The idea of this still did not came to me straight away, for many years I was just a hobbits brewer and in fact I was making spirits of my own since I was 12 years old (under adult supervision:-) everything was so exiting and everyone was happy about results, as time goes by I started to ask myself some questions like why my home brew is not that good and tastes more like a rocket fuel, so I started to think of how to improve the quality of my brew?
The reality is: the new technologies of distillation and purification exist and are widely used by leading alcoholic beverage produces. This is absolutely obvious because along with our smelly homebrewed liquors we have absolutely exceptional products on the shelves of our local liquor shops. Moreover the cost of good liquor production is two times as cheap as average cost of homebrew production per unit! I know it is for a fact, because I was co owner of vodka factory and the rule of business is - spend less and make bigger margin plus keep quality high.
Only the big guys do not want people like you to know how to make a real high quality alcoholic beverages because they can loose their market, but as long as simple people are making simple homebrew the same people will buy quality liquor despite of their hobby again and again. While in the vodka business I was personally suppressing any kind of information about our equipment and the production methods.
As the basis for spirit production I adopted the method that was used in Russia for production of high quality spirits by leading vodka companies, the spirit is produced in two stages.
The first stage is the production of raw or crude alcohol - where the main goal is to separate alcohol from the mash and all by products that naturally occurring in any ferment: acids, salts (yeast nutrition), and mechanical particles.
The second stage is actual fractioning (rectification) where the raw, crude alcohol that contains esters, methanol, ethanol (alcohol we are aiming at) and awfully smelling butyl alcohol, is redistilled in fractional column.
The construction of fractional (reflux) column is makes it possible for the ethanol to be redistilled inside the column for more than 30 times before it reaches the collection vessel ( this ability of column gives us the strength of alcohol of 95 - 96% alc/vol). The correctly built fractional column creates some kind of fractions' queue inside the column where the lightest spirit fraction is locating at the top of the column and get collected while the heaviest spirit fraction yet locating at the bottom. The lighter alcohol is collected the next in the queue, more heavier one is replacing the lighter one and so on (this ability of column gives us the high quality of spirits, because one can separate and collect all fractions one after another very precisely.
The knowledge about amounts of different fractions in the crude alcohol plus the the measurement of total spirit percentage in the batch before fractioning makes it possible to forecast whole distillation process. This includes the time of distillation and amounts of different fractions in litres or millilitres and percentages in respect to total spirit amount.
So, instead of relying on carbons (people still think that carbon filtration will eliminate all the impurities from the final product) you separating all impurities from each other with your fractional column during distillation and all you need to do is to dilute your distilled spirit with water and filter only if you wish so. The 25L fractional home brew still has all you need to perform precise distillation, it has one small column for raw spirit production and big fractional column for high quality food grade ethanol production. The small column also can be used along with infuser or by itself for an aromatic beverages production where you can redistill spirits that were soaked with herbs or fruits, ( I used the small column to make an absinthe).
When the crude alcohol is ready for the fractional distillation and all data about spirit percentage and amount is taken, then it is mixed with water, that helps to bound heavy spirits and odors, then loaded in to the still and fractionally distilled. The result - is a high quality ethanol for further beverage production.
The whole still arrangement that includes two columns is designed to produce high quality ethanol at highest percentage possible. There are two columns: the first column is designed to produce a low quality spirit from the fermented wash (mash, beer, wine...) and works like a simple pot still. The main purpose of this column is to separate spirit from the wash.
The second, (fractional) reflux column (has the option of manual reflux ratio control that does not depends on cooling water flow speed or temperature) is designed to fractionally separate all the impurities from the low quality spirit that we get after the first distillation.
The fractional column is used only for crude alcohol - or moonshine quality redistilling and separates physically all impurities from ethanol.
Thus with help of fractional column you can get all fractions precisely defined, and during distillation you will rely on mathematical calculation of spirits amounts that based on fractions percentage calculation - this means that you will know of how much of each fraction you are going to get even before starting your distillation. If you are familiar a bit with some reflux columns you could know that basically all reflux columns are capable only to produce the spirit with relatively high percentage of spirit in the spirit/water mix and not really capable to separate any impurities. Plus percentage of the spirit drops during the distillation, and the reflux ratio (sending back into column or condensing some spirit inside the column for repeated distillation). This is achieved and controlled by speed of cooling water flow - believe me it is almost impossible to achieve any good quality results with this type of distillation system. Basically you are going to get out of simple reflux type of still just what it is capable to give you. The distillation system that is described on this page is true fractional distiller where one can control reflux ratio and spirit speed flow regardless of water flowing rate. In fact the spirit collection/flow control valve can be closed completely and column will utilize all spirit back into column's internal space and no pressure build up will ever happen.
All fractions get separated accordingly to their physical properties plus this fractional distiller will give you maximum possible percentage of spirit: 95%+ from the start of distillation to the end of distillation. In fact all impurities that you will get from this still can be used to power 4 stroke engines (I use it for my lawn mover).
Just few words about filtration: some people are believe that activated carbon can absorb impurities such as methanol or butyl alcohol, this is not right. One can run the bottle of methanol through the activated carbon filter and get the same poisonous methanol from the other end of the filter. It will be sparkling clean, but there In fact if activated carbon's pores are big enough for the water to run through then they are even bigger for anything that more liquid than water. All the carbon does is absorb the odours and mechanical particles (cloudiness). I prefer the activated carbon that is made out of coconut shell over the carbon made out of peat, guess why?
Some people believe that during filtration the spirit must be in contact with activated carbon for at least 45 minutes, (back in army I used to use the gas mask with activated carbon in the filter cartridge and no one was breathing in for 45 minutes. We were breathing as usually and carbon did the job. In reality you can even use the pressure pump to boost the filtration process (all vodka companies are using the pumps to boost the filtration speed) but make sure that your filter is loaded correctly and tight.
Never filter undiluted spirit, the carbon works only up to 60% spirit strength, it is simple - the water that is added to the spirit during dilution is bounding up with some impurities and the carbon just keeps this bounded up molecules. Undiluted spirit will just run through the carbon.
Here is some facts:
Here is are some facts to Save your $$$ on distillation!!!
The fractional distillation offers low cost of distillation (under NZ $4 per litre of 40% vodka) and highest quality possible.
Here is some example:
To make 5L of 40 % vodka you will need: Sugar – 6kg = $7.20 Super yeast – one pack = $9.00 Power - $0.20 per unit, total 9kw =$1.80
All this will give you >=2L of 96% spirit that after dilution with water makes 5L of vodka.
Total cost = $18.00 divided by 5L = $3.6 per litre of high quality 40% alcohol, just try to find the distillation system that will offer high quality and yet low production cost. The prices in your country may be different from above.
The 25L still is now available for international customers. Stills are build to your individual order and delivered by air post in 10 business days, The fractional still can be also used and ordered as a water purifier and essential oils extractor, the still can be used for a small scale fuel ethanol production. Buy the "Alex 25" still construction plans, parts and stills: