Page 6 – Distillation is used for numerous applications, including the distillation of essential oils and spirits. Our Copper Alembics are perfectly suitable for these applications nevertheless certain should be taken to avoid personal injury as a result of negligence or the continuous consumption of poor results.
Distillation is a basic chemical science which involves the separation of a chemical substance into its different components based on difference in the boiling point of each fraction. This is done by heating a mixture in an alembic pot so the fractions that make up the mixture begin to evaporate, these are conducted via a connecting arm or swan neck into a condenser where they are chilled and revert to their liquid state.
Ethanol alcohol evaporates at 78.3ºC at sea level and water at 100ºC but a mixture of the two components will evaporate between 78.3ºC and 100ºC depending on the ratio of ethanol alcohol and water. The more volatile components or those fractions with a lower boiling point will tend to evaporate first so the resultant vapours will be more enriched with those components with a lower boiling point.
- A fermented batch may be composed of ethanol, other higher alcohols such as methanol also acetone, various esters, water and furfurals.
- The more volatile components such as acetone, methanol and the various esters are undesirable; methanol for instance has been known to cause blindness.
- It is common practice to throw away the first portion of the distillate, this way you will get rid of the methanol.
Separate and discard the first 50ml If distilling a 25 L wash or mash in a reflux still or 100ml per 20L wash from the rest of the distillate if using a traditional alembic, these fractions are known as foreshots or heads and are distilled first. The result of any distillation is divided into three separate parts in the following order: heads, hearts and tails.
The best and desired portion of the distillation is obtained from the hearts. Cut off points have to be determined between heads, hearts and tails, the art lies in when to start collecting the hearts and when to stop. Experienced distillers use their senses to determine cut off points, they monitor the taste and smell of the heads, these usually have a very sharp taste and are foul smelling.
The hearts portion of the distillate (the ethanol) should be totally transparent and odourless. The tails contain a large amount of compounds with higher boiling points, such as the higher alcohols and furfural. These compounds can spoil the taste of the spirit if the collection is carried on too long.
The cut off point for the tails can be identified by the taste, smell and milky cloudiness of the distillate. This is done by collecting a few drops on the back of a spoon every so often and checking what it tastes or looks like on a regular basis. The tails are usually saved to include in the next batch as a considerable amount of ethanol alcohol can still be recovered.
Cut off points may also be established based on temperature (see our ) or readings. Temperature readings may not determine the cut off point with the greatest accuracy though they may be helpful in determining the end of a complete distillation run. For instance when the vapour temperature nears 98° C most of the alcohol has already been distilled and it becomes unnecessary to continue the distillation process.
The percentage at which to do the cut may depend on the flavour profile you may want to obtain and the kind of wash distilled. As a rule for fruit mashes the cut off point for tails may be 25% alcohol and for grain washes 18%, this is not a hard and fast rule and the distiller has to toggle with these values to obtain the desired flavour profile.
Most distillates are double distilled to further purify the distillation results and raise the alcohol percentage. A second distillation may also concentrate the flavour further. The cut off point for a second distillation in a fruit mash may be as low as 60%.
What part of moonshine do you discard?
Heads – When distilling, you should separate, or cut, the heads, hearts, and tails. The head of the distillate is the first portion of the run. You can recognise it by its smell. It has an unpleasant smell like nail polish or methylated spirits. You throw away the heads or you can keep it to use as a fire starter for your BBQ.
How much moonshine do you throw away when distilling?
How to Remove Methanol from Moonshine – One way a commercial distiller would determine the presence of methanol is to monitor still temperature, If anything is produced by the still before wash temperature reaches 174 degrees, it’s methanol. A commercial distiller will discard it.
Again, methanol boils at a lower temperature than ethanol and will concentrate at the beginning of distillation runs. Additionally, commercial distillers have determined that simply discarding a standard amount per batch, based on batch size, is enough to keep things safe. The rule of thumb is to discard 1/3 of a pint jar for every 5 gallons of wash being distilled.
How much initial product to discard:
1 gallon batch – discard the first 2/3 of a shot glass 5 gallon batch – discard the first 1/3 of a pint jar 10 gallon batch – discard the first 3/4 of a pint jar
Regardless of still temp, it’s a good idea to always follow this rule of thumb. Methanol or not, the first stuff to come off the still tastes and smells like rubbing alcohol. It’s by far the worst stuff in the entire production run and it isn’t going to impress anyone. Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn’t brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.
Why do you distill moonshine twice?
HOW MANY TIMES IS AMERICAN WHISKEY DISTILLED? If you’ve ever visited a distillery in Scotland or Ireland, you’ve likely heard a tour guide talk with pride about how their whisky or whiskey is distilled twice, three times, or, in some odd cases, two-and-a-half times.
- They might have told you about how double-distilling is one reason Scotch whisky is so rich and full-flavored, or that triple distillation is partially responsible for the deliciously elegant and mellow flavor of that Irish malt whiskey.
- They’re not wrong.
- The number of times a whiskey is distilled does have a big impact on its final flavor.
But it’s far from the only important factor–and it’s not always a useful measure in the United States. So what’s going on stateside? How many times is American whiskey distilled? It’s a bit of a tricky question to answer, simply because there are so many types of American whiskey.
- Some are double-distilled, some are triple-distilled, and many are made on continuous column stills that don’t use a batch distillation system at all.
- Let’s dive into what each style of distilling entails, and how that plays out in the United States.
- DOUBLE DISTILLING In the United States, double distillation is probably the most common strategy used by distilleries with pot stills.
Pot stills are the simplest, most traditional variety of stills, and they operate on what distillers call a “batch system”–a batch of fermented wash is loaded in, the still gets run, and then it has to be emptied and cleaned before you can start the next batch.
Double distilling is a lot like what it sounds like. Fermented wash is distilled twice on pot stills to concentrate its alcohol content and refine its flavors before being filled into barrels. It’s the most common method of making single malt whisky in Scotland, although there are some Scotch whiskies that are triple distilled.
While the batch-based process is less efficient than continuous distillation, the tradeoff is that it often yields a rich, oily, full-flavored new make spirit. And, in Scotland, at least, it’s also legally required. The first distillation raises the alcohol level from somewhere around six to 10 percent alcohol to around 25 to 30 percent.
The second pass boosts alcohol further. Distillers usually collect the entire run from the first distillation, but make their heads and tails cuts during the second. At the end, they’re left with a crystal-clear, flavorful new-make whisky somewhere around 72% alcohol. This is what gets filled into oak barrels, rolled away to slumber in a bonded warehouse, and eventually released as Scotch whisky.
Here in the U.S., the most common practitioners of double-distillation are craft whiskey distillers. Pot stills are simpler (and less expensive) than column stills, which makes them a good choice for smaller companies without deep pockets. They’re also quite beautiful, which makes them appealing objects of ogling through tasting room windows.
- TRIPLE DISTILLING Triple distilling is most closely associated with Irish whiskey.
- It’s a lot like double distilling, only–you guessed it–the whiskey gets distilled three times instead of just twice.
- Why add that third pass? It tends to refine and lighten the whiskey a bit further, resulting in that smooth, almost buttery flavor Irish whiskey fans love.
In the U.S. most distilleries that use triple distillation are craft producers who are directly inspired by Ireland. They might also turn to the Irish tradition of using a little bit of unmalted barley in their mash bills as done in the style called Irish Pot Still whiskey (once called “pure pot still”.
That’s a holdover from an old law that taxed malt at a higher rate than raw grain, but it also produces a signature grassy, grainy flavor in whiskey. CONTINUOUS DISTILLATION Most mainstream American bourbons, ryes, and corn whiskeys, from ultra-premium brands like Pappy Van Winkle to grocery store staples like George Dickel, are made using column stills that operate on a continuous basis, rather than batch-by-batch.
Rather than requiring distillers to run their stills multiple times to produce a good-tasting whiskey, column stills do it all in a single pass, and they’re so efficient that you can also use them to make neutral spirits (although unaged American whiskey is generally far from neutral).
- So, on the one hand, you could say that most bourbon is single distilled.
- On the other hand, you could just as easily describe them as being distilled dozens of times, since the interior of column stills are filled with sometimes dozens of plates, and the liquid inside undergoes a mini-distillation each time it encounters one.
Complicating the picture even more is the use of gear like doublers and thumpers, which can be thought of as a kind of secondary pot still distillation as part of the continuous distillation process. In short, it’s complicated, and it doesn’t neatly fit into the lens of double vs.
triple distillation. For more details, check out our other blog posts on the topic, SO WHAT ABOUT BARRELL CRAFT SPIRITS? Barrel Craft Spirits sources its distilled spirits from producers around the country and around the world–and whenever we source a spirit, we focus on flavor first and foremost. The number of times a spirit was distilled contributes to that flavor, but it’s just one aspect among many that a good producer has to balance.
Each master distiller has their own unique approach to fermentation, distillation, and aging, giving us a beautifully diverse palette of flavors to experiment with in our blends and single barrels. Most of the straight rye whiskey and straight bourbon whiskey that goes into our small batch bourbon and small batch rye releases was distilled on column stills, although there are a few exceptions.
Do you have to distill moonshine twice?
The Distillation – Distilling Alcohol – For distillation use the entire mash, both liquid and solid parts. Don´t filter the mash before distilling. You would lose taste and smell by filtration. Therefore the stills contain solid parts. Hence it is necessary to use a burn protector, Large stills are jacketed kettles in common, mostly equipped with a stirrer, but this system is not appropriate for small copper stills of hobby distillers. If the mash contains less than about 10 %ABV alcohol, you have to distill twice (double distillation). If the alcohol content is higher than that, a simple distillation is completely sufficient. This kind of distillation produces the most intense taste and smell, more than double distilled alcohol. Don’t forget to separate the heads (foreshot). Also if your mash is free of heads, you should separate about 30 drops per 1,5 liters (1.5 US quarts) of mash. Collect the hearts until 91 °C (196 °F) steam temperature, after that you can collect the tails or stop the distillation.