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Good morning all,
Is there any point in using the dephlegmator starting with 40% alcohol in the boiler?
By the way, how do you use it fully at the beginning and then completely off? I have the impression that even with a small flow of water circulating in the dephlegmator, nothing more flows.
Thank you for your feedback,
The dephlegmator or properly called the reflux condenser is basically how you control the purity of alcohol going to the product condenser. It’s by far the most important control on a column still and for a spirit run, would be required use the entire run.
There are really only a few things you can do to actively control a column still once charged: create vapor, purify the spirit and condense liquid.
The heat input creates the vapor. (And no you cannot control the temperature of the liquid you are distilling. It’s either being heated or it’s off.)
The RC usually requires a precise flow of cooling water if it is sized correctly and supplied with cool water. A needle valve with a flow meter is recommended for controlling input water, but I have used multi turn gate valves with no flow meter myself for years even tho they are quite picky.
Another thing worth mentioning, you will need a temperature probe in the vapor stream directly above the RC. This is a critical temperature to monitor and indicates the purity of alcohol coming out. Your temperature monitor here will need to be both precise and accurate (or at least consistent, if not accurate).
I visited a multi million dollar distillery run by one of those types who “talk to the experts but ignore what they say”. They were running a beautiful copper 12” column on a series of 1.5” chinesium brass gate valves with THE SOLE vapor temperature monitors on the top plate BEFORE the RC (yeah you read that right) and one probe “pipe clamped” to the outside of the PIPE of the RC cooling water output. If you turned a fan on or opened a door everything would change. Lol. Needless to say they didn’t have the information that would have been useable and pertinent but were able to divine what the still was doing by basically monitoring everything else but the critical measurements, and by frequent lab level temperature corrected ABV measurements during the run. When i suggested a vapor probe with a needle valve and flow meter for RC control or maybe even a simple $250 PID/proportional valve setup in a electric project box, I got the look I imagine those “experts” got in previous conversations.
It was basically a case of spending the money for a great setup but not knowing the basics of how it works or why, nor how to control it and why.
TLDR: yeah, it’s pretty much required to use it if you want to either increase or or control the purity of the output product. Otherwise, no, you don’t need it (like for a stripping run, pot still run, or gin run. )
Ok thank you. so if I understood correctly (not obvious with the translator) it is not essential to make a Gin?
No. No essential for gin (if you already have a good neutral spirit to create the gin)
@jean. There are a couple of schools of thought for making gin as far as teh ABV of the wash. The first is load it up with ethanol up to 40% the other is put in your ethanol at about 20%. The difference is if your running your still ( without plates), is that with the 20% when you do the whole run you will end up with a final product that is closely in the 40% ABV range ie its just about bottle strength. I also calculate losses of about 5% of the ethanol, I dont know where it goes but its not 100% efficient.
If your getting started and you want to dial in your botanical recipe, then this method is the best. If you go for 40% ABV on the boiler charge you will end up with a distillate around 65%, which you have to dilute down. As you dilute down the alcohol you dilute the flavors, If your recipe is good thats no problem. Personally I really like the 20% method, which is espoused by a legend of Gin called Odin. It really works. You really know what your gin will taste like straight away. For dialing in recipes you should start with batches around 4 to 5 litres. Once you get your recipe or recipes working well at those quantities it is infinitely scaleable.
thank you for this precious info @DonMateo
But when you do an herbal maceration I thought the ideal was around 60-62% alcohol. so to reduce to 20% in the still you already make a dilution. do you think it is better to do this dilution before distillation?
and to come back to the dephlegmator, when you are at 20% at the start you use it to concentrate the flavors is that right?
If your running your still just with a gin basket then you dont need to use the dephlegmator. You just charge the still, fill the botanical basket and crank it at full speed. You take a cut of about 1 or 2 % of the early run to get all the really heavy Juniper oils out of it and bingo you have gin. As for masceration your going to have to ask other people. Search on Odin and Gin, and you will find lots more information from a Dutch guy who goes by the handle Odin and he talks more about masceration. I have read that some people mascerate at 60 to 60% and then dilute down to 40% for the run, or if you really want dilute down to 20%. Anyway I do very simple vapor infusion with a 22% charge in the still, take a cut for the Juniper oils and run it down to 5% abv on the run. Works every time. Bottle strength gin straight out the condensor. Also too when you do the first few runs it pays to taste every 5 minutes or so, you will get an idea that the different flavors come out at different times in the run.
Another thing is never run a still at over 40%. Its very dangerous. But @grim or @moonshine will have more to say about that.