Continuous Fermentation!

Challenge

Whiskey production consists of mashing, fermenting and distilling. Rum and brandy production do not need mashing, but still need fermentation and distillation capacity. Making your own alcohol is a multi-step process and in multi-step processes, there is always a bottle-neck. Guess what the bottle neck is for rum, brandy, and whiskey production? Yes, fermentation.

Where mashing can be done in like 4 hours, and distillation takes a about 8 hours, it is the fermentation part of spirits production that is the slowest. Depending on product and procedure, fermentation can take 3 to 4 days.

The traditional approach in the distilling industry, in order to overcome the fermentation bottle-neck, is to add more fermenters. For instance, 5 or 6 fermenters for each masher or still.

Even though this is the standard way to deal with the fermentation bottle-neck, there are severe draw-backs to this solution. To name a few:

  • Expensive: six new fermenters … that’s a lot of money;
  • Floor space: six new fermenters … that takes a chunk out of your distillery space;
  • Workforce: pumping, cleaning, managing multiple fermenters is more work;
  • Versatility: if you grow, do you buy more fermenters or bigger ones?

Since iStill likes to challenge traditional approaches, here is another take on fermentation. I hope it broadens your horizon and helps you design your perfect distillery with more ease.

Solution

Let’s call the solution I propose “Continuous Fermentation”. The thinking is as follows: “If fermentation is the bottle-neck in alcohol production, that’s the one step we want to do continuously”. The question now becomes: “Can we do so while limiting the number of fermenters, thus limiting capital investment, occupation of floor space, the number of staff needed, while simultaneously boosting flexibility?”

That’s a long question, but luckily the answer is short. One. You just need one fermenter. How’s that for disrupting things, right? And more importantly: how would that work?

If fermentation is the bottle-neck and multiple fermenters isn’t the solution, how do we solve the puzzle? Well, if we limit ourselves to just one fermenter, we make it bigger. Imagine that you have an iStill 500 to distill your whiskey, rum, or brandy in. As a fermenter you’d need one 2000 liter version. One 2000 liter version instead of 5 or 6 smaller ones. Do you run an iStill 2000? In that case consider purchasing an iStill Fermenter 5000.

Now, I hear you thinking: “So I have to wait for 3 or 4 days to ferment 5000 liters … and then I need to do 3 runs in my iStill 2000 to process that? Where’s the gain?” Stay with me, and read my proposed change in procedure:

  1. Ferment 5000 liter;
  2. Take up to 2000 liter out of your f5000 and put it in your i2000 for distillation;
  3. Fill-up the fermenter with fresh substrate and water to 5000 liter;
  4. Do the distillation run in the iStill 2000;
  5. Next day? Take up to 2000 liter out of your f5000 and put in in your i2000;
  6. Fill-up the fermenter with fresh substrate and water to 5000 liter;
  7. Do the distillation run in the iStill 2000;
  8. Etcetera.

If a full fermentation takes 3 days, what happens, if we take out (around) 1/3rd for distillation, and we fill-up the fermenter again with new substrate and water? Well, the substrate and water will mix with the (already fermented) beer or wine in the f5000. The introduction of new fermentable sugars will kick-off fermentation again, but since you only add 1/3rd of the “normal” amount of sugars in, fermentation will now only take one day!

By adding just one oversized iStill Fermenter to your distillery, you can start continuous fermentation. In the above examples this continuous fermentation cycle helps you perform one iStill 2000 distillation per day. Five days a week, six days per week, or seven days per week. However often you want to.

Need more capacity? An iStill 2000 can do two runs per 24 hours, so maybe add a fermenter? Two f5000’s allow you to basically distill twice a day. No need for 6 fermenters, and certainly no need for 12.

Implementing continuous fermentation for rum and brandy

The substrates for rum and brandy are liquid instead of particle based, like grains, and do not need mashing. If you want to move towards continuous fermentation, just draw-off 1500 to 2000 liters every day, and add more molasses or fruit juice with water to top-up your f5000.

Since yeast is already present, there is no need to add more. Just make sure you mix in the new substrates and water. That’s all. You need a big iStill Fermenter and a (smaller) iStill distillery.

Fermenter 5000 and iStill 2000 for continuous fermentation and distillation …

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Implementing continuous fermentation for whiskey

Continuous fermentation for whiskey introduces two minor challenges:

  1. Grains need mashing in order to convert starches into fermentable sugars;
  2. Grains are particles and not fluids like molasses or fruit juice.

So in order to to make whiskey on a continuous fermentation basis, you either need to buy an iStill Masher. In the above example the iStill Masher 2000 will do, because that is the amount you need to add every day.

Or you can use the iStill 2000 for mashing. If you use the i2000 for instance for one distillation run per day, you could use it for overnight mashing.

What you don’t want is to leave the spent grain parts in the fermenter. So you either strain the mash and ferment off the grain, or you mix the fermenter before discharging 2000 liters to your iStill 2000, so that as many spent grains are taken out as you add with each new fill-up.

The optional two additional drains allow for very easy filling …

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http://www.iStill.com

Irish Whiskey Rules!

Introduction

Irish whiskey is on the rise! But there are strict rules on labels and definitions. This iStill Blog post clarifies what’s what in Irish whiskey and how you, as a craft distiller, can comply. Spoiler alert: it is more than just the geographical indication of it being made in the Republic of Ireland and/or Northern Ireland. You know what? As a little extra side-dish, this post also explains how iStills can help you out make even better Irish whiskey, both consistently and efficiently.

Categories of Irish whiskey

There are basically four labels of Irish whiskey:

  • Irish whiskey;
  • Pot still Irish whiskey;
  • Malt Irish whiskey;
  • Grain Irish whiskey.

Let’s see what the requirements are, to meet a certain label. The law distinguishes between brewing, fermentation, distillation and maturation. Since the requirements for fermentation and maturation are the same for all categories, we’ll deal with those first, so that we can focus on the actual differences between categories a bit further down the road.

Geographical Indication (all categories)

All categories of Irish whiskey must be produced on the island of Ireland.

Fermentation (all categories)

For all Irish whiskey, pot still Irish whiskey, malt Irish whiskey, and grain Irish whiskey:

  • Fermentation takes place by yeast and natural enzymes only;
  • Fermentation takes place at the same site where brewing and distillion happen.

Maturation (all categories)

For all Irish whiskey, pot still Irish whiskey, malt Irish whiskey, and grain Irish whiskey:

  • Maturation takes place in wooden casks no bigger than 700 liters;
  • In a tax warehouse for a minimum time of three years.

So far, it is easy: fermentation and maturation are the same for every category. From here onwards, we’ll zoom in on what differentiates the various categories, and focus on brewing and distillation.

Irish whiskey

In order to call your whiskey Irish whiskey, these are the brewing requirements:

  • The mash bill contains malted cereals with or without whole grains added;
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled.

Making Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can mash, ferment, and distill Irish whiskey;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger still  with a smaller one or by using one still, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Pot still Irish whiskey

To label your spirit as Pot Still Irish whiskey, here’s what’s required for brewing:

  • The mash bill contains at least 30% natural, raw, non-peated malted barley;
  • And a minimum of 30% unmalted barley;
  • A maximum of 5% other unmalted cereals like oats or rye
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled;
  • In a copper potstill.

Making pot still Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can be used to mash and ferment;
  • If you want to label your spirit as pot still Irish whiskey, use one or more of our copper stills;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger iStill  with a smaller one or by using one iStill, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Malt Irish whiskey

Do you want to make malt Irish whiskey? Here’s what’s required for brewing:

  • The mash bill is made from 100% natural, raw, peated or non-peated malted barley;
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled;
  • In a potstill.

Making malt Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can be used to mash and ferment;
  • If you want to label your spirit as malt Irish whiskey, use our potstill design;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger still  with a smaller one or by using one still, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Grain Irish whiskey

Do you want to make grain Irish whiskey? Here’s what’s required for the brewing phase:

  • Mash is made from maximum 30% natural, raw malted barley and other whole cereals;
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled;
  • In a column still.

Making grain Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can be used to mash and ferment;
  • If you want to label your spirit as grain Irish whiskey, use our standard column design;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger still  with a smaller one or by using one still, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Summary

Due to the number of categories and the various rules, there can be some confusion on how to make which category of Irish whiskey. This article explains the do’s and don’ts and creates clarity.

The various categories of Irish whiskey all have the same requirements when it comes to fermentation and maturation, It is in the brewing and distilling processes, that they differ.

The iStill product portfolio of stills, fermenters, and mashers is there for you, as an Irish craft distiller, to use and create better spirits in a more controlled, fully repeatable way.

For Irish whiskey and grain Irish whiskey, all you need is a standard iStill. Malt Irish whiskey is made on an iStill with potstill column lay-out. For pot still Irish whiskey, we have our special operations department building you a specific copper still.

For more reading on the GI of Irish whiskey, see: WebPage

What’s next? A clear and unbiased interpretation of the Scottish whisky rules.

Pot still Irish whiskey iStill 5000 …

copperistill

http://www.iStill.com

Extended due to success!

Introduction

Because the iStill University Complete and Certified Distilling Training we organize in Denver from October 21st to 24th sold out in just a few weeks, we planned a new one from October 28th – 31st. If you want to participate, please know we have (at this moment) about 10 more tickets available. For more information, reach out to Jason@iStillmail.com. For registration, contact Veronika@iStillmail.com.

Where?

This iStill University Training takes place at the award winning 52Eighty Distillery in Denver, Co. You will be trained in an actual distillery that makes its own whisky, vodka, gin and brandy. We reserved a number of rooms in a hotel nearby. Veronika and Jason know more.

The training takes place at the award winning 52Eighty Distillery …

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What?

The training is a combination of theory and practice. It is very hands-on and aims to make you a better distiller. You will teach how to mash, ferment, and distill. We’ll educate you in still design and distillery set-up. You will see how the owners and master distillers at 52Eighty Distillery make their spirits. You will be making brandy, whiskey, gin and liqueur on the smaller recipe development stills we have available. We’ll teach you how to evaluate spirits, how to find mistakes, and how to improve them. Odin of iStill will be there to inform you about his industry-changing theories of distillation. And he’ll do so in such a way that you can apply them, in the pursuit of making the best drinks possible.

Practicing distilling and having fun at it …

Why?

The iStill University Complete and Certified Training is considered the best education on offer in the industry. Participants rate the 4-day training at an amazing 9.7 out of 10. The iStill University trains over 200 students per year at dedicated distilleries in Australia, Europe, and the USA.

As a student at the iStill University, you become a member of the iStill University Facebook Group. A worldwide network of distillers that help each other out and provides much needed support in day-to-day craft distillery operations.

For more student feedback, please see: https://istillblog.com/2019/06/10/tom-grzelinsky/

For more information, also check out: https://www.istilluniversity.com/

Make your own spirits on the iStill Mini …

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See you soon in Denver!

 

Innovation: Mashing made easy!

Introduction

Today, let’s go back to what’s basically the first step in the alcohol production process: mashing. Spoiler alert: we are not just going to talk about mashing, but also about the iStill Masher! You know what? Let’s start with a picture of that amazing machine …

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What is mashing?

Mashing is where we turn grain starch into fermentable sugars. We do so by heating-up water, adding the grains, and then adding enzymes (or malted barley) to help the starch to sugar conversion.

Steps and rests

Various steps can be distinguished, where various enzymes do their work. Most importantly:

  • Beta Amylase rest at 62c;
  • Alpha Amylase rest at 72c.

Depending on the grain bill and enzymes each rest can take 30 to 90 minutes. Sometimes additional steps are needed. Corn, for instance, needs much higher temperatures to give up its starch. This makes a boil or high temperature rest at 90c necessary.

When the enzymes have converted the starch into sugar, mashing is done. Before the next step in the alcohol production step can start – fermenting – the mash needs to be cooled down to 25-28c. A cool down is therefore always the last step of any mash process.

Two basic procedures

There are two basic mash procedures:

  1. Step-up mashing;
  2. Step-down mashing.

In a step-up procedure, water and grain is mixed and heated-up and taken through the various mash steps. Enzymes or malted barley (a grain with excess enzymes for starch to sugar conversion) are added along the way.

Basically, in a step-down mash, water is brought to the highest needed temperature (given the specific grain bill), grains and enzymes or malted barley are added, cooling the mash down and taking the process through its various steps and rests.

Step-up mashing is mostly used in the beer industry. Given that step-down mashing is easier, faster, and takes less energy, for the distilling industry most choose a step-down procedure.

What’s important in a masher or mash tun?

Given the above, what masher or mash tun do you need to buy? What’s important to consider? Let’s dive in deeper.

Mashing is a process. What process steps should your mash tun support? Well, mashing takes place at high temperatures, so heating efficiency is important.  And since different enzymes achieve conversion at different temperatures, so is control. Finally, because fermenting – the next step in the alcohol production process – takes place at much lower temperatures than mashing, cooling efficiency is important.

Functionally, it is the craft distiller that does the mashing. So how should the masher support you in your daily operation? Ease of operation for sure is important. The less time you spend mashing, the more time you can spend doing other stuff. And since no whiskey can be made without mashing, longevity is crucial too. Your mash tun needs to be build to last, so it will never become the weakest link in the production proces.

The iStill Masher

With the goal of making mashing easier, iStill introduces next generation mashers. In 5,000 and 2,000 liter net capacity. Here is a picture of the 5,000 liter model:

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And here’s what makes them unique:

  1. Efficiency;
  2. Control;
  3. Ease of operation;
  4. Longevity.

Efficiency

Due to its compact design, unique indirect heaters, and insulation, the all new iStill Masher is the most efficient mash tun in the world. A 5,000 liter Bourbon mash costs 360 kWh. At 0.15 Euro or Dollar per kWh, the total costs of mashing are only EUR 54,- or USD 54,-. A single malt whisky mash uses only 240 kWh, which adds up to 36 Euro’s or Dollars.

A Bourbon mash in the iStill Masher 2000 costs 140 kWh, which translates to 21 Euro’s or Dollars. A single malt mash, which takes place at lower temperatures, uses 100 kWh and costs only 14 Euro’s or Dollars.

Both iStill Mashers come with the patented Jet Propulsion Agitator System (J-PAS). Together with the flush square boiler design, it helps limit shearing, which leads to better mixing efficiency, better particle distribution, and optimal heat distribution in your mash. The system counteracts vortex formation too, resulting in both higher fill grades and easier cleaning.

Control

With only 0.1 degree temperature tolerance, the new iStill mashers offer total and unmatched control over the starch to sugar conversion process. Here’s a mash tun that puts you in charge!

Up to 40 individual mash programs can be dialed in. Each program gives the craft distiller control over the number of mash steps (up to 9), the temperatures and power settings during those steps, how fast the agitator should mix, and how long the conversion rests should take.

Ease of operation

The iStill Mashers come fully automated. After you dial in your mash procedure, you just press “Start” and the machine does the mashing for you.

The iStill mashers are connected to the internet. This way you can remotely supervise and control your masher. It also allows us to upload new software or perform remote checks.

The iMasher has auto-start. This enables you to pre-heat your mash water and shave off a few hours of your workday.

Our masher comes with automated programs for Bourbon and single malt whisky mashing. You simply select the program and use our experience to help you mash.

The iStill Masher comes with two big manholes. One at the top (for grain filling) and one near the bottom (for easy access). The PLC is operated via a touch screen or via your smartphone or computer.

Another unique feature the new iStill Masher has, is the Easy Discharge Center. The unit sits, as it were, on stalks. This creates a high and easy access discharge exit. You can easily forklift a receiver/container under the actual boiler for easy cleaning and grain handling. Lastly, it has Easy Filling Connect. Just connect a hose to the connect and you can start filling your masher.

Longevity

Most mashers out there are made out of 1 or 2 mm thick steel. Since we feel mashing is an essential step to your production process, we decided to beef-up design specifications.

Our mashers use 4 to 5 mm thick stainless steel. They are build to last! The sides are insulated and the insulation is armored for heavy duty use.

The actual boiler is suspended in a strong, stainless steel skid. The skid acts as an exoskeleton that protects your mash tun, and that allows for side-by-side operation of multiple mashers and/or fermenters.

Specifications

iStill Masher 5000:

  • 5,000 liter net capacity;
  • Insulated flush square boiler design;
  • Weight: 1,000 kilo;
  • Sizes: 170x170x360 (wide, deep, high, in centimeters)
  • Power: 90 kW;
  • Heat-up time Bourbon mash: < 3 hours;
  • Heat-up time Single Malt Whisky mash: <2 hours;
  • Total mash time Bourbon: < 3 hours;
  • Total mash time Single Malt Whisky: <2 hours;
  • iStill Boiler Radiator for direct (instead of indirect) cooling;
  • Manholes: 40/60 cm diameter, one at top, one near bottom;
  • Supports grain as well as potato mashing;
  • Can be used as a cooker as well as a masher;
  • Patented indirect heater system;
  • PLC system and touch screen computer;
  • Automated mashing programs;
  • Internet connectivity, smartphone & computer management and control;
  • Easy Fill Connect and Easy Discharge Center;
  • J-PAS variable speed mixing technology;
  • Optional: WiFi.

iStill Masher 2000:

  • 2,000 liter net capacity;
  • Insulated flush square boiler design;
  • 650 kilo;
  • Sizes: 130x130x270 (wide, deep, high, in centimeters);
  • Power: 36 kW;
  • Heat-up time Bourbon mash: < 3 hours;
  • Heat-up time Single Malt Whisky mash: <2 hours;
  • Total mash time Bourbon: < 3 hours;
  • Total mash time Single Malt Whisky: <2 hours;
  • iStill Boiler Radiator for direct (instead of indirect) cooling;
  • Manholes: 30/50 cm diameter, one at top, one hear bottom;
  • Supports grain as well as potato mashing;
  • Can be used as a cooker as well as a masher;
  • Patented indirect heater system;
  • PLC system and touch screen computer;
  • Automated mashing programs;
  • Internet connectivity, smartphone & computer management and control;
  • Easy Fill Connect and Easy Discharge Center;
  • J-PAS variable speed mixing technology:
  • Optional: WiFi.

Pricing

The iStill Masher 5000 costs EUR 50,000. The iStill Masher 2000 costs EUR 35.000. Both units come fully pre-assembled. Immediately after being connected to water (in/out) and electricity, it is ready to run your first mash.

Line-up

The iStill Masher comes in the sizes 2,000 and 5,000 liters. We could probably build it smaller, but why would you want that? Pricing will only go down marginally, and in order to make a living out of producing your own alcohol … well … there is no substitute for cubic inches.

This is the first of a new line of innovations. The iStill Masher performs the first step of your alcohol production process. Expect us to release new products, like an iStill certified pump for easy mash transfer for example, in the very near future! Again, to make mashing easier, to make your  life as a craft distiller easier. This is the first of a wide range of new innovations. Stay tuned! Follow the iStill Blog and follow us on Facebook.

Delivery and availability

Orders or requests for information can be placed via Sales@iStillmail.com. Current lead time is 3 months.

We are building the revolutionary iStill Mashers right now. Wanna buy … ?

https://www.istill.com/products/mashers