Originally By Tony Ackland
this fake-still design is NOT recommended. It is much better to design and produce and use a REAL still
The concept of the plain bucket still, can be beefed up a little, by heating the wash and cooling the vapour more efficiently (the Ice-Water Still). In "Brewing Real Schnaps Without a Still" (sorry, dead link: http://olliver.family.gen.nz/schnapps.htm) Vik describes a simple method using just a bowl & a saucepan, to make schnapps. To prevent the collected alcohol from re-evaporating, it would be wise to support (ie on a tripod ?) the collection dish above the wash, so that it remains cool(er)... Vik tells me that the bowl floating in the mash doesn't get as hot as I'd thought because both the alcohol evaporating from it, and the cool liquid dripping into it keep it at a temperature lower than the mash, and that the continuous circulation of alcohol might even improve the flavour. He can get results >50% alcohol by volume with a single pass, though this does need a stiff brew to start with. Just remember that your final product is highly flamable, so take care when making it on the stove-top.
Jack describes how to use it for whisky or schnapps ..
1.start with a mash of a 10%abv, 20 liters total volume, run it through your potstill until you collect the first third. Volume collected= 6,666.6ml (yes, I am this precise in my collection measurements) The temperature you run this first run at is pretty unimportant. On the second run, use the lowest power setting that you have.
2. load the 6,666.6ml of "low wines" into your potstill and run it on it's lowest possible power setting. Collect the first 100ml of spirit as "heads" (don't drink them! use them to start the bar-b-q). Now, collect the next 1,641.6ml of spirit that comes out of the still. With a starting mash of 10%, following these directions, this spirit should come out at 80%abv (at least with my ice-water/wok still it does- suprising since this is the least efficient still design I've ever worked with- make sure to use the LOWEST power setting on your stove). This is your finished whiskey- cut and age it as you wish.
3.Collect the next 580.6ml of spirit that comes out of the potstill as "tails". These are to be added to the mash of your next batch- this separation point ensures no heavy alcohols get into the finished spirit, but no alcohol is wasted.
That's it- out of a 10%abv mash on the first run collect 1/3, on the second, collect the heads, then the next 1/4, then collect the tails (enough to total 1/3 collected out of the second run). This method gives me 4 bottles of great malt whiskey at 40%abv when I'm finished, along with a little more than a half liter of tails for the next batch (you can also save the tails, and when enough has been collected, run out the first 1/4 of the total as a finished whiskey- it should be very good- I haven't collected enough tails to try it yet). This system works just as well for brandy and schnapps. and is usefull when you don't have a nice storebought still- hell, it doesn't even require a thermometer! Using this system, the ice water/wok still can be made with a 20liter aluminum stockpot and a glass bowl to work as the condensor, and it will work just as well as any normal potstill.
The bowl I use for the lid/condensor is glass and it lets me see into the collection bowl to check if it's full- if it is- siphon out the water, remove the bowl, get a face full of steam, then use an oven mitt to grab the lip of the bowl and pour the contents into a pyrex graduated cylinder- make a note of the volume, then pour into an old 5 liter wine jug (1 of 2) that are labeled "low wines". I can only tell when the collecting bowl is full- because of the water I'm looking through (in the bowl) any "full line" marks I put on the collection bowl would not be visible.
I have run across a picture of an old still that had the same tall pot with a tripod supporting a collection bowl (made of copper), but coming out of one side of the collecting bowl (and through the wall of the still "body") is a tube that allows one to collect the distillate without opening up the still. I would like to try this- no time. Making a funnel out of copper sheet, and attaching a length of tubing to the funnel's narrow end, then feeding the tube through a hole in the still body (maybe stopping any leakage with lots of teflon tape) so the tube extends out one or two feet and drops the distillate into a cup would be nice, elegant way of avoiding a constantly steam-burned hand and face.
p.s. when looking for a bowl to work as the condensor, make sure it has a narrow base, or the distillate will fall off of it and miss the collection bowl.