Yesterday we loaded three more iStills 2000 on a truck. They go to various North American customers. Here is a picture:
Yesterday we loaded three more iStills 2000 on a truck. They go to various North American customers. Here is a picture:
This is a new series of iStill Blog posts, where a distiller asks a question and Odin answers. In his well known style. Direct and to the point. Always straightforward, sometimes confrontational. Read it, digest it, don’t feel offended.
The way it works? If you have a question where you think the answer can benefit you as well as the rest of the industry, give it a go. Email your question to Sales@iStillmail.com and Odin may chime in.
Please know that the questioner will always stay incognito. Please also know that Odin will select if and when and what question he feels like answering. So if you don’t see your question back here, on the iStill Blog, don’t feel offended.
I’m a huge fan of your posts and content – thanks for being such an active contributor! I was chatting w/ another distiller at our place recently and he seemed appalled that we were just dumping RO water into our spirits to proof them down based on a target proof and volume. How he was taught, was that spirits need to be proofed down very gradually over time (sometimes even years?!?!?!) to minimize any sudden changes the spirit would go through that could negatively affect the final spirit. We rest our gins for at least a month in steel prior to bottling, as you’ve told many to do, but it sounds like they proof their gins and whiskies down to bottling proof gradually over many months.
Have you heard something similar and do you find any truth to this statement? Aside from reserving half a batch of gin and performing this trial ourselves, I wanted to reach out to see if you could shed some more light on this. It seems to me, that whether the water is added in quickly, or slowly, there is nothing else “forcing” chemical reactions to happen more quickly or slowly…. as long as you give the spirit a week to stabilize, it seems like it shouldn’t matter….
Thanks for your time!
Thanks for reaching out. Glad to see you like my posts. If you encounter any and give them a thumbs up that would be appreciated!
Theoretically, if you proof down in one big gulp, this can happen: temporary (for a few seconds up to a minute) certain parts of the now diluted gin or whiskey may see a situation of uneven water/alcohol distribution. You aim for 90 proof, poor in water, and parts are 100 proof and other parts are 80 proof. Makes sense? Now, the 80 proof parts can (temporarily and theoretically) put the oils in ‘m (especially tails oriented tastes – so pot distilled whiskey or heavy rum) out of solution, and if they come out of solution, this gives them a change to (relatively) overly evaporate. Reason? Solvency power (for taste oils) is lower at lower proof.
Now, that’s the theory. Practically, this does not happen, especially if you stir or if you add the dilution water with force. If you add it slowly without causing any agitation, its the top part of your mixing tank that you dilute. And it is at the top that evaporation takes place.
So here it comes (and hence the misunderstanding): an example where things can go wrong in practice. Say people treat their whiskey gentle and dilute slowly. Now they take a reading and it does not make sense (because of the uneven distribution). The distiller’s mindset? “Something is going on! The math was right, right? I have to be more careful!” They wait. Guess what, another reading a day later and its spot on (because of now even distribution).
Instead of being more careful, add the dilution water hard and fast, and aim for 91 proof. The smaller the amounts and the gentler the pours, the lesser the agitation and mixing that takes place and the more relative potential evaporation of tails oriented flavors actually happens. Why? Because any evaporation takes place at the top of your mixing tank. Or better put: if you dilute slowly at the top.
So dumping in the biggest part is the way to go. Fast and hard, so the dilution water reaches deeper down. Then give it a 5 minute stir (manually will do), then measure again. Then go the final 1 proof down (or so) to reach your goal ABV.
Hope this helps,
PS: The weird thing is most whiskey and Bourbon in NA is now made on what was traditionally a fruit brandy still: plates with bubble caps. Great at preventing tails smearing … so the whole evaporation is a real non-issue due to lack of fatty acids coming out of solution for most distillers. It is only an issue if one dilutes a pot distilled product slowly and without agitation. A pot distilled product that aims to reap the benefits of tails oriented flavors like heavy rum and single malt whisky.
iStill is all about introducing new technology that will make your life as a craft distiller easier. “Distilling made easy” is not just our tagline, it is the compass by which we navigate. And today we are proud to introduce the all new iStill 5000. Distilling made easier, bigger, and faster …
In this Blog post let’s first look at what distillation is al about. Then, as a next step, we can draw up specifications on what constitutes a well-designed still. Last, let’s take a closer look at what the all new iStill 5000 has to offer.
The iStill coffee mug on top of the iStill 5000 cooler and CIP …
What is distilling all about?
Mashing is about turning starch into fermentable sugars. Fermentation, the next step in the spirits production process, is about yeast consuming those sugars and turning them into alcohol and flavors. So … what’s distilling all about? Distilling is about concentrating and harvesting the right alcohols and the best flavors.
For more reading on mashing, please see: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/03/innovation-mashing-made-easy/. If you want to learn more about fermenting, please check out: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/07/innovation-fermenting-made-easy/. Here, in this iStill Blog post, let’s dive deeper into the noble science of distilling.
Odin in front of the iStill 5000 …
Distillation as alcohol and flavor concentration process
The distiller’s wine or beer, made during fermentation, has a relatively low alcohol content. Maybe 8 or 9%. Distillation helps concentrate the alcohol and make it stronger.
Given the fact that alcohol boils off with more ease than water, it’s the alcohol molecules that that are overrepresented in the gases created during distillation. When we cool those alcohol rich gases back to liquid, that liquid will be richer in alcohol. Say, for example, that we distill 2000 liters of 8% beer and we distill until we collect 1/3rd of the original boiler charge, we may expect the resulting 650 liters to be around 24, maybe 25%. Stronger than the original charge, but not yet strong enough for bottling (usually at 40%) or barreling (usually at 60%).
The above example shows that a single distillation is not enough to create liquor. That’s why usually a second distillation run is needed, where the 25% low wines are redistilled. The result of the second run? Again, a stronger alcohol concentration. Usually, depending on spirit category and still, somewhere between 60 and 80% for taste rich drinks and 95 to 96% for vodka and GNS.
As explained, distillation is about alcohol concentration. And it is also about flavor concentration. Most flavors, created during fermentation, get concentrated in low wines or final liquor we make during the first and second distillation run. As a general rule of thumb, flavor intensity follows alcohol concentration. Turning an 8% beer into a 25% low wines, concentrates the original wine or beer flavors with a factor 3. Concentrate the 25% low wines into a 75% strong Heart’s cut, and the flavor is again concentrated by a factor 3. Dilution works the same way. If you dilute a 75% Heart’s cut to 50%, using water, you loose 1/3rd of the total flavor intensity.
Assembling the iStill 5000 column …
Distillation as an alcohol and flavor selection process
Not all alcohols are created equal. Some alcohols, like acetones, boil at very low temperatures. Others, like furfural, boil at very high temperatures. Just as with alcohol in general, which has a lower boiling temperature than water, it’s the light alcohols that come over during the first part of the distillation run, while the heavier ones come over during the later part of the run (when the low and medium boiling point alcohols are depleted).
This distinction between factions is very important and is also referred to as Heads (lower boiling point infected alcohol), Hearts (the good stuff), and Tails (high boiling point infected alcohol). During distillation we want to cut out Heads and Tails, while keeping the Hearts. The reason for that? Lower and higher boiling point alcohols like acetone and furfural are not healthy. Cutting them out results in a healthier end result.
Now, let’s continue with the flavor selection part of distillation. Basically, we can group the flavors in three factions:
Base substrate flavors are highlighted by the Hearts faction. Fruity flavors come over during the first part of the run. Root-like flavors are expressed near the end of the run.
Every drink has a specific flavor profile, with an emphasis on taste intensity, fruity flavors, and more root-like, nutty flavors. Fruit brandy, for instance, has a strong emphasis on fruity flavors. Single malt whisky and pot distilled rum have an emphasis on root-like and nutty flavors. Do you start to see why distillation is so important? Distillation, supported by a well-designed still, helps you concentrate and harvest the right alcohols AND the correct flavors, given the spirits category you want to make!
The iStill 5000 is fully automated …
What’s important in a still?
Given the above, what does the (informed) craft distiller look for in a still? Well, the following five qualities are important, when investigating what still to purchase:
Distillation is a process that often entails (at least) two distillation runs. A stripping run first, and then a finishing run. Versatility means that you invest in a still that can do both stripping runs and finishing runs. Or look for even more versatility: how about a still that can finish in one run and saves you the trouble of doing two runs? (For more reading on versatility, please see: https://istillblog.com/2016/05/22/revolutionizing-craft-distilling-once-more/).
Okay, strip runs, finishing runs or a one-run-distillation approach helps versatility, helps you play into market developments and changes. But how about flavor? Most flavor is made during fermentation, but if you choose a directly fired still, you can actually gain up to 25% additional flavor due to the Maillard Reaction. If the still can handle on the grain or pulp distillation, there’s another 20% of flavor to be gained. So maybe you are looking for a still that is directly fired and can handle grain and pulp distillation? (For more information, read: https://istillblog.com/2016/05/06/on-boiler-design-agitation-and-taste/).
When fermentations aren’t managed well enough, distillers beer and wine can develop sulfur infections. Part of the flavor (correction) process may be that a copper catalyst is needed to help polish your drink. For more reading, please see: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/10/copper-column-math/.
Selecting the right flavors is all about control. Heads and Tails smearing may be needed – depending on the spirit you are making. Heads and Tails cuts are decided by temperatures in the still’s column or riser (in combination with air pressure, air resistance and vapor speeds). More control translates to an enhanced capability to create the exact liquor you wanna make over and over again.
Control has a secondary benefit and that’s ease of use. Knowing what’s going on lets you know what needs to be done. And automation can help make distilling even easier, since computers are great at doing dull tasks like monitoring. You shouldn’t have to take care of your still. Instead, since your time is precious, your still should take care of you. And of making the best possible liquors in the world, while you are busy selling them, telling your story.
Efficiency is important too. Distillation is about heating up a wine or beer, and bringing it to a boil. That’ asks for a lot of energy. The more efficient your still is, the lower your price point will be. Lower costs allow for higher profits and a more sustainable business model. Here’s an interesting read, if you want to learn more on variable costs: https://istillblog.com/2016/08/22/tuesday-tech-talk-7/.
Longevity, last but not least, is another quality where stills should score high. If you buy a cheap, low quality still, it may well run you out of business. Down-time can eat away at your liquidity at a tremendous rate. A well-designed, well-build still is a tool that should help you make money instead of it causing you downtime, expenses and nightmares.
iStill Whisky Distillery …
What still technology is currently available?
Looking around at what’s available is disappointing. Most still technology available to craft distillers is based in the Classical Era (pot stills) or the 1800’s (plated stills and continuous stills) Let’s share our findings:
So, understanding what makes for a successful still made looking at what’s available in the market place quite disappointing. Its either good build quality and poor control (USA, Germany, UK) or some control and bad build quality (Central/Eastern Europe). Time for the next question: what does the iStill 5000 have to offer? Or any iStill, for that matter.
Cheap Polish still breaks down on its maiden run …
The all new iStill 5000
And here’s what makes our new iStill 5000 unique. Using the same coatrack applied when judging the still technology currently available, we can differentiate between versatility, flavor, control, ease of operation, efficiency, and longevity.
The iStill is the most versatile stills on the market. You can use them to make taste rich product as well as vodka or GNS. Without replacing any parts! The iStill 5000 can strip and finish, or do a one or one-and-a-half distillation approach. Heck, equipped with the agitator and boiler radiator, the unit can even mash and ferment.
The iStill can help you create more flavor than any other still, because it is both directly fired AND can handle on the grain and pulp distillations. Additionally, the copper catalyst can take care of any sulfur infected washes.
The iStill 5000 offers automation and robotization. It basically comes with a digital master distiller to help you out. Here at iStill we are so anal about helping you make the best cuts, about harvesting the best tasting drinks, that we have 0,1 degrees control on our thermometer probes. The robot has a resolution of 0,01 mm. We measure air pressure with an accuracy of 0,1 hPa. Why? Because it helps you make better product consistently.
The iStill 5000 is very easy to operate. On the one hand you can just select your recipe and expect the unit to do the run for you. On the other hand, you can dial in or change any parameter you want to create your own recipes.
As a rule of thumb any iStill can process 7,5 to 8 liters (2 gallons) of wash per kWh. Most other stills score below one liter per kWh spent! This means the iStill is the most efficient unit on the market.
Longevity? Every iStill is designed to run 24/7 and to do so for decades instead of years. We use the highest grades stainless steel, and sheet thickness on the iStill 5000 is an unprecedented 5 mm.
Our digital master distiller is at your service via the iStill Spirits Library …
iStill 5000 specifications
iStill 5000: the complete package …
Pricing, availability and delivery
We have build the first series of three all new iStills 5000. Two got sold to Australia, the third one will go to Scotland in a few weeks.
Assembling the iStill 5000 …
Introduction: start the new year with a gin & tonic!
Here’s the third iStill Blog post in a series of four, where we dive into how our equipment helps you out starting your distillery. Today’s topic? Gin distilling. What equipment do you need to make gin and how does investing in an iStill translate to production numbers? Yes, we are primarily focussing on iStill equipment. Not on pumps, labelers and bottle-filling machines.
Basically all you need to start producing gin is an iStill 500. You buy in grain neutral spirit (GNS), fill the boiler with 150 liters of it, add 300 liters of water, and add the herbs.
The iStill 500 allows you to boiler infuse or vapor infuse, or any combination of both. It performs your gin runs, and if there are heads and tails left, you can use the vodka programs to clean those up into re-usable GNS.
The base model will do the job. We’d advice you add Dynamic Cuts Management for even more control over cuts.
Total investment? EUR 27.000,-. Or EUR 574,- (est.) per month for 5 years if you want to go for the rent-to-own programs we support in the US and UK.
iStill 500 …
With the iStill 500, you can basically do one gin run per day. The run will take 8 to 9 hours and yields up to 400 bottles. If you want to run your iStill 500 for 5 days per week, you can easily produce 2,000 bottles in that time frame. On a 50 week per year production roster, an iStill 500 based gin distillery can make up to 100,000 bottles per year! Pretty impressive, isn’t it? Energy input costs? A ground breaking 0,5 kWh per bottle.
Design your own iStill Distillery online!
Do you want to design your own distillery? Gin or otherwise? Please check out:
The iStill 500 is your perfect gin distillery …
Here’s the second iStill Blog post in a series of three, where we dive into how our equipment helps you out starting your distillery. Today’s topic? Whiskey distilling! What equipment do you need to make whiskey and how does an investment in iStill equipment translate to production numbers? Yes, iStill as your one-stop-shop for all of your craft distilling equipment!
iStill Masher 5000, iStill Fermenter 5000 and iStill 5000
Basically, what you need to start producing top shelf whiskey in big quantities is one 5000 liter iMasher, five 5000 liter iFermenters, and an iStill 5000. You buy in grains and mash them in the iStill Masher 5000. Then transfer the mash into one of the fermenters and add the yeast. When the fermentation is done, use the iStill 5000 to do a single pass finish and turn your distiller’s beer in an amazing whiskey.
The masher gives you full control over the saccharification process. The iStill Fermenters help you optimize both flavor and alcohol production. The automated programs give you full control over cuts and flavor profiles. The iStill 5000 will help you – like no other still out there – at concentrating the alcohol and harvesting the best flavors.
If you want to learn more about the iStill Masher, please read: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/03/innovation-mashing-made-easy/.
Wanna know more about the iStill Fermenter? Then check this link: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/07/innovation-fermenting-made-easy/.
The iStill Masher 5000 costs EUR 50.000,-. The 5000 liter fermenters are EUR 25.000,-. The all new iStill 5000 with Jet Propulsion Agitator System, indirect heaters, and Dynamic Cuts Management? EUR 89.500,-. Total investment in your craft distillery adds up to EUR 265.500,-. If you are from the USA or UK and interested in rent-to-own, the monthly costs, on a five year scheme, would be EUR 5.650,-.
On a four to five day fermentation schedule, the iStill whiskey distillery outputs up to 35,000 liters of 8% whiskey beer weekly. Via distillation in the iStill 5000, this translates to around 5,800 bottles worth of New Make. Mind you: the angels’ share is not incorporated.
If you produce 50 weeks every year, your iStill whiskey distillery yields up to 290,000 bottles per year. Energy costs of mashing, fermenting, and distilling? Less than 1 kWh per bottle.
The iStill whiskey distillery …
Here’s the first iStill Blog post in a series of four, where we dive into how our total product-line helps you at starting your distillery. Today’s topic? Rum distilling! What equipment do you need to make rum and how does investing in iStill equipment translate to production numbers? Yes, we are primarily focussing on the primary production process. Not on pumps, labelers and bottle-fillers.
iStill Fermenter 5000 and iStill 2000
Basically, all you need to start producing rum in sizable quantities is a 5000 liter iStill Fermenter and an iStill 2000. You buy in molasses. Put it in the iFermenter. Add water and yeast. With the iStill Fermenter, you will be able to ferment to around 5000 liter of 10% rum wines in two to three days. That’s 10,000 liters of ready to distill ferment per week.
For more reading on the amazing flavor development tools, the iStill Fermenter gives you, please see: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/07/innovation-fermenting-made-easy/.
Now use the iStill 2000 to create any type of rum you like. Light, medium, heavy, its all there, in the automation and software. For you to select, for you to control. Or decide to delegate control to your iStill and spend your time where on other craft distilling tasks. However you choose to do things, please know that the iStill 2000 can finish your 10,000 liters of rum wines in 5 runs. That’s one run a day, five days per week.
The iStill Fermenter 5000 costs EUR 25.000,-. We advice you to equip the iStill 2000 with Dynamic Cuts Management. An additional manhole on the still is always nice. The iFermenters have one as standard, but for the iStills it’s a choice.
Thus equipped, the iStill 2000 will cost you EUR 43.250,-. Total investment in your rum distillery? EUR 68.250,-. If you are from the USA or UK and interested in rent-to-own, the monthly costs, on a five year scheme, would be EUR 1.453,-.
Two ferments per week add up to 10,000 liters of 10% rum wine. Via distillation in the iStill 2000, this amount translates to around 2,000 bottles of finished rum per week. If you produce during 50 weeks every year, your iStill rum distillery yields up to 100,000 bottles per year. Energy costs? It will do so at an energy input of less than 0,75 kWh per bottle.
Design your own iStill Distillery online!
Do you want to design your own distillery? Rum or otherwise? Please check out:
The iFermenter 5000 and the iStill 2000 for your perfect rum distillery …
Quotes from our students …
I loved the course! It gave me a chance to be around like minded people and talk about my most favorite thing in the world: producing great spirits and enjoying the process. Trying a few things out and hearing how others go about achieving this. Dispelling the myth around spirit production allows for more innovation an this is what I have discovered here through the right amount of science. (Aris Aristidou, Cyprus)
The workshop was very enjoyable and gave us a massive amount of knowledge to build on and use in coming years. (Jonathan Heard, UK)
Thank you for an incredible experience. The iStill family was great company and incredible hosts. I would be happy to help with future applicants by speaking to them in advance if they need an outside opinion about the course. (Gavin Miklauchich, UK)
The training was top! I loved every minute and found it very informative. (Ian Mansell, UK)
I recommend the course to anyone thinking about buying a still. (Julian Curtoys, UK)
Great combination of theory and practice (and fun!). Focus on a broad spectrum of topics, not only the technical processes, with very competent speakers. The course was fantastic and I would really like to thank the whole team for creating and delivering such a first class experience! (Hans Lentz, UK)
Very enjoyable 4 days, and well organized. I appreciate the enormous amount of preparation that went into on your part. (Robin Johnson, UK)
Odin’s lectures were good. The hands on element of using en assembling the still was great. Putting together the gin recipes was very useful. (Bradley Christensen, USA)
I was very happy. Visiting iStill is like visiting an old friend, you get a warm welcome. Much of the knowledge of distilling is kept mysterious – e.g. aging periods/techniques, how to make really good whisky/rum etc. – this inside knowledge was part of the course. (Alan Milne, UK)
All the information was good, but the section on virtuous cycles to produce more flavor rich products was the highlight. The hands on components were also excellent. The external site visit and group dinner the first evening is a great way to get to know each other. (Vic Testolin, Australia)
You met all my expectations of the course and some more. I love how you evolve not only through courses but also through new innovations and technology. I’m convinced that your growth as a manufacturer and distiller will help me in the future to do the same. Thank you for sharing the knowledge and the craft. Looking forward to the future. (Hrvoje Busic, Croatia)
Very attractive presentations and open discussions. All the lecturers have experienced knowledge that they unselfishly distribute. There was no question asked at the course that hasn’t been answered. You guys are great, keep up the amazing work, and see you in Zagreb Luftbremzer distillery! (Filip Presecki, Croatia)
I loved the overall experience. Almost all aspects of distilling have been discussed and have been explained in a very down to earth manner which makes it very understandable. Great group with great people. (Rene Kamphuis, Netherlands)
Many thanks to the whole iStill team! I loved meeting and sharing with fellow spirits enthousiasts/distillers/soon-to-be distillers and understanding how a chosen type of production (mashing/fermenting/distillation/maturation) protocol will influence the flavor of the final product. I loved Odin’s passionate, sincere and generous delivery ad engaging teaching style. I may not buy an iStill yet (have to sell cocktails first) but I am now a firm follower. (Yves Cosentino, UK)
I got a much better understanding of the basics of distilling, and also the possibilities and quality of the equipment. A great course with lots of new knowledge for me. Keep up the good work! (Bernt Gran, Norway)
Excellent explanation of all parts of the process and how to affect flavor of spirits. It was also great to meet some “real life” distillers and talk about business aspects as well as practical. (Andrea Stanch, UK)
The course was: very enjoyable, very well thought, very informative with hands on experience, aimed to teach the process and not just tell the students which buttons to push, thought in a clear, easy to understand way. Thank you very much Odin and Veronika for a very enjoyable few days! (Tom Grills, Ireland)
We were made to feel very welcome by everyone from iStill and really enjoyed spending time with all those involved with the course. Buying everyone beer and dinner was very much appreciated. Great course, great product, great people! (Peter Dignan, UK)
Odin was en excellent teacher with great ideas. The level and depth of knowledge was about right. I really love the community feel of iStill. Anything you can do to encourage that even more would be great. (Arthur Parkinson, UK)
Odin is a consummate teacher. His use of multiple teaching methods, from verbal instructions to analogies to graphs makes for lasting lessons. The breaks from classroom time to actual production floor demo’s was key. The field trip was also fun and allowed for some social interaction early in the schedule. (Ashley Cross, USA)
Thank you all for a fantastic class! The teaching style was great because we were able to have personalized questions and answers. The balance between theory and hands on training was also great; you certainly need both to become a great distiller! Not only was the class and theory easily worth the price of admission and then some, but having the chance to be in an operating distillery and connect and network with other people in the business and hear and share experiences was also priceless. It was a privilege and an adventure. (Jared Lewis, USA)
Thank you! It was an excellent environment. Odin’s patience and humanity helped. (Peter Singh, UK)
The course gave me very much energy and positive vibes and at the end of every day I was exhausted … so much to give a place in my mind … great … wonderful! Thank you!! (Bert Penning, Netherlands)
It was an excellent experience and I’m glad i attended. The science and technical explanations were excellent and helped fill in a lot of questions that I had before attending the course. It’s hard to find resources that go into the “why” part of questions and not only into “how”. When you know why you are doing something, then you can ask better questions and seek better answers. Everyone was also eager to learn and ask about their own theories. I thought that a one-on-one course would be necessary to hammer out the theory on distilling but having many different perspectives helped me better understand distilling since there were many different questions during the course. (Dave Farnia, USA)
Thank you for a great weekend, it was extremely useful. (Ulf Agger, Denmark)
The subject matter was presented in an interesting manner with good class participation. The content was excellent and sessions were designed with a variety of learning methods to ensure retention of learning. Interacting and learning from others in the class was a bonus. I really enjoyed dinner the first evening. I also think the Facebook group is a good idea! Thank you for the great course and looking forward to producing my first spirit on an iStill. (Kecia E. McDougall, UK)
Everything was excellent! (Shaun Hancke, UK)
I had a very interesting weekend and I can recommend the course to anyone who want to start distilling. (Wilco Reefman, Netherlands)
Lots of information , great new insights and a great atmosphere to meet and exchange new ideas. (Sebastiaan Smits, Netherlands)
For me as a beginner in distilling it was a lot of useful information in theoretical and practical part. It was also nice to meet more experienced distillers who have shared their knowledge and experience. The course gave me enough knowledge and confidence to start to distill. (Juri Kiur, Estonia)
Had a great 3 days! Would like to be kept informed about follow-ups. (Jaap Lindeman, Netherlands)
It was a brilliant course, it gives you confidence, and nice to share experiences. (Kevin-Cameron Cross, UK)
iStill University …
The iStill University provides amazing 4-day workshops that will unlock your full craft distilling potential. Spiritual growth uncorked. Applicable theories and top shelf procedures brought to you by the industry’s most experienced, knowledgable and innovative distillers. Students rate the workshop with an industry leading 9.7 out of 10. Wanna participate? Please reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com
The traditional role of copper in still manufacturing
Traditionally, copper plays an important role in still building. Originally, copper was available, affordable, and bendable. That’s why traditionally stills were made out of copper.
Nowadays, copper helps solve issues Big Alcohol faces, but it comes with drawbacks. This blog post dives into the problem copper solves, the problems it creates, and the options iStill proposes.
The problem copper solves
When the industrial revolution and globalization hit the distilling industry, in the second half of the 19th century, it resulted in fewer but bigger distilleries. Bigger stills needed to be fed, as frequent as possible, with bigger, faster ferments. And bigger, uncontrolled, and faster ferments create off-flavors such as sulfurous compounds.
High, globalized demand asked for bigger and quicker ferments that resulted in higher sulfur content spirits. Sulfurous spirits aren’t very drinkable. Luckily, though, the stills were made out of copper. Lucky why? Lucky because copper reacts with sulfur. The problem copper solves is that it takes away sulfurous smells and tastes. Copper stills turned out to be a great medicine for imperfect ferments.
The problems copper creates
Copper solves a problem, while creating a bunch of new ones at the same time. Here is a summary:
How iStill helps solve the problems copper creates
There are basically two questions in need of an answer:
If we start with the second one, please know that sulfurs are created in speedy, cold, big and under-managed ferments. How we solve that? Well, by introducing a new line of revolutionary fermentation vessels that give you perfect control over time, temperature, SG, and pH! A perfectly controlled ferment will not make notabel amounts of sulfur. For more reading, please see: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/07/innovation-fermenting-made-easy/.
How we tackle the first question? How do iStills deal with the problems copper creates? Easy. Our stills are build out of stainless steel. Stainless steel is chemically inert and does not rust. It is affordable and does not need replacement. Insulated, it offers perfect control over vapor speeds and passive reflux. Stainless steel column cleaning doesn’t need detergents. A five minute cold water flush will do it.
But if you do not have access to iStill level of fermentation control, and you end up with a sulfur over-expression, ruining your drink, we can still help out. Instead of copper columns, we provide copper catalysts.
A copper catalyst is a designated part in the still or column that has copper in it so that the gases, rising from the boiler, can mingle with it so that sulfur can catalyze. A copper catalyst means the rest of your still can be made out of stainless steel. You limit the oxidation, degradation, and contamination to a small and controlled part of your still, almost completely negating the negatives deriving from copper use, while at the same time creating all the surface area needed to polish up your sulfur-infected drink.
Surface area? Yes, the amount of surface area, where copper and gases can mingle, is the real measure of how much sulfur can catalyze. The more surface area the column or catalyst has, the more sulfur is scrubbed out. So how much surface are does a copper column have? And how should we design a catalyst that performs as well as a copper column?
Copper Column Math
The inside surface area of a column (or riser) is calculated via the following formula: D*Pi*H. Column Diameter times 3.14 times column height. Let’s take the iStill 2000 column as an example. Its diameter is 20 centimeters, Pi is always 3.14, and it has two column segments of each 75 centimeters tall. The formula now calculates a total inside surface area of 20*3.14*150 equals 9,420 cm2. Were the iStill 2000’s column made out of copper, it would offer 9,420 cm2 of surface area for the sulfur to catalyze on.
Here is a picture of the iStill 2000 and its column in potstill configuration …
Copper Catalyst Math
Now, let’s do the same calculations for a copper catalyst. First, we are going to take a good look at a copper spring filled catalyst, then we will do the math for our unique copper waffles.
The copper springs we have on offer are 1 by 1 cm tall and wide. If we apply the formula, we can calculate that the inner surface area is 1*3.14*1 equals 3.14 cm2. But, contrary to a copper column, these springs sit inside the still. It’s therefore not just the inside surface area that contacts gasses, but also the outside of the spring. This grossly doubles the surface are per spring to 6.28 cm2.
We can now calculate how many springs are needed to create the same surface area as a copper column. Let’s divide the total copper column surface area by the surface area of one spring. Here it is: 9,420 / 6.28 equals 1,500 copper springs. We only need 1,500 1*1 cm copper springs to have the same catalytic functionality as a complete copper column!
And that’s without taking into consideration that the springs are not perfectly round. Instead, they are made out of copper wire, which results in a corrugated shape that increases total surface area by 50%. 1,500 of our copper springs therefore surpass the catalytic functionality of the copper column by 50%!
Just three bags (500 springs per bag) outperform a copper column by 50% …
Copper Waffle Math
The copper catalytic waffle, that can be used in the iStill 2000, has a total surface area of 7,536 cm2. That is exactly 80% of the total surface are of the copper column calculated above. This means that if you add just two waffles to your (stainless steel) iStill 2000, you get 60% more copper surface are than a completely copper column.
iStill 2000 copper waffle …
Copper, even though a great medicine for a bad ferment, comes with various drawbacks. The iStill solution of adding a copper catalyst or waffle to a stainless steel still gives you all the benefits, in terms of sulfur control, without any of the negatives associated with copper columns.
We just shipped 4,000 bottles of Perfumetrees Gin to Hong Kong. The gin, was designed by the Cheung Brothers. And they asked us to distill it for them, using the iStill Distillery near Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
Are you you considering to contract distill your spirits? Please consider our services. Why? Well, here we go:
Do you want to learn more about iStill Contract Distilling? Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.