NextGen Firmware (1)!

Introduction

This is the first in a short series of iStill Blog posts on the firmware to our new NextGens. As you know, with the iStills NextGen, we invested heavily in upgrading the computerization, automation, and robotization. Twenty years of warrantee and thirty years of guaranteed spare parts delivery … how is that for beefing things up? But how does the interface look? And how do you run your NextGen? In this post I will dive in deeper.

Functionality

The NextGen units are extremely versatile. Depending on what configuration you choose, the unit can help you heat-up, mash, ferment, and distill. For now, let’s zoom in on heating and pot distillation! The starting screen for someone that ordered the iStill NextGen with heating and pot distillation functionality looks like this:

IMG_0800

Heating-up

Heating-up helps you to get water, mashes, or washes to strike temperature. You can use the clock based timer to dial in when you want heating-up to start. Say, for example, that you did a distillation run, and it’s done. Say, it’s nearly the end of the day and you want to prepare tomorrow’s run, you just fill the boiler with fresh wash and use the timer functionality to let the unit heat-up to (for example) 75 degrees C prior to you starting your next working day. You can dial in target temperature, heat-up power, and agitator speed. Like this:

IMG_0803

And if you want to use the timer just push “Timer”, you can dial in when you want the heat-up process to start. This is the screen you get:

IMG_0804

The heat-up program is used to heat-up or boil (mash) water, or to pre-heat a wash in order to limit the total run time of a distillation.

Pot distillation

If you order your iStill NextGen with a potstill column, you still get loads of automation. Automated cuts for Heads, Hearts, and Tails, for instance. Automated process shutdown at the end of the run is also part of the deal, as is automated start of cooling water to prevent excessive water usage. This is the pot distillation start screen:

IMG_0805

As you can see, there is currently no distillation process running. That makes sense. Prior to starting the run (just push “Start”), you want to check the settings:

IMG_0806

Here, you dial in at what power you want to heat-up (if you haven’t done that via the heating-up program already), at what power and agitation speeds you want to take Heads, Hearts, and Tails. Done? Now press “Start”. Here is a picture of an iStill 2000 NextGen taking Hearts:

IMG_0808

You can see a quite a few things on the picture above:

  • Cooling water is flowing (blue dot on the upper left lights up);
  • Agitator is running (agitator motor on the boiler lights up green);
  • The heaters are on (the inside of the boiler is red);
  • The Hearts Valve is opened (green dot to the right of the boiler);
  • Temperatures inside the boiler, the column, and the column cooler are depicted;
  • It also says: “Hearts” and tells you until what temperature it is collecting Hearts.

Safety features

We design our distilleries in the safest possible way. Still, people can make mistakes. To prevent human mistakes to cause potential damage or harm, we have build in quite a few safety features. Here, I want to zoom in on two of them:

  1. Dry cooking;
  2. Lack of cooling water.

Say, by mistake, the distiller running the iStill NextGen didn’t fill the boiler adequately. He now runs the risk  of dry cooking the unit. Dry cooking is the situation where the boiler has so little liquid left, that the heating elements get exposed. Exposure of the heaters to air instead of water, a mash, or a wash, means they don’t get cooled and – potentially – overheat. Not at iStill! Our heaters are equipped with thermometers. When certain temperature limits are breached, the iStill NextGen shuts down automatically, while giving you a warning. Like this:

IMG_0812

Another human mistake we check is cooling water. Okay, the iStill NextGen automatically opens a valve to let cooling water in, but what if there is no cooling water to start with? What if someone shut down the tap? In that case the craft distiller runs the risk of venting alcohol rich vapors in the air. Not with the iStill NextGen though. If the temperature at the top of the column, where the column cooler is situated, becomes too high, the unit shuts down automatically. This is the warning you will get:

IMG_0813

What to do? Make sure there’s cooling water, press “Reset”, then push “Start”, and the rig will take-off where it stopped.

Regards, Odin & Team

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