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Help! What am I doing wrong?

Seeking guidance form the gurus on here. I've done my first couple of runs from ferment through to spirit run. First time round I made many many mistakes, second time I thought I had a better handle on what I am doing but... then end result is probably worse than the first time.

I've written up what I did below, hoping some of you can point me in the right direction.

I have a 100L conical fermenter with a heat belt and a 6 plate bubbler on a 100L boiler with two elements, one 10A and one on a 15A circuit plus the small box controller.

I am aiming for a clean neutral that I can then turn into a passable Gin. I'd also like to try a rum and happy to start there if its recommended.


First time round I did 2 x TPWs, let it get too cold, used the wrong tools to measure SG, didn't wait for it to clear etc. Thought this may be contributing to the murkey flavors in the spirit.

Second time round I tried the kale wash, and had a heater belt and STC controller to keep the temp more stable. Seemed to work a lot better.

Striping run:

First time round I left all the plates in, didn't have enough power (kept tripping, annoying the wife and waking the kids, not good!). Lots of dumping, restarting and staying up into the wee hours. Trying to make cuts etc as I went.

Second time all the plates were out and went full boar on both elements as I had a new 15A circuit installed - a lot less tears. No attempt to cut.

Spirit Run:

First time round went too slow to start with, didn't equalize the column, had no idea generally, started getting late again, went way tooooo fast.

This time I thought the main problem I had before was going too fast so I went as slow as I could. Took all day as you can see below but it didn't seem to make a difference.

Also I had used a garden hose to fill up the fermenter in the initial runs - thought this was not a good idea an probably contributed to the off flavors. This time I used the blue cooling water hose.

Summary of recent Spirit Run:

  • Enough water to cover both elements
  • Approx 9.5L alcohol from stripping run (from ~100L kale wash)
  • Heat up with both elements on, then turn off 10A circuit and run 14A circuit at 13-14A
  • Dephlegmator water running at 1.5 L/m down to 0.5 L/m on a cheap eBay meter (reducing slowly during the run)
  • 10:15 a.m. Stabilized column
  • 11:10 a.m. Start collecting fores
  • 11:40 a.m. Jar 1 600mL fores collected, switch to collecting heads through parrot
  • 12:35 p.m. Jar 2 1L heads collected (96% @ 30°C)
  • 01:10 p.m. Jar 3 1L heads collected (96% @ 28°C)
  • 01:35 p.m. Jar 4 1L heads collected (96% @ 28°C)
  • 02:07 p.m. Jar 5 1L heads collected (95% @ 28°C) - This is about where I thought it would start tasting like unicorn tears
  • 02:40 p.m. Jar 6 1L heads collected (95% @ 28°C) - Still no unicorn tears
  • 03:20 p.m. Jar 7 1L heads collected (96% @ 28°C) - I hate unicorns anyway
  • 04:10 p.m. Jar 8 1L heads collected (94.5% @ 28°C) - Start questioning my life goals
  • 05:10 p.m. Jar 9 1L heads collected (93.5% @ 28°C) - Despair, this is getting worse, revolting
  • 05:55 p.m. Jar 10 1L tails collected (89% @ 28°C) - Ah, maybe its tails, time for a gin and tonic
  • 06:15 p.m. Jar 11 750L tails collected (Crashing% @ 28°C)

Taste changes thought, but even picking a jar from the middle its a long long long way off anything like neutral. I know should probably run it again, but I don't have any confidence that spending another 8 hours on it plus heat up will get me close to a reasonable product.

I look forward to any advice and will take no offense!



  • Also turns out I don't know how to format bullet points or tables on here, sorry!

  • Just need to double space each line to format better is all.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • edited March 2019

    @Dreamer said: Also turns out I don't know how to format bullet points or tables on here, sorry!

    Housekeeping! :)]

    @Smaug said: Just need to double space each line to format better is all.

    Making longish postings beautiful is a form of art B-)

    Your Place to be >>> <<< Home of the StillDragon® Community Forum

  • My first thought is, can you make clean neutral with six plates?

    I'm more like I am now than I was before.

  • @dreamer. The garden hose wouldnt have contributed to the off flavors but the water coming out of it most probably. A lot of guys here dont use Reverse osmosis but do something close. I use tap water but I run it through a 10 micron and a 1 micro filter. It gets out most things and still leaves with a pretty clean water. The first couple of times I just used the tap water and you notice chlorides and other flavors. And where I live, in Mendoza Argentina, the tap water is pretty good.

  • edited March 2019

    A 1 micron filter will not do anything with off-flavors in water.

    Other than particulate - most everything we care about with water is on a molecular scale, 1 micron, even .1 micron, is massive in comparison. Larger molecules - activated carbon. Smaller and ions - reverse osmosis and deionization.

  • edited March 2019

    To have correct readings the product cooler should give the temperature the aerometer is calibrated for. If its to hot it will read more. However in your case i would go for a pretreatment before the spirit run, let it oxidize with potassiumpermanganate for a minute , add small amount (we are talking about milliliters of 10 % solution per liter of spirit) of diluted solution in small incrementl and keep it light purple for a minute. And possible add a tablespone of soda or baking soda afterwards, this will convert some esters to alkohol. You can read about these threatments somewhere else.And one more question, did you dilute the product properly before the spirit run? Everything more then 38 % is shit. In doubt go for 19 % or something. Having said that normally you need more then 6 plates to go to neutral, charcoal? I mean activated carbon. If done on the final product do this properly, boil it first and discard the water, new water and then into the filter, discard the first volume. If the filter is one liter then one liter, could possible go to a wash.

  • From 100 litres kale wash on a stripping run I aim to collect 20 litres of low wines. Are your ABV readings corrected for temperature? Taste testing during a run is difficult and there are volatile compounds that dissipate and the flavour mostly improves as that happens given a day or two. Very high strength alcohol may give a bitter or drying sensation, could it be that you are equating that harshness on the tongue as a bad taste? I can’t help with advice on running a plated still; I have no experience with those.

  • edited March 2019

    C'mon guys, 2 runs through 6 plates is 12 plates. The boiler is a theoretical plate and so is the reflux condensor, now we are talking 16 theoretical plates.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • edited March 2019

    You are absolutely right, but then some minimum reflux must be added in the wash run and the spirit run diluted properly. And no, the boiler is a ”real” plate as i see it and not a physical or teoretical. At least as seen as an engineer in technical chemical enginering. But that does not change the fact that it taste awful.

  • edited March 2019

    Taste awful. Dilute and run it again.

    Run it until your spent kettle charge is as clear as the distillate.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Did you let the jars air for a day or so before trying?

  • Lots of comments thank you! Lots to try. @crozdog I will air the jars and taste again. If no good @smaug I’ll dilute and run again,

    @kimbodious the Abb was not corrected for temp. I will proof down before testing.

    @kapea I was thinking maybe I need a packed section but don’t have too much room above the sill the moment.

    @moonshine, thank you for the tidy up.

  • You started with approximately 9.5 litres of low wines from the stripping run and then collected more than that on your spirit run? Are you sure you didn’t start with 19.5 litres of low wines?

  • The 9.5 was the alcohol content of the low wines. I can’t remeber what the actual volume of the low wines was I have it written down somewhere.

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