Step By Step Guide
A Fresh Start With A New Still
Like everything else on this web site, the following account is, of
course, purely fictional. It is how I imagine I would go about distilling
alcohol, if it was legal in this country.I have just (December 1999) made
myself a new still,and put a new brew on to try it out.
To make things more interesting, I have decided to record all the details
and put them on this page. Most of the other stuff on this web site
relies on my below average memory, but this page provides a record of
a brew from fermentation to drinking. Hopefully, someone out there will
find this information useful.
First a visit to the shop where I buy my beer making kits.
Me:- "Have you got some yeast that will give a high alcohol
Shopkeeper:- "Try this one, with this yeast nutrient."
The yeast he gave me had the following text on the sachet:-
Gervin Wine Yeast
French Strain GV26
Particularly suitable for making high alcohol beverages(~ 21% if
adequate nutrient present)
To Use: Add the contents of the sachet to about 50 ml of lukewarm
water (~35 deg C) containing 1/2 tsp. of sugar. Leave for 15 minutes, stir
well, then add to must.
Sufficient for: Up to 5 gallons of must.
Packed for: Gervin Supplies, 61 Church Road, Woodley, Reading, Berks,
The labels on the two containers of yeast nutrient that I bought read
Gervin Yeast Nutrient
Contents: 55 grams
Best Before: 31.12.2000
Contains: a mixture of mineral salts, aminoacids and vitamins,
including inositol, nicotinic acid, pyridoxine, thiamine, pantothenic
acid, and biotin.
Typical Analysis: nitrogen 12%, phosphorous 20%, potassium 8%,
magnesium 2.9%;(contains no urea)
Suggested Dose: 1-2 grams per gallon for wines, and 6 grams/litre for
the production of high alcohol levels from sugar solutions.
Gervin Supplies, 61 Church Road, Woodley, Reading
Tel. 0118 969 1518
Poured 1/2 a bottle of cheap household bleach into my 5 gallon bucket
(N.B. I think I was using far too much bleach, nowadays I would make do
with half a cupful), filled to the brim with cold water, stuffed the lid
inside , and left it all standing for about 2 hours before rinsing well
with cold water.
Put 5 Kg of sugar into the bucket, and kept on pouring boiling water
onto it, while stirring continuously, until it was all dissolved. Topped
up to the 5 gallon mark using a mixture of hot an cold water to get the
temperature to exactly 25 deg C.
Sprinkled both 55 gram packs of yeast nutrient onto the surface of
brew, while stirring well. This seemed like a lot of nutrient to me, but
was slightly less than the recommended amount (see above).
Started off yeast as per instructions (see above), and added to
Stirred well, checked temperature and hydrometer readings, and fitted
the lid. Incidentally, I have since been told that it is more accurate to
take your initial hydrometer reading BEFORE adding any yeast or nutrient.
That doesn't really affect me though, as I only use a hydrometer to get a
rough idea of how the fermentation is progressing.
Placed the brew into a small cupboard which, don't try this at home
kids, I have rigged up with a 40 Watt light bulb as a heat source.
Waited for brew to ferment and clear, and took the following notes:-
Date ------ Time -- Hyd ---- Temp --- Notes
30/12/99 -- 2015 --
1.090 -- 25 ----- Stirred well.
31/12/99 -- 0530 -- 1.092 -- 22 -----
Stirred well, rise in hydrometer reading due to temperature difference?
31/12/99 -- 1840 -- 1.082 -- 22 ----- Decided not to stir any more.
01/01/00 -- 1430 -- 1.051 -- 25 ----- No added heat, but temperature
rise. Heat from fermentation?
02/01/00 -- 0800 -- 1.026 -- 25 -----
03/01/00 -- 0030 -- 1.012 -- 23 -----
03/01/00 -- 1000 -- 1.004 --
04/01/00 -- 0100 -- 0.997 -- 22 -----
04/01/00 -- 0930 --
<.995 -- 21 ----- Hydrometer reading just off scale.
0130 ---- x ---- 20 -----
05/01/00 -- 1030 ---- x ---- 19 ----- Heater
(40 Watt light bulb) switched on.
05/01/00 -- 1530 ---- x ---- 22
----- Still fermenting.
06/01/00 -- 0800 ---- x ---- 28 ----- Heater
switched off, still fermenting.
06/01/00 -- 1600 ---- x ---- 24 -----
Still a few bubbles.
07/01/00 -- 0600 ---- x ---- 20 -----
Fermentation appears to have stopped.
08/01/00 -- 1945 ---- x ----- x
----- Starting to clear
11/01/00 -- 2230 ---- x ----- x ----- Start to
run through Still.
Don't forget that in England we write the date properly - DD/MM/YY
My New Still
The pot for my new still didn't cost me a penny, I simply made a slight
modification to my wallpaper steam stripper. If you live in England you
can pick one up quite cheaply at Argos or B&Q etc.
All I did was cut the hose in half so I could fit it to my condenser.
There are actually two plastic pipes, one inside the other, this stops the
outside of the hose from getting hot.
Fortunately, the inner pipe was just a nice fit inside the input of my
condenser, where I secured it with insulating tape, and the outer pipe
fitted nicely around the outside of the condenser input, held in place
with insulating tape.
There are different makes of wallpaper stripper, but they all seem to
have a 2 Kw element. Unfortunately I haven't got any way of controlling
the power output yet, but I still got what I consider to be a reasonable
yield of a very palatable, fairly pure drink.
My New Condenser
I stole the idea from the plans for a reflux still found on the
internet. There is a copy of the plans on this web site,in a pdf format
book, click here to download it. The author gives his permission for
anyone to use/modify any of his plans, and to distribute his book freely.
It looks like an interesting design. If anyone tries building it, let me
know how it performs.
There wasn't really anything wrong with the first coil I made, I just
wanted to try something different, and this new one was cheap and easy
to make. The diagram below took me longer to make than the real thing.
The coil I made previously had a 10mm dia. bore. This new condenser has
a 15mm dia bore. I thought that this larger diameter, and the fact that it
is straight rather than coiled, might give a larger throughput, the only
danger being that some vapour might travel straight through without
condensing and be lost to the atmosphere, but I don't think this was a
Water is supplied via a piece of old hosepipe which is just a nice fit
over the 10mm copper tube input.
The Distillation - First Run
Siphon first gallon of brew into still. Connect Pot to
holding hose up with a piece of string in the middle,
fastened to a nail
in the wall.
Switched on still, and water supply. Noise from heating
virtually straight away
Outside of still starting to get hot.
Not as noisy. Smell like meth's at output, but no liquid
Boiling vigorously. Steady stream of distillate. Threw the
cupful away, as it smelled like meth's.
Quarter of a pint collected so far. Looks quite clear.
Seems to have slowed down, but still a steady stream of clear
Three quarters of a pint collected.
Increased water flow, as outside of condenser starting to warm
One pint collected.
Seems to have slowed down again, but still a steady stream of
Turning cloudy. Switched still off.
After this first run on the first gallon of brew, I ended up with a
full pint of clear, not bad tasting, distillate. To avoid mixing the
cloudy stuff, at the end of the run, with the clear stuff, I was colecting
a small amount in a glass, then swapping for a fresh glass, and
transferring contents to a bottle.
I thought of collecting some of the tails (cloudy stuff) and adding
them back to the next run, but decided that quality is better than
Distillate from first run burns with a clear blue flame, but, when
burnt out, leaves quite a lot of water (etc?) on spoon.
Half filled still with water from tap, swithced off water supply to
condenser, and ran some steam through it to clean out. Switched water
supply back on, and let some distilled water run through still to wash it
Poured two and three quarter pints of bottled water into the Still, and
added the five pints of distillate collected from first run.
Discarded first half pint of liquid. Kept tasting a drop (literally),
and burning half a spoonful (very little residue after burnt out. Stopped
collecting at approx. four pints of very clear liqiid.
I was going to do a third run, but didn't finish second run until half
past one in the morning, so settled for two runs.
The Finished Product
Diluted my four pints of 'alcohol' with an equal amount of bottled
water ("Abbey Well Spring Water"), and ended up with eight pints of what
tastes like a very acceptable Vodka.
It is clear, nice to drink, and does not give me a hangover. on this
basis, I am not worried that I am poisoning myself. If you think I should
have any concerns, then PLEASE let me know.
Manyt of you probably know more about distilling than I do, why not
write something, and put it on a web site for us to share.