- If your technique is good, that first liter will be 95+% ethanol, with a few smelly components, notably ethyl acetate, but essentially no methanol. There are many tricks to concentrating the smelly stuff to waste as little ethanol as necessary, but the main tip is to give the column plenty of time to equilibrate before taking heads off very slowly.
You can save your liter of heads and chuck it in the next batch you distil, trying harder to concentrate the heads next time. It can be useful to think of the heads as being in two parts. The first part to come off is really smelly and can be used for barbecue starter, etc. The second part has more sweetish smell than pure ethanol but isn't pungent. Save that part for recycling in the next batch.
The thermometer is a good indicator, but in the end you want to make the heads cuts by smell. The percentages of congeners necessary to impart an off small can be too low to measurably impact the vapour temperature. Parts per million, even.
--- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "hdrk80122" <hdrk80122@...> wrote:
> I've completed my third run of distilling sugar wine using a reflux column. My question pertains to collecting the first amount of distilate to discard. Between 70 - 78 degrees I find it is very difficult to hold the temperature within that range. But after collecting the first litre of distilate the temp locks in at a steady 80 for about 4 litres until I shut it down. Can I just let the still go to 80 and throw away the first litre with it's methanol or will I be throwing away too much ethanol? Should I try to keep the temp below 78 before I start collecting the good stuff?