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Starting with micro distillery

Hi everyone,

I am new to this forum and to world of distilling but I am working as a bartender whole my life so let say I have experience in spirits.

My dream is to own one micro distillery and to produce some great spirits. Before I start with questions I apologize if they are stupid.

For now I have a great place, decent budget and a lot of will to start with it. My plan is to start just with vodka and do my best to create a quality one. Wheat and water will be organic and from natural spring. Is it necessary for wheat to be organic? In the place where micro distillery is going to be I will put machines for filling and labeling bottles.

What I want to ask is: what would you buy from distilling equipment if you have conditions like me? If you want to produce only one spirit, not more than 5000 litres per year? I have talked to StillDragon Europe and he told me to ask same questions here to get more info.

On the picture you can see the plan of the future distillery. X marks show doors, red color shows office, yellow is toilet, blue is basement and green dashed line is imaginary wall if I decide to divide those two rooms.

Please be so kind and help me in starting with distillery and my dream.

If I was not clear enough tell me and I will write more.

Thank you.





  • Welcome, @CroatianDistillers, feel right at home here, I'm sure some others will chime in and give you some ideas. A fresh start can be hard, there are a lot of things to consider. You may want to begin with looking through the vast amount of information here in our forum. With the right amount of determination it should not be that hard to reach the desired goal. Good luck! :)

    Your Place to be >>> <<< Home of the StillDragon® Community Forum

  • edited December 2014

    I would think a 380 kettle would be a very adequate size. With an array of comensurately sized fermentation vessels you should have no problem keeping up.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • @Smaug could you be more precise and tell me more about 380 kettle? It is a bit difficult for me to understand all professional termines in English so please could you explain it? Thank you.

  • I'd like to think of it this way. You know how much you want to produce, now how many hours would you want to run a day

  • Hmm, 10-12 hours each day with joy. Maybe more if it is necessary.

  • How much production do you want a day is the next question... And Do you have a budget to work within?

  • Hi @CroatianDistillers and Welcome!
    5,000 liters per year of vodka is not much really and a boiler size of about 300 liters (or more if you want) with a 5" Dash x 10 plates and 4" product condenser would be enough and give you a bit of room to produce quite a bit more.
    Just a few numbers to try to help...
    300L at an 8% mash = ~24L of potential alcohol. About 18 to 20L of 94 to 95% ABV first run of hearts to be re-distilled into vodka to net perhaps 15 liters of clean 95+% spirit. That gives you about 25 liters of vodka at 40% ABV.
    So 3 "strips" in one day and a spirit run the following day gives you about 75L of vodka (probably more as you recycle your heads cut from your previous runs into the the first running) for the two days. But 2 "strips" in a single day maybe all you can handle, so perhaps 2 strips one day and a strip and rectification the next?
    That's about 37 liters of vodka per day on average.
    As you can see you'd only need to run the still about 135 days out of 365 days a year.

    These are conservative numbers and should be easy to obtain, and exceed, with practice and experience.

    I'd think using the organic materials would be a strong selling point.

  • I should point out that I'm extrapolating from my results with much smaller batches. The pros here will very probably have more accurate numbers for you.

  • Hi @FullySilenced. Budget is set to 25-30k EUR. But as I said in the first post I want to buy bottling and labeling machines as well. So distilling equipment, bottling and labelling machines all go to the same budget.

    I have a basement so I could produce as much as possible and store it.

  • Thank you @Lloyd for all the numbers. I wanted to start with 150L BM boiler and 4" dash column with 6 distillation stages but maybe your advice is better if it fits in my budget.

    What about mashing and fermentation area? Would you go with proffesional and new or would you make your own fermenters?

    Thank you guys for your effort. I appreciate that.

  • I can't coach you about mashing and fermenting equipment as I'm an idiot about that.
    I've sold tons of SS mash tuns and SS fermenting gear but only to customer's specs.
    My personal gear is laughable by comparison but it works for me.
    Most hobby folks use plastic and most pros use stainless if that helps.

    The 150L BM with 4" Dash2 (6 plates) would serve you well but for vodka maybe consider 10 plates.

    There is nothing wrong with starting small to develop your skills. You can always upgrade.
    A beer keg or milk can boiler with a Baby Dragon still will sharpen your skills with a minimum outlay of cash while you build out your distillery and (dream on and) decide what is the best still, mashing and fermenting equipment for your intended production.

    I'd bet that a 150L BM with a 10 plate 4" Dash would allow me to produce 5,000L of vodka per year but I'm not sure I could hold down a full time bar tending job while doing it and have the time to build out a distillery. Probably could do it if I was years younger!

    Like I said before, 5000 liters of vodka per year is not that difficult to produce. Two or three full time days per week with a 300L boiler and 5" Dash is way more than enough. But cut in half to a 150L boiler with a 4" still and it will take a bit more effort on your part.

  • The 150L-A-BM with a 4" or 5" Dash and 6 to 10 plates was our idea to get @CroatianDistillers acquainted with the gear and operation, the next logical step would have been the 380L-A-BM with appropriate column to be able to up production numbers later on. Number of plates is now a question of ceiling height. There pretty much is no way around an A-BM if @CroatianDistillers also wants to get his foot into fruit brandy production which involves mashes with solids. We are confident that this will turn out into a really fine micro distillery. :-bd

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

  • Haha! :-) Ok, we will wait for someone else to write about mashing and fermeting.

    When I start with distillery I will stop with bartending so I will have all the time of the world to learn, produce and experiment. :-) That is why I would go with smaller equipment (later on I can upgrade like You said).

    If I have to choose distilling equipment now I would buy: 10 plate 4" dash 150L BM boiler ??

    Is it possible to upgrade the list like this? We can change it, I just want to know what to buy and start with with help of forum members. Ty.

  • edited December 2014

    fruit brandy production which involves mashes with solids ?

    Instead of the vodka from wheat that was mentioned in this thread so far?
    Well then of course that means a baine marie with agitator boiler!
    That's a no-brainer.

  • There is some info missing, like the available ceiling height of your room where you put the still in, which may limit the number of bubble section you can use. As already written by e-mail the Gin Basket Kit may be something for you as well, and if you want to go for stainless steel fermenters (which would be the logical step for going organic, then you can say there was no plastic involved). I'm sure other forum members will chime in with more ideas as well.

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

  • Great! I am so thankful to all of you. The height of the room is 3.85m.

    First I want pure vodka and later on gin, but vodka is main goal.

    I am little confused. Do I need BM boiler if I decide to produce only vodka and gin or normal pot belly boiler would be just fine?

    How many fermenters of 50L (the only one on SD European web shop) do I need? One should be enough?

    For now: 150L boiler (BM?), 4" dash with 6 or 10 plates, 50L fermenter (how many?), Gin basket kit...

    Thank you!

  • Fermenters can be made to your specifications. So the size would be matching to the rest of your equipment. The 50l fermenter is the smallest one (mainly meant for home distillers or to try some new recipes), but you sure will want to go for a bigger size. ;)

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

  • The smaller kettle can easily be repurposed in to a dedicated spirit / gin still as you develope demand....If you have the floor space that is.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • @Lloyd 's numbers look good,if you want to not be working 20 hours a day and make enough product to make a distillery worth it, I would only consider something smaller than the 380 as a final spirit still. but then you need two stills... The stripping still needs to be as big as you can afford and handle what you are going to do... the vodka still will need 8-10+ plates.

    My suggestion? I bought a 4" and then an 8".... I cringe at using the 4" unless I am running the 8" at the same time due to my labor value versus the value of the product made...

    Buy stuff that will have a long, useful life in your distillery or not have much investment lost when upgraded. 5" ProCaps will have a long life, 8" perf plates will not have much of a loss on investment if you upgrade... a 380L BM-A will also have a long useful life in any distillery.

    If you can fit a 5" pro-cap ( or 8" perf plate) 10-plate column on a 380L BM-A, I suggest using the 380L BM-A without the column to strip 2-8 runs, then put the column on, and make a big batch of vodka... if you cannot fit that setup, I would focus on something besides vodka, build a split column, or find a new place...

  • Thank you for your effort and explanation. This is the reason why I am asking professionals. I want to have quality start and if I need to invest more money I will do it. The main question is will 5" pro-cap 10 plate column fit in the room? Height of the room is 3.85m.

    Correct me if I am wrong. For now we have 380L BM-A boiler, 5" pro-cap 10 plate column. What about mashing and fermeting area? What size should be fermenter? How many?

    @CothermanDistilling would you go for an extra smaller bolier for a final spirit or not?

    Vodka and gin are the main products I want to produce, so we have to find the best equipment for it that fit budget and room. :-)

    Ty so much everyone.

  • I just checked.

    5" dash column height is 98cm, while bubble section is ~15cm. It will fit, no need to worry. :-)

  • If you have an extra boiler that is smaller, you will have to run it more often. Yes, you could run the previous days stripping run, but now you need two cooling systems, 2 product condensers, 2 control panels, extra amperage on yoru system, more dedicated space for the still.

    Mashing and fermenting are a complete job unto their own... I am getting unfermented wort from a brewery nearby until I either hire someone or quit my day job, neither of which is happening any time soon. I would build the mashing around what ever fermentables are abundant and inexpensive in your area. You can ferment in anything sanitary and cleanable...

  • Don't waste your money buying something that will not fit into your operation at a later date...... if a BM boiler is what you may need later buy it now or use a repurposed something as a boiler a ss drum maybe.. or ss beer keg

    MY 2 CENTS

  • I agree with you. I put 380L BM-A boiler on my list together with 5" pro-cap 10 plate column. I checked prices for fermenters and mash tuns. Pretty high prices so I would void mash tun but I could buy stainless steel 380L fermenter because of organic wheat and creating a story (story sells product) as someone mentioned above.

    If I would not be able to buy mashing equipment what is your alternative? Just to let you know, I want all process, from mashing through distillation to bottling to be done inside distillery in my presence.


  • Some of our distillers did rebuild milk tanks for the mash tuns. But these are really self made pieces!

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

  • A distiller in Australia uses 250 and 350 gallon IBC's as fermenters the poly kind..

    Start searching your area for surplus ss tanks and drums and milk storage equipment.

    Maybe an insulated milk tank from a truck... Lots of stuff out there if you look around...and wanna do a little work to repurpose it..


  • Our 600 gallon mash tun is a flat top Mueller bulk milk tank.

  • What size should be mash tun if I want to make one from milk tank and if you consider all the facts mentioned already (380L BM-A boiler, 5" pro-cap 10 plate column, 380L fermenter, production of 5000 litres/year)?

    I totally forgot - what about mill for my wheat? Is there a standard for mash preparing? I mean how many litres of water go on how many kilos of wheat? What else is put to get better result?

    Sorry for so many question, I just want to know everything and sorry if questions are silly.

  • I say its to early for formulas at this point you don't know what your gonna put it in keep reading studying and looking for your equipment... not telling you your business much out there to read and study...

    Start thinking of a niche product ... for the local market or something maybe no one else will have in your area... its always nice to have a hook product

    Have fun with it... and

    Happy Stillin


  • I'd suggest a detailed business plan. All these details will be held in a good business plan and you can research it as you go to add each item. Seek professional advice and develop the plan with a consultant.

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

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