Between 2009 and 2016, the number of distilleries in Kentucky tripled, primarily due to the worldwide growing interest in bourbon whiskey and an increased appreciation of craft cocktails. Due to this surge in demand, U.S. distillers are scrambling to identify and adopt methods for maintaining quality while increasing efficiency and throughput.
Over the next three months, you’ll be able to read how the spirit industry’s growing pains are moving companies to improve performance across their process. The issues they’re targeting today vary from removing bottlenecks to improving yield and quality.
To create what becomes bottled spirits, grains are milled and cooked to release fermentable sugars. Yeast is then added, and the cooked grains are fermented, producing alcohol. The fermented grains, known as distiller’s beer, are distilled either in batches or continuously, one or more times, to produce the spirits. Lastly, depending on the type of spirit being produced, they’re stored in barrels to age, or diluted to the desired strength and bottled for consumers.
With this context in mind, let’s focus on the continuous distillation process. How can processors alleviate issues like maximizing throughput, minimizing alcohol loss, improving the operator’s ability to focus on value-added tasks, while maintaining their traditional recipe?
Technology like model predictive control (MPC) can help operators push against process constraints and freely adjust what they’re doing to optimize production. Throughout production, MPC prevents over-correction and constantly makes necessary adjustments to maintain steady measurements of steam, temperature, materials and pressure.