New iStill Mini Now Available!

We have finished manufacture and are now starting with final assembly of the next batch of iStills Mini II. What it is? Our 6 liter / 1.5 gallon (net) product development still. With power manager, reflux manager, gin hooks, agitator, column and extractor, it is all you need to design your best possible spirits!

It is another batch of 50 of which 20 have already been sold. Do you want to take spirits design to the professional level? Please know you can order one for EUR 3.000. For more information, reach out to Sales@iStillmail.com. If you want to order, reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com

Highest grade stainless steel boilers …

Fine machined coolers, columns, and extractors …

The finished product …

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https://www.istill.com/products/imini

Innovation: New iStill 5000!

Introduction

iStill is all about introducing new technology that will make your life as a craft distiller easier. “Distilling made easy” is not just our tagline, it is the compass by which we navigate. And today we are proud to introduce the all new iStill 5000. Distilling made easier, bigger, and faster …

In this Blog post let’s first look at what distillation is al about. Then, as a next step, we can draw up specifications on what constitutes a well-designed still. Last, let’s take a closer look at what the all new iStill 5000 has to offer.

The iStill coffee mug on top of the iStill 5000 cooler and CIP …

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What is distilling all about?

Mashing is about turning starch into fermentable sugars. Fermentation, the next step in the spirits production process, is about yeast consuming those sugars and turning them into alcohol and flavors. So … what’s distilling all about? Distilling is about concentrating and harvesting the right alcohols and the best flavors.

For more reading on mashing, please see: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/03/innovation-mashing-made-easy/. If you want to learn more about fermenting, please check out: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/07/innovation-fermenting-made-easy/. Here, in this iStill Blog post, let’s dive deeper into the noble science of distilling.

Odin in front of the iStill 5000 …

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Distillation as alcohol and flavor concentration process

The distiller’s wine or beer, made during fermentation, has a relatively low alcohol content. Maybe 8 or 9%. Distillation helps concentrate the alcohol and make it stronger.

Given the fact that alcohol boils off with more ease than water, it’s the alcohol molecules that that are overrepresented in the gases created during distillation. When we cool those alcohol rich gases back to liquid, that liquid will be richer in alcohol. Say, for example, that we distill 2000 liters of 8% beer and we distill until we collect 1/3rd of the original boiler charge, we may expect the resulting 650 liters to be around 24, maybe 25%. Stronger than the original charge, but not yet strong enough for bottling (usually at 40%) or barreling (usually at 60%).

The above example shows that a single distillation is not enough to create liquor. That’s why usually a second distillation run is needed, where the 25% low wines are redistilled. The result of the second run? Again, a stronger alcohol concentration. Usually, depending on spirit category and still, somewhere between 60 and 80% for taste rich drinks and 95 to 96% for vodka and GNS.

As explained, distillation is about alcohol concentration. And it is also about flavor concentration. Most flavors, created during fermentation, get concentrated in low wines or final liquor we make during the first and second distillation run. As a general rule of thumb, flavor intensity follows alcohol concentration. Turning an 8% beer into a 25% low wines, concentrates the original wine or beer flavors with a factor 3. Concentrate the 25% low wines into a 75% strong Heart’s cut, and the flavor is again concentrated by a factor 3. Dilution works the same way. If you dilute a 75% Heart’s cut to 50%, using water, you loose 1/3rd of the total flavor intensity.

Assembling the iStill 5000 column …

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Distillation as an alcohol and flavor selection process

Not all alcohols are created equal. Some alcohols, like acetones, boil at very low temperatures. Others, like furfural, boil at very high temperatures. Just as with alcohol in general, which has a lower boiling temperature than water, it’s the light alcohols that come over during the first part of the distillation run, while the heavier ones come over during the later part of the run (when the low and medium boiling point alcohols are depleted).

This distinction between factions is very important and is also referred to as Heads (lower boiling point infected alcohol), Hearts (the good stuff), and Tails (high boiling point infected alcohol). During distillation we want to cut out Heads and Tails, while keeping the Hearts. The reason for that? Lower and higher boiling point alcohols like acetone and furfural are not healthy. Cutting them out results in a healthier end result.

Now, let’s continue with the flavor selection part of distillation. Basically, we can group the flavors in three factions:

  1. Base substrate flavors (e.g. grainy flavors in whiskey, molasse flavors in rum);
  2. Fruity flavors;
  3. Root-like and nutty flavors.

Base substrate flavors are highlighted by the Hearts faction. Fruity flavors come over during the first part of the run. Root-like flavors are expressed near the end of the run.

Every drink has a specific flavor profile, with an emphasis on taste intensity, fruity flavors, and more root-like, nutty flavors. Fruit brandy, for instance, has a strong emphasis on fruity flavors. Single malt whisky and pot distilled rum have an emphasis on root-like and nutty flavors. Do you start to see why distillation is so important? Distillation, supported by a well-designed still, helps you concentrate and harvest the right alcohols AND the correct flavors, given the spirits category you want to make!

The iStill 5000 is fully automated …

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What’s important in a still?

Given the above, what does the (informed) craft distiller look for in a still? Well, the following five qualities are important, when investigating what still to purchase:

  1. Versatility;
  2. Flavor;
  3. Control;
  4. Ease of use;
  5. Efficiency;
  6. Longevity.

Distillation is a process that often entails (at least) two distillation runs. A stripping run first, and then a finishing run. Versatility means that you invest in a still that can do both stripping runs and finishing runs. Or look for even more versatility: how about a still that can finish in one run and saves you the trouble of doing two runs? (For more reading on versatility, please see: https://istillblog.com/2016/05/22/revolutionizing-craft-distilling-once-more/).

Okay, strip runs, finishing runs or a one-run-distillation approach helps versatility, helps you play into market developments and changes. But how about flavor? Most flavor is made during fermentation, but if you choose a directly fired still, you can actually gain up to 25% additional flavor due to the Maillard Reaction. If the still can handle on the grain or pulp distillation, there’s another 20% of flavor to be gained. So maybe you are looking for a still that is directly fired and can handle grain and pulp distillation? (For more information, read: https://istillblog.com/2016/05/06/on-boiler-design-agitation-and-taste/).

When fermentations aren’t managed well enough, distillers beer and wine can develop sulfur infections. Part of the flavor (correction) process may be that a copper catalyst is needed to help polish your drink. For more reading, please see: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/10/copper-column-math/.

Selecting the right flavors is all about control. Heads and Tails smearing may be needed – depending on the spirit you are making. Heads and Tails cuts are decided by temperatures in the still’s column or riser (in combination with air pressure, air resistance and vapor speeds). More control translates to an enhanced capability to create the exact liquor you wanna make over and over again.

Control has a secondary benefit and that’s ease of use. Knowing what’s going on lets you know what needs to be done. And automation can help make distilling even easier, since computers are great at doing dull tasks like monitoring. You shouldn’t have to take care of your still. Instead, since your time is precious, your still should take care of you. And of making the best possible liquors in the world, while you are busy selling them, telling your story.

Efficiency is important too. Distillation is about heating up a wine or beer, and bringing it to a boil. That’ asks for a lot of energy. The more efficient your still is, the lower your price point will be. Lower costs allow for higher profits and a more sustainable business model. Here’s an interesting read, if you want to learn more on variable costs: https://istillblog.com/2016/08/22/tuesday-tech-talk-7/.

Longevity, last but not least, is another quality where stills should score high. If you buy a cheap, low quality still, it may well run you out of business. Down-time can eat away at your liquidity at a tremendous rate. A well-designed, well-build still is a tool that should help you make money instead of it causing you downtime, expenses and nightmares.

iStill Whisky Distillery …

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What still technology is currently available?

Looking around at what’s available is disappointing. Most still technology available to craft distillers is based in the Classical Era (pot stills) or the 1800’s (plated stills and continuous stills)  Let’s share our findings:

  1. Most stills out there score low on versatility. In general, pot stills are either strippers or finishers but seldom both. A one-distillation-approach is theoretically possible with a plated still, but comes at a cost: root-like and nutty end of run flavors hardly come over, creating a less interesting, 2-dimensional rum or whisky;
  2. Most stills are indirectly fired (via a steam boiler and/or jacket), meaning they don’t give you the Maillard Reaction. Some stills (especially the smaller ones) have direct submersible heaters. They could help create the Maillard Reaction, but cannot distill on the grain or pulp, limiting flavor gains;
  3. Existing still technology, at a craft distilling level, offers only manual control. This results in the distiller’s subjective taste deciding on flavor composition. Optimized cuts and repeatable spirits production become impossible to realize;
  4. Ease of use is essential for day-to-day operations as well as brand development. The craft distiller needs to be out there telling his story and selling his drinks. If he (or she) is locked-up behind the still, those two essential roles cannot be fulfilled. And remember: making drinks costs money. It’s selling drinks that keeps the lights on! Unfortunately, since manual control is the standard, most (if not all) stills need constant supervision and human control, taking the distiller out of the branding and marketing operation;
  5. Efficiency. Most units are not insulated, use non-integrated heating systems, and are not designed to optimize for energy consumption;
  6. Longevity. Our research shows that most stills are designed to last. The exceptions are some Chinese and Central/Eastern European still builders. The complaints we heard about some Chinese manufacture, is that it can be made from lower quality stainless steel or that coolers do not work efficiently enough. We haven’t witnessed this ourselves though. The complaints towards a specific Central European still builder is that sheeting is too thin, that they use (corrosive!) iron instead of (promised) stainless steel, and that electronics and agitators fail. Unfortunately, we have proof (pictures and customer testimonials) that these complaints are real.

So, understanding what makes for a successful still made looking at what’s available in the market place quite disappointing. Its either good build quality and poor control (USA, Germany, UK) or some control and bad build quality (Central/Eastern Europe). Time for the next question: what does the iStill 5000 have to offer? Or any iStill, for that matter.

Cheap Polish still breaks down on its maiden run …

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The all new iStill 5000

And here’s what makes our new iStill 5000 unique. Using the same coatrack applied when judging the still technology currently available, we can differentiate between versatility, flavor, control, ease of operation, efficiency, and longevity.

The iStill is the most versatile stills on the market. You can use them to make taste rich product as well as vodka or GNS. Without replacing any parts! The iStill 5000 can strip and finish, or do a one or one-and-a-half distillation approach. Heck, equipped with the agitator and boiler radiator, the unit can even mash and ferment.

The iStill can help you create more flavor than any other still, because it is both directly fired AND can handle on the grain and pulp distillations. Additionally, the copper catalyst can take care of any sulfur infected washes.

The iStill 5000 offers automation and robotization. It basically comes with a digital master distiller to help you out. Here at iStill we are so anal about helping you make the best cuts, about harvesting the best tasting drinks, that we have 0,1 degrees control on our thermometer probes. The robot has a resolution of 0,01 mm. We measure air pressure with an accuracy of 0,1 hPa. Why? Because it helps you make better product consistently.

The iStill 5000 is very easy to operate. On the one hand you can just select your recipe and expect the unit to do the run for you. On the other hand, you can dial in or change any parameter you want to create your own recipes.

As a rule of thumb any iStill can process 7,5 to 8 liters (2 gallons) of wash per kWh. Most other stills score below one liter per kWh spent! This means the iStill is the most efficient unit on the market.

Longevity? Every iStill is designed to run 24/7 and to do so for decades instead of years. We use the highest grades stainless steel, and sheet thickness on the iStill 5000 is an unprecedented 5 mm.

Our digital master distiller is at your service via the iStill Spirits Library …

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iStill 5000 specifications

  • 5,000 liter net capacity;
  • Insulated flush square boiler design;
  • Newly designed 12 inch diameter column;
  • Gin hooks;
  • Weight: 1350 kilo;
  • Sizes: 250x255x450/600 (wide, deep, high, in centimeters, potstill/column);
  • Power: 90 kW;
  • Stripping, gin distilling: 200 liters per hour at 30%;
  • Finishing brandy, rum, and whisky: 120 liters per hour at 60%;
  • Finishing vodka: 75 liters per hour at 95%;
  • Run time: 8 – 12 hours (stripping, finishing taste rich, finishing vodka);
  • iStill Boiler Radiator for direct (instead of indirect) cooling;
  • Manholes: 40/60 cm diameter, one at top, one near bottom;
  • Supports on the grain, potato or pulp distillation;
  • Patented indirect heater system;
  • PLC system and touch screen computer, with:
  • Automated distillation programs;
  • Cuts, time, temperature, agitator, power management and air pressure control;
  • Internet connectivity, smartphone & computer management and control;
  • Optional: WiFi, pot still column, glass column sections, extractor, etc.

iStill 5000: the complete package …

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Pricing, availability and delivery

We have build the first series of three all new iStills 5000. Two got sold to Australia, the third one will go to Scotland in a few weeks.

New orders or requests for information can be placed via Sales@iStillmail.com.  Or go to https://www.istill.com/designstudio/i5000. Current lead time is 3 to 4 months. Prices start at EUR 70.000,-.

Assembling the iStill 5000 …

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https://www.istill.com/designstudio/i5000

Example: iStill Gin Distillery!

Introduction: start the new year with a gin & tonic!

Here’s the third iStill Blog post in a series of four, where we dive into how our equipment helps you out starting your distillery. Today’s topic? Gin distilling. What equipment do you need to make gin and how does investing in an iStill translate to production numbers? Yes, we are primarily focussing on iStill equipment. Not on pumps, labelers and bottle-filling machines.

iStill 500

Basically all you need to start producing gin is an iStill 500. You buy in grain neutral spirit (GNS), fill the boiler with 150 liters of it, add 300 liters of water, and add the herbs.

The iStill 500 allows you to boiler infuse or vapor infuse, or any combination of both. It performs your gin runs, and if there are heads and tails left, you can use the vodka programs to clean those up into re-usable GNS.

The base model will do the job. We’d advice you add Dynamic Cuts Management for even more control over cuts.

Total investment? EUR 27.000,-. Or EUR 574,- (est.) per month for 5 years if you want to go for the rent-to-own programs we support in the US and UK.

iStill 500 …

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Production numbers

With the iStill 500, you can basically do one gin run per day. The run will take 8 to 9 hours and yields up to 400 bottles. If you want to run your iStill 500 for 5 days per week, you can easily produce 2,000 bottles in that time frame. On a 50 week per year production roster, an iStill 500 based gin distillery can make up to 100,000 bottles per year! Pretty impressive, isn’t it? Energy input costs? A ground breaking 0,5 kWh per bottle.

Design your own iStill Distillery online!

Do you want to design your own distillery? Gin or otherwise? Please check out:

https://www.istill.com/products/distilleries#distillerycalculator

The iStill 500 is your perfect gin distillery …

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http://www.iStill.eu

Example: iStill Whiskey Distillery!

Introduction: whiskey to keep you warm

Here’s the second iStill Blog post in a series of three, where we dive into how our equipment helps you out starting your distillery. Today’s topic? Whiskey distilling! What equipment do you need to make whiskey and how does an investment in iStill equipment translate to production numbers? Yes, iStill as your one-stop-shop for all of your craft distilling equipment!

iStill Masher 5000, iStill Fermenter 5000 and iStill 5000

Basically, what you need to start producing top shelf whiskey in big quantities is one 5000 liter iMasher, five 5000 liter iFermenters, and an iStill 5000. You buy in grains and mash them in the iStill Masher 5000. Then transfer the mash into one of the fermenters and add the yeast. When the fermentation is done, use the iStill 5000 to do a single pass finish and turn your distiller’s beer in an amazing whiskey.

The masher gives you full control over the saccharification process. The iStill Fermenters help you optimize both flavor and alcohol production. The automated programs give you full control over cuts and flavor profiles. The iStill 5000 will help you – like no other still out there – at concentrating the alcohol and harvesting the best flavors.

If you want to learn more about the iStill Masher, please read: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/03/innovation-mashing-made-easy/.

Wanna know more about the iStill Fermenter? Then check this link: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/07/innovation-fermenting-made-easy/.

Investment

The iStill Masher 5000 costs EUR 50.000,-. The 5000 liter fermenters are EUR 25.000,-. The all new iStill 5000 with Jet Propulsion Agitator System, indirect heaters, and Dynamic Cuts Management? EUR 89.500,-. Total investment in your craft distillery adds up to EUR 265.500,-. If you are from the USA or UK and interested in rent-to-own, the monthly costs, on a five year scheme, would be EUR 5.650,-.

Production numbers

On a four to five day fermentation schedule,  the iStill whiskey distillery outputs up to 35,000 liters of 8% whiskey beer weekly. Via distillation in the iStill 5000, this translates to around 5,800 bottles worth of New Make. Mind you: the angels’ share is not incorporated.

If you produce 50 weeks every year, your iStill whiskey distillery yields up to 290,000 bottles per year. Energy costs of mashing, fermenting, and distilling? Less than 1 kWh per bottle.

The iStill whiskey distillery …

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http://www.iStill.eu

Example: iStill Rum Distillery!

Introduction

Here’s the first iStill Blog post in a series of four, where we dive into how our total product-line helps you at starting your distillery. Today’s topic? Rum distilling! What equipment do you need to make rum and how does investing in iStill equipment translate to production numbers? Yes, we are primarily focussing on the primary production process. Not on pumps, labelers and bottle-fillers.

iStill Fermenter 5000 and iStill 2000

Basically, all you need to start producing rum in sizable quantities is a 5000 liter iStill Fermenter and an iStill 2000. You buy in molasses. Put it in the iFermenter. Add water and yeast. With the iStill Fermenter, you will be able to ferment to around 5000 liter of 10% rum wines in two to three days. That’s 10,000 liters of ready to distill ferment per week.

For more reading on the amazing flavor development tools, the iStill Fermenter gives you, please see: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/07/innovation-fermenting-made-easy/.

Now use the iStill 2000 to create any type of rum you like. Light, medium, heavy, its all there, in the automation and software. For you to select, for you to control. Or decide to delegate control to your iStill and spend your time where on other craft distilling tasks. However you choose to do things, please know that the iStill 2000 can finish your 10,000 liters of rum wines in 5 runs. That’s one run a day, five days per week.

Investment

The iStill Fermenter 5000 costs EUR 25.000,-. We advice you to equip the iStill 2000 with Dynamic Cuts Management. An additional manhole on the still is always nice. The iFermenters have one as standard, but for the iStills it’s a choice.

Thus equipped, the iStill 2000 will cost you EUR 43.250,-. Total investment in your rum distillery? EUR 68.250,-. If you are from the USA or UK and interested in rent-to-own, the monthly costs, on a five year scheme, would be EUR 1.453,-.

Production numbers

Two ferments per week add up to 10,000 liters of 10% rum wine. Via distillation in the iStill 2000, this amount translates to around 2,000 bottles of finished rum per week. If you produce during 50 weeks every year, your iStill rum distillery yields up to 100,000 bottles per year. Energy costs? It will do so at an energy input of less than 0,75 kWh per bottle.

Design your own iStill Distillery online!

Do you want to design your own distillery? Rum or otherwise? Please check out:

https://www.istill.com/products/distilleries#distillerycalculator

The iFermenter 5000 and the iStill 2000 for your perfect rum distillery …

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https://www.istill.com/products/distilleries

Innovation: New iStill Mini!

Introduction

With the first batches of iStills Mini sold out in only weeks after its introduction, it was time to learn from the feedback we got. Time to make our all new product development still even more awesome. Here is an iStill Blog post on what we changed … and how you benefit.

3D rendering of the new iStill Mini (boiler & lid) is part of the design process …

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iStill Mini, what is it?

The iStill Mini is our 6 liter (net) capacity product development still. We want our customers to be able to design their spirits in an affordable, yet fully scalable way. The iStill 100 was too big for many for recipe development, so that’s where the 6 liter iStill Mini chimes in. And – contrary to product development on air stills, glass ware or small copper alembics – the recipe designed on the Mini can be scaled up to any of the bigger iStills. In fact, if you do a run on the iStill Mini and cut for Heads, Hearts, and Tails, you can one-on-one translate the temperatures to the run settings on the bigger production stills.

The iStill Mini comes with a reflux valve for you to manage purity vs taste. And it is equipped with a power manager for perfect control over vapor speeds and run times. It also has digital Wifi thermometer probes that communicate to an app that you can run from your smartphone or tablet.

So … what’s new?

Let’s start with the boiler. The boiler now has a drain. You guessed it: for easier draining after the run!

iStill Mini boiler (not yet insulated) with drain …

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The lid, that sits on top of the boiler, is now of a 3D design, allowing for more strength and delivers a fully horizontal plateau to mount the column on. This 3D design also allows the lid (with or without the column) to be taken of the boiler and stand on its own. In the previous version, this was – due to the protruding gin hook and the 2D lid design impossible. The better stability is definitely an advantage. The 3D design also allows us to have our name, iStill, jump out much more.

The new design (pre-acid bath cleaning) compared to the old lid …

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The column now consists of three parts instead of two. Column, collection plates, and column cooler. This makes packing your column much easier.

The packing itself, we upgraded as well. Instead of using SPP, the new iStill Mini comes with our in-house designed Helicon Column Packing, for more versatility and a more stable run. An expensive upgrade, but it is what we use in the bigger stills and we want you to have the best. Please see the picture underneath.

From left to right: traditional SPP vs iStill HCP …

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Not only is the column now packed with iStill HCP, it now also comes with ferules and tri-clamps. This makes it easier to assemble or disassemble the column.

The extractor has a wider opening, for easier access, and a bigger syphon. The extractor can be added via tri-clamps instead of thread.

The new iStill Mini Extractor …

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Finally, the product cooler will now hang vertically. Like on the bigger machines.

Pricing

The new iStill Mini is available for EUR 3.000,-.

Trolley …

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Availability

We have finished building another batch of 50 iStills Mini. The metal work is done. Insulation and assembly starts in January 2019. Delivery will take place from the end of January onwards. If you want to order the all new iStill Mini, please contact:

  • For the UK: Avian@iStillmail.com
  • For the Americas: Jason@iStillmail.com
  • For Australia, South-East Asia, and New Zealand: Sarah@iStillmail.com
  • For India: India@iStillmail.com
  • For Europe (and the rest of the world): Sales@iStillmail.com

The first of the new series (pre-insulation and final assembly) …

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https://www.istill.com/products/imini

 

 

 

 

Copper Column Math!

The traditional role of copper in still manufacturing

Traditionally, copper plays an important role in still building. Originally, copper was available, affordable, and bendable. That’s why traditionally stills were made out of copper.

Nowadays, copper helps solve issues Big Alcohol faces, but it comes with drawbacks. This blog post dives into the problem copper solves, the problems it creates, and the options iStill proposes.

The problem copper solves

When the industrial revolution and globalization hit the distilling industry, in the second half of the 19th century, it resulted in fewer but bigger distilleries. Bigger stills needed to be fed, as frequent as possible, with bigger, faster ferments. And bigger, uncontrolled, and faster ferments create off-flavors such as sulfurous compounds.

High, globalized demand asked for bigger and quicker ferments that resulted in higher sulfur content spirits. Sulfurous spirits aren’t very drinkable. Luckily, though, the stills were made out of copper. Lucky why? Lucky because copper reacts with sulfur. The problem copper solves is that it takes away sulfurous smells and tastes. Copper stills turned out to be a great medicine for imperfect ferments.

The problems copper creates

Copper solves a problem, while creating a bunch of new ones at the same time. Here is a summary:

  • Copper oxidizes and corrodes, so it needs to be replaced after 10 to 15 years;
  • Copper oxidation and corrosion can contaminate your drinks;
  • The oxidation and corrosion influence column vapor speeds;
  • Copper is expensive;
  • Copper has a high thermal conductivity, leading to lower total still efficiency;
  • With a low rate of control over column vapor speeds and passive reflux;
  • Copper columns need cleaning after every run, adding 2 hours to your work day.

How iStill helps solve the problems copper creates

There are basically two questions in need of an answer:

  1. How do our designs help solve or prevent the problems copper creates?
  2. How does iStill help fix sulfurous drinks?

If we start with the second one, please know that sulfurs are created in speedy, cold, big and under-managed ferments. How we solve that? Well, by introducing a new line of revolutionary fermentation vessels that give you perfect control over time, temperature, SG, and pH! A perfectly controlled ferment will not make notabel amounts of sulfur. For more reading, please see: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/07/innovation-fermenting-made-easy/.

How we tackle the first question? How do iStills deal with the problems copper creates? Easy. Our stills are build out of stainless steel. Stainless steel is chemically inert and does not rust. It is affordable and does not need replacement. Insulated, it offers perfect control over vapor speeds and passive reflux. Stainless steel column cleaning doesn’t need detergents. A five minute cold water flush will do it.

But if you do not have access to iStill level of fermentation control, and you end up with a sulfur over-expression, ruining your drink, we can still help out. Instead of copper columns, we provide copper catalysts.

A copper catalyst is a designated part in the still or column that has copper in it so that the gases, rising from the boiler, can mingle with it so that sulfur can catalyze. A copper catalyst means the rest of your still can be made out of stainless steel. You limit the oxidation, degradation, and contamination to a small and controlled part of your still, almost completely negating the negatives deriving from copper use, while at the same time creating all the surface area needed to polish up your sulfur-infected drink.

Surface area? Yes, the amount of surface area, where copper and gases can mingle, is the real measure of how much sulfur can catalyze. The more surface area the column or catalyst has, the more sulfur is scrubbed out. So how much surface are does a copper column have? And how should we design a catalyst that performs as well as a copper column?

Copper Column Math

The inside surface area of a column (or riser) is calculated via the following formula: D*Pi*H. Column Diameter times 3.14 times column height. Let’s take the iStill 2000 column as an example. Its diameter is 20 centimeters, Pi is always 3.14, and it has two column segments of each 75 centimeters tall. The formula now calculates a total inside surface area of 20*3.14*150 equals 9,420 cm2. Were the iStill 2000’s column made out of copper, it would offer 9,420 cm2 of surface area for the sulfur to catalyze on.

Here is a picture of the iStill 2000 and its column in potstill configuration …

Copper Catalyst Math

Now, let’s do the same calculations for a copper catalyst. First, we are going to take a good look at a copper spring filled catalyst, then we will do the math for our unique copper waffles.

The copper springs we have on offer are 1 by 1 cm tall and wide. If we apply the formula, we can calculate that the inner surface area is 1*3.14*1 equals 3.14 cm2. But, contrary to a copper column, these springs sit inside the still. It’s therefore not just the inside surface area that contacts gasses, but also the outside of the spring. This grossly doubles the surface are per spring to 6.28 cm2.

We can now calculate how many springs are needed to create the same surface area as a copper column. Let’s divide the total copper column surface area by the surface area of one spring. Here it is: 9,420 / 6.28 equals 1,500 copper springs. We only need 1,500 1*1 cm copper springs to have the same catalytic functionality as a complete copper column!

And that’s without taking into consideration that the springs are not perfectly round. Instead, they are made out of copper wire, which results in a corrugated shape that increases total surface area by 50%. 1,500 of our copper springs therefore surpass the catalytic functionality of the copper column by 50%!

Just three bags (500 springs per bag) outperform a copper column by 50% …

Copper Waffle Math

The copper catalytic waffle, that can be used in the iStill 2000, has a total surface area of 7,536 cm2. That is exactly 80% of the total surface are of the copper column calculated above. This means that if you add just two waffles to your (stainless steel) iStill 2000, you get 60% more copper surface are than a completely copper column.

iStill 2000 copper waffle …

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Summary

Copper, even though a great medicine for a bad ferment, comes with various drawbacks. The iStill solution of adding a copper catalyst or waffle to a stainless steel still gives you all the benefits, in terms of sulfur control, without any of the negatives associated with copper columns.

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http://www.iStill.eu

 

 

Innovation: Fermenting made easy!

Introduction

iSanta comes early this year, and he brings loads of innovations! In the coming weeks we’ll inform you on what we  have concocted to disrupt the distilling industry some more. In the coming weeks we’ll be introducing new technology that will make your life as a craft distiller easier.

Last week, we kicked of with the new iStill Mashers. Please see the following link for more information: https://istillblog.com/2018/12/03/innovation-mashing-made-easy/. Today, let’s take a look one step downstream, at what may well be the most important part in the alcohol production process: fermenting.

Spoiler alert! We are not just going to talk about fermenting, but we are also introducing the all new iStill Fermenter! You know what? Let’s start with a picture of this amazing new machine …

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In this Blog post let’s first look at what fermentation is al about. Then, as a next step, we can draw up specifications on what constitutes a well-designed fermentation vessel. Last, let’s take a closer look at the all new iStill Fermenter.

What is fermenting?

Where mashing is about turning starch into fermentable sugars, fermentation is about yeast consuming those sugars and turning them into alcohol. Right? No, not really. Even though most distillers would answer the question “What is fermenting?”with a focus on the alcohol production process, that is only half of the answer.

Yes, of course, fermenting is the step where the actual alcohol is produced. And, no, that is not the most important role fermentation plays in the craft spirits production process. So what is? Flavor production! Fermentation is where 80 – 100% of your flavors develop. And that is key! Not the quantity of alcohol produced, but the quality. You are competing with Big Alcohol on taste levels, not on production levels. Craft distilling is conquering the market one glass, one bottle at a time.

The key to your craft distillery becoming successful at producing top shelf product is fermentation. Fermentation is where flavor is created. Fermentation is where you can make the difference … but only if you have perfect control over the alcohol and flavor production processes. So … alcohol production and flavor production, how does that work?

Fermentation as alcohol production process

The more sugar-rich the mash is, the higher the expected alcohol percentage at the end of the fermentation. Yeast consumes the sugars and turns it into alcohol. More sugars result in a bigger alcohol yield.

If we want to control the alcohol production part of fermentation, we need insight. Insight in the (remaining) sugar content AKA specific gravity of the fermentation. When we know specific gravity (SG), we know where we are in the alcohol production process and when the alcohol production process will finish. A drop in specific gravity (SG) means part of the sugar is already consumed and turned into alcohol. When the SG reaches zero on remaining sugar content, we know fermentation (as an alcohol production process) is done.

Of course, during the alcohol production phase a lot of CO2 is also produced. This gives you an indication that there is still fermentation activity going on, but it does not tell you where in the process the fermentation is or what kind of fermentation stopping emergencies you may have run into.

Fermentation as flavor production process

Over 80% of the flavor of your drink (or new make spirit AKA white dog) is made during fermentation. Basically, we can group the flavors in three factions:

  1. Base substrate flavors (e.g. grainy flavors in whiskey, molasse flavors in rum);
  2. Fruity flavors;
  3. Root-like and nutty flavors.

Base substrate flavors can be highlighted by a prolonged fermentation. Longer fermentation (even though bad for yield per production day) creates more flavors overall.

Fruity flavors can be highlighted via warmer fermentations. A warmer fermentation creates more fruity flavors.

Root-like and nutty flavors are underlined by more sour fermentations. A very sour fermentation creates more root-like and nutty flavors than a more neutral pH ferment.

Every drink has a specific flavor profile, with an emphasis on taste intensity, fruity flavors, and more root-like, nutty flavors. For instance, fruit brandy has a strong emphasis on fruity flavors. Single malt whisky and pot distilled rum have an emphasis on root-like and nutty flavors. Do you start to see why fermentation is so important?

What’s important in a fermenter?

Given the above, what does the (informed) craft distiller look for in a fermenter? Given the above, an IBC or tote may not be optimal, sure, you got that. But what is?

Fermenting fosters two processes. Alcohol production and (most importantly) flavor production. It therefore makes sense to expect any fermenter to give you information on time, temperature, pH, and SG. Insight in these parameters allows you perfect control over the alcohol and flavor production processes. Perfect control for spirits that have amazing, intense, and correct flavor profiles.

Specific Gravity or SG tells you where your fermentation is at from an alcohol production point of view. pH tells you how sour your fermentation is running, which in term helps you manage root-like and nutty flavors. Temperature management allows you to create more or less fruity flavors. And if you let your ferments take longer, you will highlight more of the substrate the spirit is made from.

Summary? Long story short? If you put fermentation center stage (as you should!) your fermenters better offer control over the alcohol and flavor production parameters, so you can create the best possible spirits!

Control has a secondary benefit and that’s ease of use. Knowing what’s going on lets you know what needs to be done. Ease of use is further enhanced by designs that make filling and emptying easy. You shouldn’t have to take care of your fermenter. Instead, your fermenter should take care of you. And of making the best possible distillers wines and beers in the world.

Efficiency is important too. Ferments create a lot of heat. The more efficient the cooling is, the less money you loose on cooling water.

Longevity, last but not least, is another topic on which fermenters should score high. If (controlled) fermenting sits at the center of successful spirits production, the craft distiller better makes sure he invests in equipment that does not break down and is build to last.

What technology is currently available?

Looking around at what’s available, fermenter-wise, is disappointing. Let me share our findings:

  1. Control. Existing fermenter technology offers either no control or (poor) temperature control. Time control, pH control, SG control are absent;
  2. Ease of use. Filling is often only possible through the top manhole, meaning one has to climb up. Fermenters in general discharge close to the ground, creating bottle necks during clean-out. Insight, computers, automated fermentation programs are not available;
  3. Efficiency. Most units use double boilers for cooling. Indirect cooling is inefficient, a waste of money and water.
  4. Longevity. Our research shows that most fermenters are made of 0.7 to 1.7 mm thick stainless steel. That is thin, way too thin! We understand that thinner sheeting makes a fermenter cheaper, but our material expertise lets us conclude it is a trade-off you don’t want to make.

So, understanding what makes for successful ferments, and what a good fermenter should offer, made looking at what was available in the market space a very disappointing experience. Our thoughts? Let’s make things better. Let fermentation take its place center stage. As the distiller’s most important access to flavor creation and spirit expression, fermentation deserves that spot. And as a (wannabe) successful craft distiller, you deserve the equipment to help get you there.

The iStill Fermenter

With the goal of making fermenting top shelf spirits easier, iStill now introduces next generation fermenters. In 5,000 and 2,000 liter net capacity. Here is a picture of the 5,000 liter model:

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And here’s what makes our new iStill Fermenters nextgen and unique. Using the same coatrack applied when judging current fermentation technology, we can differentiate between:

  1. Control;
  2. Ease of operation;
  3. Efficiency;
  4. Longevity.

Control

The nextgen iStill Fermenters offer:

  • Time control, that allows you to dial in how long and in how many steps you want to ferment. Important for substrate flavor control;
  • Temperature control (0.1 degree accuracy), both with automated cooling and heating, for control over fruity flavors;
  • pH control (0.1 pH accuracy) for the expression of root-like and nutty flavors;
  • SG control for insight in the alcohol production part of the fermentation process.

Ease of operation

The iStill Fermenters can be ordered fully automated. After you dial in your fermentation procedure, you just press “Start” and the machine does the whole fermentation process for you.

The iStill Fermenters are connected to the internet. This way you can remotely supervise and control your ferment. It also allows us to upload new software or perform remote checks, future-proofing your distillery.

The iFermenters come with push messaging, whenever certain parameters (like temperature, time or pH) run out of their pre-set values.

Our Fermenter comes with automated programs for Brandy, Bourbon, Fruit Brandy, Rum, Vodka, and Whisky. Each program helps create those flavors you are looking for, given the specific spirit category you want to make.

The iStill Fermenter comes with two big manholes. One at the top (for filling) and one near the bottom (for easy access). The PLC is operated via a touch screen or via your smartphone or computer.

Another unique feature the new iStill Fermenter has, is the Easy Discharge Center. The unit sits, as it were, on stalks. This creates a high and easy access discharge exit. You can easily forklift a receiver/container under the actual boiler for easy cleaning and grain handling. Lastly, it has Easy Filling Connect. Just connect a hose to the connect and you can start filling your Fermenter with either water or mash.

Easy Discharge Center …

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Efficiency

Due to its compact design, unique indirect heater, insulation, and direct cooling, the all new iStill Fermenter is the most efficient fermenter in the world.

Both sizes, the 2000 and 5000, can be additionally equipped with the patented Jet Propulsion Agitator System (J-PAS). Together with the flush square boiler design, it helps prevent shearing, which leads to better mixing efficiency, better particle distribution, and optimal heat distribution in your ferment. The system counteracts vortex formation too, resulting in higher fill grades, easier cleaning, and no unwanted oxygen addition.

Longevity

Most fermenters are made out of 0.7 to 1.7 mm thick steel. Since we feel fermenting is THE essential step in your flavor production process, we decided to beef-up design specifications.

Our fermenters use 3 to 5 mm thick stainless steel. They are build to last! The sides are insulated and the insulation is armored for heavy duty use.

The actual tank is suspended in a strong, stainless steel skid. The skid acts as an exoskeleton that protects your fermenter, and that allows for side-by-side operation of multiple mashers and/or fermenters.

Specifications

iStill Fermenter 5000:

  • 5,000 liter net capacity;
  • Insulated flush square boiler design;
  • Weight: 950 kilo;
  • Sizes: 170x170x320 (wide, deep, high, in centimeters, J-PAS adds 50 to height);
  • Power: 6.75 kW;
  • iStill Boiler Radiator for direct (instead of indirect) cooling;
  • Manholes: 40/60 cm diameter, one at top, one near bottom;
  • Supports on the grain, potato or pulp fermentations;
  • Patented indirect heater system;
  • PLC system and touch screen computer (option), with:
  • Automated fermenting programs;
  • Time, pH, temp, agitator, and SG control, and with:
  • Internet connectivity, smartphone & computer management and control;
  • Easy Fill Connect and Easy Discharge Center;
  • J-PAS variable speed mixing technology (option);
  • Optional: WiFi.

iStill Fermenter 2000:

  • 2,000 liter net capacity;
  • Insulated flush square boiler design;
  • Weight: 600 kilo;
  • Sizes: 130x130x230 (wide, deep, high, in centimeters, J-PAS adds 50 to height);
  • Power: 6.75 kW;
  • iStill Boiler Radiator for direct (instead of indirect) cooling;
  • Manholes: 30/50 cm diameter, one at top, one near bottom;
  • Supports on the grain, potato or pulp fermentations;
  • Patented indirect heater system;
  • PLC system and touch screen computer (option), with:
  • Automated fermenting programs, with:
  • Time, pH, temp, agitator, and SG control, and with:
  • Internet connectivity, smartphone & computer management and control;
  • Easy Fill Connect and Easy Discharge Center;
  • J-PAS variable speed mixing technology (option);
  • Optional: WiFi.

Pricing

The iStill Fermenters come in two sizes: 2000 and 5000 liter. Each size can be ordered “naked” as well as fully automated. The fully automated versions have the J-Pas mixing technology and WiFi as additional options.

The iStill Fermenter 5000 “Naked” costs EUR 20.000. The iStill Fermenter 2000 “Naked” costs EUR 15.000,-. It has screw-in ducts for heaters and controls (such as temperature), and it comes with the iStill Boiler Radiator, that can be used for both cooling and heating.

The fully automated iStill Fermenter 5000 costs EUR 25.000. The iStill Fermenter 2000, fully automated, costs EUR 20.000. The J-PAS mixing system adds EUR 7.500 to the price of the 5000 liter model and EUR 5.000 to the 2000 liter model. WiFi (instead of internet connection via a cable) adds EUR 1.000 to the bill.

Line-up

The iStill Fermenter comes in the sizes 2,000 and 5,000 liters. We could probably build them smaller, but why would you want that? Pricing will only go down marginally, and in order to make a living out of producing your own alcohol … well … there is no substitute for cubic inches.

This is the second of a new line of innovations. The iStill Masher got introduced first and optimizes the first step of your alcohol production process: starch to fermentable sugar conversion. The all new nextgen fermenters perform the next step, where sugars are converted to alcohol and flavors are formed. What’s next? Well, distilling of course. Pump the beer or wine you just created into your iStill and concentrate and harvest the flavors you are looking for.

Delivery and availability

We are currently building the first iStill Fermenters. Orders or requests for information can be placed via Sales@iStillmail.com. Current lead time is 1 month for the naked-series and 3 months for the fully automated one.

Our online design center (www.iStill.eu/designcenter) will be updated for the iStill Fermenter in just a week from now.

Building a new batch of iStill Fermenters as we speak …

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https://www.istill.com/products/fermenters