Planning your first Run

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So your wash is fermented. Now comes the fun part, making your first run. This article is intended to help plan your first run. This is for a pot still, but the ideas relate to a reflux still

Plan your work, work your plan, clean as you go.

Choosing a location

When you are planing your run there's a few things to understand. Safety needs to be key.

Fresh Air

Ethanol vapors are highly flammable. While you should not get any vapors out of the still but you should plan for that regardless. Having a supply of fresh air and moving air around while distilling is a good idea to keep any ethanol vapors below dangerous levels. A small fan near the still will be fine. It does not need to be pointed at the still.

Heat

Distilling creates a lot of heat for a long period of time. You'll want someplace that has a the ability to vent heat so that the room doesn't get too hot. Think of boiling a pot of water for 2-4 hours. That is equivalent to what you'll be doing.

Gas Heat

If you are using a propane burner you will need to be in an area that you can get tons of fresh air. Carbon Monoxide if one the things in distilling that can actually kill you. An open garage door is fine. Outside is best.

Electric heat

With electric heat you'll be taxing the circuit. If you plan on running anything else on that circuit you may overload it. Also since you're working with water it should be GFCI. If it isn't you can get a power strip with an overload breaker.

Cold Water Supply

You'll need a supply of cool water for the condenser or worm and dephlegmator if you have one. This will vary based on your still size. Most smaller still will need small amounts of water. This water does not need to be potable (drinkable) as it will not touch the distillate. A hose run from any facet is fine.

Hot Water Removal

A little more complicated is removing the hot water. The water coming out of a condenser will be hot. It can reach 160f-180f. It is not a good idea to put this water directly into a sink or drain. You can drain it into a metal pot or bucket and dump it someplace safe once you collect a couple gallons. If you have two pots/buckets this works well. If you're in the garage you can drain it into the driveway. Be careful with draining it into a yard. That hot of water will kill grass or other plants. Or if you have enough containers you can wait until they cool to ~120f and then dump it in a drain.

Prepping your still

Hoses and connections

On the cold water side the hoses you use aren't super important. The hot water side is very important. If you use a standard water hose it can melt. Silicon works well but can be easy to kink. Fittings are not a huge concern. Small amounts of leaking is fine as long as it doesn't get into your distillate. Once hooked up pressure test everything at full pressure. While it is unlikely you'll use full pressure you may accidentally open it to full pressure. If hoses pop off then you will be scrambling to fix it in the middle of a run.

Still Setup

Put your still together in the location you want to use. Hook everything up as you were going to make your run. Make sure you have all the hoses hooked up. Pressure test everything. Make sure none of the hoses are touching the still.



Clean it up

Make sure everything is clean. It doesn't need to be sanitary. The heat and high alcohol content will do that. Get any dust or left over grime from previous runs off so that it can't affect the operation of the equipment or negatively affect the flavor.

Prep your equipment in place