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    Distilling 4 Dummies: A Basic Guide

    Follow the instructions on the yeast package to make the mash. You will be disolving a quantity (13 lbs) of sugar in warm water, adding cold water, then adding the yeast packet. The recipe calls for a 25 liter batch, which is 6.5 US gallons. In 2 to 5 days your mash will be fermented and ready to distill.

    Turbo yeast is provided with the distillation unit total package #4. I have consistently produced 180 proof alcohol using a 3" column reflux still using this method. You can expect up to one gallon of alcohol in the 140 to 150 range using this method. More is possible.

    Check distiller for leaks. Place one or two gallons of water in the boiler, install the column to the boiler as instructed, turn the heater all the way up and wait for the water to boil. Once you have boiling water, check for leaks to be sure there will be no leaks when doing an alcohol run. Assure that there are no steam leaks or water pump leaks and shut down the boiler using the shut down method described in the booklet. Basically, turning off the heat and removing the rubber stopper with thermometer is all that you need do. When the unit is cool to the touch you can remove the column from the boiler until the next run.

    When your mash has fermented it is time to put the mash in the boiler using a funnel with strainer. Dip the mash from the fermentor into the boiler leaving the last half gallon in the fermentor as it will be mostly sediment from the yeast. Place the boiler on the heater, which is turned up full, and install the column and thermometer.

    Using the electric heater it will take about 1 hour for the column heat to come up above 70C and start producing alcohol. The first few ounces of alcohol may be methanol, which should be discarded as it is unhealthy for drinking. If you are producing fuel only, the methanol can be left in the mix.

    As the column heat reaches 80C (178F)you will begin to produce high proof ethanol. Collect the ethanol in a glass container (plastic can make ethanol cloudy) placed in a pan of cold water. I wrap a wet paper towel around the collection hose where it goes into the jug to keep excess fumes from escaping.

    Distilling 5 to 6 gallons at a time using the electric heater will keep the heat from going much over 85C, but if it does simply turn on the water pump for a few seconds to bring the temperature back down to 75 or 80C. Once you begin to produce ethanol the liquid should drip rapidly into the container and it will be very hot. Keeping the collection container in cool water helps increase your production. Keep the column temperature as close to 80C as possible for maximum output. Remember your entire still will reach a temperature of 180F and more, so do not touch with bare hands. I keep a pair of thick leather gloves and a fire extinguisher handy just in case.

    Finally, I collect my alcohol in quart containers. As each container is filled I cool it to room temperature and measure it's alcohol content using the alcoholmeter provided. You will find that the alcohol content will decrease near the end of the run, wherever it may occur. When you get a batch that tests at only 30% or so, your run is about over. You will also notice a rise in the column temperature to 90C and higher. This too signals the end of the run.

    NOTE: There are some who worry that the first bit of alcohol contains enough methanol to make you sick. With a sugar wash and most other mashes this is untrue. (See Distillation Purity, below) If you are unsure about it simply discard about an ounce of the first bit that comes out of the still.

    You have now produced some very high quality alcohol, but if you plan to use it as fuel you must further purify it running through the still a second time then filtering it. You should now have ethanol near 96% pure. By soaking it in, or filtering it through 'Zeolite' you can have pure alcohol. This product will absorb the water out of the alcohol leaving you with 100%, 200 proof Ethanol. Use caution handling pure alcohol as it will absorb moisture from the air.

    I have been asked about where to buy 'Zeolite' and since I don't stock it I have provided a link to one source. Here is a link to 'Zeolite', a molecular sieve used to 'dry' ethanol to achieve a pure product. 'Zeolite' can be used again and again by drying in the open air. Used 'Zeolite' is just as flammable as ethanol so be very careful with open flames around it. If this link has expired, do a search for 'molecular sieve 3a'.

    The maximum purity you will get by distilling alcohol is around 96%. This is because the ethanol and water form an azeotrope. If you do manage to dry your alcohol beyond this, if exposed to air, it will simply suck in moisture from the air, and dilute itself back to th 96.48%. There are however various methods used to dry ethanol beyond there. Its important to do so if using the ethanol as a fuel, or using it to make biofuels. The water can be absorbed from the ethanol using zeolites (a molecular sieve), or even simple corn-grits. Note that you wouldn't use the limestone or copper sulphate techniques for drinking grade ethanol.

    Making beer and wine at home in the US is perfectly legal. Owning a still (for water or making fuel) is legal. But making distilled spirits at home is currently illegal in all countries of the world except New Zealand. However, technological advances, local craft breweries and artisian spirit-making is rapidly shifting the legal landscape in in the US in favor of home production. In the meantime, if you don't sell it and don't harm anyone in the process, no one will likely mess with you.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How much alcohol can I make with the stills?
    With proper ingredients and (turbo) yeast you will extract up to 18% ethanol per volume of mash.
    Never fill a boiler to the top to avoid perculation.
    The 4 gallon SuperCoil distiller can make over 3/4 gallon 110 proof. (1 gallon 90 proof)
    The 5 gallon still can make about 1 gallon high proof ethanol per run.

    How much does it cost per gallon?
    Cost per gallon is directly related to cost of ingredients.
    Buy wholesale and buy in bulk. Or, better yet, grow it yourself.
    Orchards and vinyards often throw out fruit. Ethanol can be made from fruit.
    Wholesale refined sugar is currently 29 cents a pound. It takes up to 15 pounds per gallon.
    Wholesale unrefined sugar is 12 cents a pound.
    Wholesale shelled corn is $5.50 a bushel. It takes 20 pounds to make a gallon.
    A bushel of corn weighs 56 pounds.
    A 50 lb. bag of cracked corn will make over 2.5 gallons.
    Add the cost of yeast and electricity to the above.

    How do I heat my boiler?
    The 5 gallon or smaller still is heated with a 900 to 1200 watt hot plate.
    Larger stills might require a propane burner. Use extreme caution with open flames.
    Distilling with open flame must be done outside or in a building well away from dwellings.
    Be prepared for fire control.

    How long does it take?
    A typical run with the 5 gallon still takes about 2 hours.
    The 4 gallon SuperCoil takes about 2 hours.
    Some stoves and hotplates cycle off and on which will take longer.
    Larger stills may take up to 8 hours or more.

    Distillation Purity
    Read The Whole Article
    Always remember that distillation is simply a separation and purification process. Neither the fermentation of sugars contained in the mash nor the distillation of the alcohol resulting from that process can produce any toxic amounts of poisons. That includes the often cited methanol, and it doesn't matter how well the still is built, or how poorly the distillation itself is conducted. It also bears mentioning that neither water vapor nor alcohol vapor can possibly carry lead from soldered joints to the finished product. The ethanol itself is far more toxic than any other toxins created in the distillation process. Drink responsibly or not at all.
    Read The Whole Article

    Distillers used improperly or in an unsafe manner can be dangerous. Operate your distiller outdoors or in a well ventilated place. Obtaining a fuel permit might require you to distill in a 'shed' away from main dwelling. Distillers produce alcohol and alcohol fumes which are flammable. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and use only electric heat to operate the distiller.
    Do not smoke or operate your distiller near an open flame. We are not responsible for distillers operated unsafely or improperly.


    Quick Ethanol Recipe for 4 Gallon SuperCoil

    Makes 1 gallon 90 proof alcohol in 2 days.

    5 gallon white (food grade) bucket with lid
    7.5 pounds granulated sugar
    1/2 sachet 48 Turbo Yeast
    Alcohol Meter and Test Column
    Glass collection vessels

    In the 5 gallon white bucket, dissolve 7.5 pounds sugar in 1.5 gallon hot water. Stir until it is clear. Add 1 gallon cold water. Cool the mixture to 100f or below.

    Water and sugar combined will amount to 3 gallons sugar wash.

    Add 1/2 sachet Turbo Yeast to cooled mixture and stir thoroughly. (Read directions on sachet)

    Cover and let sit in a cool place, like a closet. Do not stir during fermentation.

    The mixture will bubble actively for a day or 2 then subside. When bubbles are slow or stopped it is ready to distill.

    Pour the contents into your 4 gallon distiller. There will be thick yeast on the bottom of the fermenter so avoid putting too much of that in your boiler as it may be hard to remove after distilling.

    Set the boiler on your ELECTRIC* hot plate. Turn heat up full and quickly lower the heat to about half when the top of the coil gets hot. Very important to pay close attention to the heat and reduce the heat as soon as the top of the coil gets hot.

    (* Alcohol is highly flammable. Using an open flame to distill is very dangerous)

    Adjust the heat so the top of the coil is hot while the bottom remains cool. Heat sources vary and you will have to practice at first.

    As the mixture continues to heat, the distillate will begin to flow from the SuperCoil. Collect the alcohol in a glass container. Plastic containers will make the alcohol cloudy. Carefully feel the coil to be sure it is hot at top, but cool at the bottom. Turn the heat down if it is too warm at the bottom as this will allow ethanol to escape in vapor form.

    The first bit of alcohol will be 140 to 150 proof. Test the output with every half pint that is produced. As the process continues the proof level will fall to about 70 proof. At this point it is all but done. The very last bit will be 40 proof. Save this to run with your next batch.

    NOTE: There are some who worry that the first bit of alcohol contains enough methanol to make you sick. With a sugar wash and most other mashes this is untrue. (See Distillation Purity, above) If you are unsure about it simply discard about an ounce of the first bit that comes out of the still.

    You should have 3/4 gallon of about 110 proof alcohol. Add distilled water to reduce the proof to 90. Avoid using water from your faucet. Adding plain tap water could make your alcohol cloudy.

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