Business as Usual?

Even though Corona is holding the world in a grip, so far, we are able to continue to manufacture and deliver iStills all over the world. If anything, it is getting busier!

Here are a few pictures of a 5000 liter fermenter (Mexico), a 2000 liter iStill with 500 liter Extractor (US Virgin Islands), and an iStill 500 with Extractor (UK) that are picked up for crating, and then transport.

Fun at work …

Into the truck you go …

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http://www.iStill.com

Aspects of Distillation (1): Air Pressure!

Introduction

“Aspects of Distillation” is a new series the iStill Blog will host. 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 influence and importance air pressure has on distillation.

Air pressure

There are three things I want you to consider, when investigating air pressure and its role in the distillation process:

  1. Air pressure directly influences the flavor composition of the drinks you produce;
  2. Air pressure constantly changes;
  3. So changing air pressure constantly changes the flavor composition of your drinks.

Starting this investigation with air pressure variability, I want you to understand that higher altitude results in lower air pressure. Also – at any altitude – air pressure changes constantly.

When you make drinks like gin, whiskey, rum or brandy, you cut for heads, hearts, and tails. The best way to measure and replicate cuts is by looking at the temperatures in the column or riser of your still. Do you cut from heads to hearts at 82c? Good, you now have a reference point to do the exact same run again tomorrow, and create the exact same cuts again, by using 82c as the switch-point from heads to hearts, right? Wrong.

As air pressure constantly changes, so do associated boiling points. In other words: given yesterday’s air pressure, the 82c cut-point may have been spot-on. But what if air pressure is lower, due to a bad weather front moving in? What was a good decision at 82c yesterday, may need to be 81.6c today.

Now, 0.4c degrees difference does not sound like a lot, but look at it this way: if it takes your still 25 minutes to move up in temperature 0.4c … that now means you either have collected 25 minutes of heads into your hearts, or that you just lost 25 minutes of good product to a badly judged heads cut!

Cut management via a parrot and ABV only deepens the problem. Cut management by taste is very subjective and influenced by what you ate, so no solution either. So how can this problem, that hugely influences flavors and therefor the consistency of craft distilled spirits, be solved?

Feature

iStill designed an air pressure sensor. It measures the air pressure every second. If the air pressure changes, the sensor informs the computer. The computer then automatically adapts your cut-points to compensate.

If we use the above example, with yesterday’s heads to hearts cut taking place at 82c. Today, you want to replicate the same recipe, so you look it up in your product library, load it into the iStill computer, and tell the iStill to start executing. The air pressure sensor notices immediately (and constantly) that the air pressure – relative to yesterday – is 0.4c off. As a result, the computer automatically changes your heads to hearts cut from 82c to 81.6c. If the air pressure monitor sees a change from 0.4c to – say – 0.3c, the heads to hearts cut will immediately compensate to 81.7c instead of 81.6c.

Benefits

All iStills are equipped with air pressure sensors and the resulting dynamic cuts management for heads, hearts, and tails. It is a standard feature to our stills. It helps craft distillers make better product, more consistently, and with less guessing, effort and supervision.

iStill’s amazing air pressure sensor …

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http://www.iStill.com

Distilling Whiskey and Rum Sustainably!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wanna see the new software and PLC?

And not just on any still, but on the iStill 500 we currently use to make hand sanitizer. Yes, with the new PLC, software and touchscreen. And the 10-times faster reacting robot. Wanna read more? Then please see:

https://istillblog.com/2020/03/16/istill-artificial-intelligence/

For now, here are some pictures of the upgraded i500:

New software …

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The new and bigger touchscreen …

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Active heatsink-cooling on the new PLC …

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The i500 in action, producing alcohol for hand sanitizer …

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http://www.iStill.com

New PLC Technology and Software!

New computer hardware and software

We are proud to announce that we have developed, together with our technology partners, the mother of all industrial computers. The processing speeds (x10) and upgraded memory banks (x100) and upgraded graphics (x1000) are all amazing steps forward from the already impressive (and class leading) current iStill PLC (Programmable Logic Controller = industrial computer). HAL 9000 move over!

Increased performance and functionality

iStill started working on the new PLC, and its associated software, over a year ago. The functionality has been tested extensively, over the last 9 months, both at iStill HQ and at a select group of customers. The results are great.

With the new hardware and software, the following capabilities and functions are added to the iStill (or will be added in the future):

  1. The iStill Robot is 100 (!) times faster;
  2. Bigger touch screen, for a more satisfying user experience: per direct;
  3. That is 16:9 instead of 4:3 and has Full HD Color capability: per direct;
  4. Support will be on demand and internet connectivity will be for free, instead of via a Software and Service Subscription: per direct;
  5. Integration with iStill’s new StillControl App: per 2021;
  6. Data-logging, to track and register your runs: per 2021;
  7. Integrated Central Distillery Management, where all new iStills can monitor and manage up to 7 fermenters and mashers (until now a separate 10-20K option): hardware per direct, software per mid 2020.

Roll-out and ordering process

Any unit, except the i100 that will follow later, for which the ordering process starts from tomorrow onwards, will automatically (no pun intended) be equipped with the new PLC, software, and touch screen. The improved graphics and Integrated Central Distillery Management hardware are included as well. Ordering process? Nothing spectacular, just reach out to Chris@iStillmail.com, discuss what you need, and – when you are ready to order – ask for a quotation. Business as usual …

Working on the new software (2019 pic) …

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http://www.iStill.com

The Ultimate Product Development Still!

The iStill Mini is the ultimate product development still, because you can make both pot distilled and column distilled recipes, because it is digitally controlled, because it comes with the amazing new extractor technology, and because the build-quality is, well, iStill build-quality! Manufactured in the Netherlands, no less.

The iStill Mini comes with heater, agitator, power manager, digital Bluetooth probe, and an app. It helps make brandy, gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, bitters and liqueurs. We pack the unit in a wheeled trolley bag, so it is convenient for you to transport it or to move it around.

We are currently finishing a new batch of 17 iStills Mini. They are sold for EUR 3.500,-. That’s the complete kit. With trolley bag. And transport is included! If you want to order, please reach out to Chris@iStillmail.com. If you want to book training on how to use the iStill Mini to develop a new portfolio of top-shelf spirits, contact Veronika@iStillmail.com.

Column coolers: check …

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Boilers: check …

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Trolley bags: checked …

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All set to go to customers all over the world …

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http://www.iStill.com

 

 

Dispatching more iStills!

We are dispatching two more iStills 2000, an iStill 500, and an Extractor. Both iStills 2000 go to customers in Scandinavia. The i500 and Extractor will ship to Australia soon.

Forklifting two iStills 2000 …

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In the truck and off to the crating company …

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The iStill 500 and Extractor …

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New pallets for new orders …

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http://www.iStill.com

List of iStill Countries!

Our customers can be found all over the world:

  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belgium
  • Benin
  • Cambodia
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Ecuador
  • Estonia
  • Faroe Islands
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • Guatemala
  • Hungary
  • Hong-Kong
  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Cape Verde
  • Croatia
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Malta
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mexico
  • Mozambique
  • The Netherlands
  • Nicaragua
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Ukraine
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Reunion
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • St Martin
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Turkey
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • United Kingdom
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States of America
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland