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New Distillers FAQ

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  • Tony & Elle Ackland
    ****************************************************************** NEW DISTILLERS Frequently Asked Questions (Sept 01) Posted near the 1st of each month, to
    Message 1 of 18 , Jan 1, 2002
    • 0 Attachment
      ******************************************************************
      "NEW DISTILLERS" Frequently Asked Questions (Sept'01)

      Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at
      www.yahoogroups.com

      Please email any additions, corrections, clarifications required, etc
      regarding the FAQ to Tony Ackland (ackland@...), however please
      direct any general questions to the newsgroup itself.

      *******************************************************************

      1) Is distilling hard to do ?
      2) Is it legal ?
      3) Will it make me blind ?
      4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and
      fractionating column ?
      5) How do I get or make a still ?
      6) How do I make a whisky / rum / vodka / gin ?
      7) Should I use sugar or grains ?
      8) Can I use fruit wine ?
      9) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?
      10) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?
      11) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?
      12) What web resources are there ?
      13) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?
      14) Can I run my car on it ?
      15) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....
      16) What is a "Thumper" ?
      17) Can I use a reflux still to make rum or whisky ?

      **********************************************************************

      1) Is distilling hard to do ?

      Nope - if you can follow instructions enough to bake scones, then you can
      sucessfully distil. To distil well however, will require you to understand
      what you're doing, so read around and get a bit of information under your
      belt before you begin.

      2) Is it legal ?

      Probably not. It is only legal in New Zealand, and some European countries
      turn a blind eye to it, but elsewhere it is illegal, with punishment
      ranging from fines to imprisonment or floggings. This action against it is
      usually the result of either religous beliefs (right or wrong), but more
      generally due to the great revenue base it provides Governements through
      excise taxes. So if you are going to distil, just be aware of the potential
      legal ramifications.

      3) Will it make me blind ?

      Not if you're careful. This pervasive question is due to moonshine lore,
      which abounds with myths of blindness, but few actual documented cases. The
      concern is due to the presence of methanol (wood alcohol), an optic nerve
      poison, which can be present in small amounts when fermenting grains or
      fruits high in pectin. This methanol comes off first from the still, so it
      is easily segregated and discarded. A simple rule of thumb for this is to
      throw away the first 50 mL you collect (per 20 L mash used). Probably the
      greatest risk to your health during distilling is the risk of fire -
      collecting a flammable liquid near a heat source. So keep a fire
      extinguisher nearby.

      4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and
      fractionating column ?

      A pot still simply collects and condenses the alcohol vapours that come off
      the boiling mash. This will result in an alcohol at about 40-60% purity,
      with plenty of flavour in it. If this distillate were put through the pot
      still again, it would increase in purity to around 70-85% purity, and lose
      a bit of its flavour.

      A reflux still does these multiple distillations in one single go, by
      having some packing in a column between the condensor & the pot, and
      allowing some of the vapour to condense and trickle back down through the
      packing. This "reflux" of liquid helps clean the rising vapour and increase
      the % purity. The taller the packed column, and the more reflux liquid, the
      purer the product will be. The advantage of doing this is that it will
      result in a clean vodka, with little flavour to it - ideal for mixing with
      flavours etc.

      A fractionating column is a pure form of the reflux still. It will condense
      all the vapour at the top of the packing, and return about 9/10 back down
      the column. The column will be quite tall - say 600-1200mm (2-4 foot), and
      packed with a material high in surface area, but which takes up little
      space (pot scrubbers are good for this). It will result in an alcohol 95%+
      pure (the theoretical limit without using a vacuum is 96.48 %(by volume)),
      with no other tastes or impurities in it.

      5) How do I get or make a still ?

      If you're after a pot still, these are generally home made using what-ever
      you have at hand - say copper tubing and old water heaters or pressure
      cookers. Reflux stills can be made from plans on the net, or bought from
      several manufacturers. For reflux stil plans see Stillmakers "Build a World
      Class Distillation Apparatus" at http://www.Moonshine-Still.com (Free!) or
      Gert Strands : http://partyman.se/Engelsk/default.htm (US$5). A good book
      is Ian Smileys "Making Pure Corn Whisky" at
      http://www.magma.ca/~smiley/main.htm, with full design details. See the
      list of "web resources" below for links to sites selling ready-made stills.
      For fuel alcohol stills see the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual at
      http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_motherearth/meToC.html,
      and the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel by S.W.
      Mathewson at
      http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_manual/manual_ToC.html

      Regarding the choice of heating for the still - if you have 240V available
      it is usually easiest to control & safer (particularly with internal
      elements). Gas can be used, but more care is needed to keep the collection
      container further away and not letting it overfill.

      6) How do I make a whisky / vodka / rum / gin ?

      Whiskey : Heat 4 kg cracked or crushed malt with 18 L of water to 63-65C,
      and hold there for 1-1.5 hours. Heat to 73-75C, then strain off and keep
      liquid, using 250 mL of hot water to rinse the grains. Cool to below 30C
      (should have an initial specific gravity of 1.050). Add hydrated yeast &
      leave to ferment (maintain at 26C) until airlock stops bubbling and final
      SG of around 1.010. Let settle for a day, then syphon carefully into a pot
      still. Discard the first 50 mL's, collect the next 2-3L of distillate or
      until you start noticing the tails coming through.

      Vodka : dissolve 5 kg of sugar & 60g of nutrients in 20L of water, cool to
      below 30C and add hydrated yeast. Leave to ferment at 25C until below an SG
      of around 0.990, then settle for a day. Syphon into a reflux or
      fractionating still, and collect as per usual.

      Rum : as per vodka, but use some brown sugar or mollasses, to give an
      initial specific gravity (SG) of around 1.06 - 1.07. Run through either a
      pot still, or a not-so-great reflux still.

      Gin : make a very pure vodka, then add the following essence. Simmer 35g of
      juniper berries in 350 mL of 50% vodka for ten minutes with the lid on, let
      cool overnight, then filter through coffee filters. Use 5-10 mL of this
      essence per bottle of vodka.

      When doing any fermenting, take a lot of care to ensure that any items used
      are clean/sterile (soaking them in a water + bleach (10 mL per litre) ), or
      else the wash can start growing other things. Use a closed fermenter with
      an airlock too, to let the CO2 out without letting wild yeasts, bugs etc
      in. For more information about fermenting, see beer or wine homebrewing
      sites.

      7) Should I use sugar or grains/fruit ?

      It depends on what sort of still you have, and what you are trying to make.
      If you have a reflux or fractionating still, only use whatever is cheapest
      (usually sugar), as the refluxing will strip out all the flavours anyhow.
      If you have a pot still, and are after a bourban or whiskey, then you need
      to go the grain route, or mollasses if after a rum. If you are trying to
      make a neutral spirit for flavouring, go for sugar.

      Basic guidelines for using them are ..
      SUGAR. Wine yeast can use no more than 2.5lbs of sugar/1imp gal or
      2.2lb/1U.S.gal or 1.25kg/5litres of must. This will produce 14%a.b.v. Honey
      and liquid malt extract are 80% sugar so you need 1.5kg/5l must or mash.
      Molasses is 50% sugar so you need 2.5kg/5l must or mash. Maple syrup is 32%
      sugar. Carob beans are 45% sugar. Sugar beets are 15% sugar Grain malt is
      60% sugar (starch converted to sugars) so you need 1.5kg/5l mash. Cooked
      grain contains 60% convertible starch so you need 1.5kg/5l mash
      FRUIT - Grapes contain the ideal sugar, water, acid balance. A sugar
      content of 17-23% and a water content of about 80%. 8kg of grapes produces
      5l of wine. Most common fruits (apples, plums, apricots) contain about 10%
      sugar and 85% water. Cherries and figs contain 15% sugar. A fruit mash
      could be 4kg fruit, (400g sugar content), 2l water (3l in pulp already),
      800g additional sugar. Bananas are 17-24% sugar, 75% water. Acid content
      0.3%. A banana mash could be 4kg of cooked bananas, 2l water (3l in pulp
      already),400g sugar. Add 3lemons/5l for correct pH. Dates are 70% sugar,
      20% water. Add acid to a date mash. Raisins and sultanas have a water
      content of about 15% and a sugar content of 60%, grapes have a water
      content of 75% and a sugar content of about 20%, so using 1.5-2kg/5l of
      water appears about right if we want to reconstitute them.
      ACID - 5g of citric acid (1tsp)/5l must raises acidity by 0.1%. 3g of
      calcium carbonate powder lowers acidity by 0.1%. A pH of 5 is 0.4% acidity.
      Winemakers aim for 0.6% acidity. Most common fruits are about 0.6% acid
      content. For distilling, a higher acidity in the mash helps to suppress
      bacteria. A high tannin content doesn't matter as we are not making wine.
      Meaurements are logarithmic, so a pH of 4 is 10 times more acidic than a pH
      of 5.
      YEAST - Brewers (& possibly baker's yeast) can tolerate only 8% alcohol. A
      bottom fermenting lager yeast ferments out all the sugars better than a top
      fermenting ale yeast. A good wine yeast (Champagne, in the right
      conditions, can tolerate 15%a.b.v. (up to 18%a.b.v. in optimal conditions -
      no need to use expensive turbos). Wild yeasts vary, but some are very low -
      this is a risky path. Whisky distillers often use a combination of yeasts -
      initially a brewer's yeast because they believe it effects the flavor.

      8) Can I use fruit wine ?

      Sure, if you have it available. Again, using a pot still will result in a
      brandy/grappa/schnapps, whereas a reflux still will just strip it down to
      neutral spirit.

      9) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?

      That "rough moonshine edge" or "off-taste / wet cardboard smell" is due to
      impurities such as the higher order alcohols, known as cogeners or fusel
      oils. These will be present more when using a pot still, less if using a
      reflux still, and just about absent if using a fractionating column. So one
      way is to use a taller packed column and increase the amount of reflux
      occuring. They can also indicate that you've tried to collect too much of
      the alcohol, and have run into the "tails"; so finish collecting a little
      bit earlier next time. Soaking tainted alcohol with activated carbon for a
      week (or even months) will help remove some of this flavour - this is known
      as "polishing" the spirit. I'm also suspecting that you need a little bit
      of copper somewhere in the still where it can come in contact with the
      vapour. The copper helps catalyse some of the sulphur, esters & organic
      acids, reducing their odour & taste.

      10) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?

      You need a hydrometer. This is a wee float, with a scale inside it. The
      more alcohol that is present, the lighter the density of the liquid, so the
      hydrometer sinks a bit lower. You then just read off the scale how much
      alcohol is present. You need a seperate hydrometer for measuring the
      density of the mash, as this is generally > 1.0, whereas the spirit is <
      1.0, and they can't accurately do both ends of the scale.

      11) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?

      There are now many commercial flavourings available, which turn vodka or
      neutral alcohol into pretty decent gin or whiskey, or all manor of
      liqueurs. See the commercial sites, like Des Zines
      http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~topkiwi or Ray Toms http://moonshine.co.nz/
      for details. Or you can soak it with oak chips and make whiskey, or soak
      fruits in it to make your own liqueurs.

      12) What web resources are there ?

      For more details, see :
      Tony Ackland's http://homedistiller.org
      Aaron Smiths's http://www.go.to/distillation
      Steve Spence's http://www.webconx.com/ethanol.htm
      StillMaker's http://www.Moonshine-Still.com
      Biofuels Library http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library.html

      13) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?

      Both the NEW DISTILLERS and the DISTILLERS news groups are available via
      YahooGroups, at http://www.yahoogroups.com . NEW DISTILLERS is, as the name
      suggests, intended for those of you new to distilling and after simple,
      straight-forward discussions, whereas the DISTILLERS group is a bit more
      advanced, throwing in bits of design philosophy, theory, and alternative
      ways of achieving the results. Both tend to overlap to some extent.

      14) Can I run my car on it ?

      You can run your car on alcohol over about 80% purity. Because any water
      present will seperate out in the presence of the gasoline (and become a
      problem), you either need to exclusively use the alcohol, or dry it right
      out (eg 99%+ purity) if using it to mix with gasoline. See Steve Spences
      site for more details, the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual, or the The
      Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel. In addition, in
      the USA, you can get a "small fuel producer" permit, which allows small
      scale distilling for "motor fuel" purposes. A nice advantage is that they
      don't require denaturing for "fuel" used on the premises. The regulations
      are posted at http://www.webconx.com/ethanolusaregs.htm

      15) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....

      To convert between SI & Imperial units, multiply the first unit by the
      conversion factor to get the second. Divide back to do it in reverse .eg 1L
      = 0.264 US gal, so 20 L = 20 x 0.264 = 5.28 US gal, and 20 US gal / 0.264 =
      75.76 L

      1 L = 0.264 US gal = 0.221 UK gal
      1 L = 1.057 US qt = 0.880 UK qt
      1 kg = 2.204 lbm = 32.15 oz (troy) = 35.27 oz (av)
      deg F = ((9/5) x deg C )+ 32
      1m = 1000 mm = 39.37 inch = 3.28 ft = 1.09 yd

      16) What is a "Thumper" ?

      A "thumper" is an extra chamber sometimes fitted to a pot still. It can be
      as simple as a glass jar with two holes in the lid. The off-take from the
      still is fed into it, with the pipe running almost all the way to the
      bottom of the jar; the jar is half filled with liquid (water or mash or
      tails) so that the vapour from the still will bubble up through it; then
      the vapour coming off it is collected & cooled as per normal. It acts as a
      second distilling chamber using just the heat from the vapour, and lifts
      the purity from 50-60% to 70-80%, hence improving what might otherwise be a
      very mediocre design.

      17) Can I use a Reflux Still to make Rum or Whisky ?

      Yes you can. To do so, you need to carefully monitor the various
      transitions between the foreshots, heads, middle run, and tails, and time
      the collection of the middle run precisely. The reflux still allows you to
      more precisely judge the changes between the various stages, and hence
      target them accurately. A typical rum or whisky would be obtained by
      discarding the foreshots, then collecting the heads, middle run, and then
      begin the tails, until the purity has dropped to around 58-60% (81.4C). By
      altering when to start collecting, and how late to time the final "cut",
      various flavour profiles will result.
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      --------

      http://homedistiller.org This page last modified 10/05/2001 17:21:16
      email: ackland@...
    • Tony & Elle Ackland
      NEW DISTILLERS Frequently Asked Questions (Sept 01) Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at www.yahoogroups.com Please email
      Message 2 of 18 , Feb 28, 2002
      • 0 Attachment
        "NEW DISTILLERS" Frequently Asked Questions (Sept'01)

        Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at
        www.yahoogroups.com

        Please email any additions, corrections, clarifications required, etc
        regarding the FAQ to Tony Ackland (ackland@...), however please
        direct any general questions to the newsgroup itself.

        *******************************************************************

        1) Is distilling hard to do ?
        2) Is it legal ?
        3) Will it make me blind ?
        4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and
        fractionating column ?
        5) How do I get or make a still ?
        6) How do I make a whisky / rum / vodka / gin ?
        7) Should I use sugar or grains ?
        8) Can I use fruit wine ?
        9) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?
        10) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?
        11) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?
        12) What web resources are there ?
        13) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?
        14) Can I run my car on it ?
        15) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....
        16) What is a "Thumper" ?
        17) Can I use a reflux still to make rum or whisky ?

        **********************************************************************

        1) Is distilling hard to do ?

        Nope - if you can follow instructions enough to bake scones, then you can
        sucessfully distil. To distil well however, will require you to understand
        what you're doing, so read around and get a bit of information under your
        belt before you begin.

        2) Is it legal ?

        Probably not. It is only legal in New Zealand, and some European countries
        turn a blind eye to it, but elsewhere it is illegal, with punishment
        ranging from fines to imprisonment or floggings. This action against it is
        usually the result of either religous beliefs (right or wrong), but more
        generally due to the great revenue base it provides Governements through
        excise taxes. So if you are going to distil, just be aware of the potential
        legal ramifications.

        3) Will it make me blind ?

        Not if you're careful. This pervasive question is due to moonshine lore,
        which abounds with myths of blindness, but few actual documented cases. The
        concern is due to the presence of methanol (wood alcohol), an optic nerve
        poison, which can be present in small amounts when fermenting grains or
        fruits high in pectin. This methanol comes off first from the still, so it
        is easily segregated and discarded. A simple rule of thumb for this is to
        throw away the first 50 mL you collect (per 20 L mash used). Probably the
        greatest risk to your health during distilling is the risk of fire -
        collecting a flammable liquid near a heat source. So keep a fire
        extinguisher nearby.

        4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and
        fractionating column ?

        A pot still simply collects and condenses the alcohol vapours that come off
        the boiling mash. This will result in an alcohol at about 40-60% purity,
        with plenty of flavour in it. If this distillate were put through the pot
        still again, it would increase in purity to around 70-85% purity, and lose
        a bit of its flavour.

        A reflux still does these multiple distillations in one single go, by
        having some packing in a column between the condensor & the pot, and
        allowing some of the vapour to condense and trickle back down through the
        packing. This "reflux" of liquid helps clean the rising vapour and increase
        the % purity. The taller the packed column, and the more reflux liquid, the
        purer the product will be. The advantage of doing this is that it will
        result in a clean vodka, with little flavour to it - ideal for mixing with
        flavours etc.

        A fractionating column is a pure form of the reflux still. It will condense
        all the vapour at the top of the packing, and return about 9/10 back down
        the column. The column will be quite tall - say 600-1200mm (2-4 foot), and
        packed with a material high in surface area, but which takes up little
        space (pot scrubbers are good for this). It will result in an alcohol 95%+
        pure (the theoretical limit without using a vacuum is 96.48 %(by volume)),
        with no other tastes or impurities in it.

        5) How do I get or make a still ?

        If you're after a pot still, these are generally home made using what-ever
        you have at hand - say copper tubing and old water heaters or pressure
        cookers. Reflux stills can be made from plans on the net, or bought from
        several manufacturers. For reflux stil plans see Stillmakers "Build a World
        Class Distillation Apparatus" at http://www.Moonshine-Still.com (Free!) or
        Gert Strands : http://partyman.se/Engelsk/default.htm (US$5). A good book
        is Ian Smileys "Making Pure Corn Whisky" at
        http://www.magma.ca/~smiley/main.htm, with full design details. See the
        list of "web resources" below for links to sites selling ready-made stills.
        For fuel alcohol stills see the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual at
        http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_motherearth/meToC.html,
        and the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel by S.W.
        Mathewson at
        http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_manual/manual_ToC.html

        Regarding the choice of heating for the still - if you have 240V available
        it is usually easiest to control & safer (particularly with internal
        elements). Gas can be used, but more care is needed to keep the collection
        container further away and not letting it overfill.

        6) How do I make a whisky / vodka / rum / gin ?

        Whiskey : Heat 4 kg cracked or crushed malt with 18 L of water to 63-65C,
        and hold there for 1-1.5 hours. Heat to 73-75C, then strain off and keep
        liquid, using 250 mL of hot water to rinse the grains. Cool to below 30C
        (should have an initial specific gravity of 1.050). Add hydrated yeast &
        leave to ferment (maintain at 26C) until airlock stops bubbling and final
        SG of around 1.010. Let settle for a day, then syphon carefully into a pot
        still. Discard the first 50 mL's, collect the next 2-3L of distillate or
        until you start noticing the tails coming through.

        Vodka : dissolve 5 kg of sugar & 60g of nutrients in 20L of water, cool to
        below 30C and add hydrated yeast. Leave to ferment at 25C until below an SG
        of around 0.990, then settle for a day. Syphon into a reflux or
        fractionating still, and collect as per usual.

        Rum : as per vodka, but use some brown sugar or mollasses, to give an
        initial specific gravity (SG) of around 1.06 - 1.07. Run through either a
        pot still, or a not-so-great reflux still.

        Gin : make a very pure vodka, then add the following essence. Simmer 35g of
        juniper berries in 350 mL of 50% vodka for ten minutes with the lid on, let
        cool overnight, then filter through coffee filters. Use 5-10 mL of this
        essence per bottle of vodka.

        When doing any fermenting, take a lot of care to ensure that any items used
        are clean/sterile (soaking them in a water + bleach (10 mL per litre) ), or
        else the wash can start growing other things. Use a closed fermenter with
        an airlock too, to let the CO2 out without letting wild yeasts, bugs etc
        in. For more information about fermenting, see beer or wine homebrewing
        sites.

        7) Should I use sugar or grains/fruit ?

        It depends on what sort of still you have, and what you are trying to make.
        If you have a reflux or fractionating still, only use whatever is cheapest
        (usually sugar), as the refluxing will strip out all the flavours anyhow.
        If you have a pot still, and are after a bourban or whiskey, then you need
        to go the grain route, or mollasses if after a rum. If you are trying to
        make a neutral spirit for flavouring, go for sugar.

        Basic guidelines for using them are ..
        SUGAR. Wine yeast can use no more than 2.5lbs of sugar/1imp gal or
        2.2lb/1U.S.gal or 1.25kg/5litres of must. This will produce 14%a.b.v. Honey
        and liquid malt extract are 80% sugar so you need 1.5kg/5l must or mash.
        Molasses is 50% sugar so you need 2.5kg/5l must or mash. Maple syrup is 32%
        sugar. Carob beans are 45% sugar. Sugar beets are 15% sugar Grain malt is
        60% sugar (starch converted to sugars) so you need 1.5kg/5l mash. Cooked
        grain contains 60% convertible starch so you need 1.5kg/5l mash
        FRUIT - Grapes contain the ideal sugar, water, acid balance. A sugar
        content of 17-23% and a water content of about 80%. 8kg of grapes produces
        5l of wine. Most common fruits (apples, plums, apricots) contain about 10%
        sugar and 85% water. Cherries and figs contain 15% sugar. A fruit mash
        could be 4kg fruit, (400g sugar content), 2l water (3l in pulp already),
        800g additional sugar. Bananas are 17-24% sugar, 75% water. Acid content
        0.3%. A banana mash could be 4kg of cooked bananas, 2l water (3l in pulp
        already),400g sugar. Add 3lemons/5l for correct pH. Dates are 70% sugar,
        20% water. Add acid to a date mash. Raisins and sultanas have a water
        content of about 15% and a sugar content of 60%, grapes have a water
        content of 75% and a sugar content of about 20%, so using 1.5-2kg/5l of
        water appears about right if we want to reconstitute them.
        ACID - 5g of citric acid (1tsp)/5l must raises acidity by 0.1%. 3g of
        calcium carbonate powder lowers acidity by 0.1%. A pH of 5 is 0.4% acidity.
        Winemakers aim for 0.6% acidity. Most common fruits are about 0.6% acid
        content. For distilling, a higher acidity in the mash helps to suppress
        bacteria. A high tannin content doesn't matter as we are not making wine.
        Meaurements are logarithmic, so a pH of 4 is 10 times more acidic than a pH
        of 5.
        YEAST - Brewers (& possibly baker's yeast) can tolerate only 8% alcohol. A
        bottom fermenting lager yeast ferments out all the sugars better than a top
        fermenting ale yeast. A good wine yeast (Champagne, in the right
        conditions, can tolerate 15%a.b.v. (up to 18%a.b.v. in optimal conditions -
        no need to use expensive turbos). Wild yeasts vary, but some are very low -
        this is a risky path. Whisky distillers often use a combination of yeasts -
        initially a brewer's yeast because they believe it effects the flavor.

        8) Can I use fruit wine ?

        Sure, if you have it available. Again, using a pot still will result in a
        brandy/grappa/schnapps, whereas a reflux still will just strip it down to
        neutral spirit.

        9) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?

        That "rough moonshine edge" or "off-taste / wet cardboard smell" is due to
        impurities such as the higher order alcohols, known as cogeners or fusel
        oils. These will be present more when using a pot still, less if using a
        reflux still, and just about absent if using a fractionating column. So one
        way is to use a taller packed column and increase the amount of reflux
        occuring. They can also indicate that you've tried to collect too much of
        the alcohol, and have run into the "tails"; so finish collecting a little
        bit earlier next time. Soaking tainted alcohol with activated carbon for a
        week (or even months) will help remove some of this flavour - this is known
        as "polishing" the spirit. I'm also suspecting that you need a little bit
        of copper somewhere in the still where it can come in contact with the
        vapour. The copper helps catalyse some of the sulphur, esters & organic
        acids, reducing their odour & taste.

        10) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?

        You need a hydrometer. This is a wee float, with a scale inside it. The
        more alcohol that is present, the lighter the density of the liquid, so the
        hydrometer sinks a bit lower. You then just read off the scale how much
        alcohol is present. You need a seperate hydrometer for measuring the
        density of the mash, as this is generally > 1.0, whereas the spirit is <
        1.0, and they can't accurately do both ends of the scale.

        11) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?

        There are now many commercial flavourings available, which turn vodka or
        neutral alcohol into pretty decent gin or whiskey, or all manor of
        liqueurs. See the commercial sites, like Des Zines
        http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~topkiwi or Ray Toms http://moonshine.co.nz/
        for details. Or you can soak it with oak chips and make whiskey, or soak
        fruits in it to make your own liqueurs.

        12) What web resources are there ?

        For more details, see :
        Tony Ackland's http://homedistiller.org
        Aaron Smiths's http://www.go.to/distillation
        Steve Spence's http://www.webconx.com/ethanol.htm
        StillMaker's http://www.Moonshine-Still.com
        Biofuels Library http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library.html

        13) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?

        Both the NEW DISTILLERS and the DISTILLERS news groups are available via
        YahooGroups, at http://www.yahoogroups.com . NEW DISTILLERS is, as the name
        suggests, intended for those of you new to distilling and after simple,
        straight-forward discussions, whereas the DISTILLERS group is a bit more
        advanced, throwing in bits of design philosophy, theory, and alternative
        ways of achieving the results. Both tend to overlap to some extent.

        14) Can I run my car on it ?

        You can run your car on alcohol over about 80% purity. Because any water
        present will seperate out in the presence of the gasoline (and become a
        problem), you either need to exclusively use the alcohol, or dry it right
        out (eg 99%+ purity) if using it to mix with gasoline. See Steve Spences
        site for more details, the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual, or the The
        Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel. In addition, in
        the USA, you can get a "small fuel producer" permit, which allows small
        scale distilling for "motor fuel" purposes. A nice advantage is that they
        don't require denaturing for "fuel" used on the premises. The regulations
        are posted at http://www.webconx.com/ethanolusaregs.htm

        15) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....

        To convert between SI & Imperial units, multiply the first unit by the
        conversion factor to get the second. Divide back to do it in reverse .eg 1L
        = 0.264 US gal, so 20 L = 20 x 0.264 = 5.28 US gal, and 20 US gal / 0.264 =
        75.76 L

        1 L = 0.264 US gal = 0.221 UK gal
        1 L = 1.057 US qt = 0.880 UK qt
        1 kg = 2.204 lbm = 32.15 oz (troy) = 35.27 oz (av)
        deg F = ((9/5) x deg C )+ 32
        1m = 1000 mm = 39.37 inch = 3.28 ft = 1.09 yd

        16) What is a "Thumper" ?

        A "thumper" is an extra chamber sometimes fitted to a pot still. It can be
        as simple as a glass jar with two holes in the lid. The off-take from the
        still is fed into it, with the pipe running almost all the way to the
        bottom of the jar; the jar is half filled with liquid (water or mash or
        tails) so that the vapour from the still will bubble up through it; then
        the vapour coming off it is collected & cooled as per normal. It acts as a
        second distilling chamber using just the heat from the vapour, and lifts
        the purity from 50-60% to 70-80%, hence improving what might otherwise be a
        very mediocre design.

        17) Can I use a Reflux Still to make Rum or Whisky ?

        Yes you can. To do so, you need to carefully monitor the various
        transitions between the foreshots, heads, middle run, and tails, and time
        the collection of the middle run precisely. The reflux still allows you to
        more precisely judge the changes between the various stages, and hence
        target them accurately. A typical rum or whisky would be obtained by
        discarding the foreshots, then collecting the heads, middle run, and then
        begin the tails, until the purity has dropped to around 58-60% (81.4C). By
        altering when to start collecting, and how late to time the final "cut",
        various flavour profiles will result.
        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
        --------

        http://homedistiller.org This page last modified 10/05/2001 17:21:16
        email: ackland@...
      • Tony & Elle Ackland
        NEW DISTILLERS Frequently Asked Questions (Sept 01) Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at www.yahoogroups.com Please email
        Message 3 of 18 , May 8, 2002
        • 0 Attachment
          "NEW DISTILLERS" Frequently Asked Questions (Sept'01)

          Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at
          www.yahoogroups.com

          Please email any additions, corrections, clarifications required, etc
          regarding the FAQ to Tony Ackland (ackland@...), however please
          direct any general questions to the newsgroup itself.

          *******************************************************************

          1) Is distilling hard to do ?
          2) Is it legal ?
          3) Will it make me blind ?
          4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and
          fractionating column ?
          5) How do I get or make a still ?
          6) How do I make a whisky / rum / vodka / gin ?
          7) Should I use sugar or grains ?
          8) Can I use fruit wine ?
          9) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?
          10) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?
          11) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?
          12) What web resources are there ?
          13) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?
          14) Can I run my car on it ?
          15) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....
          16) What is a "Thumper" ?
          17) Can I use a reflux still to make rum or whisky ?

          **********************************************************************

          1) Is distilling hard to do ?

          Nope - if you can follow instructions enough to bake scones, then you can
          sucessfully distil. To distil well however, will require you to understand
          what you're doing, so read around and get a bit of information under your
          belt before you begin.

          2) Is it legal ?

          Probably not. It is only legal in New Zealand, and some European countries
          turn a blind eye to it, but elsewhere it is illegal, with punishment
          ranging from fines to imprisonment or floggings. This action against it is
          usually the result of either religous beliefs (right or wrong), but more
          generally due to the great revenue base it provides Governements through
          excise taxes. So if you are going to distil, just be aware of the potential
          legal ramifications.

          3) Will it make me blind ?

          Not if you're careful. This pervasive question is due to moonshine lore,
          which abounds with myths of blindness, but few actual documented cases. The
          concern is due to the presence of methanol (wood alcohol), an optic nerve
          poison, which can be present in small amounts when fermenting grains or
          fruits high in pectin. This methanol comes off first from the still, so it
          is easily segregated and discarded. A simple rule of thumb for this is to
          throw away the first 50 mL you collect (per 20 L mash used). Probably the
          greatest risk to your health during distilling is the risk of fire -
          collecting a flammable liquid near a heat source. So keep a fire
          extinguisher nearby.

          4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and
          fractionating column ?

          A pot still simply collects and condenses the alcohol vapours that come off
          the boiling mash. This will result in an alcohol at about 40-60% purity,
          with plenty of flavour in it. If this distillate were put through the pot
          still again, it would increase in purity to around 70-85% purity, and lose
          a bit of its flavour.

          A reflux still does these multiple distillations in one single go, by
          having some packing in a column between the condensor & the pot, and
          allowing some of the vapour to condense and trickle back down through the
          packing. This "reflux" of liquid helps clean the rising vapour and increase
          the % purity. The taller the packed column, and the more reflux liquid, the
          purer the product will be. The advantage of doing this is that it will
          result in a clean vodka, with little flavour to it - ideal for mixing with
          flavours etc.

          A fractionating column is a pure form of the reflux still. It will condense
          all the vapour at the top of the packing, and return about 9/10 back down
          the column. The column will be quite tall - say 600-1200mm (2-4 foot), and
          packed with a material high in surface area, but which takes up little
          space (pot scrubbers are good for this). It will result in an alcohol 95%+
          pure (the theoretical limit without using a vacuum is 96.48 %(by volume)),
          with no other tastes or impurities in it.

          5) How do I get or make a still ?

          If you're after a pot still, these are generally home made using what-ever
          you have at hand - say copper tubing and old water heaters or pressure
          cookers. Reflux stills can be made from plans on the net, or bought from
          several manufacturers. For reflux stil plans see Stillmakers "Build a World
          Class Distillation Apparatus" at http://www.Moonshine-Still.com (Free!) or
          Gert Strands : http://partyman.se/Engelsk/default.htm (US$5). A good book
          is Ian Smileys "Making Pure Corn Whisky" at
          http://www.magma.ca/~smiley/main.htm, with full design details. For an
          excellent book on all aspects of still design, see "The Compleat Distiller"
          at http://www.amphora-society.com See the list of "web resources" below
          for links to sites selling ready-made stills. For fuel alcohol stills see
          the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual at
          http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_motherearth/meToC.html,
          and the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel by S.W.
          Mathewson at
          http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_manual/manual_ToC.html
          Regarding the choice of heating for the still - if you have 240V available
          it is usually easiest to control & safer (particularly with internal
          elements). Gas can be used, but more care is needed to keep the collection
          container further away and not letting it overfill.

          6) How do I make a whisky / vodka / rum / gin ?

          Whiskey : Heat 4 kg cracked or crushed malt with 18 L of water to 63-65C,
          and hold there for 1-1.5 hours. Heat to 73-75C, then strain off and keep
          liquid, using 250 mL of hot water to rinse the grains. Cool to below 30C
          (should have an initial specific gravity of 1.050). Add hydrated yeast &
          leave to ferment (maintain at 26C) until airlock stops bubbling and final
          SG of around 1.010. Let settle for a day, then syphon carefully into a pot
          still. Discard the first 50 mL's, collect the next 2-3L of distillate or
          until you start noticing the tails coming through.

          Vodka : dissolve 5 kg of sugar & 60g of nutrients in 20L of water, cool to
          below 30C and add hydrated yeast. Leave to ferment at 25C until below an SG
          of around 0.990, then settle for a day. Syphon into a reflux or
          fractionating still, and collect as per usual.

          Rum : as per vodka, but use some brown sugar or mollasses, to give an
          initial specific gravity (SG) of around 1.06 - 1.07. Run through either a
          pot still, or a not-so-great reflux still.

          Gin : make a very pure vodka, then add the following essence. Simmer 35g of
          juniper berries in 350 mL of 50% vodka for ten minutes with the lid on, let
          cool overnight, then filter through coffee filters. Use 5-10 mL of this
          essence per bottle of vodka.

          When doing any fermenting, take a lot of care to ensure that any items used
          are clean/sterile (soaking them in a water + bleach (10 mL per litre) ), or
          else the wash can start growing other things. Use a closed fermenter with
          an airlock too, to let the CO2 out without letting wild yeasts, bugs etc
          in. For more information about fermenting, see beer or wine homebrewing
          sites.

          7) Should I use sugar or grains/fruit ?

          It depends on what sort of still you have, and what you are trying to make.
          If you have a reflux or fractionating still, only use whatever is cheapest
          (usually sugar), as the refluxing will strip out all the flavours anyhow.
          If you have a pot still, and are after a bourban or whiskey, then you need
          to go the grain route, or mollasses if after a rum. If you are trying to
          make a neutral spirit for flavouring, go for sugar.

          Basic guidelines for using them are ..
          SUGAR. Wine yeast can use no more than 2.5lbs of sugar/1imp gal or
          2.2lb/1U.S.gal or 1.25kg/5litres of must. This will produce 14%a.b.v. Honey
          and liquid malt extract are 80% sugar so you need 1.5kg/5l must or mash.
          Molasses is 50% sugar so you need 2.5kg/5l must or mash. Maple syrup is 32%
          sugar. Carob beans are 45% sugar. Sugar beets are 15% sugar Grain malt is
          60% sugar (starch converted to sugars) so you need 1.5kg/5l mash. Cooked
          grain contains 60% convertible starch so you need 1.5kg/5l mash
          FRUIT - Grapes contain the ideal sugar, water, acid balance. A sugar
          content of 17-23% and a water content of about 80%. 8kg of grapes produces
          5l of wine. Most common fruits (apples, plums, apricots) contain about 10%
          sugar and 85% water. Cherries and figs contain 15% sugar. A fruit mash
          could be 4kg fruit, (400g sugar content), 2l water (3l in pulp already),
          800g additional sugar. Bananas are 17-24% sugar, 75% water. Acid content
          0.3%. A banana mash could be 4kg of cooked bananas, 2l water (3l in pulp
          already),400g sugar. Add 3lemons/5l for correct pH. Dates are 70% sugar,
          20% water. Add acid to a date mash. Raisins and sultanas have a water
          content of about 15% and a sugar content of 60%, grapes have a water
          content of 75% and a sugar content of about 20%, so using 1.5-2kg/5l of
          water appears about right if we want to reconstitute them.
          ACID - 5g of citric acid (1tsp)/5l must raises acidity by 0.1%. 3g of
          calcium carbonate powder lowers acidity by 0.1%. A pH of 5 is 0.4% acidity.
          Winemakers aim for 0.6% acidity. Most common fruits are about 0.6% acid
          content. For distilling, a higher acidity in the mash helps to suppress
          bacteria. A high tannin content doesn't matter as we are not making wine.
          Meaurements are logarithmic, so a pH of 4 is 10 times more acidic than a pH
          of 5.
          YEAST - Brewers (& possibly baker's yeast) can tolerate only 8% alcohol. A
          bottom fermenting lager yeast ferments out all the sugars better than a top
          fermenting ale yeast. A good wine yeast (Champagne, in the right
          conditions, can tolerate 15%a.b.v. (up to 18%a.b.v. in optimal conditions -
          no need to use expensive turbos). Wild yeasts vary, but some are very low -
          this is a risky path. Whisky distillers often use a combination of yeasts -
          initially a brewer's yeast because they believe it effects the flavor.

          8) Can I use fruit wine ?

          Sure, if you have it available. Again, using a pot still will result in a
          brandy/grappa/schnapps, whereas a reflux still will just strip it down to
          neutral spirit.

          9) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?

          That "rough moonshine edge" or "off-taste / wet cardboard smell" is due to
          impurities such as the higher order alcohols, known as cogeners or fusel
          oils. These will be present more when using a pot still, less if using a
          reflux still, and just about absent if using a fractionating column. So one
          way is to use a taller packed column and increase the amount of reflux
          occuring. They can also indicate that you've tried to collect too much of
          the alcohol, and have run into the "tails"; so finish collecting a little
          bit earlier next time. Soaking tainted alcohol with activated carbon for a
          week (or even months) will help remove some of this flavour - this is known
          as "polishing" the spirit. I'm also suspecting that you need a little bit
          of copper somewhere in the still where it can come in contact with the
          vapour. The copper helps catalyse some of the sulphur, esters & organic
          acids, reducing their odour & taste.

          10) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?

          You need a hydrometer. This is a wee float, with a scale inside it. The
          more alcohol that is present, the lighter the density of the liquid, so the
          hydrometer sinks a bit lower. You then just read off the scale how much
          alcohol is present. You need a seperate hydrometer for measuring the
          density of the mash, as this is generally > 1.0, whereas the spirit is <
          1.0, and they can't accurately do both ends of the scale.

          11) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?

          There are now many commercial flavourings available, which turn vodka or
          neutral alcohol into pretty decent gin or whiskey, or all manor of
          liqueurs. See the commercial sites, like Des Zines
          http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~topkiwi or Ray Toms http://moonshine.co.nz/
          for details. Or you can soak it with oak chips and make whiskey, or soak
          fruits in it to make your own liqueurs.

          12) What web resources are there ?

          For more details, see :
          Tony Ackland's http://homedistiller.org
          Aaron Smiths's http://www.go.to/distillation
          Steve Spence's http://www.webconx.com/ethanol.htm
          StillMaker's http://www.Moonshine-Still.com
          Biofuels Library http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library.html

          13) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?

          Both the NEW DISTILLERS and the DISTILLERS news groups are available via
          YahooGroups, at http://www.yahoogroups.com . NEW DISTILLERS is, as the name
          suggests, intended for those of you new to distilling and after simple,
          straight-forward discussions, whereas the DISTILLERS group is a bit more
          advanced, throwing in bits of design philosophy, theory, and alternative
          ways of achieving the results. Both tend to overlap to some extent.

          14) Can I run my car on it ?

          You can run your car on alcohol over about 80% purity. Because any water
          present will seperate out in the presence of the gasoline (and become a
          problem), you either need to exclusively use the alcohol, or dry it right
          out (eg 99%+ purity) if using it to mix with gasoline. See Steve Spences
          site for more details, the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual, or the The
          Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel. In addition, in
          the USA, you can get a "small fuel producer" permit, which allows small
          scale distilling for "motor fuel" purposes. A nice advantage is that they
          don't require denaturing for "fuel" used on the premises. The regulations
          are posted at http://www.webconx.com/ethanolusaregs.htm

          15) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....

          To convert between SI & Imperial units, multiply the first unit by the
          conversion factor to get the second. Divide back to do it in reverse .eg 1L
          = 0.264 US gal, so 20 L = 20 x 0.264 = 5.28 US gal, and 20 US gal / 0.264 =
          75.76 L

          1 L = 0.264 US gal = 0.221 UK gal
          1 L = 1.057 US qt = 0.880 UK qt
          1 kg = 2.204 lbm = 32.15 oz (troy) = 35.27 oz (av)
          deg F = ((9/5) x deg C )+ 32
          1m = 1000 mm = 39.37 inch = 3.28 ft = 1.09 yd

          16) What is a "Thumper" ?

          A "thumper" is an extra chamber sometimes fitted to a pot still. It can be
          as simple as a glass jar with two holes in the lid. The off-take from the
          still is fed into it, with the pipe running almost all the way to the
          bottom of the jar; the jar is half filled with liquid (water or mash or
          tails) so that the vapour from the still will bubble up through it; then
          the vapour coming off it is collected & cooled as per normal. It acts as a
          second distilling chamber using just the heat from the vapour, and lifts
          the purity from 50-60% to 70-80%, hence improving what might otherwise be a
          very mediocre design.

          17) Can I use a Reflux Still to make Rum or Whisky ?

          Yes you can. To do so, you need to carefully monitor the various
          transitions between the foreshots, heads, middle run, and tails, and time
          the collection of the middle run precisely. The reflux still allows you to
          more precisely judge the changes between the various stages, and hence
          target them accurately. A typical rum or whisky would be obtained by
          discarding the foreshots, then collecting the heads, middle run, and then
          begin the tails, until the purity has dropped to around 58-60% (81.4C). By
          altering when to start collecting, and how late to time the final "cut",
          various flavour profiles will result.
          ------------------------------------------------------------------------
          --------

          http://homedistiller.org This page last modified 03/04/2002 20:40:14
          email: ackland@...
        • Tony & Elle Ackland
          NEW DISTILLERS Frequently Asked Questions (June 02) Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at www.yahoogroups.com Please email
          Message 4 of 18 , Aug 22 1:01 AM
          • 0 Attachment
            "NEW DISTILLERS" Frequently Asked Questions (June'02)

            Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at
            www.yahoogroups.com

            Please email any additions, corrections, clarifications required, etc
            regarding the FAQ to Tony Ackland (ackland@...), however please
            direct any general questions to the newsgroup itself.

            *******************************************************************

            1) Is distilling hard to do ?
            2) Is it legal ?
            3) Will it make me blind ?
            4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and
            fractionating column ?
            5) How do I get or make a still ?
            6) How do I make a whisky / rum / vodka / gin ?
            7) Should I use sugar or grains ?
            8) Can I use fruit wine ?
            9) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?
            10) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?
            11) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?
            12) What web resources are there ?
            13) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?
            14) Can I run my car on it ?
            15) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....
            16) What is a "Thumper" ?
            17) Can I use a reflux still to make rum or whisky ?
            18) Can methylated spirits be made safe to drink ?

            **********************************************************************

            1) Is distilling hard to do ?

            Nope - if you can follow instructions enough to bake scones, then you can
            sucessfully distil. To distil well however, will require you to understand
            what you're doing, so read around and get a bit of information under your
            belt before you begin.

            2) Is it legal ?

            Probably not. It is only legal in New Zealand, and some European countries
            turn a blind eye to it, but elsewhere it is illegal, with punishment
            ranging from fines to imprisonment or floggings. This action against it is
            usually the result of either religous beliefs (right or wrong), but more
            generally due to the great revenue base it provides Governements through
            excise taxes. So if you are going to distil, just be aware of the potential
            legal ramifications.

            3) Will it make me blind ?

            Not if you're careful. This pervasive question is due to moonshine lore,
            which abounds with myths of blindness, but few actual documented cases. The
            concern is due to the presence of methanol (wood alcohol), an optic nerve
            poison, which can be present in small amounts when fermenting grains or
            fruits high in pectin. This methanol comes off first from the still, so it
            is easily segregated and discarded. A simple rule of thumb for this is to
            throw away the first 50 mL you collect (per 20 L mash used). Probably the
            greatest risk to your health during distilling is the risk of fire -
            collecting a flammable liquid near a heat source. So keep a fire
            extinguisher nearby.

            4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and
            fractionating column ?

            A pot still simply collects and condenses the alcohol vapours that come off
            the boiling mash. This will result in an alcohol at about 40-60% purity,
            with plenty of flavour in it. If this distillate were put through the pot
            still again, it would increase in purity to around 70-85% purity, and lose
            a bit of its flavour.

            A reflux still does these multiple distillations in one single go, by
            having some packing in a column between the condensor & the pot, and
            allowing some of the vapour to condense and trickle back down through the
            packing. This "reflux" of liquid helps clean the rising vapour and increase
            the % purity. The taller the packed column, and the more reflux liquid, the
            purer the product will be. The advantage of doing this is that it will
            result in a clean vodka, with little flavour to it - ideal for mixing with
            flavours etc.

            A fractionating column is a pure form of the reflux still. It will condense
            all the vapour at the top of the packing, and return about 9/10 back down
            the column. The column will be quite tall - say 600-1200mm (2-4 foot), and
            packed with a material high in surface area, but which takes up little
            space (pot scrubbers are good for this). It will result in an alcohol 95%+
            pure (the theoretical limit without using a vacuum is 96.48 %(by volume)),
            with no other tastes or impurities in it.

            5) How do I get or make a still ?

            If you're after a pot still, these are generally home made using what-ever
            you have at hand - say copper tubing and old water heaters or pressure
            cookers. Reflux stills can be made from plans on the net, or bought from
            several manufacturers. For reflux stil plans see Stillmakers "Build a World
            Class Distillation Apparatus" at http://www.Moonshine-Still.com (Free!) or
            Gert Strands : http://partyman.se/Engelsk/default.htm (US$5). A good book
            is Ian Smileys "Making Pure Corn Whisky" at
            http://www.magma.ca/~smiley/main.htm, with full design details. For an
            excellent book on all aspects of still design, see "The Compleat Distiller"
            at http://www.amphora-society.com See the list of "web resources" below
            for links to sites selling ready-made stills. For fuel alcohol stills see
            the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual at
            http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_motherearth/meToC.html,
            and the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel by S.W.
            Mathewson at
            http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_manual/manual_ToC.html

            Regarding the choice of heating for the still - if you have 240V available
            it is usually easiest to control & safer (particularly with internal
            elements). Gas can be used, but more care is needed to keep the collection
            container further away and not letting it overfill.

            6) How do I make a whisky / vodka / rum / gin ?

            Whiskey : Heat 4 kg cracked or crushed malt with 18 L of water to 63-65C,
            and hold there for 1-1.5 hours. Heat to 73-75C, then strain off and keep
            liquid, using 250 mL of hot water to rinse the grains. Cool to below 30C
            (should have an initial specific gravity of 1.050). Add hydrated yeast &
            leave to ferment (maintain at 26C) until airlock stops bubbling and final
            SG of around 1.010. Let settle for a day, then syphon carefully into a
            pot still. Discard the first 50 mL's, collect the next 2-3L of distillate
            or until you start noticing the tails coming through.

            Vodka : dissolve 5 kg of sugar & 60g of nutrients in 20L of water, cool to
            below 30C and add hydrated yeast. Leave to ferment at 25C until below an SG
            of around 0.990, then settle for a day. Syphon into a reflux or
            fractionating still, and collect as per usual.

            Rum : as per vodka, but use some brown sugar or mollasses, to give an
            initial specific gravity (SG) of around 1.06 - 1.07. Run through either a
            pot still, or a not-so-great reflux still.

            Gin : make a very pure vodka, then add the following essence. Simmer 35g of
            juniper berries in 350 mL of 50% vodka for ten minutes with the lid on, let
            cool overnight, then filter through coffee filters. Use 5-10 mL of this
            essence per bottle of vodka.

            When doing any fermenting, take a lot of care to ensure that any items used
            are clean/sterile (soaking them in a water + bleach (10 mL per litre) ), or
            else the wash can start growing other things. Use a closed fermenter with
            an airlock too, to let the CO2 out without letting wild yeasts, bugs etc
            in. For more information about fermenting, see beer or wine homebrewing
            sites.

            7) Should I use sugar or grains/fruit ?

            It depends on what sort of still you have, and what you are trying to make.
            If you have a reflux or fractionating still, only use whatever is cheapest
            (usually sugar), as the refluxing will strip out all the flavours anyhow.
            If you have a pot still, and are after a bourban or whiskey, then you need
            to go the grain route, or mollasses if after a rum. If you are trying to
            make a neutral spirit for flavouring, go for sugar.

            Basic guidelines for using them are ..
            SUGAR. Wine yeast can use no more than 2.5lbs of sugar/1imp gal or
            2.2lb/1U.S.gal or 1.25kg/5litres of must. This will produce 14%a.b.v. Honey
            and liquid malt extract are 80% sugar so you need 1.5kg/5l must or mash.
            Molasses is 50% sugar so you need 2.5kg/5l must or mash. Maple syrup is 32%
            sugar. Carob beans are 45% sugar. Sugar beets are 15% sugar Grain malt is
            60% sugar (starch converted to sugars) so you need 1.5kg/5l mash. Cooked
            grain contains 60% convertible starch so you need 1.5kg/5l mash
            FRUIT - Grapes contain the ideal sugar, water, acid balance. A sugar
            content of 17-23% and a water content of about 80%. 8kg of grapes produces
            5l of wine. Most common fruits (apples, plums, apricots) contain about 10%
            sugar and 85% water. Cherries and figs contain 15% sugar. A fruit mash
            could be 4kg fruit, (400g sugar content), 2l water (3l in pulp already),
            800g additional sugar. Bananas are 17-24% sugar, 75% water. Acid content
            0.3%. A banana mash could be 4kg of cooked bananas, 2l water (3l in pulp
            already),400g sugar. Add 3lemons/5l for correct pH. Dates are 70% sugar,
            20% water. Add acid to a date mash. Raisins and sultanas have a water
            content of about 15% and a sugar content of 60%, grapes have a water
            content of 75% and a sugar content of about 20%, so using 1.5-2kg/5l of
            water appears about right if we want to reconstitute them.
            ACID - 5g of citric acid (1tsp)/5l must raises acidity by 0.1%. 3g of
            calcium carbonate powder lowers acidity by 0.1%. A pH of 5 is 0.4% acidity.
            Winemakers aim for 0.6% acidity. Most common fruits are about 0.6% acid
            content. For distilling, a higher acidity in the mash helps to suppress
            bacteria. A high tannin content doesn't matter as we are not making wine.
            Meaurements are logarithmic, so a pH of 4 is 10 times more acidic than a pH
            of 5.
            YEAST - Brewers (& possibly baker's yeast) can tolerate only 8% alcohol. A
            bottom fermenting lager yeast ferments out all the sugars better than a top
            fermenting ale yeast. A good wine yeast (Champagne, in the right
            conditions, can tolerate 15%a.b.v. (up to 18%a.b.v. in optimal conditions -
            no need to use expensive turbos). Wild yeasts vary, but some are very low -
            this is a risky path. Whisky distillers often use a combination of yeasts -
            initially a brewer's yeast because they believe it effects the flavor.

            8) Can I use fruit wine ?

            Sure, if you have it available. Again, using a pot still will result in a
            brandy/grappa/schnapps, whereas a reflux still will just strip it down to
            neutral spirit.

            9) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?

            That "rough moonshine edge" or "off-taste / wet cardboard smell" is due to
            impurities such as the higher order alcohols, known as cogeners or fusel
            oils. These will be present more when using a pot still, less if using a
            reflux still, and just about absent if using a fractionating column. So one
            way is to use a taller packed column and increase the amount of reflux
            occuring. They can also indicate that you've tried to collect too much of
            the alcohol, and have run into the "tails"; so finish collecting a little
            bit earlier next time. Soaking tainted alcohol with activated carbon for a
            week (or even months) will help remove some of this flavour - this is known
            as "polishing" the spirit. I'm also suspecting that you need a little bit
            of copper somewhere in the still where it can come in contact with the
            vapour. The copper helps catalyse some of the sulphur, esters & organic
            acids, reducing their odour & taste.

            10) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?

            You need a hydrometer. This is a wee float, with a scale inside it. The
            more alcohol that is present, the lighter the density of the liquid, so the
            hydrometer sinks a bit lower. You then just read off the scale how much
            alcohol is present. You need a seperate hydrometer for measuring the
            density of the mash, as this is generally > 1.0, whereas the spirit is <
            1.0, and they can't accurately do both ends of the scale.

            11) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?

            There are now many commercial flavourings available, which turn vodka or
            neutral alcohol into pretty decent gin or whiskey, or all manor of
            liqueurs. See the commercial sites, like Des Zines
            http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~topkiwi or Ray Toms http://moonshine.co.nz/
            for details. Or you can soak it with oak chips and make whiskey, or soak
            fruits in it to make your own liqueurs.

            12) What web resources are there ?

            For more details, see :
            Tony Ackland's http://homedistiller.org
            Aaron Smiths's http://www.go.to/distillation
            Steve Spence's http://www.webconx.com/ethanol.htm
            StillMaker's http://www.Moonshine-Still.com
            Biofuels Library http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library.html

            13) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?

            Both the NEW DISTILLERS and the DISTILLERS news groups are available via
            YahooGroups, at http://www.yahoogroups.com . NEW DISTILLERS is, as the name
            suggests, intended for those of you new to distilling and after simple,
            straight-forward discussions, whereas the DISTILLERS group is a bit more
            advanced, throwing in bits of design philosophy, theory, and alternative
            ways of achieving the results. Both tend to overlap to some extent.

            14) Can I run my car on it ?

            You can run your car on alcohol over about 80% purity. Because any water
            present will seperate out in the presence of the gasoline (and become a
            problem), you either need to exclusively use the alcohol, or dry it right
            out (eg 99%+ purity) if using it to mix with gasoline. See Steve Spences
            site for more details, the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual, or the The
            Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel. In addition, in
            the USA, you can get a "small fuel producer" permit, which allows small
            scale distilling for "motor fuel" purposes. A nice advantage is that they
            don't require denaturing for "fuel" used on the premises. The regulations
            are posted at http://www.webconx.com/ethanolusaregs.htm

            15) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....

            To convert between SI & Imperial units, multiply the first unit by the
            conversion factor to get the second. Divide back to do it in reverse .eg 1L
            = 0.264 US gal, so 20 L = 20 x 0.264 = 5.28 US gal, and 20 US gal / 0.264 =
            75.76 L

            1 L = 0.264 US gal = 0.221 UK gal
            1 L = 1.057 US qt = 0.880 UK qt
            1 kg = 2.204 lbm = 32.15 oz (troy) = 35.27 oz (av)
            deg F = ((9/5) x deg C )+ 32
            1m = 1000 mm = 39.37 inch = 3.28 ft = 1.09 yd

            16) What is a "Thumper" ?

            A "thumper" is an extra chamber sometimes fitted to a pot still. It can be
            as simple as a glass jar with two holes in the lid. The off-take from the
            still is fed into it, with the pipe running almost all the way to the
            bottom of the jar; the jar is half filled with liquid (water or mash or
            tails) so that the vapour from the still will bubble up through it; then
            the vapour coming off it is collected & cooled as per normal. It acts as a
            second distilling chamber using just the heat from the vapour, and lifts
            the purity from 50-60% to 70-80%, hence improving what might otherwise be a
            very mediocre design.

            17) Can I use a Reflux Still to make Rum or Whisky ?

            Yes you can. To do so, you need to carefully monitor the various
            transitions between the foreshots, heads, middle run, and tails, and time
            the collection of the middle run precisely. The reflux still allows you to
            more precisely judge the changes between the various stages, and hence
            target them accurately. A typical rum or whisky would be obtained by
            discarding the foreshots, then collecting the heads, middle run, and then
            begin the tails, until the purity has dropped to around 58-60% (81.4C). By
            altering when to start collecting, and how late to time the final "cut",
            various flavour profiles will result.

            18) Can Methylated Spirits be made safe to Drink ?

            No. Methylated spirits (aka meths) is a mixture of ethanol and (poisonous)
            methanol, with a denturant added to make it foul tasting. There is no
            effective way of seperating them, be it by distilling, using carbon, or
            filtering through bread (old wives tale). Do not add meths to anything you
            ever intend to distill or drink, and don't try using it in any form - it
            will still be poisonous. Keep it for cleaning and starting the BBQ with.
            ------------------------------------------------------------------------
            --------

            http://homedistiller.org This page last modified 05/26/2002 17:39:28
            email: ackland@...
          • Tony & Elle Ackland
            Hmmm.... I ve been a bit slack about getting this out on a regular basis. Any suggestions for additions/changes etc ?
            Message 5 of 18 , Nov 12, 2002
            • 0 Attachment
              Hmmm.... I've been a bit slack about getting this out on a regular basis.
              Any suggestions for additions/changes etc ?

              ******************************************************************
              "NEW DISTILLERS" Frequently Asked Questions (June'02)

              Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at
              www.yahoogroups.com

              Please email any additions, corrections, clarifications required, etc
              regarding the FAQ to Tony Ackland (ackland@...), however please
              direct any general questions to the newsgroup itself.

              *******************************************************************

              1) Is distilling hard to do ?
              2) Is it legal ?
              3) Will it make me blind ?
              4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and
              fractionating column ?
              5) How do I get or make a still ?
              6) How do I make a whisky / rum / vodka / gin ?
              7) Should I use sugar or grains ?
              8) Can I use fruit wine ?
              9) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?
              10) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?
              11) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?
              12) What web resources are there ?
              13) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?
              14) Can I run my car on it ?
              15) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....
              16) What is a "Thumper" ?
              17) Can I use a reflux still to make rum or whisky ?
              18) Can methylated spirits be made safe to drink ?

              **********************************************************************

              1) Is distilling hard to do ?

              Nope - if you can follow instructions enough to bake scones, then you can
              sucessfully distil. To distil well however, will require you to understand
              what you're doing, so read around and get a bit of information under your
              belt before you begin.

              2) Is it legal ?

              Probably not. It is only legal in New Zealand, and some European countries
              turn a blind eye to it, but elsewhere it is illegal, with punishment
              ranging from fines to imprisonment or floggings. This action against it is
              usually the result of either religous beliefs (right or wrong), but more
              generally due to the great revenue base it provides Governements through
              excise taxes. So if you are going to distil, just be aware of the potential
              legal ramifications.

              3) Will it make me blind ?

              Not if you're careful. This pervasive question is due to moonshine lore,
              which abounds with myths of blindness, but few actual documented cases. The
              concern is due to the presence of methanol (wood alcohol), an optic nerve
              poison, which can be present in small amounts when fermenting grains or
              fruits high in pectin. This methanol comes off first from the still, so it
              is easily segregated and discarded. A simple rule of thumb for this is to
              throw away the first 50 mL you collect (per 20 L mash used). Probably the
              greatest risk to your health during distilling is the risk of fire -
              collecting a flammable liquid near a heat source. So keep a fire
              extinguisher nearby.

              4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and fractiona
              ting column ?

              A pot still simply collects and condenses the alcohol vapours that come off
              the boiling mash. This will result in an alcohol at about 40-60% purity,
              with plenty of flavour in it. If this distillate were put through the pot
              still again, it would increase in purity to around 70-85% purity, and lose
              a bit of its flavour.

              A reflux still does these multiple distillations in one single go, by
              having some packing in a column between the condensor & the pot, and
              allowing some of the vapour to condense and trickle back down through the
              packing. This "reflux" of liquid helps clean the rising vapour and increase
              the % purity. The taller the packed column, and the more reflux liquid, the
              purer the product will be. The advantage of doing this is that it will
              result in a clean vodka, with little flavour to it - ideal for mixing with
              flavours etc.

              A fractionating column is a pure form of the reflux still. It will condense
              all the vapour at the top of the packing, and return about 9/10 back down
              the column. The column will be quite tall - say 600-1200mm (2-4 foot), and
              packed with a material high in surface area, but which takes up little
              space (pot scrubbers are good for this). It will result in an alcohol 95%+
              pure (the theoretical limit without using a vacuum is 96.48 %(by volume)),
              with no other tastes or impurities in it.

              5) How do I get or make a still ?

              If you're after a pot still, these are generally home made using what-ever
              you have at hand - say copper tubing and old water heaters or pressure
              cookers. Reflux stills can be made from plans on the net, or bought from
              several manufacturers. For reflux stil plans see Stillmakers "Build a World
              Class Distillation Apparatus" at http://www.Moonshine-Still.com (Free!) or
              Gert Strands : http://partyman.se/Engelsk/default.htm (US$5). A good book
              is Ian Smileys "Making Pure Corn Whisky" at
              http://www.magma.ca/~smiley/main.htm, with full design details. For an
              excellent book on all aspects of still design, see "The Compleat Distiller"
              at http://www.amphora-society.com See the list of "web resources" below
              for links to sites selling ready-made stills. For fuel alcohol stills see
              the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual at
              http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_motherearth/meToC.html,
              and the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel by S.W.
              Mathewson at
              http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_manual/manual_ToC.html

              Regarding the choice of heating for the still - if you have 240V available
              it is usually easiest to control & safer (particularly with internal
              elements). Gas can be used, but more care is needed to keep the collection
              container further away and not letting it overfill.

              6) How do I make a whisky / vodka / rum / gin ?

              Whiskey : Heat 4 kg cracked or crushed malt with 18 L of water to 63-65C,
              and hold there for 1-1.5 hours. Heat to 73-75C, then strain off and keep
              liquid, using 250 mL of hot water to rinse the grains. Cool to below 30C
              (should have an initial specific gravity of 1.050). Add hydrated yeast &
              leave to ferment (maintain at 26C) until airlock stops bubbling and final
              SG of around 1.010. Let settle for a day, then syphon carefully into a pot
              still. Discard the first 50 mL's, collect the next 2-3L of distillate or
              until you start noticing the tails coming through.

              Vodka : dissolve 5 kg of sugar & 60g of nutrients in 20L of water, cool to
              below 30C and add hydrated yeast. Leave to ferment at 25C until below an SG
              of around 0.990, then settle for a day. Syphon into a reflux or
              fractionating still, and collect as per usual.

              Rum : as per vodka, but use some brown sugar or mollasses, to give an
              initial specific gravity (SG) of around 1.06 - 1.07. Run through either a
              pot still, or a not-so-great reflux still.

              Gin : make a very pure vodka, then add the following essence. Simmer 35g of
              juniper berries in 350 mL of 50% vodka for ten minutes with the lid on, let
              cool overnight, then filter through coffee filters. Use 5-10 mL of this
              essence per bottle of vodka.

              When doing any fermenting, take a lot of care to ensure that any items used
              are clean/sterile (soaking them in a water + bleach (10 mL per litre) ), or
              else the wash can start growing other things. Use a closed fermenter with
              an airlock too, to let the CO2 out without letting wild yeasts, bugs etc
              in. For more information about fermenting, see beer or wine homebrewing
              sites.

              7) Should I use sugar or grains/fruit ?

              It depends on what sort of still you have, and what you are trying to make.
              If you have a reflux or fractionating still, only use whatever is cheapest
              (usually sugar), as the refluxing will strip out all the flavours anyhow.
              If you have a pot still, and are after a bourban or whiskey, then you need
              to go the grain route, or mollasses if after a rum. If you are trying to
              make a neutral spirit for flavouring, go for sugar.

              Basic guidelines for using them are ..

              SUGAR. Wine yeast can use no more than 2.5lbs of sugar/1imp gal or
              2.2lb/1U.S.gal or 1.25kg/5litres of must. This will produce 14%a.b.v. Honey
              and liquid malt extract are 80% sugar so you need 1.5kg/5l must or mash.
              Molasses is 50% sugar so you need 2.5kg/5l must or mash. Maple syrup is 32%
              sugar. Carob beans are 45% sugar. Sugar beets are 15% sugar Grain malt is
              60% sugar (starch converted to sugars) so you need 1.5kg/5l mash. Cooked
              grain contains 60% convertible starch so you need 1.5kg/5l mash

              FRUIT - Grapes contain the ideal sugar, water, acid balance. A sugar
              content of 17-23% and a water content of about 80%. 8kg of grapes produces
              5l of wine. Most common fruits (apples, plums, apricots) contain about 10%
              sugar and 85% water. Cherries and figs contain 15% sugar. A fruit mash
              could be 4kg fruit, (400g sugar content), 2l water (3l in pulp already),
              800g additional sugar. Bananas are 17-24% sugar, 75% water. Acid content
              0.3%. A banana mash could be 4kg of cooked bananas, 2l water (3l in pulp
              already),400g sugar. Add 3lemons/5l for correct pH. Dates are 70% sugar,
              20% water. Add acid to a date mash. Raisins and sultanas have a water
              content of about 15% and a sugar content of 60%, grapes have a water
              content of 75% and a sugar content of about 20%, so using 1.5-2kg/5l of
              water appears about right if we want to reconstitute them.

              ACID - 5g of citric acid (1tsp)/5l must raises acidity by 0.1%. 3g of
              calcium carbonate powder lowers acidity by 0.1%. A pH of 5 is 0.4% acidity.
              Winemakers aim for 0.6% acidity. Most common fruits are about 0.6% acid
              content. For distilling, a higher acidity in the mash helps to suppress
              bacteria. A high tannin content doesn't matter as we are not making wine.
              Meaurements are logarithmic, so a pH of 4 is 10 times more acidic than a pH
              of 5.

              YEAST - Brewers (& possibly baker's yeast) can tolerate only 8% alcohol. A
              bottom fermenting lager yeast ferments out all the sugars better than a top
              fermenting ale yeast. A good wine yeast (Champagne, in the right
              conditions, can tolerate 15%a.b.v. (up to 18%a.b.v. in optimal conditions -
              no need to use expensive turbos). Wild yeasts vary, but some are very low -
              this is a risky path. Whisky distillers often use a combination of yeasts -
              initially a brewer's yeast because they believe it effects the flavor.

              8) Can I use fruit wine ?

              Sure, if you have it available. Again, using a pot still will result in a
              brandy/grappa/schnapps, whereas a reflux still will just strip it down to
              neutral spirit.

              9) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?

              That "rough moonshine edge" or "off-taste / wet cardboard smell" is due to
              impurities such as the higher order alcohols, known as cogeners or fusel
              oils. These will be present more when using a pot still, less if using a
              reflux still, and just about absent if using a fractionating column. So one
              way is to use a taller packed column and increase the amount of reflux
              occuring. They can also indicate that you've tried to collect too much of
              the alcohol, and have run into the "tails"; so finish collecting a little
              bit earlier next time. Soaking tainted alcohol with activated carbon for a
              week (or even months) will help remove some of this flavour - this is known
              as "polishing" the spirit. I'm also suspecting that you need a little bit
              of copper somewhere in the still where it can come in contact with the
              vapour. The copper helps catalyse some of the sulphur, esters & organic
              acids, reducing their odour & taste.

              10) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?

              You need a hydrometer. This is a wee float, with a scale inside it. The
              more alcohol that is present, the lighter the density of the liquid, so the
              hydrometer sinks a bit lower. You then just read off the scale how much
              alcohol is present. You need a seperate hydrometer for measuring the
              density of the mash, as this is generally > 1.0, whereas the spirit is <
              1.0, and they can't accurately do both ends of the scale.

              11) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?

              There are now many commercial flavourings available, which turn vodka or
              neutral alcohol into pretty decent gin or whiskey, or all manor of
              liqueurs. See the commercial sites, like Des Zines
              http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~topkiwi or Ray Toms http://moonshine.co.nz/
              for details. Or you can soak it with oak chips and make whiskey, or soak
              fruits in it to make your own liqueurs.

              12) What web resources are there ?

              For more details, see :
              Tony Ackland's http://homedistiller.org
              Aaron Smiths's http://www.go.to/distillation
              Steve Spence's http://www.webconx.com/ethanol.htm
              StillMaker's http://www.Moonshine-Still.com
              Biofuels Library http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library.html

              13) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?

              Both the NEW DISTILLERS and the DISTILLERS news groups are available via
              YahooGroups, at http://www.yahoogroups.com . NEW DISTILLERS is, as the name
              suggests, intended for those of you new to distilling and after simple,
              straight-forward discussions, whereas the DISTILLERS group is a bit more
              advanced, throwing in bits of design philosophy, theory, and alternative
              ways of achieving the results. Both tend to overlap to some extent.

              14) Can I run my car on it ?

              You can run your car on alcohol over about 80% purity. Because any water
              present will seperate out in the presence of the gasoline (and become a
              problem), you either need to exclusively use the alcohol, or dry it right
              out (eg 99%+ purity) if using it to mix with gasoline. See Steve Spences
              site for more details, the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual, or the The
              Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel. In addition, in
              the USA, you can get a "small fuel producer" permit, which allows small
              scale distilling for "motor fuel" purposes. A nice advantage is that they
              don't require denaturing for "fuel" used on the premises. The regulations
              are posted at http://www.webconx.com/ethanolusaregs.htm

              15) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....

              To convert between SI & Imperial units, multiply the first unit by the
              conversion factor to get the second. Divide back to do it in reverse .eg 1L
              = 0.264 US gal, so 20 L = 20 x 0.264 = 5.28 US gal, and 20 US gal / 0.264 =
              75.76 L

              1 L = 0.264 US gal = 0.221 UK gal
              1 L = 1.057 US qt = 0.880 UK qt
              1 kg = 2.204 lbm = 32.15 oz (troy) = 35.27 oz (av)
              deg F = ((9/5) x deg C )+ 32
              1m = 1000 mm = 39.37 inch = 3.28 ft = 1.09 yd

              16) What is a "Thumper" ?

              A "thumper" is an extra chamber sometimes fitted to a pot still. It can be
              as simple as a glass jar with two holes in the lid. The off-take from the
              still is fed into it, with the pipe running almost all the way to the
              bottom of the jar; the jar is half filled with liquid (water or mash or
              tails) so that the vapour from the still will bubble up through it; then
              the vapour coming off it is collected & cooled as per normal. It acts as a
              second distilling chamber using just the heat from the vapour, and lifts
              the purity from 50-60% to 70-80%, hence improving what might otherwise be a
              very mediocre design.

              17) Can I use a Reflux Still to make Rum or Whisky ?

              Yes you can. To do so, you need to carefully monitor the various
              transitions between the foreshots, heads, middle run, and tails, and time
              the collection of the middle run precisely. The reflux still allows you to
              more precisely judge the changes between the various stages, and hence
              target them accurately. A typical rum or whisky would be obtained by
              discarding the foreshots, then collecting the heads, middle run, and then
              begin the tails, until the purity has dropped to around 58-60% (81.4C). By
              altering when to start collecting, and how late to time the final "cut",
              various flavour profiles will result.

              18) Can Methylated Spirits be made safe to Drink ?

              No. Methylated spirits (aka meths) is a mixture of ethanol and (poisonous)
              methanol, with a denturant added to make it foul tasting. There is no
              effective way of seperating them, be it by distilling, using carbon, or
              filtering through bread (old wives tale). Do not add meths to anything you
              ever intend to distill or drink, and don't try using it in any form - it
              will still be poisonous. Keep it for cleaning and starting the BBQ with.
            • BOKAKOB
              Hey, Tony your site is G*R*E*A*T!!! Whant I noticed in this group there are many questions like this: - how to run pot still and its cut-off poitnts? - how to
              Message 6 of 18 , Nov 14, 2002
              • 0 Attachment

                Hey, Tony your site is G*R*E*A*T!!! Whant I noticed in this group there are many questions like this:

                - how to run pot still and its cut-off poitnts?
                - how to run a reflux and compound stills?
                - how to make a sugar wash?

                I thiught a very basic bible-like rigid directives would help to faithfuls...
                This way this list becomes a compressed essence of your site!

                 Tony & Elle Ackland <Tony.Ackland@...> wrote:

                Hmmm.... I've been a bit slack about getting this out on a regular basis.
                Any suggestions for additions/changes etc ?


                I can be wrong I must say.
                Cheers, Alex...



                Do you Yahoo!?
                New DSL Internet Access from SBC & Yahoo!

              • Ackland, Tony (CALNZAS)
                Thanks Alex - Good ideas. The trick will be how to summarise those wonderful topics for debate down into a couple of sentances ..... Tony
                Message 7 of 18 , Nov 14, 2002
                • 0 Attachment
                  Thanks Alex - Good ideas.  The trick will be how to summarise those wonderful topics for debate down into a couple of sentances .....
                   
                  Tony
                • Tony & Elle Ackland
                  NEW DISTILLERS Frequently Asked Questions (Feb 03) Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at www.yahoogroups.com Please email any
                  Message 8 of 18 , Feb 14, 2003
                  • 0 Attachment
                    "NEW DISTILLERS" Frequently Asked Questions (Feb'03)
                    Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at
                    www.yahoogroups.com
                    Please email any additions, corrections, clarifications required, etc
                    regarding the FAQ to Tony Ackland (ackland@...), however please
                    direct any general questions to the newsgroup itself.
                    *******************************************************************
                    1) Is distilling hard to do ?
                    2) Is it legal ?
                    3) Will it make me blind ?
                    4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and
                    fractionating column ?
                    5) How do I get or make a still ?
                    6) How do I make a whisky / rum / vodka / gin ?
                    7) Should I use sugar or grains ?
                    8) Can I use fruit wine ?
                    9) How do I make a Turbo-all-sugar wash ?
                    10) How do I run a Pot still ?
                    11) How do I run a Reflux still ?
                    12) Can I use a reflux still to make rum or whisky ?
                    13) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?
                    14) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?
                    15) Why do my spirits turn cloudy when diluted ?
                    16) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?
                    17) What web resources are there ?
                    18) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?
                    19) Can I run my car on it ?
                    20) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....
                    21) What is a "Thumper" ?
                    22) Can methylated spirits be made safe to drink ?
                    **********************************************************************
                    1) Is distilling hard to do ?
                    Nope - if you can follow instructions enough to bake scones, then you can
                    sucessfully distil. To distil well however, will require you to understand
                    what you're doing, so read around and get a bit of information under your
                    belt before you begin.
                    2) Is it legal ?
                    Probably not. It is only legal in New Zealand, and some European countries
                    turn a blind eye to it, but elsewhere it is illegal, with punishment
                    ranging from fines to imprisonment or floggings. This action against it is
                    usually the result of either religous beliefs (right or wrong), but more
                    generally due to the great revenue base it provides Governements through
                    excise taxes. So if you are going to distil, just be aware of the potential
                    legal ramifications.
                    3) Will it make me blind ?
                    Not if you're careful. This pervasive question is due to moonshine lore,
                    which abounds with myths of blindness, but few actual documented cases. The
                    concern is due to the presence of methanol (wood alcohol), an optic nerve
                    poison, which can be present in small amounts when fermenting grains or
                    fruits high in pectin. This methanol comes off first from the still, so it
                    is easily segregated and discarded. A simple rule of thumb for this is to
                    throw away the first 50 mL you collect (per 20 L mash used). Probably the
                    greatest risk to your health during distilling is the risk of fire -
                    collecting a flammable liquid near a heat source. So keep a fire
                    extinguisher nearby.
                    4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and
                    fractionating column ?
                    A pot still simply collects and condenses the alcohol vapours that come off
                    the boiling mash. This will result in an alcohol at about 40-60% purity,
                    with plenty of flavour in it. If this distillate were put through the pot
                    still again, it would increase in purity to around 70-85% purity, and lose
                    a bit of its flavour.

                    A reflux still does these multiple distillations in one single go, by
                    having some packing in a column between the condensor & the pot, and
                    allowing some of the vapour to condense and trickle back down through the
                    packing. This "reflux" of liquid helps clean the rising vapour and increase
                    the % purity. The taller the packed column, and the more reflux liquid, the
                    purer the product will be. The advantage of doing this is that it will
                    result in a clean vodka, with little flavour to it - ideal for mixing with
                    flavours etc.

                    A fractionating column is a pure form of the reflux still. It will condense
                    all the vapour at the top of the packing, and return about 9/10 back down
                    the column. The column will be quite tall - say 600-1200mm (2-4 foot), and
                    packed with a material high in surface area, but which takes up little
                    space (pot scrubbers are good for this). It will result in an alcohol 95%+
                    pure (the theoretical limit without using a vacuum is 96.48 %(by volume)),
                    with no other tastes or impurities in it.
                    5) How do I get or make a still ?
                    If you're after a pot still, these are generally home made using what-ever
                    you have at hand - say copper tubing and old water heaters or pressure
                    cookers. You don't really need any plans for these - just follow any of the
                    photos about.
                    Reflux stills can be made from plans on the net, or bought from several
                    manufacturers. For reflux still plans see
                    The photos section at http://homedistiller.org/photos-ns.htm for "Offset
                    head" designs, and http://homedistiller.org/photos-reflux.htm for general
                    reflux stills.
                    Alex's designs at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Distillers/files/OFTS/
                    StillCookers http://us.geocities.com/stillcooker/
                    Stillmakers "Build a World Class Distillation Apparatus" at
                    http://www.Moonshine-Still.com (Free!) or
                    Gert Strands : http://partyman.se/Engelsk/default.htm (US$5).
                    Ian Smileys "Making Pure Corn Whisky" at http://www.home-distilling.com ,
                    with full design details.
                    For an excellent book on all aspects of still design, see "The Compleat
                    Distiller" at http://www.amphora-society.com
                    See the list of "web resources" below for links to sites selling ready-made
                    stills.
                    For fuel alcohol stills see the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual at
                    http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_motherearth/meToC.html,
                    and the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel by S.W.
                    Mathewson at
                    http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_manual/manual_ToC.html
                    Regarding the choice of heating for the still - if you have 240V available
                    it is usually easiest to control & safer (particularly with internal
                    elements). Gas can be used, but more care is needed to keep the collection
                    container further away and not letting it overfill.
                    6) How do I make a whisky / vodka / rum / gin ?
                    Whiskey : Heat 4 kg cracked or crushed malt with 18 L of water to 63-65 ?C,
                    and hold there for 1-1.5 hours. Heat to 73-75 ?C, then strain off and keep
                    liquid, using 250 mL of hot water to rinse the grains. Cool to below 30 ?C
                    (should have an initial specific gravity of 1.050). Add hydrated yeast &
                    leave to ferment (maintain at 26 ?C) until airlock stops bubbling and final
                    SG of around 1.010. Let settle for a day, then syphon carefully into a pot
                    still. Discard the first 50 mL's, collect the next 2-3L of distillate or
                    until you start noticing the tails coming through.

                    Vodka : dissolve 5 kg of sugar & 60 g of nutrients in 20 L of water, cool
                    to below 30C and add hydrated yeast. Leave to ferment at 25 ?C until below
                    an SG of around 0.990, then settle for a day. Syphon into a reflux or
                    fractionating still, and collect as per usual.
                    Rum : as per vodka, but use some brown sugar or mollasses, to give an
                    initial specific gravity (SG) of around 1.060 - 1.070. Run through either a
                    pot still, or a de-refluxed reflux still.
                    Gin : make a very pure vodka, then add the following essence. Simmer 35 g
                    of juniper berries in 350 mL of 50% vodka for ten minutes with the lid on,
                    let cool overnight, then filter through coffee filters. Use 5-10 mL of this
                    essence per bottle of vodka.

                    When doing any fermenting, take a lot of care to ensure that any items used
                    are clean/sterile (soaking them in a water + bleach (10 mL per litre) ), or
                    else the wash can start growing other things. Use a closed fermenter with
                    an airlock too, to let the CO2 out without letting wild yeasts, bugs etc
                    in. For more information about fermenting, see beer or wine homebrewing
                    sites.
                    7) Should I use sugar or grains/fruit ?
                    It depends on what sort of still you have, and what you are trying to make.
                    If you have a reflux or fractionating still, only use whatever is cheapest
                    (usually sugar), as the refluxing will strip out all the flavours anyhow.
                    If you have a pot still, and are after a bourban or whiskey, then you need
                    to go the grain route, or mollasses if after a rum. If you are trying to
                    make a neutral spirit for flavouring, go for sugar.
                    Basic guidelines for using them are ..
                    SUGAR. Wine yeast can use no more than 2.5lbs of sugar/1imp gal or
                    2.2lb/1U.S.gal or 1.25kg/5litres of must. This will produce 14%a.b.v. Honey
                    and liquid malt extract are 80% sugar so you need 1.5kg/5l must or mash.
                    Molasses is 50% sugar so you need 2.5kg/5l must or mash. Maple syrup is 32%
                    sugar. Carob beans are 45% sugar. Sugar beets are 15% sugar Grain malt is
                    60% sugar (starch converted to sugars) so you need 1.5kg/5l mash. Cooked
                    grain contains 60% convertible starch so you need 1.5kg/5l mash
                    FRUIT - Grapes contain the ideal sugar, water, acid balance. A sugar
                    content of 17-23% and a water content of about 80%. 8kg of grapes produces
                    5l of wine.
                    Most common fruits (apples, plums, apricots) contain about 10% sugar and
                    85% water. Cherries and figs contain 15% sugar. A fruit mash could be 4kg
                    fruit, (400g sugar content), 2l water (3l in pulp already), 800g additional
                    sugar.
                    Bananas are 17-24% sugar, 75% water. Acid content 0.3%. A banana mash could
                    be 4kg of cooked bananas, 2l water (3l in pulp already),400g sugar. Add
                    3lemons/5l for correct pH.
                    Dates are 70% sugar, 20% water. Add acid to a date mash.
                    Raisins and sultanas have a water content of about 15% and a sugar content
                    of 60%, grapes have a water content of 75% and a sugar content of about
                    20%, so using 1.5-2kg/5l of water appears about right if we want to
                    reconstitute them.
                    ACID - 5g of citric acid (1tsp)/5l must raises acidity by 0.1%. 3g of
                    calcium carbonate powder lowers acidity by 0.1%. A pH of 5 is 0.4% acidity.
                    Winemakers aim for 0.6% acidity. Most common fruits are about 0.6% acid
                    content. For distilling, a higher acidity in the mash helps to suppress
                    bacteria. A high tannin content doesn't matter as we are not making wine.
                    Meaurements are logarithmic, so a pH of 4 is 10 times more acidic than a pH
                    of 5.
                    YEAST - Brewers (& possibly baker's yeast) can tolerate only 8% alcohol. A
                    bottom fermenting lager yeast ferments out all the sugars better than a top
                    fermenting ale yeast. A good wine yeast (Champagne, in the right
                    conditions, can tolerate 15%a.b.v. (up to 18%a.b.v. in optimal conditions -
                    no need to use expensive turbos). Wild yeasts vary, but some are very low -
                    this is a risky path. Whisky distillers often use a combination of yeasts -
                    initially a brewer's yeast because they believe it effects the flavor.
                    8) Can I use fruit wine ?
                    Sure, if you have it available. Again, using a pot still will result in a
                    brandy/grappa/schnapps, whereas a reflux still will just strip it down to
                    neutral spirit.
                    9) How do I make a Turbo-all-sugar wash ?
                    The first trick is to locate the "Turbo" yeasts - either try the New
                    Zealand sites, or www.brewhaus.com. Then, dissolve 5-6 kg of sugar with 2-3
                    L of boiling water, top up to 25 L with cold water, wait until its cooled
                    below 24 ?C, and then stir the yeast in, and close the lid with an airlock.
                    Keep at 24 ?C until the SG has dropped below 1.010 Its then possible to add
                    extra sugar (1 kg at a time, dissolved in a little water) each time the SG
                    has dropped below 1.010. You should be able to add an extra 3-4 kg this way
                    over a week. It should finish around 0.980 - 0.990
                    10) How do I run a Pot Still ?
                    See http://homedistiller.org/dtw.htm#use_pot for details. A pot still is
                    fairly straight forward to use. Turn it on. Once the temperature is up to
                    about 60 ?C turn on the cooling water to the condensor. Make sure you throw
                    away the first 1 00 mL per 20L wash, as this will contain any methanol that
                    might be present. Segregate the distillate into 500 mL lots as it comes
                    off. Only keep (for drinking) that which doesn't contain fusels (smell off)
                    - probably below about 92 ? C, however you should keep distilling past
                    here, untill about 96 ? C, as this fraction, although high in tails and not
                    good for drinking this time, can be added back to the next wash and cleaned
                    up OK then.
                    11) How do I run a Reflux / Fractionating Still ?
                    See http://homedistiller.org/dtw.htm#use_reflux for details +/or
                    variations. It is best to first equilibriate the column under total reflux
                    for 10 minutes or so. This will concentrate up the foreshots so that they
                    can be removed first. Collect them one drip at a time, for approx 50 mL per
                    25L wash, and throw away. You can then collect the remaining run at a
                    quicker rate. Adjust the reflux ratio (the ratio of how much of the total
                    vapour is returned as reflux) by varying either the rate of collection or
                    rate of cooling water (depending on still design) to maintain the purity
                    you want. You can judge the purity by measuring the vapour temperature.
                    Target around 78.2 - 78.4 ?C . Towards the end of the run it will be hard
                    to get a high enough reflux ratio to maintain the high purity / low
                    temperature. When the temperature has nudged up to around 80 ?C quit
                    collecting for drinking, and collect the remainder as tails (for
                    redistillation in the next run) up to around 96 ?C .
                    12) Can I use a Reflux Still to make Rum or Whisky ?
                    Yes you can. To do so, you need to carefully monitor the various
                    transitions between the foreshots, heads, middle run, and tails, and time
                    the collection of the middle run precisely. The reflux still allows you to
                    more precisely judge the changes between the various stages, and hence
                    target them accurately. A typical rum or whisky would be obtained by
                    discarding the foreshots, then collecting the heads, middle run, and then
                    begin the tails, until the purity has dropped to around 58-60% (82 ?C). By
                    altering when to start collecting, and how late to time the final "cut",
                    various flavour profiles will result. You'd collect it faster and at a
                    slightly lower reflux ratio than for a neutral spirit, as you want the
                    flavour present.
                    13) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?
                    You need a hydrometer. This is a wee float, with a scale inside it. The
                    more alcohol that is present, the lighter the density of the liquid, so the
                    hydrometer sinks a bit lower. You then just read off the scale how much
                    alcohol is present. You need a seperate hydrometer for measuring the
                    density of the mash, as this is generally > 1.0, whereas the spirit is <
                    1.0, and they can't accurately do both ends of the scale.
                    14) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?
                    That "rough moonshine edge" or "off-taste / wet cardboard smell" is due to
                    impurities such as the higher order alcohols, known as cogeners or fusel
                    oils. These will be present more when using a pot still, less if using a
                    reflux still, and just about absent if using a fractionating column. So one
                    way is to use a taller packed column and increase the amount of reflux
                    occuring. They can also indicate that you've tried to collect too much of
                    the alcohol, and have run into the "tails"; so finish collecting a little
                    bit earlier next time. Soaking tainted alcohol with activated carbon for a
                    week (or even months) will help remove some of this flavour - this is known
                    as "polishing" the spirit. I'm also suspecting that you need a little bit
                    of copper somewhere in the still where it can come in contact with the
                    vapour. The copper helps catalyse some of the sulphur, esters & organic
                    acids, reducing their odour & taste.
                    15) Why do my spirits turn cloudy when diluted ?
                    With neutral spirits, either you have pushed 'tails' into your product (eg
                    collected too much product from the still - quit earlier next time), or you
                    are using poor tap-water (high in calcium carbonate). If it happens when
                    diluting your gin, sambuca or the like, its because there is too little
                    alcohol/too much oil present and the oils are no longer dissolved. Either
                    drink it cloudy or increase the % alcohol present.
                    16) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?
                    There are now many commercial flavourings available, which turn vodka or
                    neutral alcohol into pretty decent gin or whiskey, or all manor of
                    liqueurs. See the commercial sites, like Des Zines
                    http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~topkiwi or Ray Toms http://moonshine.co.nz/
                    for details. Or you can soak it with oak chips and make whiskey, or soak
                    fruits in it to make your own liqueurs. There are many websites describing
                    how to make liqueurs - see http://homedistiller.org/liqueurs.htm or
                    http://www.guntheranderson.com for a starting point.
                    17) What web resources are there ?
                    For more details, see :
                    Tony Ackland's http://homedistiller.org
                    Aaron Smiths's http://www.go.to/distillation
                    Steve Spence's http://www.webconx.com/ethanol.htm
                    StillMaker's http://www.Moonshine-Still.com
                    Biofuels Library http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library.html
                    18) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?
                    Both the NEW DISTILLERS and the DISTILLERS news groups are available via
                    YahooGroups, at http://www.yahoogroups.com . NEW DISTILLERS is, as the name
                    suggests, intended for those of you new to distilling and after simple,
                    straight-forward answers to questions, whereas the DISTILLERS group
                    discussions are a bit more advanced, throwing in bits of design philosophy,
                    theory, and alternative ways of achieving the results. Both tend to overlap
                    to some extent.
                    19) Can I run my car on it ?
                    You can run your car on alcohol over about 80% purity. Because any water
                    present will seperate out in the presence of the gasoline (and become a
                    problem), you either need to exclusively use the alcohol, or dry it right
                    out (eg 99%+ purity) if using it to mix with gasoline. See Steve Spences
                    site for more details, the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual, or the The
                    Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel. In addition, in
                    the USA, you can get a "small fuel producer" permit, which allows small
                    scale distilling for "motor fuel" purposes. A nice advantage is that they
                    don't require denaturing for "fuel" used on the premises. The regulations
                    are posted at http://www.webconx.com/ethanolusaregs.htm
                    20) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....
                    To convert between SI & Imperial units, multiply the first unit by the
                    conversion factor to get the second. Divide back to do it in reverse .eg 1L
                    = 0.264 US gal, so 20 L = 20 x 0.264 = 5.28 US gal, and 20 US gal / 0.264 =
                    75.76 L

                    1 L = 0.264 US gal = 0.221 UK gal
                    1 L = 1.057 US qt = 0.880 UK qt
                    1 kg = 2.204 lbm = 32.15 oz (troy) = 35.27 oz (av)
                    deg F = ((9/5) x deg C )+ 32
                    1m = 1000 mm = 39.37 inch = 3.28 ft = 1.09 yd
                    21) What is a "Thumper" ?
                    A "thumper" is an extra chamber sometimes fitted to a pot still. It can be
                    as simple as a glass jar with two holes in the lid. The off-take from the
                    still is fed into it, with the pipe running almost all the way to the
                    bottom of the jar; the jar is half filled with liquid (water or mash or
                    tails) so that the vapour from the still will bubble up through it; then
                    the vapour coming off it is collected & cooled as per normal. It acts as a
                    second distilling chamber using just the heat from the vapour, and lifts
                    the purity from 50-60% to 70-80%, hence improving what might otherwise be a
                    very mediocre design. Don't make the thumper too small, and start it off
                    with liquid already high in alcohol.
                    22) Can Methylated Spirits be made safe to Drink ?
                    No. Methylated spirits (aka meths) is a mixture of ethanol and (poisonous)
                    methanol, with a denturant added to make it foul tasting. There is no
                    effective way of seperating them, be it by distilling, using carbon, or
                    filtering through bread (old wives tale). Do not add meths to anything you
                    ever intend to distill or drink, and don't try using it in any form - it
                    will still be poisonous. Keep it for cleaning and starting the BBQ with.
                  • Ackland, Tony (CALNZAS)
                    NEW DISTILLERS Frequently Asked Questions (Feb 03) Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at www.yahoogroups.com Please email any
                    Message 9 of 18 , May 20, 2003
                    • 0 Attachment
                      "NEW DISTILLERS" Frequently Asked Questions (Feb'03)

                      Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at www.yahoogroups.com

                      Please email any additions, corrections, clarifications required, etc regarding the FAQ to Tony Ackland (ackland@...), however please direct any general questions to the newsgroup itself.

                      *******************************************************************

                      1) Is distilling hard to do ?
                      2) Is it legal ?
                      3) Will it make me blind ?
                      4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and fractionating column ?
                      5) How do I get or make a still ?
                      6) How do I make a whisky / rum / vodka / gin ?
                      7) Should I use sugar or grains ?
                      8) Can I use fruit wine ?
                      9) How do I make a Turbo-all-sugar wash ?
                      10) How do I run a Pot still ?
                      11) How do I run a Reflux still ?
                      12) Can I use a reflux still to make rum or whisky ?
                      13) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?
                      14) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?
                      15) Why do my spirits turn cloudy when diluted ?
                      16) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?
                      17) What web resources are there ?
                      18) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?
                      19) Can I run my car on it ?
                      20) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....
                      21) What is a "Thumper" ?
                      22) Can methylated spirits be made safe to drink ?

                      **********************************************************************

                      1) Is distilling hard to do ?

                      Nope - if you can follow instructions enough to bake scones, then you can sucessfully distil. To distil well however, will require you to understand what you're doing, so read around and get a bit of information under your belt before you begin.

                      2) Is it legal ?

                      Probably not. It is only legal in New Zealand, and some European countries turn a blind eye to it, but elsewhere it is illegal, with punishment ranging from fines to imprisonment or floggings. This action against it is usually the result of either religous beliefs (right or wrong), but more generally due to the great revenue base it provides Governements through excise taxes. So if you are going to distil, just be aware of the potential legal ramifications.

                      3) Will it make me blind ?

                      Not if you're careful. This pervasive question is due to moonshine lore, which abounds with myths of blindness, but few actual documented cases. The concern is due to the presence of methanol (wood alcohol), an optic nerve poison, which can be present in small amounts when fermenting grains or fruits high in pectin. This methanol comes off first from the still, so it is easily segregated and discarded. A simple rule of thumb for this is to throw away the first 50 mL you collect (per 20 L mash used). Probably the greatest risk to your health during distilling is the risk of fire - collecting a flammable liquid near a heat source. So keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

                      4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and fractionating column ?

                      A pot still simply collects and condenses the alcohol vapours that come off the boiling mash. This will result in an alcohol at about 40-60% purity, with plenty of flavour in it. If this distillate were put through the pot still again, it would increase in purity to around 70-85% purity, and lose a bit of its flavour.

                      A reflux still does these multiple distillations in one single go, by having some packing in a column between the condensor & the pot, and allowing some of the vapour to condense and trickle back down through the packing. This "reflux" of liquid helps clean the rising vapour and increase the % purity. The taller the packed column, and the more reflux liquid, the purer the product will be. The advantage of doing this is that it will result in a clean vodka, with little flavour to it - ideal for mixing with flavours etc.

                      A fractionating column is a pure form of the reflux still. It will condense all the vapour at the top of the packing, and return about 9/10 back down the column. The column will be quite tall - say 600-1200mm (2-4 foot), and packed with a material high in surface area, but which takes up little space (pot scrubbers are good for this). It will result in an alcohol 95%+ pure (the theoretical limit without using a vacuum is 96.48 %(by volume)), with no other tastes or impurities in it.

                      5) How do I get or make a still ?

                      If you're after a pot still, these are generally home made using what-ever you have at hand - say copper tubing and old water heaters or pressure cookers. You don't really need any plans for these - just follow any of the photos about.

                      Reflux stills can be made from plans on the net, or bought from several manufacturers. For reflux still plans see
                      The photos section at http://homedistiller.org/photos-ns.htm for "Offset head" designs, and http://homedistiller.org/photos-reflux.htm for general reflux stills.
                      Alex's designs at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Distillers/files/OFTS/
                      StillCookers http://us.geocities.com/stillcooker/
                      Stillmakers "Build a World Class Distillation Apparatus" at http://www.Moonshine-Still.com (Free!) or
                      Gert Strands : http://partyman.se/Engelsk/default.htm (US$5).
                      Ian Smileys "Making Pure Corn Whisky" at http://www.home-distilling.com , with full design details.
                      For an excellent book on all aspects of still design, see "The Compleat Distiller" at http://www.amphora-society.com
                      See the list of "web resources" below for links to sites selling ready-made stills.
                      For fuel alcohol stills see the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual at http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_motherearth/meToC.html, and the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel by S.W. Mathewson at http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_manual/manual_ToC.html
                      Regarding the choice of heating for the still - if you have 240V available it is usually easiest to control & safer (particularly with internal elements). Gas can be used, but more care is needed to keep the collection container further away and not letting it overfill.

                      For more details on design, see http://homedistiller.org/designs.htm and http://homedistiller.org/refluxdesign.htm.

                      6) How do I make a whisky / vodka / rum / gin ?

                      Whiskey : Heat 4 kg cracked or crushed malt with 18 L of water to 63-65 °C, and hold there for 1-1.5 hours. Heat to 73-75 °C, then strain off and keep liquid, using 250 mL of hot water to rinse the grains. Cool to below 30 °C (should have an initial specific gravity of 1.050). Add hydrated yeast & leave to ferment (maintain at 26 °C) until airlock stops bubbling and final SG of around 1.010. Let settle for a day, then syphon carefully into a pot still. Discard the first 50 mL's, collect the next 2-3L of distillate or until you start noticing the tails coming through. Many people also have sucess starting with a beer-kit instead of using grains.

                      Vodka : dissolve 5 kg of sugar & 60 g of nutrients in 20 L of water, cool to below 30C and add hydrated yeast. Leave to ferment at 25 °C until below an SG of around 0.990, then settle for a day. Syphon into a reflux or fractionating still, and collect as per usual.

                      Rum : as per vodka, but use some brown sugar or mollasses, to give an initial specific gravity (SG) of around 1.060 - 1.070. Run through either a pot still, or a de-refluxed reflux still.

                      Gin : make a very pure vodka, then add the following essence. Simmer 35 g of juniper berries in 350 mL of 50% vodka for ten minutes with the lid on, let cool overnight, then filter through coffee filters. Use 5-10 mL of this essence per bottle of vodka.

                      When doing any fermenting, take a lot of care to ensure that any items used are clean/sterile (soaking them in a water + bleach (10 mL per litre) ), or else the wash can start growing other things. Use a closed fermenter with an airlock too, to let the CO2 out without letting wild yeasts, bugs etc in. For more information about fermenting, see beer or wine homebrewing sites.

                      7) Should I use sugar or grains/fruit ?

                      It depends on what sort of still you have, and what you are trying to make. If you have a reflux or fractionating still, only use whatever is cheapest (usually sugar), as the refluxing will strip out all the flavours anyhow. If you have a pot still, and are after a bourban or whiskey, then you need to go the grain route, or mollasses if after a rum. If you are trying to make a neutral spirit for flavouring, go for sugar.

                      Basic guidelines for using them are ..

                      SUGAR. Wine yeast can use no more than 2.5lbs of sugar/1imp gal or 2.2lb/1U.S.gal or 1.25kg/5litres of must. This will produce 14%a.b.v. Honey and liquid malt extract are 80% sugar so you need 1.5kg/5l must or mash. Molasses is 50% sugar so you need 2.5kg/5l must or mash. Maple syrup is 32% sugar. Carob beans are 45% sugar. Sugar beets are 15% sugar Grain malt is 60% sugar (starch converted to sugars) so you need 1.5kg/5l mash. Cooked grain contains 60% convertible starch so you need 1.5kg/5l mash

                      FRUIT - Grapes contain the ideal sugar, water, acid balance. A sugar content of 17-23% and a water content of about 80%. 8kg of grapes produces 5l of wine.
                      Most common fruits (apples, plums, apricots) contain about 10% sugar and 85% water. Cherries and figs contain 15% sugar. A fruit mash could be 4kg fruit, (400g sugar content), 2l water (3l in pulp already), 800g additional sugar.
                      Bananas are 17-24% sugar, 75% water. Acid content 0.3%. A banana mash could be 4kg of cooked bananas, 2l water (3l in pulp already),400g sugar. Add 3lemons/5l for correct pH.
                      Dates are 70% sugar, 20% water. Add acid to a date mash.
                      Raisins and sultanas have a water content of about 15% and a sugar content of 60%, grapes have a water content of 75% and a sugar content of about 20%, so using 1.5-2kg/5l of water appears about right if we want to reconstitute them.

                      ACID - 5g of citric acid (1tsp)/5l must raises acidity by 0.1%. 3g of calcium carbonate powder lowers acidity by 0.1%. A pH of 5 is 0.4% acidity. Winemakers aim for 0.6% acidity. Most common fruits are about 0.6% acid content. For distilling, a higher acidity in the mash helps to suppress bacteria. A high tannin content doesn't matter as we are not making wine. Meaurements are logarithmic, so a pH of 4 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 5.

                      YEAST - Brewers (& possibly baker's yeast) can tolerate only 8% alcohol. A bottom fermenting lager yeast ferments out all the sugars better than a top fermenting ale yeast. A good wine yeast (Champagne, in the right conditions, can tolerate 15%a.b.v. (up to 18%a.b.v. in optimal conditions - no need to use expensive turbos). Wild yeasts vary, but some are very low - this is a risky path. Whisky distillers often use a combination of yeasts - initially a brewer's yeast because they believe it effects the flavor.

                      8) Can I use fruit wine ?

                      Sure, if you have it available. Again, using a pot still will result in a brandy/grappa/schnapps, whereas a reflux still will just strip it down to neutral spirit.

                      9) How do I make a Turbo-all-sugar wash ?

                      The first trick is to locate the "Turbo" yeasts - either try the New Zealand sites, or www.brewhaus.com. Then, dissolve 5-6 kg of sugar with 2-3 L of boiling water, top up to 25 L with cold water, wait until its cooled below 24 °C, and then stir the yeast in, and close the lid with an airlock. Keep at 24 °C until the SG has dropped below 1.010 Its then possible to add extra sugar (1 kg at a time, dissolved in a little water) each time the SG has dropped below 1.010. You should be able to add an extra 3-4 kg this way over a week. It should finish around 0.980 - 0.990

                      10) How do I run a Pot Still ?

                      See http://homedistiller.org/dtw.htm#use_pot for details. A pot still is fairly straight forward to use. Turn it on. Once the temperature is up to about 60 °C turn on the cooling water to the condensor. Make sure you throw away the first 1 00 mL per 20L wash, as this will contain any methanol that might be present. Segregate the distillate into 500 mL lots as it comes off. Only keep (for drinking) that which doesn't contain fusels (smell off) - probably below about 92 ° C, however you should keep distilling past here, untill about 96 ° C, as this fraction, although high in tails and not good for drinking this time, can be added back to the next wash and cleaned up OK then.

                      11) How do I run a Reflux / Fractionating Still ?

                      See http://homedistiller.org/dtw.htm#use_reflux for details +/or variations. It is best to first equilibriate the column under total reflux for 10 minutes or so. This will concentrate up the foreshots so that they can be removed first. Collect them one drip at a time, for approx 50 mL per 25L wash, and throw away. You can then collect the remaining run at a quicker rate. Adjust the reflux ratio (the ratio of how much of the total vapour is returned as reflux) by varying either the rate of collection or rate of cooling water (depending on still design) to maintain the purity you want. You can judge the purity by measuring the vapour temperature. Target around 78.2 - 78.4 °C . Towards the end of the run it will be hard to get a high enough reflux ratio to maintain the high purity / low temperature. When the temperature has nudged up to around 80 °C quit collecting for drinking, and collect the remainder as tails (for redistillation in the next run) up to around 96 °C .

                      12) Can I use a Reflux Still to make Rum or Whisky ?

                      Yes you can. To do so, you need to carefully monitor the various transitions between the foreshots, heads, middle run, and tails, and time the collection of the middle run precisely. The reflux still allows you to more precisely judge the changes between the various stages, and hence target them accurately. A typical rum or whisky would be obtained by discarding the foreshots, then collecting the heads, middle run, and then begin the tails, until the purity has dropped to around 58-60% (82 °C). By altering when to start collecting, and how late to time the final "cut", various flavour profiles will result. You'd collect it faster and at a slightly lower reflux ratio than for a neutral spirit, as you want the flavour present.

                      13) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?

                      You need a hydrometer. This is a wee float, with a scale inside it. The more alcohol that is present, the lighter the density of the liquid, so the hydrometer sinks a bit lower. You then just read off the scale how much alcohol is present. You need a seperate hydrometer for measuring the density of the mash, as this is generally > 1.0, whereas the spirit is < 1.0, and they can't accurately do both ends of the scale.

                      14) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?

                      That "rough moonshine edge" or "off-taste / wet cardboard smell" is due to impurities such as the higher order alcohols, known as cogeners or fusel oils. These will be present more when using a pot still, less if using a reflux still, and just about absent if using a fractionating column. So one way is to use a taller packed column and increase the amount of reflux occuring. They can also indicate that you've tried to collect too much of the alcohol, and have run into the "tails"; so finish collecting a little bit earlier next time. Soaking tainted alcohol with activated carbon for a week (or even months) will help remove some of this flavour - this is known as "polishing" the spirit. I'm also suspecting that you need a little bit of copper somewhere in the still where it can come in contact with the vapour. The copper helps catalyse some of the sulphur, esters & organic acids, reducing their odour & taste.

                      15) Why do my spirits turn cloudy when diluted ?

                      With neutral spirits, either you have pushed 'tails' into your product (eg collected too much product from the still - quit earlier next time), or you are using poor tap-water (high in calcium carbonate). If it happens when diluting your gin, sambuca or the like, its because there is too little alcohol/too much oil present and the oils are no longer dissolved. Either drink it cloudy or increase the % alcohol present.

                      16) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?

                      There are now many commercial flavourings available, which turn vodka or neutral alcohol into pretty decent gin or whiskey, or all manor of liqueurs. See the commercial sites, like Des Zines http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~topkiwi or Ray Toms http://moonshine.co.nz/ for details. Or you can soak it with oak chips and make whiskey, or soak fruits in it to make your own liqueurs. There are many websites describing how to make liqueurs - see http://homedistiller.org/liqueurs.htm or http://www.guntheranderson.com for a starting point.

                      17) What web resources are there ?

                      For more details, see :
                      Tony Ackland's http://homedistiller.org
                      Aaron Smiths's http://www.go.to/distillation
                      Steve Spence's http://webconx.green-trust.org/ethanol.htm
                      StillMaker's http://www.Moonshine-Still.com
                      Biofuels Library http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library.html

                      18) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?

                      Both the NEW DISTILLERS and the DISTILLERS news groups are available via YahooGroups, at http://www.yahoogroups.com . NEW DISTILLERS is, as the name suggests, intended for those of you new to distilling and after simple, straight-forward answers to questions, whereas the DISTILLERS group discussions are a bit more advanced, throwing in bits of design philosophy, theory, and alternative ways of achieving the results. Both tend to overlap to some extent.

                      19) Can I run my car on it ?

                      You can run your car on alcohol over about 80% purity. Because any water present will seperate out in the presence of the gasoline (and become a problem), you either need to exclusively use the alcohol, or dry it right out (eg 99%+ purity) if using it to mix with gasoline. See Steve Spences site for more details, the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual, or the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel. In addition, in the USA, you can get a "small fuel producer" permit, which allows small scale distilling for "motor fuel" purposes. A nice advantage is that they don't require denaturing for "fuel" used on the premises. The regulations are posted at http://webconx.green-trust.org/ethanol.htm

                      20) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....

                      To convert between SI & Imperial units, multiply the first unit by the conversion factor to get the second. Divide back to do it in reverse .eg 1L = 0.264 US gal, so 20 L = 20 x 0.264 = 5.28 US gal, and 20 US gal / 0.264 = 75.76 L

                      1 L = 0.264 US gal = 0.221 UK gal
                      1 L = 1.057 US qt = 0.880 UK qt
                      1 kg = 2.204 lbm = 32.15 oz (troy) = 35.27 oz (av)
                      deg F = ((9/5) x deg C )+ 32
                      1m = 1000 mm = 39.37 inch = 3.28 ft = 1.09 yd

                      21) What is a "Thumper" ?

                      A "thumper" is an extra chamber sometimes fitted to a pot still. It can be as simple as a glass jar with two holes in the lid. The off-take from the still is fed into it, with the pipe running almost all the way to the bottom of the jar; the jar is half filled with liquid (water or mash or tails) so that the vapour from the still will bubble up through it; then the vapour coming off it is collected & cooled as per normal. It acts as a second distilling chamber using just the heat from the vapour, and lifts the purity from 50-60% to 70-80%, hence improving what might otherwise be a very mediocre design. Don't make the thumper too small, and start it off with liquid already high in alcohol.

                      22) Can Methylated Spirits be made safe to Drink ?

                      No. Methylated spirits (aka meths) is a mixture of ethanol and (poisonous) methanol, with a denturant added to make it foul tasting. There is no effective way of seperating them, be it by distilling, using carbon, or filtering through bread (old wives tale). Do not add meths to anything you ever intend to distill or drink, and don't try using it in any form - it will still be poisonous. Keep it for cleaning and starting the BBQ with.
                    • Ackland, Tony (CALNZAS)
                      NEW DISTILLERS Frequently Asked Questions (Feb 03) Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at www.yahoogroups.com Please email any
                      Message 10 of 18 , Jan 28, 2004
                      • 0 Attachment
                        "NEW DISTILLERS" Frequently Asked Questions (Feb'03)

                        Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at www.yahoogroups.com

                        Please email any additions, corrections, clarifications required, etc regarding the FAQ to Tony Ackland (Tony.Ackland@...), however please direct any general questions to the newsgroup itself.

                        *******************************************************************

                        1) Is distilling hard to do ?
                        2) Is it legal ?
                        3) Will it make me blind ?
                        4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and fractionating column ?
                        5) How do I get or make a still ?
                        6) How do I make a whisky / rum / vodka / gin ?
                        7) Should I use sugar or grains ?
                        8) Can I use fruit wine ?
                        9) How do I make a Turbo-all-sugar wash ?
                        10) How do I run a Pot still ?
                        11) How do I run a Reflux still ?
                        12) Can I use a reflux still to make rum or whisky ?
                        13) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?
                        14) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?
                        15) Why do my spirits turn cloudy when diluted ?
                        16) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?
                        17) What web resources are there ?
                        18) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?
                        19) Can I run my car on it ?
                        20) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....
                        21) What is a "Thumper" ?
                        22) Can methylated spirits be made safe to drink ?

                        **********************************************************************

                        1) Is distilling hard to do ?

                        Nope - if you can follow instructions enough to bake scones, then you can sucessfully distil. To distil well however, will require you to understand what you're doing, so read around and get a bit of information under your belt before you begin.

                        2) Is it legal ?

                        Probably not. It is only legal in New Zealand, and some European countries turn a blind eye to it, but elsewhere it is illegal, with punishment ranging from fines to imprisonment or floggings. This action against it is usually the result of either religous beliefs (right or wrong), but more generally due to the great revenue base it provides Governements through excise taxes. So if you are going to distil, just be aware of the potential legal ramifications.

                        3) Will it make me blind ?

                        Not if you're careful. This pervasive question is due to moonshine lore, which abounds with myths of blindness, but few actual documented cases. The concern is due to the presence of methanol (wood alcohol), an optic nerve poison, which can be present in small amounts when fermenting grains or fruits high in pectin. This methanol comes off first from the still, so it is easily segregated and discarded, and easily observed via changes in the vapour temperature. A simple rule of thumb for this is to throw away the first 50 mL you collect (per 20 L mash used). Probably the greatest risk to your health during distilling is the risk of fire - collecting a flammable liquid near a heat source. So keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

                        The cases where you do hear about people poisoned by "illict spirits" have been the terrible situations where adulterants such as methanol, antifreeze, battery acid etc have been added to the spirits afterwards by unscrupulous sellers (for what misguided reasons ??). If you have had a healthy fermentation take place, it is infact very difficult to make methanol. The other problems have been lead poisoning when people have used lead-based products (ie lead solder) when constructing their still, instead of something more appropriate for food-grade vessels. The rules should infact be "dont buy spirits from an unknown supplier" - but its very safe to distill for yourself.

                        4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and fractionating column ?

                        A pot still simply collects and condenses the alcohol vapours that come off the boiling mash. This will result in an alcohol at about 40-60% purity, with plenty of flavour in it. If this distillate were put through the pot still again, it would increase in purity to around 70-85% purity, and lose a bit of its flavour.

                        A reflux still does these multiple distillations in one single go, by having some packing in a column between the condensor & the pot, and allowing some of the vapour to condense and trickle back down through the packing. This "reflux" of liquid helps clean the rising vapour and increase the % purity. The taller the packed column, and the more reflux liquid, the purer the product will be. The advantage of doing this is that it will result in a clean vodka, with little flavour to it - ideal for mixing with flavours etc.

                        A fractionating column is a pure form of the reflux still. It will condense all the vapour at the top of the packing, and return about 9/10 back down the column. The column will be quite tall - say 600-1200mm (2-4 foot), and packed with a material high in surface area, but which takes up little space (pot scrubbers are good for this). It will result in an alcohol 95%+ pure (the theoretical limit without using a vacuum is 96.48 %(by volume)), with no other tastes or impurities in it.

                        5) How do I get or make a still ?

                        If you're after a pot still, these are generally home made using what-ever you have at hand - say copper tubing and old water heaters or pressure cookers. You don't really need any plans for these - just follow any of the photos about.

                        Reflux stills can be made from plans on the net, or bought from several manufacturers. For reflux still plans see
                        The photos section at http://homedistiller.org/photos-ns.htm for "Offset head" designs, and http://homedistiller.org/photos-reflux.htm for general reflux stills.
                        Alex's designs at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Distillers/files/OFTS/
                        StillCookers http://us.geocities.com/stillcooker/
                        Stillmakers "Build a World Class Distillation Apparatus" at http://www.Moonshine-Still.com (Free!) or
                        Gert Strands : http://partyman.se/Engelsk/default.htm (US$5).
                        Ian Smileys "Making Pure Corn Whisky" at http://www.home-distilling.com , with full design details.
                        For an excellent book on all aspects of still design, see "The Compleat Distiller" at http://www.amphora-society.com
                        See the list of "web resources" below for links to sites selling ready-made stills.

                        For fuel alcohol stills see the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual at http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_motherearth/meToC.html, and the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel by S.W. Mathewson at http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_manual/manual_ToC.html
                        Regarding the choice of heating for the still - if you have 240V available it is usually easiest to control & safer (particularly with internal elements). Gas can be used, but more care is needed to keep the collection container further away and not letting it overfill.

                        For more details on design, see http://homedistiller.org/designs.htm and http://homedistiller.org/refluxdesign.htm.

                        6) How do I make a whisky / vodka / rum / gin ?

                        Whiskey : Heat 4 kg cracked or crushed malt with 18 L of water to 63-65 °C, and hold there for 1-1.5 hours. Heat to 73-75 °C, then strain off and keep liquid, using 250 mL of hot water to rinse the grains. Cool to below 30 °C (should have an initial specific gravity of 1.050). Add hydrated yeast & leave to ferment (maintain at 26 °C) until airlock stops bubbling and final SG of around 1.010. Let settle for a day, then syphon carefully into a pot still. Discard the first 50 mL's, collect the next 2-3L of distillate or until you start noticing the tails coming through. Many people also have sucess starting with a beer-kit instead of using grains.

                        Vodka : dissolve 5 kg of sugar & 60 g of nutrients in 20 L of water, cool to below 30C and add hydrated yeast. Leave to ferment at 25 °C until below an SG of around 0.990, then settle for a day. Syphon into a reflux or fractionating still, and collect as per usual.

                        Rum : as per vodka, but use some brown sugar or mollasses, to give an initial specific gravity (SG) of around 1.060 - 1.070. Run through either a pot still, or a de-refluxed reflux still.

                        Gin : make a very pure vodka, then add the following essence. Simmer 35 g of juniper berries in 350 mL of 50% vodka for ten minutes with the lid on, let cool overnight, then filter through coffee filters. Use 5-10 mL of this essence per bottle of vodka.

                        When doing any fermenting, take a lot of care to ensure that any items used are clean/sterile (soaking them in a water + bleach (10 mL per litre) ), or else the wash can start growing other things. Use a closed fermenter with an airlock too, to let the CO2 out without letting wild yeasts, bugs etc in. For more information about fermenting, see beer or wine homebrewing sites.

                        7) Should I use sugar or grains/fruit ?

                        It depends on what sort of still you have, and what you are trying to make. If you have a reflux or fractionating still, only use whatever is cheapest (usually sugar), as the refluxing will strip out all the flavours anyhow. If you have a pot still, and are after a bourban or whiskey, then you need to go the grain route, or mollasses if after a rum. If you are trying to make a neutral spirit for flavouring, go for sugar.

                        Basic guidelines for using them are ..

                        SUGAR. Wine yeast can use no more than 2.5lbs of sugar/1imp gal or 2.2lb/1U.S.gal or 1.25kg/5litres of must. This will produce 14%a.b.v. Honey and liquid malt extract are 80% sugar so you need 1.5kg/5l must or mash. Molasses is 50% sugar so you need 2.5kg/5l must or mash. Maple syrup is 32% sugar. Carob beans are 45% sugar. Sugar beets are 15% sugar Grain malt is 60% sugar (starch converted to sugars) so you need 1.5kg/5l mash. Cooked grain contains 60% convertible starch so you need 1.5kg/5l mash

                        FRUIT - Grapes contain the ideal sugar, water, acid balance. A sugar content of 17-23% and a water content of about 80%. 8kg of grapes produces 5l of wine.
                        Most common fruits (apples, plums, apricots) contain about 10% sugar and 85% water. Cherries and figs contain 15% sugar. A fruit mash could be 4kg fruit, (400g sugar content), 2l water (3l in pulp already), 800g additional sugar.
                        Bananas are 17-24% sugar, 75% water. Acid content 0.3%. A banana mash could be 4kg of cooked bananas, 2l water (3l in pulp already),400g sugar. Add 3lemons/5l for correct pH.
                        Dates are 70% sugar, 20% water. Add acid to a date mash.
                        Raisins and sultanas have a water content of about 15% and a sugar content of 60%, grapes have a water content of 75% and a sugar content of about 20%, so using 1.5-2kg/5l of water appears about right if we want to reconstitute them.

                        ACID - 5g of citric acid (1tsp)/5l must raises acidity by 0.1%. 3g of calcium carbonate powder lowers acidity by 0.1%. A pH of 5 is 0.4% acidity. Winemakers aim for 0.6% acidity. Most common fruits are about 0.6% acid content. For distilling, a higher acidity in the mash helps to suppress bacteria. A high tannin content doesn't matter as we are not making wine. Meaurements are logarithmic, so a pH of 4 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 5.

                        YEAST - Brewers (& possibly baker's yeast) can tolerate only 8% alcohol. A bottom fermenting lager yeast ferments out all the sugars better than a top fermenting ale yeast. A good wine yeast (Champagne, in the right conditions, can tolerate 15%a.b.v. (up to 18%a.b.v. in optimal conditions - no need to use expensive turbos). Wild yeasts vary, but some are very low - this is a risky path. Whisky distillers often use a combination of yeasts - initially a brewer's yeast because they believe it effects the flavor.

                        8) Can I use fruit wine ?

                        Sure, if you have it available. Again, using a pot still will result in a brandy/grappa/schnapps, whereas a reflux still will just strip it down to neutral spirit unless you reduce the amount of reflux occuring.

                        9) How do I make a Turbo-all-sugar wash ?

                        The first trick is to locate the "Turbo" yeasts - either try the New Zealand sites, or www.brewhaus.com. Then, dissolve 5-6 kg of sugar with 2-3 L of boiling water, top up to 25 L with cold water, wait until its cooled below 24 °C, and then stir the yeast in, and close the lid with an airlock. Keep at 24 °C until the SG has dropped below 1.010 Its then possible to add extra sugar (1 kg at a time, dissolved in a little water) each time the SG has dropped below 1.010. You should be able to add an extra 3-4 kg this way over a week. It should finish around 0.980 - 0.990

                        10) How do I run a Pot Still ?

                        See http://homedistiller.org/dtw.htm#use_pot for details. A pot still is fairly straight forward to use. Turn it on. Once the temperature is up to about 60 °C turn on the cooling water to the condensor. Make sure you throw away the first 1 00 mL per 20L wash, as this will contain any methanol that might be present. Segregate the distillate into 500 mL lots as it comes off. Only keep (for drinking) that which doesn't contain fusels (smell off) - probably below about 92 ° C, however you should keep distilling past here, untill about 96 ° C, as this fraction, although high in tails and not good for drinking this time, can be added back to the next wash and cleaned up OK then.

                        11) How do I run a Reflux / Fractionating Still ?

                        See http://homedistiller.org/dtw.htm#use_reflux for details +/or variations. It is best to first equilibriate the column under total reflux for 10 minutes or so. This will concentrate up the foreshots so that they can be removed first. Collect them one drip at a time, for approx 50 mL per 25L wash, and throw away. You can then collect the remaining run at a quicker rate. Adjust the reflux ratio (the ratio of how much of the total vapour is returned as reflux) by varying either the rate of collection or rate of cooling water (depending on still design) to maintain the purity you want. You can judge the purity by measuring the vapour temperature. Target around 78.2 - 78.4 °C . Towards the end of the run it will be hard to get a high enough reflux ratio to maintain the high purity / low temperature. When the temperature has nudged up to around 80 °C quit collecting for drinking, and collect the remainder as tails (for redistillation in the next run) up to around 96 °C .

                        12) Can I use a Reflux Still to make Rum or Whisky ?

                        Yes you can. To do so, you need to carefully monitor the various transitions between the foreshots, heads, middle run, and tails, and time the collection of the middle run precisely. The reflux still allows you to more precisely judge the changes between the various stages, and hence target them accurately. A typical rum or whisky would be obtained by discarding the foreshots, then collecting the heads, middle run, and then begin the tails, until the purity has dropped to around 58-60% (82 °C). By altering when to start collecting, and how late to time the final "cut", various flavour profiles will result. You'd collect it faster and at a slightly lower reflux ratio than for a neutral spirit, as you want the flavour present.

                        13) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?

                        You need a hydrometer. This is a wee float, with a scale inside it. The more alcohol that is present, the lighter the density of the liquid, so the hydrometer sinks a bit lower. You then just read off the scale how much alcohol is present. You need a seperate hydrometer for measuring the density of the mash, as this is generally > 1.0, whereas the spirit is < 1.0, and they can't accurately do both ends of the scale.

                        14) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?

                        That "rough moonshine edge" or "off-taste / wet cardboard smell" is due to impurities such as the higher order alcohols, known as cogeners or fusel oils. These will be present more when using a pot still, less if using a reflux still, and just about absent if using a fractionating column. So one way is to use a taller packed column and increase the amount of reflux occuring. They can also indicate that you've tried to collect too much of the alcohol, and have run into the "tails"; so finish collecting a little bit earlier next time. Soaking tainted alcohol with activated carbon for a week (or even months) will help remove some of this flavour - this is known as "polishing" the spirit. I'm also suspecting that you need a little bit of copper somewhere in the still where it can come in contact with the vapour. The copper helps catalyse some of the sulphur, esters & organic acids, reducing their odour & taste.

                        15) Why do my spirits turn cloudy when diluted ?

                        With neutral spirits, either you have pushed 'tails' into your product (eg collected too much product from the still - quit earlier next time), or you are using poor tap-water (high in calcium carbonate). If it happens when diluting your gin, sambuca or the like, its because there is too little alcohol/too much oil present and the oils are no longer dissolved. Either drink it cloudy or increase the % alcohol present.

                        16) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?

                        There are now many commercial flavourings available, which turn vodka or neutral alcohol into pretty decent gin or whiskey, or all manor of liqueurs. See the commercial sites, like Des Zines http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~topkiwi or Ray Toms http://moonshine.co.nz/ for details. Or you can soak it with oak chips and make whiskey, or soak fruits in it to make your own liqueurs. There are many websites describing how to make liqueurs - see http://homedistiller.org/liqueurs.htm or http://www.guntheranderson.com for a starting point.

                        17) What web resources are there ?

                        For more details, see :
                        Tony Ackland's http://homedistiller.org
                        Aaron Smiths's http://www.go.to/distillation
                        Steve Spence's http://webconx.green-trust.org/ethanol.htm
                        StillMaker's http://www.Moonshine-Still.com
                        Biofuels Library http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library.html

                        18) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?

                        Both the NEW DISTILLERS and the DISTILLERS news groups are available via YahooGroups, at http://www.yahoogroups.com . NEW DISTILLERS is, as the name suggests, intended for those of you new to distilling and after simple, straight-forward answers to questions, whereas the DISTILLERS group discussions are a bit more advanced, throwing in bits of design philosophy, theory, and alternative ways of achieving the results. Both tend to overlap to some extent.

                        19) Can I run my car on it ?

                        You can run your car on alcohol over about 80% purity. Because any water present will seperate out in the presence of the gasoline (and become a problem), you either need to exclusively use the alcohol, or dry it right out (eg 99%+ purity) if using it to mix with gasoline. See Steve Spences site for more details, the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual, or the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel. In addition, in the USA, you can get a "small fuel producer" permit, which allows small scale distilling for "motor fuel" purposes. A nice advantage is that they don't require denaturing for "fuel" used on the premises. The regulations are posted at http://webconx.green-trust.org/ethanol.htm

                        20) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....

                        To convert between SI & Imperial units, multiply the first unit by the conversion factor to get the second. Divide back to do it in reverse .eg 1L = 0.264 US gal, so 20 L = 20 x 0.264 = 5.28 US gal, and 20 US gal / 0.264 = 75.76 L

                        1 L = 0.264 US gal = 0.221 UK gal
                        1 L = 1.057 US qt = 0.880 UK qt
                        1 kg = 2.204 lbm = 32.15 oz (troy) = 35.27 oz (av)
                        deg F = ((9/5) x deg C )+ 32
                        1m = 1000 mm = 39.37 inch = 3.28 ft = 1.09 yd

                        21) What is a "Thumper" ?

                        A "thumper" is an extra chamber sometimes fitted to a pot still. It can be as simple as a glass jar with two holes in the lid. The off-take from the still is fed into it, with the pipe running almost all the way to the bottom of the jar; the jar is half filled with liquid (water or mash or tails) so that the vapour from the still will bubble up through it; then the vapour coming off it is collected & cooled as per normal. It acts as a second distilling chamber using just the heat from the vapour, and lifts the purity from 50-60% to 70-80%, hence improving what might otherwise be a very mediocre design. Don't make the thumper too small, and start it off with liquid already high in alcohol.

                        22) Can Methylated Spirits be made safe to Drink ?

                        No. Methylated spirits (aka meths) is a mixture of ethanol and (poisonous) methanol, with a denturant added to make it foul tasting. There is no effective way of seperating them, be it by distilling, using carbon, or filtering through bread (old wives tale). Do not add meths to anything you ever intend to distill or drink, and don't try using it in any form - it will still be poisonous. Keep it for cleaning and starting the BBQ with. Likewise, you cant "clean up" antifreeze in your still.

                        --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        http://homedistiller.org This page last modified 08/28/2003 20:19:50
                      • Ackland, Tony (CALBRIS)
                        NEW DISTILLERS Frequently Asked Questions (Feb 03) Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at www.yahoogroups.com Please email any
                        Message 11 of 18 , Sep 27, 2004
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                          "NEW DISTILLERS" Frequently Asked Questions (Feb'03)

                          Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at www.yahoogroups.com

                          Please email any additions, corrections, clarifications required, etc regarding the FAQ to Tony Ackland (Tony.Ackland@...), however please direct any general questions to the newsgroup itself.

                          *******************************************************************

                          1) Is distilling hard to do ?
                          2) Is it legal ?
                          3) Will it make me blind ?
                          4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and fractionating column ?
                          5) How do I get or make a still ?
                          6) How do I make a whisky / rum / vodka / gin ?
                          7) Should I use sugar or grains ?
                          8) Can I use fruit wine ?
                          9) How do I make a Turbo-all-sugar wash ?
                          10) How do I run a Pot still ?
                          11) How do I run a Reflux still ?
                          12) Can I use a reflux still to make rum or whisky ?
                          13) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?
                          14) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?
                          15) Why do my spirits turn cloudy when diluted ?
                          16) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?
                          17) What web resources are there ?
                          18) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?
                          19) Can I run my car on it ?
                          20) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....
                          21) What is a "Thumper" ?
                          22) Can methylated spirits be made safe to drink ?

                          **********************************************************************

                          1) Is distilling hard to do ?

                          Nope - if you can follow instructions enough to bake scones, then you can sucessfully distil. To distil well however, will require you to understand what you're doing, so read around and get a bit of information under your belt before you begin.

                          2) Is it legal ?

                          Probably not. It is only legal in New Zealand, and some European countries turn a blind eye to it, but elsewhere it is illegal, with punishment ranging from fines to imprisonment or floggings. This action against it is usually the result of either religous beliefs (right or wrong), but more generally due to the great revenue base it provides Governements through excise taxes. So if you are going to distil, just be aware of the potential legal ramifications.

                          3) Will it make me blind ?

                          Not if you're careful. This pervasive question is due to moonshine lore, which abounds with myths of blindness, but few actual documented cases. The concern is due to the presence of methanol (wood alcohol), an optic nerve poison, which can be present in small amounts when fermenting grains or fruits high in pectin. This methanol comes off first from the still, so it is easily segregated and discarded, and easily observed via changes in the vapour temperature. A simple rule of thumb for this is to throw away the first 50 mL you collect (per 20 L mash used). Probably the greatest risk to your health during distilling is the risk of fire - collecting a flammable liquid near a heat source. So keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

                          The cases where you do hear about people poisoned by "illict spirits" have been the terrible situations where adulterants such as methanol, antifreeze, battery acid etc have been added to the spirits afterwards by unscrupulous sellers (for what misguided reasons ??). If you have had a healthy fermentation take place, it is infact very difficult to make methanol. The other problems have been lead poisoning when people have used lead-based products (ie lead solder) when constructing their still, instead of something more appropriate for food-grade vessels. The rules should infact be "dont buy spirits from an unknown supplier" - but its very safe to distill for yourself.

                          4) Whats the difference between a pot still, reflux still, and fractionating column ?

                          A pot still simply collects and condenses the alcohol vapours that come off the boiling mash. This will result in an alcohol at about 40-60% purity, with plenty of flavour in it. If this distillate were put through the pot still again, it would increase in purity to around 70-85% purity, and lose a bit of its flavour.

                          A reflux still does these multiple distillations in one single go, by having some packing in a column between the condensor & the pot, and allowing some of the vapour to condense and trickle back down through the packing. This "reflux" of liquid helps clean the rising vapour and increase the % purity. The taller the packed column, and the more reflux liquid, the purer the product will be. The advantage of doing this is that it will result in a clean vodka, with little flavour to it - ideal for mixing with flavours etc.

                          A fractionating column is a pure form of the reflux still. It will condense all the vapour at the top of the packing, and return about 9/10 back down the column. The column will be quite tall - say 600-1200mm (2-4 foot), and packed with a material high in surface area, but which takes up little space (pot scrubbers are good for this). It will result in an alcohol 95%+ pure (the theoretical limit without using a vacuum is 96.48 %(by volume)), with no other tastes or impurities in it.

                          5) How do I get or make a still ?

                          If you're after a pot still, these are generally home made using what-ever you have at hand - say copper tubing and old water heaters or pressure cookers. You don't really need any plans for these - just follow any of the photos about.

                          Reflux stills can be made from plans on the net, or bought from several manufacturers. For reflux still plans see
                          The photos section at http://homedistiller.org/photos-ns.htm for "Offset head" designs, and http://homedistiller.org/photos-reflux.htm for general reflux stills.
                          Alex's designs at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Distillers/files/OFTS/
                          StillCookers http://us.geocities.com/stillcooker/
                          Stillmakers "Build a World Class Distillation Apparatus" at http://www.Moonshine-Still.com (Free!) or
                          Gert Strands : http://partyman.se/Engelsk/default.htm (US$5).
                          Ian Smileys "Making Pure Corn Whisky" at http://www.home-distilling.com , with full design details.
                          For an excellent book on all aspects of still design, see "The Compleat Distiller" at http://www.amphora-society.com
                          See the list of "web resources" below for links to sites selling ready-made stills.
                          For fuel alcohol stills see the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual at http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_motherearth/meToC.html, and the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel by S.W. Mathewson at http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_manual/manual_ToC.html
                          Regarding the choice of heating for the still - if you have 240V available it is usually easiest to control & safer (particularly with internal elements). Gas can be used, but more care is needed to keep the collection container further away and not letting it overfill.

                          For more details on design, see http://homedistiller.org/designs.htm and http://homedistiller.org/refluxdesign.htm.

                          6) How do I make a whisky / vodka / rum / gin ?

                          Whiskey : Heat 4 kg cracked or crushed malt with 18 L of water to 63-65 °C, and hold there for 1-1.5 hours. Heat to 73-75 °C, then strain off and keep liquid, using 250 mL of hot water to rinse the grains. Cool to below 30 °C (should have an initial specific gravity of 1.050). Add hydrated yeast & leave to ferment (maintain at 26 °C) until airlock stops bubbling and final SG of around 1.010. Let settle for a day, then syphon carefully into a pot still. Discard the first 50 mL's, collect the next 2-3L of distillate or until you start noticing the tails coming through. Many people also have sucess starting with a beer-kit instead of using grains.

                          Vodka : dissolve 5 kg of sugar & 60 g of nutrients in 20 L of water, cool to below 30C and add hydrated yeast. Leave to ferment at 25 °C until below an SG of around 0.990, then settle for a day. Syphon into a reflux or fractionating still, and collect as per usual.

                          Rum : as per vodka, but use some brown sugar or mollasses, to give an initial specific gravity (SG) of around 1.060 - 1.070. Run through either a pot still, or a de-refluxed reflux still.

                          Gin : make a very pure vodka, then add the following essence. Simmer 35 g of juniper berries in 350 mL of 50% vodka for ten minutes with the lid on, let cool overnight, then filter through coffee filters. Use 5-10 mL of this essence per bottle of vodka.

                          When doing any fermenting, take a lot of care to ensure that any items used are clean/sterile (soaking them in a water + bleach (10 mL per litre) ), or else the wash can start growing other things. Use a closed fermenter with an airlock too, to let the CO2 out without letting wild yeasts, bugs etc in. For more information about fermenting, see beer or wine homebrewing sites.

                          7) Should I use sugar or grains/fruit ?

                          It depends on what sort of still you have, and what you are trying to make. If you have a reflux or fractionating still, only use whatever is cheapest (usually sugar), as the refluxing will strip out all the flavours anyhow. If you have a pot still, and are after a bourban or whiskey, then you need to go the grain route, or mollasses if after a rum. If you are trying to make a neutral spirit for flavouring, go for sugar.

                          Basic guidelines for using them are ..

                          SUGAR. Wine yeast can use no more than 2.5lbs of sugar/1imp gal or 2.2lb/1U.S.gal or 1.25kg/5litres of must. This will produce 14%a.b.v. Honey and liquid malt extract are 80% sugar so you need 1.5kg/5l must or mash. Molasses is 50% sugar so you need 2.5kg/5l must or mash. Maple syrup is 32% sugar. Carob beans are 45% sugar. Sugar beets are 15% sugar Grain malt is 60% sugar (starch converted to sugars) so you need 1.5kg/5l mash. Cooked grain contains 60% convertible starch so you need 1.5kg/5l mash

                          FRUIT - Grapes contain the ideal sugar, water, acid balance. A sugar content of 17-23% and a water content of about 80%. 8kg of grapes produces 5l of wine.
                          Most common fruits (apples, plums, apricots) contain about 10% sugar and 85% water. Cherries and figs contain 15% sugar. A fruit mash could be 4kg fruit, (400g sugar content), 2l water (3l in pulp already), 800g additional sugar.
                          Bananas are 17-24% sugar, 75% water. Acid content 0.3%. A banana mash could be 4kg of cooked bananas, 2l water (3l in pulp already),400g sugar. Add 3lemons/5l for correct pH.
                          Dates are 70% sugar, 20% water. Add acid to a date mash.
                          Raisins and sultanas have a water content of about 15% and a sugar content of 60%, grapes have a water content of 75% and a sugar content of about 20%, so using 1.5-2kg/5l of water appears about right if we want to reconstitute them.

                          ACID - 5g of citric acid (1tsp)/5l must raises acidity by 0.1%. 3g of calcium carbonate powder lowers acidity by 0.1%. A pH of 5 is 0.4% acidity. Winemakers aim for 0.6% acidity. Most common fruits are about 0.6% acid content. For distilling, a higher acidity in the mash helps to suppress bacteria. A high tannin content doesn't matter as we are not making wine. Meaurements are logarithmic, so a pH of 4 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 5.

                          YEAST - Brewers (& possibly baker's yeast) can tolerate only 8% alcohol. A bottom fermenting lager yeast ferments out all the sugars better than a top fermenting ale yeast. A good wine yeast (Champagne, in the right conditions, can tolerate 15%a.b.v. (up to 18%a.b.v. in optimal conditions - no need to use expensive turbos). Wild yeasts vary, but some are very low - this is a risky path. Whisky distillers often use a combination of yeasts - initially a brewer's yeast because they believe it effects the flavor.

                          8) Can I use fruit wine ?

                          Sure, if you have it available. Again, using a pot still will result in a brandy/grappa/schnapps, whereas a reflux still will just strip it down to neutral spirit.

                          9) How do I make a Turbo-all-sugar wash ?

                          The first trick is to locate the "Turbo" yeasts - either try the New Zealand sites, or www.brewhaus.com. Then, dissolve 5-6 kg of sugar with 2-3 L of boiling water, top up to 25 L with cold water, wait until its cooled below 24 °C, and then stir the yeast in, and close the lid with an airlock. Keep at 24 °C until the SG has dropped below 1.010 Its then possible to add extra sugar (1 kg at a time, dissolved in a little water) each time the SG has dropped below 1.010. You should be able to add an extra 3-4 kg this way over a week. It should finish around 0.980 - 0.990

                          10) How do I run a Pot Still ?

                          See http://homedistiller.org/dtw.htm#use_pot for details. A pot still is fairly straight forward to use. Turn it on. Once the temperature is up to about 60 °C turn on the cooling water to the condensor. Make sure you throw away the first 1 00 mL per 20L wash, as this will contain any methanol that might be present. Segregate the distillate into 500 mL lots as it comes off. Only keep (for drinking) that which doesn't contain fusels (smell off) - probably below about 92 ° C, however you should keep distilling past here, untill about 96 ° C, as this fraction, although high in tails and not good for drinking this time, can be added back to the next wash and cleaned up OK then.

                          11) How do I run a Reflux / Fractionating Still ?

                          See http://homedistiller.org/dtw.htm#use_reflux for details +/or variations. It is best to first equilibriate the column under total reflux for 10 minutes or so. This will concentrate up the foreshots so that they can be removed first. Collect them one drip at a time, for approx 50 mL per 25L wash, and throw away. You can then collect the remaining run at a quicker rate. Adjust the reflux ratio (the ratio of how much of the total vapour is returned as reflux) by varying either the rate of collection or rate of cooling water (depending on still design) to maintain the purity you want. You can judge the purity by measuring the vapour temperature. Target around 78.2 - 78.4 °C . Towards the end of the run it will be hard to get a high enough reflux ratio to maintain the high purity / low temperature. When the temperature has nudged up to around 80 °C quit collecting for drinking, and collect the remainder as tails (for redistillation in the next run) up to around 96 °C .

                          12) Can I use a Reflux Still to make Rum or Whisky ?

                          Yes you can. To do so, you need to carefully monitor the various transitions between the foreshots, heads, middle run, and tails, and time the collection of the middle run precisely. The reflux still allows you to more precisely judge the changes between the various stages, and hence target them accurately. A typical rum or whisky would be obtained by discarding the foreshots, then collecting the heads, middle run, and then begin the tails, until the purity has dropped to around 58-60% (82 °C). By altering when to start collecting, and how late to time the final "cut", various flavour profiles will result. You'd collect it faster and at a slightly lower reflux ratio than for a neutral spirit, as you want the flavour present.

                          13) How do I measure the strength of it & dilute it ?

                          You need a hydrometer. This is a wee float, with a scale inside it. The more alcohol that is present, the lighter the density of the liquid, so the hydrometer sinks a bit lower. You then just read off the scale how much alcohol is present. You need a seperate hydrometer for measuring the density of the mash, as this is generally > 1.0, whereas the spirit is < 1.0, and they can't accurately do both ends of the scale.

                          14) How do I get rid of that "off-taste" ?

                          That "rough moonshine edge" or "off-taste / wet cardboard smell" is due to impurities such as the higher order alcohols, known as cogeners or fusel oils. These will be present more when using a pot still, less if using a reflux still, and just about absent if using a fractionating column. So one way is to use a taller packed column and increase the amount of reflux occuring. They can also indicate that you've tried to collect too much of the alcohol, and have run into the "tails"; so finish collecting a little bit earlier next time. Soaking tainted alcohol with activated carbon for a week (or even months) will help remove some of this flavour - this is known as "polishing" the spirit. I'm also suspecting that you need a little bit of copper somewhere in the still where it can come in contact with the vapour. The copper helps catalyse some of the sulphur, esters & organic acids, reducing their odour & taste.

                          15) Why do my spirits turn cloudy when diluted ?

                          With neutral spirits, either you have pushed 'tails' into your product (eg collected too much product from the still - quit earlier next time), or you are using poor tap-water (high in calcium carbonate). If it happens when diluting your gin, sambuca or the like, its because there is too little alcohol/too much oil present and the oils are no longer dissolved. Either drink it cloudy or increase the % alcohol present.

                          16) How do I flavour/turn the vodka's into something else ?

                          There are now many commercial flavourings available, which turn vodka or neutral alcohol into pretty decent gin or whiskey, or all manor of liqueurs. See the commercial sites, like Des Zines http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~topkiwi or Ray Toms http://moonshine.co.nz/ for details. Or you can soak it with oak chips and make whiskey, or soak fruits in it to make your own liqueurs. There are many websites describing how to make liqueurs - see http://homedistiller.org/liqueurs.htm or http://www.guntheranderson.com for a starting point.

                          17) What web resources are there ?

                          For more details, see :
                          Tony Ackland's http://homedistiller.org
                          Aaron Smiths's http://www.go.to/distillation
                          Steve Spence's http://webconx.green-trust.org/ethanol.htm
                          StillMaker's http://www.Moonshine-Still.com
                          Biofuels Library http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library.html

                          18) How do I contact the NEW DISTILLERS news group ?

                          Both the NEW DISTILLERS and the DISTILLERS news groups are available via YahooGroups, at http://www.yahoogroups.com . NEW DISTILLERS is, as the name suggests, intended for those of you new to distilling and after simple, straight-forward answers to questions, whereas the DISTILLERS group discussions are a bit more advanced, throwing in bits of design philosophy, theory, and alternative ways of achieving the results. Both tend to overlap to some extent.

                          19) Can I run my car on it ?

                          You can run your car on alcohol over about 80% purity. Because any water present will seperate out in the presence of the gasoline (and become a problem), you either need to exclusively use the alcohol, or dry it right out (eg 99%+ purity) if using it to mix with gasoline. See Steve Spences site for more details, the Mother Earth Alcohol Fuel manual, or the The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel. In addition, in the USA, you can get a "small fuel producer" permit, which allows small scale distilling for "motor fuel" purposes. A nice advantage is that they don't require denaturing for "fuel" used on the premises. The regulations are posted at http://webconx.green-trust.org/ethanol.htm

                          20) How do I convert between gallons and litres and ....

                          To convert between SI & Imperial units, multiply the first unit by the conversion factor to get the second. Divide back to do it in reverse .eg 1L = 0.264 US gal, so 20 L = 20 x 0.264 = 5.28 US gal, and 20 US gal / 0.264 = 75.76 L

                          1 L = 0.264 US gal = 0.221 UK gal
                          1 L = 1.057 US qt = 0.880 UK qt
                          1 kg = 2.204 lbm = 32.15 oz (troy) = 35.27 oz (av)
                          deg F = ((9/5) x deg C )+ 32
                          1m = 1000 mm = 39.37 inch = 3.28 ft = 1.09 yd

                          21) What is a "Thumper" ?

                          A "thumper" is an extra chamber sometimes fitted to a pot still. It can be as simple as a glass jar with two holes in the lid. The off-take from the still is fed into it, with the pipe running almost all the way to the bottom of the jar; the jar is half filled with liquid (water or mash or tails) so that the vapour from the still will bubble up through it; then the vapour coming off it is collected & cooled as per normal. It acts as a second distilling chamber using just the heat from the vapour, and lifts the purity from 50-60% to 70-80%, hence improving what might otherwise be a very mediocre design. Don't make the thumper too small, and start it off with liquid already high in alcohol.

                          22) Can Methylated Spirits be made safe to Drink ?

                          No. Methylated spirits (aka meths) is a mixture of ethanol and (poisonous) methanol, with a denturant added to make it foul tasting. There is no effective way of seperating them, be it by distilling, using carbon, or filtering through bread (old wives tale). Do not add meths to anything you ever intend to distill or drink, and don't try using it in any form - it will still be poisonous. Keep it for cleaning and starting the BBQ with. Likewise, you cant "clean up" antifreeze in your still.



                          Tony Ackland
                          http://homedistiller.org

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