Cleaning the still
First and best investment in your new distillery? A wet vacuum cleaner! I was reminded of this as I heard the screams and curses from downstairs. For the third time in a row my distillery manager had been soaked by some lovely warm brown liquid containing botanicals. The floor around the iStill looked like a giant with severe bowel problems had entered the distillery.
Cleaning the iStill is a breeze, compared to a traditional still. At least, that’s what we always believed. And of course it’s true. Just open the outlet valve at the bottom and pump out the remaining liquid after a run. Attach a hose to the cleaning in place and give it a good rinse. Within 15 minutes your iStill is ready for the next batch.
But for some reason the last couple of gin runs we ran into big problems emptying the boiler. First it seemed like the pump malfunctioned, resulting in the hose being forced of the pump and all the liquid being pumped into the air. (Which reminds me of one of the most important safety measures we have in place: always cool down the liquid to 40 degrees Celsius or less! The iStill cooling program makes this very easy. At Loki Distillery we have very cold water, so the iStill cools down with almost one centigrade per minute. It takes little time and you make sure that you and your staff are safe from any accidents with hot liquids when cleaning.)
What do you do when your pump malfunctions? You get another one. The iStill pumps are powerful monsters and usually empty an iStill 2000 in a couple of minutes. But the second pump also had a lot of trouble getting the liquid and the botanicals out. Of course -as one does- we started to blame the design:
“The still needs a bigger outlet”
“Why is there no filter on the bottom?”
“The pump isn’t powerful enough”
But of course the iStill is only as functional and intelligent as the people operating it. That realization sank in quick when we did another gin run. Another recipe, different botanicals. Suddenly pumping out the still was back to normal. So maybe we didn’t have to change the design?
The only thing we had to change were our orders. It turned out that instead of finely chopped cassia bark, we had been receiving coarsely chopped cassia. The lovely smelling pieces of bark turned into little soaked rubbery demons during distillation, clogging up the outlet and blocking the pumps. It wasn’t the still, it wasn’t the pump, it was simply us putting in a botanical too big to pump out.
So for the remaining cassia we chopped it up before adding it to the mix. And within 15 minutes after cooling down we were ready for another run. But still glad we got the wet vacuum cleaner.
‘nough said …