Affordable Distillery Equipment: Where to Save, Where to Splurge

By Bradley Newell

Whether you’re looking to start a new distillery or upgrade your existing system, there are lots of parts to a distillery and every process is at least somewhat unique. Finding the most affordable distillery equipment while maintaining the ability to produce a quality spirit can be a tough juggling act. At the end of the day flavor is the most important part of the production process, but spending wisely where you can to have the biggest impact is a solid second. We won’t be going into every possible way to save in this article but if you have specific questions, please reach out and let us know. 

Finding Affordable Distillery Equipment

Doing your research and having a plan will help you know what you’re getting into. Looking for distillation equipment on sale can be a great way to stretch your dollar. By shopping smart, there may be opportunities to get a great deal on your first system or that upgrade you’ve been considering. Every distillery is at least somewhat unique but they all have a few things in common as well. In order to distill, you’ll need the following: water, a still, bottling equipment, and a place to store your raw materials and finished product (probably a place to store your mashing equip

ment and fermentation tanks as well). 

Where to Save and Where to Splurge

1. Location

One of the first things you’ll need to evaluate is the location options available. There’s a lot that goes into choosing the right space. Are you planning on having a tasting room? If so you’ll want to make sure you’re near to other places that people want to spend time at. There’s a reason that nightlife and restaurants tend to cluster together. These areas can be pricier than more out of the way spots but the old adage of “If you build it they will come” doesn’t usually hold water these days. Space to store barrels and bottles will also be important to consider, especially if you have an aged product. Space can run out surprisingly quickly when you start rotating barrels and maintaining production. The quality of water in a location is another thing to consider. Not every distillery will be located next to an ideal water source for the spirit(s) you’re making so it’s important to test the water so you can budget appropriately. There are several different treatment options and you may find that you don’t need the highest price filtration to meet your needs. 

2. Fermentation

Once your water is ready, you’ll want to think about your fermentation needs. Some distilleries are fortunate enough to have a brewery nearby and can outsource their fermentation. Others may start with a neutral spirit as a base for their final product. For those that want to control their process from the grain to the bottle, making sure you’ve got proper fermentation and mashing equipment is a must. This is another area that you want to make sure you know what you’re getting into before you commit to equipment. Are you planning on heating this electrically or with steam? If it’s electric, are you going to have exposed coils and eat the extra costs of cleaning, or are you thinking about using a Baine Marie style and opting for the ease of use? There’s no one right answer to this balancing act and it’s up to you to decide what features are important. Just like power windows and manual transmissions in cars, everyone has a preference but something that’s livable for a week or a month can become a major bottleneck when you’re ramping up production. 

3. Material

The material used can also add a pretty penny to the final total. Almost everyone loves the look of an all copper system, and there’s a lot of artistry in a traditional Scottish style pot still. But copper is expensive and there are other options for getting your spirit just right. A stainless steel kettle and a column will allow you to have more control over the process and still put a good amount of copper in the vapor path. Borosilicate glass columns can help reduce the price even more while still being aesthetically pleasing. There are lots of different configurations you can use but make sure you know how much labor is involved. 

4. Labor

Time is money. Labor costs can skyrocket when you’re distilling a spirit several times to get it just right or trying to clean the scorched grain out of an unscreened heating element. Believe it or not, time can be the most expensive part of distilling and labor will almost always cost more in the long run than your equipment. If you’re just starting out and you plan on bootstrapping your process by doing as much as you can yourself it may be tempting to get a smaller system and put the hours in to make it work, no matter how long it takes. And that may work for a while but long days take their toll and who’s going to market and sell your product, do the bookkeeping, and take care of the day to day tasks that need to be done while you manage the still? 

5. Size

Sizing your location and equipment properly will save you money over time. Since equipment can only process so much material per hour once you are at capacity the only way to get more production out of your facility is to add over time or buy new equipment. That’s not to say that every distillery needs to have the largest equipment on the market, but you don’t want to outgrow your equipment too quickly and have to pay for a larger system before you’re ready. Work with your vendors, and they’ll be happy to help you get a plan and a process put together that fits your needs.

> Shop affordable distillery equipment now.

starting a distillery?