How to Determine Production Capacity

How do you determine product capacity in a new distillery or expand your existing distillery? We get this question a lot, and it’s actually a pretty straightforward process, albeit with a lot of steps and assumptions. There are two schools of thought on determining product capacity in distilling; you can either max out what you have (or can afford) or buy the equipment to fit your plans.

We’re going to focus on the second of these two scenarios since maxing out what you have to work with already is pretty straightforward, but working off future plans can be a little trickier. Either way, you’ll want to go through this exercise to plan ahead and have some idea of what you’re going to need to get through the next several years to keep the lights on.

When you’re doing future planning, you’ll want to work backward and figure out how much sales revenue you’re going to target in the next 1-5 years to figure out how much production you’ll need. Production capacity should exceed your sales goals by some safety margin since you cannot sell more than you make without creating a bottleneck for your production process.

Be sure also to include capacity for aged products! Rapid aging is a great technology, but an age statement helps sell bottles when properly integrated into your marketing and story.

Once you have how many bottles you’re targeting to sell, you can start working backward and figure out equipment sizing to make it. Some operations can go 24/7, 52 weeks a year, but that probably isn’t going to be realistic for most operations, so work within your capabilities.

Burnout is real for both you and your employees and if you’re going to be a one-person show then you’ll definitely want to leave yourself time to do paperwork, pay bills, and sell your product in addition to distilling. 

After you figure out what volume you need to make you’ll know how big to size the distillation equipment and work out how much capacity you need to feed the equipment. Stills require wash, wash requires fermentation, fermentation requires sugar, and they all require storage.

Whether you’ve got our 1000L kettle or our 12” continuous system you have to be able to feed the still to produce a final product. The bigger the system and the longer you want it to run the more you’ll need to feed it. This sounds like common sense but once you put pen to paper the amount of mashing and fermentation capacity needed adds up very quickly, especially if you’re running a continuous system or running more than one batch a day.  

Once you have all your equipment and materials cost and know how much money you’ll need then you’ll have your starting budget. This estimate will give you a great starting point to put into your business plan so you can get started. This will also help you avoid sticker shock later when you’re trying to ramp up and get more bottles out the door.

There’s an old saying that man plans and the good lord laughs but by having a plan it gives you a direction to go in and if you need to pivot hopefully you’ve left yourself enough wiggle room to do just that. Leave a comment below and let us know what we missed and if there are any other tips or tricks you’d like to share with how you determine product capacity in distilling. If you’d like to chat with us about sizing equipment and getting started we’d be happy to help, please give us a call at (561) 903-4689 to get started!