Problems in the First Run

Gday guys,

Just ran my 2" pot still from @punkin and I'm having some dramas, the equipment seems to be running great but I don't think I'm achieving the desired results. When I did my stripping run the low wines were coming out at 65%. Is this the correct ABV for stripping?

With the spirit run, the whiskey would come out at no greater than 65% ABV again. I tried turning the boiler right down and choking up the cooling to try and condense the vapor slower but this only changed it a bit (5%). So I ran it through a second time, the ABV the only got as high as 50%? So I stopped and jumped on line too seek the opinion of the stilling guru's.

What have I done wrong?

I think that the controller I am using to control the element in the boiler does not let me boil low enough.

I would appreciate any help diagnosing the problems.



  • Oh yes, and I hope every one had a nice Christmas.

  • Your stripping sounds like it went fine, 65%/130 on a pot is definitely reasonable so you got that bit right.

    Your spirit should be coming off higher though, you can easily reach 75-80% if you run it right. As long as your condenser is nice and cool then that is not the issue, it will be the power you're putting into it. What are you using to power the kettle? A basic controller beyond a basic on-off switch should be giving you all the range you need from zero to full speed.

    Especially while figuring out your rig, you want to run that thing snail pace and then slowly increase. Get a feel for the run and take note of all the changes that happen 1 THING AT A TIME! if you start playing with all the variables right away you'll just wind up getting lost.

  • What type of still are you running?

  • says it is a 2" pot still... What are your ABV's of the still charge, and what ABV are you starting and finishing collection at.

    I would buy a book or three, such as 'making pure corn whiskey' or 'the compleat distiller'

  • Shouldn't matter much what power you are running to a point for your abv. The reason it would be lower is that you have diluted too much. If you start with a 40% still charge then the spirit run will start in the 80's, maybe 81 or 82%.

    If you are only getting 65% then the charge is only 10-12%.

    How many washes did you strip and use to charge the boiler? My guess is that you stripped one wash and added it to another wash or a boiler half full of water and are calling that the 'spirit run'. You need to strip 3 or 4 washes down to 20% or so and add them all together. When you test that charge with an alcometer it should be around 40%. If it's higher by a lot then use a calculator to dilute it.

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  • Not sure on the type or make of the controller, a mate put it together for me, ill give him a call. I believe it gives me enough control. From what I understand the ethanol in the boiler has some control over the temp in the boiler. Is this right?

    Ah huh. Yes I think I must have Diluted too much. I had 8L of low wines threw it back into the boiler then topped up with 15 or 20L of water to make sure the element did not run dry. Was this incorrect?

    It was my understanding that it did not matter how much water you have in the boiler but the quality of the vapor coming off the water. ops. ill run it through a forth time! bloody hell, I hope it still has flavor when it come time for drinking. Hahaha. In that case how many parts water to parts low wines should I be Diluting for my Spirit run then? is there a rule of thumb? I don't remember seeing any throughout the research I did.

    Got a Hard Ginger beer to bottle in the mean time.

    Cheers guys,

  • dilute to 35-40% seems to be the rule of thumb, I go to 50% though B-)

  • just warming up the still now. so 4th times the charm. ha. thanks for that. Just hope there is some usable product left. I think ive lost a lot due to vapor loss and spills. bloody first timers. haha. id betta get another wash on to help cover the element in the stripping run.

    Cheers lads :(|)

    If ya have anymore advise please let me know

  • ALWAYS have a wash ready! or that still is wasted space. Whats your kettle size?

  • I agree with @punkin you have to strip a few runs, from one run it will start at 65% give or take, down to 20% at the end of the run. Just chucking all that back into the boiler and adding more water will not do what you are hoping for, yes it will be double distilled, but not higher alc %, and each run will be a little less product perhaps less "taste" as well.

    Strip several runs untill you have enough to at least 3/4 fill the boiler, then do a spirit run from the 40% you chucked into the boiler.(its roughly 40/45% anyway just from full stripping runs in my experience) I only add water if it tests too high.

    On the second spirit run it will come out higher to start with, perhaps 75/80+% then as per pot still, go down after that until you stop at 40% or 30% or even 20% whenever you reckon it stinks or tastes like crap (tails). You may only keep perhaps a little over half or two thirds of the total output as keepers. Never get too greedy, be prepared to throw the crap out.

    If you want to collect a "sample" jar in the middle of the stripping runs say at the 55-50% mark, you may be surprised about how nice it is straight from the still, chuck a liter on a domino for a few weeks or more and enjoy. Of course it will depend on what your making your washes from to what or how good the result is.

    My favorite samples after several years are the hearts from a single strip run, but I only take a single jar when I do, all the rest goes into a dash bubbler for a spirit run after I have 50lt ready to go.

    Good luck and its great to see you post, better to ask now rather than continue blind on your start in this hobby. There really is no one right way to do any of this, but to try and work out whats best for your equipment and product your making. Follow the guides and advice till you have a handle on it all, then experiment and post back your findings, some of the members here have thought outside the box and had good results, others not so good either!

    Reading this site will show pot stilling, basic plate systems, packed high systems, all depending on what people want to make. I use my dash as a neutral setup one way, then pull it half apart for whisky runs, the run pot still for stripping.



  • Thanks Fadge, yeah its a bit of a pain just starting out. ill have a hole bunch of stupid questions, but we'll get there in the end though. ill let a know how it goes.

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