What Size and Type of Equipment do I need for a Craft Distillery?

What Size and Type of Equipment do I need for a Craft Distillery?

Published : 23-01-2020 - Categories : Commercial Distilling , Craft Spirits


Selecting the right equipment for your Commercial Craft Distillery can be quite a task.

We often get asked to provide a "standard Craft Distillery" quote, but the fact to the matter is that there is no such thing.


What do I need to know to Design a Craft Distillery?

Our standard response to any Quote request is the following 6 Questions:


  1. What Product(s) do you intend to produce?
  2. Are you intending to be a Producer or a Distiller - working from purchased Ethanol, or from Fermentation or Raw Material?
  3. What Raw Material do you intend to use?
  4. What is your initial Production Target (bottles per month)?
  5. What is your eventual Production Target (bottles per month)?
  6. How many days per week do you intend to work on Production (initially and eventually)?


Based on the answers to these questions, we can do a basic design and quote for you.

What else do I need to know to set up my Craft Distillery?

Further questions, or more detailed questions, may include:


  1. If producing Gin, what type of Infusion method are you intending to use?
  2. Is Maceration playing a role in your Spirit Enhancement process?
  3. Do you have problematic water for Fermentation, Cooling, or Dilution that may require additional Filtration?
  4. Do you have a preferred Energy Source, or Power Supply Limitations?

How big should my Equipment be?

All our Calculations are based on the following assumed variables (obviously it would differ from situation to situation and client to client, but these are worst case scenario's).


  • 10% Headspace in both Boiler and Fermentation Tank
  • 10% ABV Fermentation Strength (minimum economically viable for a Craft Distillery for a Primary Product Line)
  • 5% Sedimentation in the Fermentation Vessel
  • 90% Recovery Rate during Distillation
  • 750 ml Standard Bottle Size
  • 43% ABV Product Strength


NOTE: Obviously if the bottles are smaller, or ABV% is lower, the Production Quantities per Batch will be higher with all other variables being the same. Inversely, larger bottles and higher ABV% will lead to lower Production Quantities per Batch. 

How many Bottles can I produce per Batch?


Still Boiler Size Number of Bottles Produced per Distillation Batch
100lt 25
200lt 50
400lt 100
800lt 200
1600lt 400


What size Fermentation Tank do I need?


Still Boiler Size Plastic Fermentation Tank Size Stainless Steel Fermentation Tank Size
100lt 200lt
500lt 400lt
200lt 200lt
500lt 400lt
1000lt 800lt
400lt 500lt 400lt
1000lt 800lt
800lt 1000lt 800lt
1600lt 1600lt

How many Fermentation Tanks do I need?      

The number of Fermentation Tanks in your Craft Distillery depends on a number of Factors:

  • Budget. Obviously the more tanks you need, the more it will cost, and the larger the tank is, the more it will cost. You will find that larger tanks of the same design is cheaper than more tanks of the same design. So bigger is cheaper.
  • Number of Days in your Fermentation Cycle. The lower your fermentation temperature, and therefore the longer your fermentation cycle, the more tanks you will need in order to produce regularly.
  • Available working days and hours. Doubling up on Fermentation Tank size will allow you to produce the same quantity of product with the same equipment, but spend less time making fermentations, therefore leaving more time for Sales, Marketing and Admin.
  • Future Expansion. Starting off with larger Fermentation Capacity allows for rapid and cheaper future growth and expansion of your distillery.

Assuming a 5 day Fermentation Cycle, and Daily Production, you would require the following:


Still Boiler Size 200lt Fermentation Tank 400lt Fermentation Tank 800lt Fermentation Tank 1600lt Fermentation Tank
100lt 3 2 1 -
200lt 5 3 2 -
400lt - 5 3 2
800lt - - 5 3
1600lt - - - 5


What type of Fermentation Tanks do I need?

Several Factors need to be considered when choosing Fermentation Tanks - especially when considering Plastic vs Stainless Steel.


Plastic Fermentation Tanks Stainless Steel Fermentation Tanks
Cheaper                                            More Expensive
Limited Life Expectancy Unlimited Life Expectancy (if taken care of)
Difficult to Sterilize (Can only use Chemical Sterilizers) Easy to Sterilize (Can use Chemical Sterilizers, Clean In Place System, Steam Cleaning, etc.)
Low Aesthetic Value (Does not look Good or Professional)                                                   High Aesthetic Value (Looks Good and Professional
Cooling and Temperature Control is achievable but Challenging Cooling and Temperature Control is easy due to Jacketed Design
Discoloration happens quite quickly No Discoloration occurs
Limited attachments available (Drain and Samples Valves, Thermometer - possibly Spray Ball)                                    Unlimited attachments available (Multiple Valves, Level Indicator, Spray Ball, Thermometer, Re-circulation Pump, etc.)


What size Column would I require for my Craft Distillery?   

Two factors play a role in determining Column Size and design. The number of Plates in the Column, and the Column Diameter.

The number of plates is determined by my Product Type. The Column Diameter is determined by the boiler Size.

The more plates my column has, the more Internal Reflux my still has, and the higher percentage distillate I can produce within the same period of time. The less plates I have, the longer it will take me to produce higher purity distillate.


Target ABV% in Distillation Recommended Number of Plates
60 to 70% 4 to 6 plates
70 to 85% 6 to 8 plates
90 to 95% 8 to 12 plates (or more)


As Boiler Size increases, so too does the Column Diameter need to increase to keep up with the increased volume of vapors it needs to handle to keep the time required to complete the distillation run the same.


                Boiler Size                Recommended Column Diameter
100lt 4 inch
200lt 6 inch
400lt 8 inch
800lt 10 inch
1200lt 12 inch


How much Energy will my Craft Distillery need?

Even with recent price increases and proposed price increases, Electricity is still cheaper than Gas in order to run a Distillery. However, depending on the Property you intend to use, you may be limited as to the Electrical Supply.

Practically speaking, any distillery based on a still larger than 800lt, you will not be able to run within a standard Light Industrial Facility.


Still Boiler Size Electrical Rating (Direct Heating) Electrical Rating (Jacketed Heating)
100lt 4.5 kW -
200lt 9 kW 12 kW
400lt 18 kW 24 kW
800lt 36 kW 48 kW
1600lt 72 kW 96 kW


Although this may not look like a lot, let us consider for a moment that the still is not the only piece of Equipment Running in the Distillery.

If we were to look at a 800lt, Grain based Distillery, making Vodka and Gin, and we only consider the equipment with high electrical loads, assuming they all run at once at peak capacity:


Equipment Electrical Requirements
800lt Mash Tun 48 kW
800lt Jacketed Stripping Still 48 kW
200lt Direct Heated Rectifying Still 9 kW
100lt Ginning Still 4.5 kW
TOTAL 109.5 kW


What type of Equipment do I need for Spirit Enhancement?   

Are you making Gin? If yes, what infusion method are you using?


  • Vapor Infusion, you can get away with a 100lt Still, and the Ginning Head Size will depend on how often you need to replace your Botanicals.
  • Infused Distillation, you will need a Jacketed Boiler, and that is a minimum Boiler Size of 200lt.
  • Direct Infusion or Maceration, you will need an Infusion Tank, either Standard or Heated, depending on your process.


Are your filtering your product?


  • For Vodka and Neutral Spirit you might want to filter, so you would need an Activated Carbon Filtration System.
  • If Barrel Aging or Direct Infusing you will need to filter out Particulates, so you will need a Paper Plate Filter.
  • If making Gin you might want to do Chilled Filtration, therefore you will need a Refrigerated Holding Tank and a Paper Plate Filter.


Other types of Equipment, depending on Product and Process(es) might include Vacuum Homogenizers, Holding Tanks for Low Wines and Intermediate Products, Vacuum Stills, Extractors, etc. etc.

What type of Equipment do I need for Material Handling?

The first piece of Equipment you need to Purchase is a Pallet Stacker - you need it to offload your equipment when it arrives, as well as your Raw Material, Bottles, Bulk Shipments, etc. etc.

Other equipment that falls in this category are Pumps, Pipes, Coupling Units, Buckets, Raw Material Bins, Stillage Flow Bins. 

The size and ratings of this equipment will depend on the size of your operation.    

What type of Bottling Equipment do I need in my Craft Distillery?

The good news for Craft Distillers is that we operate on such a small scale, that even the smallest of Bottling Lines has excess capacity for our needs. A standard Bottling Line consists out of:

  • Bottle Rinser (24 to 32 bottles per batch)
  • Bottle Filler (450 bottles per hour)
  • Bottle Labeller (650 bottles per hour - Round Bottle Labeller)
  • Shrink Wrap Heat Gun or Wax Melting Pot
  • 1 (preferably 2) Bottling Tables
  • Reverse Osmosis Water Filter (100lt per Hour)


What type of Lab Equipment do I need in my Craft Distillery?

The standard Distillique Laboratory Kit contains everything a Craft Distillery would need, but recommended optional extra's are additional Measuring Cylinders of various sizes (like buckets, you never have enough), Backup Alcohol Meters and Hydrometers (they are Glass and they break), and highly recommended is an Anton Paar Easy Dense Digital Alcoholmeter for final Dilution.

What type of Cooling Equipment do I need in my Craft Distillery?

Every kW of Heat Energy applied, be that during Starch Conversion, Distillation or Infusion, needs to be removed. Therefore, your Cooling System needs to be equal to that task. In the previous example of the 800lt Grain Distillery, the total Heat Input was 109.5 kW, therefore the minimum cooling Requirement would be 109.5 kW. Considering however, that amount does not include the Heat generated during Fermentation by the Fermentation Tanks, it would be safer to go for a 115 kW or 120 kW Cooling System (especially here in South Africa with our high ambient temperatures).

Other factors to consider here when it comes to the type of Cooling Solution will be Budget, Noise Level, Structure (as that impacts location of the equipment), etc.


This article only touches on about half of the equipment needed. The most important half, but not all of it. We have not even covered Heat Exchangers, Mash Tuns, Raw Material Processing Equipment, Alternative Energy Sources, Automation and Control Systems, Stripping Stills, etc. etc.

Nothing stops you from designing and planning your own Distillery, but it is highly recommended that you come see us to discuss your needs, or better yet, attend our B1 Craft Distilling Business Course to get a full understanding of how all of this works together, and impacts your Cash Flow.


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