Beginner still?

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specialkayme

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Wondering what other's suggestions are on an entry still.

I don't have a propane heater. I moved to eBIAB a little ways back. So there's that limitation. But the heating element and the controller are on 1.5" TC ports, so that should help.

I was looking at some of those small stovetop units, thinking if it went well I could upgrade. But I think they're too small and look like low quality. I noticed the Milk Can B which looks promising, and I could probably turn it into a pot still easily, or convert it to a reflux still later on, and it would take my current heating element and controller. But I'm not sure if I need something that big to start off with, especially figuring out if I even like it.

Thoughts or suggestions?
 

bernardsmith

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I am sure that distillers will snort at this but a simple stainless steel air-cooled water distillation unit that will hold a gallon of wash can produce 500 - 700 ml of ethanol at about 160 proof (depending on the ABV of your wash). The units are electrical, have a small footprint and take up very little real estate on a counter or table when in use. The units I am familiar with take about 75 minutes to begin any collection of heads or foreshots and will finish as you begin collecting tails, about 45 minutes later. Plug and play price is about $165.00
 

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That milk can looks great! I would suggest to get the biggest boiler you can for one simple reason: making cuts. Making cuts from a one gallon boiler would be difficult and the really small amount of actual output would be disappointing for the time required. A larger boiler you would get a bigger output and a larger amount of "keeper" for the time you spent. It would give you more amounts of cuts to be able to sort through and to tell what's what. Making proper cuts is one of the most important aspects of distilling!

I would suggest a 1/2 barrel beer keg and make or buy a pot still head and leibig for a starter. It could be all that you ever need.
 
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specialkayme

specialkayme

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I would suggest to get the biggest boiler you can for one simple reason: making cuts.
That's the reason I was looking to avoid some of those 1 gallon, 3 gallon or stove top set-ups. It seems like a great low cost, small starter option, but if I can only produce a few hundred ml, I'll have a hard time really getting good hearts. I think I'll learn more of something larger, although I have no need for anything large.

I would suggest a 1/2 barrel beer keg and make or buy a pot still head and leibig for a starter. It could be all that you ever need.
Some of the issues I see with using a beer keg (tell me where I'm wrong):

1. I'm not a metal worker, by any stretch. I don't feel comfortable cutting into a keg, especially not putting the TC port for the heating element on. That limits me to buying a keg kettle. I think I could put the still head together though, if I need to.
2. All the keggles that I've seen for sale leave something to be desired. I don't see many with a TC bottom port, which means I'll have to buy another heating element (pain). Most that come with a heating element have it in 110v, while my element and controller is 240v. Most don't utilize TC ports for the still head connection (call me a snob, but I like TC gear).
3. The few that come close appear not to be very cost effective. https://www.austinhomebrew.com/Keggle-Pot-Still-with-Tube-Shell-Condensor--132-Gallons_p_9343.html for example. At $800, it's tough to say I think this is the route to go, especially considering it doesn't have an electric element, which I need.
4. The keggle takes up a good amount of space. Seems a little risky if I don't enjoy using it. The milk can, for example, still takes up a good amount of space, but I could use it as a fermenter if I really wanted to (not that I do 10 gallon beer batches, but still).

Am I too off base though?
 

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Yeah, if you're going electric and don't want to weld then absolutely get the milk can! It already has the fittings. Good luck!
 

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Wondering what other's suggestions are on an entry still.

I don't have a propane heater. I moved to eBIAB a little ways back. So there's that limitation. But the heating element and the controller are on 1.5" TC ports, so that should help.

I was looking at some of those small stovetop units, thinking if it went well I could upgrade. But I think they're too small and look like low quality. I noticed the Milk Can B which looks promising, and I could probably turn it into a pot still easily, or convert it to a reflux still later on, and it would take my current heating element and controller. But I'm not sure if I need something that big to start off with, especially figuring out if I even like it.

Thoughts or suggestions?
clawhammer (reflux),very affordable . many sizes available but the 5 gallon one is pretty popular and you get a good amount of distillate to bother with it.
 
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specialkayme

specialkayme

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clawhammer (reflux)
Their 8 gallon kit seems nice and quite affordable considering what it comes with (https://www.clawhammersupply.com/co.../8-gallon-stainless-copper-bubble-plate-still or https://www.clawhammersupply.com/co.../products/8-gallon-stainless-copper-distiller). Compatible with my current eBIAB setup, which is a huge plus, and not a gigantic size, which is also a huge plus.

Unfortunately Clawhammer ships to 49 states. I'm in the one they don't ship to. Does anyone know a workaround?
 

Bubbles2

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I am sure that distillers will snort at this but a simple stainless steel air-cooled water distillation unit that will hold a gallon of wash can produce 500 - 700 ml of ethanol at about 160 proof (depending on the ABV of your wash). The units are electrical, have a small footprint and take up very little real estate on a counter or table when in use. The units I am familiar with take about 75 minutes to begin any collection of heads or foreshots and will finish as you begin collecting tails, about 45 minutes later. Plug and play price is about $165.00
I just ordered one of these of an ebayer should hit the front door today, will try it this eve or tomorrow. He modifies it to equate to a Medium heat on gas flame. Not on and off at water distill temp. So you can purge your foreshots out front, separate heads from hearts and so forth. I'll let you know, if you can sit tight for a couple days. I got it to run wine for port and try a few gallons of my wort when I keg..1 gallon unit as mentioned by Bernard. I am sure I will end up with a 7 gallon unit down the road, but for starting out and wanting something smaller, cheaper to see if it is something I want to persue.
 

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Certainly no expert... but I am not sure I understand what you mean when you talk about your purchased unit being modified. The model I have does not provide a thermometer so you have no way of knowing what the temperature of the heated liquid is but I do know that this works using exactly the same principles as someone heating a 50 gallon kettle with 4000 watts of electricity or a propane flame. When molecules of the liquid have enough heat energy the liquid begins to turn from liquid into gas and that gas is forced up through the condenser and is cooled enough to convert back to liquid.That liquid comes out in drops and you have more than enough time to collect and dispose of foreshots and heads.

The liquid is not in a rolling boil. It sounds as if the kettle simmers the wine or ale. You CAN collect hearts in 50 mil or 100 mil jars but the device (in my inexpert opinion) acts more like a pot still than anything else and so while you MIGHT consider separating each 50 ml or 100 ml of heart and tasting to see what you might keep and what you might hold back (or chuck), collecting say 600 ml from 4000 ml is collecting about 15% of the total volume and if that was a pot still you would be making brandy or whisky and I would imagine - though I may be crazy to think this, that if you were a brewer or a wine maker, the ale or the wine you made would support a pot -like distillation because the flavors and aromas in the wine or the ale were pleasant enough to enjoy when the concentration of ethanol was at 10- 12% In other words, unlike moonshiners who use yeast of suspect provenance and who have to use carbon filters to remove obnoxious odors, your distillate would have the character of the fruits or grains you selected- a character that you don't need to unduly massage... so sure, if your goal is to train yourself to weigh every 100 ml of distillate to determine what gets a thumbs up and what gets used for cleaning fluid then this device may not be a step in that direction but if your goal is to obtain a relatively inexpensive equivalent of a pot still that is well made, safe, plug and play, and easy to clean... then I am not sure that there is anything "off the shelf" that comes close.

The downside is that these devices hold 1 gallon. If you were making 8 gallons of ale or wine to obtain 1 gallon of spirits then this may not be what you are looking for. BUT if a bottle of spirits is 750 ml and if you can make 600 ml and you can make 600 ml without necessarily just watching the condenser drip (it takes about 75 minutes to begin collecting heads and another 45 minutes (+/-) to collect the 600 ml unlike with many other devices you can in fact set a timer and do other things while this is distilling... AND the fact that this is plug and play and (in my opinion) does not need to be closely watched then you can plug this in 7 days a week for 2 hours and collect your gallon..
 

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Certainly no expert... but I am not sure I understand what you mean when you talk about your purchased unit being modified. The model I have does not provide a thermometer so you have no way of knowing what the temperature of the heated liquid is but I do know that this works using exactly the same principles as someone heating a 50 gallon kettle with 4000 watts of electricity or a propane flame. When molecules of the liquid have enough heat energy the liquid begins to turn from liquid into gas and that gas is forced up through the condenser and is cooled enough to convert back to liquid.That liquid comes out in drops and you have more than enough time to collect and dispose of foreshots and heads.

The liquid is not in a rolling boil. It sounds as if the kettle simmers the wine or ale. You CAN collect hearts in 50 mil or 100 mil jars but the device (in my inexpert opinion) acts more like a pot still than anything else and so while you MIGHT consider separating each 50 ml or 100 ml of heart and tasting to see what you might keep and what you might hold back (or chuck), collecting say 600 ml from 4000 ml is collecting about 15% of the total volume and if that was a pot still you would be making brandy or whisky and I would imagine - though I may be crazy to think this, that if you were a brewer or a wine maker, the ale or the wine you made would support a pot -like distillation because the flavors and aromas in the wine or the ale were pleasant enough to enjoy when the concentration of ethanol was at 10- 12% In other words, unlike moonshiners who use yeast of suspect provenance and who have to use carbon filters to remove obnoxious odors, your distillate would have the character of the fruits or grains you selected- a character that you don't need to unduly massage... so sure, if your goal is to train yourself to weigh every 100 ml of distillate to determine what gets a thumbs up and what gets used for cleaning fluid then this device may not be a step in that direction but if your goal is to obtain a relatively inexpensive equivalent of a pot still that is well made, safe, plug and play, and easy to clean... then I am not sure that there is anything "off the shelf" that comes close.

The downside is that these devices hold 1 gallon. If you were making 8 gallons of ale or wine to obtain 1 gallon of spirits then this may not be what you are looking for. BUT if a bottle of spirits is 750 ml and if you can make 600 ml and you can make 600 ml without necessarily just watching the condenser drip (it takes about 75 minutes to begin collecting heads and another 45 minutes (+/-) to collect the 600 ml unlike with many other devices you can in fact set a timer and do other things while this is distilling... AND the fact that this is plug and play and (in my opinion) does not need to be closely watched then you can plug this in 7 days a week for 2 hours and collect your gallon..
Yes, we are in agreement. The difference may only be in the wattage limiter of my unit, or we have even bought the same unit. Good to know about The Heads and Tails, since it is coming from a quality brew indeed. I think the only toss is the foreshots (IF that bothers or scares) since Methanol is already in our beer and wine to begin with.
I plan to run a gallon from my current Anchor Steam batch, keg 4 gallons and run one. I think it will be nice to have a countertop unit that is a push and play running good stuff through it. Making Sherry or Port by fortifying my wines.
Here is the unit Read through his description of what he did, and maybe it was not necessary at all?
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Easy-Elect...e=STRK:MEBIDX:IT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649
 

bernardsmith

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Not sure whether the seller is trying to buffalo buyers. I bought a similar unit (mine is stainless steel through and through) and it was not modified and it works as it should... The claim that by modifying the wattage the seller enables the device to completely separate ethanol from water is a joke. Not a chemist but you cannot without using chemistry. Not possible to get 100 percent pure ethanol mechanically (by boiling off the ethanol) . Moreover, as the alcohol leaves the kettle the temperature of the liquid will increase - that is physics so playing with the wattage is not going to do very much. But I may be way off base...
 

Beerswimmer

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You aren't. I would save my money and buy a real still. It's a lot of money for only a teeny tiny amount of keepable booze. That $170 could get a lot of nice parts to build a nicer still. If I absolutely HAD to to use one of those for some crazy reason, I would do strips until I had enough volume at 40% abv for spirit runs. Strips will help with the cuts.

You'll still need to make careful cuts, just tossing the fores isn't good enough at all. You'll want to toss the heads and tails too. Heads give you hangovers(they even smell like a headache) and tails taste awful like wet socks worn by a dirty dog. Small stills are harder to make cuts with. If you're only ending up with 600ml, then I would collect 50ml-100ml per jar in order to make proper cuts. That'll give you 6-12 jars to sort through. Booze without good cuts is almost worse than anything you can buy in a store.
 

Beerswimmer

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@specialkayme Clawhammer seems....no, IS expensive. I'd take a look on Aliexpress or Ebay first. A potstill doesn't need a thermometer to run, that looks to have 3? Or you can build one for even less $, it's pretty dang easy. I taught myself how to solder when I made my first column.

The milk cans are super nice though, I own an 8 gallon myself.I use it for storage of low wines and proofing before I put booze into a barrel. Planning to buy a couple 26 gallon ones soon to replace my 1/2 barrel beer kegs!
 
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For me, I'm not necessarily looking for the smallest, simplest, plug in play item that can turn an 8% ABV liquid into a 40% ABV liquid. I also have zero intent on producing large quantities of high ABV liquids to either give or sell to others. I'm looking for something that I can learn the art and the craft with, that can produce something that I can age and store it, and use it at future time periods for special occasions, special gifts, or just to have.

Keeping that in mind, I have zero desire to build or have an 80 gallon unit. I don't even know what I'd do with it. I also have very little desire of having a "plug and play" unit that acts as a magic box where I put liquid in one end and get a different liquid out another. If I can't see the temp change and learn what's going on, or have the ability to modify it moving forward to change it to what I want it to be, there isn't really a point to it. At least to me. I don't know if that changes other's opinions and advice for me.

@specialkayme Clawhammer seems....no, IS expensive.
@Beerswimmer[/USER] - I'd be interested in hearing why you think that's the case. I didn't come to that conclusion, but perhaps I've been misled.

Allow me to explain. A few caviots - (i) I already have an Auber Cube electric controller and a 5500w ULWD heating element I use with my eBIAB set up that's set up to work on a 1.5"TC port, (ii) I don't have, nor am I interested in obtaining a propane heater, (iii) I am horrible at metal work, and have very little desire to learn it, (iv) I really enjoy the use of TC ports, and would like to continue to use them, and (v) of all my available resources at my disposal, time is my most limited one. If I were to break down the construction or purchase into two units, the kettle and the still, my specs require a TC port to be put on a kettle, of which I don't have the skills, desire, or time to do personally. So construction is out for the kettle.

So looking at purchase options on the kettle, I see the Milk Can B (listed above) for $350, plus $22 in S&H, plus about $100 in TC clamps, drains and covers, for about $475. Affordable distillery has a similar model, with the TC clams and covers included, for $325, plus $61 in S&H, or $386. Both are for a 13 gallon unit. I can get a smaller 8 gallon unit and save about $100 on the kettle, but it doesn't come with a drain, which would probably cost about another $60 (for TC materials), so I'm not saving that much anyway. So between $386-475.

For the still, if I were to find the right kit to build the still I would be open to it. But the time involved of sourcing materials and constructing the still often makes it not cost effective for me to make myself. For example, Affordable distillery has a total unit (the 13 gallon kettle with copper still) for $525, or $586 including shipping, which makes the still part about $200. Most of the kits I've seen are around $150. Plus most of the TC parts that it will take to connect it to the milk can, which will probably run me about another $50. So the only way for me to save money would be to go to the hardware store and source all the materials myself. In the event I get a wrong part and have to go back, the time spent dealing with it exceeds the savings I would have generated. Plus the need for a propane torch and some metal cutting tools eats into any savings I'm generating.

So the most cost effective item I've been able to find is the $586 still mentioned above. Clawhammer's product is $475, shipping included, or about $100 cheaper than my next available option. In fact, the whole still is the same price as the Milk Can B alone listed above. To an outsider looking in, it looks like a good deal. If I were to be able to get around the fact that they don't ship to my state.

You may not need a thermometer to run a still, but do you think having one (particularly at the top of the column) would help someone learn where they are at in the process? I agree that there is no need for the other two thermometers, but at the price point listed I don't really care if I'm getting added items for less money. It also includes a prv, which again I know I don't need, but to an inexperienced individual who has been threatened you could create a bomb, it is a nice addition.

I can't find much on ebay that's comparable (maybe it's just me though). The best I could find on Aliexpress was a 10 gallon all stainless option for $400 (https://www.aliexpress.com/item/400...earchweb0_0,searchweb201602_,searchweb201603_), but it includes a belly band on a modified pot, which I'm not a huge fan of. Should they fail it's usually very challenging to find replacement parts. So is it worth another $75 to have a US produced product with all TC, industry standard parts? If I can't find a way around clawhammer's shipping policy, I may have to go another $100 for a well made affordable distillery product.

I likely got something wrong though, so where's my analysis off? If you think the clawhammer product is overpriced, what product would you recommend instead?
 

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For me, I'm not necessarily looking for the smallest, simplest, plug in play item that can turn an 8% ABV liquid into a 40% ABV liquid. I also have zero intent on producing large quantities of high ABV liquids to either give or sell to others. I'm looking for something that I can learn the art and the craft with, that can produce something that I can age and store it, and use it at future time periods for special occasions, special gifts, or just to have.

Keeping that in mind, I have zero desire to build or have an 80 gallon unit. I don't even know what I'd do with it. I also have very little desire of having a "plug and play" unit that acts as a magic box where I put liquid in one end and get a different liquid out another. If I can't see the temp change and learn what's going on, or have the ability to modify it moving forward to change it to what I want it to be, there isn't really a point to it. At least to me. I don't know if that changes other's opinions and advice for me.



@Beerswimmer[/USER] - I'd be interested in hearing why you think that's the case. I didn't come to that conclusion, but perhaps I've been misled.

Allow me to explain. A few caviots - (i) I already have an Auber Cube electric controller and a 5500w ULWD heating element I use with my eBIAB set up that's set up to work on a 1.5"TC port, (ii) I don't have, nor am I interested in obtaining a propane heater, (iii) I am horrible at metal work, and have very little desire to learn it, (iv) I really enjoy the use of TC ports, and would like to continue to use them, and (v) of all my available resources at my disposal, time is my most limited one. If I were to break down the construction or purchase into two units, the kettle and the still, my specs require a TC port to be put on a kettle, of which I don't have the skills, desire, or time to do personally. So construction is out for the kettle.

So looking at purchase options on the kettle, I see the Milk Can B (listed above) for $350, plus $22 in S&H, plus about $100 in TC clamps, drains and covers, for about $475. Affordable distillery has a similar model, with the TC clams and covers included, for $325, plus $61 in S&H, or $386. Both are for a 13 gallon unit. I can get a smaller 8 gallon unit and save about $100 on the kettle, but it doesn't come with a drain, which would probably cost about another $60 (for TC materials), so I'm not saving that much anyway. So between $386-475.

For the still, if I were to find the right kit to build the still I would be open to it. But the time involved of sourcing materials and constructing the still often makes it not cost effective for me to make myself. For example, Affordable distillery has a total unit (the 13 gallon kettle with copper still) for $525, or $586 including shipping, which makes the still part about $200. Most of the kits I've seen are around $150. Plus most of the TC parts that it will take to connect it to the milk can, which will probably run me about another $50. So the only way for me to save money would be to go to the hardware store and source all the materials myself. In the event I get a wrong part and have to go back, the time spent dealing with it exceeds the savings I would have generated. Plus the need for a propane torch and some metal cutting tools eats into any savings I'm generating.

So the most cost effective item I've been able to find is the $586 still mentioned above. Clawhammer's product is $475, shipping included, or about $100 cheaper than my next available option. In fact, the whole still is the same price as the Milk Can B alone listed above. To an outsider looking in, it looks like a good deal. If I were to be able to get around the fact that they don't ship to my state.

You may not need a thermometer to run a still, but do you think having one (particularly at the top of the column) would help someone learn where they are at in the process? I agree that there is no need for the other two thermometers, but at the price point listed I don't really care if I'm getting added items for less money. It also includes a prv, which again I know I don't need, but to an inexperienced individual who has been threatened you could create a bomb, it is a nice addition.

I can't find much on ebay that's comparable (maybe it's just me though). The best I could find on Aliexpress was a 10 gallon all stainless option for $400 (https://www.aliexpress.com/item/400...earchweb0_0,searchweb201602_,searchweb201603_), but it includes a belly band on a modified pot, which I'm not a huge fan of. Should they fail it's usually very challenging to find replacement parts. So is it worth another $75 to have a US produced product with all TC, industry standard parts? If I can't find a way around clawhammer's shipping policy, I may have to go another $100 for a well made affordable distillery product.

I likely got something wrong though, so where's my analysis off? If you think the clawhammer product is overpriced, what product would you recommend instead?
I bought my 5 gallon clawhammer i think 5 years ago. It was $250 at the time. They may have gone up since then, idk. It comes as a flat kit you will have to bend, assemble and comes with rivets and not enough solder . I bought a small roll ,make sure you buy a lead-free solder. Before jumping into a batch , do a simple fill check so you don't have leaks. If so , go back over it with your torch, flux and resolder those .then get a jug of white vinegar and do a cleaning run and a rinse run.
I also added a thermometer to the top of the column . The kit came with a few elbows for that but i installed a tee fitting with a female threaded fitting so as to screw in the thermometer. I can at least monitor the temp coming off the column so i know when to expect the heads and adjust the heat, if you dont, youll boil it too hard too soon and ruin your cuts .
Ive run mine a few times and the best 5 gallon batch run i had almost a gallon of distilled spirits. I keep approximately 1 ounce per gallon of wash that comes off as the foreshots. Makes really good lighter fluid. You can smell it as it comes off, very harsh. Then as i draw off about ounce #5 , i start flame testing a few drops on a steel table,with lights turned off, if it burns yellow i continue to save it off as foreshots. Once it burns blue its ready to draw as drinkable sprits and its around 128-132 proof by that point. I keep checking it with a hydrometer as i distill and generally stop as far down as 40 proof ,it had a bready taste at that point but its still worth saving for a following run.
 

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I should add, buy the all copper chore boy scrubbers online , to install into the column. I use 2 . Before using , take your saved foreshots and soak the scrubbers to remove any tooling lubricant that may be in the copper material. You dont want that in your end product
 
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I bought my 5 gallon clawhammer i think 5 years ago. It was $250 at the time. They may have gone up since then, idk. It comes as a flat kit you will have to bend, assemble and comes with rivets and not enough solder .
FWIW we're talking about different products. Clawhammer has a 5 gallon copper still kit for $250 (https://www.clawhammersupply.com/collections/all-products/products/5-gallon-kit) that is a kit that requires assembly. The kit is not compatible for an electric heating element as originally provided. Clawhammer also has an 8 gallon stainless steel kettle and copper still (https://www.clawhammersupply.com/co.../products/8-gallon-stainless-copper-distiller) that is 100% pre-built for $474. It is compatible for an electric heating element, with the provided and installed TC port.
 

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FWIW we're talking about different products. Clawhammer has a 5 gallon copper still kit for $250 (https://www.clawhammersupply.com/collections/all-products/products/5-gallon-kit) that is a kit that requires assembly. The kit is not compatible for an electric heating element as originally provided. Clawhammer also has an 8 gallon stainless steel kettle and copper still (https://www.clawhammersupply.com/co.../products/8-gallon-stainless-copper-distiller) that is 100% pre-built for $474. It is compatible for an electric heating element, with the provided and installed TC port.
Yeah, in your case with what you're looking for the 8 is better.

Look for one like this, it's KISS: https://moonshinedistiller.com/distillation-equipment/8-gallon-stainless-steel-still-pot-still-2/
A basic potstill. It should do fine for almost anything except super high neutral abv booze. It has a tri fitting for your element, and a drain on a small boiler like that isn't really necessary unless you can't physically lift it up and dump it out. You'll want to do strips(as fast as you can run it with the cooling knocking down all the vapor, turning your let's say 10% mash into 40% low wines), and then a slow spirit run that turns your 40% low wines into 70% good booze. A one-and-done with a postill doesn't make the best booze and will only be about 60% at the most.

The thermometer will work about as well as your hand feeling the pipe/column to tell you when it's about to start flowing. Not really necessary on a potstill since you controll it with heat inputs to change the amount coming out the spout. In a reflux column a thermometer is necessary. Packing copper mesh in a potstill won't do much for reflux unless you have a condensor above it. But then it's not a potstill, it's a reflux column.
 
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FWIW we're talking about different products. Clawhammer has a 5 gallon copper still kit for $250 (https://www.clawhammersupply.com/collections/all-products/products/5-gallon-kit) that is a kit that requires assembly. The kit is not compatible for an electric heating element as originally provided. Clawhammer also has an 8 gallon stainless steel kettle and copper still (https://www.clawhammersupply.com/co.../products/8-gallon-stainless-copper-distiller) that is 100% pre-built for $474. It is compatible for an electric heating element, with the provided and installed TC port.
I put mine right on top of the same heat element i boil my wort on. And fwiw, it took me all of a day to assemble my 5 gallon unit.
 
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Yeah, in your case with what you're looking for the 8 is better.

Look for one like this, it's KISS: https://moonshinedistiller.com/distillation-equipment/8-gallon-stainless-steel-still-pot-still-2/
Nice suggestion!

Do you think that one, or a dual purpose one would be better (https://moonshinedistiller.com/distillation-equipment/8-gallon-stainless-steel-still-dual-purpose-2/)

Not that much more expensive, and would give me the option to learn some pot still and some reflux still.
 

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No. That shell style of reflux condenser doesn't work. It's a gimmick. You need a real shotgun style deflag to get enough reflux. I would buy the potstill set from them, and then down the road buy a reflux column from somewhere else that'll work properly the first time.

One like this, but I would aim for a 4' packed section instead of the 11" one that won't do too much. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32924022059.html?spm=2114.12010612.8148356.3.7bde1876LKRe3O See the proper reflux condenser? That will keep the alcohol vapers from getting past it and then dropping back down....reflux. The shell type just can't stop the vapor.
 
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See the proper reflux condenser? That will keep the alcohol vapers from getting past it and then dropping back down....reflux. The shell type just can't stop the vapor.
Honestly, no. I don't see the difference. Is it the fact that the cool water flows through the regular condenser first, then through the reflux condenser that's the difference? While the moonshine distiller model doesn't?

I would buy the potstill set from them, and then down the road buy a reflux column from somewhere else that'll work properly the first time.
Thanks for the advice and holding my hand through this.

So the 2" TC opening in the pot still you linked to is a good size? I've seen anywhere between 2-4", and just want to make sure the size is right, and somewhat interchangeable if I want to add a reflux later.
 

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The shell type condensers that don't really work have the condenser section on the outside of the column pipe, the flow of vapors will pretty much blow through without being cooled enough to condense and drop back down. They're just not effective, and I can't ever recommend spending money on them. The proper shotgun style reflux condenser has many small pipes for the vapor to flow through, the small pipes are inside of a water jacket. Think of a product condenser with more internal pipes inside a larger cooling jacket. Like this: https://milehidistilling.com/product/3-inch-dephlegmator/ They can stop all vapor from making it through, producing 100% reflux. The vapors go through the small tubes at the ends, the cooling water flows in and out from the side. You keep your heat power set and adjust the flow of product amount and proof coming out by adjusting the amount of cooling water flowing through the reflux condenser(a dephlagmator) using a needle valve for precise adjustments.

For a 4" column you'll want a bigger boiler. It will double the speed and output of a 2" still. It will need a lot of power too. A 2" is fine up to and including a 1/2 barrel keg.

The 8 gallon milk can with a 2" potstill head will do fine for years or forever. Whiskey, rum, brandy, anything with flavor is what potstills are good at. Reflux columns make flavorless, or nearly flavorless, booze that is really high proof. And they run suuuuper sloooooow. I can make 3 times the amount of whiskey in the time it takes for a reflux run. I rarely need any high proof neutral booze, and I can make flavorless enough that's strong enough with my potstills if I need any. I own 4 potsills of various sizes and about 5 different sized boilers but no reflux column. I may get one in the future, but no plans yet since I like making rum and whiskies. Right now every couple months I make big mashes and do strips to have enough finished booze to fill a 5 gallon barrel for a year or 2. I distill less often, and after I while I started to have more aged stock on hand than ever. It's very exciting now, having properly aged products of my favorite stuff!

You should read up at the homedistiller forums. There's a much, much bigger learning curve for distilling properly than for brewing. Many more factors to consider. It's the biggest wealth of information that there is for this great hobby.
 
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specialkayme

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You should read up at the homedistiller forums.
Yeah, I know. But the firewall triggers that site while at work :)

The shell type condensers that don't really work have the condenser section on the outside of the column pipe, the flow of vapors will pretty much blow through without being cooled enough to condense and drop back down. They're just not effective, and I can't ever recommend spending money on them.
Your explanation makes perfect sense. Thank you for that.

If they aren't effective, why are they so common? I seem to see that style on sites often. Are there just that many people who don't know any better?

The 8 gallon milk can with a 2" potstill head will do fine for years or forever. Whiskey, rum, brandy, anything with flavor is what potstills are good at.
Fantastic. That's what I was looking for.

What proof can you get one of those potstill's up to? Just curious.

Local homebrew supply store was pushing this thing pretty hard:



They claimed you could get 190 proof out of it, first run. I thought "BS" for starters but the price tag was fairly steep. Any idea what kind it is?
 

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That still is no better than the ones with the shell type condensers. It's an old design that also doesn't work very well. The cooling water runs through sections making an X through the top of the column. It'll cause a little reflux, but not enough for 95%! Go with a real dephlegmator, they're cheap, and work 100% of the time. Total BS. There really are that many people that don't know any better... Make, or buy a still that is modular, that uses triclamps(not rubber plugs!) for all of the fittings and it will be completely modular. My recent potstills I can turn into just about anything because of the use of triclamps. Hell, I can probably turn it into a flute type still with a few changes and additions.

A potstill can get up to probably 85-ish%. That's with strips, then a spirit run and maybe running the hearts again. My spirit runs after strips the hearts are usually around 70%.


PS: I'm stuck on my couch with a broken collarbone and can't do anything except look at the internet and watch tv, so I can talk all day!

20190916_164754.jpg

My still with thumper
20190824_161729.jpg
 
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Nice. What kind of thumper are you using?

Sorry to hear about your busted collarbone. Hopefully I'm giving you some outlet of entertainment.

What kind of volumes do you look for? If my math is about right, 5 gallons of mash at 18% ABV (assuming a very healthy turbo yeast) distilled down to 40% ABV would make about 2.25 gallons. A second spirits run would make about 1.2 gallons at 70% ABV. How much of that is typically hearts?
 

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First off, throw the turbo yeast in the garbage where it belongs. High abv ferments like that taste terrible, just like in beer. Trash in, trash out. Use beer, wine, champagne, or even bread yeast(makes great rum and bourbon, really!). Keep your ferments to 10% or less. Just like beer. Yeast throw off bad stuff when they are stressed, distillation will concentrate them and it will taste bad.

Heart amounts will vary, but a safe estimate is 10% of your wash volume. So a 1/2 gallon. Maybe. It varies on many things, but 10% by volume of a 10% wash is what I use. Another quick safe calculation is hearts are about 40% of a full spirit run. It will vary a bit.

My thumper is another 1/2 barrel keg that a co-worker gave me. It has plastic covering the top and bottom, so he didn't want it for making into a smoker or a keggle. It works great as a thumper and a fermenter!

As soon as I can lift a 5 gallon bucket of liquid I'll be in my garage! I started a 45 gallon bourbon ferment 2 days before I broke my collarbone, it's probably vinegar now....what a waste:(
 
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First off, throw the turbo yeast in the garbage where it belongs. High abv ferments like that taste terrible, just like in beer. Trash in, trash out.
I always wondered about that. In making beer, we try so hard not to stress the yeast, utilizing optimum yeast health and controlled fermentation conditions. If you don't, you get some hot alcohol with off flavors. But whenever I read about someone making whiskey or moonshine, or watch Moonshiners, there is no regard for temp control, no regard for yeast health, just dumping a mason jar of yeast in a drum of mash and walking away.

Good to hear my instincts were accurate.

Heart amounts will vary, but a safe estimate is 10% of your wash volume. So a 1/2 gallon. Maybe. It varies on many things, but 10% by volume of a 10% wash is what I use. Another quick safe calculation is hearts are about 40% of a full spirit run. It will vary a bit.
So if I wanted to fill a 2 gallon barrel and age it, I'd be looking at doing about 4 stripping runs and 2 spirits runs?
 

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Bad yeast, stressed yeast, wrong yeast, bad ferments, bad ferment temps... What good could possibly come from any of that? I treat mashes the same as brewing for beer. I use enough, of the correct type yeast, in a nutritionally sufficient wort, and at the correct temperature. If you don't you'll end up with something that won't taste right, or good. Distilling is a slow and time consuming hobby, don't waste it with shortcuts. Take your time and it will end up not being a waste of time.

I consider "moonshine" a bad word. When I hear moonshine I think terrible tasting rot gut that probably had zero cuts taken in a plastic jug(high proof booze eats plastic BTW). A nasty hangover in each sip, if you can even swallow it. Probably made by someone that doesn't really know what they are doing, or heard from an "old timer" that that's how to do it using sketchy ingredients and equipment and not run correctly. People that say "just dump the first xxx amount and keep everything else". Using turbo yeast and getting a 20%+ abv ferment form nothing but sugar and water, etc... Moonshine is just bad booze. Imagine if you made beer by dumping bread slices into hot water with sugar and bread yeast and fermenting at 100F? That's the kind of crap I think of when I hear moonshine. I have had moonshine. I have made moonshine. It's bad.

I watched that TV show, and I stand by my statement that 2 things happened. #1, they didn't actually make any moonshine at all. A lot of what they were doing wouldn't work. #2, if they did it would be the worst unhealthiest crap in the world. No cuts, plastic jugs, and so on. You couldn't pay me to drink a single sip.

You'll probably need just one spirit run. You'd need around 20 gallons of wash, and with an 8 gallon pot(fill it with 5-6 gallons, you need headspace for foaming when it starts running) you're looking at 4 strips. Then whatever wash is left combine with your low wines for the slow spirit run. It should be less than 6 gallons. You'll "probably" have enough hearts at barrel strength for a 2 gallon barrel.

Barrel strength is up to you. The norm for whisky is between 50 and 65%. Too strong and will pull some sharp tannins from the wood. Rum is barreled stronger since it always goes into a used barrel. Gibbs Bros make the best barrels in the US for us hobbyists. The smaller the barrel, the faster it will oak so check it weekly for a 2 gallon. It'll probably be done oaking in a couple months in a new barrel. Oaking and aging is different, age is almost more important than oaking for overall quality. Even un-oaked booze benefits from aging. Over time compounds break down and smooths it out. There's a saying about bad/questionable booze "time and oak solves everything". It doesn't but I usually see what happens before I toss anything down the drain.

You can also age and oak in jars, most hobbyists do since most don't use barrels. They(and I still do when I have small amounts) mimmick a barrel by charring, toasting, or both, a stick or 2 of white oak(white, NOT red!) and tossing it in a jar filled 3/4 with booze. Air it out frequently and after a couple months it'll be great! A 3 gallon carboy would be perfect for 2 gallons with some sticks.
 

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Not sure whether the seller is trying to buffalo buyers. I bought a similar unit (mine is stainless steel through and through) and it was not modified and it works as it should... The claim that by modifying the wattage the seller enables the device to completely separate ethanol from water is a joke. Not a chemist but you cannot without using chemistry. Not possible to get 100 percent pure ethanol mechanically (by boiling off the ethanol) . Moreover, as the alcohol leaves the kettle the temperature of the liquid will increase - that is physics so playing with the wattage is not going to do very much. But I may be way off base...
Worked great ! FWIW. Pulled the first two TBSP off and tossed. Checked the next couple with a lighter and Blue flame. So that was good. Pulled 800ml at around 140 ( I was measuring every 300ml till the last 300ml of stated 800ml, when the "oh so thin meter" got a hole in it and the shot/weight fell out) I ordered 3 more.
So I am guessing 140 but the first 600ml was at 170 so I assume the 140 due to knowing it is dropping since I tossed the last 200ml in with the 600.
Finished grabbing another two 300ml in separate jars (tails) As mentioned I cannot test till Sunday when the new meters get here to see what those tails were coming out at but will use them in more wash on another run.
What was interesting was the 1.5 liter (dunder) almost left in the pot after pulling the above. I checked the temp of that when pulling the top off and it was 210ºf I backsweetened it and it came out as a Non Alcoholic Wine, the GF loved it, when she tried a glass. I do not know how to measure that N/A other than my GF does not drink and is very sensitive to it if there were alcohol in it. I would recommend thus far for a countertop unit for those who want to run quality low wines. Prob works fine for Sugar washes too.
 

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the "oh so thin meter" got a hole in it and the shot/weight fell out.
Was it plastic?

I hope that all of your 300ml samples are in separate jars for making cuts! If not, I would just combine it all with the tails included and call it a strip to be re-run again.
 

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I am not running sugar head, it is a great wine, but I combined the first 170 the second 150 and the last 120 in one jar, let breath. The rest are separate, numbered and waiting for a new meter to check how far into tails they are,
Prob just gonna get the blended proof with the new meter and pearson square that number to create a Port Wine and run those other jars that are no lower than 30% in a new run
 

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Your first brandy! Post up some tasting notes when you try it!

Be sure to make your cuts with your senses, not by a meter. Numbers are good to have, but don't make cuts by them.
 

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Your first brandy! Post up some tasting notes when you try it!

Be sure to make your cuts with your senses, not by a meter. Numbers are good to have, but don't make cuts by them.
I am waiting a day or two to make these cuts, kinda perplexing, the one video I saw was showing me that he takes it to 80 proof and just tries it for taste. Fine but what does he do after he finds the Cuts? Combine the whole lot?
I ask because I do not have a lot to make a bottle or two... I made my first cut out of the unit at 4oz foreshots, albeit after about 2oz I used a spoon and got blue flame perfect. Held to it and tossed the first 4 oz as mentioned. Now I pulled 100ml of what is considered Heads...But in my case I am a bit skeptical to small to measure proof, but has no chemical scent, and that is within an hour of producing.
Next was hearts I assume due to measurements pulled 300ml and the pics tell the rest.
I took the other days run before the new meter got here and used that to make Brandy at 85/15 for 80 proof Tossed it in a Jar with a stick of Med char White Oak, will check in a couple weeks. Was just fine to start.
 

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Here's what I'd do to make good cuts, but it's just what -I- would do in YOUR case with such teeny tiny amounts of a pretty low proof in not many jars. You tried, and that's great. But you'll be disappointed in it. That's a really small amount at a low proof., it'll be tough to make anything very good from that the way it is.

1. Do strips. Use all the wash, in as many strips as you need to fill the boiler for a spirit run. Combine everything you already took except the fores and call it a strip, yeah. Hard to do but it's not looking good how it is.
2. Get more jars. You need more, probably twice the amount. At least 10-12 or so. Take smaller amounts in each.
3. Take all the jars and let them air for 48hrs with a coffee filter or paper towel on the top and point a fan at them to air out.
4. Make cuts by nose from the middle, where you think it smells good...where the hearts are. Work to the tails and make a preliminary cut of where you can first smell stinky tails. Then work to the heads and do the same. Stop when it smells worse than the hearts.
5. Then starting for the tails side take a few drops of the jars in your hearts from the jars at end of the good cut and water them down and re-evaluate by smell and taste to make sure that they aren't nasty and cut out anything nasty. Then try some of the jars that were cut out in the same way to be certain nothing good is cut. Then go the heads side and do the same.
6. Then you can combine the known to be good hearts and test for proof/abv %.
7. After you do this several times and get better at it and the process you can adjust to your own preferences.

Small amounts are really hard to work with, and yours are teeny tiny amounts in not enough jars at a too low proof. The more jars, the better the cuts can be. Get it? And your abv % should be higher, a low abv means that not enough separation was happening. It could be because of the overall small amounts of wash run, or that it run too fast and everything smeared into itself. The still itself and the small volume of wash was probably the biggest problem. If you can run the spirit run slower somehow, it will help big time.



You already have that one, I know you want to make it work, but the real step 1 would be to buy/make a bigger still or boiler. Your amounts are too small to realistically work with. With your still I would only put about a tablespoon in each jar. A 3-5 gallon still will allow you to use more wash so that you'll have more product to separate into jars and evaluate for making proper cuts. The bigger the better, just like with aquariums. Just one drop of bad stuff can ruin a whole batch, and the smaller the batch the harder it gets to keep it clean.

A flame test... I have no idea what that shows or doesn't. Go by senses! Something may burn yellow or blue or both depending on abv, type of product, size of spoon etc. Same with measurements. Use your nose first, then your tongue to make cuts.

Ageing at 80 proof will be...interesting. Next time age it on wood between 100-130 proof, different proofs pull different flavors from wood. I have no idea what that will end up tasting like since I and every distillery in the world has never done it.
 
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Here's what I'd do to make good cuts, but it's just what -I- would do in YOUR case with such teeny tiny amounts of a pretty low proof in not many jars. You tried, and that's great. But you'll be disappointed in it. That's a really small amount at a low proof., it'll be tough to make anything very good from that the way it is.

1. Do strips. Use all the wash, in as many strips as you need to fill the boiler for a spirit run. Combine everything you already took except the fores and call it a strip, yeah. Hard to do but it's not looking good how it is.
2. Get more jars. You need more, probably twice the amount. At least 10-12 or so. Take smaller amounts in each.
3. Take all the jars and let them air for 48hrs with a coffee filter or paper towel on the top and point a fan at them to air out.
4. Make cuts by nose from the middle, where you think it smells good...where the hearts are. Work to the tails and make a preliminary cut of where you can first smell stinky tails. Then work to the heads and do the same. Stop when it smells worse than the hearts.
5. Then starting for the tails side take a few drops of the jars in your hearts from the jars at end of the good cut and water them down and re-evaluate by smell and taste to make sure that they aren't nasty and cut out anything nasty. Then try some of the jars that were cut out in the same way to be certain nothing good is cut. Then go the heads side and do the same.
6. Then you can combine the known to be good hearts and test for proof/abv %.
7. After you do this several times and get better at it and the process you can adjust to your own preferences.

Small amounts are really hard to work with, and yours are teeny tiny amounts in not enough jars at a too low proof. The more jars, the better the cuts can be. Get it? And your abv % should be higher, a low abv means that not enough separation was happening. It could be because of the overall small amounts of wash run, or that it run too fast and everything smeared into itself. The still itself and the small volume of wash was probably the biggest problem. If you can run the spirit run slower somehow, it will help big time.



You already have that one, I know you want to make it work, but the real step 1 would be to buy/make a bigger still or boiler. Your amounts are too small to realistically work with. With your still I would only put about a tablespoon in each jar. A 3-5 gallon still will allow you to use more wash so that you'll have more product to separate into jars and evaluate for making proper cuts. The bigger the better, just like with aquariums. Just one drop of bad stuff can ruin a whole batch, and the smaller the batch the harder it gets to keep it clean.

A flame test... I have no idea what that shows or doesn't. Go by senses! Something may burn yellow or blue or both depending on abv, type of product, size of spoon etc. Same with measurements. Use your nose first, then your tongue to make cuts.

Ageing at 80 proof will be...interesting. Next time age it on wood between 100-130 proof, different proofs pull different flavors from wood. I have no idea what that will end up tasting like since I and every distillery in the world has never done it.
The 80 is Brandy, maybe I should have aged the spirit and then blended down the road? I wanted to lock up the wine for 02 reasons....

Thanks for the detailed help. These were wine runs and to be mixed with the actual wine, I am really trying to figure Heads.
I think Heads are the ones that burn a bit even at 112p it does not burn so much. I took the Jar marked heads and reduced it to 83p and tasted it using an eye dropper in the morning (when my palate is sensitive) The slight burn comes through even at a reduced proof, so I conclude those are Heads.
The one below it is 112p and has next to no burn at all. So I think that will be the one I mix to make Port. About down to 75p it is true to taste through, like the 112p.
I hit the 60p and there are tails, however no wet dog inside a wet cardboard box, it has Guava but watery, like hard water and Guava, even down to the 35p it just becomes more watery with a hint of Guava.
It might be that the wetdog comes through with sugarhead and or tractor S corn runs? That or I am not trained to know..Yet I contradict myself a bit duet to when I was running it to make sure that any thing coming out is Zero had that cardboard taste to it. Of course I tossed it, I just wanted the Dunder to backsweeten and have a Zero Alc wine for the GF, she is sober and likes it. The dunder tastes like a guava cider N/A. I bet if it were corn or sugar that would be ass dunder. LOL Hence me thinking that due to the wine it does not have strong cardboard at the end of the Hearts, until it gets below 15% Thanks again, I have 3.5 of 95-5 rye in the fermentor, when I run that I will do a strip and as you instructed, albeit arduous being a 1 gal pot.
 

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Beerswimmer is correct. The flame test tells you only that you are over 60 proof to combust. The color does not distinguish methanol. It's one of many errors that George perpetuates in his videos. Also with a small boiler there is huge smearing that makes proper cuts impossible. Even 5 gallons is on the small side. A keg boiler makes a much finer product.
 
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