Here is a video of the last iStill University Distillers Course that we organized earlier this week:
Here is a video of the last iStill University Distillers Course that we organized earlier this week:
What we post here is an account of iStill’s CEO, Odin, helping out a distiller that has difficulty making good gin with his still. Mind you, the still he uses is not an iStill, but a piece of equipment made in China, but Odin decided to help out a fellow-distiller anyhow, by analyzing his set-up, coming to conclusions, and giving advice on how to solve the issue.
There are two reasons to post this on the iStill Blog. First, it can help create awareness that there are many poorly designed stills out there. And if you end up buying or “designing” one, you might find yourself in a bad situation, where you cannot achieve the product quality you aimed for. Let this iStill Blog post serve as a warning. Secondly, this post shows that still design is a science, based on facts, and not something artsy-fartsy, romantic, close to magical, based on opinions.
The problem and the set-up
The problem the distiller had? Some of the flavors he was looking for didn’t come over well enough in his gin. He described the result as “less than elegant”. The distiller informed Odin that he runs a 100 gallon, steam powered Still Dragon, that the run takes 6 to 8 hours, and that he uses a potstill configuration with a 2 inch riser. The distillery is located at the high altitude of 6,000 feet above sea level. Here’s how Odin, despite not having a whole lot of information to go by, analyzed the situation, came to a conclusion, and gave his advice on how to solve the problem.
“So, quite honestly, there is not enough information for me to go on. But guessing my way forward, here is what could happen. Some calculations first, then a conclusion and maybe some advice that could help you manufacture a solution. 100 gallon system = 400 liters. I work / think in metric, hence the conversion. Not sure if that is gross or net capacity, but as most manufacturers advertise gross boiler content, I am going to estimate 300 liters net capacity. Now, I will bring up the numbers of the iStill 500. Why? Because it is most comparable in size and optimized for perfect vapor speed management (more on why that is important later). With us, 500 means 500 liters net. So your system is smaller and matches up to 60%. Looking at your run times, well, there seems nothing wrong there. Depending on the gin we run, 8 hours could be what we’d do with the i500 as well. So that’s good for comparison.
My design is directly fired and insulated and around 90% energy efficient. I estimate an uninsulated indirect design to be around 50% efficient. So my guess is that you are probably throwing the same kind of power (gross) at your unit as we do with ours. Your boiler content size is smaller than the i500, but your set-up being less efficient sorta compensates for that. Efficiency answering the question of how much of the gross energy input is actually used to distill (vs. heating up your distillery). Why the above line of thinking (and its outcome) are important? Because it tells me that the amount of vapors produced in your unit (for instance in liters or gallons per second or minute) are relatively equal to my set-up. So that part is fine. Relatively meaning that your 60% net boiler size is matched by overall lower net power input that seems to be at around 60% of what I would run.
Your gross power input might be the same as on my system. Your net power usage for vapor production is in line with your unit holding net 300 liters vs. mine holding 500 liters. Your set-up probably creates 60% of the vapors when compared to my design.
Time to move on from power and boiler and overall system efficiency to the column. The iStill 500 that I choose as a comparison has a 5 inch column. That’s 12.5 cms (again, I am metric). So the radius is 5.5 cms. Compensating downwards from 6.25 because of the thickness of the column wall and the fact that the iStill 500 column is packed, which eats away 10%. Now, what is the surface area in my column, were we to cut it in half and look down into it? It is 95 square cms or about 16 square inches. Your riser is 2 inch in diameter. Let’s say 1.8 net. This means the surface area in your riser is only 2.55 square inch. That’s only 16% of my (optimized) design. Why is that important? Here we go:
With some assumptions, and based on limited information, I concluded, in the first paragraph, that your set-up produces roughly 60% of the amount of gas (liters per minute or in gallons per minute, that does not matter) than my design does. Expecting you to have adequate cooling in place to knock all gasses back down to liquid phase via your product cooler, this merits the following assessment: the vapors in your set-up move WAY too fast. Say that given a certain time interval an optimized gin still creates 100 liters or 100 gallons of gas vs. your set-up producing 60 liters or 60 gallons in that same time interval. Comparing the i500 to your set-up here. If we divide 100 by 16 the outcome is a relative speed inside my column of 6.25. When we divide 60 by 2.55 square inch, the vapor speed in your column is 23.5. That is 3.7 times faster. The gasses in your set-up travel way too fast. Why is that important?
It is important because higher vapor speeds suck up higher boiling point associated rooty, nutty, earthy flavors, earlier in the run. Basically, via the small diameter riser, you over-harvest back-end flavors. And that while making gin, which is mostly a forward cut product (flowers, fruity). Your problem increases because of your high altitude. Low air pressure results in higher vapor speeds. Given where you are at, another boost of around 40%. In my system, we measure air pressure and automatically adapt cut points and/or power settings. Lowering the power setting on your set-up would not work, because it would result in higher total run times, with more potential of over-cooking the botanicals, creating more of the back-end flavors you are looking to get rid of. What I would do if I found myself in your situation is easy, and I am pretty sure SD can help you out here: get rid of the reducer and install a riser (and bridge and cooler) that are much wider in diameter. 4 inch or 5 inch would cut it.
Then do another run, taste as you go along. The back-end/tails-associated flavors will come over much later. You’ll know by tasting. If you taste what comes out and it is as if all of a sudden the music has stopped, that’s the moment where – again – tails-associated flavors come over, and where you need to stop.
A long post, but I hope you like the effort of me helping you solve your issues.
The two inch diameter riser, to the left, is too small …
The iStill University is the world’s leading educational facility in the distilling industry. Students (around 200 per year) rate the courses with a 9.8 on a 10-point scale. To allow more people to participate and learn about the state of the art of all things craft distilling, we introduce new policy to make the iStill University more accessible.
Travel Expense Compensation
On the one hand, lots of people love to travel over to Amsterdam to visit us and participate at the iStill University Training at iStill’s HQ. On the other hand, it is, especially if you are from America, Asia, or Australia, quite the commitment. Traveling costs time and money. Spending time on education and on learning more on what equipment you might want to work with, is time well spent. But spending money … well, the less you spend, the more you’ve got left to invest in your distillery. We support that via the introduction of new policy:
Here is the Travel Expense Compensation for traveling for courses at iStill’s Amsterdam HQ. Per continent:
For course registration, go to http://www.iStill.com/university, select the course you want to attend, fill out your name, etc., and select the continent you travel from. The software will automatically deduct your Travel Expense Compensation.
Please note: Travel Expense Compensation is available from February 1st 2020 onwards. It is only applicable for people registering for our iStill University courses. Mis-use, where the wrong continent is intentionally selected to attain bigger financial rewards, voids the right to Travel Expense Compensation altogether.
Becoming the best distiller you can be? We’ll help get you there …
In an earlier post, just a week ago, we explained how the iStill University courses, the iStill Mini recipe development still, and our support during your first mash, fermentation, and distillation, help make you a better craft distiller. But we do more to support your success. This post explains how we take support to the next level.
iStill University Network
Students, that attended iStill University, become members of the iStill University Network. The iStill University Network is a closed Facebook group, where members give peer advice to one another regarding the set-up of their distillery. Very practical topics like “what pump do I need?”, “what’s your bottle supplier?”, “what’s your preferred labeler?”, or “how do you make your whiskey?” are just a few examples out of many discussions and consultations that take place.
The iStill University Network is considered a great source of information on how to set-up your distillery. Imagine dozens of more experienced distillers (at least on the matter you are investigating) helping you out at solving your issues and challenges.
Please note: the iStill University Network is only open for students that participated at an iStill University Course.
iStill Recipe Development
We have a team of 3 colleagues that man the iStill Laboratory. Together, the team has helped develop 300 recipes for brandy, gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, liqueurs, and more. For whom? For our customers. For students that participated at the iStill University, worked on their initial recipes, took an iStill Mini home, and feel they need our help to nail it before they order bigger production size units. And for existing customers that want to expand their product portfolio by introducing new spirits.
We basically have three levels at which our Recipe Development Team can support you:
Please note: our Recipe Development Team only works for iStill customers.
If you want to discuss the purchase of iStills or learn more about recipe development, please reach out to Sales@iStillmail.com. If you want to participate at one of the iStill University Courses and/or become a member of the iStill University , then please contact us via Veronika@iStillmail.com.
Becoming a better distiller with iStill …
This post dives into how we support you at being a successful distiller and iStill user. Of course, you, as the craft distiller, are responsible for the actual mashing, fermenting, and distilling that you perform. And, in order to do so correctly, you are also responsible for obtaining the right amount of training and learning, via your own research and reading, via traineeships, with the help of forums or consultants, or via peer advice. We chime in and help you out along your path. Here’s how.
iStill University Course
We offer a 4-day course, where we bring you up to date on the latest science regarding mashing, fermenting, distilling, and aging. It is a great way to learn about distilling, to learn how to develop a recipe, and to experience how the iStills work. With a score of 9.8 on a 10-point scale, it is considered the best course in the craft distilling industry and that’s a great way to get started and find out if craft distilling is meant for you.
Did you fall in love with distilling in general, and our amazing theories and technology specifically? Then it may be time to take the next step and purchase the iStill Mini. Our product development still helps you finalize recipe formulation, while you gain hands-on distilling experience.
Buying a production size iStill (like the iStill 100, 500, 2000, or 5000) automatically gives you access to four hours of consultancy. Use it to bridge the time, size, and experience gap between the course and the reality of you opening up, between the small-size semi-manual iStill Mini and the big size automated production unit!
The runs are your responsibility. Mashing, fermenting, and distilling, even with automated equipment, can be challenging, so make sure that you know what you are doing. The machines we produce have no brain, so you better learn how to use yours! It is among your tasks to make sure you are equipped with the required knowledge and experience to do your runs professionally and safely. Using iStill Support does not take anything away from that responsibility.
Create more control with iStill Support …
The importance of yeast
If you want to produce brandy, rum, tequila, vodka, or whiskey, there are various steps to the manufacturing process. Mashing is where the starches, present in grains, are converted into fermentable sugars. During the second step, fermentation, we have yeast cells consume these sugars and produce both alcohol and flavor molecules. When fermentation is done, we can distill the resulting wine or beer into a stronger spirit.
Yeast cells are the living organisms that, during fermentation, create alcohol and flavor. And since they are living organisms, well, the environment in which they perform their magic needs to be such that they can perform optimally. What “optimal performance” means? That’s easy: the development of the right flavors, while maximizing alcohol yield, in the shortest time frame possible. So … how do we create that environment?
Yeast happy environment
Without diving in too deep, yeast, depending on the specific variety, needs a warmer or colder, and a more acid or more alkaline environment to perform optimally, and create the right flavors and a good amount of alcohol.
Yeast also needs nutrients. In the first phase of the fermentation, when there is still oxygen present, yeast cells grow and multiply. They need energy, vitamins, and minerals for proper propagation. During the second phase of the fermentation, when oxygen is depleted, the yeast cells also need energy, vitamins, and minerals in order to keep up the good work of turning sugars into alcohol and organics into flavor molecules. What nutrients they need? Good question!
Together with students and professors of the renowned Leyden University, our laboratory manager Willem Brakenhoff has performed extensive research on yeast nutrition. The goal was not just to create the best formula for the yeast to be “happy” and productive, efficient and effective, but to do it in such a way that esterification (the formation of flavor molecules) is not in any way negatively affected.
Over a period of over half a year, Willem and his team, working both in the iStill Laboratory and at Leyden’s facilities has achieved these goals. It results in a nutrient formula that will improve any fermentation. Faster fermentation, higher yield, identical or even improved esterification.
Towards better fermentations worldwide
In order to help craft distillers create better tasting spirits, and increase their yield, while minimizing fermentation times, we have decided to make the yeast nutrition information available. We want to give you the tools to bring the battle to Big Alcohol. And professional yeast treatment and management are essential for success.
What that means? It means you can now order the formula via our new eLearning Webpage, that is part of the iStill University Educational Programs. To help cover (at least partially) the costs of our research, we ask a mere EUR 25,-. You can order and pay online, and what you will get is a simple formula of the chemicals, vitamins, and minerals for you to order and mix to (further) improve your fermentation results. You will get an email with a PDF. The formula, an example for a 1,000 liter fermentation, and the procedure of how and when to add the nutrient are all in the PDF.
Here is the link to the formula: http://www.iStill.com/elearning
And here is a picture of our laboratory manager Willem (without lab coat) …
The “Myth Busters” series are posts where we look at distilling lore and anecdotical industry wisdom. Is the topic at hand based on truth? On knowledge? Or is the question at hand merely a myth that needs busting?
The structure of this “Myth Buster” post is twofold. First, we’ll explain the (generally accepted) wisdom. Secondly, we’ll dive in deeper and give you the science behind it. Or at least our opinions. We’ll share as many facts as possible as well as our opinion. The goal is threefold: let’s get rid of misconceptions (1), allow you to make better informed decisions (2), in order to become a better craft distiller (3).
The industry’s wisdom teaches us that distillers should prefer to mill grains to a fine flour, before mashing, because it creates a higher yield. What do you think? False or true?
A fine grain has a bigger surface are. Potentially, a bigger surface are makes it easier for water to contact the starch, that lies hidden inside the grain. In reality, this can create a faster conversion of starch to fermentable sugar, but it comes at various costs:
In our experience a flour, when compared to a more coarsely roller-milled grain, does not create a higher yield of fermentable sugars. In the best case, it only converts quicker. But is a 15 to 30 minute time gain worth the associated risks of dusting the place up, putting your health at risk, and potentially infecting the wash you are working with?
We don’t think so and therefore advice you to do as brewer’s do: coarsely crack your grains, by applying a roller mill, and mash a little bit longer.
Traditional roller mill …
A year and a half ago Elon Musk was found passed out against a Model 3, surrounded by “Teslaquila” bottles. Later, Elon filed a “Teslaquila” trademark and promised us he’d release the spirit soon. But what is soon in Elon-Time? To help bring Teslaquila to the market sooner, iStill, the world’s leading manufacturer of distillation equipment, decided to join the party and create both a recipe and distillery set-up to help Elon out, using the Tesla Cybertruck platform.
Elon passed out on Teslaquila …
The Tesla Cybertruck is a futuristic truck that runs on electricity. It is expected to have a battery pack of 250 to 300 kWh and fully autonomous driving. With its ground clearance and advanced 3-motor, 4-wheel drive system it can take you anywhere.
Guess what fits perfectly in the Cybertruck’s bed …
The iStill 2000 is a 21st century technology distillery that runs on electricity, and is up to 90% more efficient than traditional distilling solutions. With its advanced column design, automation and robotization it can make any drink to perfection, time and again, fully autonomous, including Teslaquila.
In order to create Teslaquila, all that is needed is agave syrup, yeast, and water. The iStill 2000, powered via the Cybertruck’s batery pack will do the rest. The Teslaquila Cybertruck can make up to 625 bottles of booze in one run, using no more than 200 kWh in the process.
With iStill technology the Cybertruck can make Teslaquila on autopilot …
Tesla + iStill = Teslaquila Cybertruck
The Teslaquila Cybertruck can be ordered as of January 1st 2020. First deliveries will take place early 2021. The price of the Cybertruck/iStill hybrid that can make Teslaquila as well as any other spirit you are interested in will start at $ 150,000.
iStill’s Teslaquila Cybertruck …
With column configuration …
On the road …
Here is an easy recipe for an amazing Christmas Liqueur. Developed by Evi, and now it’s here for you to try. A bit late? Yes, so rush to the shop and buy the ingredients. Shopping will take longer than actually making it. Here is a recipe for 1.2 liters of Evi’s Easy Egg Punch!
Evi is celebrating Xmas …
But not after making enough of her favorite Xmas drink …
This recipe will stay good, in the fridge for around two weeks easily. Never happened to us, because it is simply too good!
Now enjoy Evi’s Easy Xmas Liqueur …
After having taken over craft distilling by storm, in the last 6 1/2 years, iStill is now focussing on making distilling easier for … brewers. The iStill Brewstillery Calculator is a concrete result. It is a tool that helps the brewer calculate how much spirits he can make, what it would cost in terms of energy to make these spirits, and what size (Plug & Play) iStill is needed for the actual spirit production.
If you are a brewer, please use the iStill Brewstillery Calculator to see how your current brewhouse set-up translates to the easy production of beer brandy, vodka, or whiskey via clicking on the link underneath: