We are very proud to announce that we just launched a completely new iStill Website! The new site has all the new equipment, like the iMashers and iFermenters … and some more. Go check it out at:
We are very proud to announce that we just launched a completely new iStill Website! The new site has all the new equipment, like the iMashers and iFermenters … and some more. Go check it out at:
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 …
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 …
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 …
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 …
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 …
Finally, the product cooler will now hang vertically. Like on the bigger machines.
The new iStill Mini is available for EUR 3.000,-.
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:
The first of the new series (pre-insulation and final assembly) …
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:
How iStill helps solve the problems copper creates
There are basically two questions in need of an answer:
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 …
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.
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 …
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:
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:
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:
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:
The nextgen iStill Fermenters offer:
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 …
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.
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.
iStill Fermenter 5000:
iStill Fermenter 2000:
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.
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 …
Here is a picture of the 500 liter iStill Extractor we are about to ship to Australia …
iSanta comes early this year, and he brings loads of innovations! In the coming weeks we’ll keep you posted on what’s new. Today, let’s start with what’s basically the first step in the alcohol production process: mashing. Spoiler alert: we are not just going to talk about mashing, but also introducing the all new iStill Masher! You know what? Let’s start with a picture of that amazing new machine …
What is mashing?
Mashing is where we turn grain starch into fermentable sugars. We do so by heating-up water, adding the grains, and then adding enzymes (or malted barley) to help the starch to sugar conversion.
Steps and rests
Various steps can be distinguished, where various enzymes do their work. Most importantly:
Depending on the grain bill and enzymes each rest can take 30 to 90 minutes. Sometimes additional steps are needed. Corn, for instance, needs much higher temperatures to give up its starch. This makes a boil or high temperature rest at 90c necessary.
When the enzymes have converted the starch into sugar, mashing is done. Before the next step in the alcohol production step can start – fermenting – the mash needs to be cooled down to 25-28c. A cool down is therefore always the last step of any mash process.
Two basic procedures
There are two basic mash procedures:
In a step-up procedure, water and grain is mixed and heated-up and taken through the various mash steps. Enzymes or malted barley (a grain with excess enzymes for starch to sugar conversion) are added along the way.
Basically, in a step-down mash, water is brought to the highest needed temperature (given the specific grain bill), grains and enzymes or malted barley are added, cooling the mash down and taking the process through its various steps and rests.
Step-up mashing is mostly used in the beer industry. Given that step-down mashing is easier, faster, and takes less energy, for the distilling industry most choose a step-down procedure.
What’s important in a masher or mash tun?
Given the above, what masher or mash tun do you need to buy? What’s important to consider? Let’s dive in deeper.
Mashing is a process. What process steps should your mash tun support? Well, mashing takes place at high temperatures, so heating efficiency is important. And since different enzymes achieve conversion at different temperatures, so is control. Finally, because fermenting – the next step in the alcohol production process – takes place at much lower temperatures than mashing, cooling efficiency is important.
Functionally, it is the craft distiller that does the mashing. So how should the masher support you in your daily operation? Ease of operation for sure is important. The less time you spend mashing, the more time you can spend doing other stuff. And since no whiskey can be made without mashing, longevity is crucial too. Your mash tun needs to be build to last, so it will never become the weakest link in the production proces.
The iStill Masher
With the goal of making mashing easier, iStill now introduces next generation mashers. In 5,000 and 2,000 liter net capacity. Here is a picture of the 5,000 liter model:
And here’s what makes them unique:
Due to its compact design, unique indirect heaters, and insulation, the all new iStill Masher is the most efficient mash tun in the world. A 5,000 liter Bourbon mash costs 360 kWh. At 0.15 Euro or Dollar per kWh, the total costs of mashing are only EUR 54,- or USD 54,-. A single malt whisky mash uses only 240 kWh, which adds up to 36 Euro’s or Dollars.
A Bourbon mash in the iStill Masher 2000 costs 140 kWh, which translates to 21 Euro’s or Dollars. A single malt mash, which takes place at lower temperatures, uses 100 kWh and costs only 14 Euro’s or Dollars.
Both iStill Mashers come with the patented Jet Propulsion Agitator System (J-PAS). Together with the flush square boiler design, it helps limit shearing, which leads to better mixing efficiency, better particle distribution, and optimal heat distribution in your mash. The system counteracts vortex formation too, resulting in both higher fill grades and easier cleaning.
With only 0.1 degree temperature tolerance, the new iStill mashers offer total and unmatched control over the starch to sugar conversion process. Here’s a mash tun that puts you in charge!
Up to 40 individual mash programs can be dialed in. Each program gives the craft distiller control over the number of mash steps (up to 9), the temperatures and power settings during those steps, how fast the agitator should mix, and how long the conversion rests should take.
Ease of operation
The iStill Mashers come fully automated. After you dial in your mash procedure, you just press “Start” and the machine does the mashing for you.
The iStill mashers are connected to the internet. This way you can remotely supervise and control your masher. It also allows us to upload new software or perform remote checks.
The iMasher has auto-start. This enables you to pre-heat your mash water and shave off a few hours of your workday.
Our masher comes with automated programs for Bourbon and single malt whisky mashing. You simply select the program and use our experience to help you mash.
The iStill Masher comes with two big manholes. One at the top (for grain 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 Masher 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 masher.
Most mashers out there are made out of 1 or 2 mm thick steel. Since we feel mashing is an essential step to your production process, we decided to beef-up design specifications.
Our mashers 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 boiler is suspended in a strong, stainless steel skid. The skid acts as an exoskeleton that protects your mash tun, and that allows for side-by-side operation of multiple mashers and/or fermenters.
iStill Masher 5000:
iStill Masher 2000:
The iStill Masher 5000 costs EUR 50,000. The iStill Masher 2000 costs EUR 35.000. Both units come fully pre-assembled. Immediately after being connected to water (in/out) and electricity, it is ready to run your first mash.
The iStill Masher comes in the sizes 2,000 and 5,000 liters. We could probably build it 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 first of a new line of innovations. The iStill Masher performs the first step of your alcohol production process. Expect us to release new products, like an iStill certified pump for easy mash transfer for example, in the very near future! Again, to make mashing easier, to make your life as a craft distiller easier. This is the first of a wide range of new innovations. Stay tuned! Follow the iStill Blog and follow us on Facebook.
Delivery and availability
We are currently building the first iStill Mashers. Orders or requests for information can be placed via Sales@iStillmail.com. Current lead time is 3 months. Our online design center (www.iStill.eu/designcenter) will be updated for the iStill Masher in just two weeks from now.
We are building the revolutionary iStill Mashers right now. Wanna buy … ?
Here is a picture of us doing the last bit of work on another iStill 2000 that will go to Colorado.
Adding the Jet Propulsion Agitator System …
The first day of the new edition of the iStill Certified Distilling Workshop has started. The students have just been trained in my theory of distillation, called the Holy Trinity of Distilling. And to put theory to practice, they are currently doing a finishing run on the iStill Mini. Using organic 12.5% strong white wine, they are making a brandy. Heat-up, power management, cutting for heads, hearts, and tails … in small groups of 3 students per iStill Mini …
Check out this iStill Mini Laboratory set-up!
As I am flying to Tasmania to help train 19 Australian distillers, so are 7 minis. We packed them the day before yesterday and they boarded a cargo plane yesterday. Expect to see them in a few days at the Summerleas Distillery!