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sweetT14

4 plate column vs two pot still runs

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I am looking into a 200 gallon steam jacket still with a 4 plate column, but in trying to keep my startup expense low, I wanted to compare it with a 200 gallon steam jacket pot still. If I can do without the 4 plate column and substitute labor for cost, then that is what I want to do.

I am looking for tons of grain flavor rather than high proof, pure, tasteless vodka. I visited a distillery that was using a 5 plate column and their shine was the smoothest I have tasted yet. No burn, and tons of flavor.

My questions are...

Can I achieve that extremely smooth and full flavor shine by distilling twice on a regular pot still, as I can by distilling once in a 5 plate column still?

what are the tradeoffs of running these different types of stills?

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One run a still with plates is better than double pot Distilling. I find you loose too much flavor that way.

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Perfect! thanks that's exactly what I needed to know. I thought that was the deal but needed confirmation.

sweeet

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be sure your column is sized appropriately for your charge volume. this can be the difference between a 4 hour run and a 12 hour run.

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Perfect! thanks that's exactly what I needed to know. I thought that was the deal but needed confirmation.

sweeet

That's not the deal. That is just one persons opinion who probably favors the flavors he or she has achieved through a column still – not sure if their same wash/mash was was also attempted on a pot still... Either way, it's their opinion and there's nothing wrong with it.

I run pot stills for whiskey. There is a crazy amount of flavor that comes though in the second distillation on my still with my wash. I've tried distilling the exact same wash through a column still (a small 55g still that I use to distill my higher whiskey cuts into a gin base) and the flavors were not quite as rich and enjoyable for my liking. The answer for me was pretty clear.

If you want to make whiskey on a column still - go for it, but know that you can make a "smooth" spirit on ANY still that's run properly with proper cuts taken. Tons of folks make great whiskey on all sorts of stills. Make the best whiskey you can!

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Plates can be great for moonshine, which should actually be taken to higher proof than a whiskey to get that clean flavor. Double distill with no plates for whiskey if you want that maximum flavor, take a small tail cut on the strip and then your accurate heart selection on the spirit run. You might consider including a dephlegmator for the spirit run, though. JMO. Check previous threads for the two versus one distillation efficiency debate.

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Ok, lets say flavor isn't an issue. Which still process will produce a shine that is less harsh?

That's my problem right now, I get tons of flavor but my drink has a bad burn to it at 130 proof. I have cut it to 105 proof but still has the burn. That is one run with a copper pot.

I know if I distill it a second time it will ease up but I will lose some flavor in the process. If I do one run with plates wont it keep a lot of flavor, be less harsh, and clean the taste?

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This is all in the art of Distilling. In my experience, running it through the column plates closed, pre condenser water on, produces a more flavorful, richer product than Distilling twice in a plain pot still. This goes for all spirits. You will have to load it up and get it running, make a good heads and tails cut and see for yourself, that is the heart in it. Using your senses, mainly smell and sight to judge how fast you run the still, how much precondensor water to use, when to cut it, etc. remember, in double distillation think like this, you are making a less flavorful spirit because you are so far removed from your mash. This is also why continuos distillation can be used to make a more flavorful spirit than a pot will.

Found this on a past thread. It makes sense to me...

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Found this on a past thread. It makes sense to me...

Yeah, but I can do both in my still, and I do not find it to be true, so there you go. YMMV.

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That's my problem right now, I get tons of flavor but my drink has a bad burn to it at 130 proof. I have cut it to 105 proof but still has the burn. That is one run with a copper pot.

I know if I distill it a second time it will ease up but I will lose some flavor in the process. If I do one run with plates wont it keep a lot of flavor, be less harsh, and clean the taste?

You want it to be smooth at 105 proof, distill the dickens out of it. We have done a 4x distilled, with plates the second two times, to 185 proof. Smooth and tasty at 110 proof. For your edification, I would suggest if you have something you don't like at distillation N, try it at distillation N+1.

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wont that remove the flavor. I know It would make it smooth, but I would lose a lot of flavor also right? hence vodka has the dickens distilled out of it. Yeah it has a hint of flavor, but no where near the flavor Im looking for.

I guess I will have to go back to this guys dsp and try to get some more info on how he achieves his results. I thought he said he runs in one time with his 5 plate 250 gallon, but I need to get some more detail out of him if I can.

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Vodka is also usually treated with charcoal after distillation, which really flattens the taste out. Some vodka isn't, and has more of a light grain taste, like high quality moonshine or a very light grain whiskey.

My guess is that if you are getting 130 proof from a single run on a pot still, you are running quite a high %ABV sugar wash. This may be the beginning of where your spirit is getting its burn;

1. Sugar is quite burn-y.

2. High ABV% wash will probably give some burn.

3. A single run on a pot still is not really adequate to seperate undesirable fractions from your product.

4. Most distilled spirits are going to burn if you drink them at 130 proof!

A good place to start is by tasting spirits made using various methods and stills. Without wanting to be patronising you should probably be fairly well versed in spirits knowledge if you want to pursue distilling as a career.

Also, if anybody tells you that, for instance, pot stills lose too much flavour in a double distillation, you can just ask yourself "what spirits do I know that are pot stilled in this manner?", and then judge for yourself whether they are bland or not.

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Good info Dan. I understand I need to be well versed in distillation knowledge before I begin, that is why I am on this forum talking with the knowledgeable people like yourself. No pun intended. I have already learned more than I expected to in the short amount of time I have been on here. Thanks

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That's not the deal. That is just one persons opinion who probably favors the flavors he or she has achieved through a column still – not sure if their same wash/mash was was also attempted on a pot still... Either way, it's their opinion and there's nothing wrong with it.

I run pot stills for whiskey. There is a crazy amount of flavor that comes though in the second distillation on my still with my wash. I've tried distilling the exact same wash through a column still (a small 55g still that I use to distill my higher whiskey cuts into a gin base) and the flavors were not quite as rich and enjoyable for my liking. The answer for me was pretty clear.

If you want to make whiskey on a column still - go for it, but know that you can make a "smooth" spirit on ANY still that's run properly with proper cuts taken. Tons of folks make great whiskey on all sorts of stills. Make the best whiskey you can!

Pot still is the way for me most of the fun / challenge for me is tasting / maken the cuts. I have looked at many column stills and IMHO they are for mass production then aging but I am sure once you learn YOUR still and make it work for you and what you want just about anyone would do.

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By "spirits knowledge" I mean that you will have tasted a broad range of spirits, and have opinions on them.

That way when someone spins you a line like "One run a still with plates is better than double pot Distilling. I find you loose too much flavor that way", you will be able to assess it according to your own experience of, say, x, y and z whiskeys which you know to have been pot stilled, versus l, m, n and o whiskeys which you know to have been produced in a plated column.

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Ok, lets say flavor isn't an issue. Which still process will produce a shine that is less harsh?

That's my problem right now, I get tons of flavor but my drink has a bad burn to it at 130 proof. I have cut it to 105 proof but still has the burn. That is one run with a copper pot.

I know if I distill it a second time it will ease up but I will lose some flavor in the process. If I do one run with plates wont it keep a lot of flavor, be less harsh, and clean the taste?

You could try this..

Do the math on expected yields for your size wash and ABV you are putting into the still

1. Take a large cut of foreshots (something like 3x what you normally would) and discard.

2. Collect the next 1/4 of expected total yield as heads and save.

3. Collect the next 1/2 of expected total yield as hearts. (on the first batch of the cycle you might want to take even less as hearts)

4. Collect the final 1/4 as tails and save. Run it all the way down to 20% ABV..

On the next batch add the heads/tails into the still with your new ferment.

Do the math on expected total yields again including the feints you added.

Repeat steps 1 - 4 but this time adjust your cuts to taste.

So...

Your take big foreshot cuts each run because this is where you get rid of the burn that builds up.

You take big heads cuts because you don't need to worry about losing product as you will recover that alcohol next time.

You run all the way down to 20%ABV because that is where most of your flavor is.

It essentially works out to a 1.5 distilled product.

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I also read that corn will produce more of a burn than say rye, but the distillery I visited was mashing with corn and bottling at 125 proof, and was unbelievably smooth, No burn whatsoever. I have to learn his trick!

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You could try this..

.........................................................................

You run all the way down to 20%ABV because that is where most of your flavor is.

It essentially works out to a 1.5 distilled product.

I assume when you say " 1.5 distilled product" you have blended the two runs ?? if not, please explain.

Is this a still with plates or without?

I have never run a plated still, just simple alembic as the traditional Scots do. All the distillers I know who use alembic pots run the feints down to about 2%, especially on the wash run (= first run = stripping run) Some stop on the spirit run a bit earlier but I think that is because the run takes too long.

In my experience you should take big heads and foreshots and that will reduce the burn especially to the nose, and then run the heart well down towards the feints. That is where the flavour is.

I would like someone to explain to me why you would stop at 20%, there must be a lot of alcohol still in the boiler, but maybe not with a plated column........ I think I have just answered my own question, but I would appreciate a few numbers if someone like Steve from Artisan Still Design could oblige.

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I also read that corn will produce more of a burn than say rye, but the distillery I visited was mashing with corn and bottling at 125 proof, and was unbelievably smooth, No burn whatsoever. I have to learn his trick!

and you said that your stuff had a burn to it. No amount of Distilling will correct a poorly made distillers beer. Period. Whiskey, rum, etc, is made in the fermenter, not the still.

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20% is about where the extra you will get isn't worth the extra expense in fuel. We use a column still so we can create an equilibruim in the column to concentrate forshots, but I believe its mainly in where you make your cuts too much heads or tails gives a harsh product.

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I assume when you say " 1.5 distilled product" you have blended the two runs ?? if not, please explain.

Is this a still with plates or without?

I have never run a plated still, just simple alembic as the traditional Scots do. All the distillers I know who use alembic pots run the feints down to about 2%, especially on the wash run (= first run = stripping run) Some stop on the spirit run a bit earlier but I think that is because the run takes too long.

In my experience you should take big heads and foreshots and that will reduce the burn especially to the nose, and then run the heart well down towards the feints. That is where the flavour is.

I would like someone to explain to me why you would stop at 20%, there must be a lot of alcohol still in the boiler, but maybe not with a plated column........ I think I have just answered my own question, but I would appreciate a few numbers if someone like Steve from Artisan Still Design could oblige.

No, not blended.. I casually called it 1.5 distilled because about 50% of what you would collect from each distillation run gets added into the next distillation run.

This was a suggestion for sweetT14 who said he is doing single runs on a copper pot and would prefer not to double distill. (so its just a suggestion he could try, not something I am stating will make good whiskey)

This is similar to what I do, but I do stripping runs with no cuts first, then basically follow the outline I described. I run a four plate still but run no cooling water through the top condenser. Basically running it like a pot still.

And just to make sure we are understanding each other, when I say run it down to 20% ABV i mean run it until your hydrometer on the parrot shows that you are collecting 20% ABV.

Perhaps i need to push further into the tails past 20%. I am very curious how far/deep other folks on here run the tails??

I do this because at that point 80% of what I am collecting is water, it comes out slower and my boiler has to cycle more frequently. So i stop because I am spending more time and energy to collect less whiskey that is at a dramatically lower ABV..

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and you said that your stuff had a burn to it. No amount of Distilling will correct a poorly made distillers beer. Period. Whiskey, rum, etc, is made in the fermenter, not the still.

OK, I call bull donkeys. Yeah, yeah, GIGO, but you can make a better product when not suitable in a prior distillation by an additional distillation, IN SOME CASES. Or to put it another way, for some products, on a low-separation-power still, the only way to get to a suitable product is to perform additional distillations. And the still and how it is operated is a critical component, or you would not be arguing with the rest of us about what kind of still is best. Fermentation is important (the fermentor itself probably not so much, if you really want to parse your English), but so is the still and particularly how that still can be and is used for making cuts (or effective cuts, in a continuous column arrangement). Bull donkeys, I say.

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Look, I love my continuous still and my refraction still.

To each his own.

I don't have tons of time for a pot still and also to redistill several times.

That's my 2 cents.

Take care!

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OK, I call bull donkeys. Yeah, yeah, GIGO, but you can make a better product when not suitable in a prior distillation by an additional distillation, IN SOME CASES. Or to put it another way, for some products, on a low-separation-power still, the only way to get to a suitable product is to perform additional distillations. And the still and how it is operated is a critical component, or you would not be arguing with the rest of us about what kind of still is best. Fermentation is important (the fermentor itself probably not so much, if you really want to parse your English), but so is the still and particularly how that still can be and is used for making cuts (or effective cuts, in a continuous column arrangement). Bull donkeys, I say.

you can call it pure horseshit if you like. No skin off my nose. But it is true.

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