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BEGINNERS GEMS #9: Cooling & Alcohol Yield

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IN THIS BEGINNER’S Gems for Home Distillers, we discuss a little more about cooling and issues relating to alcohol content in your still’s output.

Our previous Beginners’ Gems posts containing helpful hints, tips and techniques for home distillers, include the following:

How do I know how much water flow the condenser needs to run correctly?

Water flow is extremely important for the correct operation of any condenser.

For example if you have a Still Spirits Super reflux Condenser, first the water runs through the main condenser, then into the reflux condenser.

The water warms up in the main condenser as it removes heat from the condensing spirit.

This hot water is then fed into the reflux condenser. If the flow of water is too high then the reflux condenser becomes too efficient which reduces the flow of steam into the main condenser.

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The reduced flow will also result in a higher alcohol content as more of the heavier molecules like water are returned to the still and what does get past the reflux condenser is the lighter molecules or the alcohol.

When a condenser is running properly the top two bands of the main condenser should be very hot.

The bottom band of the spiral should be cool and the one above it should be hot but not too hot to touch.

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What should I do as the temperature rises on the still condenser thermometer?

The thermometer temperature will rise as the alcohol is boiled off. Water boils at 100 degreesC so as the alcohol content is reduced temperature naturally increases.

Increase the flow of water through the condenser to hold the temperature. This will vary between stills so refer to your instructions.

If you are using a super reflux condenser keep the temperature under 92°C (197°F). The flow of alcohol from your still will slow toward the end of the distillation.

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I did not get as much alcohol as the instructions said I would?

Check that you have used the right quantity and type of sugar. Check there are no steam leaks from your still.

Another cause could be that your wash has not fermented out completely.

Also, make sure you do not exceed the maximum temperature allowed at the top of the condenser for the type of still you have.

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Until next time… Happy Distilling!


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