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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 the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at www.yahoogroups.com Please email
    Message 1 of 29 , 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 2 of 29 , 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@...
      • fhebert8@bellsouth.net
        ... (solid alcohol), camp fuel,,
        Message 3 of 29 , May 9, 2002
        • 0 Attachment
          >I am trying to find the process for making sterno,
          (solid alcohol), camp fuel,,
        • gringotony
          ... Is this worth the effort - I think you can buy sterno cheaper than you can make it. And I think also that the days are gone when the rummies used to
          Message 4 of 29 , May 9, 2002
          • 0 Attachment
            --- In new_distillers@y..., <fhebert8@b...> wrote:
            >
            > >I am trying to find the process for making sterno,
            > (solid alcohol), camp fuel,,

            Is this worth the effort - I think you can buy sterno cheaper than
            you can make it. And I think also that the days are gone when the
            rummies used to strain it through a sock and drink it!
          • 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 5 of 29 , 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@...
            • Jim Long
              Tony & Elle Ackland wrote: NEW DISTILLERS Frequently Asked Questions (June 02) Posted near the 1st of each month, to the NEW_DISTILLERS newsgroup at
              Message 6 of 29 , Aug 22 8:57 AM
              • 0 Attachment

                 

                 Tony & Elle Ackland wrote:

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

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

                BRAVO !!  I have been a member of this group only about a month and a half, and have read all the new postings and alot of the old postings. I think this Post has to be about the best! As I am completely new to all of this and this post has answered alot of the thoughts that I have had.

                 As a complete beginer in the art of distillation I can honestly say that this post is guite informative for the individual that wants to learn.

                 Thanks for all the information on the art,and for the wealth of knowledge that you all share.

                 Harley

                 



                The information in this E-mail message is legally privileged and confidential information intended only for the use of the
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                  you should not further disseminate, distribute, or forward this E-mail message. If you have received this E-mail in error,
                   please notify the sender. Thank you
                    



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              • MCZAR101@AOL.COM
                I HAVE TO DITTO THAT....THANK GOD FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND THE NET....
                Message 7 of 29 , Aug 22 9:30 AM
                • 0 Attachment
                  <PRE>I HAVE TO DITTO THAT....THANK GOD FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND THE NET....
                • bokakob
                  Thank you for your continuous efforts supporting this group. I find your advice and critisizm being invaluable. Thanks again. AND I AM RIGHT IN THIS!!! Cheers,
                  Message 8 of 29 , Aug 22 11:23 AM
                  • 0 Attachment
                    Thank you for your continuous efforts supporting this group. I find
                    your advice and critisizm being invaluable. Thanks again.

                    AND I AM RIGHT IN THIS!!!

                    Cheers, Alex...



                    --- In new_distillers@y..., Tony & Elle Ackland <Tony.Ackland@c...>
                    wrote:
                    > "NEW DISTILLERS" Frequently Asked Questions (June'02)
                    >
                  • 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 9 of 29 , 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 10 of 29 , 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!

                      • 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 11 of 29 , 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 12 of 29 , 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 13 of 29 , 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 14 of 29 , Sep 27, 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.

                                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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                                New Distillers FAQ ****************************************************************** NEW DISTILLERS Frequently Asked Questions (Feb 03) Posted near the 1st
                                Message 15 of 29 , Apr 27, 2005
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                                  New Distillers FAQ
                                  ******************************************************************
                                  "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.
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