First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

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Andrew_90
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First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Sun Aug 30, 2020 12:51 pm

Background
I built a Pot Still using a 7.9h (30l) beer keg using a Liebig Condenser .

The column is 2” diameter and 22 ¾” to the point at which the vapor exists the column, at this point there is a thermocouple to measure the head temperature. At the top of the column is provision to add a Reflux portion to convert the still into a CCVM unit, in time.

The cooling portion of the Liebig is 23 ¾” long. comprising a ¾” distillate tube with a 1 ½” outer copper tube. The cooling water comes from the water main, flow is controlled by a gate valve, which then drains into the garden for now.

The Liebig feeds into a Parrot and the still head temperature is controlled through a PID controller which performs better than expected. The wash is heated via an internal 2 500W, 220V element.

Here is her first cleaning run, no Parrot was used and simple a piece of copper tube as a temporary condenser support.

Image

Wash
- I have used BTPW as a start and followed the recipe fully apart from the optional ingredients. Key element of the wash.
- Started at 1.077 on the Hydrometer (temperature adjusted), 93°F.
- Pitched dry Baker Yeast and the temperature lifted to 97°F through the exothermic reaction but dropped within 12 hours.
- Wash reached 0.993 after 84 hours.
- I used Bentonite to clear the wash, let is rest at 60°F for three days before racking.

Run (note that we are at 5 150ft ASL so things boil a little here).
- Set temperature to 120°F to preheat the wash.
- Raised temperature to 158°F and turned on the cooling water, no distillate.
- Raised temperature to 165°F and the distillate began to flow. Circa 6oz flowed and then the flow stopped. I set the Bottle 1 aside as Foreshots, probably too much but that what I did.
- I then collected 11 bottles of 12.5oz each, the first started at 70% the last ended at 39% ABV.
- I then cut to a large jar and collected 40oz of tails starting at 39% ABV ending at 20% ABV.

- Each bottle was immediately sealed once full, in hindsight perhaps I should have let the distillate breathe overnight.
- The time taken to fill a 12.5oz bottle was on average 3 minutes which to me was a little rapid. The distillate was not hot but was warm. I will measure the distillate temperature next time I fire her up, I estimate the temperature to have been 95°F.

Taste
- I then got to tasting the product, I must note that I am not white spirit drinker and have never had commercial vodka so was on shaky ground. Two days after my own distillate tasting I went to the bar and bought my first shot of Vodka to get a reference point.
- So apart from the strength reducing from the front of the run to the end I could taste no discernible differences between bottles. I tried on a couple of occasions.
- My distillate has a “citrus” nose and has a hint of “citrus” in the taste which appeared to briefly leave an “citrus” oily after taste. The commercial Vodka on the other hand barely had a nose and has a much cleaner and more pleasing taste.
- As I was unable to discern any difference other the “strength”, so I have blended all bottles together and will attempt to make gin.

My observations
- I think I ran my still too fast.
- I probably will not get a neutral spirit in a Pot Still.
- Heads , Hearts and Tails were not recognisable by taste, and I think a have a reasonable pallet.
- I think my experiment to separate out the Foreshots with temperature was OK, however I should have not moved from 158 to 165°F, next time I will go to 160°F and monitor the volume of distillate, if less that 2oz will then lift to 162°, this should capture Foreshots.
o I will then move to 176°F and capture until done.
o I will then set to 185°F and capture until done.
o I will then set to 195°F and capture until done.
- I think taking my tails from 40% to 20% ABV is OK?

Comments would be welcome.
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NZChris
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by NZChris » Sun Aug 30, 2020 1:09 pm

Where did you get your running advice? It sounds like you've been given unrealistic expectations of what to expect out of a single pass through a pot still. I don't bother to taste my TPW stripping runs before redistilling them and always ferment enough for four stripping runs.

I suggest you don't put gin botanicals into what you've made so far.

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Sun Aug 30, 2020 1:20 pm

Ok, help me out please.

So I have just done a stripping run?

Should I redistil this solution which is at 49% and add back the tails?

Regards
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Saltbush Bill » Sun Aug 30, 2020 1:28 pm

Still build looks fine :thumbup: :thumbup:
Seems youve been watching youtube if your trying to run a still and make cuts that way.
Following instructions to use a pid to make cuts your doomed to fail from the begining.

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Tummydoc » Tue Sep 01, 2020 4:41 am

Andrew, yes you've done a stripping run and the product is called low wines. You're 1/3 of the way there. We don't bother with cuts on a stripping run (you can toss your first jar of acetone smelling fores). For stripping, just set your temp high and run it fast. You can collect in large containers when stripping after the fores, or even collect fores. Repeat this twice more with additional wash, then combine all the low wines and run again as a spirit run. This is where you collect in small jars for cuts, probably 250ml increments for your boiler size.

Its not as important in pot mode, but if you add reflux later you really want constant adjustable power input to control vapor speed. Temperature isn't the right parameter, and to modulate temp the PID will constantly adjust power which disrupts vapor flow. If you can put the PID in manual mode and adjust power you'll get better performance.

Looks like you neighbors can see your setup. In the States you'd want to be more discreet and not call attention to yourself. Is home distilling legal in South Africa?



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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Tue Sep 01, 2020 7:51 am

Ah gothcha. Need to check the laws on distilling. Thanks for the response.

The problem with the www. is not the amount of information but the amount of disinformation.

So did some reading last night and realised that distilling speed is both your enemy and you friend. Had I taken notice of the distillate speed I would have picked up that they were different processes. So I have real clarity on what I have done wrong.

So will knock up a 50l wash of same recipe, strip that so that I have a reasonable qty of low wines for second, third strip and then a spirit run.

So let me get this straight.

Run 1 - Existing batch of low wines + new batch of low wines from latest 50l wash. Combine into one batch.

Run 2 - Dilute batch from Run 1 to circa 35% ABV and strip. I plan on stripping and cutting off at 20% ABV? Collect in bulk.

Run 3 - Dilute batch from Run 2 to circa 35% ABV for the final strip. Strip down to 20%. Collect in bulk.

Run 4 - First spirit run. Real slow distillate rate, bottle in 250ml lots.

Further questions;
1.So if I have a limited volume of low wines, I can, at any point, add water sufficient to ensure that the element does not boil dry. The water is purely the carrier for the alcohol at all points.

2. On the spirit run, do I want to use my Parrot? One reads of smearing which I am sure occurs but I am unsure of how severe the effect is.

3. Given that this is my first bash at this I am not sure that I will be that competent to separate out the tails. Can I use an AVB% as an indicator and if so what ABV % would be a good place to start.

Cheers
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Tummydoc » Tue Sep 01, 2020 8:07 am

Usually you distill a wash/mash once, then low wines once. I cant tell if you are trying to add each low wine run back to your wash for the next run Thats called a 1.5 run, but isnt what I'm suggesting. Run each wash separately, but then pool all the low wines from your 3 stripping runs for your spirit run. Run that slow initially until you've stripped all the acetone smelling heads, the speed up to a pencil lead sized stream. You don't make cuts by ABV (unless youve done this so many times that its reproducible, you've kept great notes, and know that from prior runs your hearts cut is always at a given ABV). Your nose and taste buds will tell you where the keeper jars are (the hearts).

Yes you can dilute to cover your element, but you will loose some flavor in doing so. Sometimes thats a good thing, but for whiskey you want to retain flavor.


Last edited by Tummydoc on Tue Sep 01, 2020 8:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Tue Sep 01, 2020 10:37 am

No don't want to add the low wine back. Want three original stripping runs to blend as you suggest. Might eben make more wash to get the element covered properly with only low wines.

Great, thus may take another two weeks or so but from what I read the low wines hold for a while so I have the time.
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by NZChris » Tue Sep 01, 2020 12:59 pm

Find out how much liquid you need to cover your element so that you can use that for your calculations.

My first fermenter held enough for up to four stripping runs and is still my most used fermenter over thirty years later. Because the internet didn't exist, I had to do my research in university libraries and wasn't confronted with the volume of piss poor distilling advice available to today's unsuspecting newbie, so I knew from the start that fermenting one wash at a time would be a PITA.

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Wed Sep 02, 2020 1:34 am

Hi Chris,

agreed. The 30l keg was a good and bad choice. Buckets are 20 or 25l and one never gets the full volume from those. so either is a little light for a nice 25l (80% fill) run. I suppose a 25l bucket would just about do it. So to get the correct level at So at a 10% ABV I suppose one needs to add back 10% volume which is going become low wines and then a 10% safety factor?
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by NZChris » Wed Sep 02, 2020 1:45 am

You lost me :D

My still is 33l, so a 25l fermenter is ideal for a single run, but a single run with a pot still is a bad idea, so I got a 100l fermenter.

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Wed Sep 02, 2020 10:23 am

I think that is what I was alluding to. I am having to realign my thought process, rather dramatically.

I was so of the fixed opinion that one batch of wash would distil out to a good quality final product. I now realise that one may well be best served by stripping sufficient low wines to fill the capacity of the boiler, so in my case I want to fill my 30l boiler to 80% or 24/25l low wines would be required.

On a Vodka would this be sufficient. One stripping run and one spirit run. Would one want to run a second stripping or spirit run?
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Corsaire » Wed Sep 02, 2020 10:43 am

My pot stilled 'vodkas' are usually distilled three times. They aren't completely neutral.
I've never tried it with birdwatcher's.

Here's a recent thread of someone running tffv in a pot
viewtopic.php?f=40&t=78509

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by still_stirrin » Wed Sep 02, 2020 11:26 am

Andrew_90 wrote:
Wed Sep 02, 2020 10:23 am
...On a Vodka would this be sufficient. One stripping run and one spirit run...

Would one want to run a second stripping or spirit run?
I would run 3 boiler charges as “stripping runs” to collect a boiler charge worth of low wines. Then, do a single “spirit run”. And I’d do it this way if I was making a flavored spirit using the potstill, or I’d do it this way for a neutral spirit when I’d run the spirit run through the reflux column. Either way, I use the “strip + spirit protocol” using the appropriate tools for the product I’m making.

The 3 boiler charges give you enough alcohol to get a spirit run through the boiler without worrying about a “dry fire”. If you simply run a single strip then follow with the spirit run, you only have the amount of alcohol produced by ONE fermenter full of wash, and you’ll run the risk of boiling too much out of your boiler and exposing the element.

Why is this so hard of a concept for new distillers to grasp?
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:35 am

So the concept is a little difficult to understand for the newby, nothing is linear in this hobby it would appear. I like to calculate stuff and create spreadsheet models so that I can easily calculate different scenarios. This leads to a better understanding for me and a better feel for the process.

So humor me;

In my first stripping run I produced circa 20% of the wash volume in low wines. So starting from 27 litres I returned 5.4 litres in low wines? So as my ABV% measure of the wash was 10% and I produced 5.4 liters of low wines, the stripping therefore allows other stuff to to pass through, water and other components that will be later removed. So if one was to immediately do a spirit run rather than stripping would one have produced circa 2.7 liters of product, notwithstanding quality?

This would naturally mean then that a second and third stripping run is obviously going to increase the ABV for each pass and then hopefully on the spirit run will be around 90% ABV +.

So is it possible to estimate what ABV I can expect after the second and then third stripping run, in broad terms?
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Saltbush Bill » Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:43 am

No One strips two or three times.
Its also very bad practice to put anything in the boiler that is above 40% abv.
If you strip properly the ABV of your total take on the first strip will be between 30-40% abv ...which means your already close to that 40% limit.
If you want high abv build or buy a good refux still. Good does not mean cheap chinese rubbish with an 18 inch high column or an outdated design with cooling tubes through the column.

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Sat Sep 05, 2020 2:00 am

Content in these forums has people stripping multiple times, that was the reason for question. Think I saw reference to this under Shady's Sugar Wash, can't remember.

My low wines have been cut back to 35% for the reasons you state.

As far as the reflux still goes I think I will try get the hang of mine first. It was designed to be easily converted into a CCVM which I will try next. By then hopefully I will have enough understanding as to which direction to move into and then make / build the appropriate system.

I see the link to your build is down?
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Saltbush Bill » Sat Sep 05, 2020 2:19 am

I think your confusing people stripping multiple washes before doing a spirit run with people doing multiple stripping runs of the one wash.

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Sat Sep 05, 2020 2:34 am

Ah, thanks for that.
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by 30xs » Sat Sep 05, 2020 5:13 am

26BD7C18-4CBB-4E04-9ABD-D5C49A150FEB.jpeg
Maybe a crude visual will help with what people are trying to explain. Keep in mind all the washes are from the same recipe.

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Sat Sep 05, 2020 9:06 am

Thanks 30xs. I did manage to get that through to my thick skull. I am a member of numerous forums and until you "get in to the 'speak'" it can be difficult to follow post initially, many are in "short hand" in the belief that all are on the same page, especially if there are abbreviations.

So I have 5 odd liters of Birdwatcher TPW and a couple of nights ago I stumbled on Shady's Sugar Shine Wash. The TPW has a slightly unpleasant nose and taste so I started a 46l wash of Shady's Sugar Shine. Will need three of these batches of wash stripped to fill my still. Time for a 150l Fermenter, doing consecutive ferments is not ideal and time consuming.

So from the above, clearly I must not mix in the TPW with the SSSW. I have a small experimental 7l pot still, I will run the TPW through the smaller still as my first spirit run. Maybe not a bad thing to have a small run as the first run.
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Sun Sep 06, 2020 12:26 pm

I did a slow spirit run today on the BTPW.

I could roughly figure out the the heads and the tails and what was left I set aside for further processing. Coincidentally when I poured the cuts into two large bottles, the ratio of hearts ti the rest was equal, 50/50. I thought this was a little high for the hearts.

The one thing that I did notice was a bitter after taste with all the bottles captured. What would cause this?
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Saltbush Bill » Sun Sep 06, 2020 2:02 pm

Tails are bitter imo

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Tummydoc » Sun Sep 06, 2020 2:38 pm

Hard to do cuts on only 5 liters

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Sun Sep 06, 2020 9:44 pm

I know it may be hard. I did collect in 150ml samples but yeah, supposes not much would change across such a small volume. All part of learning.
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Saltbush Bill » Sun Sep 06, 2020 10:52 pm

It changes but you need to take tiny amounts in many jars to find those changes and run slooòoow!

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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Mon Sep 07, 2020 10:08 am

Ok so cut my first run back with distilled water, she is now at 43% ABV and rather palatable. Just had one with my coffee. Bitterness largely not there, actually rather chuffed at the result. I feel that I can throw a couple juniper berries and botanical at my first Vodka.

Tasting the 90% spirit is an art that I need to develop.

Really chuffed.
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:03 am

How long will a sugar wash last for post reaching 0.990. 7 days at an ambient of 20C?
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by Andrew_90 » Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:08 am

Tummydoc wrote:
Tue Sep 01, 2020 4:41 am
Looks like you neighbors can see your setup. In the States you'd want to be more discreet and not call attention to yourself. Is home distilling legal in South Africa?
Have checked, we are allowed to distil for own consumption only. We do need to register our still and ourselves as a distiller to fully comply with the law.
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Re: First Birdwatchers Sugar Wash and Process

Post by The Baker » Mon Sep 07, 2020 3:09 pm

Andrew_90 wrote:
Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:08 am
Tummydoc wrote:
Tue Sep 01, 2020 4:41 am
Looks like you neighbors can see your setup. In the States you'd want to be more discreet and not call attention to yourself. Is home distilling legal in South Africa?
Have checked, we are allowed to distil for own consumption only. We do need to register our still and ourselves as a distiller to fully comply with the law.
I wonder if several of your family could have a joint registration so that each could 'distil for himself'?

Or if 'distil for your own consumption' includes a fairly broad definition of 'your own'.
Probably they don't worry about family anyway?

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