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A still is the tool that a still uses. It allows the distillation of either plants or fermented fruits in order to obtain a strong alcoholic drink, commonly called "Water of life". With full knowledge of the facts, have you decided to embark on distillation and thus create your own brandy? So you will need this material. However, depending on the beverage you want to make, different types of still exist. Also be aware that there are stills that are used to make essential oil, but we will mainly focus on those that are used to make alcohol. So how do you make the right choice? No worries, because we've put together this buying and comparison guide that will give you the means to choose the still that will help you create your own alcoholic drink. Ready to learn more? Follow us !
Some details about a still
A still is a device usually made of copper, resembling a vessel with a rather unconventional shape. It has a round pot enhanced by a sort of capital that could be compared to a tulip. This part is intended for condensation and rectification of steam. A cooling coil and a gooseneck complete the whole. On some models, there is the presence of a wine heater placed between them. This part is intended to preheat the must of the next distillation with the alcohol vapors. This allows to win time and above all, ofsave fuel employee.
This tool is useful in the distillation of plants and fruits that are used to make alcohol, such as plums or pears for example. Following this characteristic, it thus makes it possible to obtain alcohols particularly rich in aromas and flavor. It is in this context that even the biggest distillers use the still to make their products. Concretely, with a still, you will be able to increase the proportion of alcohol in a drink in order to create a "Brandy".
The regulations in force on the use of a still
Before you embark on the distillation and creation of your own brandy, it is important to know that there is a clear legislation on this subject. To be included among the distillers, you will have to take into account the points that we give you below:
- You have to be the owner of the fruit trees or plantation which will provide you with fruits or plants. In fact, it is strictly forbidden to buy it or to pick it on land that is not yours. You will need to have a cadastre that proves that you own an orchard, garden or even a plantation in which your raw materials are located.
- If you want to distill yourself, you must enter a arboricultural association. To the extent that you want to buy a still, you may bypass having to ask the association to provide you with the equipment. But be aware that membership in an association is mandatory.
- In France, you are subject to a rule that requires you to only distill at strict hours defined by state services. However, in some departments such as Moselle, Bas-Rhin or Haut-Rhin, you can work all year round, and at any time.
- A declaration to customs is necessary before distilling. This must be done 10 days before if you send the document by post, and 3 days if you are going to do it yourself on site. You should, in all cases, mention the amount of alcohol you want to produce, where you plant and where you distillery, among others.
- And finally you will have to pay a tax in relation to your production, per liter of pure alcohol.
It is therefore obvious here that making your own brandy, at home, without going through all these procedures, is prohibited!
How to choose a still?
To choose the best still, the wisest way is to first determine the quantity of raw materials that you are going to use. This will allow you to define the size and capacity of the material. Then, various other criteria are also to be taken into account. This particularly concerns the different types of stills that exist. We will see them one by one, and give their specificities.
The classic still, called "alambic charentais" or "pot still"
With this type of still, the alcohol level obtained does not exceed 70 % and quite often you can get less. In order to have a stronger alcohol, it is sometimes necessary to carry out a double distillation, or even a triple. However, you should know that the alcohols produced by Charentais stills are the best, in terms of flavor and aroma. It is in fact in this type of still that whiskeys, cognacs and calvados are distilled among others.
- The presence of a single and fairly short column
- An affordable price
- A good choice to start in the field
- Intended for the distillation of rum, whiskey, fruit spirits and aromatic spirits
- Alcohol content of 70 %
The reflux column still or "reflux still"
The alcohol produced by the reflux still is not very rich in aromas and flavors. Generally, it is used for making vodkas or schnapps, that is, alcoholic drinks with a not too strong taste.
Here are its characteristics:
- The column is higher and the upper half of it is crossed by tubes intended for cooling
- More expensive than a classic still
- Can still be used as a pot still
- The adjustment is rather tedious to obtain a pure distillate
- Used mainly for neutral alcohols
The fractionating still or "fractionating still"
The fractionating still is a derivative still reflux still. The alcohols recovered by this type of still are neutral in principle. They therefore have no aromas and flavors. It is also used for the distillation of vodkas and schnapps for example.
The characteristics of the fractionating still:
- High upper column with a coil for condensation and reflux
- Equipped with one or more valves for flow regulation
- Also more expensive than a classic still
- Can be used as a reflux still or pot still
- Easier to adjust than a stil reflux
- Perfectly suited for the manufacture of neutral alcohols
Apart from these criteria, you should know that the build quality material has a significant influence on prices. Its provenance also plays a crucial role in this criterion. Indeed, stills from Portugal and New Zealand are the best on the market. Note that the latter country is still one of the few to allow totally free use of these instruments.
How to use a still?
Now that you know the criteria to consider when choosing the right still, we'll show you how to use it. We will focus on the distillation process with the three existing types of still. Also note that it is necessary to go through the fermentation step before distilling anything, and finish with the finishing phase.
Distilling with a pot still
With a classic pot still or still, it is possible to make a single, double or even triple distillation.
- Single or single-pass distillation
- Double or two-pass distillation
- Triple distillation or in three passes
This is about heat all components of the ferment recovered, at their boiling temperatures. In this context, know that a must does not contain only alcohol. It also counts other substances such as water, ethanol, methanol, acids or mineral salts for example. You should know that ethanol is alcohol that you can drink, unlike methanol which is dangerous if ingested. The purpose of distillation is to collect drinkable alcohol.
With a pot still, the temperature does not count on 78 ° C (knowing that ethanol evaporates at this temperature) it increases to 90 ° C. When the right temperature is reached, a vapor is therefore extracted, which will give pure alcohol.
The second pass allows for better quality alcohol while benefiting from more quantity.
If you do a triple distillation, you get a much purer alcohol. For information, some whiskeys are distilled three times.
Distill with a reflux still
Here the first phase is to quickly heat the wort with medium to high heat. When approaching 60 ° C, it is important to reduce the intensity of the fire. When the temperature reaches around 65 ° C, it must be stabilized. To do this, you will have to play with the settings of the heat source or with the cooling of the still column.
Ideally, there should be a capacity to sufficient cooling with the dedicated tubes that go through the column of your still. This will allow you not to affect the flow of the burner (heating power) and the water flow valve (cooling). It is therefore necessary to find the best cooling water flow rate so that the temperature of the column is well balanced. This results in a good temperature and a stable alcohol level. It is true that this all sounds complicated to read, but be aware that it is quite simple when temperature equilibrium is achieved.
Thus, alcohol is collected from 78 ° C and should have a rate of 80 to 90 % with this type of still. An ironing is generally not necessary due to the degree of alcohol obtained.
Distilling with a fractionating still
As with the distillation with the two previous stills, the first step is heating the wort. This should be done quickly (but not too much) with medium to high heat. As the temperature rises, the needle valve of the device will open to the maximum. This process consists of collect heads (bad spirits) so they don't go back down the column. Note that these evaporate at a temperature below 76 ° C on 50 ml per 10 l of must. When you are sure that there is no more methanol (bad alcohol), you should close the valve. Subsequently, the condensed vapors from the ethanol will fill the inner vessel, which will overflow, letting the distillate fall into the column. Here, the temperature will stabilize around 78 ° C.
After some time, gradually open the valve to collect the good distillate. Here you will need to find the ideal flow rate to combine rapid distillation with achieving high alcohol content. Some models can provide excellent performance up to 1000 ml of alcohol from 94 to 95 % in volume. Note that depending on the quality of the must, this process can take several hours.
It's important to know that the alcohol that comes out of the still isn't necessarily good, or it doesn't necessarily taste like you want it to. It is therefore essential to go through the finishing phase. The latter, depending on the type of alcoholic drink you want to create, can have several stages. The most commonly performed include:
- Filtration or purification
Be aware that if you are just starting out, you will not be able to perform the same technical procedures done in large distilleries. The main difficulty is related to the aging of your drink:
- Finding good barrels (oak if you want to make Whiskey) is no small task.
- Also, if you opt for one or large barrels, you have to produce a lot to fill them. You also need to have patience and be careful not to consume what you produce! Be aware that this is one of the main difficulties for a beginner distiller.
In addition, the alcohol content of a brandy resulting from a distillation is generally very high (up to 60 to 90 %). For reasons of health, taste and aroma, it is practically impossible to drink the product. So for lower the alcohol level, it should be cut with a few liters of water, depending on the quantity produced. The goal is to achieve an alcohol level of around 45 to 47 ° C.
Last update: 2021-02-22 02:45:51