What Is The Best Temperature To Keep Your Still To Make Moonshine

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13.10.2019

To get high-quality moonshine, and to protect your health as much as possible, you need to know at what temperature to drive the moonshine. With a proper understanding of all the chemical processes that take place during moonshine, you will produce a high-level moonshine that will meet your expectations.

Pay attention to the description of the temperature stages of the moonshine preparation process. To separate the required portions of the beverage, the correct boiling points for all components must be maintained. We have presented this and many other interesting and useful facts in this article.

There are many aspects to consider, which we discuss in detail in this article. We advise you to take notes and notes so as not to forget anything and not get confused in the numbers. This helps to remember the instructions, and makes it possible to refer to the records at any time already directly in the process.

Theoretical basis

The possibility of the existence of the process of home brewing is determined by the fact that water, alcohol and fusel oils have different boiling points. Water boils at 100 degrees, alcohol at 78.

3 degrees, and the evaporation of fusel oils begins at 85 degrees. Since these three components are present in the original product, its boiling point in the moonshine still ranges from 78 to 95 degrees.

The more alcohol in the initial product, the boiling point approaches 78 degrees.

To obtain high-quality moonshine, using a moonshine still, during the distillation process, it is necessary to maintain a temperature of 78 to 93 degrees. It is in this range that the mash should be distilled.

Temperature modes for distilling mash in a moonshine still

First stage

We put the mash in the moonshine still and start heating. After the wash warms up to 68-70 degrees, light harmful fractions begin to evaporate from it: methyl alcohol, acetaldehyde, etc. The smell of alcohol and the appearance of the first drops of moonshine signal the beginning of the process.

This begins to stand out “pervach”, which is popularly considered the best. But this is not so, this is the most harmful part of the obtained moonshine – the “head”. It should not be drunk, but must be separated from the main part of the resulting alcohol, and used only for technical purposes.

What Is The Best Temperature To Keep Your Still To Make Moonshine

Getting the “body” of moonshine

After the “head” is cut off, you should install a container for collecting alcohol and raise the temperature in the moonshine still to 85 – 90 degrees.

If the distillation still is not equipped with a thermometer, then the distillation process is stopped when:

  1. The paper impregnated with moonshine burns with a characteristic blue color.
  2. Brag has a temperature of 83 degrees and the amount of alcohol received is reduced to zero.
  3. The strength of the resulting drink decreases below 30 degrees.
  4. End of the process.

After receiving the main “body”, a small amount of alcohol remains in the wash, but in the place with it, harmful substances also enter the product. Alcohol obtained at temperatures above 95 degrees is called “tails”. It is collected separately and used to increase the strength of a new batch of mash.

Still Temperature Guide For Making Moonshine

When distilling alcohol it is important to monitor the temperature of vapor being condensed within your still as this will tell a lot about the product that’s coming out of your pot or reflux still. Here are some boiling points of common products contained in your mash in Celsius and Fahrenheit

  • Acetone – 56.5C (134F)
  • Methanol (wood alcohol) – 64C (147F)
  • Ethyl acetate – 77.1C (171F)
  • Ethanol – 78C (172F)
  • 2-Propanol (rubbing alcohol) – 82C (180F)
  • 1-Propanol –  97C (207F)
  • Water – 100C (212F)
  • Butanol  – 116C (241F)
  • Amyl alcohol  – 137.8C (280F)
  • Furfural – 161C (322F)

Boiling Temperature – Affected By Concentrations Within The Wash

The above table show’s “Pure” Ethanol’s boiling temperature is 172 degrees Fahrenheit. When distilling however this is not the case because the Ethanol in the wash is diluted by other products mainly water. This directly effects the boiling temperature, the more water in the solution the higher the boiling temperature of the mash will become.

This can be seen by installing a temperature gauge in your boiler and measure the temperature of your mash as it boils. Note the temperature when your still starts producing ethanol will be far higher then the boiling point of Ethanol.

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To Illustrate this I’ve added a chart below that show’s the boiling temperature of ethanol as a function of concentration of ethanol within your wash.

What Is The Best Temperature To Keep Your Still To Make MoonshineIf you want to know the percentage of alcohol in your mash so you can determine boiling temperature of your mash read our post: How to Measure alcohol content in Mash Using A Hydrometer

What’s the Difference between Vapor Temperature and Wash Temperature ?

The Wash temperature is measured in the boiler were as the Vapor temperature is measured in the Head or Column of the  Still just before the condenser. The Vapor temperature can be used for making cuts during the distillation process.

Still Head Temperature For Making Moonshine – When To Start And Finish Collecting

Knowing when to start collecting moonshine from your still and when to finish is very important. You will often start to see some product dripping from your still when the Head / Column temperature reaches 56 Celsius.

  But generally the temperature range that you want to collect  Moonshine within is between 78-82 °C  and we generally stop collecting the distillate once we start getting fusels coming out.

This is generally happens at a head temperature of 94 °C or higher.

To Learn more about the process of Making Moonshine Head over to our Distilling 101 page.

Boiling Point of Ethanol moonshine boiling point Still Temperature

Distilling and Temperature Control

Temperature control is important when distilling. Don't lie down on the job.

Distilling alcohol at home is an exciting process that requires skill and diligence. If you want to be great at it, be aware of some important considerations about temperature. Distillation requires a lot of heat, and it’s important to control that heat, so you distill safely and end up with a high quality product (called the “distillate”). 

Several factors go into producing a high quality distillate – your mash recipe, the mash’s ABV, and your still are a few important ones – but every experienced distiller knows that temperature control is key to making a fine alcohol when it’s all said and done.

Temperature Safety When Distilling

Distilling alcohol uses high temperatures – generally around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. High temperatures mean opportunities for accidents, so make sure that everyone who is in your distilling environment is aware of how hot your equipment will get. Controlling and monitoring the temperature will help you keep your distillery safe.

How to Monitor Temperature

The temperature of your still varies in different spots. There are three key places on your still where you should monitor the temperature – the pot boiler, the top of the column, and the condenser coil.

The temperature inside the pot boiler will tell you about the boiling liquid in the mash. Keep it increasing, maintaining a range of 175 – 195 degrees Fahrenheit for as long as possible. Turn off the heat when it reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

The temperature at the top of the column will tell you about your alcohol vapor as it begins to condense. Monitor this temperature, watching for an excess of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. If it becomes overheated, turn down your heat.

It is especially important to use a built-in thermometer at the top of the column in a large column still

Keep an eye on the touch-temperature of your condenser coil. The coil should be kept cool to the touch, with cold running water or ice packs. If it reaches room temperature, decrease the heat on your still and pack more ice on the coil. If the condenser coil ever becomes hot to the touch, end distilling immediately.

When all the elements of your temperature control come together, the condenser coil should release a steady drip of moonshine – not a stream, but a quick and regular amount that flows without interruption.

Why is Distilling Temperature Important?

#1: Tells you when to seal your still

As you begin a run, your still’s seams will tighten as the metal naturally expands with the heat. Have your homemade flour paste ready, and you can easily seal the seams with it when the temperature reaches approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you wait too long to seal the still’s seams, the metal will burn both your fingers and the dough.

#2: Tells you when to make your cuts

Distillation Temperature

This blog provides information for educational purposes only. Read our complete summary for more info.

We recommend reading “How are Commercial Spirits Made?” prior to reading this article, as it provides a good overview of the topic of distillation. For those already familiar with the basics, read on!

Before we get started, a reminder: Distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits. Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.
 

We get a lot of questions about distillation and temperature. There is a lot of information stating that the boiling temperature of ethanol is 174 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this is only partially true.

The boiling temperature of pure ethanol is 174 degrees F. The boiling temperature of ethanol in a wash, that is to say, ethanol mixed with water, is completely dependent on the ratio of ethanol to water.

The more water there is in the solution, the higher the boiling temperature. 

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Commercial distillers that measure liquid temperature while distilling may have noticed that liquid temp can often be much higher than 174 before a still starts producing. Again, the boiling temperature of a solution that is 100% ethanol is 174 degrees.

However, if a commercial distiller has a solution that is 50% ethanol and 50% water, the boiling temperature will be significantly higher. In fact, in a 50/50 solution of ethanol and water, the boiling (liquid) temperature of ethanol will be about 180 degrees.

Should a Still Start Producing Alcohol At 174 Degrees Fahrenheit? 

The Beginners Guide to Thermometers for Distillers

Besides the question of “what kind of still do I need?”, I feel almost certain that the second most frequently asked question is “where do I put the thermometer?”.

The short answer is that the best place to locate a single thermometer is at the highest point of the apparatus.

Why? Well, there is a direct relationship to alcohol vapor temps and the ABV (alcohol by volume) of the finished spirit. By looking online, you can find an ethanol phase diagram that does a fairly good job of illustrating this concept.

The remaining considerations are largely predicated upon what kind of still are you running.

On column stills, it is not uncommon to find a thermometer located on the plate level just below the reflux condenser. The data at that location will basically tell the operator how long the operator will need to run the system in 100% reflux mode.

By that I mean how long to allow the system to enrich the liquid beds at each plate level prior to collecting product. Prior to collection, once temperatures have stabilized there will be no need to further allow the system to remain in 100% reflux mode.

Doing so would generally be considered a waste of time as a stable plate temperature indicates that the plate(s) are fully enriched. Further refluxing would waste fuel/energy and time.

Even a 5- or 10-minute savings per run could add up to dozens upon dozens (if not hundreds) of man hours at the end of a commercial distillery’s fiscal year. And so, a thermometer below the reflux condenser is clearly going to provide usable data.

Similarly, thermometers at every plate level will allow the distiller to have an even better understanding as to how fully enriched each liquid bed is. The distiller can watch each thermometer stabilize and know precisely when the column is fully enriched.

Thermometers for Distillers

Additionally, the commercial distiller will be able to read several thermometers at multiple plate levels to ascertain how optimally he (or she) is maintaining the temp gradient within the column during product collection. Bottom temps are far less stable compared to temps at the top.

Having matching temps at the top two plates indicates a very stable gradient. Having matching temps at the top three plates makes you a distillery god (or goddess)! Seriously though, maintaining stable temps at the top of the apparatus allows for optimal separation.

Then toward the end of the run when alcohol is running low, the distiller can observe the temps climb from the bottom up as an indicator that all of the usable alcohol has been collected.

For pot stills, the data is far less stable and therefore not as comprehensive. Certainly, being able to see temperatures can offer a measure of comfort to an inexperienced distiller. But as a pot stiller, you will find that you have absolutely zero control over temperatures. More on this in just a minute.

 Let’s start with the boiling point of water.

The boiling point of water is 212 degrees (100 c) F. And no matter how much heat you throw at your kettle, the liquid temp of water at boiling will never exceed 212 (at sea level). As long as there is water in the kettle, the temps of the water indeed cannot exceed 212 f because, well, that’s what water boils at. Not 250 f. Not 300 f.

Next, the boiling point of ethanol is 173.1 F (78.37 c). However, ethanol is 100% infinitely miscible with water. That means that ethanol mixes quite nicely with water. And the boiling point of that mixture is determined by the percentage of alcohol within that mixture.

In short, a 10% mixture will have a lower boiling point than an 8% mixture for example. So, a 10% alcohol to 90% water mixture will boil at some place between 212 f and 173.1 f.

For the sake of this discussion, lets assume that we will start producing vapor a 190 f. and start to collect distillate. As we collect the distillate, the liquid and vapor temperatures in the kettle must increase.

This is so because we are now changing the boiling point of the kettle charge by removing a percentage of the mixture that has the lower boiling point. And the more distillate we collect, the more temps will continue to increase.

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Lowering heat input to try and stabilize/control temperatures will only serve to slow collection speed or completely stop the flow of distillate all together.

Notwithstanding the middle part of a larger kettle charge, when  pot stilling if you are able to stabilize and hold a temperature, it simply means that you are not collecting distillate.

The broader point here is that the liquid in the kettle will boil when it boils. And as long as you are collecting distillate, you’ll have no control over any of the temperatures. As the distiller you’ll be able to control heat input, but that is not at all the same as controlling or particularly stabilizing your temperatures.

Monitoring temperatures on your pot still can assist as a timing mechanism at best. Need a thermometer on your pot still?

It’s not going to hurt. But it’s also not going to help you as much as you previously may have thought. Learn to gauge the thickness of your distillate discharge stream, make your cuts according to smell, taste, and physical touch and you’ll make a far better finished spirit than focusing on temperatures.

>> Still have questions or require additional information about StillDragon equipment? Contact StillDragon today.

Moonshine Rum and Bourbon Recipes

SPIRITS RECIPES

Distilling spirits is as much the art of preparing the fermented wash to distill as it is the actual distilling. These recipes were prepared so that the beginning distiller can have early success in producing quality spirits.

These recipes are for 5 gallons of fermented wash and the ingredients can be adjusted proportionally for greater or lesser quantities. You will need a stock pot and a fermentation vessel large enough for the batch you wish to produce.

Equipment used for home brewing beer is typical.

Rum

Rum is usually the spirit first recommended to the new distiller. It is the easiest to produce with ingredients locally available to everyone. Rum is the distilled fermentation of molasses. Molasses is the by product of refining sugar cane into white granulated sugar.

Molasses still contains sugar ranging from 40% sugar content in blackstrap molasses to as high as 55% in light table molasses. While it can be argued that the best rum comes from a fermentation of pure table molasses and water, the quantity of molasses required for such becomes very expensive for the hobby distiller.

Brown sugar is white sugar with a coating of molasses (use only “Cane” sugar, if the package doesn’t say “Cane Sugar” then it is beet sugar). Brown sugar (use the dark variety) can produce very tasty rum at far less expense than using pure molasses. Be aware that we are using two pounds of brown sugar per gallon.

If you have access to reasonable cost unsulphered table molasses the recipe could be altered to substitute two 12 oz jars of molasses per pound of the sugar. Do not use more than three 12 oz jars of molasses per gallon as the osmotic pressure due to the density of molasses will be too high for fermentation.

One could also use a combination of white granulated sugar and table molasses (say 10 jars of molasses and 5 pounds of white sugar).

  • Ingredients:
  • 10 lbs of pure cane dark brown sugar
  • 4 gallons (approximate) of prepared water (see other distilling information)
  • 1 sacket of Rum Yeast (for substitution see other distilling information)
  • Procedure:

Heat 2 to 3 gallons of the water to boiling in a large stock pot then reduce heat. Dissolve the brown sugar and/or molasses in the water. Hold temp above 165F for 10 minutes to kill bacteria. Pour the sugar water into your fermentation vessel. Top off with cool water to a total volume of 5 gallons. Let cool to 80 F.

Sprinkle yeast across surface, allow to stand for 15 – 20 minutes and then gently stir in. Ferment for 5 to 7 days (as long as fermentation continues). Siphon into your still boiler keeping as much of the yeast sediment from entering the still as possible. Distill per still instructions. Age for 30 days at distilled strength shaking once a day.

Dilute with aerated distilled water to 80 proof. Enjoy!

  1. Easy Bourbon Recipe
  2. Ingredients:
  3. 4 lbs corn meal (grocery store grade)
  4. 3.3 lb can of unhopped malt extract syrup (from any homebrew shop)
  5. 8 lbs of pure cane sugar (if it doesn’t say “cane” then it is beet sugar)
  6. 1 packet (4g) of alpha amylase enzyme
  7. 1 sacket Whisky Yeast w/AG (the amyloglucosidase is important for max yield)
  8. 12 toasted oak chips (for aging)
  9. Procedure Overview:

Heat 2 to 3 gallons (3 will be easier to stir than 2) of the water to approximately 200 F (just shy of boiling) then reduce heat. Slowly pour in the corn meal while stirring. Continue to cook and stir until corn is fully gelatinized (10-15 minutes).

Dissolve the sugar and the malt syrup in the corn meal/water porridge. Turn off heat and allow to cool to 165F. Stir in the alpha amylase enzyme. Allow to rest for 1 hour. Pour the mash into your fermentation vessel.

Top off with cold (chlorine free) aerated water to just over 5 gallons (approx. a quart over). Let cool to


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