Going deeper into spirit making – the advanced course
The following is a total advanced course and does not really need to be read. It is mainly for those that interested of developing the hobby further. If you are short of time just jump over this page.
The most pleasant thing about the EasyStill is the facility of developing your hobby. To distill with the EasyStill is as easy as making coffee. Failed experiments with flavouring spirits can just be re-distilled to new spirits. One can make whisky, grappa, fruit snaps, anything. One can soak raspberries or other fruit in good alcohol until the spirits have taken up the flavour. Then one can distill the outcome and taste the result.
The possibilities are limitless.
It is principally because the apparatus is so small and simple, that it is so easy and quick to try something interesting. If one forgets to switch off the unit the mash will be distilled to a clear liquid, a mixture of alcohol and water with the same alcoholic strength as the mash. Then the unit switches itself off.
Home distillation of spirits is not more difficult than fermenting sugar and water to mash, distill right into the purifying tube and produce a good spirit.
Thermometers, metre-high columns and cooling water are but a distant memory, belonging back in the Stone Age.
But alcohol distillation is a very satisfying hobby; many develop and become very skilled, just as skilled as a professional. Many start distilleries with time.
When the hobby distiller develops his hobby this is common:
One obtains a fermentation gauge (hydrometer) to check that fermentation has absolutely ceased before distilling. A very accurate type is called an Oechslemeter, which many obtain.
One allows the mash to stand for an extra week to allow it to clear, with or without a clearing agent. (Chitosan based clearing agent is best).
One can experiment with different Turbo yeasts and gravity of the mash.
One can check the temperature of the fermentation, and arrange a cooling fan to blow on the fermentation vessel if it is necessary during the summer.
One distills twice. Distilleries do this; even whisky and cognac are distilled 2 times. This is the first that happens, many do this from the start.
One begins to discard the fore shots, the first drops that come out of the still, not quite a centiliter.
One checks on progress and is exactly aware how long distillation takes when it is how one wants it. Then one sets a timer that switches off after that time.
When one has produced the 1.4 liters , one changes the collecting vessel and collects the weak final spirits that comes out after the spirit wanted. Then this is mixed in with the next distillation to preserve all the alcohol.
Those interested in fruit snaps study and experiment with the pot still technique without activated charcoal and make snaps, whisky, etc. During distillation fore shots, head, body and tail emerge. Only the body is good enough, the rest must be re-distilled. By distilling, saving and test tasting the way through one can learn when the best comes through and collect it separately.
This is a real skill, and difficult. It is simpler to macerate (allow to draw) fruit or herbs in good spirits and then drink it or distill it. There is a free book for commercial pot still distilleries at: http://books24-7.com/en/free-distillation-19/english-20/artisan-distilling-a-guide-for-small-distilleries-142.html. Grab if you are interested, this Artisan Distillation eBook by Professor Berglund is worth over USD 100.
Active charcoal filtering
Activated charcoal (activated carbon) functions as a molecular sieve. Small molecules such as water and alcohol pass through. Fusel oil and other congeners having larger molecules fasten in the pores of the charcoal. When all the pores are full the charcoal is exhausted and is discarded.
Water molecules are the smallest and can most easily pass through the tube. When spirits are passed through the charcoal, the first to emerge is water. When the activated charcoal begins to work one can feel the tube, the charcoal becomes warm for a time and one can tell where on the tube the charcoal is becoming active.
If the activated charcoal is thoroughly wetted it becomes 100% more effective because then the capillary action can draw the alcohol right through the carbon particles. Further, there are substances remaining on the surface of the carbon from manufacture that imparts a slight taste.
So among the first things a hobby brewer does is to pass 5- 10 liters of warm water through the filter tube. This rinses the charcoal and thoroughly wets it, doubling its capacity. This is easily done before one starts or while the apparatus is warming up.
Those that are really advanced boil the charcoal for 15 – 20 minutes, pour off the water, pour on fresh water that becomes black from charcoal dust, and pour this water off. Repeat this a few times until the water is clear of charcoal dust. Then the thoroughly wetted charcoal is placed in the filter tube. The capacity of the charcoal has increased by 150% because it is totally wetted.
Then the hobby brewer pours in a little spirits to drive the water out of the tube (to enable the collection of stronger spirits), or taste off during distillation. When spirits and water begin to come out of the tube he begins to collect the alcohol. When distillation has finished he adds a little water to the tube in the same way to get the last spirits out of the filter.
Because filtering occurs drop by drop and it takes 2-3 hours to filter 1.4 liters , the long contact time with the charcoal means the alcohol becomes very pure. Purer than if one collects the spirits first and then pours it in the funnel for filtering.
One procures a Widder 30 – 60% alcoholmeter with thermometer and correction scale and obtains distillery precision in measuring. A Widder 0 – 100% alcoholmeter with thermometer and correction scale and obtains close to distillery precision in measuring
One distils water and then uses the distilled water for all dilution.
One tries different essences. There are over 200 Prestige essences so there is much to try out here. One tries to increase or reduce the dosage of essences. For liqueurs and the like one experiments with different amounts of sugar and different alcohol strengths.
Ouzo, Sambuca, Absinthe, Pastis and other similar strong alcoholic drinks based on aniseed contain a lot of sugar, as a liqueur. Many think they are better without sugar and people with diabetes will not have sugar in them. Many try them entirely without sugar and consider them better without. Diabetics can suddenly drink liqueurs again, they can just sweeten them with sweetener.
Adding herbs to spirits, such as wormwood, etc. or fruit yourself is also popular.