Originally By Tony Ackland
Using a Water Distiller as a Pot StillIf you want, you can use the commercial water distillers as pot stills, though they're not really the best for it. But it can be done. Make sure that you turn it off before collecting the tails - dont just let it distill all the brew you put in there, or else you'll simply end up collecting it all again. (The Kenmore still is a water purification unit marketed by Sears. It is complete and self-contained, with its own carbon filter. The brief description can be found at http://www.sears.com)
Steve explains his technique :
I'm not sure how accurate this method is, but what I do is discard the first 50 mls of heads.. Then I collect enough total liquid such that I stop when my spirit hydrometer indicates it has reached about 48%. Probably could go down to 45% but I don't want much tails at all so I stop a bit early at around 48%. Basically I collected the first 500 ml, and then the next 50 ml thereafter and found that the tails and taste started to get bad at about 850 ml, so I stop at around 600 ml, which in this case came out to be around 48%. Not exactly precise, and possibly leaving some good stuff behind, and may differ depending on the alcohol percentage of what I'm distilling, but on the whole once you've got it figured out for the first time for a particular mash it is totally painless to use. Since the quantity of fluid I put in there is also very known, it is easy to get it down to a science and just use a timer.. Like 35 minutes to the point where the heads start coming out of the distiller, and then 47 minutes of collecting the spirit, which then yields a known quantity of liquid. After you figure this out the process becomes very easy and reproducable.
There are a few different models of having different sizes so these numbers won't be the same for every Sears/Kenmore water distiller.
Since the quantity of liquid is small, and you're not using an open flame, it's probably a bit safer too than operating some stills.
Still Spirits also has some instructions on how to use it.. Called distilling with the Sears Water Purifier. They just suggest to collect certain quantities of liquid based on using their known alcohol percentages of their yeast/nutrient/sugar combinations.http://www.stillspirits.com/instructions.htm
The product seems fine. It may not be as excellent as the 90+% you get with a more extensive set up, but it works for me. I've produced a drinkable Brandy from wine, I've added essences to sugar washes with good result, and even done my own alchol extractions creating a nice Ouzo/Anisette. It does take many runs to do a 5Gallon batch, but it requires little monitoring once you get the timing down.
A couple of pointers for those interested:
Watch the amount of wash you try to run. My unit is supposed to take 3 quarts, but the most I can really do is closer to 2.5 because of boilovers. The amount of residual sugar in your wash has a great effect. I tried to run a failed beer, and it would boil over (boil up into the condeser) at any thing over 1quart! I ended up dumping 8 gallons of beer into the garden...)
I added a small amount of copper to the vapor path by attaching a copper pipe "elbow" stuffed with copper scrubber to the rubber/vinyl inlet hose on the lid of the unit. I don't know if it helps, but I figure it can't hurt.