Let's consider this still as a normal reflux still and a vapour
management arm is added on the other side.
While the still is stabilizing and the heads are collected, we keep
the gate valve towards the distillate condensor well closed.
Only after the heads are removed, this gate valve is opened and
basically untainted ethanol is collected.
Yes, the heads can taint the reflux condensor, but they also taint
the scrubbers. I think that the most important issue is to consider
that a separate collection valve under the main (reflux) condensor can
remove the bulk of those heads and eventually later on, if one would
wish, ethanol and tails.
Now, I haven't done this in practice, but I can easily imagine that,
doing so, will result in a less tainted product. Must be. The
distillate condensor is only used when desired. This can be be for
very clean alcohol, when one uses a high column or a high reflux rate.
Of course, if the heads cannot not be bled off somewhere else, they
are bound to condense in the distillate condensor and taint it.
Or something like this (almost as you said but with packing also)
Column with packing, lm valve, 20 cm packing, lm valve, condenser
Bleed of head at the top valve to begin with, then open bottom head,
this valve shouldn't be tainted by now, lets say we use reflux ratio 10
If there is any remaining head in the vapour from the boiler, about one
tenth of the amount will be removed through that valve, remaining will
go up through the remaining packing and condense at the top, this valve
can be set to bleed off head slowly (or be closed and opened once in a
while). Maybe make a head that have rather much hold up of liquid to act
like a buffer. The tainted alcohol will run back through the top 20 cm
packing that can strip off head back to the top (some will come back
down to bottom valve but the amount is greatly reduced).
I tested this with the continuous still and the quality is good. It
isn't completely free from head (it can't be as head is fed continually)
but there wasn't much present ( I used 30 cm of packing between the
If distilled directly from mash in a batch still I can imagine that this
will improve quality. I don't know what it is that comes from mash but
personally I think it sprits becomes a little yeasty like in odour, even
if head is bleed off at the beginning. With a long column and a head
removal thing quality is good if the reflux ratio is high.
But I'm going to test something better, a side stripper that removes
head continually (first a normal column and the alcohol from that is fed
to a second column at the middle of the height, head goes to top,
alcohol to bottom). First test was a failure because the stripper didn't
get enough heat. I'm going to test this soon though with a better heat
"stealer" as heat is taken from first column, just waiting for one
copper cup. Basically it's for continuous stills but I think it'll work
well enough even for batch if the boiler contains mash. With a little
luck it might be able to remove that yeasty smell directly at the first
run so quality is fine or at least be able to skip removal of head in
the second run since this is done by itself. If the stripper is good
enough, the bottom of the stripper should contain nothing but alcohol
and never get tainted.