How much will I get from my still?
At this point I would like to say, If you are after the best product you can make, There isn't really any way to figure specific amounts of alcohol you will collect. You can make guesstimates. But that's all they are, Guesstimates!
Every still is different. And every person runs a still different. Same can be said about ferments. They are all different. And everyone will get at least a slightly different outcome.
Let's look at the ferment first. The amount of drinking alcohol contained in a ferment will be determined by many things. Here's a partial list.
- Yeast. Different yeast will make different amounts. And if not used correctly can change that amount too.
- Nutrients. If the yeast don't have good nutrients. They won't work good. And this could cause the amount to be different.
- Water. What is in your water can make a difference on how the yeast work.
- Sugar. What type of sugars make a big difference. Some aren't as fermentable as others.
- Temps. Yeasties like a certain temp range. If you take them out of that range. They will make more undrinkable alcohols.
- Unknown Bacteria? Yep, Your ferment could get a bacterial infection that you may not even know about. And yes change the amount of drinkable alcohol.
Like I said, that's a partial list. But you should get the idea. Make the yeasties happy and they will make you happy.
I don't think my normal saying is appropriate for this post.
Now, here's more you need to know about the ferment. You have to at least kinda know how much alcohol is in it. Or the ABV it has fermented to. This can be determined by taking specific gravity (SG) readings at the start and finish of the ferment. And there is a nice calculator on the parent site that will help you determine the ABV from those readings. That calculator can be found here.http://homedistiller.org/calcs/alcohol_content If you do not have a hydrometer? Or recently broke yours? You can determine an approximate guess from the recipe you used. If its a sugar wash you can use this calculator. http://homedistiller.org/calcs/alcohol_yield If its grain or molasses, there is info on the parent site for those too.
So now you know how much ABV your wash has. But what does this mean? Well ABV is alcohol by volume, It's just what it says. It's how much 100% alcohol is in your wash by a percentage of the volume. Here is a little example.
A 10 gallon ferment that has an ABV of 10% has 1 gallon of 100% alcohol in it and 9 gallons of water.
10 percent of 10 gallons is 1.
Ok, so now you know how much 100% alcohol is in your wash. How do you determine how much you will get out of it? You still can't. You haven't ran it through the still, made cuts, or diluted it yet. Aw man, when are we going to figure this out?
Although these numbers you just figured out will help you later on. It will also give you a round-about volume to be expecting, So you can have plenty of collection jars on hand to contain what to may get.
So now you need to distill it. Wait what kind of still are you running? Pot still? LM reflux still? VM reflux still? CM reflux still? Or a combination of any of those? Does it matter? Yes it does matter on how much will be drinkable. Each still type will give a different amount of the different cuts. Pot stills will have more heads and tails then a reflux still. A LM will compress the heads more the a VM. But a VM will compress the tails better then a LM. And a CM can do a fair job at compressing both. So how much will you get with each type of still? Can't tell you that yet, I don't know how you are going to run it.
Ok so now its time to run the still. How will you run it? Slow and low on a pot still? Fast on a CM still? Slow on a VM still? Fast on a LM still? That makes a difference too?...Yes it does. The faster you run the less compression of the cuts you will get. The slower you run the better separation and compression of the cuts you will get. So whether you run it fast or slow, this will make a difference on how much drinking product you will get. How much you may ask? Depends on your still. All of them are going to be different.
So using the figures above with 10 gallons @ 10% ABV, and you're running a CM still slow for example. You normally pull let's say 90% most of the run. If you could pull all the alcohol out of the wash you would get 1.111 gallons of 90%. But you won't be able to pull all of the alcohol out of it. Some will be left in the boiler.
Using the same figures, let's look at a pot still. Say you pull an average of 50% over the whole run. That would mean you could get 2 gallons if you could remove all the alcohol from the wash. But again you won't remove all of it.
So now what? You ran your still and got product out. At this point I'm going to do a little guessing just to have some numbers for you. You might have 1 gallon of 90% from the reflux still or maybe 1.75 gallon of 50% from a pot still. Like I said, you can't pull 100% of the alcohol out. And who knows maybe you got tired and shut it down early. Ok, so how much is drinkable? Still don't know, You haven't made the cuts yet.
I'm assuming you're new to this hobby or you wouldn't need to read this. So you should have collected in small jars, like most of us suggest to do as you are learning. So here is where we finally find out how much drinkable product you will get. How do you find out? You go through and smell, taste, and feel your way through the jars. The foreshots should have been tossed already, so you set the ones you don't like to one side. And the ones you do like to the other. Now you have all the alcohol you think is good in front of you. How much is it? Well you haven't diluted it yet, and I don't know how much you have sitting there. It could be anywhere from 1 pint if you made strict cuts, to 1.5 gallons if you were greedy. You're the one that has determined that, so I can't tell you how much you will have. Only you will know after its all said and done how much you will have. Like I said in the beginning. You get what you get.
We can say there's a rule of thumb for this. And that is, you figure out how much 100% alcohol is in your wash. And after cuts and diluting that's about how much you'll have. With the example above. 10 gal @ 10% will get you approx 1 gallon of drink after cuts, and diluting to drinking strength. But its only a guesstimate, your mileage may vary as you can tell from all the different things I mentioned above that can change the outcome.
Now go forth and run the still, and only after you have done so a few times will you know about how much you will get.
Good luck. You get what you get.