iStill Innovations part I

The new automated heads removal programming is in! I tested it last weekend and was impressed. Now, this was the same weekend we met up with the iStill team to talk about future innovations and new features to existing iStills, so I was too busy to take careful notes and share any of my findings with you. I will try to amend that as soon as possible!

What I want to do now, is give you a brief description on how the new programming works, so you get a feeling of where and how it can help you in further optimizing your distillation practice. The actual testing, I will do again somewhere next week. If you are interested in the details, the results, please keep following our Blog!

First, let’s take a look at how the old programming dealt with fores and heads:

  1. The iStill would fire up and heat up the batch in the boiler;
  2. Normally a batch boils in about 40 to 50 minutes;
  3. It then takes another 20 to 25 minutes to heat up the column and packing;
  4. During this process of column and packing heat up, fores stack very well in the top of the column;
  5. So when the column is heated up, it throws out a first 50 mls of fores (pretty intense nail polish remover smell);
  6. After fores are taken, the column equalizes;
  7. You can dial in anything from 10 to 30 minutes to stack the column;
  8. You’d then collect the first “take” (first batch) as heads manually, before switching to hearts collection.

Anything changed in the new programming so far? No, not really. If you look at the above process, you will notice that fores are taken automatically but heads separation still needed a manual step. So we kept this program and now call it “Automated fores disposal”, because that is exactly what it does: it removes fores automatically.

What’s new, then? Well, we added a new program. How it is called? Easy, it is the all new “Automated fores & heads disposal”.

To summarize it: we now have two automated programs. The first one is for automated fores removal and works as described above (see the points 1 to 8), the second program will automatically draw off fores and heads.

Why both programs are needed? Why not chose for just the “Automated fores & heads disposal”? Easy, if you want to re-run a batch of likker you already distilled once, you do still want to take fores (if for nothing else, because you want to make absolutely sure you don’t get anything over from a previous batch or a column that wasn’t cleaned out), but you don’t want to take heads fractions twice, because that would be a waste of time and energy and product.

So let us zoom in on the new fores & heads programming. How does it work? Well, fores go as aforementioned. The column and packing heat up, fores are taken, and stabilization starts. What stabilization? The stabilization before hearts are drawn off, as mentioned in step 6? No. There now is a separate heads stabilization time. And that time is twice as long as the stabilization before actual product collection starts.

Twice as long? Yes! You want to get rid of heads automatically? Let’s get you there! If you set the column stabilization time before product take-off at 15 minutes, the stabilization time before product take-off will just be that: 15 minutes. But if you chose the “Fores & Heads” removal program, the initial stabilization for heads will take 30 minutes. Twice as long, just as I said.

In steps, and starting just after fores are taken (see points 1 to 6 above):

  1. After fores are taken, the column stabilizes for (in this example) 30 minutes;
  2. During this periods heads stack very well at the top of the column;
  3. You can monitor this by the dropping temperatures higher up in the column: well below azeo boiling points;
  4. After 30 minutes, heads collection starts with a relatively small opening opening of the needle valve;
  5. The iStill will produce at around 3 drips per second, bleeding of heads;
  6. It will do so in steps of 15 minutes and continue to do so …;
  7. … until the temperature rises to azeo ethanol boiling points or to the point where the temperature stops rising;
  8. For the purists: you can override the system by further opening or closing the needle valve manually;
  9. That way you can play with the speed you want to collect heads at;
  10. After heads are taken, there is another 15 minute stabilization before the normal product collection starts;
  11. At those stellar speeds you know the iStill delivers.

If I read back, it sounds more difficult than it is. What you actually do is start your iStill, select “Fores & Heads disposal”, and then you push start. The iStill does all the rest.

We will be uploading an iStill movie about the new programming somewhere next week!


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