iStill Blog Statistics 2020!

Over the past 7 1/2 years the iStill Blog has become the industry’s largest library of modern craft distilling information. Last year, 2020, saw another strong increase in visitors and views. Here are the statistics (with 2019 between brackets):

  • 272 new posts (212);
  • 55.409 visitors (36.331);
  • 118.033 page views (83.426).

We are incredibly proud of the continued success and growth of the iStill Blog. It reaches tremendous amounts of people. Over 150 visitors per day use the iStill Blog to investigate and research and learn.

In 2020, these were the five most popular articles:

  1. Odin improves a poorly designed still!
  2. Odin’s opinion (9): legacy still manufacturers BS!
  3. Plated still by iStill!
  4. FTOD 2015: Odin on whiskey column design (1)
  5. Potstill by iStill!

Posts from yesteryear that keep on going strong are:

  1. Homepage/archives;
  2. Odin’s easy gin;
  3. About iStill.

Please rest assured that the iStill Blog will remain pivotal in our efforts to further empower the craft distilling industry. Us sharing more and better information translates into you, as a craft distiller, being able to make better choices and better decisions.

If you have have stories to share or topics you want us to investigate, please reach out to our CEO directly, via Odin@iStillmail.com.

Accelerated growth – this is what the diffusion of innovation looks like:

 

Our Best Wishes for 2021 and Beyond!

Let me start by wishing you a happy new year! Last year was full of surprises. Most of them were negative and correlated to the Covid-19 pandemic. I pray that 2021 will be a year full of positive surprises, with a recovering economy, and businesses opening up again.

As weird as it is, from now onwards, the only way is up, isn’t it? And even weirder: 2020 wasn’t a bad year for iStill and for many of our customers. Are our innovations finally becoming mainstream? Are our customers more innovative and therefore more resilient to the crisis? Not sure, but iStill grew with well over 25%, last year, and the feedback we are getting from many customers is that they are doing relatively okay. And that in a market that nose-dived 35% globally …

In a nutshell, here’s what I think is happening: nothing accelerates innovation like a crisis. A crises means decision makers have to reevaluate their positions, their decisions. Choosing innovative technology that allows for the production of better quality spirits at lower manufacturing costs makes sense in any situation, but especially in times of crisis. Saving a buck on a bottle’s manufacturing costs can make the difference between making a profit, even in today’s challenging economy, versus selling at a loss. Our innovative approach to distilling helps our customers stay in business. The economic advantages of choosing iStill are such that more and more distillers purchase our equipment.

But as our market share has (again) grown dramatically over the past year, and the iStill brand is establishing itself as the world’s leading manufacturer of distillation equipment, distillation education, and recipe development … where does that leave us? As we have rapidly grown into the role of market leader, instead of contender, what does that mean for our plans and strategies moving forward? What should we focus on in 2021 and beyond? Please join me as I dive in deeper.

There is a contrast between innovation and the customer. A company introducing an innovation does so by not listening to its existing customer base. Henry Ford, when confronted with the Ford Model-T only being available in the color black, answered that, had he done what his customers had asked, he would have produced faster horses. Any innovation starts with zero customers. And as organizations grow and customer orientation becomes more important, this usually means that this once innovative company now becomes less of an innovator. In any industry, it’s the challengers that innovate, while the market leaders focus om improvements.

With us now claiming market leadership for the second year in a row, where does that leave iStill? Does it mean that we should focus less on disruptive innovations and more on gradual, incremental improvements? Does it mean we shouldn’t just focus on the early adopters in the craft distilling industry, but also on the late majority? Are the iStill Potstills and Plated Stills a foreboding of that trend? And what’s next? Copper iStills?

I think innovation comes in many guises. Some innovations are disruptive. Other innovations are simply improvements. Introducing the first stainless steel stills was disruptive. Introducing the first packed columns was disruptive. The iStill Liquid Management Technology and our square boilers were disruptive innovations. A still that can strip and finish? For sure a huge technological breakthrough. Insulation? Idem. A machine that can mash, ferment, distill, and age? Don’t get me started. Our introduction of automation, software, WiFi, and robotization to the craft distilling industry have also been huge disruptors.

Looking at the iStill Potstill, can a case be made that it is more of an improvement than an innovation? Yes, for sure. Potstills have been around for many centuries. But further investigation shows that an iStill Potstill offers 10x the accuracy. Maybe that isn’t a game-changer for an existing iStill customer, familiar with our hybrid technology, but it certainly is a disruptive innovation from the viewpoint of someone that has used a traditional potstill without our control systems in place!

Innovation, as we can learn from the above paragraph, is in the eye of the beholder. And if it is, and if our goal is to empower the craft distilling industry, could a wider focus on that craft distilling industry open our eyes to new opportunities? The plated still has been around for 150 years. The iStill Plated Still offers 10x more accuracy and 4x more performance. From the perspective of the innovative craft distiller, that owns an iStill 500 Hybrid and an iStill 2000 Hybrid, the performance of the iStill Plated Still does not add much. But what if your company has used traditional plated stills for decades and you feel you want to keep on using plated stills? From that perspective, again, the iStill Plated Still is a huge break-through.

Thinking out loud, may 2021 be a year where we give our technology a broader reach? And what if we don’t? What if we stay where we are right now, where “Mr. Right” meets “Mr. Knows-it-all”, and don’t change a thing? With our global market share of around 30% on new still sales, aren’t we reaching the limits of our growth? I mean, we have pushed the percentage of stainless steel stills, of insulated stills, of liquid management stills, of square boilers, of packed columns, and of single-vessel distilleries … from 0% to 30% in under a decade. Do we cater to the remaining 70% by sticking to our guns? Or do we accept that not everyone out there is an innovator, and do we cater to their more traditional needs as well?

If our goal is to empower the craft distilling industry, how do we reach the remaining 70%? If our current policies do not appeal to the remaining 70%, are we really empowering the craft distilling industry as a whole?

I don’t see us make wood, gas, or steam-fired round copper stripping and finishing stills. Innovation runs in our blood, and in order to empower, we need to help craft distillers make a difference. But how about our amazing control systems on a traditional still, even when that still is manufactured somewhere else? Or how about we design a copper square plated iStill? It’ll offer 10x the accuracy and 4x the performance. It will help us cross over into the remaining 70% of more traditional craft distilleries …

Not to confuse the regular readers of the iStill Blog, it is important to make clear that we killed the copper iStill project half a year ago, because copper is toxic. Copper particle contamination contributes to non-alcohol induced fatty liver disease and – via the formation of ethyl carbamate – to cancer. Intoxication is one thing, poisoning is something else. Not a step we are willing to take.

But as we take a fresh look at where we can make a difference, and if we assess correctly that innovation runs deep in iStill’s DNA and culture, shouldn’t we focus on solutions that rid the industry of copper particle contamination, since it affects over 70% of the craft distilled products out there? Not just by delivering stainless steel stills, but maybe by finding a solution that helps fix the problem for so many owners of copper distilling equipment? And with that question comes another one: if we were to invent such a solution, should we provide that to our stills only, if we were to revive the copper iStill project, or should it be a tool we provide others with as well?

I hope to get this across: as we grow into a mainstream position, we need to do a lot of soul-searching on what kind of market-leader we want to be. Do we want to be exclusive? For the few? Or do we want to be inclusive, as we have always been, inviting others in, rather than pushing them out? Sharing information rather than monopolizing what we learned? I feel that being inclusive and inviting is as much part of our DNA as is our focus on innovation.

The future will be interesting, so much is sure. 2021 will be a heck of a year. Please know you are invited to the ride.

Sincerely yours,

Drs. H.E.J. (Odin) van Eijk, MScBA, etc.

CEO of iStill.

Mashing Made Easy!

Introduction

The goal of mashing is to convert grain starch into fermentable sugars. A lot has been written about mashing. And most of it is wrong. Wrong or not applicable to craft distilling. How come? Because most information about mashing looks at starch conversion from a brewer’s perspective. A brewer’s perspective instead of a distiller’s perspective. This iStill Blog post aims to amend that.

Mashing from a brewer’s perspective

Beer balances alcohol with residual sweetness. As a result mashing, from a brewer’s perspective, is finding that fine balance between the right amount of fermentable and unfermentable sugars. The fermentable sugars create the alcohol. The unfermentable ones, often called “dextrins”, sweeten the flavor of the beer.

As a result, brewers use elaborate mashing schemes to achieve that fine balance. Step-up mashing protocols with rests at 40c, 65c, 70c, and more, help the brewer achieve his goals. And since most distillers didn’t know much about mashing, many have used brewer’s protocols. And that’s wrong.

Mashing from a distiller’s perspective

Distillers aren’t interested in sweetness in their distillers beer. Sweetness is a flavor that does not come across, when the base beer is distilled. So instead of focussing on getting both fermentable and unfermentable sugars, distillers should only focus in converting as many of the starch into fermentable sugars.

The consequence? Distillers do not need a brewer’s approach to mashing. No need for difficult step-up mash schemes. Instead, always do step-down mashing. Like this:

Step-down mashing single malt

If you are planning to make whisky from malted barley only, your procedure is very easy:

  1. Bring your mash water to 65c;
  2. Slowly add the milled malted barley;
  3. Stir it in and let it mix for 60 minutes without heating;
  4. Put the cooler on and bring the mash to 25c and start fermenting.

You see how you only need to step-down? And remember: no heating is required.

Step-down mashing for other grain bills

Any other grain bill goes like this:

  1. Bring your mash water to 90c;
  2. Add your high-temp enzymes and your grains (all but the malted barley);
  3. Stir it in and let it mix for 60 minutes without heating;
  4. Put the cooler on and bring the mash to 61c and add the malted barley and/or your low-temp enzymes;
  5. Mix for 60 minutes without heating;
  6. Put the cooler on and bring the mash to 25c and start fermenting.

Anything more than that is overcomplicating things …

Second-Hand iStill 100 for sale!

Remember Old Pilot’s Gin? Award winning gin producers from Zagreb, Croatia? They use iStills in their distillery and are constantly upgrading their stills to keep up with growing demand.

Hrvoje and Tomislav, the owners and distillers, started out with an iStill 100 NextGen Hybrid with Extractor. Last year they added an iStill 500. Coming year they’ll purchase an iStill 1000. And for that reason … their original iStill 100 is now up for sale!

Are you interested in purchasing a second-hand iStill 100 at a discount? Please reach out to Tomislav directly and see if you can strike a deal. Tomi’s email address is tomislav@duhuboci.com

Here are some pictures of the still:

New Badass iStill Mini Introduction!

(Psst … first 30 sold get a EUR 500,- discount!)

Introduction

Over the last two years, the iStill Mini has become no less than an institution and a major contributor to the industry’s professionalization. Craft distillers from around the world have successfully developed better recipes, using the iStill Mini. So far, we have manufactured and sold over 250 of them. Based on the feedback we got from our customers, we are now upgrading the world’s most popular recipe development and training still. It will be bigger, stronger, and more versatile!

What’s new

Here’s what we changed:

  • Maximum boiler charge increased from 6 to 10 liters;
  • Minimum boiler charge increased from 3 to 3.5 liters;
  • Bigger 2.5 inch diameter column for a >100% performance boost;
  • Column is now insulated;
  • Double heaters for double the power input;
  • New and upgraded nominal output power manager (but still single phase 230v);
  • CIP and hoisting eye added for easy column cleaning and column management;
  • 1 inch drain instead of 0.5 inch drain for faster discharge;
  • Longer legs for easier discharge;
  • Quick connect manway;
  • Double gin hooks;
  • Oversized copper waffle;
  • 3 mm thick 30x stainless steel (!);
  • Total system height is 240 cm (just under 8 feet);
  • Weight is 40 kg;
  • Superior build quality and unsurpassed longevity.

Functionality

The iStill Mini heats up in under 15 minutes and can perform a complete recipe development run in one to two hours depending on product choice and boiler fill grade. It comes with the StillControl App & Probe included, which allows you to select and save cuts and design recipes in a matter of hours. These recipes are fully scaleable and can be programmed into our larger production machines.

The iStill Mini can be used as a potstill and as a column still. It can perform stripping runs and finishing runs. The unit produces brandy, gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, and liqueurs. With the additional Extractor Column, you can also use the iStill Mini to make extracts, tinctures, essences, and seltzer. The online iStill Distilling University course teaches you how to design recipes and how to use the iStill Mini.

iStill Distilling University course is included

Yes, every iStill Mini purchase comes with the iStill Distilling University course included. This is considered by its students to be the world’s best distillers training and recipe development course. They rate it at 9.8 out of 10. Normally an EUR 1.895,- option, it comes for free and is part of the iStill Mini purchase package deal!

Options

The new, badass iStill Mini currently has one option: the Extractor column. We foresee the addition of a potstill column and a plated column option, akin our larger production units, in the next few months. All of the options will be retrofittable.

Pricing

The new iStill Mini, including packaging, transport, transport insurance, and the iStill Distilling University course costs EUR 6.000,-. The introduction price, valid for the first 30 orders placed and paid for in December 2020 and January 2021, is EUR 5.500,-. The additional Extractor column costs EUR 1.000,-.

Purchase and delivery

For orders, please check out https://istill.com/mini. Orders can be placed per today. After extensive prototype testing in November, and pre-production planning in December, we will build the first batch of 30 iStill Minis in January. Dispatching will start in February.

Given the anticipated demand and the relatively small initial batch size, we propose you order early. This first batch probably sells out in a few weeks after this introduction. We plan to produce a second, bigger batch in March. This second batch will consist of 50 iStill Minis to catch up with demand. Delivery of the units from the second batch will not start before April 2021 though.

Picture, please?

Words do not bring across how badass the new iStill Mini is. So here it is a picture of the old iStill Mini (to the left) and the new iStill Mini (to the right):