Specific Gravity and You

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After my last “high flying” post on why American whiskey is so problematic, I thought I’d bring things back to earth and teach some foundational concepts. This lesson was part of my consultancy, but my time is a little pressed so I’m not exactly out marketing it anymore. What is specific gravity and how far can we stretch measuring techniques to harness it?

I’ve long preached to distilleries that they should make a bunch of very small scale secondary products. Most all these business school types turned distillers think it is a terrible idea. It will dilute their core product, not strengthen it like I propose. It will confuse their sales efforts. It will confuse their investors. What no one seems to admit is that they have near no clue what the hell they are doing on a technical level and they need to practice on stuff. They also need to enrich their retail businesses plus benefit from new products having PR synergies with their core products (this last point is more powerful than anyone realizes). Many operations also need new retail scale products to help them retain top talent. I do not work in a distillery because no one has figured out how to properly pay me.

Before we get into it, a whole category of products simply does not exist (in practice) because firstly there are no dreams and secondly most new distillers have not figured out how to accurately vat complex multi component blends. I’ve seen distillers so frustrated by proofing that they bought bench top Anton Paar densitometers for startling money while their labs had near no other analysis equipment. Most new liqueurs are nothing but mono, no doubt both because of a lack of dreams and technique. Our understanding of vatting has not advanced an inch despite 10,000 bitters producers working in the territory. Whats up with that?

Specific gravity is the density of a substance compared to another which in most all cases is luckily just water. It doesn’t have to be water, but another reference might only be used in petro chemical industries and may be a yesteryear concept now that analysis procedures are different.

Specific gravity is basically density which is mass/volume. g/L

If you know the density, the mass can tell you the volume and vice versa. Distilleries typically use this with quite large scales weighing entire barrels to gauge them. This also becomes conversely very useful on the small scale or anywhere in between when the containers become tricky. There are techniques to measure the density of mere drops of essential oils.

A hydrometer is the distiller’s go to specific gravity tool, but it is often the least appropriate option. Cheap, fast and good, pick two. Hydrometers are cheap and you can own a ton for a fraction of the price of great scales. You can stick one in a fermenter and get a quick reading without making a mess of glassware. You can stick a hydrometer in a still parrot and get inline continuous measurements that can become actionable such as starting or stopping a run. Hydrometers typically, however, will never give a lot of significant digits.

Refractometers are a tool we should quickly get out of the way. They convert refractive index measures to either density or related measures. They are not exactly cheap, but they are fast and can work in challenging circumstances. They can also take a single drop and give you actionable advice such as when to harvest a crop. They do not provide many significant digits. I have low and high brix scale refractometers, but I use them far less than I used to. You cannot use them on alcoholic solutions.

The fine coffee scene has been loving digital refractometers lately, but it may not be their best option. Or actually it may, because of how companies like VST have made the advice so actionable (they even have an app!) Refractometers for coffee require filtration because particles obscure and haze the reading. Coffee is typically sucked through a syringe filter before it is put on the refractometer. Another method very useful to the distiller may actually serve the coffee scene well but so far it is not widely explored and we’ll get to that (I actually have a rare 1970’s text called The Coffee Hydrometer that I’ve been meaning to digitize).

The most accurate tool a distiller can use probably isn’t legal with the gaugers and that is why it is not practiced for tax work like proofing. The revenuers have long endorsed certified hydrometers and certified thermometers, but they are not exactly the most accurate.

The most accurate way to measure density may be with the specific gravity bottle (pycnometer) and a very good scale (and thermometer!) which is what many spirits researchers used in the old school. The bottles come in various sizes and are designed to hold very precise round number measurements (at 20°C). The bottle is filled to its neck and a special stopper forces excess liquid up a tube so at the top of a narrow aperture it hits 1.000 liters or some such number with confidence. Cheaper brands I’ve bought were never accurate (or my temp was wack?), but you can still calibrate them yourself though next time I’m going to spend money for quality. When your volume measure has significant digits your density measure is only limited by the quality of your scale. My favorite scale vendor is Old Will Knott. I’m glossing over temperature, but modern sous-vide immersion circulators make it much easier to control for. If you need all the significant digits, a liquid can be held at constant temp before it is put in the pycnometer and weighed.

I have done a ton with scales. Remember, I developed the idea that you can weigh carbonation for sparkling beverage production with a kitchen scale.

We can walk all those pycnometer concepts down into practicality. An outstanding distillery tool is the 5 mL automatic pipettor (5000µl). They are about $70 and can be paired with a $100 jewelers scale to get many significant digits. Their repeatability is excellent and can be tested. A portion of liquid can be put on a scale and the pipette tip primed then liquid zeroed (youtube is full of technique). A 5 mL amount can be removed twice to prove repeatability and get the measurement into base ten (10 mL) so density is easy to calculate.

Density should be recorded constantly in competitor analysis scenarios. Basically everything that comes through the shop. With the printed alcohol content, sugar content of liqueurs can be extrapolated or the slighter measure of obscuration investigated. This is important for vintage spirits where you want to get an idea of either sugar content or obscuration, but you don’t want to destroy a large sample. With a density measure and then a 5 mL sacrifice to dehydration lots of vintage spirits can be investigated for alcohol content in their current state and obscuration in their pre-ullage original state (Weigh the bottle before you open, weigh it again after you drink and empty it. Coupled with the specific gravity, you’ll know its volume in its present state and not mess with your good drinking. Never put that stuff in a graduated cylinder). So much vintage booze is being consumed where we would all benefit from rudimentary 5 mL sacrifice analysis projects.

The pipettor process will likely work for coffee quite well with no filtration. The 5mL pipettor can also be used to fill tasting room glasses for nosing and gratis scale samples. The pipettor with its digital scale can also be used to rapidly assemble different generation of vatted products in 100 mL or less batches. Precision at 100 mL means you can quickly assemble ten prospective generations of a recipe for assessment progressing a single variable at a time. You are left with no reason to not see ideas fully elaborated. I also create sketches, but more on that some other time.

The most profitable idea I’ll share is the rule of 1.587 which is the density of sucrose (or 1.59 if you don’t need that many significant digits). The density of sucrose can reveal how much volume a mass of it takes up and thus reveal other measures we need to hit certain targets.

If we are making an Amaro that we know we want to have 280 g/L of sugar and 24% alcohol, what do the parts look like? What volume will the sugar take up? 280 / 1.587 = 176.43 mL. So the sugar free rest of it has a volume of 823.57 mL. Now how much alcohol does that start with if it is going to be diluted by sugar to 24.00% on the revenuers nose.
(823.57 * X) + (176.43 * 0) = 1000 * 24.00.
(823.57 * X) = 24,000
X = 29.14

That 823.57 mL is going to be a vatted collection of individual concentrated components. As they take shape, they can be shifted, subdivided, even combined. Certain components may bring a sugar content that needs to be deducted from the 280 such as a fruit juice. Pretty soon you’ll have a spread sheet.

Some components may exist in such small quantities that a hydrometer just isn’t going to work, but you still should know the specific gravity of everything so the SG bottle or pipettor must be used.

Now you have to scale it up. Sometimes this is to roughly five gallons (tasting room) and maybe to 500 or so gallons (wholesale). You should have a plan for the order of operations in which you combine components that harnesses all your available scales to quickly get you to a target with confidence. Proprietary narrow range hydrometers could be used to quickly check your work (and check off sheets made in case the phone rings and you walk away, but SG knows all). Eventually a final check has to be made and a plan for correction. The final point of concern is percent alcohol to satisfy the revenuer so either water has to be added or concentrated ethanol. The added sugar should be very easy to hit accurately so the error is most likely with the alcoholic quotients. Any addition to average up or down the alcohol content will have to preserve the sugar content so sugar might need to be added to your bump.

These operations should be practiced at different scales and employees should be given sample puzzles to solve before they risk expensive ingredients. This is basically the premise of my distillers workbook exercises.

Elaborating a vatting procedure can keep you safely away from all in the pot cooking and push you firmly into the progressive process. Fragmentation of the product is literacy in the product. Ideas can move towards deeper involvement.

The amaro challenge can push beyond mere assembly for a distiller and into wielding special effects to create sensory differentials and tone refinement to push expressions from ordinary to extraordinary. Every distillery should have an Amaro and it should be a measure of their relationship with beauty and capacity for abstraction.

None of this is too complicated, but none was spelled out in educational books for distillers. Modern texts only teach the maintenance and continuation of large scale products, not the origination of small scale products. I have used this all to develop two notable products on the market that have done more than $300k per year in wholesale revenue. One is more than ten components while the other is merely three, but extrapolated all the way from a single cocktail to a nearly 250 gallon batch. I’ve developed countless others that exist only as one-offs or as proof of concepts in the event extraordinary source materials become available.

Good luck!

As far as data tables goes, for the specific gravity of sugar solutions, the data table I’ve used the most is C440. For ethanol solutions, it comes from a text because most do not have the full range at the lower ethanol contents which becomes important to certain types of work. Your vatted projects may never require charts, but you will definitely need them for competitor and role model analysis when you want to become hip to the common structures liqueurs and amaros take. If you use a great resource, please share it up.

For Sale: Large Bottle Bottler

(I was recently able to drop the price on this after finally figuring out how to get the canisters wholesale in the specific design revision. They are a pretty serious piece of hardware.)

For Sale (190USD+20 to ship)



The product here is a counter pressure keg-to-bottle bottling device that can do many sizes of large bottles with a particular focus on Champagne 750’s and 22 oz. beer bottles. The innovation here is that it creates a seal with a ballistic plastic enclosure all the way around the bottle (via a very specific high pressure water filter housing) rather than with the tops of the various proprietary bottles like other designs.


This is the big brother of the Small Bottle Bottler and works exactly the same, but is larger. Due to its size, the enclosure also doubles as a very useful research scale keg. See the case studies below for usage ideas.


This also makes bottling safer because a bottle cannot break during filling because of how pressure is formed completely around them (inside and out! clever, right?). Bottles are fully contained in an ultra strong clear enclosure rated to multiples times transfer pressure. If a bottle overflows due to operator error, the liquid is caught in the food safe plastic sump and can be recycled. Or, optionally, if you want to fill the negative space with chilled water, less CO2 will be used and the bottles will be kept colder, reducing bonding time and risk of foaming when releasing pressure.


The last popular counter pressure bottler design has been around for more than 20 years. This is the counter pressure bottler design for the next 20 years… Modular, affordable, safe. It has been kicking ass in the hands of some of the country’s best bar programs and home brewers. The design features all the valuable lessons I’ve learned from designing the Champagne Bottle Manifold which is basically to only use uncompromising stainless steel Cornelius quick release fittings. Hardly an innovation, but I use one ambidextrous quick release fitting going into the bottler. This fitting can take a gas line to flush the bottle and bring the bottler to the same pressure as the keg then be switched to the liquid line to fill the bottle. This differs from other death trap designs which use multiple hardwired lines preventing units from being used in an array or being portable (or easy to clean).

The product is highly evolved and articulate for the task. The water filter housing is a particular design revision and other similar revisions do not seal as efficiently [The machining is slightly more complicated than you’d think and I’d be happy to discuss what the hell I do to make the thing if anyone wants. The lid needs to be modified on the milling machine and the stainless fittings require modification on the metal lathe].


The bottler is easy to store behind the bar, easy to clean & keep sanitary, and because of the chosen fittings, seamless to integrate into restaurant programs already using Cornelius cocktail on tap equipment. To reduce inactive time and make bottling as fast as possible, they can be used in an array of multiple units on any counter top because the device takes up less square footage (that restaurants don’t have) than competing designs like the Melvico and its very expensive clones.IMG_7041

1. Put in your bottle of choice and securely screw the top onto the sump with the down tube sticking down the center of the bottle (refer to pictures).
2. Connect the gas hose and release the side valve to flush the bottle of Oxygen. Close the side valve which also brings unit to the same pressure as the keg. Disconnect the gas line (you are probably only transferring at 20-30 PSI).
3. Connect the liquid line from the keg and slowly release the side valve to create a low pressure system drawing liquid into the bottle. Close the side valve at your desired fill level.
4. Disconnect the liquid line and let the bottle bond for 30 seconds so that it does not foam upon releasing pressure (at this time you could start working on another unit).
5. 30 seconds later… Release pressure using the side valve. Remove the bottle and promptly cap it.
6. Start a new bottle!Feel free to ask any and all questions. Cheers! -Stephen
For Sale (190USD+20 to ship)

Case study 1: The unit was deployed in a distillery to bottle products for the tasting room and for events. Cocktails were kegged in 15 gallon sanke kegs and transferred using an array of five bottlers which goes quite fast. A plywood cutout was eventually made on a work bench to fit the profile of the sump and act as a wrench for quickly loosening the lids. Carbonation helped a simple distillery product show its best in a new diversifying context to keep guest engagement.

Case study 2: A small brewery with no bottling line used both the small bottle bottler and the large bottle bottler for sales sample preparation. Beer was transferred to bottles from a 5 gallon sanke keg. The brewer felt more confident in the fidelity of the bottled product than other designs on the market. The price was also noted as greatly appreciated!

Case study 3: A renowned and technically quite brilliant bar with serious space constraints used the large bottle bottler as small scale keg because it fit their fridges better than stainless three gallon units (they own no walk-in). They then transferred their carbonated cocktails to 200mL bottles using the small bottle bottler. This was achieved at very high carbonation levels in a postage stamp of a space! They notably appreciated how the bottles could be chilled by filling the sump filled with iced water which didn’t require any extra containers or overly deplete their ice. The down tube to the large bottle bottler was extended to reaching the bottom of the sump using a short length of beverage line tube and the fill level of the “keg” could be seen at all times. They did pay $25 extra to have an extra Cornelius post mounted on the large bottle bottler for a second quick release gas-in option.


Case study 4: A cocktail caterer specializing in weddings used the deluxe extra large sump (which isn’t typically for sale) to bottle magnum bottles via a full enclosure. They specifically wanted a full enclosure solution to minimize safety risks as much as possible because staff of different training levels were using the equipment. A false bottom had to be fabricated for the bottom of the sump so the magnums never slipped down too far and wedged themselves against the sides (the sump expands ever so slightly under pressure then contracts as pressure drops). Three dozen magnums were bottled! Mission accomplished!


Case study 5: The large bottle bottler was used as a mini keg to fill a five gallon sanke to do a bar take over and put a cocktail on tap for an event. The bar owned Cornelius kegs but they were in service and the receiving bar was not set up for Cornelius kegs anyways. The bar did not own sanke kegs, but used two empty cider kegs awaiting return to the distributor. A filler head was made by simply removing the one way valves from a clean sanke coupler and attaching a bleeder valve. The first sanke keg was flushed with one gallon of water to remove residual cider. One gallon at a time, five gallons of cocktail were transferred to the flushed sanke keg so it could be put on tap at the event. The second sanke keg was filled with multiple gallons of line cleaning solution. The line was quickly cleaned before the event and after by using the second keg. The brand was really happy to see themselves kegged and a few bar managers were wowed by what little equipment it took to do it. The two sanke’s were labelled and carefully returned to their appropriate restaurant.


New Look


Ron here. I’m a long-time friend, ex-resident of the Houghton Street Speakeasy and technical advisor for Stephen.

Hope you all enjoy the new look. It really highlights the wonderful content Stephen writes. It should be more mobile-friendly as well.

Just wanted to share an R&D project I was working on today. Some of you may have heard about Bitcoin, the internet protocol used to send and receive value.

Here we use a Raspberry Pi controller for connecting to the Bitcoin blockchain over the internet. The Pi is controlling a switch that is connected to an electronically actuated standard NPS valve.

Raspberry Pi running Bitcoin-core controlling an NPS valve.
Raspberry Pi running Bitcoin-core controlling an NPS valve.

When the Pi controller sees a bitcoin transaction to a specific wallet address, it will open the valve. This means that anyone sending bitcoin to that wallet will cause the controller to open the valve, and pour the beer!

Now we can connect the valve to a standard keg, and we’ve got an automatic beer-pouring keg powered by bitcoin! This is literally a home-brewed homebrew Internet-of-things.

A working prototype will be coming to a bitcoin startup in Boston.


Originating a Gin

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To produce a gin from scratch,
first we must invent the universe.

Originating a Gin.

A giant hole in spirits production literature is the distillation of gin and the reason may be that it is seen as less of an agricultural activity than other spirits like the production of brandy, whiskey, or rum which attracts agricultural scientists. What limited amount of literature that does exist on gin does not exactly teach one how to develop a gin from scratch, but rather only to maintain and continue the production of an existing gin. Originating a gin is complicated and requires a lot of expensive trial and error, but hopefully by framing the process, a shorter path to success can be taken.

Gin is essentially spirit redistilled with various botanicals, most importantly juniper and coriander. The spirit is typically grain neutral spirit, but that isn’t always the case these days with other spirits as extreme as tequila successfully being used. There are different styles of gin like London dry, Genever, and Old Tom. The differences between the styles is not as clear as you’d think. It may be common knowledge that Genever is made from malt spirit while London dry is made from grain neutral spirit, but it isn’t common knowledge how the botanicals formulas differ in style. Between the different styles, there is definitely a blurring of the lines of some facets and that is part of gin’s charm. It would not prove helpful to define any of the categories so instead we will explore the shaping of the facets.

One of the first things to note about gin production is that just like distillation of spirits from fermentations, making cuts is also spectacularly important to gin. When distilling fermentations, the cuts are to remove and recycle congeners that are ordinary or objectionable while capturing congeners that are extraordinary, defining of the source material, and contributing to complexity at limited quantities. Gin follows a lot of the same objectives with regards to removing an excess of what is ordinary while capturing what is extraordinary, but the chemical compounds are mostly all different. Knowing them by name specifically is not always helpful, but understanding them in general will help craft extraordinary gins using only organoleptic analysis.

A lot of aroma is created or augmented during gin distillation, so just like spirits produced from fermentations, the sensory properties of a gin are also impacted by time under heat. Heat augments many of the extraordinary compounds in the flavoring material and renders them ordinary. These chemical compounds are mostly all in the terpene family. While full flavored spirits from fermentations are distilled slowly, gin is distilled swiftly, but at a pace in line with what the condenser can handle and the condensing temperature should ideally not exceed 20°C.

If a spirit is condensed above 20°C, it is far more likely to contain copper salts that are considered objectionable and possibly toxic at extremely high levels. Many countries monitor the copper content of distillates and sometimes use the metric as a trade barrier to prevent crude and cheaply produced distillates from entering the country. Many new stills are being built with stainless steel condensors to limit copper contamination.

To reduce time under heat, some gins are distilled at either partial vacuum or higher levels of vacuum. As degree of vacuum increases, so too does expense because more specialized equipment is required. Vacuum distilling is seductive, but not always worth the effort until other options and methodologies have been fully explored. Many of the greatest gins in the world are produced at atmospheric pressure without any degree of vacuum to lower the temperature.

Many gins are developed on small scale pilot plant equipment and then migrate to larger scale stills, but not many people are aware of the ways still size effects the product. The main difference is that still size impacts time under heat. A still of larger capacity takes longer to heat up and longer for the spirits run. If the botanicals are boiled in spirits, they will encounter heat for both the duration of the pre-heating and the duration of the spirits run, therefore time under heat can multiply quickly when still capacity increases.

One way to reduce time under heat is to use a gin basket. When the botanicals are held in a container suspended above the pre-heating liquid, they are not subjected to heat until vapor starts evaporating which marks the beginning of the spirits run. A gin basket can therefore significantly cut down on time under heat. On a small still, to gain time under heat, to approximate a larger still, botanicals can be heated in spirits while held in sealed jars sous-vide.

Even if the sous-vide technique is not used for pilot plant production, it can be used to explore the properties of botanicals. Nth degree scenarios can be created to teach sensory assessment where exaggerated amounts of time under heat are created for a botanical which can be compared to lesser degrees to get a first hand, abstracted, organoleptic, look at differences.

Some producers steep botanicals in spirits, typically at 60% alcohol, before distillation, often overnight. In many cases these botanicals endure significant time under heat after steeping and make very fine gins. Any combination of techniques can be used to control heat and its effect on aroma creation in the still.

Keep in mind, the 60% alcohol figure is not selected because it is the optimal proof to extract flavor, it is selected for other economies. If the figure were lower, it would take more energy to execute the distillation run because you would be heating water you do not intend to distill and this would also result in undue time under heat. If the figure was higher, less energy would be expended, but there would be a risk of boiling the pot dry and scorching botanical matter on the bottom of the pot or damaging a heating element. As the figure is optimized, these considerations should be taken into account.

The most important class of chemical compounds related to gins are terpenes which unfortunately can seem dauntingly complex. Fortunately, just like esters, some are ordinary and ubiquitous, having an analog to the very short chained ester, ethyl acetate, and others are extraordinary, more singular to each particular botanical, and defining of its most salient traits. Ordinary terpenes often act like olfactory shadows and they have unique perceptual effects above certain thresholds. Gins can be made to show higher contrast between botanicals by removing ordinary terpenes to reveal and promote extraordinary terpenes. Articulate manipulation of terpenes, often aided by sophisticated analysis techniques well beyond the means most startup distilleries, is the secret of the big gin brands.

Terpenes are hard to give a primer on because they are so diverse. Besides often varying in functional groups, they also vary significantly in their carbon skeletons. Countless chemical analysis studies exist that give very detailed breakdowns of the chemical composition of gins and other spirits, but these are typically for finished gins and not comparative looks at specific isolated fractions of gins. Knowing all of the chemicals by name does not prove especially helpful to the gin distiller until they can be attached to specific fractions in the distillation run or other specific distillation parameters, so they will not be covered here.

Contrast enhancement through ordinary terpene removal can seem counter intuitive because removing flavor ends up promoting flavor. Removing terpenes is the rule of thumb for essential oil production for perfumers and processed food flavor formulators, but the literature is short on complete explanations. It is often cited that the usage rate of an essential oil decreases after terpene removal which implies some sort of olfactory shadowing effect or change in threshold of perception of some compounds after others are removed. This knowledge reinforces the importance of making cuts for gin production.

Some gins are compounded from essential oils instead of distilled with botanicals and historically these have been very cheap gins. There have been significant advances in essential oil production since compounded gins gained their reputation, but originally they might have differed from distilled gins by the essential oils seeing significant time under heat when steam distilled and not benefiting from the fractional distillation allowed by distilling ethanol with water. Historically, essentially oils also saw significant amounts of adulteration. Terpenes can be separated from essential oils so fractionation can occur, but how it can compare to the results of a distilled gin has not been systematically explored. New methods of essential oil production, like super critical CO2 extraction, have been developed that may create new possibilities for compounded or partially compounded gins of extraordinary sensory quality, but they will likely face hurdles in a market that prizes traditional processes.

In regards to equipment, gin distillers have the option of using either pot stills or batch column stills, but column stills are often the preferred apparatus to distill at a consistent proof to more predictably stratify and sort terpenes when making cuts. By varying reflux, and thus relative equilibrium, a column still can easily achieve different distillation proofs during the spirits run from a multitude of input proofs. The only option for a pot still to control distillation proof is via the input proof of the spirits. If various practice runs are made to measure the distilling proof, a pot still can often gain the utility of a column still for gin production.

Sophisticated chemical analysis helps large distilleries sculpt their products and determine which distillation proofs and which cut volumes to use. When creating a gin from scratch without chemical analysis, not much can be done besides systematically and widely exploring all options. This can be expensive and time consuming, but as more investment is made to do it, the gin formula will move closer to its full potential.

Before significant investment is made to explore various still operation parameters, the options for standardizing botanicals should be learned. Large production gins rely on spectacular standardization of their botanical charges for oil yield and without it they would be working in the dark. Botanicals cannot simply be weighed because of significant variances in oil yield. Even within a given botanical’s essential oil, there can be significant variance of composition that should be taken into account whenever possible.

The simplest form of measuring oil yield is with Clevenger apparatus steam distillation. The essential oils are distilled with steam, and because they are not soluble in water, they separate so they can be collected, measured, and further analysis performed like the examination of refractive index which can imply properties of their sub composition. Much better results can be gotten from Soxhlet extraction with organic solvents, but the specialized glassware and accessories become more expensive. The largest scale distilleries use essential oil extraction with organic solvents. They then further analyze the essential oils with spectroscopy and chromatography to get complete looks at sub composition. Gins have to be produced at very large scales for many advanced forms of analysis to be economically viable at all.

One thing that sophisticated chemical analysis allows is the distilling of gin concentrates. The idea of creating concentrates which get diluted with more neutral spirit is seductive to small distilleries, but they are often not aware what exactly allows it to be done accurately. Congeners are being caught when they come out of the still and distilling a normal scale botanical charge is like catching an underhand lob while distilling a concentrate is like catching a fast ball. What you are really trying to catch is that exact point where you switch from collecting the heads fraction to collecting the hearts fraction. The difficulty of making the cut goes up dramatically when distilling a concentrate and it simply cannot be done without a well standardized botanical charge and further analysis of fractions from the distilling run.

Improper cutting of terpenes results in cloudiness and most all gins should be able to be made crystal clear by proper cutting. Terpenes are far less soluble in water than alcohol and as the proof drops, solubility decreases. This is best illustrated by diluting Absinthe with water and watching it quickly louche a milky white as terpenes come out of solution. In absinthe, louching is regarded as a feature, while in gin it is widely considered a flaw. Under some special circumstances that are not widely explored or documented, some large production gins contain food safe surfactants like glycerol to keep terpenes in solution. These should not be employed as a solution to fix faulty gins, but explored as a means to push boundaries with new gin types once production is widely explored.

When developing a gin formula, competitor analysis can be performed on commercial gins to aid the process. Commercial gins can be redistilled, ideally under vacuum, and separated into multiple fractions for organoleptic analysis along side other gins distilled under the same parameters to create equivalent fractions. The collected fractions can be cut to drinking proof and be nosed comparatively, either against complete gins or against single botanical distillates to reveal small details. The first fractions, which are concentrated with the most volatile terpenes, can be watered to test their ability to louche. Without sophisticated analysis, these simple tests can help control consistency and inform development decisions, such as increasing or decreasing the size of the heads fraction against the properties of industry leaders. It is highly recommended to own and explore the usage of small scale laboratory testing glassware before a gin is ever scaled up to production on a commercial size still.

A big secret of the the leading mass market gins is their spectacular sourcing. They are produced at such a scale where it is economically viable to visit the site of every source and know all their options. Large distilleries also develop quality control procedures and analysis techniques specific to every botanical they use. Large supplies of botanicals are properly stored to hedge against shortfalls and often introduced to the botanical charge by Solera method to increase consistency. This level of involvement is not always possible for the small scale distiller, but even when recognizing these facts it is possible to make extraordinary gins on the small scale.

Small scale distillers need to do their best to understand their options within their production scale. Botanicals are not all created equal and as an agricultural crop will often show significant inconsistencies that should be caught and accounted for. Spirits marketing homogenizes juniper to simplify an understanding for consumers, but on a sensory level not all juniper is created equal. The properties of juniper differs significantly by latitude and proximity to coast line. As juniper is grown further north and closer to the sea, it often becomes relatively more arid and drier in aroma. Extremes of character are classically seen as flaws, but within the new spirits market, where terroir is prized and there is more room for acquired tastes and individuality, there is room for former flaws to become marketed as features. Multiple species of juniper exist, but with only Juniperous Communis classically being seen as fit for gin production. Alternative juniper species present opportunities for new gin possibilities, whether used fractionally or in total, but it should always be remembered that they face an uphill battle in the market and their exploration should only come after production is sufficiently explored so the potential of their unique character can be isolated and not confused with other variables.

Very basic ideas in olfactory category theory can inform the creation of a gin botanical formula. Gins typically contain so many botanicals as to touch upon a broad array of olfactory categories. Gins are dominated by botanicals, particularly juniper, that are categorized as converging with acidity (the olfactory-acid). Other botanicals, like citrus peels, converge with sweetness while some converge with bitterness and others with the chemical senses like piquancy. Coriander may be requisite to a gin formula because it converges with multiple categories thus becoming a cornerstone.

Many botanicals, inhabiting the same category, like juniper and angelica, tonally modify each other to create an overtone that aspires to be extraordinary. On the other hand, anise can often be perceived as occupying the same category as citrus peel, but instead of producing an overtone, the combined botanicals produce an interval with a pleasurable expansive sense of space. Almond often produces a similar sense of space in relation to other olfactory-sweet botanicals. Too few botanicals could result in a boring gin, which truly isn’t often the case, and too many botanicals can create something blurred without enough contrast enhancement to draw any interest.

There are not many rules, but there are many pitfalls and seductive traps to avoid. Keep in mind, for every botanical that is added, there should be enough time to adequately perform analysis on that botanical and widely explore its relationship to the formula. Botanical formulas are not created at random or by savants. The creative linkage of every botanical in the formula can articulately be described using ideas in olfactory category theory to justify and strengthen all relationships. With a solid understanding of creative linkage, botanical formulas can be created that fill market voids, put to use opportune sourcing, or simply realize personal aesthetic dreams.

Gin production holds a lot of secrets, luckily they all can be unlocked with systematic exploration. Exploration starts with small scale laboratory glassware to perform single botanical experiments as well as competitor analysis. It migrates to the pilot plant where time under heat needs to be considered and eventually moves to a full scale commercial still. Sophisticated chemical analysis helps when developing a gin, but does not provide any short cuts, rather it only helps production scale dramatically upwards. Standardization of botanical charges is paramount for any gin to be taken seriously. There are many seductive ideas in gin production like distilling under vacuum or distilling concentrates, but they are considered advanced and should only be explored after other options have been sufficiently understood. The making of cuts is critically important to a gin, perhaps even more so than other spirits. Sensory science explaining terpene perception, in the context of essential oils, is not well understood and any lack of documentation is best overcome by creating systematic first hand organoleptic experiences. Cloudiness is the biggest pitfall of the new gin distiller and it must always be remembered that the industry leaders produce crystal clear gins.


By now many people have read this, but the only comment I received was from Tom Nichol the distiller of Tanqueray and creator of Tanqueray Ten. I mention both products because where some distillers only maintain gins they’ve inherited, Tom Nichol created an original gin with Tanqueray Ten which is widely seen as the most extraordinary new gin of the past numerous decades. He said via a tweet, “Great piece of reading, but sometimes we can make things sound more difficult than they really are.”

What I suspect Tom objected to was my very progressive ideas on olfactory category theory which I feel are important to creating botanical formulas under market conditions many of us face today. My ideas come from the perfume industry and are hardly thought of as progressive there. I think of those ideas as solving problems that the global gins do not have. Tom is in the heavy weight class and probably competes with less than ten gins in his class, each striving only to be more classic than the next. Small scale gins, for example only those from New England, endure much stiffer competition and compete against likely thirty plus other local options, all struggling to tell a great story. The small scale gin market, which is ever getting denser, more closely resembles the perfume market where there are countless perfumes. Any new option has to articulately carve out its niche in a very dense and saturated market. If you are going to throw money behind a product, especially when you barely have money, you can’t be shooting from the hip.

What I hoped was noticed was how my explanation contained useful considerations not found in the existing literature. The texts on the subject do not give explanations any more specific than because I said so. They do not help the new industry with the extremely varied conditions and the varied equipment it works with.

As I mentioned at the very beginning, gin is not seen as an agricultural product, so it has not had the benefit of great thinkers making their ideas public in the hopes to see a more distributed gin production of very high quality. At the same time, gin production has never been more important because it helps startup producers who are often definitely in agriculture, build a brand, generate much needed cash flow (as they diversity into other spirit categories), and drive rural tourism in areas that certainly need it. Hopefully I wrote something that will drive more constructive discussion and inspire others to share their knowledge.

Eventually I’m going to assemble a better annotated bibliography of gin production instead of having people rely on what is sporadically hosted all over this blog.

Tap for Effervescing Liquids

Who didn’t love the mechanical milk/cocktail shaker? Or wasn’t captivated by Carbonating with an Agitating Head? I love a good archaic mechanical device.

I think I’m going to fabricate one of these:

Granted I suspect it was never made. You cannot put Champagne on tap because the pressure required to keep the gas dissolved is so high, even at fridge temp, that it would rocket the liquid through the tap creating a lot of turbulence and de-gassing it as it splattered into your glass.

But its wonderful to know what they were thinking about in 1881.


Extracted from Scientific American Supplement no. 275, April 9, 1881.

When a bottle of any liquor charged with carbonic acid under strong pressure, such as champagne, sparkling cider, seltzer water, etc., is uncorked, the contents often escape with considerable force, flow out, and are nearly all lost. Besides this, the noise made by the popping of the cork is not agreeable to most persons. To remedy these inconveniences there has been devised the simple apparatus which we represent in the accompanying cut, taken from La Nature. The device consists of a hollow, sharp-pointed tube, having one or two apertures in its upper extremity which are kept closed by a hollow piston fitting in the interior of the tube. This tube, or “tap,” as it may be called, is supported on a firm base to which is attached a draught tube, and a small lever for actuating the piston. After the tap has been thrust through the cork of the bottle of liquor the contents may be drawn in any quantity and as often as wanted by simply pressing down the lever with the finger; this operation raises the piston so that its apertures correspond with those in the sides of the top, and the liquid thus finds access to the draught tube through the interior of the piston. By removing the pressure the piston descends and thus closes the vents. By means of this apparatus, then, the contents of any bottle of effervescing liquids may be as easily drawn off as are those contained in the ordinary siphon bottles in use.

For Sale: Small Bottle Bottler

For Sale (115USD)

I did make this short demonstration video (my first video ever). It looks like it made it back in 1994 (based on production values).

The last counter pressure bottler design has been around for more than 20 years. This is the counter pressure bottler design for the next 20 years… Modular, affordable, safe. It has been in the wild for two years now kicking ass in the hands of some of the country’s best bar programs and home brewers.


The product here is a counter pressure keg-to-bottle bottling device that can do any size of small bottle from 100mL San Bitter bottles all the way up to Champagne 375’s. The innovation here is that it creates a seal with a ballistic plastic enclosure (which is a high pressure water filter housing) rather than with the tops of the various proprietary bottles like other designs.


This also makes bottling safer because if a bottle breaks while filling (which has never happened to me), it is contained in an ultra strong enclosure. If a bottle overflows due to operator error, the liquid is caught in the food safe plastic sump and can be recycled. Or, optionally, if you want to fill the negative space with chilled water, less CO2 will be used and the bottles will be kept colder, reducing bonding time and risk of foaming when releasing pressure.


The design features all the valuable lessons I’ve learned from designing the Champagne Bottle Manifold which is basically to only use uncompromising stainless steel Cornelius quick release fittings. Hardly an innovation, but I use one ambidextrous quick release fitting going into the bottle. This fitting can take a gas line to flush the bottle and bring the bottler to the same pressure as the keg then be switched to the liquid line to fill the bottle. This differs from other death trap designs which use multiple hardwired lines preventing units from being used in an array or being portable (or easy to clean). True, you could probably whip this device up yourself, but by the time you ship everything from various suppliers and learn the machining techniques (drilling stainless ain’t easy!), you are way over budget or have made some errors, or compromised on fittings and will lose tons of valuable time operating your half-assed version of the device. The product is highly evolved and articulate for the task. [The machining is slightly more complicated than you’d think and I’d be happy to discuss what the hell I do to make the thing if anyone wants.]


Personally I enjoy the Champagne Bottle Manifold because I take advantage of its de-aeration abilities and I use it over night to preserve sparkling wines. But I kept fielding requests for a small bottle bottler. Most notably from hotels that want to bottle product for their mini bars.

IMG_4484The product is easy to store behind the bar, easy to clean & keep sanitary, and because of the chosen fittings, seamless to integrate into programs already using cocktail on tap equipment. To reduce inactive time and make bottling as fast as possible, they can be used in an array of multiple units on any counter top because the device takes up less square footage (that restaurants don’t have) than competing designs like the Melvico and its clones.

1. Put in your bottle of choice and securely screw the top onto the sump with the down tube sticking down the center of the bottle (refer to pictures).
2. Connect the gas hose and release the side valve to flush the bottle of Oxygen. Close the side valve which also brings unit to the same pressure as the keg. Disconnect the gas line (you are probably only transferring at 20-30 PSI).
3. Connect the liquid line from the keg and slowly release the side valve to create a low pressure system drawing liquid into the bottle. Close the side valve at your desired fill level.
4. Disconnect the liquid line and let the bottle bond for 30 seconds so that it does not foam upon releasing pressure (at this time you could start working on another unit).
5. 30 seconds later… Release pressure using the side valve. Remove the bottle and promptly cap it.
6. Start a new bottle!

Feel free to ask any and all questions. Cheers! -Stephen
For Sale (115USD)

Some Like It Hot: Sous Vide Hot Drinks


Hot drinks have an allure, but sadly they are hard to serve in some logistic scenarios so many cocktail programs forego them. They also aren’t as popular with guests as food writers make them seem. All this being said, I thought I’d try and innovate the hot drink a little bit in a way that is easy for others to play along (by degrees) and hopefully solve a few peoples’ problems and stimulate some new ideas.

The first way hot drinks can be innovated is the serving method. Many hot drinks are water based and mixed from scratch or served in heated urns with alcohol being added to finish them. Water based drinks are a challenge because you typically have to leave the bar to get hot water or with the urn you lose highly volatile top notes and eventually develop a stewed character. Typically only one urn is available so programs only offer one choice of hot drink. With an immersion circulator style water bath (the Polyscience I used might be over kill), multiple varieties of completely batched hot drinks can be served at the same time. And if they are not served tonight, they will be fine for service tomorrow.

The second way hot drinks can be innovated is using the sous vide closed container idea which opens doors to new aroma possibilities. If we heat juices like apple in closed containers, the freshest top notes won’t evaporate leaving the juice with too much of a stewed character. This character I’m calling stewed is more from loss of volatile aroma than from time sustained under heat. These innovations means we can both make service easier and make the sensory experience more extraordinary which hopefully will give the technique some traction.

I even took things a step further and carefully de-aerated my proof of concept juice with the intention of limiting any color change due to oxidation. I’ve never had a hot cider that wasn’t a muddy brown so the idea of something hot, pale, and fairly clear seemed very extraordinary to me (and it was delicious!).

Using the process from my green apple soda recipe, I juiced the apples with an Acme centrifugal juicer.photPeriodically I transferred the juice to a champagne bottle and used pressure from CO2 to force oxygen out of solution. I then transferred the juice from magnums to 187 mL & 100 mL bottles using another bottling device I developed that I’m still keeping a secret (It works so well its amazing but I haven’t figured out how to sell it!). [1/26/15 This mystery bottling device will soon be revealed because I finally found a company to source and assemble the parts!]

photoAs the juice heated and the liquid inside expanded, the bottle caps were cracked to relieve pressure then caps re-formed with a Colona brand capper (every bar should own one!).

photo 2Serving cups can be warmed in the water bath as well as aromatic botanicals added to fill a room with festive aroma.

photo 3The proof of concept was an un-oxidized apple cider served hot with all its top notes intact. Because you retain the most volatile aroma, you do not necessarily need to ameliorate the cider with botanicals like citrus peels, but of course there are no rules and I really liked adding cinnamon & nutmeg.

1 oz. Asbach Uralt German brandy
4 oz. oxygen free, fresh, 90C, organic, honey crisp
apple cider
grated nutmeg.

(An old hot drink favorite I thought I’d share)

Hot Yaffe
1 oz. scotch whisky
1 oz. caraway aquavit
.5 oz. alpine spruce tree honey syrup
10 oz. MEM’s spiced hibiscus tea
Add the spirits, honey syrup & water directly into
the tea pot and let steep for two minutes before

Will we see a bar program start offering six different hot drinks?

Standardizing Botanicals: Me and My Soxhlet Extractor

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[2/20/16 I have made a ton of progress here, but I haven’t shared it with anybody!]

[This is just one post in hopefully a series about learning to standardize botanical charges for distillations most particularly gin, also aromatized wines, and bitters.]

Long ago I linked to a great paper called Controlling Gin Flavor from Herman Wilkie’s team at Hiram Walker in 1937. Wilkie is a very important distilling figure and it should be known is the true father of vacuum distilled alcoholic beverages. In the paper, back in 1937, Wilkie mentions a new era they had just entered where the botanical charge of a gin was scaled for oil yield. This acknowledges that the oil yield is inconsistent and if you just weigh your botanicals, you will end up with a less than consistent product. And sadly I suspect we have returned to the pre-Wilkie era which in my opinion is less than craft.

Gin production in the past has been characterized by lack of control over many of the important variables such as quality of spirits, quantity and quality of flavor in the various botanicals used, variable types and methods of operating the still, etc. Critical study of these variables disclosed valuable information which led to standardization of spirits and operations which, with proper selection of botanicals and regulation of the quantity of each ingredient used in the formula in accordance with its flavor value, now permits the production of gin under technical control which guarantees uniformity and quality of final product.

Controlling Gin Flavor

Wilkie notes that some distillery labs use the Clevenger Method of finding the oil yield which simply employs steam distillation while Hiram Walker uses a method, likely a Soxhlet extractor, with an ether as the solvent. The oil extracted is simply weighed then converted to a percent oil yield. What the paper doesn’t mention is how large their sample size is which is very important for what I aim to do.

No small producers to my knowledge are performing any of this analysis and these days it should be easier than ever with teaching resources like youtube, equipment procurement resources like ebay, and already purified chemicals affordably available from the likes of Fisher Scientific (but you need a commercial account and clearance to ship).

photo 5

To explore this type of analysis I bought a 500 mL Soxhlet extractor from ebay and already made some miss steps. Many Soxhlet extractors use a thimble to hold the botanicals and I bought one for $40 that I probably didn’t need. According to some youtube soxhlet demos, the bottom of the extractor can be lined with a simple bleached cotton pad and the botanicals simply tucked into a coffee filter. Its a much cheaper solution and even increases the volume the extractor can hold.

photo 2photo 1
The soxhlet extractor works by condensed solvent filling a chamber holding the botanicals until it reaches the level of a siphon tube eventually drains the chamber similar to flushing a toil. the drained solvent eventually evaporates refilling the chamber with fresh warm solvent. This means that the duration for running the apparatus can be considered in terms of flushes. Great advice is taken from here.

The amount of powder depends on the weight of the drug. If the powder is from roots or stem parts, it will be comparatively heavier than leaf powder. So heavier powder will be needed more as it will settle well in the extractor. What I mean to say is that the weight of the material is not a problem. It depends upon the size of the extractor you are using. Only thing is that it should be filled in extractor at least 1 inch below the siphon tube to avoid its entry there and finally in the flask.


So do not over fill the cavity.

Solvent should be filled from the top and not directly in the flask. Once you start filling the solvent you can see the drug getting wet and finally you will add it till the first cycle runs. Now you should add solvent which is sufficient to run at least two to three more cycles (from the top only to get initial efficient extraction). This way you will find that the drug is entrapping solvent for one cycle and flask is having sufficient solvent to run two to three more cycles. This is the normal practice. Regarding time for extraction, it is normally 24 hours or 72 cycles. But you can check for the completion of extraction when you see that the solvent coming through the siphon into the flask has become free of extracted material. For that you can use a watchglass. Just when the cycle is about to run, you need to take little (1-2ml ) of the solvent from the cycle in a watchglass and allow it to evaporate at room temperature. If you find a deposition in the watchglass, then it needs further extraction and vice versa.
Hope it will help you.


72 cycles (or flushes) seem like a long time but you can also refine your process by observing when the solvent starts to run clear. I think the 1-2 mL sample can be thiefed out of the extractor by reaching a pippette down through the condensor which is open (though you can’t really see it in my picks) then evaporating it. A microscope might aid in observing the residue. Once the amount of cycles are standardized, the time per cycle can be calculated and the total time taken from that.

As far as I am concerned, we use 10gm of power of plant materials for each 100 ml of solvent. For example, the solvent container that you used has a 500ml capacity means, we can pour 300ml and process 30gm of plant power (10gm per 100ml of solvent). In our lab, we will continue the extraction process up to the point, where the solvent color in the thimble becomes colorless as water.


So here is a best bet.

If we come to the point of solvent type, there is a custom to use three types of solvent, i.e. high polar, mid-polar and non-polar solvents. Some researcher uses any one solvent for each of the categories, however most of others, can decide a particular solvent, especially either from non-polar (such as hexane) or high polar (methanol, ethanol).

This something I haven’t completely figured out. I used hexane because its what I had. It is also less toxic than dichloromethane and waste disposal does become a consideration. In the end I lost about 50 grams of hexane (33.2 mL) which were stuck to the botanicals when I removed them from the extraction chamber.

photo 10photo 6These measurements with the scale are about 20 minutes apart.

I then tried to recover the hexane from the flat bottomed boiling flask.

photo 1


This is actually an early photo after probably one flush. Most often the low boiling point solvent is recovered with a rotovap which is known for speed and efficiency but I only had a high school quality vacuum distilling rig.

photo 9


Yet it was able to collect the hexane.

photo 8


Some how I only recovered 150 mL of my initial 300 mL of hexane, but I do know 33.2 mL was stuck to the botanicals and was lost to the atmosphere. Better systems could likely dramatically decrease the loss and inefficiency. Glycol instead of water to condense both rigs might be a good place to start.

photo 7

But what did I get? Pretty much nothing. My first test was run with wormwood which was likely a bad idea because the typical oil yield is so low (0.35%) where if experimenting with cloves they might have yielded over 10% and given a better feel for the process.

And what exactly is all that stuff and can it be thought of as oil? Should the contents of the flask have been filtered before it was vacuum distilled? We think of oil as volatile, so when we examine botanicals with very low oil yields but very high amounts of soluble non-volatile stuff like bitter alkaloids (not sure if I picked those up actually), should a different method be used like steam distillation?

It looks like somethings precipitated but are they still figured in the oil weight?

I also suspect a big problem I’m having is that I’m using old and tired botanicals who’s oil yields are not anywhere they should be and thus have no place in a gin. So I think I’m experimenting with some failures but there should be some value in there somewhere.

The next step is to try out my new glass steam distillation rig with clevenger oil separator. More to come. [2/20/16 I’ve also made a ton of progress with the clevenger apparatus and learned to differentiate its capabilities with the soxhlet. maybe I’ll sahre it later in the year.]

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For Sale: Counter Pressure Keg-to-Champagne Bottler ($225USD)

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Bostonapothecary is proud to introduce a next generation counter pressure bottler inspired by the infamous champagne bottle manifold. The counter pressure bottler attaches to champagne bottles with the same collar system as the original manifold but also includes a down tube and side port with a second Cornelius fitting for venting or pressurizing. The down tube can also be removed and a check valve inserted to revert the bottling head back to the same functionality as the original design for in-bottle carbonating, reflux de-aeration, or counter pressure to preserve sparkling products.

Counter pressure bottling is a fairly advanced procedure and assumes users are familiar with carbonating in Cornelius kegs. There is not much hand holding here so this product is designed to fulfill the dreams of people who pretty much already know what they want to do and how it will work. This product fills a giant hole in the market. Cheap versions, which don’t handle pressure levels beyond beer (and require two man operation) are available for $70 and then nothing worth a damn is available until $10,000. No other product is available that can give you full control at the smallest possible scales. Though slightly technical, counter pressure bottling is safe and liquid is typical only transferred at under 40 PSI which is a small fraction of the working pressure of Champagne bottles. Transfer pressure, because liquid is only being moved rather than forced into solution, is much lower than the pressures used for in bottle carbonation of the original Champagne bottle manifold and is thus a safer procedure.

setThe down tube has been designed as a standard soda keg down tube to keep all the parts familiar. The accessory check valve (included) is from a Guiness type keg coupler so it is tried and true as well as easily replaceable. The check valve slides comfortably into the specially designed food safe seal which engages the bottle. The functionality of going from down tube for liquid transfer to check valve for various non transfer tasks means the tool can be used around the clock and helps justify owning multiple units. Such versatility is not a feature of any competing product at any price range.

optionsGas can be bled from the bottles with a “key” which is best done with a Cornelius gas quick release fitting with a pressure gauge and bleeder valve (pictured above). This key is not included with purchase but can be acquired affordably from my favorite supplier, the Chicompany. Champagne bottles, such as magnums, can even be turned into mini kegs and a hose can be placed over the down tube to reach the bottom of the bottle. Gas can then be inputted into the side port to move liquid up the hose instead of down. The key can also be used to measure the internal pressure of a keg and when paired with the temperature, can imply carbonation level (a common brewers technique!).

keyinstalledEverything was designed with cleanup in mind which is another major strength over competing designs. The Cornelius fittings hold a seal when only thumb tight so disassembly can be done without tools to maximize productivity. The Cornelius fittings have also been proven to hold a seal for months on end which is the reason for using a second Cornelius post instead of integrating a bleeder valve (yes, I systematically explored and tested every option). As opposed to the bulky, large square footage, standing clamp designs of competitors, the small size and portability of the collar design allows all parts to constantly be dunked in sanitizer for cleaning (parts should never be dish washed at high temp because high heat will weaken the seal of the embedded fittings).

The bottling head features unique over-molding of stainless steel 19/32 fittings for anchoring and an uncompromising seal. This complicated production technique, typically found only in very expensive medical devices, was made possible by developing a new laser cut acrylic mold box & plastic silicon die technique (that I’m very proud of, woohoo!).


Production is currently still rather bespoke and all sales are being reinvested into the project to upgrade the designs and manufacturing techniques to take full advantage of CAD, 3D printing & CNC machining (there is finally a legit engineer on the team!). Until further notice, purchasers will be part of an early adopters / patrons of the arts program and entitled to trade in their units towards new versions at the expense of shipping and other greatly minimized expenses (manufacturing techniques allow reuse of the costly stainless fittings). Early adopters will also get the benefit of small amounts of consulting which is basically the ability to constantly pick my brain about product usage and potential applications as well as recipe development.

The design features many advantages over competitors and the number one is portability and the potential to be used 24/7 for a variety of tasks followed by affordability. Counter pressure bottling requires significant amounts of inactive time (due to physics) so it is not exactly the fastest process. The affordability of the design allows users to own multiple heads for the price of a one head system from competitors. This allows users to purchase more heads at their own pace to reduce inactive bottling time. As one bottle is coming to equilibrium and “bonding” so the manifold can be removed without detrimental foaming, another bottle can be filled and maybe yet another can be capped.

Another unique feature is the usage of only Cornelius gas fittings instead of both gas & liquid fittings. Liquid can run through the gas quick release so what this means is the same input at the top of the bottling head can be used to both pressurize the bottle, bringing it up to the same pressure as the keg (as well as flush it using the key), and then be used for the liquid line. The liquid jumper cable going from the keg to the manifold will have a liquid disconnect on the keg side but a gas disconnect on the manifold side. This breaking of the rules means the bottler requires less fittings to function and the force to attach the main fitting presses straight downward over the center of the bottle so as not to stress the seal.

With enough early adopters, new tools will be introduced such as a collar to hold 25 mm beer & soda bottles. Working prototypes already exist but need to be scaled upwards to safe, consistent, mechanically precise, and economically viable production.

Distant projects are proposed for affordable but limited production runs of equipment for bottling carbonated water in old fashioned soda siphons. Also a flexible bottling plant has been conceived for eco-hotels and other programs in far flung areas who need bottling heads that can handle the assortment of miscellaneous bottles recycled in their area.



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Getting to know the NCBE

The National Center for Biotechnology Education has been a great resource for me. They even sell hard to get hard to get enzymes (page 4.)

The NCBE has a set of practicals and some teach their lessons through edible culinary experiments. The writing here is a brilliant, designed to be first introductions to the various topics, and therefore particularly accessible to those new to food science.

The first practical from the NCBE I had ever come across was In a Jam and Out of Juice. Here, the role of enzymes is explored in the processing of fruit. Enzymes are often used to clarify juices and get higher yields when juicing. They also peel citrus fruits and augment the texture of jams & fruit desserts. Enzymatic bittering is also discussed which has become a particularly important concept for the carbonated cocktails I’ve been storing long term in champagne bottles.

The PDF is unfortunately broken up into quite a few parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.

I guarantee this is the most enlightening and articulate guide you can find for bringing modern fruit processing to culinary programs.

The Practical Fermentation Guide is brilliant. At first glance it does not seem of too much culinary value and then the gems start to stick out.  They explore sauerkraut as well as the reasons you need starters or supplemental acidity so you can begin at optimal pH for the growth of your target microorganisms. Their ingenious illustrations show how samples can be easily taken while maintaining cleanliness of the fermentation. Aromatic ester production in fermented foods is explored. And on page 13, back in 1999, they explore spherification. In 2003 Ferran Adrià went on to re-render this lesson in a beautiful edible context.

The Practical Biotechnology guides often relate directly to culinary. There are many topics there but I selected only the ones that are most practical as kitchen experiments.

Tempe – An Indonesian Fermented Food.

Kefir – A multicultural Fermentation

Better Milk for Cats Wow, you even make calcium alginate beads!

Low Lactose Yogurt

Oyster Cap Mushrooms Grow oyster cap mushrooms on a roll of unbleached toilet paper. I wonder how good they taste. They even provide a wonderful looking recipe to try your home grown mushrooms with.

Among the most interesting practical is the yet to be published Fermented Soft Drinks. The gem of the lessons here is how raisins can be added to the naturally carbonated  sodas to act as a primitive hygrometer and indicated when fermentation is complete. This may be the best guide to yeast carbonated sodas I’ve ever seen.