# hillbilly stills question and volume

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I just ordered my flute and 26 gal tonight from hillbilly. Pretty excited. Has anyone thought of using 4 of them together to make a series still of 100 gal? I'm writing a business plan now and for a small startup, avoiding the cost of a 100-125 gal still from the big companies makes sense? No, yes? just wondering. Just from looking at some photos, Kings Country in NY look to be using four hillbilly 26 gal with the simple pot still head. Seems like an interesting concept. Has anyone compared the flute to the simple head?

Cheers

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Congratulations on your new equipment purchase, its exciting to get started. Noting the remainder of your post, please use caution on your business model. If you don't have another source of income, you cannot make a go at micro-distilling with 26 gallon pot stills. They may make for great prototyping and lab stills, but to actually make enough money to pay your bills, stills that small are not going to get you there.

Let's talk about your concept from a throughput and man hours perspective. First some assumptions:

• You are going to make a 10% wash mash 50g at a time.
• Mash & Ferment are going to take you 3-4 days total.
• So lets say a run across the still takes ~3-4 hours for each strip and ~3-4 hours for a spirit run.
• 50g wash = 2 strip runs and 1 spirit run --> 9-12 hours + 1-2 hours for turn around during each run....so conservatively 15-16 hours.
• That 10% mash will yield a theoretical 5 gallons of ethanol @~80 ABV (you won't get that much on a still like this, but the numbers are easier).
• 5 gallons @ 80 ABV = 10 gallons @ 40 ABV.
• 10 gallons = 50, 750 mL bottles of finished product.
• Say your COGS is 50% and you sell you finished product for \$30/ea -> your profit is \$15/ea
• So, for an entire week of work you have just made = \$15 * 50 = \$750.

So, let's go to your original question, "What about 4 of them in series?"

• First off, they won't be in series, but rather in parallel. You can play some games with staging, but for the most part you will need to think of them in series, because at a Net Income of \$750 a week, you aren't going to be able to hire anyone to help you manage a proper mash/ferment/still staging schedule.
• Second off, the labor numbers on the distillation side won't 4x, but they are going to be much larger than you anticipate. Running back and forth, checking cuts, reloading stills, etc. is going to consume a great deal of your time.....more than 24 hours a day will allow.
• Thirdly, I'm not sure as to heat source on these stills, but if its electrically powered, you have an electrical bill that is going to change your COGS from 50 --> 60 or 70%.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not naysaying your desire to open a distillery. I am however suggesting that unless your distillery is strictly a hobby and you have a stable source of outside income, stills of this size (in any multiple) are not appropriate for a business in which you intend to be the only source of your income.

If you would like to discuss further, please PM me anytime.

Good luck and I hope I helped a little.

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It is true that you can not support yourself on just a 26 gallon still, but you have to start some place. We will be purchasing the same still to learn on and do small batches for release but will be making the bulk of our \$ doing GNS infusions and cordials. Once we feel confident in our distilling knowledge and can afford it, we will purchase a larger 150 gal. still and a 300 gal. mash tun, most likely from Artisan stills. But, our doors will be able to stay open during that time due to the sales of the infusions and cordials we will make with GNS. We are on a majorly small shoestring budget to do this and will need to turn a profit right away to keep the lights on. GNS will do this for us. The small still will help us also with grain bill costs, so we can experiment and learn without a massive grain bill for a 300 gallon mash tun.

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John's correct..I inherited 4 mile hi stills, from an idiot that hired me for a very short period. Love to sell'em, ..... the Artisan Still works much faster.

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It is true that you can not support yourself on just a 26 gallon still, but you have to start some place. We will be purchasing the same still to learn on and do small batches for release but will be making the bulk of our \$ doing GNS infusions and cordials. Once we feel confident in our distilling knowledge and can afford it, we will purchase a larger 150 gal. still and a 300 gal. mash tun, most likely from Artisan stills. But, our doors will be able to stay open during that time due to the sales of the infusions and cordials we will make with GNS. We are on a majorly small shoestring budget to do this and will need to turn a profit right away to keep the lights on. GNS will do this for us. The small still will help us also with grain bill costs, so we can experiment and learn without a massive grain bill for a 300 gallon mash tun.

Panoscape....I tend to agree with your model if one can't afford a still. Find a way to offer a product without the CAPEX investment, see if you can build a brand that sells, then finance the CAPEX.

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Congratulations on your new equipment purchase, its exciting to get started. Noting the remainder of your post, please use caution on your business model. If you don't have another source of income, you cannot make a go at micro-distilling with 26 gallon pot stills. They may make for great prototyping and lab stills, but to actually make enough money to pay your bills, stills that small are not going to get you there.

Let's talk about your concept from a throughput and man hours perspective. First some assumptions:

• You are going to make a 10% wash mash 50g at a time.
• Mash & Ferment are going to take you 3-4 days total.
• So lets say a run across the still takes ~3-4 hours for each strip and ~3-4 hours for a spirit run.
• 50g wash = 2 strip runs and 1 spirit run --> 9-12 hours + 1-2 hours for turn around during each run....so conservatively 15-16 hours.
• That 10% mash will yield a theoretical 5 gallons of ethanol @~80 ABV (you won't get that much on a still like this, but the numbers are easier).
• 5 gallons @ 80 ABV = 10 gallons @ 40 ABV.
• 10 gallons = 50, 750 mL bottles of finished product.
• Say your COGS is 50% and you sell you finished product for \$30/ea -> your profit is \$15/ea
• So, for an entire week of work you have just made = \$15 * 50 = \$750.

So, let's go to your original question, "What about 4 of them in series?"

• First off, they won't be in series, but rather in parallel. You can play some games with staging, but for the most part you will need to think of them in series, because at a Net Income of \$750 a week, you aren't going to be able to hire anyone to help you manage a proper mash/ferment/still staging schedule.
• Second off, the labor numbers on the distillation side won't 4x, but they are going to be much larger than you anticipate. Running back and forth, checking cuts, reloading stills, etc. is going to consume a great deal of your time.....more than 24 hours a day will allow.
• Thirdly, I'm not sure as to heat source on these stills, but if its electrically powered, you have an electrical bill that is going to change your COGS from 50 --> 60 or 70%.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not naysaying your desire to open a distillery. I am however suggesting that unless your distillery is strictly a hobby and you have a stable source of outside income, stills of this size (in any multiple) are not appropriate for a business in which you intend to be the only source of your income.

If you would like to discuss further, please PM me anytime.

Good luck and I hope I helped a little.

Thanks for the heads up. The numbers are about right, maybe a little high. Let me put this out there now, my wife and I are both employed by the same newspaper and we are surely out of a job in 2 years. We want to take the next year to learn how to distill while we wait for approval from the various governments. I figure that will be at least 6 months before we can even think of putting a product for sale. My goal is to purchase 150gal still during 2nd year of operation and not oversupply and overspend during the first year if we manage to create a great product that is in demand. My job allows me to be very flexible luckily. We don't expect much out of the first year. Unlike Panoscape, I wasn't thinking of GNS but maybe I should explore it some more. I'm open to all criticism, as long as it is constructive. I've owned a couple of succesful businesses already, there is never a pot of gold at the end of the day, only after many many long sweaty years, if you make your luck

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@ Jlevac,

Even if practicing distilling, you'll need a permit from TTB. Here's a link and forms you'll need before starting: http://www.ttb.gov/a...al_packet.shtml IIRC, it's industrial so you can only use the distillate for fuel.

Practicing with GNS is easy and legal, just buy some Everclear and practice proofing and infusing.

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@Jlevac,

What you are suggesting is beyond illegal. I would further suggest not posting your intentions of running a still without both federal and state licenses on this board again anytime soon. Be advised, its not a slap on the wrist. What you are suggesting is a federal crime.

Good luck.

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@Jlevac,

What you are suggesting is beyond illegal. I would further suggest not posting your intentions of running a still without both federal and state licenses on this board again anytime soon. Be advised, its not a slap on the wrist. What you are suggesting is a federal crime.

Good luck.

@johnmckee Hi, In Ontario Canada where I am, from what I've been told from provincial and federal personnel, once the permit application for both the AGCO and federal excise tax has been handed in, you are allowed to possess a still and do test batches. I found that weird, but I didn't second guess what two people told me. I take it the law in the states is different. if someone from Canada knows otherwise, I would love to talk with them before I do something illegal. Believe me, being in the newspaper business, last thing I need is a competing news outlet reporting on illegal activities from a competitor. BTW, our application papers are being filed in a few weeks once we sign our lease.

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LOL!

That's the first time I've typed that, and it is wholly appropriate. Seems some assumptions that folks make on this forum need reevaluating, in light of the international nature of the interwebs. LOL again!

Congratulations and good luck on your new endeavor, jlevac. Looks like you can get a good deal on some mile hi stills.

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Eastside Distillery has what looks like a 50gal Hillbilly still, and New Deal Distillery has 2 PDA-2 stills on what looks like 100gal boilers. Both are located on Distillery Row in Portland Oregon and produce quality products. The New Deal Distillery "Portland 88" vodka is excellent. It is possible to craft a quality commercially viable product without spending an arm & leg on distilling equipment.

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It is possible to craft a quality commercially viable product without spending an arm & leg on distilling equipment.

Agreed, but depending on how one defines "an arm & leg", I'd say that retail sales are a prerequisite of making such small scale production "commercially viable"

A distillery that is not allowed to retail their products is forced to sell their products to a distributor at around 1/2 of the MSRP. To turn such thin profit margins into anything but a hobby requires some serious sales volume, and therefore some serious equipment and overhead.

Nick

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@johnmckee Hi, In Ontario Canada where I am, from what I've been told from provincial and federal personnel, once the permit application for both the AGCO and federal excise tax has been handed in, you are allowed to possess a still and do test batches. I found that weird, but I didn't second guess what two people told me. I take it the law in the states is different. if someone from Canada knows otherwise, I would love to talk with them before I do something illegal. Believe me, being in the newspaper business, last thing I need is a competing news outlet reporting on illegal activities from a competitor. BTW, our application papers are being filed in a few weeks once we sign our lease.

With Dave, I humbly call myself a doofus for not thinking of the international implications. My bad. Good point Dave.

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• 3 weeks later...

@ Jlevac, sorry for the assumptions, just trying to help. I forgot about the internet being global for a moment.

@ All regarding Hillbilly,

So... I placed an order for my Hillbilly 26 gallon still and just received it. We had it modified to use the HS1100 dual heating element. They put an extra ferrel on it for the extra element. Around the weld it's pretty dented up wavy, doesn't look so good, wish I had it done local. Kinda looks like they put too much weight on it when cutting out the hole for the ferrel and creased the wall opening. But, seeing that it won't affect the still operation, it's not a deal breaker.

But, then we pulled out the heater... it was the HS550... not the HS1100 that was on the included manifest and what we ordered.

And then we tried putting the 3" pot head on the provided lid, but the lid that was included had a 2" ferrel, so that's a no go.

We also purchased the stand because it looks nice and sturdy. The picture of the stand on the site is taken in a way that you think it has four legs, because why would it have three for a very top heavy item? But, alas it is a three legged stand and not very sturdy, especially when we will be putting an additional 150 lbs. of liquid in it. My assumption was off again.

The SS drain nozzle was filled with metal shavings, not very impressive. A quick hit of an air compressor and a good wash will remedy this, but shouldn't this have taken place at Hillbilly?

I think they might be overworked and missed the QC on my order. My partner will be calling today to sort it all out. I'm sure they'll make it right, just wish it was right in the first place.

BTW, I am in the states and I have applied for all of my licensing and placed the order to get my still # for the TTB.

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• 3 years later...

Thanks for the heads up. The numbers are about right, maybe a little high. Let me put this out there now, my wife and I are both employed by the same newspaper and we are surely out of a job in 2 years. We want to take the next year to learn how to distill while we wait for approval from the various governments. I figure that will be at least 6 months before we can even think of putting a product for sale. My goal is to purchase 150gal still during 2nd year of operation and not oversupply and overspend during the first year if we manage to create a great product that is in demand. My job allows me to be very flexible luckily. We don't expect much out of the first year. Unlike Panoscape, I wasn't thinking of GNS but maybe I should explore it some more. I'm open to all criticism, as long as it is constructive. I've owned a couple of succesful businesses already, there is never a pot of gold at the end of the day, only after many many long sweaty years, if you make your luck http://adiforums.com/public/style_emoticons/#EMO_DIR#/smile.png

Ok i have a question reguarding yeild on a 100 gallon 20 plate still. If im running 100 gallons of sugar cane mash what is my expected yield? Will it be 20 gallons at 80 abv?

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Depends on the gravity of your sugar wash and potential alcohol post fermentation, but 20 gallons of 80abv seems unrealistic, you likely won't have that much alcohol, before cuts.

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I Love Mike at Hill Billy, Nice guy....

I too build stills for people all of the USA and Canada. I love to help people out. I am going to help you out....

Dear JLEVAC,

Here is a really really big secret. I want you to think about this every time you make booze.

All distillers do is boil beer. I personally own two distillery's and design and build stills also. To save your self some money and time just go to "bubba barrels" or "usedstainlesssteelbarrels.com" and buy a 55 gallon drum or at bubba you can get up to a 135gallon drum. Next go on ebay and buy some machined water heater element fittings. Then mount your Hillbilly flute on top and away you go. You can even mount one drum inside the other for a water bath still, or oil jacket (modifying of both required).

**** you will have to take the drum to a welding shop for a little work but it will get you by******

Just remember don't aways follow other people. If someone has a bunch of small stills.... it may not be the best idea.

I will let you know this. I started out with a small 35gallon still with a batch pre heater. When I first started I had to run that thing all the time, but I was doing what I always wanted to do. Now I have all kinds of stuff!

I always tell my friends "someday it will put in my museum". ;-)

• 1
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Eastside Distillery has what looks like a 50gal Hillbilly still, and New Deal Distillery has 2 PDA-2 stills on what looks like 100gal boilers. Both are located on Distillery Row in Portland Oregon and produce quality products. The New Deal Distillery "Portland 88" vodka is excellent. It is possible to craft a quality commercially viable product without spending an arm & leg on distilling equipment.

Double G

Just because someone has a still and is located someplace you can see them doesn't mean they are actually distilling their own product. Next time your in a liquor store take a good look at the tables. I will guarantee not all those products are "distilled" by them.

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Double G

Just because someone has a still and is located someplace you can see them doesn't mean they are actually distilling their own product. Next time your in a liquor store take a good look at the tables. I will guarantee not all those products are "distilled" by them.

Amen!!!

I agree so much with this!

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• 4 weeks later...

Yes- love the comment about EastSide. EastSide Distillery buys bulk product, mixes and repackages/sells. They do very very small batch distilling themselves, but nothing to scale. Although they are the ones laughing all the way to the bank...They do quite well.

26gallon still is great for research and practice, that's about it. You can't make money off a 26 gallon, but you can master your craft enjoy!

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@Jlevac,

What you are suggesting is beyond illegal. I would further suggest not posting your intentions of running a still without both federal and state licenses on this board again anytime soon. Be advised, its not a slap on the wrist. What you are suggesting is a federal crime.

Good luck.

Hi John,

It is a federal crime. However in MO. distilling for personal and family use is legal under state law. Missouri Statute 311.055 provides that, “No person at least twenty-one years of age shall be required to obtain a license to manufacture intoxicating liquor, as defined in section 311.020, for personal or family use. The aggregate amount of intoxicating liquor manufactured per household shall not exceed two hundred gallons per calendar year if there are two or more persons over the age of twenty-one years in such household, or one hundred gallons per calendar year if there is only one person over the age of twenty-one years in such household. I asked the prosecutor and county Sheriff about this, in my county, and they told me that they enforce state law not federal law concerning this. Also, I called the MO state ATC agent for my area and he said that as long as state law is fallowed concerning home distillation, the distiller will not be bothered by the state ATC as they are a state agency and they enforce state law. Of course the most powerful Law enforcement individual in any county is the county sheriff, especially out in these rural counties so if you are in MO and you want to distill you should consult with your county Sheriff about it. I am hoping that soon federal laws will change concerning home distilling, just like they changed for home brewing and wine making back in the 70s. If the federal laws do not change I expect more states to fallow MO. Until the federal laws do change, I will keep fallowing them, and I certainly agree that no one should be stating on here that they are distilling without a federal permit.

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Hillbilly,

I see your point, but I believe that Federal Law eclipses state law in this regard, specifically...

State law is always super-ceded in beverage alcohol production when specifically enjoined against..such as in 27 CFR 19.51, which specifically states "a person may not produce distilled spirits at home for personal use". In this case, the jurisdiction would be with the TTB and the local law enforcement couldn't do squat to stop them from applying the provisions of federal law against anyone distilling at home.

With all things hooch, the laws stop at the top and work their way down. The Feds are the top in this case.

Code is below.....and please note that "except as otherwise provided by law"....does not mean state or local laws, but federal laws, none of which allow for home distillation.

Cheers,

McKee

§ 19.51 Home production of distilled spirits prohibited.

A person may not produce distilled spirits at home for personal use. Except as otherwise provided by law, distilled spirits may only be produced by a distilled spirits plant registered with TTB under the provisions of 26 U.S.C. 5171. All distilled spirits produced in the United States are subject to the tax imposed by 26 U.S.C. 5001.
(26 U.S.C. 5001, 5601, and 5602)
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Federal law eclipses the State Cannabis laws as well, but that certainly has not slowed any states down. I think that 23 have legalized medical and now 4 have legalized recreational. Also in just in the last 2 weeks the feds passed a bill saying that the DEA is not allowed to interfere with states that have legalized medical. Meaning that they will not interfere with the state licensed suppliers and vendors of MJ in those states.

Anyway,

The FED TTB is the regulatory arm and the state ATF and or state ATC is the enforcement arm. Which would mean that if I call the TTB and inform them that my neighbor is distilling for family use that they will refer me to the MO state ATC, who will tell me that that is fine as long as they are fallowing the state law. . Fed ATF and federal marshals will sometimes step in on larger busts if the state agency request them to, but that is pretty rare these days.

I would certainly never illegally distill for home use or otherwise. We test our stills in several different ways all of them legal.

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