What Sized Still Do I Need?

What size still do I need? As you can imagine, this question comes up quite a bit around here, but it’s not as straightforward a question to answer as people may think. The still is a tool and a very important piece of equipment that can help you hit your goals.

However, your goals shouldn’t be too constrained by your equipment, and if you don’t know how much product you’re looking to sell, then you can’t know how much you will need to make. We all have constraints to work around, and any project will have to deal with reality at some point, but there’s no reason to make your goals more difficult to achieve by not setting yourself up for success.

Still types and sizes are very important to consider when you’re getting started in distilling since some spirits require very specialized equipment, like gin baskets or a tall vodka column. Aging is another concern; it’s very difficult to have a 12-year-old spirit in year 2 without sourcing or rapid aging, both of which are beyond the scope of this article. Deciding on the appropriate still size is almost like buying shoes for a toddler; you want there to be some room for growth, and going too small is just wasting money.

Predictions are hard, but it’s very difficult to achieve if you don’t set a goal. Plan on what you want to sell in years 1 and 2, and go as far as you feel comfortable predicting the future. You may decide year 3 or 4 is a great time to upgrade, or you may want to push that off, and there’s no one size fits all solution since everyone will be making their own product and have their own goals.

Starting materials play a part too. Solids and residual proteins can burn immersion elements pretty quickly if you’re not careful, and dealing with grain in wash versus laundered wash can require different equipment.

Adding more fermenters or grain separators to your facility later can be relatively simple, but certain pieces of equipment, like the still or a mash tun, can be a little more difficult to add on later. Adding copies of existing equipment will be more expensive per liter than having larger versions of the same equipment. It can also gobble up your floor space pretty quickly too. By planning ahead and buying the right tools for the job, you can hopefully save some growing pains and avoid unexpected surprises later. 

Right-sizing your still and other equipment can be difficult, and there’s no one size fits all solution. It takes a lot of planning, and even with a solid plan in place, you may have a surprising number-one seller down the line. One of the good things about having a modular system is that with a few tri-clamps, you can modify or upgrade bits and parts without getting a completely new system.

Make sure you’re upgrading wisely; putting your old four-inch column on top of a 380L kettle won’t help you produce spirits any faster! If you’re looking to get started or looking for your next upgrade, give us a call, send us an email, or leave a comment below, and we’ll be more than happy to help you find the right system for your needs.