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Does Temperature Really Correspond to Heads, Hearts and Tails?

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  • wannabedistiller
    Details from my first ever distillation: I have a 20 liter copper pot still which my wife picked up for me in Portugal. (Nice wife, I know.) Aside from the 20
    Message 1 of 7 , Nov 22, 2010
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      Details from my first ever distillation:

      I have a 20 liter copper pot still which my wife picked up for me in Portugal. (Nice wife, I know.)

      Aside from the 20 liter pot, the still head is a traditional onion shape which is connected to a small condenser by a slighly curved arm.

      Instead of a hot plate or propane, I opted for wood fired (which, surprisingly, has worked out a lot better than I thought it would).

      The wine I started with: 55 gallons of untreated catawba wine (13%).

      Based on limited reading, I decided on a beer stripping run.

      During the beer stripping run, I separated nothing - combining all the resulting distillate into two 5 gallon gas carboys. The resulting distillate was about 37% abv.

      Emptying the first of 2 carboys into the still, yesterday I began a second distillation. Painstaking as it was, I collected the resulting distillate into 46 individually numbered pint sized mason jars.

      The still itself has a basic thermometer that inserts into the head of the still.

      Throughout most of the beer stripping run (it was actually multiple runs since it took awhile to get through 55 gallons of wine), once the thermometer would hit 79 degrees Celcius, distillation would faithfully begin.

      Getting through the last 10 or so gallons of wine, I noticed that the thermometer was off since distillate would start to run at temperatures before or after the 79 degree mark.

      It's probably important to note that aside from the inaccuracy of my thermometer, there were also relatively large fluctuations in outside temperature (between 16 and 0 degrees Celcius).

      Because I read a lot about the importance of regulating the heat (never allowing the wash to boil), I had a leather glove handy for yanking wood from the fire in order to keep a relatively constant temperature during the run.

      Direct fire is tricky but what was intersting is that the still seemed to prefer a relatively constant temperature somewhere above 79 degrees but not a huge amount past that.

      In fact, whenever I allowed the temperature to climb to 90-95 degrees Celcius during a run, the still "puked" on me a couple of times and/or threated to puke.

      After this experience, instead of pushing the still, I endeavored to find "the sweet spot" and let the still run. (Note: I was very careful to not overfill the pot.)

      Having read in books that temperature corresponds with different parts of a run (i.e., foreshots, heads, hearts, tails), I am wondering if such temperature variations really only can be seen when using reflux/column stills? Or perhaps I need a better thermometer or more exact outdoor temperatures.

      If I didn't say it previously, my thermometer is very basic - and yes, I distill outdoors because my heat source is wood.

      Either way, it's important to say that I noticed different smells/tastes from the resulting distillate when comparing the beginning, middle and end of the run. This despite the fact that the thermometer remained steady throughout all runs (within a couple of degrees).

      Is the lack of temperature fluctuation surprising? Despite this, do I have what amounts to foreshots, heads, hearts and tails?

      It should be noted that based on my collection method during the second run (46 mason jars), there are percetable differences in the distillate in terms of smell and taste as I move through the jars from beginning to end.

      Can anyone more experienced that me explain?

      Thanks in advance for your time and consideration,

      W. B. Distiller
    • Scotto
      iif you have a controlled heat source the temperature will tell you whats going on--i use electric elements and avariac.
      Message 2 of 7 , Nov 23, 2010
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        iif you have a controlled heat source the temperature will tell you whats going on--i use electric elements and avariac.

        --- In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, "wannabedistiller" <wannabedistiller@...> wrote:
        >
        > Details from my first ever distillation:
        >
        > I have a 20 liter copper pot still which my wife picked up for me in Portugal. (Nice wife, I know.)
        >
        > Aside from the 20 liter pot, the still head is a traditional onion shape which is connected to a small condenser by a slighly curved arm.
        >
        > Instead of a hot plate or propane, I opted for wood fired (which, surprisingly, has worked out a lot better than I thought it would).
        >
        > The wine I started with: 55 gallons of untreated catawba wine (13%).
        >
        > Based on limited reading, I decided on a beer stripping run.
        >
        > During the beer stripping run, I separated nothing - combining all the resulting distillate into two 5 gallon gas carboys. The resulting distillate was about 37% abv.
        >
        > Emptying the first of 2 carboys into the still, yesterday I began a second distillation. Painstaking as it was, I collected the resulting distillate into 46 individually numbered pint sized mason jars.
        >
        > The still itself has a basic thermometer that inserts into the head of the still.
        >
        > Throughout most of the beer stripping run (it was actually multiple runs since it took awhile to get through 55 gallons of wine), once the thermometer would hit 79 degrees Celcius, distillation would faithfully begin.
        >
        > Getting through the last 10 or so gallons of wine, I noticed that the thermometer was off since distillate would start to run at temperatures before or after the 79 degree mark.
        >
        > It's probably important to note that aside from the inaccuracy of my thermometer, there were also relatively large fluctuations in outside temperature (between 16 and 0 degrees Celcius).
        >
        > Because I read a lot about the importance of regulating the heat (never allowing the wash to boil), I had a leather glove handy for yanking wood from the fire in order to keep a relatively constant temperature during the run.
        >
        > Direct fire is tricky but what was intersting is that the still seemed to prefer a relatively constant temperature somewhere above 79 degrees but not a huge amount past that.
        >
        > In fact, whenever I allowed the temperature to climb to 90-95 degrees Celcius during a run, the still "puked" on me a couple of times and/or threated to puke.
        >
        > After this experience, instead of pushing the still, I endeavored to find "the sweet spot" and let the still run. (Note: I was very careful to not overfill the pot.)
        >
        > Having read in books that temperature corresponds with different parts of a run (i.e., foreshots, heads, hearts, tails), I am wondering if such temperature variations really only can be seen when using reflux/column stills? Or perhaps I need a better thermometer or more exact outdoor temperatures.
        >
        > If I didn't say it previously, my thermometer is very basic - and yes, I distill outdoors because my heat source is wood.
        >
        > Either way, it's important to say that I noticed different smells/tastes from the resulting distillate when comparing the beginning, middle and end of the run. This despite the fact that the thermometer remained steady throughout all runs (within a couple of degrees).
        >
        > Is the lack of temperature fluctuation surprising? Despite this, do I have what amounts to foreshots, heads, hearts and tails?
        >
        > It should be noted that based on my collection method during the second run (46 mason jars), there are percetable differences in the distillate in terms of smell and taste as I move through the jars from beginning to end.
        >
        > Can anyone more experienced that me explain?
        >
        > Thanks in advance for your time and consideration,
        >
        > W. B. Distiller
        >
      • jamesonbeam1
        Hello W.B., Welcome aboard. See your the adventurous type or maybe a pure traditionalist using fire in this day and age. Im sure if you can master fire, you
        Message 3 of 7 , Nov 23, 2010
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          Hello W.B.,

          Welcome aboard.  See your the adventurous type or maybe a pure traditionalist using fire in this day and age.  Im sure if you can master fire, you can master distilling.

          Yes, temperature in pot distilling has everything to do with heads, middle run (hearts) and the tails and the amount of ethanol and/or other high alcohols comming out.  Your head temperature is more of a function of the amount of alcohol left in the pot in relation to the percentage of water and the associated boiling point of the solution, then it is the amount of heat applied.

          While in a reflux still, there is constant distillation going on as the various alcohols are seperated, in a pot still with little or no internal reflux, the lower boiling point alcohols will start comming out before the higher boiling point ones will.  The trick here is to learn by the temps in your pot still and when you are hitting the heads, hearts and tails.

          Again, let me refer to the Alcohol Vapor vs Temperature chart that Harry and Pint put together at http://www.artisan-distiller.net/photoalbum/photos/pint_o_shine/Potstill_Dilute.GIF  As may be seen, as the temperature of your distillation goes up, the percentage of alcohol in the vapors goes down.  This is directly proportional to the head, hearts and tail cuts you are making, and my be seen by the various different tastes your getting in your cuts.

          Sounds like your right on track here and by mixing and matching the various cuts, you should come up with something quite nice.

          Again Welcome Aboard and Be Safe.

          JB.


          --- In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, "wannabedistiller" <wannabedistiller@...> wrote:
          >
          > Details from my first ever distillation:
          >
          > I have a 20 liter copper pot still which my wife picked up for me in Portugal. (Nice wife, I know.)
          >
          > Aside from the 20 liter pot, the still head is a traditional onion shape which is connected to a small condenser by a slighly curved arm.
          >
          > Instead of a hot plate or propane, I opted for wood fired (which, surprisingly, has worked out a lot better than I thought it would).
          >
          > The wine I started with: 55 gallons of untreated catawba wine (13%).
          >
          > Based on limited reading, I decided on a beer stripping run.
          >
          > During the beer stripping run, I separated nothing - combining all the resulting distillate into two 5 gallon gas carboys. The resulting distillate was about 37% abv.
          >
          > Emptying the first of 2 carboys into the still, yesterday I began a second distillation. Painstaking as it was, I collected the resulting distillate into 46 individually numbered pint sized mason jars.
          >
          > The still itself has a basic thermometer that inserts into the head of the still.
          >
          > Throughout most of the beer stripping run (it was actually multiple runs since it took awhile to get through 55 gallons of wine), once the thermometer would hit 79 degrees Celcius, distillation would faithfully begin.
          >
          > Getting through the last 10 or so gallons of wine, I noticed that the thermometer was off since distillate would start to run at temperatures before or after the 79 degree mark.
          >
          > It's probably important to note that aside from the inaccuracy of my thermometer, there were also relatively large fluctuations in outside temperature (between 16 and 0 degrees Celcius).
          >
          > Because I read a lot about the importance of regulating the heat (never allowing the wash to boil), I had a leather glove handy for yanking wood from the fire in order to keep a relatively constant temperature during the run.
          >
          > Direct fire is tricky but what was intersting is that the still seemed to prefer a relatively constant temperature somewhere above 79 degrees but not a huge amount past that.
          >
          > In fact, whenever I allowed the temperature to climb to 90-95 degrees Celcius during a run, the still "puked" on me a couple of times and/or threated to puke.
          >
          > After this experience, instead of pushing the still, I endeavored to find "the sweet spot" and let the still run. (Note: I was very careful to not overfill the pot.)
          >
          > Having read in books that temperature corresponds with different parts of a run (i.e., foreshots, heads, hearts, tails), I am wondering if such temperature variations really only can be seen when using reflux/column stills? Or perhaps I need a better thermometer or more exact outdoor temperatures.
          >
          > If I didn't say it previously, my thermometer is very basic - and yes, I distill outdoors because my heat source is wood.
          >
          > Either way, it's important to say that I noticed different smells/tastes from the resulting distillate when comparing the beginning, middle and end of the run. This despite the fact that the thermometer remained steady throughout all runs (within a couple of degrees).
          >
          > Is the lack of temperature fluctuation surprising? Despite this, do I have what amounts to foreshots, heads, hearts and tails?
          >
          > It should be noted that based on my collection method during the second run (46 mason jars), there are percetable differences in the distillate in terms of smell and taste as I move through the jars from beginning to end.
          >
          > Can anyone more experienced that me explain?
          >
          > Thanks in advance for your time and consideration,
          >
          > W. B. Distiller
          >

        • Harry
          ... First distillation eh? Better get you figures worked out right first. 55 gal @ 13% = 7.15 gal alcohol. 2 x 5 gal carboys strip @ 37% = 3.7 gal alcohol
          Message 4 of 7 , Nov 23, 2010
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            --- In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, "wannabedistiller" <wannabedistiller@...> wrote:
            >
            > Details from my first ever distillation:
            >
            > I have a 20 liter copper pot still which my wife picked up for me in Portugal. (Nice wife, I know.)
            >
            > Aside from the 20 liter pot, the still head is a traditional onion shape which is connected to a small condenser by a slighly curved arm.
            >
            > Instead of a hot plate or propane, I opted for wood fired (which, surprisingly, has worked out a lot better than I thought it would).
            >
            > The wine I started with: 55 gallons of untreated catawba wine (13%).
            >
            > Based on limited reading, I decided on a beer stripping run.
            >
            > During the beer stripping run, I separated nothing - combining all the resulting distillate into two 5 gallon gas carboys. The resulting distillate was about 37% abv.
            >
            > Emptying the first of 2 carboys into the still, yesterday I began a second distillation. Painstaking as it was, I collected the resulting distillate into 46 individually numbered pint sized mason jars.
            >
            > The still itself has a basic thermometer that inserts into the head of the still.
            >
            > Throughout most of the beer stripping run (it was actually multiple runs since it took awhile to get through 55 gallons of wine), once the thermometer would hit 79 degrees Celcius, distillation would faithfully begin.
            >
            > Getting through the last 10 or so gallons of wine, I noticed that the thermometer was off since distillate would start to run at temperatures before or after the 79 degree mark.
            >
            > It's probably important to note that aside from the inaccuracy of my thermometer, there were also relatively large fluctuations in outside temperature (between 16 and 0 degrees Celcius).
            >
            > Because I read a lot about the importance of regulating the heat (never allowing the wash to boil), I had a leather glove handy for yanking wood from the fire in order to keep a relatively constant temperature during the run.
            >
            > Direct fire is tricky but what was intersting is that the still seemed to prefer a relatively constant temperature somewhere above 79 degrees but not a huge amount past that.
            >
            > In fact, whenever I allowed the temperature to climb to 90-95 degrees Celcius during a run, the still "puked" on me a couple of times and/or threated to puke.
            >
            > After this experience, instead of pushing the still, I endeavored to find "the sweet spot" and let the still run. (Note: I was very careful to not overfill the pot.)
            >
            > Having read in books that temperature corresponds with different parts of a run (i.e., foreshots, heads, hearts, tails), I am wondering if such temperature variations really only can be seen when using reflux/column stills? Or perhaps I need a better thermometer or more exact outdoor temperatures.
            >
            > If I didn't say it previously, my thermometer is very basic - and yes, I distill outdoors because my heat source is wood.
            >
            > Either way, it's important to say that I noticed different smells/tastes from the resulting distillate when comparing the beginning, middle and end of the run. This despite the fact that the thermometer remained steady throughout all runs (within a couple of degrees).
            >
            > Is the lack of temperature fluctuation surprising? Despite this, do I have what amounts to foreshots, heads, hearts and tails?
            >
            > It should be noted that based on my collection method during the second run (46 mason jars), there are percetable differences in the distillate in terms of smell and taste as I move through the jars from beginning to end.
            >
            > Can anyone more experienced that me explain?
            >
            > Thanks in advance for your time and consideration,
            >
            > W. B. Distiller
            >


            First distillation eh?
            Better get you figures worked out right first.

            55 gal @ 13% = 7.15 gal alcohol.

            2 x 5 gal carboys strip @ 37% = 3.7 gal alcohol (very poor yield).

            Either you lost 3+ gallons somewhere, or you're wrong about the strip percentage strength.

            46 pints = 5.75 gal (this sounds more realistic for a first go and would tie in with your original charge amount).

            2 questions...

            What's the abv of the stuff in the jars?

            Why are you doing commercial quantities as a hobbyist?

            If you wanna be commercial, you need a bigger still than the 20 litre alembic, and you need to get your figures right or you'll go broke real quick.

            If you wanna be a hobbyist, you need a considerably smaller batch than 55 gallons.




            Slainte!
            regards Harry
          • Sid Rains
            Hi Wanna Be, I agree with Harry, something doesn t quite add up with your yield. By my calculations you should have ended up with either 10 us gal @ 45-50%
            Message 5 of 7 , Nov 24, 2010
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              Hi Wanna Be,
              I agree with Harry, something doesn't quite add up with your yield.
              By my calculations you should have ended up with either 10 us gal @
              45-50% (about 70% yield) or about 17-18 us gal @ 37% (>90% yield). Are
              you able to double check the strength of the final product? And what
              abv did you strip down too i.e. what strength was the product coming
              out of the still when you decided to pull the pin?

              As for using the head temp to make your cuts. There are two distinct
              camps in my house alone. I only use distillate abv (didn't even put a
              thermometer in my last still) and get very consistent (notice I didn't
              imply fantastic here) results cutting on that (with a bit of "sniff
              and taste"). My father on the other hand swears by using temp alone
              and considers my method to be some kind of voodoo (he still drinks my
              product though ;-).
              The key to using either method to judge cuts is to know where the
              various cut points are. This takes time to master, changes between
              wash/wort recipe and for me is backed up be a taste test. This is
              where art and skill meet practice, and why the skills of the masters
              like Harry et. el. make the rest of us so envious (and give us
              something to aim for).

              200 litres is a big effort through a 20 litre still, especially out
              doors at near freezing! You really need to get as much of your ethanol
              in a bottle as you can to compensate yourself for all that effort (10
              gal at 37% should take the edge off the cold). I try to always keep a
              very good eye on what goes into and out of my still as it can is too
              easy to leave good hooch in the pot.

              Cheers,
              Sid.

              P.S Feel free to ignore anything I say...my wife does.
            • John Doe
              Big thanks to Scott, JB, Harry and Sid for your comments and questions. Following are some answers, clarifications and reflections: To Harry: My 1st Run (Beer
              Message 6 of 7 , Nov 25, 2010
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                Big thanks to Scott, JB, Harry and Sid for your comments and questions.

                Following are some answers, clarifications and reflections:

                To Harry:

                My 1st Run (Beer Stripping) Figures (corrected):

                55 gallons were distilled down to 1 full carboy (5 gallons) plus 1 more carboy which was between ½ and ¾ full (2.5+ gallons). All the distillate from the first run measured out at an average of 37% abv.

                Emptying the less full carboy into the still, I just started the second run earlier this week and I ended up with 46 ½ pint jars (NOT pint jars like I mentioned previously).

                I still have a fair bit of first run distillate to run again – i.e., about 5 gallons.

                Also, I have not yet measured the abv of the 46 jars. (I will answer your first question when I do.)

                To your second question:

                The reason I stared with such a large quantity is because my main interest is in making aged spirits and the smallest barrel I could get my hands on holds a 2 gallon volume.

                If I am correct on my original calculations, then the total remaining hearts portion of 55 gallons of wine at 13% abv (beer stripped and then run a second time) should be enough to fill at least one of those small barrels.

                I had read a bit about oak staves and chips but barrel aging is what I am going for. Although somewhat expensive, there's a small commercial distiller in the Hudson Valley of New York who sells their used barrels.

                To Harry/Sid:

                For whatever inconsistencies result in the final alcohol yields of either my beer stripping run (or second run), I have to admit that I got a little bit bored sometimes sitting in front of the pot still waiting for the run to complete. Therefore, I am almost positive that I left some alcohol in the pot during most runs. Based on your comments (if I read them correctly), this is a bit of a crime which will not be repeated by me.

                Long time down the road but After I get some more experience under my belt, I would love to work with an alembic charentais complete with wine warmer and discharge valve so that I don't have to breakdown and restart so much.

                To Scotto, JB and Sid:

                Your comments all point me to one conclusion – I guess, I had no idea that what really needs to get measured is the temperature of the wash (i.e., the temperature of the still head has little to do with the measurements I read about).

                I wonder what the point of the thermometer in the still head has then?

                To All:

                I hope it goes without saying but, thanks for your help. Inexperienced and in front of that still for long hours, the content of your replies have helped enormously.

                And if you are in the United States, Happy Thanksgiving!

                W.B.
              • Pete H
                There are many places on the web where the temperature of volatiles is discussed. Here is one site: http://www.alembics.co.nz/temperature-reading/ It also
                Message 7 of 7 , Dec 2, 2010
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                  There are many places on the web where the temperature of volatiles is discussed. Here is one site:

                  http://www.alembics.co.nz/temperature-reading/

                  It also answers your question regarding the location of the thermometer. I think that knowing the "boiler"chamber temp is far less significant, if significant at all, than the temp in the vapour chamber.

                  ----------------------------------

                  --- In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, "wannabedistiller" <wannabedistiller@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Details from my first ever distillation:
                  >
                  > I have a 20 liter copper pot still which my wife picked up for me in Portugal. (Nice wife, I know.)
                  >
                  > Aside from the 20 liter pot, the still head is a traditional onion shape which is connected to a small condenser by a slighly curved arm.
                  >
                  > Instead of a hot plate or propane, I opted for wood fired (which, surprisingly, has worked out a lot better than I thought it would).
                  >
                  > The wine I started with: 55 gallons of untreated catawba wine (13%).
                  >
                  > Based on limited reading, I decided on a beer stripping run.
                  >
                  > During the beer stripping run, I separated nothing - combining all the resulting distillate into two 5 gallon gas carboys. The resulting distillate was about 37% abv.
                  >
                  > Emptying the first of 2 carboys into the still, yesterday I began a second distillation. Painstaking as it was, I collected the resulting distillate into 46 individually numbered pint sized mason jars.
                  >
                  > The still itself has a basic thermometer that inserts into the head of the still.
                  >
                  > Throughout most of the beer stripping run (it was actually multiple runs since it took awhile to get through 55 gallons of wine), once the thermometer would hit 79 degrees Celcius, distillation would faithfully begin.
                  >
                  > Getting through the last 10 or so gallons of wine, I noticed that the thermometer was off since distillate would start to run at temperatures before or after the 79 degree mark.
                  >
                  > It's probably important to note that aside from the inaccuracy of my thermometer, there were also relatively large fluctuations in outside temperature (between 16 and 0 degrees Celcius).
                  >
                  > Because I read a lot about the importance of regulating the heat (never allowing the wash to boil), I had a leather glove handy for yanking wood from the fire in order to keep a relatively constant temperature during the run.
                  >
                  > Direct fire is tricky but what was intersting is that the still seemed to prefer a relatively constant temperature somewhere above 79 degrees but not a huge amount past that.
                  >
                  > In fact, whenever I allowed the temperature to climb to 90-95 degrees Celcius during a run, the still "puked" on me a couple of times and/or threated to puke.
                  >
                  > After this experience, instead of pushing the still, I endeavored to find "the sweet spot" and let the still run. (Note: I was very careful to not overfill the pot.)
                  >
                  > Having read in books that temperature corresponds with different parts of a run (i.e., foreshots, heads, hearts, tails), I am wondering if such temperature variations really only can be seen when using reflux/column stills? Or perhaps I need a better thermometer or more exact outdoor temperatures.
                  >
                  > If I didn't say it previously, my thermometer is very basic - and yes, I distill outdoors because my heat source is wood.
                  >
                  > Either way, it's important to say that I noticed different smells/tastes from the resulting distillate when comparing the beginning, middle and end of the run. This despite the fact that the thermometer remained steady throughout all runs (within a couple of degrees).
                  >
                  > Is the lack of temperature fluctuation surprising? Despite this, do I have what amounts to foreshots, heads, hearts and tails?
                  >
                  > It should be noted that based on my collection method during the second run (46 mason jars), there are percetable differences in the distillate in terms of smell and taste as I move through the jars from beginning to end.
                  >
                  > Can anyone more experienced that me explain?
                  >
                  > Thanks in advance for your time and consideration,
                  >
                  > W. B. Distiller
                  >
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