Size – What Equipment Do I Need?

Introduction

Planning a distillery can be daunting. What equipment do I need? A simple question, but there are so many answers that are rooted in even more considerations. This post is the first of a series called “What Equipment Do I Need?”. Each post will highlight one consideration. This week? Size! What size of still do I need?

Sizing your still

What size of still basically depends on two tings:

  1. Will I make my own alcohol (e.g. whiskey) or will I redistill sourced alcohol (e.g. gin)?
  2. How many bottles do I expect to sell, now and in the near future?

Since the second question can only be answered on an individual level, let’s focus on the first one. This is a generic iStill Blog post after all. Not a one-on-one, customer-specific consultancy project.

Redistilling sourced alcohol

Alcohol, like GNS, can be sourced at 96%. So if you dilute it to 32% and do a gin run, well, you start with a high proof load in your boiler. High proof translates to high yield. The more alcohol you can process in one run, the more bottles you can make.

For example, on a 100 liter still, with generous cuts for heads and tails (that can be refined into GNS later), can produce around 75 bottles of gin. If you expect to sell 200 to 300 bottles of gin per week, this size will suit you well.

Using the same rule of thumb, a 500 liter still can make you as much as 375 bottles of gin in one run. So if you aim to sell up to 7000 bottles per month, the iStill 500 will be a great choice. You can even push the numbers higher, by doing multiple runs per day.

All in all, when processing bought in alcohol, a smaller size still still will probably be the right choice. An iStill 100, 200 or 500 will be great. Maybe a 1000 or 2000 liter still for the bigger producers.

Making your own alcohol

Making your own alcohol is both more time consuming, with mashing and fermentation taking the better part of a week. Also the final resulting beer or wine will probably be 7, 8, or 9% strong. Instead of 30 to 35% on the above mentioned bought-in alcohol.

As a rule, when you want to make your own brandy, rum, or whiskey, go as big as you can. A 500 liter still is the minimum. If you can afford a 1000, 2000, or even 5000 liter still, that would be even better. An iStill 2000 can produce a barrel-fill of new make spirit in one go (220 liter at 60-65%). An iStill 5000 makes you 2 1/2 barrel per run. An iStill 500 needs no less than four runs to help fill a 220 liter cask.

How size matters …