Running a small still

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Bigbob
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Running a small still

Post by Bigbob » Wed Jun 15, 2016 7:32 pm

Running a small pot still

Almost everyday people come here asking about their stills. We have a policy recommending 5 gal or bigger, implying that small stills are as good as useless. I came to this forum having already purchased a 21/2 gal alembic. Having very little room to use a larger still, this was what I had. I feel that many are in the same boat as me, some have no room,others are not sure they want to commit to a large still as they may not like the hobby. I feel very lucky to have found this forum in my early stages and hope that this will help others. As has been posted, I have had the honor to join with other members in meet and greets across the country, being able to taste some of the spirits that members here have made is outstanding. Even better in my opinion, is others tasting my spirits and giving honest opinions. It was a total surprise that I got so many favorable reviews. I mean, I liked my sweet feed, thought it tasted pretty good, but having so many saying "you made this in a 2gal still in a single run?" That was where I felt like I knew what I was doing! So for better or worse, I feel compelled to try to explain how I do it. Some of the things I do ( such as using 1 collection jar) are not what is recomended. It is not unsafe, just not the norm. I have found that this works with a smaller still.

First of all.....YOU MUST READ WHAT IS RECOMMENDED!!!
Crankys great spoon feeding post was not available when I started, I had to struggle thru all the readings not organized. Reading Kiwis Stillers great post on cuts helped, but having to use baby food bottles for making cuts seemed daunting. One post that I found very helpful was Taters distilling advice. The part about using your senses just clicked with me. Touch, smell and taste are pretty easy with a little practice and this is what I use now.

So let's go and run some wash.....
Ok, so you have your still washed, vinegar and water run thru it and a sacrificial run done. You have your chosen recipe, your fermentation is done and your ready to go! Fill the boiler 3/4s full and set it on your heat source.
Run the heat on full or close to it, as you hear it starting to boil bring the heat down a touch, keep your eyes on the output and feel along the Lynne arm to see where the heat is. If you have a thermometer you can check the temperature but don't use it to run your still.
The product is starting to drip!! Sucess! Let it drip until it becomes a steady lead size stream. Then lower your heat and adjust so the stream is steady. If you are doing a stripping run, run it as fast as the still can go without vapor coming out. If your doing a single spirit run, you'll want to go as slow as possible, Keeping it a steady broken stream. Not drips, a steady stream.
I use a quart mason jar with measurements on the side. This is where it gets tricky and only experience will help. I have found with my sweet feed wash that running about 300 mils will take the fores and most of the heads out. This is where your senses come out.
Smell the product: can you smell the sharp odor of acetone? You should. Feel it, does it feel oily? Again it should.
Continue to feel and smell until it is pretty much gone. As I said before this is usually around 300 mils in my wash. Your results might be different.
This is when I change to a 2 quart jar. Start filling, continue to feel and smell. It should be almost odorless. This is also where taste comes in. Taste the product using a small spoon. Be carefull! Too much and your getting drunk! Small tastes maybe diluted with a little water. When the jar is about half full, I'll check the ABV. Experinance has taught me that I can figure the final ABV here. Again, your results may vary. As the run is going you'll notice that it might be slowing, raise the heat a little to keep the flow steady. As the jar fills you'll notice that the taste is getting watery and you'll notice the product getting a kind of cloudy oily film coming out. This is the tails coming in. Now most will tell you to continue running, and if your doing a stripping run I agree, but if your doing your spirit run, I've found this is the cut off. On my sweet feed runs this will be just around 2 qts. Sometimes a little more sometimes less. This is the end of the run. Cut the heat get the full jar out of the way and clean up! Now I check the ABV, pour into two one qt jars and let it air out. Your run is done!
As stated above this is a general guide, different washes, mashes and musts will be different and your results may vary.
GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY STILLING!!
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http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 15&t=62150 How I run a small still

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Snackson » Wed Jun 15, 2016 9:39 pm

That's some good info you putting out there Bigbob. May I suggest adding a link to your signature for when you welcome the newbies?

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Re: Running a small still

Post by NZChris » Thu Jun 16, 2016 12:27 am

My advice to anybody running such a small still would be to ferment large quantities and to do multiple strips then spirit runs. I have small pot stills for experimental projects, so I do have some idea of what you are suggesting and doing single runs with small pots is contrary to any logic I can conjure up.

Why is it a good idea to take a keeper cut out of one still charge of ferment, when a cut can be taken from three or four still charges worth of low wines with the same equipment?

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Swedish Pride » Thu Jun 16, 2016 1:05 am

first of all, Sticky it !!

Secondly a few q's if you don't mind Bob

What ABV is your wash and final keep abv?

have you tried strip and spirit run, what was the benefit in keeping doing the single run if so?

When I ran a 10l pot I stripped until I had enough lowwines to fill it up and still only got 2l keep, granted I did not keep at it for as long as you so would not be as adept on my small pot as you are on yours.

I know you are known to make a superb SF, not questioning that, just questioning my running of my small pot
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Re: Running a small still

Post by Bigbob » Thu Jun 16, 2016 4:54 am

Swedish Pride, my wash abv is right around 1.075. My finished product runs between 90 and 100 proof.
I have never done a strip run with the sweet feed as I'm very happy with the results on a single slow run.
I have done 1.5 runs with fruit and honey.
NZ Chris, I understand what your saying, but as I stated my product is good in one run, I feel it doesn't need the added time and trouble in added runs. I might have to try a strip and spirit just to see if it's any different.
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http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 15&t=62150 How I run a small still

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Re: Running a small still

Post by shadylane » Thu Jun 16, 2016 9:52 am

Small stills are good for experimenting.
When the mistakes are little, you can afford to do something you think may be wrong,
Just to see what happens :lol:

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Re: Running a small still

Post by NZChris » Thu Jun 16, 2016 12:26 pm

Bigbob wrote:NZ Chris, I understand what your saying, but as I stated my product is good in one run, I feel it doesn't need the added time and trouble in added runs. I might have to try a strip and spirit just to see if it's any different.
I see doing cuts on four runs to make the same amount of likker as more trouble than four fast strips then one spirit run and a blending session with four times the volume of product to work with to select your final blend from. Another plus is the chosen blend is usually so close to a desirable barrel strength for long term aging that little dilution is required.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Bigbob » Thu Jun 16, 2016 1:03 pm

You need to understand that not everyone has room for four or five ferments going. I barely have room for two.
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http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 15&t=62150 How I run a small still

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Re: Running a small still

Post by NZChris » Thu Jun 16, 2016 1:53 pm

I'm not suggesting multiple ferments, especially small ones.

The footprint of a fermenter four times larger isn't much bigger. The smaller a still is, the more advantageous it is to have a fermenter that can fill it several times.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by MtnView » Thu Jun 16, 2016 3:00 pm

Thanks Bob! Other than size our outfits are identical. I constantly read about the quality of your drop and have wondered if you ran it differently than I do mine. I am realizing that if I run mine low and slow once I enjoy the flavor more. And am returning to that practice on my sweet feed ferments.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Bigbob » Thu Jun 16, 2016 4:27 pm

NZChris wrote:I'm not suggesting multiple ferments, especially small ones.

The footprint of a fermenter four times larger isn't much bigger. The smaller a still is, the more advantageous it is to have a fermenter that can fill it several times.
Ahhh I see said the blind man! Yes that can work but unfortunely not in my house. One thing chris, I never said don't do stripping runs, I said I don't do them. And I still don't see the need for it. But maybe in the name of science I'll try and see if it makes much difference.
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http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 15&t=62150 How I run a small still

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Re: Running a small still

Post by city shiner » Thu Jun 16, 2016 9:51 pm

thanks for posting this Bigbob!

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Stella34 » Thu Jul 28, 2016 12:53 pm

Hi BigBob. I seem to have stumbled into a very similar way of doing this small still thing. I think it is because I am a cook way more than a scientist or an engineer. These fellows who build their own stills...Whoa! Way out of my area of interest or expertise. According to the thermometer in the top, my runs hold pretty steady at 190 degrees or a little lower. Is that true for you? I depend on my nose a lot. Acetone smells like fingernail polish remover! When I can't smell a trace of it anymore, I feel pretty safe about saving. I think I make my first cut a little earlier than you do. Foreshots and heads together total maybe even a little less than 250 ml. Maybe I should wait a little longer before the cut. I also end up cutting the hearts I want to keep at about 2 quarts, but keep the run going into a new jar, a pint or a little more and save that tails jar to add to the next run. Do you oak your eau de vie? Re/ double distilling, I am also pretty cautious, because I have a friend who was seriously burned when a still exploded all over him, and that has made me nervous about running a still really fast.. I see no reason to because everyone who has tried my results seems to enjoy it the way it is.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Kareltje » Thu Jul 28, 2016 2:23 pm

Nice thread. I like it, as I too have a small still: 10 litres tops. Which means stripping runs of at most 7,5 litres at a time.

As NZChris I do mostly stripping runs and then collect enough low wines to do a spirit run. I think about doing single runs, as you do. But I first want to experiment with these, as literature suggests that doing double runs gives better results.

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S01" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow ... xt&tlng=pt
Alcarde, André R. et al.
Chemical profile of sugarcane spirits produced by double distillation methodologies in rectifying still.
Aspectos da composição química de aguardente de cana-de-açúcar produzida por metodologias de dupla destilação em alambique retificador.
Ciênc. Tecnol. Aliment. 31 (2), (Campinas) Apr./June 2011
Food Science and Technology (Campinas) 31 (2)

And I still have not made a wash large enough to try for myself.

Your problem is not so much a small still, but a small distillery. But you indeed solve one of my problems: not enough space/flasks to collect low wines.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Bigbob » Thu Jul 28, 2016 2:33 pm

Stella34 wrote:Hi BigBob. I seem to have stumbled into a very similar way of doing this small still thing. I think it is because I am a cook way more than a scientist or an engineer. These fellows who build their own stills...Whoa! Way out of my area of interest or expertise. According to the thermometer in the top, my runs hold pretty steady at 190 degrees or a little lower. Is that true for you? I depend on my nose a lot. Acetone smells like fingernail polish remover! When I can't smell a trace of it anymore, I feel pretty safe about saving. I think I make my first cut a little earlier than you do. Foreshots and heads together total maybe even a little less than 250 ml. Maybe I should wait a little longer before the cut. I also end up cutting the hearts I want to keep at about 2 quarts, but keep the run going into a new jar, a pint or a little more and save that tails jar to add to the next run. Do you oak your eau de vie? Re/ double distilling, I am also pretty cautious, because I have a friend who was seriously burned when a still exploded all over him, and that has made me nervous about running a still really fast.. I see no reason to because everyone who has tried my results seems to enjoy it the way it is.
That's exactly my point! Most everyone who has had mine enjoys it, including many people on this forum. As I stated earlier I would like to try a strip then a spirit run, but I'm going to have to get a bigger fermentor. Yes I oak most of my spirits. I like your comment too Kareltje, I put the micro in micro-distillery!! :thumbup:
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http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 15&t=62150 How I run a small still

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Re: Running a small still

Post by MichiganCornhusker » Thu Jul 28, 2016 2:53 pm

I'll be keeping an eye on this thread.
I'm used to doing large batches. I'm all over the map with what I make and if I ever end up making something I really like, I want to have enough to enjoy!
So I usually do fermentations in the 30-40 gallon range.

But, I've got some ideas for recipes that I'd like to experiment with that I would rather not do at that scale, so I built this little fella:
gin_still.jpg
It's a 1 gallon boiler and a 1/2 gallon thumper. I'm hoping that I can do 5 gallon ferments to get 4 strips and then a spirit run to give me enough to find out if I like where my recipe is heading.

Right now the only way to empty them is to take the plumbing apart and flip them over the pour them out through a 3/4" copper pipe.
That's gonna be a pain if I'm doing 4 consecutive strips, so drains and fill ports are going to be my first mods.

I'm thinking I can also use this setup for gins, genevers, maple spiked whiskeys, flavored vodkas, etc, where I'm putting clean neutral (proofed down) in the boiler and I can add flavorings or botanicals at the beginning, or even shoot the thumper mid run.

I'll also get a chance to compare single run distillations vs. strip/spirit runs.
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Re: Running a small still

Post by Bigbob » Thu Jul 28, 2016 3:00 pm

That's a cool looking set-up MCH! My wife would kill me if I took over the stove like that! :thumbup:
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http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 15&t=62150 How I run a small still

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Kareltje » Thu Jul 28, 2016 3:07 pm

You're welcome! ;)

I have fermenters of 10 and 15 litres, I can fill my still with 5 to 7,5 litres (depending on the nature). So I run a stripping run, keep the low wines and then make another ferment. This I strip again. Then I make a spirit run with the total of the low wines.

So I only need space for a fermenter and about the same space for keeping the low wines.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Kareltje » Thu Jul 28, 2016 3:20 pm

@MCH: Wow, nice construction.
If I see correctly, you soldered all your connections.
I found out the joy and flexibility of compression couplings. They are at least good for 3 bar pipes and can be easily made and unmade. So when you have some separate parts, you can make a still configuration according to you wishes.
Last edited by Kareltje on Thu Jul 28, 2016 4:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by MichiganCornhusker » Thu Jul 28, 2016 4:07 pm

Kareltje wrote: If I see correctly, you soldered all you connections.
I know it looks like that, but the liebig and the pipe from the pot to the thumper just slip into the copper unions. It breaks down into manageable parts and pieces.
I plan to seal the slip fits with a dab of flour paste.
I extended the outlet of the thumper a little higher so that the liebig will work with either the thumper or just the pot.

I'm going to put in drains near the bottoms of each, and I will use copper couplings there.

I think it will be a fun little rig.
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Re: Running a small still

Post by Kareltje » Wed Nov 16, 2016 1:51 pm

Kareltje wrote:Nice thread. I like it, as I too have a small still: 10 litres tops. Which means stripping runs of at most 7,5 litres at a time.

As NZChris I do mostly stripping runs and then collect enough low wines to do a spirit run. I think about doing single runs, as you do. But I first want to experiment with these, as literature suggests that doing double runs gives better results.

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S01" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow ... xt&tlng=pt
Alcarde, André R. et al.
Chemical profile of sugarcane spirits produced by double distillation methodologies in rectifying still.
Aspectos da composição química de aguardente de cana-de-açúcar produzida por metodologias de dupla destilação em alambique retificador.
Ciênc. Tecnol. Aliment. 31 (2), (Campinas) Apr./June 2011
Food Science and Technology (Campinas) 31 (2)

And I still have not made a wash large enough to try for myself.

Your problem is not so much a small still, but a small distillery. But you indeed solve one of my problems: not enough space/flasks to collect low wines.
The link should be:

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S01 ... xt&tlng=pt" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
Alcarde, André R. et al.
Chemical profile of sugarcane spirits produced by double distillation methodologies in rectifying still.
Aspectos da composição química de aguardente de cana-de-açúcar produzida por metodologias de dupla destilação em alambique retificador.
Ciênc. Tecnol. Aliment. 31 (2), (Campinas) Apr./June 2011
Food Science and Technology (Campinas) 31 (2)

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Re: Running a small still

Post by freebird1965 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:33 pm

Great post big Bob. How can I get a better proof from 1 run as opposed to several . My last run went from 100 proof to 70 proof in 4 12oz jars and then down from there . Mash is 4 pounds corn meal , 5 lb sugar, etc. Also do you use distilled water or purified water for your mash.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Bigbob » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:56 pm

I use just good ole tap water for my wash (anything that uses sugar is a 'wash', an all grain is a 'mash') . You could up the sugar but need to find the fine line with sugar bite. It sounds like your making a very similar recipe like UJSSM. You might want to read that recipe in tried and true. It's long but has a lot of information in it. It's probably the most popular recipe on these boards.
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http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 15&t=62150 How I run a small still

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Re: Running a small still

Post by NZChris » Fri Jan 27, 2017 6:40 pm

freebird1965 wrote:How can I get a better proof from 1 run as opposed to several .
Add a thumper.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Shine0n » Sat Jan 28, 2017 3:58 am

It's late January and frankly I'm tired of sitting out in the cold garage running a 15.5 pot still!

I'm looking into building a small scale pot/thumper for indoor use. My first issue is I have an electric stove and would that be OK for small scale?
I too love my sf and is my go to to keep stock for sippin,
The other reason for this build is so that my experimenting is kept in budget and not alot of $ is lost during failure.
I'm thinking of a 5 gal pot with a 3 gal thumper and liebig 36" lg, if suggested the liebig can be shorter!

I'm only making sf, rum and different fruit washes and the fruit is what I'm really after with this rig to keep cost down.

I'm pretty sure almost positive I'll be doing 1 run only and would like some feedback from the small still guys for some or any suggestions to make life easier.

Shine0n

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Bushman » Sat Jan 28, 2017 4:12 am

If your stove top cycles on and off it's probably not the best set-up.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by freebird1965 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 5:34 am

Thank you for the suggestions I am running a thumper with cheap wine in it.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Shine0n » Sat Jan 28, 2017 6:10 am

That's exactly what I was afraid of :(
I have the old propane stove that was in the house when I bought it 10 years ago and replaced with an electric.

All I would have to do is re plum the stove in and tahda.
The down side to that is I'd have 2 stoves in the kitchen.

I want to do some brandies and a small setup will do better than my current one money wise plus it's cold as mess outside.
I'll start by finding the pots at a second hand store, I already have the 1" copper from a previous build.
So now I'll start the process of building my little baby.

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Re: Running a small still

Post by Brutal » Sat Jan 28, 2017 8:12 am

Nice post Bigbob! Hope all is good out your way buddy!

I have a question. About how long does it take to do a run in your still? I've considered building a smaller unit I can run in the house quite a bit lately. The kegs and other boilers I have take up a lot of time and energy. Life has been a little tougher on me over the last couple years and I find it harder and harder to give up a whole day to do so much work. I end up with a sore back, a big mess usually, no rest, and a pissed off wife who didn't hardly get to see me on my day off. So, let's say your wash is ready and still in the fermenter. Your still doesn't need any cleaning because you used it recently. You start at X:00 o'clock, how long would it be till you are done with the run, and how long till everything is cleaned up and put away? How big of a mess do you make?
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Re: Running a small still

Post by Wooday » Sat Jan 28, 2017 9:04 am

Brutal wrote:Nice post Bigbob! Hope all is good out your way buddy!

I have a question. About how long does it take to do a run in your still? I've considered building a smaller unit I can run in the house quite a bit lately. The kegs and other boilers I have take up a lot of time and energy. Life has been a little tougher on me over the last couple years and I find it harder and harder to give up a whole day to do so much work. I end up with a sore back, a big mess usually, no rest, and a pissed off wife who didn't hardly get to see me on my day off. So, let's say your wash is ready and still in the fermenter. Your still doesn't need any cleaning because you used it recently. You start at X:00 o'clock, how long would it be till you are done with the run, and how long till everything is cleaned up and put away? How big of a mess do you make?
With a 4 gallon stock pot took me three stripping runs at 2 hours each and a 5 hour spirit run. Combined 11 hours of stilling.
Cleanup took all of 5 minutes to dump the backset and rinse the pot and condenser in the sink.
It was enough of a time waster that I shelved it last summer and won't touch it again until I have my keg up and running.

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