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Starting with micro distillery



  • Thank you guys. I am creating a project and it makes sense I think. One and only Croatian premium vodka with Croatian ingridients only (organic wheat from heart of our region Slavonia and spring water from hills of untouched mountain of Velebit where fairies are seen). I know it can not be done over night but step by step I am sure it will see day light. Later on if vodka shows good result I will continue my project with gin (which will have herbs and other ingridients found only on Adriatic coast growing in wilderness).

    I have the name of the vodka but I will write it when I register the name and logo. You will like it. I have designed the bottle too. As my products will be premium quality I will have only 0.7L bottles (in the beginning).

    @FullySilenced, I want to learn more and to experiment with equipment and ingridients.

    @punkin trust me but there is no one here who want to share experience. I contacted few smaller popular Croatian distillers but there is no answer. If someone here on forum lives in Europe and has a distillery to show and present his work I am willing to come.

  • Everyone here is hoping the best success for you, CD.
    But even if you had all the money in hand and ready to spend on your ideal distillery it will take many months before its made and shipped to you and is operational.
    During this time is a great opportunity to practice your distilling art with very small scale equipment. A 50L milk can boiler and an 8 plate Baby Dragon, just an example, would sharpen your skills. Make an all grain, unhopped, wheat beer and distill it into a perfect vodka.
    Many of us started with a tiny, very simple pot still and worked up from there.

    You asked about how much/many fermenters do you need. That depends on several factors.
    If you plan to distill, on average, 100L per day and it takes 6 days for you to complete a ferment then the minimum number of fermenters that you would need is 600L worth. 2x 300L, 4x 150L or 6x 100L for example. And you probably won't get a full 100L of distillable mash from a 100L fermenter.
    But its not easy to keep the ferment area at a perfect ambient temperature all year so you would probably need more capacity in the colder months.

  • agreed, the baby would be good to test recipes on... especially if using local ingredients, you need to focus on procedures that scale or apply to higher volumes, particularly heating and cooling, but also milling your local grain and getting enzymes to convert starch to sugar if not using malt... and you need to work on eliminating as many time consuming processes as possible...

  • Didn't anyone else cringe when they saw the $30k euro budget? Thats about $37.5k usd, which I will guarantee to disappear quickly. A couple of the distillery schools I attended said half a million was the happy zone for startup. We hand label, I built our bottle filler, did all of my electrical, half the plumbing, most of the build out and cut almost any corner reasonable and we blasted through $100k before we were able to sell anything. I'm not saying a $30k euro budget isnt possible, just make sure you have quite a bit more before jumping into this in case you face unexpected setbacks and such. While we have only spent $100k so far, I still wouldnt have started this had I not had access to the half mill as advised in my schooling. If we didnt have stilldragon and only had access to the kothe/carl/holstein/etc stills then I'd say you would need at least a million.

  • edited December 2014

    Well you cannot compare Croatia with the US. First, Croatia is not an expensive country to live in and second, they should not have not this vast stipulations like you have in the US. But true: With Cothe and Carl you would not even think of starting a business so small. StillDragon makes things possible, it is true!

    I have personally seen, how very small distilleries have evolved to serious business, we call them "Quereinsteiger" which means something like chareer changer, they start from nothing and produce very good products, the rest comes naturally. It is possible! Everybody has to begin somewhere.

    StillDragon Europe - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Europe & the surrounding area

  • Thank you everyone for your effort. I will listen to your advice.

    @Telluride I am aware of unexpected costs and I will get a loan from my bank if it is necessary.

    But to get the loan I have to present the project with all the prices. I talked to my bank consultant and he agreed to help me with loan but they need prices from official distributor (in this case SD Europe). That is why I am asking for your professional advice and to help me with the equipment. If you say I need 600L fermenter I will put it on the list. If I need 380L boiler I will take it, etc.

    While I am waiting the equipment to be made I have enough time to prepare everything else.

    Once again thank you so much.

  • edited December 2014

    It's all going to boil down to government regulations, requirements, and the attitude of local officials.

    Croatia is now EU correct? What has the impact been to distilling? I frequently see stories about the EU chastising local governments about the legality of small or home distilling operations. Is this the case in Croatia? I recall something about Hungary and Palinka from a few months ago.

    I've got a flat in Krakow, but I've only ever ventured as far south as Bratislawa, but it's been a few years.

  • From my perspective, making anything from a grain other than primarily barley is going to be how you separate the liquid in volume, and how you deal with your spent grain waste.

    Wheat is certainly easier than corn or rye, and you should be able to lauter it in a traditional brewing mash tun, but your grain milling is going to be critical here. I'm not a brewer and only ever use wheat as an adjunct, but maybe someone here can weigh in on the challenges you'll face with using wheat.

    If you are dealing with something ground to the consistency of wheat flour, you will not be able to use a brewing approach.

    You haven't mentioned a steam boiler, so I'm assuming that you are looking at a still that has electric elements, so you can't distill on the grain. This eliminates the other alternative of simply decanting the liquid and disposing of the distillers wet grains nearly right out of the still.

    The next issue I'd raise is your electrical service. I've been through many eastern European towns in the past 20 years, and while in the states it's relatively easy to find a 200 amp or greater electrical service, in rural areas the service just wasn't there. I don't know if you are in a small mountain village or a large commercial area.

  • Ty @grim for your opinion.

    I will try to explain situation in Croatia. As we are facing big economic problems governemt and EU are trying to find the way out so they are inviting people to start producing and realize their projects by giving loans to new and small contractors (like me). I have already talked to the bank and applied with this idea and they are willing to help me by givinig me a loan. Conditions are pretty fair: 2% of APR after two years of leaving you to start with production. Government is guarantor of 70% and 30% goes to equipment. But if I fail I will not be able to open anything never ever with bank money and they will sit on my account until I pay the loan. (I want to risk so I am not affraid at all and I appreciate on your contribution). Just to let you know there are three big alcohol companies in Croatia and maybe two smaller distilleries but all of them producing spirits (grappa, rakija) and honey liqueurs, believe me - all of them. Others work for black market or for their needs. No high quality vodka nor gin, there is no premium liqueurs for cocktail industry... Nothing except two drinks (Pelinkovac similar to Jagermeister and Maraschino) which could be world famous but...

    Laws are pretty simple. Each litre of ethanol you produce you have to pay 53kn (cca 7eur), you have to buy special stamps for alcohol products and inform appropriate authorities how much ethanol you have produced and ofcourse how much have you sold.

    European laws are settled in Croatian law as well and I know you can not put distillery machines in the same room where other machines working on electricity such as labeling machine because of the safety.

    In next few days one inspector is coming to see if the place for my microdistillery satisfy electricity and other conditions. As soon as I find out I will post it here.

    What is the minimum electricity power for distillery? I think mine is 380V, I have to check.

    @grim you asked about boiler. My decision is to buy 380L BM-A boiler with indirect electrical heating. But I need advice about it. Which one is adequate for vodka production from wheat? What is the difference between direct electrical heating and indirect one?

    I am writing down everything you write here and believe me I read each post hundred and fifty times minimum. :-)

    I am so interested and excited about this I can not explain. :-) Like falling in love, smth like that.

  • edited December 2014

    If you have any suspended solids in your beer charge, you will need the jacketed kettle (BM) in order to run at optimal speeds.

    Your column choice will determine the purity levels and the quality of separation that you are looking to acheive.

    We have a distiller that makes his vodka from mead and does not at all want to completely neutralize the aromatic qualities of the mead. So in this case the goal was to acheive the comensurate ABV to meet the criteria for "Vodka" but to also exploit a lesser quality of separation so that the floral honey qualities are present and forward tasting in the finish product.

    He uses 10 plates.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Hoochy says. 16 plates makes it tasteless

  • Ty @Smaug.

    I am advised by forum members to get 10 plate column. Will that make my vodka completely neutralize with no taste, smell and color?

  • Get the boiler you need for your spirit boiler. Then buy a stainless 1000 litre IBC or pot belly boiler but use it as a steam injected stripping still. You can use your spirit boiler as the steam kettle.

    Steam injected stripping makes sense to me as it can cope with anything inthe boiler. Just my 2 cents worth.

  • No @FullySilenced 2 runs thru 16, total 32, well almost 36 theoretical ( if you count the boiler and Deph.), is totally Hoochinated :D

  • dang thats alot or plates hoochy

  • A carbon filtering procedure can take care of some left over taste or smell, if that's the product you are chasing then carbon polishing should be part of your process. Colour will be clear no matter how many plates you run.

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  • Thank you guys and girls for all you help and suggestions.

    @punkin I would love my vodka to have small scent of nature, not in taste but in aroma. Maybe filtration should be avoided than?

    I have decided: I will go step by step and small. For the first hand I will buy smaller boiler and babdy dragon column to experiment and learn while I am waiting for "real" equipment to be delivered to my micro distillery. I am pretty sure my project will be accepted from bank and they will allow me a loan to help me in realizing the project.

    I want to do this and I see micro distillery as my life job.

    With your help I will create a list of all the equipment.

    First round: Baby dragon with 8-10 plates, 50L milk boiler or 75L pot belly boiler, 50L fermenter...

    What would you add or remove from the list? I want to be able to use these equipment later on if it is possible. I need to start from somewhere and I think this way is correct one.

    Later on: 5" pro-cap 10 plate column, 380L bm-a boiler, 380L fermenter...

    It isn't important for me to produce 5000L in one day, it can prolong. I have huge and beautiful basement to store bottles, I have a lot of time to work and I am used to work all day, I have trustful fellows to help me and if it is necessary I will search for best formula as much as needed just to make everything correct.

    Please write your opinion and add whatever you think is needed to start with it. Later on I can always buy some extra stuff.

    Thank you so much. If anyone decides to come to Croatia will be my guest!

  • You can get custom designed carbon that will leave taste if that is what you wish.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • Who I have to contact for that? If it is possible to be in Europe. :-)

  • I don't know mate. Google is your friend.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • @grim I just checked electricity power. I have two source, one of 220V and one of 380V.

    Is that enough? If it isn't they told me I can buy higher power if needed.

  • 380~400V is 3-phase in Europe (3 x 220~240V), voltage is not the problem, but amperage. If you have 5500W elements, that's 25A @ 220V each element. Something to consider, means have a look at the circuit breakers and how many circuits you have available.

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  • Electricity power in my place is 4400W and it is possible to upgrade it to 6000W.

    Would that be enough?

  • edited December 2014

    Those numbers would seem to be incorrect, they are much too low. You would need almost 10 times that realistically.

  • Hm, I don't understand. They told me 3-phase electricity has the power of 4.4kW. What should I ask to get the correct answer?

  • @CroatianDistillers said: Electricity power in my place is 4400W and it is possible to upgrade it to 6000W.

    Would that be enough?

    Thats only enough power to bring 50-60 liters to running temp in a timely manner.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • So for a boiler of 380L how much power do I need? Maybe it is a silly question but I have to ask... Does fermentation tank use more power than boiler of same capacity?

  • 4400W with 220 is only 20A, a single small circuit breaker.. 44,000W with 220 is 200A, a much likelier number.

    now the 3-phase 380 with 3 220 legs, that would be a single 7A 3-pole breaker... highly unlikely.

    There a bunch of ways to ask, but getting a good answer may take ten of them..

    Example: If they say 4400W, ask how many watts a oven/stove draws and what a water heater draws... (each should be at or more than 4400W) ask how both can be on at one time if you only have 4400W

  • edited December 2014

    I would recommend no less than 18, 000 watts if you want to go home at the end of a typical stilling day.

    The good news is that with a larger column you can do 2 runs in one day and your heat up time will be greatly reduced on the seond run with the Baine Marie.

    Also, our BMs have an insulating layer so this will help very much with efficiency.

    You can slso preheat your heating medium the night before running to greatly reduce your heat up time on the day you are running

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

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