How Big Is a Distillery?

Starting a distillery sounds fun. There is something appealing, or almost powerful, about being able to render a product that was used as currency at some point in history. Being part of distilling is somehow glamorous, right? But once you start to deep dive into the intricacies, you will learn so much more than you would’ve expected. While developing your business plan for the distillery, you’ve probably decided what types of liquor you want to distill and determined the processes needed to perfect your recipe. Now you’ve got to find a building that allows you to put the proper-sized micro distillery equipment in place.

How Big Is a Distillery?

To help you calculate your space requirements, follow these steps:

Step 1: Determine Ceiling Height

Knowing how tall of a building you need will help you weed through the real estate listings more quickly.

When considering ceiling height, you’ll want to find a space that exceeds your distillation column height. For example, the tallest column heights belong to the vodka stills. Since vodka requires a pure spirit, you’ll want to have more plates stacked up so that you can run more efficiently, rather than do multiple runs. If your vodka column sits 20’ tall, try to find a building that has a 24’ ceiling height. This extra height helps when you’re assembling or cleaning the still, or when you’re doing maintenance on those high-up areas, as you’ll be able to really get up there for those pesky fixes.

At this point, you’ve probably already done the drawings for the system that you want, so contact your micro distillery equipment supplier to finalize the height of your column so you can take that measurement when you go real estate hunting. However, if your forklift has a back rest over the carriage, you’ll also want to take that into consideration, as that back rest adds another 3′ to 4’ from the top to the forks.

Step 2: Evaluate Square Footage

After you narrow your search down to buildings with adequate ceiling height, you’ll need to figure out the necessary square footage, taking into account:

Distillery Growth

An important factor to consider is making sure the building can cope with any measure of growth. When your doors open on day one, it’s a safe bet that you may not have even one single customer. With no customers, it is easy to assume that production levels are small. Therefore, it’s easier to assume that the primary, and any ancillary, micro distillery equipment fits onto the floor rather nicely. But once you gain traction and start to grow, you’ll need to account for additional storage of fermentables, bottles, barrels, and possibly more product storage holding tanks. One can only hope, right? But don’t hope for more space. Plan for it by considering whether your building allows for growth.

Kettle Size

As for the distillation kettle, you might be surprised to find that the bigger the kettle, the more cost-conscious on a per-proof gallon basis. For example, the StillDragon 500L Baine Marie is $30.37 per liter, whereas the 1000L Baine Marie Double Dragon is $17.61 per liter. And don’t forget, it’s easier to scale down rather than scale up. In other words, you don’t always have to have a full kettle charge.

When you’ve made the decision to get the bigger kettle and ultimately save some money in the long run, you’ll need to determine the footprint of the kettle. Is it tall and slender or short and squat?

When deciding where to put the kettle, you’ll want to make sure that there is room to get around the kettle, and that the infrastructure has enough room to do its job. For example, the plumbing pipes need to be installed in a way that does not make the still less user friendly to the distiller. If a utility pipe needs to make a 90-degree turn, there needs to be enough room for the pipe to do that. Or, if you need to pull some maintenance on your agitator motor (yes, you need to check the seals and grease them), you don’t want to be standing on top of the kettle to do so. You’ll want the kettle far enough off the wall so that either you and a ladder, or you and a forklift, can get back there.

Product Discharge Location

Once you’ve got the height, know that as a rule of thumb you’ll need 10’ off the wall for the kettle placement. But where is the spirit coming out, and what size collection vessel will you require? Where is the business end of the parrot facing?

Product discharge location is especially important if you plan on adding a gin column, or a secondary column, as this adds to the length of room that the micro distillery equipment will be housed in for perhaps the next 30 years. If you do add on that gin column, you’ll be adding about 4′ more in length, so you won’t be able to squeeze the column in that 15’ x 15’ space very easily.

Hearts Storage

Where are your hearts going to be stored? Are you going to roll in a tote? If so, add the height of the tote to your kettle drawings to make sure that the parrot is at the best height for the tote. And make sure there is plenty of room to get the tote in and out of the way of the system.

All Other Micro Distillery Equipment Sizes

Now that you’ve considered the space requirements for the kettle itself, you’ll have to figure out how many fermenters and what size mash tun you want in your distillery. You should ask yourself the same questions for every piece of machinery you put in your building:

  • What is the height?
  • What infrastructure do I need?
  • What is the length?
  • How am I going to do maintenance?
  • Is this space big enough?

> If you find yourself lost in all the information, give StillDragon a call at (561) 903-4784. We will help you find the right-sized equipment for all your needs. We can even help fit a still into the perfect location with the worst size restrictions!