What is a Gin Basket? https://homedistiller.org/wiki/index.php/Gin_basket
What do they do?
Soxhlets, Gin Baskets, and Maceration are use to extract flavors from botanicals, spices, and other materials by using a solvent (alcohol and/or water). The difference is how each one works. For this discussion I will only use the word botanical(s) to refer to the all materials being extracted. It's just easier. Also this post is a generalization of the processes. There are cases that don't fit the norm I do not address. If you know of one of these cases please post up.
What's the difference in how do they work?
Gin Basket - (AKA Vapor Infusion) Alcohol is sent through a still the same as normal. The Gin Basket is placed inline or offset in the vapor path of the still. If the basket is placed in line the reflux from the basket will drain back into the boiler. In an offset setup the reflux is collected separately from the finished product and not sent back from to the boiler. A gin run with a gin basket is the same as a regular spirit run on a still. There are cuts like normal. The finished product comes out the condenser.
Soxhlet - Alcohol is repeatedly washed over the botanicals to extract flavor and color that is collected back in the boiler. The alcohol is then revaporized and then washed over the botanicals again. This is repeats for as long as the users wants to do so. Normally it is done until there is no more color being removed from the botanicals. As none of the alcohol is lost from the system it can go on for hours. There are no cuts. The finished product will be in the boiler.
Maceration - Soak the botanicals in an alcohol solution for X days/weeks. This method has the advantage of using lower ABV solutions to help extract flavors that are water soluble but not alcohol soluble.
Why use one vs the other? Will it taste different using the same materials in both?
The flavors and color will vary from one to the other. Soxhlets and maceration will extract color where a gin basket will not. The flavors may vary depending on the botanical. It depends on the chemicals that create the flavor of a botanical. Soxhlet and maceration will generally extract a wider range of flavors than a gin basket. You can think of both as quick way to extract flavor from a botanical versus having to spend days/weeks macerating botanicals.
A gin basket will ONLY collect materials that are volatile in the normal range of a run (room temp to 212F). This is why gin comes out CLEAR. You'll get flavors but no color is volatile. The alcohol helps extract soluble materials and then the heat vaporizes it. Alcohol can also reduce the boiling temp of some materials so that they do come over into the distillate.
A soxhlet will extract insoluble, soluble, and volatile and nonvolatile substances. It does this a couple of ways.
- Insoluble and nonvolatile: First - powder/dust that is insoluble and nonvolatile substances can be physically removed from the botanicals as the alcohol washes over it. If you look up images of a soxhlet you'll see cotton at the bottom of the soxhlet. This is to help prevent this type of physical debris from being returned to the boiler. These are flavors/materials that would NOT come over via a gin basket.
- Soluble but nonvolatile: These materials will dissolve in alcohol/water. They will be carried over by the solvent washing over the botanicals. These are flavors/materials that would NOT come over via a gin basket.
- Insoluble and volatile: These materials are not soluble by alcohol or water but are volatile in the normal operating temp of a still. These are flavors/materials that would NOT come over via a gin basket.
- Soluble and volatile: These materials are the "normal" flavor/materials that come over in a distillation.
Which one should I use?
So this isn't an easy question. You really have 3 options. Maceration, soxhlet, and gin basket. All there do the same basic thing - extract flavor. So what should you use? Try these questions:
- What do you want your finished product to look like? Clear? Go gin basket. Colored? Go soxhlet or macerate.
- Do you want a wider deeper character? Go soxhlet or macerate.
- Want quick results? Gin basket or soxhlet.
- Have sensitive botanicals? Macerate.
- Don't want to spend money? Macerate.