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Yield when running Vodka still


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Hello everyone,

Looking for some opinions on the expected yields when running a vodka still. 

Background info: we brew a malted barley wash, run a stripping still with no cuts, and then use a 20-plate still to produce our neutral for vodka and gins.

I'm relatively new at my workplace. Until recently we have used sensory exclusively to make our cuts: ie "heads" flavours are gone, let's cut to hearts // "tailsy" flavours like increased acidity or vegetal notes are becoming discernable, let's cut to tails.

We are trying to expand our process to include analytical benchmarks as well. So to that end I'm hoping people could share some info on what a "typical" (I know, every piece of equipment/methodology/ingredient base is different!) yield would be on a vodka still. ie if you put 100 LAA/proof gallons into your vodka still, how much do you expect to retain as "hearts"?

I'm hoping this will give us a bit of info as to what analytical benchmarks we can set up to be more consistent. We are aiming to set up ABV targets and volume indicators to complement our sensory. Tasting the same way every day is tough!!

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer! 

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With your vodka still are you permiting enough time for the column to "equalize"?

If not it would be benficial to run it in a full relux, without overcooling, for 45-60 mins to allow any potential higher volatility components to rise to the top of your column and slowly taken off.

Then once you believe you have the heads removed, pull your hearts. this will help with your yields.

The other question is are you stripping and finishing? or just doing a single pass?

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Thanks for your response! To answer your questions:

  • Yes, we leave the column to equalize and run in reflux for 2 hours before we start collecting.
  • We do stripping runs in a separate stripping still. So we are bringing a "primary" distillate product of about ~160 LAA to our column still.

We get a really good tasting neutral product, and the still operates really nicely once at equilibrium.

The issue for me is not so much the heads cut, which feels quite obvious, but the tails cut. We are gun-shy about pushing our tails cut further into the run, and my instinct is that we're cutting too soon and wasting a significant amount of LAA each run!

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You could always try stabilizing the column at the end of what you think your hearts collection would be, that would let you recompress your hearts that remain and let the tails settle to the bottom of the column.

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