NOTE, These instructions are for a true Fractionating still head. They work for any type of LM (liquid management), and are probably usable for a VM (vapor management). These are NOT the instructions to use for CM (cooling management). If your still head has a cooling line going through the column (at the top, or worse, one at top and one at bottom), and does not have a valve of any type to control the take off of vapor or product, then you have a cooling management type (CM) of still head. There is a how to run post in this reading lounge forum for running that type still. But this post here is NOT that how to.
Ok, since you are running "as" a reflux system, to build a neutral, I would recommend:
0. Be sure your column is insulated. This will help in both stripping, and in running in reflux mode.
1. Fill your boiler, and do a stripping run (when you have your wash done). When you do this, dont try to reflux anything, just leave the take-off valve wide open, and collect from the beginning, until the EtOH is been fully boiled off.
2. Save up these stripped runs (called low wines). These will be much stronger than your original mash, and will contain NO solids.
3. When you have 3 or 4 mash runs stripped, you should have a still charge of low wines. Now, run these low wines in a spirit run, using reflux.
0. Close your output valve totally (you want to start out in 100% reflux mode). Also fire up your pump to make sure your condenser is running. Hopefully, you can control the water flow to your condenser to some point, as it will allow you to produce a cleaner product).
1. Bring mash up to boil. When things get to boiling, the temp will rise up the column. At this time, you want to run 100% reflux.
2. When the top of the still head gets hot (say 170°F), turn down your flame. You still want to keep a boil, but you do not need to have too much heat being input.
3. Slowly turn your condenser water supply down. Turn the condenser flow rate down until water being output it pretty hot, but so that there is NO vapor escaping. This will cause the distillate being returned to the reflux to be pretty warm.
4. Reflux 100% like this (equilibrium) for at least 30 minutes (an hour is not out of the question). What you are doing during this time is to build a proper gradient of different products within the column. The most volatile will all be concentrated in the top of the column.
5. Now, just barely crack open the output valve. Take off (about a drop per second), and collect 150 to 250 ml of foreshots. Monitor the temp in the still head. It should rise a little. NOTE the foreshots should NOT be put into your next spirit run, but can be used for things like ant killer, fuel for a white gas lantern, or you can sterilize equipment with it. But never drink, or "recycle" this part of your product.
6. Switch out your foreshot container, with a container for the heads. Slowly collect the heads. Again, watch the temp of the top of the column, watch the temp of the condenser output (so that it is very warm, but that NO vapors are escaping). Keep the output rate at a drop or so a second. Monitor the smell and taste (water down if testing taste, and spit). Run like this, until the off flavor/smell heads are gone.
7. Close off your output valve, increase the water flow rate of the condenser a little, turn up the input heat just a touch (if using propane), and run under 100% for 15 minutes or so.
8. Open up the output valve, to get 2-3 drops per second, and take off 150ml or so (into the heads container). Monitor your column temp, and make sure the condenser is knocking down everything. Also, smell/taste what just came out, to make sure you are out of the heads.
9. Now switch to the collection of the body. You can do a lot of this using the thermometer (in the column top). The temp will stay pretty constant, if you are running at an appropriate rate. Just what this take off rate is, you will have to find. It is a combination of heat being put into the boiler, amount of cooling happening within the condenser (i.e. how cold your reflux liquid is), and the amount of distillate being dumped back into the column (i.e. the reflux ratio). Usually, about a 4 to 1 reflux ratio works pretty good.
10. Run the still like this, using the take off valve to control the ABV% of the output, and the temp at the top of the column, trying to keep them as stable as you can.
11. When you get to the point of about 75-80% of the EtOH being removed (you can pre-compute how much EtOH is in your starting still charge, and you can compute how much has been taken out, by measuring the volumes and ABV of what you have recovered). When you get to 75% our, you will probably have backed of the take off rate quite a bit, to keep the temp stable in the top of the column, and in keeping the ABV has high as you can. At this time, you might have to re-equalize every once in a while to keep the ABV rate consistant. However, one thing you should do, is to switch from any main "body" containers, to much smaller containers (say 200ml). Now is the time you will be transitioning into the tails. Collecting small amounts, will allow you to make a very careful "cut" over to tail, later.
12. When you fully detect that you have reached the tails (ABV falling off, temp spiking, and you are not able to keep them stable any more), then simply kick up the cooling to full, kick up the heat in the boiler some, and open the take off valve wide open. Collect tails until there is almost no EtOH being output.
13. The last of your heads collection, and the first part of the tails collection containers should be left open (covered with a coffee filter), over night to air out. The next day, you can sample these , and see if any of them can be added to the main body.
14. The other parts (not the foreshots), will be dumped into your feigns jar, and you can dump this in on your next spirit run.
15. The body should be left open, but covered, with cloth or coffee filters, for a day or so, to breath.
You should end up with a heck of a nice neutral. Also, it really is not as complex as it sounds like in my instructions. The main things you want to do, is to get the column equalized, and then once it is equalized, you simply want to keep it equalized, while you take off some of the product.
Mod edit: Original Post: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=5107