Aspects of Distillation (9): cleaning the still!


“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 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 …


New iStill Movies!


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:

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:



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:

Willem, iStill Mini, StillControl App …


Aspects of Distillation (8): Fermentation Speed!


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 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:


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:


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.


Aspects of Distillation (7): Sulfur Control!


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 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 …




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:

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 …


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


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 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.


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.


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.


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!


iStill University Expands its Reach!


The iStill University is the distilling industry’s leading educational facility. In he last 5 years over 1000 students have been trained. Participants score the iStill University courses with an amazing 9.7 out of 10!

In order to make the iStil University even more impactful, we have decided to use online as the medium to make participation easier. We aim to reach more people, to make the course easier to access, to have more students participate.


Online provides an amazing medium for communication. You can learn in your own time and at your own speed. And you can do so at your own location, saving money on travel and stay-over expenses.

Online also provides challenges. It’s a medium well-suited for sending and receiving information, so great for explaining theoretical concepts. But how about practicing distilling and student-teacher-interaction? Let’s dive in deeper …

Theory, practice, and interaction

The iStill University teaches about distilling on three levels:

  1. Theory;
  2. Practice;
  3. Q&A.

Our amazing theories of mashing, fermentation, distillation, and maturation are taught via video’s. Since “online” allows you to learn in your own time, at your own speed, the time-constraint that the physical courses, at iStil HQ, had are no more. This means we can add more content!

The second level of teaching is practical. If you purchase the iStill Mini with the course, we’ll do online distillation runs together. We’ll train you – at your location, on your iStill Mini – how to make brandy, gin, vodka, rum, and whiskey!

The third level of teaching is in the students and teacher interacting. This final level of training is secured via topic-specific Q&A sessions, where we answer your questions and dive in deeper, and make the whole learning experience an interactive one!

Package deal

The iStill University Certified Training costs EUR 1.895,-. If you want to be able to practice your skills and develop your recipes, you can add the iStill Mini to your order. Combined, including trolley-bag and transport for the iStill Mini, the cost is EUR 5.000,- instead of EUR 1.895,- plus EUR 3.500,- is EUR 5.495,-. A EUR 495,- discount package deal …

Are you running an existing distillery? Do you have product on the shelf? Are you interested in the course theories, and in learning how the iStills work, but not in learning how to distill or develop your recipes? In that case, order the training, but maybe not the iStill Mini, and use your EUR 1.895,- investment as a discount for future production still purchases.


The iStill University is online as of today. Please check it out at:

The first 5 videos have been released. Consecutive videos will be released at a rate of two per week.


We have stocked over 40 iStills Mini. So if you want to combine theory with practice, please know that you can order the iStill Mini with your course. We ship the next day, so the iStill Mini can be at your location well within a week.


At the end of the theoretical part of the iStill University course, there is an exam. If you pass the exam, you get a diploma as “Certified Distiller”.

If you pass the theory exam, you can step things up and make drinks and ship them to us. We’ll test the drinks, and if they are consistent with our taste model, that is thoroughly explained during the training, you can earn a diploma as “Certified Master Distiller”.

Ordering process

You can order the course online. Just visit: The first step? Register your account. The second step? You purchase the course (with or without iStill Mini). Thirdly? You’ll get a link with payment info. After payment is done, you’ll get full access to the iStill University, and we’ll ship your iStill Mini, if that was part of your order.






Aspects of Distillation (5): Distillery Design!


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 Today’s topic answers a question Daniel Binkowski asked: “Can you give guidelines on how to design a distillery …

Distillery Design

This is a very, very wide topic. So many things influence what the best lay-out actually will be. Experience, your location, the size of the hall you rent or own, the products you want to bring to the market, if a bar or tasting room is allowed, or if your distillery comes with a full swing restaurant and/or brewery attached.

In short, the comprehensive blog post on how to set-up your distillery … well, that’s not what this post will be about. The maximum we can do here is give you some general assumptions and considerations. For the distillery, not the bar or restaurant or tasting room.

Having explained the limits to this post, there are a few things I want you to consider, when planning the lay-out of your distillery:

  1. Flow;
  2. Flexibility;
  3. Points of entry and exit;
  4. Goal;
  5. Zoning and Safety;
  6. Growth;
  7. Bonus!


Create a flow. From left to right or the other way around. Start with a masher on the left, then put the fermenters to the right of that masher, and the still to the right of the fermenters. Collection and aging vessels could be positioned to the right of the still. Bottling and labelling stations would – again – be to the right side of these spirits collection and aging vessels. Packaging and dispatching to the right of the bottling and labelling machines. If you organize your workflow from left to right, or the other way around, you create oversight and prevent lots of additional handling, moving, pumping, tubing, and piping.

Even if you “just” use one iStill for mashing, fermenting, and distilling, the “go-with-the-flow”-approach is still important. Maybe put the iStill to the left, and the collection and aging vessels to the right of the still/distillery, and the bottling and labelling stations to the right of that, etc. It still makes sense to choose to work in a certain direction.

This flow doesn’t have to be a straight line. It can be U-shaped, with the units and work stations situated against the walls of your distilling hall.


If there is one thing you’ll learn from setting up a distillery, it is that whatever you plan out ahead, and whatever makes perfect sense now, reality will catch up with you. So make sure to plan for flexibility. Understand that what seems logical now, will, over time, change.

If you understand and accept the above, here’s our advise: go for a soft set-up instead of a hard wired one. Put your label-machine on a movable table. Connect your iStill and pumps with temporary tubing, so that you can easily and quickly adapt your lay-out according to new insights. New insights that can only come with the actual experience of operating your distillery for some time.

Points of entry and exit

Some goods enter your distillery in bulk. Think grain, molasses, bottles. Other goods leave your distillery in bulk. Think spent grain and cases of the spirits you produced. As a general rule of thumb, we advise to carefully consider those points of entry and exit, as they need bigger doors, easy access, and maybe a ramp.


Please consider if your goal is to optimize production or to make your distillery part of the customer experience. If the first one is the case, then the considerations elaborated on above stand firm. But that changes if you want to use your distillery for tours or as a showpiece that can be seen from your bar or tasting room.

If you have a bar or tasting room, you might want to put the iStill center stage, so that all who visit can admire it. This might compromise the perfect lay-out for production, but if it helps create more sales, maybe that’s worth it? the question-mark is there because it is a question you – not us – need to answer.

Tours complicate matters even more, since you now need to create a clear and safe path for your visitors to follow. For sure, that path will intervene with what otherwise would have been the perfect set-up for production. Again, there is no best choice or one solution that fits all. It is a trade-off and only time and experience can tell what’s the best solution for you, catering to your public, in your area.

Zoning and Safety

Zoning and safety regulations are different per country, state, or even city. Maybe down to the level of the inspector you have to deal with.

Always make sure you incorporate zoning and safety criteria into your distillery set-up. Reach out to the inspecting bodies and make sure they sign-off on your plans. Invest in standard operating protocols, in alcohol and CO2 detection equipment, in safety protocol training for your staff, maybe even in sprinklers, and fire-proof doors, and the correct electrical coding.

Designing a distillery without taking compliancy into account is futile. Inspectors will only allow you to open your distillery if they find you have ticked all the boxes zoning and safety-wise.


Whatever you plan, however you plan, plan for growth! “I should have opted for that bigger building” is the most common feedback we get. It’s right up there with “I should have bought the bigger iStill”.

Starting a distillery is just that: the starting point. Running a distillery is what it’s all about. It is where you actually start to make money. You don’t want to go through all of the planning phases again, if you grow. Instead, prepare for growth.

Factor in that you might need a bigger iStill or fermenters or mashers of maybe even a bottling-line. That way your growth – from a production stand-point – will be more or less organic instead of another abyss to overcome.

Bonus: add more drains!

Simple yet essential. Add more drains! Discharging, spilling, and cleaning are all side-effects of any distilling operation. Since they don’t make you money, make sure you can handle them as efficiently as possible. Adding more drains is the answer to many of the questions that are easiest to forget about.

Features & Benefits

All iStills can mash, ferment, and distill. That makes floor-planning a hole 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.

Distillery lay-out at Long Branch Distillery, New Jersey …


Aspects of Distillation (4): Boiler Design!


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 Today’s topic? The influence and importance of a well-designed boiler.

Boiler Design

There are three things I want you to consider, when investigating the importance of the boiler design of your still for the distillation process:

  1. Shape;
  2. Material specifications;
  3. Heating source.

A wide boiler provides a bigger surface area than a narrow/high design, resulting in a less aggressive boil and a stable gas bed from which the column can draw. The less aggressive boil results in higher filling grades. The more stable gas bed results in more constant vapor speeds that lead to less (uncontrolled) smearing and better control over heads, hearts, and tails cuts.

A round boiler is the least ideal shape, because it will let the agitator spin the wash. The faster the wash rotates, the less effective the actual mixing becomes. Also, the rotation will create a vortex, that results in lower net filling levels and a very turbulent gas bed for the column or riser to draw from.

Baffles can prevent wash rotation, but come with their own set of issues. Most importantly so-called “slow spots”, where no mixing takes place and filth builds up.

The perfect boiler shape for a boiler is flush square. The “flush”-part helps the wash move along through the boiler, while the “square”-part of the equation prevents vortex formation, uneven particle distribution, and gas bed disturbance.

Longevity and chemical resistance are important, when designing (or choosing) a boiler. Stainless steel is the material of choice. A boiler needs to be over designed to deal with the life long harsh hot/cold treatments that distillation cycles basically are (when seen from the perspective of the boiler).

When your still has a double boiler, you probably heat it with steam or oil. A double boiler system, AKA “au bain, Marie!”, evenly heats the wash. A directly fired boiler creates slight temperature differences in the boiler that trigger the Maillard Reaction. The Maillard Reaction is a sugar browning reaction, that results in a taste cascade of 25% more flavor. And that is something you do not want to miss out on, as a craft distiller!

So guess what? You want a wide and flush square boiler, that is over designed and directly fired.

Features & Benefits

All iStills have wide, flush square boilers, made out of 3, 4, and 5 mm thick stainless steel. You now know why …