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Hello all. A very neglected thing in the new arm of the distilling industry is analysis. Lately, I'm trying to make my focus developing a pragmatic best bang for the buck distillery laboratory. I'm hoping to learn what people are currently practicing and what they would like to take on next, even if they're only growing from a hydrometer and pH meter upwards. Lots of people are buying big ticket u-tube densitometers before they buy other tools like automatic titrators, but is that a good idea? One of my projects is trying to add pycnometry to my analysis tool set as a stepping stone before a u-tube densitometer. It is no walk in the park, but I'm getting there. The big tool that is looking like the foundation for any distillery lab is Arroyo's birectifier lab still. It can tell us incredible things about spirits and allow us to intimately compare them. As far as time goes, when manually operated it can take 2.5 hours to operate and then perhaps 20 minutes to assess the output. Is that too long for many people's busy schedules? We are hoping with automation to dramatically slash the active time it takes to operate so it can run twice a day unattended. My consulting work is showing that it can significantly shorten product development time and expense for products like gin, paying for itself quite quickly. The birectifier also allows a priceless education in the inner workings of role models and competitors. Is anyone currently using automatic titration? I'm looking at buying a model that is about $3500 from Hanna Instruments. I want to investigate the concept of Δ acidity for working with ferments that have large buffers. This is an idea first brought to my attention by Michel de Miniac in a French paper I translated. The Δ, as opposed to the pH, can imply how many acids beyond the norm of your yeast were created by bacteria. This can either be used to tell when clean spirits go dirty or perhaps when intentionally dirty products like heavy rums become a run away train. Within anyone's current experiences, would that tool pay for itself quickly? or are the learning curves of integrating the equipment another large barrier? Is there any interest in other titrations such as for fusel oil or esters and has anyone priced them out? It is surprising me that ester obsessed people are not investing in counting esters or perhaps I'm just not aware of it. Some analysis such as ester contents seem like it can be woven into marketing. Has anyone tried the exhaustive test which is a low cost rudimentary alternative to titration that works in a variety of scenarios? The Germans developed a variety of organoleptic techniques that seem really useful before shelling out the money for chemical analysis equipment. Is anyone interested in botanical assay? I have the lost Seagram procedures that I haven't done much with. They cost about $3000-$4000 to fully implement (half of that is an analytical balance). The tools required can also help perform a bunch of other tasks such as measuring barrel solid obscuration by the TTB evaporation method. Seagram used two specialty pieces of lab glass and I may start producing one of them (a modern day optimized Clevenger apparatus). Some gins are getting really successful. I'm suspecting the cost to accurately standardize botanical charges has to becoming viable for many. What are the biggest micros performing? I would love to start some discussion here, but if anyone want to discuss very specific things privately, feel free to DM me.
The birectifier, which I've resurrected, was the renowned laboratory analysis still of Rafael Arroyo. He died young and the design was lost for the last 60 years so it was never applied to gin production. My pet project within my other birectifier work is successfully applying it to gin development. I also have the lost Seagram botanical assay protocols for precisely standardizing a botanical charge which are quite pragmatic and I think are from the 1930's. I am hoping to fuse the two ideas. The birectifier is typically operated with a charge scaled to 100 ml of absolute alcohol and 8 fractions of 25 ml are collected every 15 minutes. So this is slow incredibly high reflux micro distillation. When collected carefully and faithfully, comparisons can be made, fraction to fraction, across multiple distillations. What is special is how very different all the fractions are from each other. This was well understood with typical spirits from fermented products, but what would happen with gin? Gin surprisingly ended up with well differentiated fractions that we can learn a lot from. A role model gin was carefully analyzed here (there is lots of other great stuff in the post beyond my quote here). A lot of this complements and adds weight to Odin's teachings, but can be used to refine things and create in depth first hand experience. The process can be used to follow along with role models and organoleptically evaluate the quality and consistency of botanicals before graduating to the Seagram protocols. It is easy to create an actionable path to making a new production fit the shape and outline of role model. Incredibly, all the auxiliary botanicals seem to get pushed into fraction 5 which tell us a lot. For starters, we can test funky botancial choices for their potential with the birectifier by where their aroma ends up. If it is in fraction 5, it is on the money. The birectifier is like a scalpel meets magnifying glass so we are cutting away noise and magnifying things. This helps investigate complexity achieved by a botanical formulation. The tool may help elaborate and refine choices so that each batch progressively improves. Eventually, the distilling decisions will be paint by numbers and we'll be able to shift our involvement to the quality of the botanicals themselves and our create linkage concepts. I'm going to keep diving into this and hopefully I can produce some really useful protocols for people.
Hi there, Many of you may know me from the bostonapothecary blog which I've written for the last 10 years about explorations in beverage technology. The blog hosts many significant writings on distillation such as the recovered papers of Rafael Arroyo , my many translations of French and German papers on rum production, and a near complete bibliography of journal articles published on gin production. For whiskey, I published a data table from a 1968 document that has the detailed production parameters of 42 American whiskey distillers producing 112 different whiskey mashes (85 Bourbons, 10 rye mashes, and 17 corn mashes). I wrote a series of articles called the distillers workbook to, on the lab scale, teach hard to reach concepts in physics and chemistry. The workbook became the foundation of the cocktail centric hotel bar distillation scene flourishing in the UK. I've advised a lot of people and designed a few products on the market, but there are giant practical holes in my knowledge. I would not even feel comfortable running a distillery until I learned a few more analysis techniques and more about yeast work. I can answer lots of obscure questions by pointing people to the literature, but you have to take a lot of it with a grain of something, because I haven't lived it all yet. My latest project is the revival of Rafael Arroyo's beloved laboratory still, the birectifier, and it is proving truly magical. I guess I'm a vendor. The blog lately has numerous deconstructions of role model spirits [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,]. Arroyo attributed much of his research success to this device. It is sort of like a scalpel meets stethoscope for spirits. Small samples, such as 250 ml of 40% ABV spirit, are very slowly super fractionated into multiple (typically 8), uniform fractions for the sake of counting congeners and making comparisons. Coupled with a few sub-analysis techniques, it allows the progressive development and reverse engineering of spirits. Arroyo used this for yeast selection, fermentation optimization, still tuning, and even for decisions regarding aging. I've recently been applying it to gin analysis with amazing success. I've recently recovered Arroyo's own writings about the still and its operation. I've also translated all of the German companion organoleptic tests and have slowly been bringing them back to life. The birectifier solves a lot of problems for a lot of people and I'd be happy to answer any questions about it. They are available and we have a continuously shrinking lead time. I look forward to participating in the forum. -Stephen