Aspects of Distillation (1): Air Pressure!

Introduction

“Aspects of Distillation” is a new series the iStill Blog will host. It aims to cover as many aspects as possible. Aspects of – you guessed it! – the distillation process. Think alcohol formation, flavors, mashing, distillery design … and more. In fact, if you have a suggestion, please email us the aspect you want us to dive into. Via Odin@iStillmail.com. Today’s topic? The influence and importance air pressure has on distillation.

Air pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feature

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

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

Benefits

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

iStill’s amazing air pressure sensor …

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http://www.iStill.com

Distilling Whiskey and Rum Sustainably!

Management summary

The direct operating costs of producing a liter of new make whiskey or rum on an iStill, ready to barrel at 65%, are EUR 0,49 versus EUR 1,99 on a traditional copper potstill. Producing whiskey or rum on an iStill reduces operating costs with as much as 75%, when compared to a traditional copper potstill. The lower operating costs of running an iStill translate into higher margins and a more sustainable, future-proof business model.

Introduction

This iStill Blog post presents an operating cost comparison for new make whiskey or rum production. iStills versus traditional set-ups. Why operating costs are important? Well, the lower they are, the higher your profit margin – given a certain selling price. Higher margins allow you to make more money or use part of that extra margin to weather through tough times. Also, lower operating costs signal a more eco-friendly, more environmental and sustainable business model. Less energy consumption equals a lower carbon footprint.

Of course we know the iStill numbers through-and through. The numbers of traditional stills, that we present in this iStill Blog, are based on feedback we got from customers experienced in running traditional equipment before switching to iStills. If the manufacturers of more traditional, copper stills feel that the examples underneath do not do their distilling solutions total justice, please reach out to us directly, so we can discuss and – where needed – amend.

Operating costs

Operating costs are the expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis. Rent of the building, power to run the stills, the costs of buying in grains or other substrates, staffing costs, equipment depreciation costs, etc.

In order to keep this post relatively simple and to the point, we’ll focus on the variable costs of running the still, depreciation costs of your distilling machine, and the staffing needed to keep on distilling. Costs like the rent of the building or substrate purchase costs won’t be investigated, since they are (in the context of this iStill Blog post) considered a given. Meaning they don’t necessarily vary a lot between different still options.

Calculating energy costs for whiskey or rum

The efficiency number of a traditional potstill is around 35%. A traditional potstill needs two distillation cycles to bring an 8% whiskey beer or rum wine to the barrel aging strength of 60 – 65%. The iStill can turn an 8% base beer or wine into 60 – 65% new make in one go. So you save the manpower and energy of at least one run.

The iStill 2000 uses around 280 kWh to make rum or whiskey new make spirit. The associated costs are per run are well under EUR 50,-. Given the inefficiencies of the traditional set-up, a total energy usage of 800 to 1000 kWh is expected per run. This translates into direct energy usage costs, for a double distillation, of around EUR 190,-.

The amount of 2000 liters of base beer translates into about 220 liters of 65% strong new make spirit. When we divide the energy usage per still type by the number of liters of new make produced, we can learn the energy costs per liter. For the iStill the energy costs per liter are EUR 0,22. For the traditional copper potstill the energy costs per liter are EUR 0,87.

Calculating depreciation costs for whiskey or rum stills

A traditional 2000 liter copper still, made by a reputable manufacturer costs at least EUR 200.000,-. The iStill 2000, with some options, is around EUR 80.000,-. Because the iStills are made from chemically resistant stainless steel, instead of copper, the unit has an expected longevity of around 20 years.

The copper or stainless steel boiler of a traditional set-up may have the same longevity or slightly less. The copper column or riser oxidizes and suffers from the continuous need for (acid) cleaning. It is usually eaten away in around 10 to 15 years. Adding up boiler and column life expectancy for traditional potstills and averaging them out, leads to an overall total system longevity of 15 years for a traditional copper potstill.

Following a lineair depreciation curve, the 80k iStill 2000 has an annual depreciation of EUR 4.000,-. Based on 200 runs per year, the depreciation costs per run are EUR 20,-. When one run produces 220 liters, the depreciation costs per liter are EUR 0,09.

Following the same lineair depreciation curve, the EUR 200.000,- traditional copper potstill has an annual depreciation of EUR 13.300,-. At 200 runs per year, this translates into EUR 66,50 of depreciation per run or EUR 0,30 per liter of new make spirit produced.

Calculating staffing costs for whiskey or rum

Manning the still costs time, and time is money. Managing a traditional still asks for constant supervision. Cleaning can take 2 to 3 hours. Often the boiler design and column/riser design are not optimized for 8 hour shifts. How much manpower does it take to run a traditional still? At least 1 FTE. How much manpower does it take to run the iStill, which is automated and needs much less cleaning down-time? Around 0.2 FTE.

Say that hiring a distiller costs EUR 36.000,- per year. Running a traditional set-up then adds EUR 36.000,- to your overall costs. The iStill – by comparison – costs less than EUR 8.000,- to staff. A stunning difference of EUR 28.000,- per year.

In the above example, where we use a 2000 liter still to make 220 liters of 60-65% new make spirit per run, doing 200 runs per year translates into 44.000 liters of new make. The staffing costs of a traditional system are EUR 36.000,-, which translates into additional variable costs per liter of EUR 0,82. The much lower effort needed to run the iStill 2000 translates into only EUR 0,18 of staffing costs per liter.

iStill: reduce your operating costs by 75% …

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http://www.iStill.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

iStill University Online!

Introduction

The American Craft Spirits Association’s convention in Portland is cancelled. The Craft Brewing Conference 2020, planned to take place in San Antonio, Texas, just got cancelled. The American Distilling Institute’s trade-show, that should take place in New Orleans, is now cancelled as well.

What’s the major impact of those cancellations? Information and education, or better phrased: the lack thereof. Many people, wanting to enter the industry, were planning to use the above mentioned shows to learn how to set up a distillery. Others, maybe more established craft distillers, were looking forward to deepen their knowledge, and learn new tips and tricks.

That’s not going to happen now. Or is it? Feel the basses rumbling and  the percussionists picking up pace? Here is iStill University Online … center stage!

iStill University

The iStill University is the word’s leading educational and training facility for the craft distilling industry. Students rate the curriculum as in depth, innovative, and a great combination of learning and practicing. They rate the iStill University’s educational program with an amazing 9.8 out of 10.

Since the iStill University is all about informing and educating distillers, both new to the trade and experienced, we are going to use its vast knowledge base to help out. iStill University goes online!

Online

In order to inform and educate craft distillers, to help bridge the gap created by the annual trade-shows being cancelled and distillers now not being able to find adequate information, essential to their plans and plannings, iStill University will go online.

iStill University Online will present distilling related topics in depth. So that you can use the time you originally thought you’d spend in Portland, New Orleans, or San Antonio with us and online. Convenient. No health risks. In depth.

iStill University Online’s Program

  1. March 30th: Yeast Management;
  2. April 7th: Barrel Aging.

The first video will be released on March 30th. The topic that will be presented is “Yeast Management”. The presenter will dive into different varieties of yeast, how they affect flavor, what yeast to use for what drink, and how to manage yeast health. The information shared will give you control over the flavors that develop during fermentation. Essential for the production of great bourbon, whiskey, rum, and brandy.

The second video will give a comprehensive yet easy to understand break-down on how barrel aging works and how it affects the flavors in your drinks. It will be released on April 7th.

Here’s how you can participate

Do you want to see the videos? You can watch the videos via our website http://www.iStill.com. For everyone to see and share, and free of charge.

iStill University …

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https://www.istill.com/University

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elevator Pitch with a Twist!

Introduction

Imagine you step in an elevator and the guy that steps into the elevator with you asks what you do and why your job is important or unique. You have until the elevator reaches the first floor (or top floor) to explain to him what you do and why it matters. That, in short, is what an elevator pitch is about.

The elevator pitch is often used as a training tool in Sales. “Can you convince a total stranger to buy your service or product in the two minutes it takes to ride the elevator together?” Challenging? Let’s get started and see how the iStill Elevator Pitch could sound.

Please know that we have taken the liberty of not making this a monologue, like most elevator pitches are. Instead, it is more of a dialogue, to better represent real-world conversations. A dialogue with a twist at the end. Again … let’s get started!

Two minutes elevator pitch

Imagine that you work for iStill and that your elevator co-traveler asks you:

“What do you do for a living?”

You answer:

“I work for a company called iStill. iStill designs, builds, and sells distillation equipment that helps distillers create alcoholic beverages like brandy, gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey.”

Your co-traveler nods, and now asks:

“So what makes your company unique? Why is what it offers important?”

And you answer:

“iStill offers unique technology, that gives the distiller total control over the production of alcohol and flavor. The units that we sell, help distillers all over the world at producing quality spirits in a very consistent way.

The purchase costs of an iStill are only about a third of what competitors usually charge. The operational costs are even lower. The modern design is around 90% efficient instead of 30-ish. The automation takes care of most of the distillation process, freeing-up the hands of our customers to go out and sell bottles and make money.

The build quality of the iStills is impeccable. Every unit we sell is over-designed and beautifully finished. The class-leading build quality is reflected in our warranty terms, that are the best in the industry.

iStill has the word’s best educational facility to help train our customers in distilling and in operating an iStill. We want them to become successful and we’ll be supportive in any way we can to help them achieve their business goals.”

Two answers given

Now, imagine that you are the co-traveler. You are the co-traveler in the elevator, and you have just listened to the above story from an iStill employee. What will you answer? We feel it really depends on where you place your attention and what makes your clock tick.

As a distiller you might answer:

“That is simply amazing! I want to buy one.”

Or would you be the business man and say:

“iStills make better drinks more consistently, and at lower costs and for a longer time than any of its competitors? That means they are priced way too low!”

Personal note from our CEO

Six years ago, I took one of the first iStills with me to a distillery in the Chicago area. The goal was to show the iStill to some 14 people that were interested in distilling and wanted to see how the iStill compared to a Holstein that costed $ 200.000,-.

At the end of that day, the iStill proved to be faster and more efficient, while producing a far superior whiskey. The owner and operator of the Holstein didn’t want to make gin in his still, because it would mean 2 hours of cleaning with caustic soda, so we made it on the iStill. The gin was amazing and cleaning the iStill column only took water and 5 minutes.

I congratulate Holstein on their continued succes. The unit they sold, back then, is the same unit that they sell today. Nothing has changed technically or structurally, even though the prices seem to have dropped to around $120.000,-.

iStill has continuously pushed for more innovations and upgrades and better manufacturing methods. Today’s iStill 500 Next Generation outperforms the old model, that outperformed the unchanged Holstein, by a very big margin.

The iStill makes better drinks more consistently, and at lower costs and for a longer time than any competitor. It comes with better build quality and better warranty terms at the ridiculously low price of EUR 40.000,- / $ 45.000,-. Heck, do something crazy, add 15 grant to that, and it will even mash and ferment for you! And the iStills 2000 and 5000? Do the math, they are even better value-propositions …

I congratulate Holstein on their success. Not sure, though, if it is going to be a continued success. Their price drop could be indicative and there is a new kid on the block. If only iStill could shake-off its timidity, and replace the “Running for Pope” mentality with the mindset to say it as it is … That wouldn’t leave much market share for anyone trying to oversell outdated equipment anymore, now, would it?

Let me be so bold as to relish in that new mindset and tell you how the iStill elevator pitch should have sounded from the get go. Here you are: “iStill designs, produces, and sells the best stills in the world.” It is the simple truth, and something to be extremely proud of.

Want to discuss our ridiculous pricing?  Please do! The reason a Holstein-beating iStill 500 costs only 45k, is because it has always been designed as a 60k unit, that we have sold at a huge, market-penetrating, discount.

The same happened with the iStill 2000 and 5000. In order to establish a foothold in a craft distilling industry, that was best characterized as “strangled by tradition”, we have marketed these units at lower prices than the 100k and 150k they are actually worth.

If you want to take advantage of the amazing technology and quality we have on offer (and those discounts), please reach out to our sales manager Chris Anker. He can be reached via Chris@iStillmail.com.

Regards,

Odin, CEO of iStill.

Which way do you choose? Up or down?

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http://www.iStill.com

 

New PLC Technology and Software!

New computer hardware and software

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

Increased performance and functionality

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

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

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

Roll-out and ordering process

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

Working on the new software (2019 pic) …

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http://www.iStill.com

List of iStill Countries!

Our customers can be found all over the world:

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

Leaner, Meaner, and Totally Focused!

Introduction

The start of a new year is both a moment of contemplation, looking back at the year before, and an opportunity to look at the future. Introspection, conclusions, changes and adaptations: we have spent a lot of time on those topics during the month of January. The goal? To further improve the customer’s experience.

Via this iStill Blog post I want to inform you about what we learned and what we changed. Nothing dramatic, just dotting a few more i’s, but I feel it is important to share anyhow.

Where we implemented changes? In our Sales Force, our Support Organization, in the iStill University Program, on the iStill Innovation Agenda, and in our focus.

iStill Innovation Agenda

The last 6 1/2 years have seen us implement the Mother of all Innovation Agendas, whereby iStill has single-handedly pushed the craft distilling industry forward from 1870’s technology (when the bubble cap and the Coffey still were invented – two technologies with severe draw-backs, btw) to the 21st Century.

With the 2019 introduction of ABV-Control and the Reflux Capacitor, we strongly feel innovation is about done. The iStills are basically a century and a half ahead of the competition and have reached what’s called “innovation maturity”, meaning that our new technology is both completely developed and completely rolled-out into our product-line and is available for customers to purchase. Product development and market availability in perfect harmony.

In other words? No major innovations coming up in 2020 and 2021! Instead, a focus on professionalization … and a slight change in focus on where we make a difference to the craft distilling industry.

Sales Force

When we started growing into international markets, we asked early customers to help us out. This initially informal representation grew into the Wizard Organization, that has supported our cause greatly over the last few years.

But as we grew, more and more the need was felt for a more professional Sales Force to guide new customers into the iStill Family. More professional and more centralized.

To achieve the above goals, we have hired Chris Anker as iStill’s new Sales Manager. If you want to find out how iStill can help you out, please know that Chris is available via Chris@iStillmail.com.

Since we value the huge support our existing customer base gives to wannabe iStill customers, we initiated a Referral Fee Program. It aims to make it even more worth your time to help support modern distilling. For more information, please see:

https://istillblog.com/2020/01/23/referral-discount-program/

Support Organization

iStill is currently developing a log-in for customers. The log-in is a place where they can find customer information, manuals, FAQ’s, bulletins, and the Issue Management Protocol. It aims to improve self-sustainability via online support and is expected to be introduced in March.

If you have urgent iStill-related support questions, please reach out to Support@iStillmail.com. Business as usual, there, and William and his team are ready to follow up.

iStill University

Most people hugely appreciate the 4-day courses we organize through the iStill University Program. Students rate them with a 9.8 on a 10-point scale. Up until now, we gave courses at iStill HQ in the Netherlands, in the USA, and in Australia.

What we have learned is that the courses in the Netherlands see students from all over the world … including North America and Australia. Most of the American and Australian students love to take the longer trip to see our facilities and meet the team, and that is hugely appreciated.

Given the fact that we have a complete hall, dedicated to educational purposes, in the Netherlands, we have decided to centralize the iStill University Courses at our Head Quarters. There, we do not have to make any compromises, we are supported by the whole team, to give you the best experience and the most profound distillers education possible. No more courses abroad for 2020 and 2021.

To help mitigate travel expenses, there is a regional discount code for you to benefit from. For more info, see:

https://istillblog.com/2020/01/27/travel-expense-compensation-to-amsterdam/

Focus on Value Creation

iStill has seen huge growth over the past years. With sales numbers rising by 50 to 100% per year. In a mere 6 1/2 years we have become the world’s leading manufacturer of distillation equipment. Over the last years, we have branched out to related industries, like low wines production, contract distilling, and portfolio distilling.

Investigating where we make a difference, where we have the most impact, leads to the following conclusion: it is through our equipment, our technology, and our willingness to share our distillation knowledge that we serve you best. This conclusion helps us focus on where iStill creates the most value for you: in supplying you with advanced distillation equipment and in training you in how to translate the associated theories and technological advantages into benefits for your distillery.

This means that our focus will be on education, equipment, and recipes. In other words: the iStill University, iStill equipment, and our recipe development department. We’ll stop low wines production, contract distilling, and portfolio distilling.

Conclusion

As we shift our attention towards professionalizing sales and support, and implement a focus on value creation, something remarkable happens. It is as if iStill (and you?) upshifted a gear or two. The organization feels leaner and meaner. And that feeling is backed up by your appreciation.

January sees a 100% growth in orders, and a 116% rise in leads, supporting the conclusion that we made the right decisions. The year 2020 promises to be another amazing growth-spurt for modern day craft distilling. I am happy and proud that iStill is at the forefront of that development.

At your service,

Drs. H.E.J. (Odin) van Eijk, MScBA, etc.

CEO of iStill.

Odin on focus …

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ww.iStill.com

Modern-Day Distilling Takes Over England (6)!

Here is a map of the iStill customers in England. As you can see, there is no stopping progress! Are you considering to join the ever growing family of modern, 21st century distillers? Do you want to learn more about the amazing technology iStill has to offer? Do you want to learn about distilling via one of our courses? Then please reach out to us via Sales@iStillmail.com.

Modern-day distilling takes over the present-day world, including England …

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http://www.iStill.com

 

Modern-Day Distilling Takes Over North America (7)!

Here is a map of the iStill customers in North America. As you can see, there is no stopping progress! Are you considering to join the ever growing family of modern, 21st century distillers? Are you interested in our distilling courses? Do you want to learn more about the amazing technology we offer? Then please reach out to us via Sales@iStillmail.com.

Modern-day distilling takes over present-day North America …

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http://www.iStill.com