There are two things we all can use more of: time & money. So when you come across an idea that:
- Uses equipment you already have
- With money you’ve already spent
- To save time to do other work
Well, that’s worth something. Here’s just such an idea:
While at the American Distilling Institute trade show in Las Vegas I met Tyler Derheim from FIVE x 5 Solutions. In addition to working with FIVE x 5 as a Training & Education Specialist, Tyler is a distillery consultant, helping advise and shepherd new distilleries through the labyrinthine (not to mention highly regulated) corridors that are required to start, survive, and thrive in the distillery world.
In our discussion, Tyler mentioned that he frequently purchases TCW tools and equipment, and found an interesting and unexpected use for two of our bestselling distillery items: our SimpleSpirits pump and our suction racking wand.
In his own words, here’s what Tyler did:
I took a SimpleSpirits AODD pump and attached a hose to the output side. That hose runs to a TCW 42” 90° racking wand, which can simply be dropped down inside the tote (remove the standoff bolt from the racking wand). Then, I just leave the input side of the pump open to the atmosphere and run the pump – dry! 🤯
So, in the course of producing distilled spirits, you may find yourself needing to mix ingredients in a tote. (As did Tyler). The inside of a tote is not exactly accessible, and you need to keep any kind of electrical mixing implements far from a tote filled with spirits. The mixing is often done with pulsating air systems that are designed for mixing with compressed air, but they can be costly. Nonetheless, that tote ain’t gonna mix itself. So, what can we do? Grab your TCW Equipment (or the like) and use Tyler/ FIVE x 5 Solution’s great advice and DIY your Air Pulse Mixer!
The pump will deliver pulses of air, which will bubble up through your tote and mix its contents thoroughly. This method of mixing works even on difficult problems like granular sugar into cold water/spirit. If you previously tried another mixing method and you have a cake of solids or syrup on the bottom of the tote, this method will save you. In the simple case of cutting 190 proof ethanol down to 80 proof with pure water, the mixture will be homogeneous and ready to test after 10-15 minutes of mixing. The only component that comes into contact with your product is the stainless racking wand, which is easy to rinse – your pump and hose stay clean and dry. This is a major upside when working with sugar and/or flavored products. You can typically get away with air mixing up to 265 gallons in a 270 gallon tote without major splashing/spillage.
This method is not free of downsides. The major downside is that you are pumping atmospheric air into your spirit. If that air is not clean, then you’ll be contaminating your product. I used to use this method in a facility that had HVAC with air filters, and I felt the air was clean enough. It’s worth noting that using compressed air from a typical compressor is not necessarily “cleaner”: that air, even if filtered/separated, usually contains atomized machine oil. The “right way” to use air for mixing is to buy a food grade air compressor ($$$) or use an inert gas like nitrogen ($$). You can also consider Sterile Filtration of your air, and TCW has just the filters for that ($). Regardless of your air source, always ground and bond your pumps and vessels! Finally, it’s worth noting that the diaphragms in these pumps are tough and very tolerant of abuse, but are not designed to run exclusively dry for extended periods of time. It is wise to use the same pump for traditional liquid pumping duties in between air mixing, so that the diaphragms get wetted from time to time.
If you do use this method there is danger of loving it so much that you’ll never go back to any other way. One facility that liked the air mixing results so much that they decided to incorporate it into their marketing to tout their “aerated” vodka. Why not? In my anecdotal experience, air mixing of GNS/Vodka actually improves organoleptic qualities by dispersing less-desirable solvent aromas.
It’s also worth noting that this method of mixing is best reserved for new make spirit and neutral spirit. If your spirit is aged or flavored, then this method will cause aromas that you want to keep to get blown into your production area atmosphere (rather than stay in the liquid). If you are blending a flavored and sugared product which has a neutral spirit base, consider adding the spirit, water and sugar and mixing with this method. Then, add flavoring materials and mix using a less aggressive method – or just a very short application of air mixing. This hybrid approach lets you gain the benefits without suffering from the drawbacks.
Consider me (Michael/TCW) and Tyler at FIVE x 5 on your team and available to help you solve your problems. We’d love to hear about your experiences with this mixing method. And, if you’re considering buying or upgrading your hardware and equipment, we can advise you from our extensive personal experience.
Book your free intro consultation with Tyler by clicking here: https://calendly.com/fx5-consulting/intro-call
Check out the pump featured in this blog post:
And the racking wand:
If you’d like to filter the compressed air, here’s just the filter: