Tuesday TechTalk: Potstill With Benefits


Our new NextGen units come with robotized columns and potstill columns. Both columns run automatically, both columns make cuts automatically. The difference is that the robotized version automatically manages product purity, where on the potstill columns you do that manually.

This Tuesday TechTalk post is about the potstill column to the iStill 2000 NextGen. As you’ll find out, it’s not just a potstill column. It’s a potstill column with benefits. We nicknamed it “The Big Tasty”.

The challenge

Traditional potstill columns do not have a lot of separating power. Heads and Tails smear into Hearts. A traditional potstill column also doesn’t have a lot of concentration power. It will take a wash to 30%, meaning you will have to distill twice. Messy cuts and low efficiency.

The plated column has been presented to the craft distilling industry as the solution. You can buy more plates for more separation and concentration power, making distilling more controlled and more economically feasible.

But plated columns have huge drawbacks. The first is that they are not very flexible. If you buy two plates, you get two distillations. If you buy five plates, you get five distillations. But what if you want to make a fruit brandy with 4 plates and then, later on, a whiskey with two plates? You either have to bypass plates or reconfigure your column.

Plated columns have other disadvantages. The permanent liquid baths on top of the plates make controlled smearing of Tails into Hearts, essential to great whiskey and rum, practically impossible. Plated columns, especially the ones with bubble caps, were invented for heads oriented fruit brandy, not for rum or whiskey.

A last issue with the plated column design, is that it’s expensive. Both to acquire and to run. Wide, uninsulated columns make for low vapor speeds, high material costs, and huge energy leakage into your distilling hall.

The Big Tasty Column’s goals

With the new column design we want to achieve three primary goals:

  1. More versatility;
  2. Better performance;
  3. Ultimate taste transfer.

More versatility, better performance, and more taste transfer than either a potstill or a plated column still.

The Big Tasty’s Column design

The Big Tasty Column consists of three segments and four parts. From the bottom up:

  1. The redistillation chamber;
  2. The product collection chamber;
  3. The product purity selector;
  4. The column cooler.

The redistillation chamber is filled with our newest Helicon Column Packing. If you decide to make a more pure product, you close the product purity selector, so the product you make is distilled more often in the redistillation chamber. Once, twice, or three, four, or five times. You decide!

Above the redistillation chamber sits the product collection chamber. Gases (redistilled or not) rise up from the redistillation chamber and enter the product collection chamber. The gases travel through this segment and up into the column cooler. The column cooler cools all gases down to liquids. The liquids fall down, enter the product collection chamber and get drawn of as product via the product purity selector.

If you leave the product purity selector wide open, no product will be redistilled. The system gives you one, very taste-rich distillation cycle. And lots of it. If you close the product purity selector one turn, the system returns part of the product for redistillation into the redistillation chamber. Your product now becomes higher in ABV and slightly purer. It now gives you two distillations.

Do you want more purity? A higher ABV? Just dial the product purity selector back another turn. You now get product over that’s distilled three times. Four or five distillations? Again, just dial back the product purity selector.

The top part of The Big Tasty Column is the column cooler. Beware, it is not a dephlagmator! Dephlags only cool back part of the gases. The gases that are not cooled back down, travel through the dephlag into a product condensor. The deficit to a dephlag cooling system is that it is influenced by cooling water pressure and cooling water temperature. External factors, difficult to control, that hamper the production of reproducable drinks.

Our column cooler solves that. All gases are cooled down to liquids and Heads, Hearts, and Tails fractions are decided by temperature in the product collection chamber. Cooling water pressure or temperature do not influence production rates or cuts!


The Big Tasty Column for the iStill 2000 NextGen is 8 inches wide. The redistillation chamber is 75 centimeters high and filled with our newest Helicon Column Packing.The new HCP can do one redistillation every 2.5 centimeters in full reflux mode.

What we achieved

This  revolutionary design is the most versatile on the market place. It allows you to dial in anything from one to five distillations, and you can even dial in different numbers of distillations during different phases of your run. For instance:

  1. Stabilize for 30 minutes in order to compact Heads (and get more Hearts);
  2. Dial in 2 distillations during the Hearts phase for maximum taste transfer;
  3. Dial in 4 distillations towards the end of the run, to hold Tails back.

I feel we now offer the most versatile column in the world.

Performance? The column produces up to 125 liters of spirits per hour. And taste? Because there are no fixed liquid baths in the column, it allows you to make the best rums and whiskey possible. And because you can dial in anything from one to five distillations any time, you can make pure and fruity products as well!

Upgrade your iStill One!

The Big Tasty Column can be retrofitted onto your iStill One. Why would you do that? For three reasons, basically:

  1. It gives you more product (twice as much output per hour);
  2. You can dial in anything from 1 to 5 redistillations (as opposed to 2 distillations);
  3. You can add an additional column segment and your iStill One can now reach 190 proof!

Retrofitting your iStill One with this amazing new column costs EUR 3.750,- for taste-rich distillation and EUR 4.750,- if you want to add the 190 proof capability.

How about a big, tasty movie? And some pictures?

Yes, you are right! Images say more than words. Here’s our newest iStill TV Movie. On the new column and on some other NextGen movies we’ll upload the coming weeks.


Redistillation Chamber and Helicon Column Packing (HCP) …


Product Collection Chamber and Product Purity Selector …


Column Cooler …


Additional material: tri-clamps, packings, box of HCP …


The Big Tasty Column assembled (takes two minutes to do that) …


The Big Tasty Column married to the iStill 2000 NextGen …


Regards, Odin.

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