iStill at BrauBeviale 2019!

We just arrived at Nurnberg to participate at the 2019 BrauBeviale, the brewer’s world’s biggest exhibition. Why? Well, we think we have an amazing offering for brewers that want to expand their portfolio, without all the hassle of “distilling is magic” and “you need a traditional fruit brandy still to make … ehm .. whiskey?” Nope. We replace fiction by fact, and our distilleries show for it:

  • Effective: our automation takes the guessing our of distilling and frees up time;
  • Efficient: at around 10 to 20% of the costs of traditional set-ups;
  • Versatile: one still can make all spirit categories;
  • Scalable: units, from 100 liter to 5000 liter, perfectly scale up;
  • Integrated: we offer 4-day courses to teach you how to distill!

Are you a brewer, and do you want to learn how easy it actually is to start distilling as well? Check our booth out! We are in Hal 7, at stand 204.

Yes, we took the amazing iStill 2000 with us …

IMG_3990.jpg

http://www.iStill.com

Distilleries, not just stills!

Introduction

People have a general tendency to compartmentalize what they see and experience. By breaking up the world in smaller bits and pieces, it becomes easier to understand at least some of the parts that matter. It is a trait of human evolutionary psychology that makes perfect sense. When you see a lion hunting you, you run. Contemplating the nature of the circle of life, and trying to understand it all, while the lion is sprinting towards you, well, you might figure it out, but wouldn’t the price to pay be a little too steep?

Even though compartmentalization has huge (survival) benefits, one of the deficits is “mental entrenchment”, where the parts one understands start to define the world. This is an entrenchment, that now blocks a wider, more creative view of that world. It hampers learning and innovation. In context of the evolutionary example: if you have been successful at evading the lion multiple times, maybe it is time to consider moving camp to a safer location, instead of trying to out-run or out-climb what hunts you?

Mentally entrenched distilling

Craft distilling was a perfect example of mental entrenchment. The thousands of little distilleries that existed around the globe at the end of the 19th Century were wiped off the face of the earth due to World War I and prohibition.

When, some 15 years ago, craft distilleries started to be re-emerge, there was no direct line with these distilleries of old. Knowledge and experience had gone to waste, and all that remained were old textbooks and anecdotical stories.

The lack of understanding the bigger picture resulted in a mentally entrenched take on craft distilling. A focus on some of the parts that could be made sense of, like mashing, fermenting, and stripping and finishing. These parts, individually, could be understood. Heck, there were even  tools and machines available to help you perform each and everyone off these steps! And that compartmentalized view on the world of distilling gave a false sense of understanding the process, while – in fact – it was this focus on the parts, instead of the whole, that helped most craft distillers miss seeing the bigger pictures of their trade.

Root cause analysis

iStill’s founder, Odin, was not educated as a distiller. Instead, he has studied Business Administration and specialized in change management. When distilling sparked his interest, he immediately wanted to understand the underlying processes and building blocks. Just like a change manager would, when saving a company, he would analyse his way to get to the true building blocks of the value creation process, and re-organize and optimize them immediately after. Odin very soon realized that mental entrenchment had stifled innovation in the distilling industry and went to work his change management magic.

Reflux equals re-distillation

One of the first things Odin realized is that reflux equals re-distillation. In a world that held the firm belief that double distillation procedures were needed, in order to finish a spirit, that was a complete paradigm shift.

Traditionally, a bigger still would strip a fermented beer or wine into a 25 to 30% low wines. These low wines, smaller in size, but more concentrated in alcohol, would then be distilled again in a secondary, smaller finishing still to bring proof to 120 to 130.

Odin realized that, by returning (refluxing) some of the low wines directly back into the column they were made on, a distiller could achieve the same results. And more, since the more of the product you reflux, the more re-distillations you could get.

The results of this new look at distilling were twofold. First, the difference between a stripping still and a smaller finishing still seized to exist. If one still can do a double or triple or quadruple distillation in one go, there is no more need for a stripping still or finishing still anymore, and these terms and the associated definitions start to loose their value.

Secondly, by upping the reflux factor, the reflux still could make any drink, from whiskey to rum to brandy to gin and even vodka. The result? The craft distiller needing to have multiple stills for multiple spirits stopped being relevant, because one still (yes, the first generation of iStills) could now strip and finish in one go, and make any kind of spirit.

Mashing, fermenting, and distilling are physically the same processes

The fresh look on distilling helped change the industry in two ways. First, a new technology became available that made it much easier (and less capital intensive) to start a craft distillery. Secondly, rocking the boat opened the blinders and decreased the industry’s mental entrenchment significantly.

Having redesigned how stills work, Odin now went to work on mashing and fermenting. He woke up one morning with what felt like an epiphany moment: that mashing, fermenting, and distilling were – from a physical perspective – basically controlled by the same processes.

Here is his thinking:

  1. Mashing takes place in a boiler and is all about heating and cooling;
  2. Fermenting takes place in a boiler and is all about heating and cooling;
  3. Distilling takes place in a boiler and is all about heating and cooling.

iStills are distilleries, not just stills

With this base concept in place, he started designing the second generation of iStills: the iStills NextGen. The iStill NextGen product line is designed with the goal to bring that vision to life: that mashing, fermenting, and distilling are controlled by the same cooling and heating processes, and can therefore be integrated.

The take-away? When you buy an iStill, you do not just buy a still. Depending on how you spec your unit, you basically buy a complete distillery. The result? The craft distilling scene has found its footing again, and is innovating and changing into a vibrant industry, capable of taking on Big Alcohol. Let the fact that iStill is now the world’s biggest manufacturer of distilling equipment, with over 700 distilleries in operation, be testimony to that.

Drew and his iStill 2000 in New Jersey …

83e74a2f-2c7d-4357-b433-45157a70d3e8.jpg

http://www.iStill.com

 

 

iStill University Reviews!

Introduction

Last weeks we gave two iStill University Certified Distilling Courses at 52eighty Distilling in Colorado. A total of 22 new distillers from the USA and Canada have now been properly trained. We had an amazing time giving the course and, more importantly, so did the students. The first reviews just came in. Let’s share them with a few pictures and some follow up course dates.

Student reviews

“The workshop did a very good job starting at a basic level and working up to more complex questions. I like the reliance on science and empirical data vs. myth and tradition. 
I enjoyed the interaction of the group and found the feedback sessions help further discussions about topics. It was a nice mix of bookwork and hands on practice. I would recommend the workshop to anyone seriously considering distilling.”
Travis Peterson, USA
“I think the hands-on experience with the iStill Mini was invaluable. It helped reinforce the concepts covered in the class and gave all of us a direct launch on making our own spirits and collecting the necessary data to scale when we take our recipe to a larger still. Also the whole idea of correlating the heads, hearts and tails to the taste profiles was een eye-opening for me. It really helped me put into context how to go about designing a spirit. 
I really enjoyed the class and wanted to thank all of you – Odin, Jason and Veronika. In addition the guys of 52eighty (host distillers) were great and it was a pleasure to meet them as well.”
Bryan D. Clapper, USA
New iStill University Trainings
  • November 18-21st: Amsterdam, the Netherlands;
  • January 20-23rd: Carrington, Australia;
  • April 26-29th: Denver, Co, USA.

For more information and/or registration, please reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com

Pictures

http://www.iStill.com

Continuous Fermentation!

Challenge

Whiskey production consists of mashing, fermenting and distilling. Rum and brandy production do not need mashing, but still need fermentation and distillation capacity. Making your own alcohol is a multi-step process and in multi-step processes, there is always a bottle-neck. Guess what the bottle neck is for rum, brandy, and whiskey production? Yes, fermentation.

Where mashing can be done in like 4 hours, and distillation takes a about 8 hours, it is the fermentation part of spirits production that is the slowest. Depending on product and procedure, fermentation can take 3 to 4 days.

The traditional approach in the distilling industry, in order to overcome the fermentation bottle-neck, is to add more fermenters. For instance, 5 or 6 fermenters for each masher or still.

Even though this is the standard way to deal with the fermentation bottle-neck, there are severe draw-backs to this solution. To name a few:

  • Expensive: six new fermenters … that’s a lot of money;
  • Floor space: six new fermenters … that takes a chunk out of your distillery space;
  • Workforce: pumping, cleaning, managing multiple fermenters is more work;
  • Versatility: if you grow, do you buy more fermenters or bigger ones?

Since iStill likes to challenge traditional approaches, here is another take on fermentation. I hope it broadens your horizon and helps you design your perfect distillery with more ease.

Solution

Let’s call the solution I propose “Continuous Fermentation”. The thinking is as follows: “If fermentation is the bottle-neck in alcohol production, that’s the one step we want to do continuously”. The question now becomes: “Can we do so while limiting the number of fermenters, thus limiting capital investment, occupation of floor space, the number of staff needed, while simultaneously boosting flexibility?”

That’s a long question, but luckily the answer is short. One. You just need one fermenter. How’s that for disrupting things, right? And more importantly: how would that work?

If fermentation is the bottle-neck and multiple fermenters isn’t the solution, how do we solve the puzzle? Well, if we limit ourselves to just one fermenter, we make it bigger. Imagine that you have an iStill 500 to distill your whiskey, rum, or brandy in. As a fermenter you’d need one 2000 liter version. One 2000 liter version instead of 5 or 6 smaller ones. Do you run an iStill 2000? In that case consider purchasing an iStill Fermenter 5000.

Now, I hear you thinking: “So I have to wait for 3 or 4 days to ferment 5000 liters … and then I need to do 3 runs in my iStill 2000 to process that? Where’s the gain?” Stay with me, and read my proposed change in procedure:

  1. Ferment 5000 liter;
  2. Take up to 2000 liter out of your f5000 and put it in your i2000 for distillation;
  3. Fill-up the fermenter with fresh substrate and water to 5000 liter;
  4. Do the distillation run in the iStill 2000;
  5. Next day? Take up to 2000 liter out of your f5000 and put in in your i2000;
  6. Fill-up the fermenter with fresh substrate and water to 5000 liter;
  7. Do the distillation run in the iStill 2000;
  8. Etcetera.

If a full fermentation takes 3 days, what happens, if we take out (around) 1/3rd for distillation, and we fill-up the fermenter again with new substrate and water? Well, the substrate and water will mix with the (already fermented) beer or wine in the f5000. The introduction of new fermentable sugars will kick-off fermentation again, but since you only add 1/3rd of the “normal” amount of sugars in, fermentation will now only take one day!

By adding just one oversized iStill Fermenter to your distillery, you can start continuous fermentation. In the above examples this continuous fermentation cycle helps you perform one iStill 2000 distillation per day. Five days a week, six days per week, or seven days per week. However often you want to.

Need more capacity? An iStill 2000 can do two runs per 24 hours, so maybe add a fermenter? Two f5000’s allow you to basically distill twice a day. No need for 6 fermenters, and certainly no need for 12.

Implementing continuous fermentation for rum and brandy

The substrates for rum and brandy are liquid instead of particle based, like grains, and do not need mashing. If you want to move towards continuous fermentation, just draw-off 1500 to 2000 liters every day, and add more molasses or fruit juice with water to top-up your f5000.

Since yeast is already present, there is no need to add more. Just make sure you mix in the new substrates and water. That’s all. You need a big iStill Fermenter and a (smaller) iStill distillery.

Fermenter 5000 and iStill 2000 for continuous fermentation and distillation …

unnamed

Implementing continuous fermentation for whiskey

Continuous fermentation for whiskey introduces two minor challenges:

  1. Grains need mashing in order to convert starches into fermentable sugars;
  2. Grains are particles and not fluids like molasses or fruit juice.

So in order to to make whiskey on a continuous fermentation basis, you either need to buy an iStill Masher. In the above example the iStill Masher 2000 will do, because that is the amount you need to add every day.

Or you can use the iStill 2000 for mashing. If you use the i2000 for instance for one distillation run per day, you could use it for overnight mashing.

What you don’t want is to leave the spent grain parts in the fermenter. So you either strain the mash and ferment off the grain, or you mix the fermenter before discharging 2000 liters to your iStill 2000, so that as many spent grains are taken out as you add with each new fill-up.

The optional two additional drains allow for very easy filling …

unnamed-1

http://www.iStill.com

Copper is medicine for a bad ferment!

Whiskey making: the procedure

If we exclude grain handling and aging, traditionally, whiskey is made in three steps:

  1. Mashing (converting starches into fermentable sugars by using enzymes);
  2. Fermenting (converting the fermentable sugars into alcohol with yeast);
  3. Distilling (concentrating the alcohol and harvesting the right flavors).

In order to create the best possible whiskey, both in terms of yield and taste, all steps need to be optimized. The end product is the sum of how the various parts are performed.

If mashing is sub-optimal, the major loss you face, as a craft distiller, is yield. You will create less alcohol. A failing fermentation will, above all, have impact on flavor creation. That’s because over 80% (as a rule of thumb) of taste molecules are made during fermentation. Bad distilling procedures can affect both yield and flavor composition of your new make spirit.

Whiskey making: historically

Historically, whiskey was made in small batches. Small mashes are easy to handle. Small ferments do not generate a lot of heat. Small, copper stills were the norm, because copper was available, affordable, and bendable.

In the 1870’s the industrial revolution found its way into the distilling industry. A lot of the whiskey production became bigger and more centralized. A declining number of remaining distilleries that, each on their own, saw a steep increase in production output.

Small batch traditionally allows for good control and therefore good whiskey …

Schermafbeelding 2019-10-02 om 08.59.24

Batch size growth associated problems

As distilleries grew bigger, mashing basically scaled up from small batch to big batch, and yield didn’t suffer. Fermentation scaled up from small batch to big batch as well, and this did created a major problem.

Fermentation creates heat, and the bigger ferments created more heat. The warmer fermentations stressed out the yeast and produced multiple unwanted flavor compounds in the base beer, of which sulfur was (and is) the most important.

In short? As distilleries got bigger, mashing didn’t get compromised, but fermentation did. Yield didn’t suffer, but flavors did. Interestingly enough, it took a few more decades for distillers to realize they actually had a problem.

Bigger, uncontrolled ferments generate bad flavors that copper catalyses …

Schermafbeelding 2019-10-02 om 09.00.19

Houston, we have a problem!

In the 1960’s new metallurgic innovations found their way into the distilling industry. As growing distilleries needed bigger stills, traditional copper stills were replaced with more modern stainless steel set-ups. And guess what? All of a sudden the whiskey they produced had bad, sulfur associated flavors in them!

What had happened, was the following: copper reacts with sulfer. The traditional copper stills had managed to polish-up the bigger, overheated, sulfur-rich whiskey beer! Copper, it turned out, was a really good medicine for a bad ferment.

With SS stills, sulfurs no longer got catalyzed, and bad ferments got exposed …

Schermafbeelding 2019-10-02 om 09.00.29

The traditional solution

The switch from copper to stainless steel stills brought to light a major problem: bigger ferments created off-flavors. The solution the industry rallied toward, was to switch back to copper stills. The copper catalyzed the sulfuric compounds to below the taste threshold, and the problem was solved. Or wasn’t it?

Bigger ferments, left unchallenged, grow too hot, stressing the yeast into making multiple unwanted flavor. Sulfur is the most significant of those and copper does a good job at cleaning up these sulfuric flavors, and at hiding the poorly managed ferments.

So the distilling industry switched back to copper stills …

Schermafbeelding 2019-10-02 om 09.00.38

Compromised solution

Using copper stills, to counter bad ferments, is a treatment of effects, not a root cause solution. By allowing for non-optimized whiskey production via copper stills, the following set of new problems occurs:

  1. Uncontrolled, overheating fermentations create more bad flavors than just sulfur;
  2. The copper clean-up during distillation does not polish-up all of those;
  3. Copper stills oxidize, creating copper contaminated whiskey;
  4. Copper stills need extensive cleaning, making for longer working days;
  5. Due to oxidation and cleaning, copper stills need to be replaced in 10 to 15 years.

Even though copper stills are a medicine for bad ferments, they are not the ultimate solution. Bad ferments create bad flavors, and copper does not counter all of them. More so, copper is a heavy metal that is toxic to humans. Due to the reactive qualities of copper, the distillation equipment needs extensive cleaning. This cleaning, as well as the general levels of oxidation, severely hamper a copper still’s longevity.

The iStill solution

That’s why we started proposing a different approach. Here it is. Let’s call it the iStill solution:

  1. Mash in a controlled environment, to achieve maximum yield;
  2. Ferment in a controlled way, to achieve maximum flavor;
  3. Distill in a controlled way, to achieve maximum yield and flavor.

Our iStills are designed to mash with 0.1 degree temperature tolerance. This gives the distiller the opportunity to maximize yield, which helps optimize production quantities.

During fermentation, our technology brings temperature, pH, and SG under control. This ensures that the distiller maximizes the desired flavor development.

Finally, the iStills have perfect control over the distillation process. This helps the distiller in optimizing both flavor profiles and yield in the most efficient and repeatable way.

iStill gives you the control to make better whiskies …

Schermafbeelding 2019-10-02 om 09.00.46

Design choices

Because we optimize fermentation, the creation of undesired, bad flavors is minimized. As a result, we do not have to build our stills out of copper. This way, we can deliver a still that is easy to clean, does not cause copper particle contamination in your spirits, and has tremendous longevity.

But if you decide you are going to do your fermentation quick & dirty anyhow, well, please know we have copper waffles that you can insert at the bottom of the column. It takes less than a minute to put them in place. It takes less than 10 seconds to take them out, when the run is done. They have the same surface area as a complete copper column, without the hassle.

iStill copper waffles: well-used …

IMG_2745

http://www.iStill.com

 

 

 

 

Make Rum & Whisky on a Rectifier License!

Odin revolutionizes craft distilling once more! UK distillers with just a rectifier license can now start making rum and whisky!

Do you want to learn more? Are you a rectifier interested in expanding your portfolio into rum or whisky? Then check out Odin’s presentation at the 2019 London Craft Distilling Expo! The talk is scheduled on Friday 27th of September and starts at 14h00 in Space B. There is a limited number of seats available …

e06296b4-49de-498f-b69b-59db7cb31fae.jpg

https://www.lowwines.com/

Hongkong TV & Radio Interview!

Yesterday, a team from Hongkong TV & Radio flew in for an interview with Odin on gin. They were interested in the history of gin, how iStill helps distillers out with equipment, recipes, and contract distilling capacity. Most of all, they were interested in Perfume Trees Gin, which is made with Hongkong herbs by us at iStill HQ in the Netherlands.

Here is a short movie …

And a few pictures …

http://www.iStill.com

iStill becomes market leader in Japan!

We are very excited that more and more Japanese distillers choose iStills for the production of their whiskey, gin, vodka, and shochu. We already have multiple iStills in Japan and are selling many more as we speak, making us market leader in new still sales! Thanks for the orders, thanks for the open mindedness, thanks for the trust!

Kazuhiko, Kazunori, Odin, and Mayuka …

IMG_20190905_170541.jpg

http://www.iStill.com