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Welcome to our Beginner's Talk Category!

Hi there,

As the category description tells, everybody has to begin somewhere. This is your place for discussing basic distilling matters, be it specific to StillDragon equipment or distilling in general.

Please do not feel intimidated by the high level of professional talk in our forum, we have quite some pros around here, but of course StillDragon is for the absolute beginners as well. It just rocks, whichever level you think you are in.

And keep in mind: There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers! Whatever you want to know, ask away and get qualified opinions from our extremely friendly and knowledgeable community.

Don't be shy, and post lots of pictures & videos, which tell more than thousand words!


Moonshine - Your Devoted Forum Administrator

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



  • edited February 2014

    Oh THIS is so good and needed! @Moonshine

    So many of the members here are advanced distillers and are eager to help the new distiller, I know that I am.

    Ask away, we are here to help.

  • Please refer to my post on foaming

  • edited February 2014

    I'd recommend any beginners to have a read of the documents in the Manuals section

    Some good info there (if I do say so myself haha)

  • Could I suggest a place for beginners (and me sometimes!) where there is a list of Acronyms. I know we bandy around our HETPs and our GB4s, not to mention SPP, TC and even SD :-O but not everyone will know what they are. Does that sound patronising? It's really not meant to be.

  • edited March 2014

    Please see our Distiller's Glossary.

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

  • edited August 2014

    Well, I'm new, for sure. I'm agonizing over how to proceed to learn to make a really fine gin. (I'll save my rye whiskey disaster for another post.) I've read the gin manual, and I think it's great. I've got a list of botanicals that I believe I should buy (Mountain Rose has the best price and seems to be a very reliable supplier of quality botanicals.). I decided to go with the following, so please comment about any of it. Also, no, I don't intend to use all of them at once; they're just the ones I want to experiment with first. I plan to get more adventurous after I decide I'm able to make a traditional dry gin.
    Juniper berry, whole-50 LBS (x), Coriander seed, whole-25 LBS (x/2); Angelica Root-5 LBS (x/10); Cinnamon (Cassia) sticks-5 LBS; Grains of Paradise, whole-5 LBS; Cardamon Seed, whole-0.5 LBS (x/100); Lemon Peel, 1/4" cut 0.5 LBS; Licorice Root T/B cut-0.5 LBS; Nutmeg, powder-0.5 LBS; Orange Peel, Bitter, C/S-0.5 LBS;
    Orris Root, Florentine, Powder-0.5 LB; Star anise, whole-0.5 LBS; Ginger root, C/S0.5 LBS.

    I plan to use the individual botanical distillation method described in the gin manual for maiden efforts. However, I really need to have it explained in novice-novice terms: how does the radar chart work?

    Also, I'm very puzzled about getting TTB approval for gin formulas. I'd like to make the kind of gin with the botanicals I feel like using whenever I decide I'd like to try something new. Does the TTB require a new formula approval for every single change in botanicals/ratios?

  • Mountain rose. Or. Herbco

  • Hi @bigred, the radar charts are not mandatory, they are simply a method you can use to plot out how you'd like the end product to be so you can choose the ingredients & ratio of ingredients to deliver that result. An alternate use of them is to record your impressions when tasting.

    "Method 1: Blending Single Ingredient Distillations" describes how to produce individual botanicals distillates. Once you have these distillates, you then need to come up with a list of the combinations (different ratios) of each individual distillate you want to use then convert these into volumes to make up say 30 ml then measure blend, rest, sample & record the impressions of each combination.

    If you plotted out your ratios on a radar chart before mixing - you can also mark on it your tasting impressions as actual results may not be what you intended. They give you a repeatable way to quantify things.

    I hope that makes sense.

    Sorry- I can't help with ttb - try calling them & asking.


  • edited August 2014

    Thank you, @crozdog. That's a very helpful explanation.

  • Looks like nobody's been here for quite a while but I'll post my first stupid question here anyway.

    How clear should a wash be before putting it in the boiler for stripping? I'm thinking about suspended solids getting scorched/burnt and tainting the low wines and that sort of thing. ;;)

  • edited August 2017

    What kind of still are you using? I have a steam jacket and distill on the grain as soon as terminal is reached. Solids burning will be more an issue for equipment health than low wine quality, afaik.

  • Using gas i'd use a fine kitchen strainer when filling the boiler, but using elements if it was me i may put a chux or kitchen towel in the strainer to catch any fines.

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

  • I use a keg boiler over a pretty hurky propane burner, and my barley malt washes are pretty cloudy with yeast and grain debris, but I've never had a scorching problem, although I do have to clean the (inside) bottom every few months.

    As has been mentioned, however, with immersion elements, I could never do that.

    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

    my book, Making Fine Spirits

  • edited September 2017

    Been away for a few weeks and just saw your replies, thanks everyone. I'm running a 4" X 3 bubble plate StillDragon on top of a stainless steel keg with a 3Kw immersion element. My copper bubble plates are quite discolored now and I wondered if suspended solids in the wash were contributing to the discoloration. I often have a brown powder-fine residue on the plate and caps after a stripping run. Should I clean the plates after each run? or how often? Many questions as I bought my rig secondhand from an old distiller who had to retire from his hobby so I'm still learning the many benefits of a StillDragon rig. Thanks again

  • I've waited a good while but I guess I'm not getting an answer to any of those Qs then

  • I would clean whenever it builds enough to foul holes, your change products, or are not running for a day or two. I have no experience with columns, though.

  • Sorry mate, you don't need to clean each run unless you want to. Most users would do it every 5 or 6 runs on the smaller 4-6" units. Modular is easy to disassemble if you like after a run and then just drop the plates into a bucket of hot backset or a 10% citric acid solution. If you use acid then rinse in a base and then plenty of water.

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

  • Can someone help me to navigate around do not know how to post. If I do wrong correct me. Does any get midges in mash and is that causing my mash to get stuck . Thank you. :>

  • Well I finally got all my bits and pieces and mashed in yesterday. A single malt and a scotch 80% barley /20% smoked barley. It was a bit disorganised but I have started. I need a couple of bits and pieces and some where to get rid of my spent grain but anyway.

  • You need to seal the mash drum so insects can't get in mate.

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

  • Thanks mate. I remembered that one.

  • edited September 2017

    @DonMateo - you got midges too or you worried about doing a Smaug and dropping a load on the floor. :))

  • @gd50 no mate. I am trying put things in my garage and its not optimal. I need another pump for wash and somewhere to get rid of grain and those sorts of things. Still learning. But I have 1500kg of grain in my shed that says i will get plenty of practice.

  • Well I dinally did my first whiskey run yesterday. Wooohooo.. Still learning lots of things. I knew I screwed up the masceration and wash with the temperatures and it showed up at the end with a smaller amount of whiskey than I would have wanted. But my still worked perfectly and its all good. Now I have to work on my practices for mashing in and get that spot on and get the fermenting thing working well.

  • What size mash are you doing and what are you using for a mash tun?

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

  • I did 100l mash with 25 kilos of grain. My mash tun was 220 litres and I only half filled it, its a stainless steel mash tun. I screwed up with the strike temperature of the water. Dumb beginners error I think.

  • edited October 2017

    I am in the process of setting up my StillDragon, but would like to work w/ someone who could assist with everything from water flow controllers to temp gauges. I am in Hudson, NY. Anyone available as a consultant? Name your price.

  • I'm two hours south of you. Shoot me a line - james at silkcitydistillers dot com.

  • Any information on water flow controllers would be gratefully received. Just hobby level, to try and get some measurements / metrics going. The next step up from measuring jug and iPhone timer.

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