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Benefits of Plates on a Pot Still?

edited August 2019 in General

For a pot still configuration (to make gin) what is the benefit of running it through plates, typically 3-4 plates?

All the German stills like Holstein/Carl have them.

I've only ever made gin in a pure pot still configuration, Portuguese alembic style or modern stainless.

What are the benefits?

I'm guessing take off rate, but I'm not sure.



  • edited August 2019

    Couple things:

    Firstly, plates will drag up and entrain (hopefully desirable) flavors that can potentially assist in giving you a bit more service life out of your botanicals.

    Secondly, with plates you won't get that classic abv drop as the run progresses. You'll be able to more precisely control your abv with the dephlegmator. One assumes this consistent behavior helps produce reasonably consistent finished product.

    I personally wouldn't know.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • I was thinking about this question as well the other day and was wondering about whether putting the botanicals in the pot and then using 4 plates would help eliminate the musky/wet tea bag smell that can come out towards the end of a run when in a pot still configuration with the GB4 but still maximise yields.

    I was thinking of giving it a try but was also concerned the use of plates could remove some of the more delicate flavors/ aromas. I guess a few trials would answer that and worst case would just need to up the quantity botanicals.

  • No, that’s a bad idea.

  • @grim would you mind elaborating on why its a bad idea? I’m curious as to why you believe its a bad idea.

    Given there are quite a few people out there adopting this method I would have thought there must be some benefit to it and would love to understand both viewpoints.

  • I have seen photos of StillDragon setups which use both plates and the gin basket.

  • The musky wet tea bag taste that comes out at the end of the run when you put it all in with the whole run you dont notice it at all. I dont know why you would want to put plates on top of a gin basket. Apart from that the next time you run whiskey through it it will have a juniper taste.

  • I wasn’t suggesting putting plates above the basket, what seems to be the practice with a few distilleries is putting the botanicals in the pot with a top quality neutral and then running it through usually 4 plates.

    The purpose of this thread was to ask those with more experience what the benefits of this might be in the hope of getting a better understanding of the various options out there.

    I’m not suggesting one method is better than the other but as the original post said there are lots of still makers out there like Carl & Holstein who make this set up as a standard configuration for Gin production. In my opinion it stands to reason therefore that there must at least be a perceived benefit of this method.

  • I cant see any benefit of plates as i am already using top neutral and i guess I want the varying range of a pot still across my charge in the GB4.

    I am considering putting some juniper in my still on the next round as i have not got round to doing THE DON mods to my GB4 and it is a little crowded. I did put some juniper in my rising column before the basket last time but still looking for a bit more forward Juniper taste. Or in my case boobialla or native juniper and std juniper mix.

  • edited August 2019

    Just keep in mind that some people putting the botanicals in the pot and running it through four plates are folks that own only one still and want to make gin. If all you have is the one Holstein, you make the Holstein work. Keep in mind - wildcard here is also if they have the plate defeats open or not.

    If you are making something like a Genever directly from a wash base, it might be a good option to ensure a decent yield.

    Also keep in mind that the volatile and non-volatile flavor components in botanicals don’t always behave like the components in a straight distillation would. More plates don’t make a cleaner gin if running from neutral, they make a different tasting gin.

  • It’s still far easier to make your neutral separate from your gin and then simply run straight pot still. Botanicals in the pot or in the GB.

    Musty wet teabag feels like a botanical issue, or botanical ratio issue, to me.

  • edited August 2019

    My issue with plates before the gin head is that the higher abv seems to drag over more acrid, "green" notes. But we do have a customer that ultimately did conclud that he preferred using plates to drive up abv prior to sending vapor across to his botanicals. He reckons it was better.

    Bear in mind that the combinations of choices are mind numbingly infinite.

    150 ways to make chicken soup...

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • edited August 2019

    Continuous gin rig did not work well vaporizing 95% neutral through botanicals. Lowering the proof was like turning on a light switch.

    Ran a couple baskets and the gin was thin and insipid. Pulled the hose off the tank of neutral and put it in a tank of water to blow steam through.

    Came pouring out of the parrot like skim milk. Total “what the f” moment. Skim milk went clear as soon as it hit the collected distillate.

    Gin was completely “fixed” as soon as the parrot was running clearer water.

  • I agree that there are so many different ways of doing things, to a degree I also believe a lot of it boils down to marketing... if you have shelled out all that money for a Carl still you are going to put it front and centre of your marketing.

    From what I have experienced with Gin I agree with what Don Mateo says in that the flavours change through the run with different flavours and aromas coming as the run progresses. I also agree that the wet tea bag aromas disappear when mixed in and aired, I do think my botanicals were a little on the old side as I found a big bag of coriander seeds and juniper tucked away but in hindsight they were probably a bit old which didn’t help.

    I honestly hadn’t given it much thought until I read this post at the same time I read this on the four pillars site and then curiosity got the better of me...

    _‘Once the pot is boiling, vapours begin to rise and head up out of the top of the pot, through the botanical basket, steaming the oranges and releasing the flavours of the fruit along the way. For the next seven hours the liquid will condense and re-condense as it passes through the pot, the basket and then through seven separate plates on our column still.

    These plates are crucial. Each one remains closed, acting as a mini-distillation of its own, further refining and purifying the spirit. This ensures a gin that is as smooth and as pure as… well, as something extremely smooth and pure. Let’s stick with great gin.

    Eventually the extremely high proof gin starts dripping from the still, at a remarkable 94% alcohol by volume. Incredibly, such is the purity of this spirit that it can be sipped (in a minute quantity) and you can taste the botanicals, and the gin-iness of the spirit. It is not "rocket fuel”, which comes from inferior distillations, it is extremely fine but VERY VERY strong gin.’_

  • Worth noting that four pillars put all their botanicals in the boiler and only fresh oranges in the vapour basket

  • But then they have to dilute from 94 to whatever say 40% and cut it to the max. I dont like to dilute.

    Would like to sip the 94 though.

  • edited August 2019


    This is one of their stills.

    I'm guessing that the section above the boiler is a vapour basket.


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  • SamSam
    edited August 2019

    I would assume so, this is the I was thinking of...


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  • I suggest reading

    The Big Gin Thread

    front to back...

  • @DonMateo said: The musky wet tea bag taste that comes out at the end of the run when you put it all in with the whole run you dont notice it at all. I dont know why you would want to put plates on top of a gin basket. Apart from that the next time you run whiskey through it it will have a juniper taste.

    I've used a separate gin essence still for exactly the reason you say. I'm kinda reluctant to change my potstilled essence plus column stilled vodka process, because by volume gin is our best seller, and customers specifically cite our flavor as the reason they changed gin brands to us.

    As always, YMMV.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • @zymurgybob is right on. @sam do whatever floats your boat but the advice i got here and i took it to heart is practice your recipes get a small still 100l or 150 and learn the technique. Then go for the mondo super rig. I do a straigh vapor infusion gin and for all of my recipes the people who try it really love it. Gin is very personal. And i agree read the big gin thread at least twice.

  • Gin certainly is personal, just when I think I have something straight in my head I read something new... I guess one of the issues with being right at the start of the curve is all the options are open and it can be a little overwhelming trying to decide where to focus your efforts, like a kid in a candy shop.

    I am in the process of reading the big gin thread again as its been a while since I first read it. I have to say reading it again now my base knowledge on distilling has improved things make a lot more sense!

  • So before I posted in this thread I did email the head distiller at one of the distilleries using this method of running the infused vapour through plates on one of the stills pictured earlier in this thread, after not receiving a response I posted my questions here. Anyway yesterday I got a reply and thought I would share the feedback I got here.

    So the first thing they said was obviously there are many different methods for making gin and its very subjective. His mentor was a German distiller who was a big advocate of using reflux stills to make aromatic spirits, the logic is that as they use fresh fruit the plates remove the pithy flavours that can come from this. They also believe that there are some very heavy oils in the juniper which the plates & reflux remove leaving a lighter spirit.

    He also said that they use a very heavy botanical load and it takes a bit to get the balance of reflux right as its easy to remove to much flavour.

    Anyway, I just thought in the interest of being thorough I would put this up.

  • Thanks for sharing, too often folks don’t come back to provide feedback or info.

  • Seems to me it's like cooking. You can do a steak BBQ, sous vide, fried, grilled, slow cooked, raw or many other ways.

    It's all steak, but all different.

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

  • Exactly, the other point he raised which I forgot to include above is that they still get the full range of aromas and flavours from the botanicals as the run progresses. Didn't go into details but did say they get the full range as you do with other methods.

    P.S. Steaks marinaded in a bit of olive oil and dark soy sauce then cooked to medium rare in a sous vide finished off with 60 seconds per side on a red hot BBQ wins every time...

  • edited August 2019

    Yes sous vide is the best method for steaks and seafood. 54 or 55C for 2 hours for steak up to 50mm thick. I have had many people tell me it's the best steak they've ever eaten.

    Good for ribs as well.

    There's a sous vide thread here somewhere from when i was learning.

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

  • Its also really good for slightly tougher cuts of meat like Skirt, Flank and Rump Cap which heave lots of flavour but can be tough if just grilled.

    Damn I'm going to have to dig out the SV machine this weekend now

  • I barbque the Argentine way now. Cooked on a grill over coals only. The other thing the argentines do is that if your cooking for a few people you rarely cut a muscle. Ie you cook everything whole, low temp and slow for about 2 hours. The skirt and flank are called Matambre and panceta and are considered to be the best meat on the cow here. If you want a panceta at a butchershop you have to order it a week in advance. You cook that low for about two and a half hours. Washed down with Malbec. I love the food here. The politics suck but the food is great.

  • edited August 2019

    A nice acidic chimichuri overnight with a fast sear on a screaming hot grill. Maybe 2 minutes a side, rare - ish. Lime juice and a nice vinegar.

    Slice cross grain - of course.

    Never had an issue with tough skirt.

  • edited August 2019

    Sad that all the great cheap cuts are now absurdly expensive.

    I remember when short ribs were cheap, not no more.

    Can almost buy filet cheaper these days.

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