>Anyway is it possible to run a
>safe operation and get a good moonshine product by other means. As in
>throwing away the first portions and catching the middle? How do I know
>when to stop catching the alcohol being distilled?
Life really is easier with a thermometer. If you are electronically bent,
you might fix a thermocouple to the outside of the head and get a
reasonable reading (don't know, haven't tried it myself).
Anyhow, for distilling without a thermometer (repeat - NOT RECOMMENDED)
Always toss the first 50 mL/s if refluxing, 100+ mL/s if potstilling (per
20L wash) regardless.
To get the second cut, you resort to some fairly emperical measures -
when the taste and/or smell changes, or when you see a little oil on the
surface of the distillate, or feels oily when rubbed between the fingers,
or you get a wee sun glint off the drops.
Another way is by following the %strength as it goes - eg collect your
distillate in 0.5 or 1L bottles and measure the strength of each with a
hydrometer (good investment - about US$8). This is a fairly good practice
anyhow - if you do get tails coming over, you don't end up contaminating
the whole lot. Stop keeping it for drinking when below about 25% (but keep
collecting it, and add back in to the next wash you do). Just remember to
measure at the right temperature (may need to cool the sample)
A very crude method is simply measuring the amount you have collected, and
compare it against the theoretical calculation I've got at
.It would probably pay
to set the internal reflux to 10-15% if you have a real pot still. If the
volume/time stuff look ok, then all going well, so should the %purity -
again - stop when you get to about 25%. This calculation is quite rough
(its only off the top of my head) - but its a starting point for what you
can expect. If you are uncertain of the power input (say you're using gas)
- use the "time to heat up" as a bit of a measure - adjust the power until
this looks about right.
hope this helps,