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Jun 08, 2022 View:

Using Still as Mash Tun

I have read on here a few times abouit people also using their still as their mash tun. Is there any fundemental problem with doing this? Other than the obvious problem of tying up your still a little more often. It would seem to me a great way to save a little money when you are starting out. The only thing I could think of that may deter people from doing this is that most stills aren't jacketed for cooling so you would have very large delays while waiting for temperature drops to add your enzymes or malted barley. But, as I've stated before....I know very little, so maybe there is some other fundemental problem that I don't know about.

The reason I am curious is because starting out money will be much more tight than time. I plan on purchasing a still large enough that I will only need to distill once or twice a week, so if using the still for a mash tun is primarily only a time issue, it would be very enticing to start that way and save the $15000 to $20000 I'm looking at for a mash tun.


Reply:

Hagar,

Using a still as a mashtun can be done, but you probably need to look at your desired output to meet debt service as your driving decision point.

Using a mashtun and fermenter series with a still allows you to mash 2,3,4X the volume of the still and ultimately make more product by the end of the week. If you use your still as the mashtun/fermenter, then you're limited to the overall volume of the mashtun.

So, for instance, you select a 250g still (which from a reputable fabricator is about $200-400K), and you ferment a 10% wash, then you might recover 25 gallons of product a week (theoretical). Ok, so assuming that weekly run yields about 100-200 705mL bottles of product and you wholesale those bottles for $20/ea, you're going to make ~$3k a week. Ignoring any other debt service, interest, or monthly bills, at $3K/week it'll take you 100 weeks to pay off the still.

Now if you happen to buy a cheaper, but smaller still, then amortize the costs of a mashtun and fermenter out over a longer period of time, you have a lower initial CAPEX outlay and additionally, you are able to lower your overall OPEX by spreading production over multiple tanks and dedicated pieces of equipment.

One thing to consider....there are a lot of distillers getting into this game, at a pace that is simply extraordinary. Starting bootstrap may ultimately put you in a position of being behind from the start. Make case studies of small / mid-cap / and large micro distilleries and see if there is additional information that you can take in to assist you with your overall plan.

Cheers.


Reply:

I understand what you are saying. But here's my logic. The still I'm looking at is 300 gallons. It is from Artisan Still Designs (need to give Steve a plug). I'm only looking at 60000 to 70000 for the still. Even a Kothe still of this size is only 140000. I worked my business plan to allow for one to two distillations a week, so at a minimum I should be able to produce about 190 bottles a week and potentially more. Even with redistillation this would only have me running the still three days a week. If I allow for barreling of one run a month, it still will allow me to have 500 to 600 bottles to sell per month(at a minimum), Provided I could sell what I produce, this would meet all debt requirements. So I could use the still to cook mash two days a week and distill two or three days a week. Granted this is not the ideal set up, but it is definitely doable. That is why I posed this question. The state I'm in allows me to sell directly to the public and also to other licensees, so my profit margin will be pretty decent. If business is better than I planned and I need to distill more I'm guessing I would be making enough to purchase a mash tun at that point. This brings me back to my original question. Is there some downside to using the still for mashing other than time? Because if I can produce enough in a week to meet my debt by using the still for both, it seems like a good business move starting out.


Reply:

out of curiosity, what product are you looking to end with? ( as in vodka, gin, rum, white whiskey, etc...) and what base are you planning to begin with?

-Scott


Reply:

Not sure I understand, $140,000 did you miss the decimal point. Evaluate your budget, and get what it take to do the job right. Artisan is good people, Listen to Steve and he will give you good advice. Personally I would not cook my mash in the still, but that's my program.


Reply:

I guess 140000 was Euros, so 175000 dollars. That was right off their price list. Got it from Koval Distillery and they are the U.S. dealer for Kothe. That was for a 1000L hybrid. As far as my plans.....I plan on making several things. Vodka and vodka based beverages such as premixed cocktails and american schnapps, possibly gin, Bourbon, rye whiskey. Everything will be grain based...corn, potato, rye. Currently I have it in the budget to purchase a mash tun and still start with 30000 in working capital when we start. I can assure you when I begin the job will be done right. I'm just trying to cover all my bases. If there is no real problem using the still to mash, then it might be nice to be starting out with 45 or 50 thousand in working capital. You say personally you wouldn't cook your mash in your still......but, Why? Does it cause problems, does it not work as good or does it cut your production too much, etc? That is the only reason I posed the question. I am perfectly comfortable purchasing the mash tun, but I'd like to know why you couldn't just use the still until time became a problem.


Reply:

$30K doesn't last that long in this industry, especially for start ups.

Best of Luck,

-Scott


Reply:

That is 30000 in working capital after everything is paid for and we are producing. Am I to believe that everyone out there had $300,000 in the bank after they purchased everything and were just starting out? I have a thorough budget, a business plan and three years projections. Plus I have a couple of funeral homes to fall back on if things are slow. I don't even plan on taking a salary for the first couple of years. So I feel pretty comfortable in my estimates


Reply:

Hi Hagar.....where in Pa. are you looking to open shop and how far along are you with the good folks at the Pa LCB?


Reply:

I'm up in Kane, PA. How about yourself. Right now I'm in the planning phase. I have my business plan, Should have the financing squared away by January and hope to break ground in March. The LCB is the last stop so I'm hoping when I get to that point things are going smooth. Most of the classes I've taken and the people I've talked to have said the larger problems usually come locally and since we have no zoning, I''m hoping that goes smooth too.


Reply:

I need to make a correction. I was defending my posted Kothe still price from memory last night. I pulled their price sheet today and my original price quote was correct. A 1000L still with a vodka set up is $138,000. That does not include shipping. I'm still a fan of Artisan STill Design and will be using them, but I didn't want to post false information about Kothe or anybody else.


Reply:

I have a few clients who do this without any trouble. the plan does have merit, particularly if you're planning for growth.

mash in your spirit still then as demand requires and money allows add a dedicated stripping still with a mash tun sized for it (4:1 to your spirit still)

its not the best way to do things, but it does work, and can be more economical.

if you can however order your still with a lower geared agitator and paddle agitator, to handle the thick grain mashes better. it will still be capable of doing the job while distilling.


Reply:

Or consider RIMS with a good hefty pump to do your agitation (and/or heating/cooling). We find that works much better than trying to get an agitator retrofit into a still pot not designed for mashing. A good centrifugal or PD will do, or an impeller designed for high heat.