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A POT still simply collects and condenses the alcohol vapours that come off the boiling mash. This will result in an alcohol at about 40-60% purity, with plenty of flavour in it. If this distillate were put through the pot still again, it would increase in purity to around 70-85% purity, and lose a bit of its flavour.
A REFLUX still does these multiple distillations in one single go, by having some packing in a column between the condensor & the pot, and allowing some of the vapour to condense and trickle back down through the packing. This “reflux” of liquid helps clean the rising vapour and increase the % purity. The taller the packed column, and the more reflux liquid, the purer the product will be. The advantage of doing this is that it will result in a clean vodka, with little flavour to it – ideal for mixing with flavours etc.
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This is difficult to answer without knowing your needs. The best way to figure this out is to decide how much product you intend to make and how often. You will yield about 10 to 20% of product out of your wash, so that will tell you how big of a boiler you need. Of course if you want something a little smaller, you can do multiple runs. Research recipies of what you wish to make, and that should help you find out what percentage you can expect. For reference: 20% of 5 gallons is 1 gallon.
A pot still is the most basic. It channels vapors up the column and they escape through the condensor. The condensor is made to cool the steam back into liquid, and you keep the output. A refulx still adds a condenser to the column for the purpose of filtering out impurities during the distillation. As different products vaporize at different temperatures (water and alcohol) the purpose is to make the alcohol more pure, while keeping the water vapor from exiting the condenser. We label our still tower the ‘dual purpose’ because it can be used as a reflux OR a pot still… simply don’t use the refulx cooling jacket or the torpedo and it becomes a pot still.
As mentioned in the first question, distilling will yield only a percentage of your wash, mash, or beer. You first need to know the ABV (alcohol by volume) of your recipe, then you should get some idea of how much you will make. In the example of 20% of 5 gallons equal to 1 gallon; this would be 1 gallon of 100% (200 proof) alcohol. So, as you run your batch and it comes out at about 150 proof (75%) alcohol, you are also getting some water in your product. If you are able to get every last drop of alcohol out of the batch, you would actually get more like 1.5 gallons of end product from 5 gallons of water at 20%. As always, actual results will vary.
How to use a Hydrometer
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