iStill Innovation Philosophy!

Introduction

Here is an iStill Blog post on how we innovate and what strategies and philosophy we apply to help move the distilling industry progress. We’ll start with a definition and work our way forward to how innovation is part of our DNA, what the guiding principles are, and how we make sure everyone benefits.

Definition

Innovation is often used as an empty filler word, without meaningful intent. If we must use the word, here is how we  define it, load it with meaning: innovation is significant positive change. It’s a result. It’s an outcome. It’s something you work towards achieving on a project. And most importantly: it entails a positive change by benefiting our existing customer base first and foremost.

Ingrained in our DNA

Innovation is ingrained in the iStill DNA. Whether it is stainless steel to replace rusty copper, catalysts to treat sulfur problems, liquid management to solve dephlagmator control issues, packing to replace the inefficient, ineffective, and expensive 18th century plate “technology”, or automation, robotization, and process control … it is all iStill innovations.

A month does not go buy or we invent new solutions to existing problems. The status-quo is there to be bashed. We feel you are worth our continuous efforts to make things better. This continuous drive has labeled us as “change initiators” and “industry disruptors”, and we are proud for that. Not because we innovate and change and disrupt for change’s sake, no, because we bring new, refreshing solutions to actual and real problems craft distillers struggle with. Why? Because we feel it is the only way forward if we craft distilling to move forward, to grow into an adult industry, that stands a fair fighting chance against Big Alcohol.

Distilling made easy

To help us apply our energy, our innovative powers best, we have a guiding principle, that is also our tagline: Distilling made easy. Distilling is a very complex process. Becoming a successful craft distiller is even more complex. We innovate with the goal of making things easier. More under your control.

Instead of you being a slave to your (old-tech) still, we want your still to be a tool-kit, helping you out at creating profitable spirits in a reproducible manner. Romantic musings over the noble art of distilling have a place in your dreams maybe, but not in your day-to-day business operation.

In that day-to-day business operation the reality is simply this: making a bottle of booze costs money, selling a bottle of booze makes money. So talk where your money is, and we’ll help you sort out the spirits production part, okay?

Retrofit-ability vs. new sales-ability

The reason why “innovation” so often is an empty filler word, is because it sells. You want to have the latest and newest, right? You know what I am talking about: you just bought a new TV, and now they introduce widescreen TV. You upgrade to widescreen, only to learn that there’s HD now. And by the time you replaced your TV with a HD-version, guess what? OLED comes out …

Companies often use innovation strategies to drive new sales. As a customer of such a company, you won’t end up any happier, but you will end up quite a bit poorer. If you don’t see what’s going on and how this can bait you, “innovation” applied like this can actually hurt you.

We feel that if innovation is about positive change, it should first and foremost be a change for the better for our existing customers. Using innovation as a way to prioritize new customer acquisition would be like leaving the people behind that have bought into our philosophies and technologies earliest. We feel that wouldn’t be fair nor just.

That’s why every innovation we release is retrofittable. Remember the amazing Extractor technology we brought to the market place almost two years ago? Anyone that had purchased a NextGen iStill – say – three years ago, could still order and use one. The same holds true for glass columns, the new Robot 3.0, and new software releases and functionalities like fast aging.

In whatever we do, we have our existing customer base at heart. That leads to something we are truly happy about: when you buy an iStill you buy a system that is basically future proof. Any invention we make will fit on your current iStill! By making our innovations retrofit, we make your stills future-proof. By making your stills future-proof, we help make your business future-proof.

Continuous innovation creates new opportunities constantly …

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http://www.iStill.com

 

 

 

The All New iStill Nano!

What is it?

The all new iStill Nano is the newest addition to the iStill suite. It is a little potstill with a one liter gross capacity. We designed it to give our customers tools to run their consumer oriented gin, rum, whisky and brandy schools professionally. Not just any tools, iStill tools.

The unit is very easy to operate, and allows you to have your customers make their own gin or rum, whisky or brandy at your distillery, swiftly, effectively, and safely. Put in 0.75 liters of wine or beer or vodka. Add herbs to your liking. Within the hour, the iStill Nano will help make a bottle of freshly distilled spirits.

Build to last a lifetime and more …

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Features?

The iStill Nano is made out of high-grade stainless steel and is constructed to last! The boiler and column and cooler are made from 2 mm thick sheets, while the bottom is a whopping 4 millimeters.

The unit comes with an easy to bolt on, tri-clamp riser/lyne-arm/cooler with easy connects for cooling water in and out.

The iStill Nano comes with a dedicated 500 Watt hotplate and a power manager for 0 to 100% power regulation. In the smallest, incremental steps possible.

The iStill nameplate can be replaced by your nameplate or logo, at a small price increase.

Also included is the all-new Bluetooth thermometer probe. It measures your gas temperatures every second and relays the signal to the new iStill App.

The complete iStill Nano set-up …

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App?

Indeed. For your convenience we designed an App. What it does? Well, first of all, it tells you at what temperature you are distilling … and so much more!

  • You can upload recipes for gin, whisky, rum, and brandy;
  • You can perform your own run and save the recipe for later use;
  • The app informs you when to cut for Heads, Hearts, and Tails;
  • Temperatures and cut points are automatically adjusted for air pressure on a per second basis;
  • Ensuring your customers can make the same high-quality drup over and over again!

The iStill App …

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Project status?

We have tested a first batch of beta’s with great success. Next step is that we’ll build 60 iStills Nano. Enough to serve up to 10 customers that want to take their customer experience to the next level. Given our busy production planning, I think that’s as many iStills Nano we can make in 2019. For sure in 2020 more batches will follow though. Delivery of the first batch will start in October 2019.

Wanna buy?

We sell the iStill Nano in packages of six. Each package contains six iStills Nano, with the thermometer probes, hotplates, water lines, quick connects, and power managers included.

A package of six costs EUR 3.600,-. Shipment, via airplane and all over the world, adds EUR 400,- and brings the total price point to EUR 4.000,-.

For more information, please reach out to Sales@iStillmail.com. If you want to order, please reach out to Veronika@iStillmail.com. Orders can be placed as of right now and it is first in, first out. Again, first deliveries will take place from October 2019 onwards.

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http://www.iStill.com

Meet Hal 9000!

Introduction

HAL 9000 is the advanced computer from Arthur C Clarke’s movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”. In that movie, the computer, integral part of the space ship Discovery, becomes self-aware and sentient. You can imagine that things get pretty interesting and intense after that event takes place.

iStill is upgrading its advanced computer systems, in order to make running your distillery easier again. Don’t worry, our new computer won’t become self-aware or sentient any time soon, but it does have some clever and helpful tricks up it’s sleeve!

HAL 9000 in “2001: A Space Odyssey” …

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Distilling as a process

Distilling usually is a process, involving mashing (converting starch to fermentable sugars), fermentation (turning sugars to alcohol while creating flavors), and distillation. And since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, making sure that all process steps are performed to perfection is adamant.

Distilling is a process …

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The iStills (when properly specced) can mash, ferment, and distill. One computer helps check and regulate what goes on during each step of the alcohol and flavor production process. We also produce stand-alone and specialized mashers and fermenters. Again, one computer regulates the mashing procedure or fermentation.

So … what does iStill’s HAL 9000 bring to the market? Basically this: Central Distillery Management.

Central Distillery Management

iStill’s HAL 9000 is a new option, that allows you to centrally manage your distillery. By adding HAL 9000 to your iStill 2000 or iStill 5000, you can now use that unit to manage up to five additional iStills Mashers and/or Fermenters.

The additional equipment can be run centrally from the unit equipped with HAL 9000. Or remotely, from your computer or tablet, via WiFi or an ethernet cable. Remote as in away from the distillery.

The HAL 9000 option can be added to the iStills 2000 and 5000. It comes as an extra module in the PLC box at the rear of the unit. Included is a bigger (wider) and more advanced full-color touch screen, and a new user interface.

Benefits

HAL 9000 gives you:

  • Central Distillery Management for up to six units total;
  • Insight in and management of all of your iStills from one central location;
  • In the distillery or remote;
  • For additional iStill Mashers and Fermenters;
  • A bigger touch screen pannel with an updated user interface.

Central Distillery Management …

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Investment

The HAL 9000 option adds EUR 10.000,- to your investment. It can be ordered immediately. We are currently uploading this option to the online iStill Design Center. It will be online in just a few days. If you can’t wait, please just send us an email.

Example of HAL 9000’s new screen and user interface …

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http://www.iStill.com

 

pH-Controlled Fermentation!

Introduction

In our quest to make distilling easier, we turned our attention to fermenting. Where the actual distillation steps in the spirits production business are about concentrating and selecting the right alcohols and flavors, fermentation is its precursor. Fermentation is where the actual alcohol and (most of) the flavors are created.

Current craft distilling take on fermentation

If fermentation is that important, why does it take the back seat with most (almost all) distillers? It certainly doesn’t for wine and beer makers, but for distillers it somehow does. Weird. I guess it has to do with the focus (to much so) on the nice and shiny stills. And with an (incorrect) understanding as fermentation being an alcohol rather than flavor production process. A shame, since craft distillers should compete with Big Alcohol on flavor, ’cause they never can on economies of scale.

Future craft distilling paradigm on fermentation 

Anyhow, we try and change that perception. One day of our 4-day iStill Certified University workshops deals with fermentation, and how you can manipulate it to create the alcohols and esters you – as a craft distiller – are looking for. Instead of seeing fermentation as a passive process, mostly the bottle-neck of your distillery, I propose a change: see it as the heart of your distillery. It is – after all – where your flavors are made, where you lay the foundation of what will become your rum, brandy, vodka or whiskey.

Fermentation control

If you place fermentation center stage, the next thing that becomes obvious is that you want to control this most important step. Control grants you influence on flavor development. Control allows you to reproduce your drink – at its highest quality level – time and again.

Just as fermentation is key to top shelf beverage production, so is control key to a quality ferment. Hence, when we (at iStill) think about helping you distill better products, we think about how we can provide you that control.

iStill’s solution

The result of that thinking? The iStill Fermenters, available in sizes of 2000 and 5000 liters, come with SG and pH and temperature control. And they are made out of 4 and 5 mm thick stainless steel. If fermentation is key to successful craft distilling, only the best is good enough.

Calibration of the pH probe is done at iStill HQ …

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Testing the iStill pH probe in a pH 7.0 solution …

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Testing the iStill pH probe in a low pH sugar ferment …

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The iStill pH probe …

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http://www.iStill.com

 

Neutralizing Dephlag Induced Taste Variance!

Introduction

If you, as a craft distiller, want to make the best spirits possible, you need to have full control over all variables. If you want to make the beste spirits consistently, you need even more control. This iStill Blog post dives into the influence of dephlagmator induced taste variance, how it can screw up your run, and how iStill’s innovations help solve the issue.

The influence of a dephlagmator on distilling

A dephlagmator is a pre-condensor that sits high up in the column. When a beer or wine is brought to a boil, gasses rise up through the column. In a potstill, the gasses go up  via the riser and then migrate horizontally via the line arm and then are bend downwards before entering the secondary or product cooler.

Dephlagmator: a partial heat exchanger …

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In a (traditionally plated) column a dephlagmator or dephlag is added near the top of the column or riser. The aim is for the dephlag to cool a certain percentage of the gasses back to liquid state. This liquid, called reflux, falls back down in the column and can be reprocessed by that column for further purification and concentration. For instance via bubble cap plates or perforated plates in that column, under the pre-condensing dephlag.

As a result of part of the gasses being cooled back to liquid phase – and them being redistilled lower in the column – rising gasses and reflux exchange molecules, making the reflux lower in ABV, while the gasses get a boost in alcohol percentage. When those now enriched gasses hit the dephlag again, another portion of them is turned into reflux, while another faction leaves – as gasses – the top of the column to be cooled down into spirits.

The dephlag is in use since the 1860’s and is still in use on most column stills for its capability of creating reflux. Here is a schematic drawing (yes, by yours only) of how a dephlag works:

Dephlagmator: reflux vs. enriched gasses …

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How dephlag induced variance screws up your run

The dephlag is fed by gasses from the bottom and by cold cooling water from the side. The cold cooling water condenses (part) of the gasses. Near the top redistilled gasses leave the system, to meet-up with the secondary product cooler. Also near the top, now warmer cooling water exits the dephlag.

Even though dephlagmators do a good job at creating reflux, they come with a set of severe drawbacks. Drawbacks have to do with that dephlags run depending on cooling water. More water in means more cooling, more reflux, more purification, and less product. Less cooling water throughput means less reflux, less purification, and more product comes over per hour. But cooling water isn’t a given. It, and a number of other variables, has certain properties that are vulnerable to variance. Here are the biggest confounders:

  1. How cold or warm is the cooling water to start with?
  2. At what water pressure does the coolant come over?
  3. What’s the delta between the cooling water, the still, and the gasses?

A dephlag “controlled” column has a lot of variables to deal with. And each variable shows variance. Cooling water may be colder in the winter or in the morning, resulting in seasonal or temporal changes in cuts, flavors and ABV.

Water pressure may be lower early in the morning and later in the evening. Less water pressure means the dephlag doesn’t cool so much during (at least) parts of the run, resulting in lower ABV hearts cut and more smearing of heads and tails.

How hot is your distilling hall? And how does that change over time? For sure the delta between the coolant, the still’s outside and the gasses is important. And when it is constantly changing, so are your cuts, so are the flavors you bring over in your spirits!

When using a dephlagmator, the craft distiller will struggle to make a spirit the best way possible. And recreating the same drink over and over again becomes neigh impossible. In short?

Due to dephlag induced variance, you just screwed up your run …

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The iStill solution to dephlag induced variance

Our mission statement is “Distilling made easy”. And in order to help make distilling easier, it has been our goal to minimize dephlag induced cooling water variance. We succeeded. This paragraph explains how we did it.

iStills do not have a dephlag. Instead of a pre-condensor high up in the column, we placed a full-size condensor above the column. “Full-size” means ALL the gasses are cooled down to liquid phase. “Above the column” means just this: there is no U-tube with consecutive after cooler on top of the iStill condensor. All the gasses are cooled down to liquid and fall down to the collection plate system. It is at the collection plate system, with the help of the robot, that selections between “product out” (spirits) and “product back into the column” (reflux) are taken.

Since all gasses are cooled back to liquids, the iStill design has no variance at all. Cooling water temperature does not influence cuts or purity or ABV. Nor does water pressure (or changes in water pressure). Finally, delta’s between column, distilling hall, and coolant don’t play a role anymore either.

As long as there is enough coolant, the iStill creates a distilling environment free of dephlag induced cooling water issues related to temperature, pressure, and delta’s! The innovative iStill column and condensor set-up allows you to make your drinks the best way possible. With the same cuts, ABV, and flavors … each and every run.

This is how iStill’s full-size column condensor works …

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http://www.iStill.com

 

 

Neutralizing Air Pressure Variation!

Introduction

If you, as a craft distiller, want to make the best spirits possible, you need to have full control over all variables. If you want to make the beste spirits consistently, you need even more control. This iStill Blog post dives into the influence of air pressure, how it can screw up your run, and how iStill’s innovations help solve the issue.

The influence of air pressure on distilling

When distilling spirits, we aim to first concentrate the alcohol by a fast stripping run. Thereafter, a slower finishing run is performed where the heads, hearts and tails fractions are separated by means of boiling point differences between those fractions. Heads come over at lower temperatures than hearts and hearts boil off at lower temperatures than tails.

From the above alinea it becomes clear that boiling points are key to good cuts management. Just as good cuts management is essential to bring over the right flavors and create that above top shelf spirit you are after.

So good cuts management, essential to the creation of great spirits, depends on boiling points. And guess what? Boiling points depend on air pressure! And since air pressure is not a given, not a set parameter, it creates variability in your cuts, translating into potentially sub-standard quality drinks.

Air pressure structurally differs between locations. As a general rule: the higher altitude your location is, the less air sits above your still, the lower the air pressure is. Air pressure is also variable in time. When a new weather front moves in, air pressure will rise or lower. The issue with this? As a distiller you are constantly confronted with different air pressures, translating to different boiling points. Between runs and during runs.

Ethanol, for example, boils at 78.3C or 173F. At standardized sea level air pressure that is. Higher air pressure pushes boiling points upwards by up to 0.5 degrees easily. Lower air pressure lowers ethanol’s (and other components) boiling point.

Air pressure sensor old style …

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How air pressure can screw up your distillation run

Say that you follow a set of standard cut points for heads, hearts and tails of your whiskey run. Here is what they may look like:

  1. Heads are collected until 80C;
  2. Hearts are collected until 95C;
  3. Tails are collected until 98C.

You came to the above cut points, because that’s how you liked your first whiskey run. Why not repeat that, right? Well … because the air pressure variance will hamper your ability to arrive at the same results.

Imagine the following real life example. You did your first whiskey finishing run at sea level and – by coincidence – at standard air pressure. But now that you just started finishing your second bats, the weather changes and – with it – the air pressure. The boiling points are off by (say) 0.3C. That is 0.3 C lower.

You make your cuts according to plan at 80, 95 and 98 degrees Celsius, but you should have cut at 79.7C, 94.7C, and 97.7C. You have just collected more heads than before, limiting the fruity flavors in your whiskey. And you hearts to tails cut was also 0.3 degrees late, resulting in more root-like and nutty flavors in your whiskey than usual.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that 0.3 degrees is nothing. In terms of a big production still, you may well be smearing too much early tails into your hearts for like 20 minutes! In short?

Due to air pressure variance, you just screwed up your finishing run …

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iStill’s innovation to help solve air pressure variance related problems

“How do we solve air pressure variance induced, sub-standard cutting?” became an iStill mission. The first generation iStills calculated the boiling point (and any variance from “standard”) by stabilizing the units, after heads were taken, for long enough to achieve the pure azeotropic ethanol boiling points near the take-off point of the column. We would then use that input to correct cuts.

The latest iStills are far more sophisticated. They are equipped with a sensor that monitors air pressure every second. Following the sensor’s input, the programming calculates any deviation from “standard” on a second-to-second basis. Thus giving your iStill perfect insight into boiling points that then automatically translate into perfect (corrected) cut points.

We call this feature “Dynamic Cuts Management” or DCM, and it is one of the reasons why iStills make better product more consistently than any other still out there. It now comes standard on all our units. It can be retrofitted on most of the existing NextGen units.

Air pressure sensor iStill style …

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http://www.iStill.com

Video Impression iStill University!

Here is a short movie we made. It gives an impression of the last 4-day workshop at the Netherlands based iStill University. We are currently preparing to give another iStill University Workshop in Denver, USA. The class takes place at 52eighty Distilling and starts tomorrow. For more info, or registration (yes, still a few places available!), reach out to: Veronika@iStillmail.com

https://www.istill.com/courses

New software upgrades now available!

Introduction

Existing customers and new customers now get access to new software! The new software will be added to new orders. Existing customers can upgrade over the air.

New functionality

The newest iStill software adds two functions to your iStill:

  1. Fast aging;
  2. ABV Control.

Fast aging

Fast aging is for customers, new and existing, that have iStills with agitator and boiler radiator. The new program allows you to fast age your spirits. No costs are charged. For more reading, please see: https://istillblog.com/2019/01/21/innovation-istill-fast-aging/

The new fast aging software comes with standard recipes …

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ABV Control

New customers and existing customers that use Robot v3.0 can now upgrade to ABV Control for free. ABV Control gives you total control over your output alcohol percentage. Especially in combination with the all new iStill Reflux Capacitor. For more reading on ABV Control, please see: https://istillblog.com/2019/02/22/innovation-abv-control/. For more info on the Reflux Capacitor, see: https://istillblog.com/2019/02/28/istill-innovation-reflux-capacitor/.

ABV Control for single distillation brandy, rum, and whiskey …

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How to order and install

New customers get ABV Control for free. Fast Aging software will automatically be added if you also order the Jet Propulsion Agitator System and the Boiler Radiator.

Existing customers that want to upgrade their existing software, via an over the air update, can reach out to William@iStillmail.com.