Step 5: Operation

Picture of Operation
Put your wash in the vat, close it, and gently heat it (over the stove, campfire, whatever - heat is heat). Watch the thermometer rise.

As previously mentioned, ethanol boils at 78oC. When the thermometer reaches this point, and remains steady, it means that the vapours surrounding it, and passing down the condenser is mainly alcohol, with some water.

Catch what drips out of the end of the condenser - that is your distilled spirit.

Keep an eye on the temperature. If it starts to rise above 78oC, the bulk of the water is starting to boil, and the vapours you collect will now be making your spirits weaker. You also run the risk of concentrating fusel alcohols in your sprits.

(Fusel alcohols look slightly oily when they drip. If the drips from your still start to look odd, stop the process and save what you have so far.)

How much can you expect to collect?

If you are starting with an alcoholic content of 5% ABV (as many reasonable bitters are), then you will get only around 5% of the volume you put in the vat. That is, one fluid once per pint of wash.
techno guy4 years ago
So can you just directly burn whatever comes out as the final product?
Rectifier: I'm not sure about what you call the "Acetone" coming out of the still after the main product:) Acetone has a boiling point of 58 degrees C, so you should have cleared all of it in the headings.
brickb5 years ago
No plastics, no lead, no cadmium, chuck out the first 200ml, taste it, smell it . Use a reflux still. be safe have fun, REAEARCH!!!!
Rectifier7 years ago
You didn't mention, but you want to discard the first 100ml (at least!) of your run. That will contain almost all the methanol/formaldehyde/acetaldehyde content and most of the ethyl acetate. This will cut down on that "moonshine smell" and greatly diminish the hangover. I segmented my runs into 500mL jars and blended based on smell/taste as well as %ABV as a guideline. That avoids contaminating a larger batch with rotten fusel oils, because a little of them go a long way! I generally pitched the first 250mL, kept a few litres to drink, and kept the rest to redistill when I got enough of them. I don't distill anymore because I now live in a small apartment. :( However, maybe I should have tried to write an instructable on it! I've built both a potstill (rum and whiskey), reflux column (neutral spirits, aka vodka, as a feedstock for gin) and a continuous-feed reflux column (an attempt to produce fuel - wasn't economical but sure was neat to run) Nah, too busy this week.