FTOD 2015: Odin on Whiskey Column Design (1)

“From The Old Days (FTOD)” is a series of interesting iStill Blog posts from yesteryear. Is the info we shared still valuable? Is the craft distilling industry on track of improving, innovating, and catching up with Big Alcohol? Or are these articles of old still just as valid today as they were back in the day when they were published?

Introduction

The outcome of the Poll was an overwhelming “Yes”. So here we go: another more technical post. This time on column design. I foresee three articles. This first one will lay the groundwork on how a column should perform. The second one will analyse the workings of the bubble cap column, since that’s the one most often used by Craft Distillers. The third post will zoom in on how we translated our design philosophy into creating the iStill 250 and iStill One family.

In this post, on how to design a good column, we focus on whiskey making. More posts will follow, that will deal with other drinks.

Why start with whiskey? Well, because … there’s quite the gap between many of the designs used right now for whiskey making and how a whiskey column should be designed optimally. A nice starting point, therefore!

It is advised to read both posts on Boiler Design prior to starting to read this one. A good design starts with the boiler. And the groundwork of how I feel about total still design is laid out in those two posts. Well designed columns, literaly as well as in a figurative way of speaking … have a great boiler at their base.

What are we after?

It is easy to say that this or that design is better. But how to measure? What is the goal? Luckily, in whiskey making, that’s quite easy. As it is the case with all taste rich drinks … when distilling a whiskey, we are after taste. So a column should be designed in a way that allows for maximum taste transfer. Now, that’s a starting point, we can depart from.

Next question is … where can the taste of a whiskey be found? That’s a question that’s less easy to answer, but let’s dive in deeper and find out.

The tree metaphor

I find the “Tree Metaphor”, that I originally developed for gin recipes, helpful. You can envision a distillation run by looking at a tree, “outside – in”. That’s the trick.

The first thing you see and the first things that come over are the fruits AKA fruity notes. When you dive in deeper, you notice the leafs, AKA herbs (the metaphor was originally designed for gin, remember). The stem or trunk comes next, representing the body or Hearts. And you have to dig them up, and really go in … but there’s roots too. Rooty and nutty flavors are found in Tails, the last bit of the run.

Simplified, and translated to whiskey making, there’s fruity tastes in the Heads, body in the Hearts, and rooty and nutty tastes in Tails.

Now the next step … taste definition of whiskey … whiskey certainly has body, and some whiskies have some fruitiness, but the main character trait of whiskey is its rooty and nutty notes. That’s Tails associated.

In other words … it’s the (early) Tails that are most important, when you are in the pursuit of making a great whiskey.

That’s where – after some aging – the goodies, the character, the multi-dimensional after taste, that lingers and lingers in your mouth, can be found.

If early Tails have the most impact, when in the pursuit of a great whiskey, the column of any whiskey distillery should facilitate harvesting those early Tails, right? But what are the properties and qualities of early Tails? It is only when we know these, that we can start to put together a framework of “do’s” and “don’ts”, when we want to design a great column for whiskey distillation.

Early Tails and the art of smearing

We want some Tails into the last parts of the Hearts run. That’s the goal, when making a great whiskey. This process is also called “smearing”, where – instead of pure and perfect cuts – there are Tails and Tails related congeners (taste molecules) “smearing” into the last part of the Hearts cut. The more Tails congeners you harvest during the run, the more taste potential your whiskey will gain. But reaching that full potential will evidently take longer aging.

When do Tails come over? Yes, at the end of the run, that’s for sure. But how late? The later they come over … the more compacted they will be. Very well compacted Tails come over very late, so your Hearts cut will be quite big, but there won’t be any Tailsy congeners … until they come over. And then it is too late. Due to the compaction, they come over all at once. Like a big gulp, over-contaminating Hearts and making the final product undrinkable.

When making whiskey, great Tails compaction and control either don’t bring over taste or overpower it completely. Perfect Tails compaction just became enemy of state … Now, that’s a statement that can help out, when designing the perfect whiskey column!

Properties of Tails

When Tails management is essential to creating world class whiskey, the properties of Tails need to be further investigated. That sounds like a challenge, right? Chemistry and stuff …

Fortunately, it all boils (literally!) down to … boiling points and weights. Wait, let’s turn that around: molecular weight and boiling points.

Simplified, Tails associated alcohols like Propanol, Buthanol, and Furfural are “heavier” (= have more inter-molucular bonding power) than the good alcohol called Ethanol. Because they are “heavier”, they don’t escape a boiling concoction (AKA your distiller beer) as easy as lighter alcohols or Ethanol. And when they do, most of them are so heavy that they fall back. Back into what? Back into the distillers beer you are currently distilling.

Since Tailsy alcohols are heavier, they do not come over until the last part of the run. And they only come over when enough energy is applied for them to make it to the column and beyond. Energy? Yes, energy. Energy that is translated to speed. Remember, Tailsy alcohols are big dudes with an overweight problem. You need to put a lot of energy in them to get them moving. And it takes a lot of speed to get such heavy molecules all the way over to the product condensor.

Speed? Did anyone just say “vapor speed”? I guess I just did …

Vapor speed is king

When it comes to Tails management, vapor speed is king. Low vapor speeds are great for Tails compaction, but there may simply not be enough speed to carry early Tails over into Hearts. High vapor speeds are what you need if you want to smear early Tails into Hearts.

How to increase vapor speed

We established that a great whiskey can only be made when we master the art of smearing early Tails into Hearts. Translated to column design, this means we need a column (or distillation system) that allows us to do that in a gentle, controlled manner.

There are two ways in which we can increase vapor speed:

  1. Increase power input;
  2. Decrease column diameter.

Increasing power input creates more gasses that travel through the column at a faster speed. A smaller diameter column does not create more gasses, but dramatically increases vapor speed.

A – relative – increase in power input can be created by designing efficient stills. The less energy is used to heat-up the distilling room, the more energy is left to play around with vapor speeds. The smearing of early Tails into Hearts can be facilitated by designing relatively small diameter columns. Small diameter columns in combination with efficient stills.

Hey, did you notice that? All of a sudden we have “do’s” and “don’ts”! Let’s approach it from the positive side … so what are the “do’s”? What do we need to do in order to create the best column for great whiskey making? The total rig needs to be efficient. And the column on which final cuts are made needs to be relatively narrow. Time for an example from practice.

How the Scots do it

The Scots, like no one else, make whiskies that have lots and lots of taste. So they must master the art of smearing early Tails into Hearts, right? How do they do it? Magic? Heritage? No, they do it by designing an effective still … with a narrow column. The stills the Scots use to help them smear early Tails into Hearts are quite efficient and have high vapor speed columns.

How they make the rig on which they want to smear early Tails into Hearts efficient? Easy, by doing a strip run first. The strip run augments total ABV from something like an 8% wash to a 25 to 30% low wines. And that’s what they charge their spirit stills with. Filling them with higher ABV charges dramatically increases the efficiency of their spirit run.

How they create high vapor speeds, that allow Tails to smear into Hearts, on the spirit run? By applying long, narrow, swan-neck designed columns. Narrow colums that increase vapor speed, so the smearing they look for can actually be accomplished. Remember higher vapor speeds are needed to transfer Tailsy molecules from the boiler to the final product.

Scotland versus the rest of the world

Scotland versus the rest of the world? Let me re-write that into: “Scotland vs. Germany”. Remember my posts about boiler design? And about how Craft Distillers from around the world not only wanted to buy BMW and Mercedes cars, but also shiny German distilleries? And if they can’t afford them … one of their Chinese clones? Well, that’s the match we are actually watching here.

Scotland – Germany? No, let me rephrase that again. Whiskey still versus fruit brandy still. Doesn’t that make sense to you? In that case, please read my two posts on boiler design first. If you do, for sure the above remark will make sense.

German still manufacturers conquered the world by selling Craft Distillers on all continents fruit brandy stills. Do you remember that this causes many of today’s Craft Distillers to run stills with boilers that are designed sub-optimal? Well, let me enlighten you on something else. Fruit brandy columns aren’t that well suited for whiskey making either. Neither are they suited for rum and vodka making, and only partially do they support making brandy from wine. But that deserves a new post. That will be in “Odin on Whiskey Column Design (2)”. You want me to lift the veil a bit? Okay, here we go. Remember those fruit brandy stills have boilers that are too narrow and high for efficient distilling? Well, fruit brandy columns are actually too wide …

iStill 5000 Hybrid with glass column segments …

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Reduce your Operating Costs with 75%!

Management summary

The direct operating costs of producing a liter of new make whiskey or rum on an iStill, ready to barrel at 65%, are EUR 0,49 versus EUR 1,99 on a traditional copper potstill. Producing whiskey or rum on an iStill reduces operating costs with as much as 75%, when compared to a traditional copper potstill. The lower operating costs of running an iStill translate into higher margins and a more sustainable, future-proof business model.

Introduction

This iStill Blog post presents an operating cost comparison for new make whiskey or rum production. iStills versus traditional set-ups. Why operating costs are important? Well, the lower they are, the higher your profit margin – given a certain selling price. Higher margins allow you to make more money or use part of that extra margin to weather through tough times. Also, lower operating costs signal a more eco-friendly, more environmental and sustainable business model. Less energy consumption equals a lower carbon footprint.

Of course we know the iStill numbers through-and through. The numbers of traditional stills, that we present in this iStill Blog, are based on feedback we got from customers experienced in running traditional equipment before switching to iStills. If the manufacturers of more traditional, copper stills feel that the examples underneath do not do their distilling solutions total justice, please reach out to us directly, so we can discuss and – where needed – amend.

Operating costs

Operating costs are the expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis. Rent of the building, power to run the stills, the costs of buying in grains or other substrates, staffing costs, equipment depreciation costs, etc.

In order to keep this post relatively simple and to the point, we’ll focus on the variable costs of running the still, depreciation costs of your distilling machine, and the staffing needed to keep on distilling. Costs like the rent of the building or substrate purchase costs won’t be investigated, since they are (in the context of this iStill Blog post) considered a given. Meaning they don’t necessarily vary a lot between different still options.

Calculating energy costs for whiskey or rum

The efficiency number of a traditional potstill is around 35%. A traditional potstill needs two distillation cycles to bring an 8% whiskey beer or rum wine to the barrel aging strength of 60 – 65%. The iStill can turn an 8% base beer or wine into 60 – 65% new make in one go. So you save the manpower and energy of at least one run.

The iStill 2000 uses around 280 kWh to make rum or whiskey new make spirit. The associated costs are per run are well under EUR 50,-. Given the inefficiencies of the traditional set-up, a total energy usage of 800 to 1000 kWh is expected per run. This translates into direct energy usage costs, for a double distillation, of around EUR 190,-.

The amount of 2000 liters of base beer translates into about 220 liters of 65% strong new make spirit. When we divide the energy usage per still type by the number of liters of new make produced, we can learn the energy costs per liter. For the iStill the energy costs per liter are EUR 0,22. For the traditional copper potstill the energy costs per liter are EUR 0,87.

Calculating depreciation costs for whiskey or rum stills

A traditional 2000 liter copper still, made by a reputable manufacturer costs at least EUR 200.000,-. The iStill 2000, with some options, is around EUR 80.000,-. Because the iStills are made from chemically resistant stainless steel, instead of copper, the unit has an expected longevity of around 20 years.

The copper or stainless steel boiler of a traditional set-up may have the same longevity or slightly less. The copper column or riser oxidizes and suffers from the continuous need for (acid) cleaning. It is usually eaten away in around 10 to 15 years. Adding up boiler and column life expectancy for traditional potstills and averaging them out, leads to an overall total system longevity of 15 years for a traditional copper potstill.

Following a lineair depreciation curve, the 80k iStill 2000 has an annual depreciation of EUR 4.000,-. Based on 200 runs per year, the depreciation costs per run are EUR 20,-. When one run produces 220 liters, the depreciation costs per liter are EUR 0,09.

Following the same lineair depreciation curve, the EUR 200.000,- traditional copper potstill has an annual depreciation of EUR 13.300,-. At 200 runs per year, this translates into EUR 66,50 of depreciation per run or EUR 0,30 per liter of new make spirit produced.

Calculating staffing costs for whiskey or rum

Manning the still costs time, and time is money. Managing a traditional still asks for constant supervision. Cleaning can take 2 to 3 hours. Often the boiler design and column/riser design are not optimized for 8 hour shifts. How much manpower does it take to run a traditional still? At least 1 FTE. How much manpower does it take to run the iStill, which is automated and needs much less cleaning down-time? Around 0.2 FTE.

Say that hiring a distiller costs EUR 36.000,- per year. Running a traditional set-up then adds EUR 36.000,- to your overall costs. The iStill – by comparison – costs less than EUR 8.000,- to staff. A stunning difference of EUR 28.000,- per year.

In the above example, where we use a 2000 liter still to make 220 liters of 60-65% new make spirit per run, doing 200 runs per year translates into 44.000 liters of new make. The staffing costs of a traditional system are EUR 36.000,-, which translates into additional variable costs per liter of EUR 0,82. The much lower effort needed to run the iStill 2000 translates into only EUR 0,18 of staffing costs per liter.

iStill: reduce your operating costs by 75% …

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http://www.iStill.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aspects of Distillation (9): cleaning the still!

Introduction

“Aspects of Distillation” is a series the iStill Blog hosts. It aims to cover as many aspects as possible. Aspects of – you guessed it! – the distillation process. Think alcohol formation, flavors, mashing, distillery design … and more. In fact, if you have a suggestion, please email us the aspect you want us to dive into. Via Odin@iStillmail.com. Today’s topic? Cleaning the still!

Different protocols for different situations

There are four situations I want you to consider, when it comes to procedures for cleaning the still:

  1. Cleaning protocols stainless steel stills;
  2. Cleaning protocols copper stills;
  3. Cleaning protocols when switching between spirits;
  4. Distilling one and the same spirit over and over again.

Stainless steel is chemically resistent. This means that it does not rust and nothing easily “clings” to it. Stainless steel can be cleaned with water or alcohol or vinegar, but never with a detergent. Detergents are so aggressive that they can damage even stainless steel. Instead of detergents, preferably use water to flush the column and boiler.

Copper stills oxidize and rust. The rust formation causes copper particle contamination in your drink, so cleaning the still is important. The oxidation layer also traps flavors that present a contamination risk for the next run.

Cleaning copper stills with detergents is essential. The detergent is so aggressive that it eats the copper rust away, thus limiting copper particle and taste contamination of your spirits. Even though this compromises your still’s longevity, and adds to your working hours, a daily clean with detergents is obligatory, when running a copper still.

The risk of taste contamination is biggest, when switching from one spirit to another. If you use your still to do gin run and then a vodka run, you do not want the vodka to taste like the gin.

In a copper still the detergent, used in the daily cleaning protocol, eats away the copper that touched the gin of the previous run. For most stainless steel stills a cleanse with either water or a water/alcohol mixture will do the job.

When distilling one and the same product over and over again, taste contamination is – though limited – still a risk. The tailsy flavors from the end of the previous run can contaminate the next run, resulting in higher overall tails smearing and – especially – a growth of rootlike, nutty, and earthy flavors.

In a copper still, a daily clean with a detergent is needed. Even between same product runs. In a stainless steel still a water clean after the initial run will prevent the risk of additional tails smearing.

Features & Benefits

iStills use the last bit of alcohol to sanitize the still. The iStill also uses the first bit of alcohol of the next run to clean out the column at the beginning of the next run. These cleaning protocols happen after and before each run, and they happen automatically.

iStills have a CIP (Cleaning In Place) that flushes your column. Cold water is all that is needed to clean out an iStill. Cold water and five minutes of your time.

Cleaning is a breeze …

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http://www.iStill.com

New iStill Movies!

Topics

We just uploaded new movies to the iStill Distilling University. The topics? The first movie is about round vs. square boiler design. The second one deals with direct vs. indirect heating. The (for now) last one shows the unpacking and assembly of the iStill Mini.

What’s next

In the next two weeks, the iStill Distilling University will see new series of movies released. The topics to come? Here we go:

  • Stripping run;
  • Finishing run;
  • Making brandy;
  • Using the StillControl app;
  • Making cuts for heads, hearts, and tails.

Package deal

The iStill Mini and the iStill Distilling University are now sold as a package deal. For EUR 5.000,- you can purchase them together.

If you want to check out the new movies, or register for the iStill Distilling University, please go to:

https://istill.web.app/university

iStill Mini Unpacking & Assembly

The movie about the iStill Mini unpacking and assembly is also uploaded to iStill TV, on YouTube, so that anyone has access to it and can use it to assemble his or her iStill Mini. Here is the link:

http://www.iStill.com

 

 

iStill Distilling University Update!

We just released a new serie of three movies at the online iStill Distilling University. The following topics are added:

  • Arguments in favor of copper stills;
  • Arguments against copper stills;
  • Boilers shape and design.

Next week will see two new series being released. One of them will be about assembling and running the iStill Mini and the all-new amazing StillControl App.

The iStill Distilling University is the industry’s best educational facility, with a 9.8 out of 10 score by its students.

We now have a package deal where you can purchase the iStill Mini (shipped to your door in three workdays) and the iStill Distilling University training for EUR 5.000,-. For registration, see: https://istill.web.app/university.

Willem, iStill Mini, StillControl App …

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http://www.iStill.com

Aspects of Distillation (8): Fermentation Speed!

Introduction

Aspects of Distillation” is a series the iStill Blog hosts. It aims to cover as many aspects as possible. Aspects of – you guessed it! – the distillation process. Think alcohol formation, flavors, mashing, distillery design … and more. In fact, if you have a suggestion, please email us the aspect you want us to dive into. Via Odin@iStillmail.com. Today’s topic? Fermentation speed!

Fermentation speed

There are four things I want you to consider, when deciding on how long you want to ferment a certain brandy, rum, vodka or whiskey:

  1. It is during fermentation that the actual alcohol is formed;
  2. It is during fermentation that (the vast majority of) flavors are formed;
  3. Alcohol presence is a prerequisite for flavor formation;
  4. Alcohol formation and flavor formation do not take place at the same speed.

Most distillers are brought up with the idea that fermentation is important because it is the process where you make your alcohol. Faster fermentations translate into higher yield, and that is supposed to be a good thing. But that is only half of the story.

I want you to understand that fermentation is way more important, because it is also the process where most of your flavors are formed. Alcohol, in terms of yield, is important if you want to compete on economies of scale. Flavor composition is important if you want to compete on spirit quality. As a craft distiller I think you want to compete on quality. If that is the case alcohol yield only becomes the secondary goal of fermentation.

Flavors are formed where alcohol and organics meet. For flavor molecules to be created the presence of alcohol is required. Since fermentations start with 0% alcohol and – over the course of a few days – slowly grow towards (for example) 8%, flavor formation always lags behind. Alcohol formation comes first, flavor formation follows.

What this means for fermentation speed? Well, that if you look at fermentation as “alcohol production” only, you deal yourself a short hand.

As the drawing shows, it probably takes only three days to ferment from 0% to 7.8%. A longer fermentation – say five days – will only increase the alcohol percentage from 7.8 to 8.0%. The gain of 0.2% is minimal and not worth the extra time. You better start up a new ferment in order to make more alcohol quicker:

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But, as stipulated above, as a craft distiller you are dealing yourself a short hand. Flavor formation only takes place when alcohol has formed. So a longer fermentation results in more flavor. As the drawing underneath shows: even though most alcohol production is done by day 3, it is at day 4 and 5 that most of the flavors are created:

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With this in mind, we can now conclude that shorter fermentation cycles generate more alcohol faster, while severely limiting flavor formation. Longer ferments may be slightly less economical, but result in more flavorful outcomes.

What this means for your fermentation speed? Simply this: ferment short & fast for vodka and slow & long for taste-rich spirits.

Features & Benefits

The iStill Distilling University trains distillers extensively in the noble art of fermentation. Do you want to learn how to ferment and create the exact flavor profile for your drink? Purchase the iStill University Distilling Course via the link underneath.

Please know that the money you spend on the training program can be used as a discount, when ordering your iStill. Or if you want to purchase an iStill first, please be informed that the distilling training is included as a standard option.

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https://istill.web.app/university

Aspects of Distillation (7): Sulfur Control!

Introduction

Aspects of Distillation” is a series the iStill Blog hosts. It aims to cover as many aspects as possible. Aspects of – you guessed it! – the distillation process. Think alcohol formation, flavors, mashing, distillery design … and more. In fact, if you have a suggestion, please email us the aspect you want us to dive into. Via Odin@iStillmail.com. Today’s topic? The importance of sulfur control.

Sulfur control

There are five things I want you to consider, when investigating the importance of sulfur control:

  1. Excess sulfur adds an off-flavor in your drink;
  2. Sulfur is a side-product of a bad ferment;
  3. Distillation concentrates sulfurs and its off-flavors;
  4. Copper catalyzes sulfurs and can neutralize those off-flavors;
  5. But copper comes with its own set of negatives.

Excess sulfer adds a harsh off-flavor to your drink. Harsh flavors are something you want to prevent. Therefor, it should be any distiller’s goal to minimize sulfur formation.

Sulfer is formed during fermentation. To be more precise: during bad fermentations, where temperatures, nutrient balance, and pH are off. Sulfur problems always result from poorly managed fermentations.

Distillation concentrates sulfur contamination. It results in a higher alcohol percentage, more flavors, more sulfurs, and therefor more off-flavors, per milliliter.

Copper catalyzes sulfur. A copper column or riser provides the surface area for sulfur and copper to react. As a result, copper stills are a medicine against sulfur contamination. Copper stills are a medicine for a bad ferment.

Copper stills come with their own set of problems, though. Firstly, copper is a heavy metal and copper contamination in your drink creates health issues, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Secondly, copper and ethanol react (in your copper still and afterwards in your barrel or bottle) into ethyl carbamate. And ethyl carbamate is carcinogenic; it can cause cancer.

Copper oxidizes. Copper particles get blown over into your drink, during distillation. The copper particle contamination, in itself and via ethyl carbamate formation, poisons your customers.

So what you want, as a distiller that is both concerned about limiting off-flavors and limiting health issues among its customers, is a distillation process/machine that does not cause excess sulfur creation, and minimizes copper in the distillation process.

Features & Benefits

iStill Fermenters come with temperature and pH and SG control, to prevent sulfur formation. iStills are made from stainless steel and not from copper. You now know why. iStills come with specially designed copper waffles that can be placed at the bottom of the column in order to clean-up any sulfur you may encounter. The waffles provide the surface area of a copper column, while minimizing contamination risks.

Copper oxidation on a traditional still after just one run …

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http://www.iStill.com

 

 

New Standard Feature: Education!

With the iStill University Program going online, we can fulfill a long-time dream and goal. Which one? The one of us providing education for everyone that purchases an iStill!

So far, some 80% of new customers followed the iStill University Course. Flying over, spending a week in the Netherlands just wasn’t a feasible solution for each and everyone of you. But now that we have the iStill University available online, why don’t we have all of our customers participate? No need to spend money on flying over. No more need to be away from your family and job for a prolonged period of time, so what’s holding you back?

From our end, we are integrating equipment and education. What this means? When you order your iStill it now comes with the iStill University Course included!

If you want to learn all about distilling, create your own gin, design your whiskey, or develop an amazing liqueur, this is where you need to go to:

https://istill.web.app/university

Upon purchasing an iStill, the iStill University Course will be included. If you want to follow the educational program first and order later, we’ll discount the course costs from your equipment purchase.

Standard feature: education …

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Aspects of Distillation (6): Bottle-Neck Management!

Introduction

Aspects of Distillation” is a series the iStill Blog hosts. It aims to cover as many aspects as possible. Aspects of – you guessed it! – the distillation process. Think alcohol formation, flavors, mashing, distillery design … and more. In fact, if you have a suggestion, please email us the aspect you want us to dive into. Via Odin@iStillmail.com. Today’s topic? Bottle-neck management!

Bottle-Neck Management

Bottle-necks are choke-points in your production set-up. It is crucial for any distillery to carefully understand and manage its production bottle-neck, because it defines total throughput, ease of operation, scalability, and flexibility. What your choke-points are? In general, choke points are very much depending on the products you produce, so let’s start there.

Bottle-neck and product

Gins and liqueurs can be made via the redistillation of bought in GNS. As such, from a production stand-point, your bottle-neck is either going to be either your distillation equipment or your holding tanks your bottler or labelling machine.

Things become more challenging, when making rum. In order to make rum, you need to ferment and distill. And since fermenting takes more time than distilling, more fermenters or more fermentation capacity is needed, relative to distilling capacity. For rum production, your bottle-neck can be fermentation, distillation, holding tanks, bottling or labelling.

Whiskey adds another complicator to the bottle-neck equation, because of mashing and grain handling. When making whiskey, your production bottle-necks can, in addition to the above, also be centered around how much mashing capacity you have and how you can mill, process, and then get rid or your (spent) grains.

Finally, seasonal influences can play a major role. Especially at grappa and fruit brandy production, that is based on substrate being available only part of the year.

Throughput

A good way to manage your bottle-necks is by establishing your expected production volume. If you expect to sell 5000 bottles of gin per month, you better have a labeler, bottler, and still that help you produce those numbers with ease. “With ease” could also be replaced with “the amount of staff you want to hire”. If you do things with a small team, your working hours soon become the bottle-neck. And since you make money selling instead of producing spirits, you cannot let that happen.

Ease of operation

Which brings us to ease of operation. Purchase equipment that works for you instead of envisioning yourself working the equipment. The smaller your operation, the less hours you must spend behind your still. Production capacity is only there to meet demand, because it is at the “demand”-side of things, where you earn money. So invest wisely and in such a way that you can drive demand while your distillery design focusses on production with limited oversight.

Scalability

Imagine that your gin launched successfully. You now want to venture into whiskey. Where you originally focussed on your still, bottler, and labeler, you now must take into consideration milling, mashing, and fermentation equipment as well.

As a general rule, a mash and/or distillation run should take around an 8 hour workday. Fermentation takes longer, but requires less oversight. Rum ferments take 3 days, while grain ferments last 5 days. As a consequence, you need fermentation capacity three to five times the size of your masher and fermenter.

Scaling to other products also impacts your still, bottling, and labelling capacity. You still want to make that gin too, right? That’s why it is a good idea to always buy bigger stills, bottlers, and labelers. If you plan for 5000 bottles, purchase equipment for double that production. Bigger production capacity allows for scalability. And even in smaller, start-up situations, with bigger stills, you’ll spend less time doing runs, reclaiming time for sales and marketing.

Flexibility

Say you make rum and you do so successfully. More demand leads to higher production needs. With a fermenter/still/bottler/labeler combination set-up for 5000 bottles per month, it is very difficult to scale up to 10,000 bottles.  More fermenters will increase capacity of rum wines production, but that only translates to you and your team having to do more runs on the stills, going to double shifts and higher associated staffing needs.

The problem with the future is that it is so hard to tell what’s coming. “Live is what happens to you while you plan for something else,” John Lennon said, and it couldn’t be more true for distilling. You plan for your gin launch and all of a sudden your vodka takes off like a rocket. How to plan for that? You either buy-in huge overcapacity, potentially restraining you financially, or you have another look at iStill …

Features & Benefits

All iStills can mash, ferment, and distill. That makes bottle-neck management a whole lot easier. All iStills, from the i500 upwards, now come with central distillery management included. This makes adding fermenters and/or mashers, at a later stage, very easy. All iStills are easy to assemble and move around. They can be hooked up with a simple garden hose and electrical wire, so that you can change your distillery design without any hassle.

If you want to make gin or liqueurs from GNS, normally an iStill 100 or 500 will suit you well. If you want to mash and ferment your own whiskey, vodka, or rum, then – as a general rule of thumb – you need to compensate for the longer process times and lower alcohol starting point. An iStill 2000 or 5000 is what you are now looking for.

Manage your bottle-necks!

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