Cidery In a Box

by | Feb 15, 2016 | Cidermaking, Resources | 2 comments

Equipping Your Cidery

Intended Audience

This post is geared toward cidermakers looking to open a commercial cidery. With the possible exception of the grinding/pressing equipment and the smallest of the fermenters, the equipment discussed herein is impracticably large for those folks wishing to ferment within the 100 gallons/year per individual or 200 gallons/year/household with 2+ adults allowed by the homebrewing laws of most U.S. states.

An Expensive Endeavor

It’s no secret that starting a commercial winery or brewery is an expensive endeavor. Alas, opening a cidery is no different–fruit processing equipment, fermentation tanks, pumps, filters, and packaging equipment are the main cost drivers in terms of fixed equipment costs…to say nothing of taxes, wages, insurance, cost of goods and the like (which this post doesn’t cover). And while in theory it is possible to start a commercial cidery using homebrewing-scale equipment (e.g., as a nano-sized side project that you’re not dependent on to making a living), this post is aimed at the lowest end of the scale that I think you should consider if you’re going to attempt to do this as a profession.

Example Cidery

So what is that minimum volume number? Sadly, there is no magic number, and factors vary considerably depending on the type of cidery you’re talking about. An urban cidery buying juice wouldn’t have to pay the agricultural costs for land, fruit storage, and processing, for instance, but may carry a significant monthly cost burden in the form of rent on a commercial building. I’ve added a few resources at the end of this post which may help fill in some of the gaps for you as you plan your operation. One number I’ve heard when talking about the minimum sized commercial cidery is 5,000/cases/yr of single 500mL bottles. That breaks down to:

Case Quantity

Bottle Size: 500mL

Bottles/Case: 12

Volume (Liters)

Volume/bottle: 500mL / .5L

Volume/case: 500ml * 12 = 6 L

Total volume: 6L/case * 5000 cases = 30,000 L

Volume (U.S. Gallons)

Volume/bottle: 500mL = .132 gal

Volume/case: .132 gal * 12 = 1.584 gal

Total volume: 1.584 gal / case * 5000 cases = 7,920 gal

My example will be a bit different–it’s drawn from my own cidery planning and isn’t too dissimilar from the 5,000 number except that it’s based also on the packaging size of the juice that I’ll be sourcing…which is delivered in 275-gallon Intermediate Bulk Totes (IBC’s), and thus it makes sense to tailor production in increments of this. My example is 9,900 gal/yr (37,475 L/yr), or 6,245 cases/yr of 500mL bottles, which corresponds to fermenting 3, 275-gal totes of juice at a time (825 gallons).

Case Quantity

Bottle Size: 500mL

Bottles/Case: 12

Volume (Liters)

Volume/bottle: 500mL / .5L

Volume/case: 500ml * 12 = 6 L

Total volume: 6L/case * 6,245 cases = 37,475 L

Volume (U.S. Gallons)

Volume/bottle: 500mL = .132 gal

Volume/case: .132 gal * 12 = 1.584 gal

Total volume: 1.584 gal / case * 6,245 cases = 9,892 gal

Assumptions

Let’s take a look at some other assumptions around my 9,900 gal/yr example above:

  • you can ferment a batch of cider in a month
  • you’ll need to age cider for two months before packaging, necessitating more storage capacity than just the tanks
  • you can sell cider as fast as it you make it
  • you have juice available year round instead of the commonly large, seasonal fall spike of one-three harvests
  • fermenting at this volume requires temperature control via glycol-jacketed tanks and a glycol system (pump/evaporator, insulated hoses, tank connectors)
  • this cider will all be packaged still/uncarbonated in 500mL bottles

You can see that I’m making some pretty big assumptions here, but it was necessary to establish initial scope. You’ll likely find–if you haven’t already–that the cidery planning process quickly gets overwhelmed with details. To avoid paralysis, I found it useful to keep category-specific notes and lists of all my questions, start the plan with very simplistic basics, then start adding additional factors back in as the plan becomes more targeted. 

Other Sizing Factors

Let’s add just one set of considerations to the above for now. Once you have an idea of the targeted production volume, you can match that up to the production space you have available to you or spaces that you’re evaluating. Here are a few factors as you pursue that:

  • space limitations
    • you can’t put giant fermenters and equipment just anywhere–what are the dimensions of the building?
  • mass of larger vessels
    • you likely need a forklift or at least a pallet jack to move these around–can you easily use a forklift in this space?
  • clearance space
    • you’ll need enough room to access the various ports, manways, etc, of the tank to clean and maintain them, and enough room to move around pumps, kegs, etc
  • aging vessel needs
    • you need more than just fermenting vessels–you’ll need vessels to mature/age cider in
      • jacketing/glycol are likely optional at this stage, if your building is reasonably cool
      • for short-term storage (a few months), food-grade plastic tanks (e.g., 275-gal IBC’s) are an option at this point
        • plastic tanks are somewhat permeable to oxygen, so your cider will eventually oxidize in plastic
        • this can be mitigated by adding Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) to the cider in storage,  as SO2 has antioxidant properties in addition to its antimicrobial properties
          • take care that you don’t exceed your region’s legal limit for SO2 in the beverage you’re storing; even 50 ppm will provide some protection against oxidation, so don’t overdo it
      • for long-term storage, you’ll need steel tanks to avoid oxidation (technically, glass works too, but at this scale you won’t be working with glass containers)

Tank Layout Examples

Now that we have an example cidery in mind, and let’s assume we have 2000 sq ft or so of ground-level concrete floor to work with, let’s look at an example equipment list, drawn from the MoreWine Pro Preseason sale, which runs 2/15 to 4/15 annually (note: I’m a MoreWine affiliate).

The MoreWine Pro Preseason Sale

MoreWine Pro–the professional arm of MoreBeer / MoreWine, which sells homebrewing and home winemaking equipment, has an annual preseason sale on professional equipment–you order between 2/15 and 4/15 for delivery in July and August. For professional-grade equipment, it’s on the lower end of the price spectrum compared to high-end vendors such as JVNW, which construct custom tanks in the tens of thousands of dollars. Other vendors in this space include St. Pat’s of Texas, which has good pricing but basically zero service (they order online, they ship the equipment to you, and that’s it–it’s all online, with no long-term customer support), and GW Kent, which has a fairly wide range of winery and brewery equipment. The MoreWine Preseason Sale includes cider-pertinent items in these categories:

Processing Equipment

  • grinders (manual and electric)
  • bladder presses

Fermentation / Storage Tanks

  • Variable Volume-Fermenters
  • Variable-Volume Storage Tanks

Pumps

  • impeller pumps

Filters

  • pad filters

Temperature Control

  • glycol chillers
  • cooling plates (tank jacket alternative)

Bottle Filling

  • bottle filters
  • also needed: bottle capper (not in pre-sale)

Basic Equipment For Our Example Cidery

Assuming that this cidery buys juice rather than grinds/presses its own, here is an equipment scenario for our 825 gal/month cidery:

Cidery Equipment--825 gal/mo Urban Cidery

CategoryItemQuantityUnit PriceRunning Total
Fermentation581 gal Speidel Fermentation Tank1$6,119 (on sale)$6,119
Fermentation290-gal Speidel Fermentation Tank1$3,909 (on sale)$10,018
StorageFood-Grade 275 gal IBC6$250$11,518
PumpImpeller Pump1$1,696 (on sale)$13,214
FilterPlate Filter1$1,768 (on sale)$14,982
Glycol ChillerGlycol Chiller (15k BTU, 220v 1-phase)1$4,365 (on sale)$19,347
Bottle Filler6-spout wine bottle filler1$1,670 (on sale)$21,017

Note that this scenario does not include accessory equipment or materials such as:

  • grinding equipment–more information here
  • pressing equipment–more information here
  • forklifts
  • carbonation and refrigeration equipment–if your plan to have a taproom, distribute kegs, or package carbonated beverages, you’ll need additional equipment along those lines (walk-in refrigerator, kegs, brite tank, counter-pressure bottle filler)
  • tank accessories (CIP, thermometers, racking arms), except as specified in the purchase
  • connectors (tri-clamps, hose barbs)
  • hoses
  • bottles and caps
  • sanitizers (e.g., Star-San, paracetic acid)
  • cleaners (e.g., caustic detergent)

Nor does it include any operational costs such as commercial rent, labor, insurance, taxes, etc. It’s just an initial example of the equipment side of cidery startup planning.

For a bit more insight into the various types of cideries, see the Cidermaker’s Matrix here.

Do Your Homework

When you do proceed with ordering equipment, take note that sometimes the instructions it comes with are too basic for your needs. Work with the vendor to see what resources they have or what they can recommend, look for reviews online, and visit professional forums such as the Probrewer Forums for information. These are complex, expensive products, so some extra diligence–especially where electricity is involved (don’t assume you can use your 220 volt, 1 phase device on 230 volt, 3 phase power, for instance, or you’re setting yourself up for ruined equipment and risk of electrocution).

Additional Resources

Here are some additional equipment suppliers to consider

Here’s some additional reading to move you out of the equipment discussion and into the bigger picture.

Cidery Startup Articles:

Studies:

Books:

Misc:

Classes:

Below is a great educational opportunity in Oregon that looks at overall startup costs as well as marketing, regulation, distribution, and ingredient sourcing (my startup partners attended this workshop and recommend it highly):

Your Experience?

Have you started a cidery or are you in the process of doing so? If so, please feel free to share some resources, gotchas, or tips. If you have questions, feel free to ask those as well, or to contact me via the contact page.

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