for mashing and not a pot for distilling?

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Maybe this question should be reposted as a new thread or on another about mash tuns, since I presume you mean a kettle for mashing and not a pot for distilling?

That is a good question. Maybe i'll repost in a new thread. ButI am referring to a kettle for pot distilling. It seems to me that what ViolentBlue and others are offering can either be jacketed or not jacketed. I'm just wondering that's all.

J

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That is a good question. Maybe i'll repost in a new thread. ButI am referring to a kettle for pot distilling. It seems to me that what ViolentBlue and others are offering can either be jacketed or not jacketed. I'm just wondering that's all.

J

OK, then still not quite sure what you are asking then. What do you mean by jacketed? Insulated? Steam jacket? Water jacket? Bain Marie versus direct heating?

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I am in the process of finalizing my equipment and the minimum I am considering is a 500l still. When I look at what I can produce between Friday late afternoon and Sunday evening, it gives me the biggest bang for the buck and will allow me to scale my production as my sales increase (hopefully).

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Just a comment, compare your process follow through of a 500L still to a 600L still and against the minimal upsize cost. Hint: you can fit the result of 150 gallon fermenter, or 1/2 of a 300 gallon fermenter, in a 600L.

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most manufacturers size their stills on total kettle capacity, not on charge size.

keep this in mind when sizing all your matching mash tuns and fermenters.

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I am thinking about opening distillery in nearest future and while I am thinking about it, I am choosing an equipment for my home runs. Currently, I have a small still based on 5 gallons boiler. The next step up for home runs would be 26 gallons, or 26 gallons or better 53 gallons boiler, from the business standpoint. 26 gallons is cheaper, but 53 gallons is better from potential usage in commercial distillery as well as use it at home. Just to give you some numbers, for example, every autumn I have an access to thousands of the pounds of pressed grape skins, that I usually ferment/flavoring wash until March (6 months) and slowly distill them until next autumn using my 5 gallons still. And it takes a lot of time / afford to do it. So heaving, 50 gallons still, allows me to distill barrel (my wash gets fermenting in cheap food graded blue plastic barrels - usually have 2 - 6 barrels of grape skin wash fermenting) one in a time instead of split it to 10 times.

From the future commercial standpoint, I use numbers from the following post (bluefish_dist Posted May 2, 2018) at the following topic, http://adiforums.com/topic/9631-how-to-determine-outputs-still-size/ . From a single run (50 gallons of wash), I can get about 5 gallons of spirit per day, or about 1000 gallons per year (200 days x 5 gallons) having just ONE still. Just adding another one (extra under $3000), will increase output twice. With an assumption of sale, $10/bottle or 50 dollars per gallon (I made a worse estimate and lowered an assumptions from above post in two times), I can potentially get 50K/100K per year in sale. For reasonably cheap price of still and reasonably cheap option of increasing the output. I guess, I might run up to four - six 53 gallons stills until their amount will be unmanageable for me and I would need to move to one bigger still (275 - 400 gallons till) or higher "another me".

I read an article about guys opened a distillery in NY - that is their web site. And based on one of the pictures from the front, they are/were running cheap 26 gallons still sitting on cement blocks (that is what they started), http://kingscountydistillery.com/about/ . So, having 53 gallons still in commercial usage might be even better, compare to 26 gallons

The whole still set can be purchased for under 3000 dollars, for example, on the link below, even it is a different discussion if I need everything from this set or less features:

https://www.olympicdistillers.com/distilling-kettles-boilers-heaters-controllers/53-gallon-200-l-boiler-with-agitator-220v-electric-heaters-controller

Or I can build it separately for about similar price with more copper and options (onion head, potential gin basket, etc)

boiler ($965): https://www.hiproofproducts.com/store/p185/53_Gallon_Stainless_Steel_Distillation_Boiler.html
the onion head ($500): copper, build from one of the supplier in China
4" alembic style column with condenser ($500): build from 4" copper pipe, 4"-2" adapter, "U" parts, 2" pipe, ferrules, tri clamps, some copper fittings
240V controller with two 5500 watts heating elements ($550): https://www.olympicdistillers.com/distilling-kettles-boilers-heaters-controllers/240v-dual-element-heater-controller  

Any suggestion / ideas/ critics/ etc?

Thanks

 

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6 hours ago, Winnie the Pooh said:

I am thinking about opening distillery in nearest future and while I am thinking about it, I am choosing an equipment for my home runs. Currently, I have a small still based on 5 gallons boiler. The next step up for home runs would be 26 gallons, or 26 gallons or better 53 gallons boiler, from the business standpoint. 26 gallons is cheaper, but 53 gallons is better from potential usage in commercial distillery as well as use it at home. Just to give you some numbers, for example, every autumn I have an access to thousands of the pounds of pressed grape skins, that I usually ferment/flavoring wash until March (6 months) and slowly distill them until next autumn using my 5 gallons still. And it takes a lot of time / afford to do it. So heaving, 50 gallons still, allows me to distill barrel (my wash gets fermenting in cheap food graded blue plastic barrels - usually have 2 - 6 barrels of grape skin wash fermenting) one in a time instead of split it to 10 times.

From the future commercial standpoint, I use numbers from the following post (bluefish_dist Posted May 2, 2018) at the following topic, http://adiforums.com/topic/9631-how-to-determine-outputs-still-size/ . From a single run (50 gallons of wash), I can get about 5 gallons of spirit per day, or about 1000 gallons per year (200 days x 5 gallons) having just ONE still. Just adding another one (extra under $3000), will increase output twice. With an assumption of sale, $10/bottle or 50 dollars per gallon (I made a worse estimate and lowered an assumptions from above post in two times), I can potentially get 50K/100K per year in sale. For reasonably cheap price of still and reasonably cheap option of increasing the output. I guess, I might run up to four - six 53 gallons stills until their amount will be unmanageable for me and I would need to move to one bigger still (275 - 400 gallons till) or higher "another me".

I read an article about guys opened a distillery in NY - that is their web site. And based on one of the pictures from the front, they are/were running cheap 26 gallons still sitting on cement blocks (that is what they started), http://kingscountydistillery.com/about/ . So, having 53 gallons still in commercial usage might be even better, compare to 26 gallons

The whole still set can be purchased for under 3000 dollars, for example, on the link below, even it is a different discussion if I need everything from this set or less features:

https://www.olympicdistillers.com/distilling-kettles-boilers-heaters-controllers/53-gallon-200-l-boiler-with-agitator-220v-electric-heaters-controller

Or I can build it separately for about similar price with more copper and options (onion head, potential gin basket, etc)

boiler ($965): https://www.hiproofproducts.com/store/p185/53_Gallon_Stainless_Steel_Distillation_Boiler.html
the onion head ($500): copper, build from one of the supplier in China
4" alembic style column with condenser ($500): build from 4" copper pipe, 4"-2" adapter, "U" parts, 2" pipe, ferrules, tri clamps, some copper fittings
240V controller with two 5500 watts heating elements ($550): https://www.olympicdistillers.com/distilling-kettles-boilers-heaters-controllers/240v-dual-element-heater-controller  

Any suggestion / ideas/ critics/ etc?

Thanks

 

Its 2019, not 2009. Starting with a small still, or an army of small stills is destined to fail in the current market. Heating stills with electricity is riddled with limitations, not to mention the cost of electricity vs. natural gas. I always tell anyone who comes to my place to look around and talk about starting a distillery that they should plan on 500 gallons or more for a still. Its all about the operational efficiency, unless you plan on being in business for a short period of time, you should be investing more in your equipment to lower the amount of labor and utilities needed to make your products to improve your margin. 

 

 

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We size all of our jacketed stills, all of our fermenters and all of our mash cookers in operating capacity.  Our 53 gallon and smaller direct fired electric stills are sized in total capacity while our larger direct fire electric stills are sized in operating capacity. We have sold several 45 and 50 gallon stills to distilleries as well as 26 gallon ones.  Once you grow, the small still can be used as your R and D still.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting that small as long as you understand that you will need to have a separate income of some sort (don't quit your day job).  If you need equipment we have it at better prices than our competitors and with equipment in over 300 distilleries we are more experienced with that type of equipment than most.:

http://distillery-equipment.com

 

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We just closed our doors and sold off most of our equipment.  We were too small.  We had two years of production under our belt with great growth, but looking at the numbers we had to get a lot bigger to cover fixed costs and made a decent profit.  If we owned our own property we probably could have reduced our fixed costs to allow our size to work, but we didn’t.   

 

I think my numbers previously posted are good for calculating size and gross sales.  You need to realize the down time needed for cleaning and other things.  For us, we couldn’t discharge at over 110 or 120f, so we had to either cool the stillage while dumping or wait a day or two between runs.  It also takes time to empty and clean the still, I don’t think expecting to run a still daily is reasonable for very long.   Far better to go bigger and run less often.   I would want to run 1x per week is possible.  Especially if it’s only one or two people running the place.  Just too many other things to do. 

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9 hours ago, bluefish_dist said:

We just closed our doors and sold off most of our equipment.  We were too small.  We had two years of production under our belt with great growth, but looking at the numbers we had to get a lot bigger to cover fixed costs and made a decent profit.  If we owned our own property we probably could have reduced our fixed costs to allow our size to work, but we didn’t. 

I think my numbers previously posted are good for calculating size and gross sales.  You need to realize the down time needed for cleaning and other things.  For us, we couldn’t discharge at over 110 or 120f, so we had to either cool the stillage while dumping or wait a day or two between runs.  It also takes time to empty and clean the still, I don’t think expecting to run a still daily is reasonable for very long.   Far better to go bigger and run less often.   I would want to run 1x per week is possible.  Especially if it’s only one or two people running the place.  Just too many other things to do. 

Thank you for commenting this, and I am sorry to her that you closed your doors :(. How would you update the numbers you posted at your original post with additional information and recent experience? What do you think about comment of Tom Lenerz, that minimum size of the still  should be 500 gallons? Especially, if you suggest to run a still once - twice per week. And what is your idea of having two smaller stills compare to one single big one.? For example, using both of them as stripping still for 5 days, and use of them them is a final still for day or two? I am not talking about two 26 + 26 gallons stills vs. one 53 gallons till, it is more like having two 500 + 500 gallons stills vs. one 800 - 900 gallons still?

And what other equipment would you love to have (dream to have, must have ;) ) in your distillery in the big scale, like auto spirit filler/coking machine vs. manual 1-2-4 heads wine/spirit filler, etc?

Thanks

p.s. Would you be OK to privately chat about some deeper aspects of your distilling experience? Thanks.

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On 1/26/2019 at 6:24 AM, Tom Lenerz said:

Its 2019, not 2009. Starting with a small still, or an army of small stills is destined to fail in the current market. Heating stills with electricity is riddled with limitations, not to mention the cost of electricity vs. natural gas. I always tell anyone who comes to my place to look around and talk about starting a distillery that they should plan on 500 gallons or more for a still. Its all about the operational efficiency, unless you plan on being in business for a short period of time, you should be investing more in your equipment to lower the amount of labor and utilities needed to make your products to improve your margin.

Thank your valuable comment. May I ask you the same question? What other big serious (high productive) equipment would you suggest to have instead of their small / manual versions? And what do you think about having two big stills (for different stages of distilling process) vs. having one huge (two 500 + 500 gallons stills vs. one 800/900 gallons still)? Thanks

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I do nearly exactly what you are proposing. Small still (50 gallon) running evenings and weekends with a day job M-F. It can be done if you put the time in. The bigger factor I think some may be leaving out is the demand. You can have a giant still, but if there isn't demand for your product then what good is all of that capacity? You didn't mention whether your distillery would be in a city or a rural space. I can crank out plenty of product and have inventory ready to be sent out, but if you don't have either a good distributor or someone you've got doing sales for you it doesn't matter. My advice, if you want to start small, start small but don't forget about "pounding the pavement" and actually get your product on shelves/ in bars. As most of the distillers on here will tell you, a distributor isn't much more than a delivery driver. A vast majority don't do much to push a new/local product, you'll have to do that yourself.

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