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 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

Wanna become the best distiller you can be?

Quotes from our students …

I loved the course! It gave me a chance to be around like minded people and talk about my most favorite thing in the world: producing great spirits and enjoying the process. Trying a few things out and hearing how others go about achieving this. Dispelling the myth around spirit production allows for more innovation an this is what I have discovered here through the right amount of science. (Aris Aristidou, Cyprus)

The workshop was very enjoyable and gave us a massive amount of knowledge to build on and use in coming years. (Jonathan Heard, UK)

Thank you for an incredible experience. The iStill family was great company and incredible hosts. I would be happy to help with future applicants by speaking to them in advance if they need an outside opinion about the course. (Gavin Miklauchich, UK)

The training was top! I loved every minute and found it very informative. (Ian Mansell, UK)

I recommend the course to anyone thinking about buying a still. (Julian Curtoys, UK)

Great combination of theory and practice (and fun!). Focus on a broad spectrum of topics, not only the technical processes, with very competent speakers. The course was fantastic and I would really like to thank the whole team for creating and delivering such a first class experience! (Hans Lentz, UK)

Very enjoyable 4 days, and well organized. I appreciate the enormous amount of preparation that went into on your part. (Robin Johnson, UK)

Odin’s lectures were good. The hands on element of using en assembling the still was great. Putting together the gin recipes was very useful. (Bradley Christensen, USA)

I was very happy. Visiting iStill is like visiting an old friend, you get a warm welcome. Much of the knowledge of distilling is kept mysterious – e.g. aging periods/techniques, how to make really good whisky/rum etc. – this inside knowledge was part of the course. (Alan Milne, UK)

All the information was good, but the section on virtuous cycles to produce more flavor rich products was the highlight. The hands on components were also excellent. The external site visit and group dinner the first evening is a great way to get to know each other. (Vic Testolin, Australia)

You met all my expectations of the course and some more. I love how you evolve not only through courses but also through new innovations and technology. I’m convinced that your growth as a manufacturer and distiller will help me in the future to do the same. Thank you for sharing the knowledge and the craft. Looking forward to the future. (Hrvoje Busic, Croatia)

Very attractive presentations and open discussions. All the lecturers have experienced knowledge that they unselfishly distribute. There was no question asked at the course that hasn’t been answered. You guys are great, keep up the amazing work,  and see you in Zagreb Luftbremzer distillery! (Filip Presecki, Croatia)

I loved the overall experience. Almost all aspects of distilling have been discussed and have been explained in a very down to earth manner which makes it very understandable. Great group with great people. (Rene Kamphuis, Netherlands)

Many thanks to the whole iStill team! I loved meeting and sharing with fellow spirits enthousiasts/distillers/soon-to-be distillers and understanding how a chosen type of production (mashing/fermenting/distillation/maturation) protocol will influence the flavor of the final product. I loved Odin’s passionate, sincere and generous delivery ad engaging teaching style. I may not buy an iStill yet (have to sell cocktails first) but I am now a firm follower. (Yves Cosentino, UK)

I got a much better understanding of the basics of distilling, and also the possibilities and quality of the equipment. A great course with lots of new knowledge for me. Keep up the good work! (Bernt Gran, Norway)

Excellent explanation of all parts of the process and how to affect flavor of spirits. It was also great to meet some “real life” distillers and talk about business aspects as well as practical. (Andrea Stanch, UK)

The course was: very enjoyable, very well thought, very informative with hands on experience, aimed to teach the process and not just tell the students which buttons to push, thought in a clear, easy to understand way. Thank you very much Odin and Veronika for a very enjoyable few days! (Tom Grills, Ireland)

We were made to feel very welcome by everyone from iStill and really enjoyed spending time with all those involved with the course. Buying everyone beer and dinner was very much appreciated. Great course, great product, great people! (Peter Dignan, UK)

Odin was en excellent teacher with great ideas. The level and depth of knowledge was about right. I really love the community feel of iStill. Anything you can do to encourage that even more would be great. (Arthur Parkinson, UK)

Odin is a consummate teacher. His use of multiple teaching methods, from verbal instructions to analogies to graphs makes for lasting lessons. The breaks from classroom time to actual production floor demo’s was key. The field trip was also fun and allowed for some social interaction early in the schedule. (Ashley Cross, USA)

Thank you all for a fantastic class! The teaching style was great because we were able to have personalized questions and answers. The balance between theory and hands on training was also great; you certainly need both to become a great distiller! Not only was the class and theory easily worth the price of admission and then some, but having the chance to be in an operating distillery and connect and network with other people in the business and hear and share experiences was also priceless. It was a privilege and an adventure. (Jared Lewis, USA)

Thank you! It was an excellent environment. Odin’s patience and humanity helped. (Peter Singh, UK)

The course gave me very much energy and positive vibes and at the end of every day I was exhausted … so much to give a place in my mind … great … wonderful! Thank you!! (Bert Penning, Netherlands)

It was an excellent experience and I’m glad i attended. The science and technical explanations were excellent and helped fill in a lot of questions that I had before attending the course. It’s hard to find resources that go into the “why” part of questions and not only into “how”. When you know why you are doing something, then you can ask better questions and seek better answers. Everyone was also eager to learn and ask about their own theories. I thought that a one-on-one course would be necessary to hammer out the theory on distilling but having many different perspectives helped me better understand distilling since there were many different questions during the course. (Dave Farnia, USA)

Thank you for a great weekend, it was extremely useful. (Ulf Agger, Denmark)

The subject matter was presented in an interesting manner with good class participation. The content was excellent and sessions were designed with a variety of learning methods to ensure retention of learning. Interacting and learning from others in the class was a bonus. I really enjoyed dinner the first evening. I also think the Facebook group is a good idea! Thank you for the great course and looking forward to producing my first spirit on an iStill. (Kecia E. McDougall, UK)

Everything was excellent! (Shaun Hancke, UK)

I had a very interesting weekend and I can recommend the course to anyone who want to start distilling. (Wilco Reefman, Netherlands)

Lots of information , great new insights and a great atmosphere to meet and exchange new ideas. (Sebastiaan Smits, Netherlands)

For me as a beginner in distilling it was a lot of useful information in theoretical and practical part. It was also nice to meet more experienced distillers who have shared their knowledge and experience. The course gave me enough knowledge and confidence to start to distill. (Juri Kiur, Estonia)

Had a great 3 days! Would like to be kept informed about follow-ups. (Jaap Lindeman, Netherlands)

It was a brilliant course, it gives you confidence, and nice to share experiences. (Kevin-Cameron Cross, UK)

iStill University …

The iStill University provides amazing 4-day workshops that will unlock your full craft distilling potential. Spiritual growth uncorked. Applicable theories and top shelf procedures brought to you by the industry’s most experienced, knowledgable and innovative distillers. Students rate the workshop with an industry leading 9.7 out of 10. Wanna participate? Please reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com

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http://www.iStill.eu/university

 

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.

download

http://www.iStill.eu

 

 

iStill Certified Workshop in Amsterdam!

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 …

http://www.iStill.eu

Fermentation Frustration!

Introduction

Let me share my frustration regarding fermentation with you. My frustration regarding fermentation? Yes, I feel that if there is one part of the process of craft spirits production that is riding in the back seat, it is fermentation. It is the one step that so many craft distillers neglect. My message here, today, is that it shouldn’t be neglected, that it should be in the driving seat of any craft distillery, not in the back seat!

Focus on the wrong things

Most craft distillers focus on distilling. And maybe on mashing. But not on fermenting. Fermenting is often seen as a necessary evil. A time consuming process that hampers the distillery’s overall efficiency in maximizing alcohol production. Fermentation is where the actual alcohol is produced, so its all about yield, right?

Wrong! Yes, of course, the actual alcohol is produced during the fermentation stage. It is where sugars (converted from starch during the mashing phase that precedes it) are turned into alcohol. But alcohol production as fermentation’s focus point? That is all wrong! It is wrong because it is during the fermentation phase that most of the flavor (depending on recipe and equipment 80 – 100%) is created.

A paradigm shift on fermentation

If flavor is created during fermentation, and if craft distillers need to compete with Big Alcohol on taste, rather than costs per liter produced, I propose a shift in paradigm. That new paradigm sounds like this:

“Fermentation is the most important step for each and every craft distiller wanting to produce their own whiskey, brandy, or rum.”

Current and new paradigm: the consequences

The existing way of thinking, where fermentation is primarily judged to be a bottle neck part of the process, aimed at alcohol production, leads craft distillers to under invest in fermentation equipment. In stead of fermentation taking place in the controlled environment needed to optimize (consistent) flavor development, cheap options like IBC’s, totes or under designed, thin, stainless steel vessels are chosen.

Most craft distilleries focus on investing in distillation equipment and not in fermentation equipment. Most craft distillers look for a shiny new still that only helps them (in the best case scenario) to rectify the mistakes made during their uncontrolled fermentations. Most craft distillers spend 80% of their equipment money on the still and only 20% on those parts of the spirits production process that help create better flavor.

And the money that is spent on fermentation, is usually invested in underrated equipment. Most fermenters one can buy, have – depending on size and manufacturer – a sheet thickness of 0.7 to 1.7 mm. Would you buy a still that thin? Of course not! So why buy thin sheeted fermenters? Because the craft distiller considers fermentation less essential than distillation.

When we put fermentation in the driver’s seat, if we change to my proposed new paradigm, and declare it the most important step in the spirits production process, the following happens:

  1. Equipment investment focusses on fermentation as well as distillation;
  2. The fermentation equipment that will be acquired, will give you more control over consistent flavor development;
  3. The fermentation equipment will see a rise in build quality.

As a result, craft distillers will finally be able to make taste rich product with better taste than Big Alcohol. And as consistently as the bigger producers can.

Costs and investments in your craft distillery

When Big Alcohol sets up a new distillery, do you know how they divide their equipment investments? 98% goes into mashing and fermenting and only 2% into the actual still. Total control over flavor and alcohol production during fermentation makes the still actually less important.

I am not saying you, as a craft distiller, should follow their lead to the letter. But I do challenge you to evaluate and reassess the numbers. Where Big Alcohol spends 98% on mashing and fermenting, our industry only spends 20% in that realm. If flavor is king, shouldn’t craft distillers at least up the investment in their fermenters to (or slightly above) the costs of their still? And if you are not convinced about the importance of controlled fermentation, please take a look at craft brewing. Or investigate the wine industry. They have been “craft” for over 2 millennia and may know there priorities better.

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http://www.iStill.eu

I have a dream, that craft distilling one day …

Looking back

When I entered craft distilling some 10 years ago, the industry basically faced 2 major challenges. Firstly, the equipment Craft Distillers could get their hands on was grossly outdated, inefficient, and overpriced. Secondly, there was no common, unifying body of knowledge on how to distill, let alone on how to design specific drinks with the flavors that go with that spirit’s category. Instead, there was a mere collection of anecdotical and archaic stories, only faintly resonating with the pre-prohibition true experience of actual distilling.

A culture of traditionalism and romanticism was fostered. Maybe because the ones that knew, didn’t want to share. Probably because the people that thought they knew, didn’t know that much either. Industry truths like “rerun heads and tails”, “copper is king”, “questioning what we’ve been doing for centuries is stupid”, “tradition trumps innovation”, and “the barrel is where it’s all about” set the pace … and choked the industry’s progress.

These circumstances, and the resulting industry culture, acted as hurdles, that prevented  craft distillers becoming successful. The lack of affordable, efficient, and effective spirits production equipment made it impossible to compete with Big Alcohol in terms of cost price. The knowledge gap often lead to sub-standard spirits being brought to the market. When I entered the craft distilling industry some 10 years ago, I knew where I could make a difference.

The journey so far

Looking back, I am proud to see how our efforts helped change craft distilling. By designing a line of new and revolutionary machines, iStill has been able to take down many of the hurdles mentioned above.

Due to a batch production based manufacturing strategy, we were able to drive prices of professional distilling equipment down. The fact that an iStill 2000 outproduces a traditional 20-plate copper still in every aspect at less than 25% of the purchase costs has made market entry as well as break-even management much easier.

Our innovative still designs added so much control, that producing – time and again – the same high quality spirits has become a breeze. The automation we developed furthermore limited the manual labor input to the distilling process by a whopping 80%.

Where variable run costs on a traditional 2000 liter 20-plate copper still can amount to EUR 650,-, our innovations help push these important day to day expenses down to a mere EUR 50,-. In other words: the craft distilling industry now has access to technology as efficient as Big Alcohol does.

Last, but certainly not least, we have researched distilling over and over again. All the myths have been debunked. And all that we learned has been translated to an integrated body of knowledge that we now use to train Craft Distillers and design better performing distillation equipment.

We have finally achieved a situation of parity with Big Alcohol. Craft Distillers can now produce at roughly the same costs. Craft Distillers are now able to produce at the same (repeatable) quality levels or above. Recently introduced gins, vodkas, and whiskies show this over and over again: craft distilling is ready to take over the world.

So … what?

So … why doesn’t it? Why does craft distilling only account for a few percent of the total alcohol production? With all of the above innovations available, with a new and bright focus on challenging the status quo, why doesn’t craft distilling take over Big Alcohol? Yes, the industry grows, but not by the double digits it should.

I think I know why it doesn’t. We have met a new hurdle. With all issues related to producing (above) top shelve product efficiently and repeatedly out of the way, we are up to the next challenge. And guess what? It’s a big one.

Distribution

Craft Distillers produce locally and sell regionally. Growing a craft distillery out of its original region is proving very, very difficult. There are basically three root causes for this.

First, markets in general, and distributors in special, look at spirits in a hierarchical way. If you are successful regionally, you may be ready to grow to the national level. And only after achieving statewide or national success, will you be eligible for international distribution. Craft Distillers, contrary to Big Alcohol, do not have easy access to statewide or nation wide shelve space, making growth a catch 22. In order to grow, you need to get out of state. In order to get out of state, you first need to grow.

Costs are the second reason why a growing distribution model is hard to achieve, let alone maintain. Costs associated with small-batch distribution. A UK produced and bottled gin, by the time it hits the Japanese market, will see an increase in costs of around 80%. This rise is caused by export, import, transport, and insurance costs. The higher costs result in higher up-front investments having to be made by the Craft Distiller. They also chip away at profitability.

The third reason why international or global distribution is hard to get, has to do with the inherent and strategic collaboration between big, world wide distributors and Big Alcohol. Big production numbers translate to big distribution numbers. And big numbers amount to a big influence on what gets distributed and what gets placed on the shelve and what not. Big Alcohol and big distributors have a love affair and you are not invited to the party.

Is a solution feasible?

If our industry wants to grow and become a serious threat to Big Alcohol, we need to overcome the distribution challenges sketched above. We need to trump the hierarchical model by being local as well as international. We need to cut distribution costs dramatically. We need to find distribution partners that fall in love with Craft Distillers rather than Big Alcohol.

I have a dream, that craft distilling, one day, will overcome this next hurdle and truly become a globally competitive industry. I have a dream that, if we challenge the status quo, that day is not far off. And it is to help break through this next hurdle that we have started Portfolio Distilling.

Portfolio Distilling

Portfolio Distilling aims to help Craft Distillers realize a global reach. It does so in a way that cuts out most of the distribution costs associated with export, transport, import, and insurance. Portfolio Distilling fosters and grows its own distribution model, so that dependency of big distributors diminishes.

The way in which we realize these objectives is by setting-up a global network of distilleries, with each continent or market having at least one central Portfolio Distillery. The Portfolio Distillery serves as a hub for the production and distribution of out of state craft spirits that want to enter other markets.

How it works?

If you want to participate, this is how it works:

  1. We discuss your goals and establish if Portfolio Distilling can help you
  2. You become a member of the Portfolio Distilling Network
  3. With your help, we template your spirit in our Netherlands HQ
  4. Based on the template, we do a first small production run of your drink
  5. Your spirit then gets presented to the Portfolio Distilleries in the desired markets
  6. The involved Portfolio Distilleries start production and distribution

Et voila! You have now achieved international distribution. This feat helps you sell more bottles internationally as well as locally. Congratulations, you just trumped the hierarchical distribution model!

Because you now have an on-site production and distribution center in another country or on another continent, your costs will go down dramatically. You will save up to 80% on the costs of exporting, transporting, importing, and insurance. You do not just sell more bottles, you sell more bottles at a higher profit margin.

Finally, your product is now represented by what’s basically another Craft Distiller. Someone that can relate to your story, understands your problems, and knows what it takes to grow a craft manufactured brand.

Different participation levels

As Craft Distillers we all have different needs. We designed a model with different participation levels to meet your specific demands:

  1. You just need production capacity and reach out to a Portfolio Distillery to help you out
  2. You need production capacity as well as distribution
  3. Apart from needing international production and distribution capacity, you also want to produce for other, off-continent, Craft Distillers
  4. You want to become a Portfolio Distillery and help other Craft Distillers with production as well as distribution.

All Craft Distillers can participate at tier 1 and 2. If you want to also produce and/or distribute other participant’s drinks, you need to have an iStill distillery. The reason for that is, twofold. Firstly, the drinks are templated on iStills. Secondly, in order to make precise copies of your spirit we need the 100% control only an iStill can give you.

Status

After having tested the Portfolio Distilling model over the last 12 months, we are now opening our first Portfolio Distilleries in the UK and the US. The Portfolio Distilling HQ near Amsterdam will serve as the Northern Europe hub. We are working on a Portugal location to cover the Mediterranean. We expect Portfolio Distilleries to open in Australia, India, and Japan in early 2019. China, more locations in the USA and Canada, and South America will follow later.

What’s your next step?

We are currently opening up for customers. If you are interested in using the Portfolio Distilling model, of becoming one yourself maybe, please reach out to us via http://www.portfoliodistilling.com.

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http://www.portfoliodistilling.com

 

 

 

iStill London Craft Distilling Expo 2018!

Introduction

We are proud to announce that we will again be the PLATINUM sponsor to the London Craft Distilling Expo 2018! It is a great show, and if you are interested in distilling, it is a must go to. In this iStill Blog post we want to dive in deeper: the program, what we’ll take with us, and the special offer we have for you.

Program

There are a few distillery visits programmed for September 25th. The actual Expo, in the Boiler House, Brick Lane Road, East London, is on September 26th and 27th.

All right, how about the program in the Boiler House on September 26 and 27? Here we go for September 26th:

  • Gin Blending Masterclass (Pre-Expo Event)
  • Vodka Masterclass
  • Gin: Tidbits and Time travel with David T. Smith
  • The Art of Artemisia – Distilling with Wormwood
  • Beer & Burger Night for iStill Aficionados (18h30 – 22h00)

Beer & Burgers will be just across the street. It will start at 19h00 and take … well … as long as it takes. The goal is to meet & mingle. To eat, drink, and have loads of fun together! We assemble at 18h30 at the iStill Booth.

September 27th looks like this:

  • Nosing Spirit Faults
  • Gin FAQ Part 3
  • Rum: A new perspective – Cachaca and other cane spirits
  • Rum: Beyond oak – a tasting of rums matured in non-typical casks
  • Future of Distribution of Craft Distilled Spirits by Odin

Odin gives his speech on the future of distribution. With technology now fully available to Craft Distillers to compete with Big Alcohol when it comes to taste, it is now time to direct our attention to the next hurdle. In a 20 minute speech Odin of iStill will inform the Craft Distilling Industry about Portfolio Distilling. Portfolio Distilling is a  new platform for and by Craft Distillers. Produce locally, distribute globally!

iStill Staff

William (Assembly), Veronika (Finance), and Odin (the muppet that made this mess) will be manning the stand. They will be supported by the multiple award winning distilling team of The Wrecking Coast Distillery. And – as is the tradition – for sure more iStill Customers will show up and share their drinks. I expect Tom to show up with his rum … and others will join us with Tequila, whisky, and gin and vodka for sure!

Jason Cawthron 

Award winning bar tender, mixologist, and distiller Jason Cawthron is part of the iStill Team. He helps represent us on the North American market. Jason will join us in London and shake-up some cocktails! But, knowing Jason, he’ll do more. If you bring your own drink, he’ll probably advice you how you can make a signature cocktail out of it. And we all know that cocktails sell …

iStill Stand

We will bring a lot of fun equipment with us! Some barrels and stills. For sure, there will be an iStill 500 NextGen in combination with the all new glass column sections, indirect heaters, and potstill lay-out.

iStill Offer

Here’s why you should visit us at the London Craft Distilling Expo 2018:

  • It’s an awesome event with great speeches and classes
  • Odin will speak about future distribution opportunities for Craft Distillers
  • iStill’s stand is manned by customers that bring (and pour!) their own drinks
  • Jason will be there, making cocktails
  • On the evening of September26th, iStill hosts the yearly Beer & Burgers event;
  • The iStill 500 NextGen is on display
  • If you visit our stand, take a picture, and post it on Facebook, with a reference to iStill, you will get a EUR 250,- discount on iStill equipment or spirits design (like your special signature cocktail by Jason Cawthron)!

iStill Customers that want to join us at the show can get tickets for free. There is a limited amount of them. First come, first served. Please reach out to Veronika@iStillMail.com if you want tickets …

iStill London Craft Distilling Expo …

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https://www.distillingexpo.com/

Certified iStill Whiskey Workshop in Utah!

Yes! Sunday September 2nd we start another 4-day Workshop. Where? Eden, Utah. An hour north of SLA. What? All you need to know to make the best whiskey possible. Corn, bourbon, rye, single malt. The ins & outs. Knowledge so ancient most of it has been forgotten. Until we dug it up. And science so bright new, it will give you the chance to take your whiskey to the next level. How? By learning about cuts. Taste. Management. And most importantly: control.  If you want to learn more about the noble art of whiskey production, hands-on, state-of-the-art, in a small group at the great New World Distillery, please reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com. We still have  few places available!

Whiskey cuts by taste …

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Whiskey cuts by theory …

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Whiskey cuts by science …

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Corn whiskey wash …

http://www.iStill.eu