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Distilled spirits recipes

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Mock Apple Brandy

Jack writes ..
    Faking fruit brandy is a great way to use up any 95% sugar spirit you have laying about that you can't figure out what to do with. I found this recipe in an old distilling book and scaled it down for home use (the original makes about 100 gallons).

    Mix together:
    • 32 fl.oz. (950 mL) 95%abv sugar spirit
    • 10.5 fl.oz. (310 mL) apple cider (the sweet cloudy type bottled in milk jugs in the cooler in the produce section of the grocery store)
    • 34 grams of table sugar
    • 20 fl. oz. (600 mL) distilled water
    • 2.13 grams of cream of tartar(spice section of grocery store)
    Mix this up until everything has dissolved, then reflux this mix in a stockpot on the stove (low heat) - put the lid on the pot upside down and fill it with ice to keep the alcohol from boiling off. Bring it to a thorough boil for about 10 minutes, then lower the heat until it is just evaporating the alcohol (and the lid is condensing it). Let it cook on low for 4 hours, at the last ten minutes, bring it back up to a good boil, and hold it there while replacing the ice (you can't boil it for the entire time - you'll run out of ice).

    After the 4 hours, cool this mix and let it settle out, the stuff is ready to be treated as an "apple spirit" from here on- It's good (but sweet) straight- aging it in some charred American oak chips (not much - maybe a teaspoon - don't overdo it) will make it taste more like an "aged in wood" brandy. This is suprisingly good, considering how easy it is to make.

    If you want to use apples instead of cider: use 1 and a-half pounds (680g) for the batch size above - chop up the apples, add the sugar, one fourth of the alcohol, and 2/3's of the water, mix (blending the apples is best), and let sit (covered) in a cool spot for 8 days, then press out the liquid, mix with the rest of the water and press again, add the last of the alcohol, and proceed as above. This method also works well with pears and plums


Tequila is made from the nectar of the agave cactus. You might be able to source some bulk agave nectar from a local health / natural food store.
dvises ...
    Tequila can be made at home usuing agave nectar, water yeast nutrient and yeast. Additional sugar may added (Jose Cuervo Gold uses 50% sugar). Agave nectar may be obtained from Crosby & Baker, Westport MA, USA.

Using Potatoes

For those of you interested in making authentic Vodka or Schnapps from potato, the following emails from ould be of interest. The problem with potatoes (as all starchy vegetables) is the need to first break down the starch into basic sugars so that the yeast can use them. This is done by using enzymes, either via malted grains or from a packet....there are probably better instructions and details in books on Schnapps of which in English there is a real dearth of. I would imagine there are some very good books available in German. What I have described is basically the process for saccharifying barley which applies to all grains as long as sufficient enzymes are added and the starch chains are not too long or complex. Barley has by far the highest % of natural amalase (diastase) enzymes plus a very high starch content of a fairly simple nature which is more readily broken down than most grains hence its widespread use and popularity from the ancient Summerians and Egyptians to the current day.

The advantage of potatoes over most grains is the amount of starch that can be produced per acre (up to 80 tons per hectare with the world record being about 120 ton. Note wet weight not actual starch content although this is generally 80% + of its dry weight). Its disadvantage is the lack of enzymes which must be added (until 40 or 50 years ago not fully understood). I believe the only one that can equal potaoes is cassava (tapioca) but you need a tropical climate to grow it. Traditionally these have been processed at lower temperatures and left soaking for quite a reasonable time, basically to give the enzymes time to do their job and to save energy I would imagine.

I suspect the reason Simons first attempt failed was largely because of insufficient amalase enzymes. Temperature possibly also had a small bearing.

I would imagine there is not that much difference in basic processing of schnapps and vodka both being identical in the initial processing although I have not done a lot of reading on the matter.

To get this better we really need to know the proper composition of potatoe starch and its liquifaction and saccharification temps. Somewhere I have some general details on these last two especially liquifaction but todate do not have accurate details on starch composition. I believe the Danes have done quite a bit of work and reasearch on this aspect (composition).

Potatoes are harder than most people think and you need a bit of experience to get them right. Books make it sound so easy because they tend to simpIify the process and take for granted that you have a full understanding and experience of all the steps involved quite often leaving out some of the elementary steps. Most of us need to fully understand the basics first before we really begin to learn. I have not tried potatoes yet myself but know this from my reading, broad experiernce of other aspects, and experience with other forms of starch.

What you will probably need to do is what is called a Stepped Infusion Mash. This is where you start the saccharification process at a low temperature and then move it up in steps, halting for a certain time period at each step to give each enzyme time to break down as much as they can at each stage. If you have made beer in the past using an all-grain mash you will understand the process.

To get a feeling for it and to understand the process better try the following:
    1. Cook your potatoes so they are still stiff - about 12- 15 minutes at reasonable heat. Up to 20 minutes at low heat. Note they should still be a bit undercooked, definitely not soft, mushy, or floury.
    2. Add coarsely milled barley (particles mostly about 1/16 to 3/32" in size. Definitely not too fine.). Use malted Ale barley or standard malted barley rather than Lager barley as it is definitely higher in enzymes and enzymatic action. Note you need sprouted malted barley not spray-dried malt which is normally on a maltodextrin base and has had most of the enzymes destroyed or inactivated because of the excessive heat used in the drying process.
    3. Cover with sufficient water and bring to 113 F (45 C). Hold 15 minutes stirring regularly.
    4. Bring up to 133 F (56 C). Hold 15 minutes etc.
    5. Bring up to 149 F (65 C). Hold 15 minutes stirring constantly.
    6. Bring up to 158 F (70 C). Hold 15 minutes stirring constantly. All up this makes 60 minutes which should suffice for a small batch. Some batches will take longer especially bigger batches. Most of the liquifaction and saccharification occurs in steps 5 & 6 rather than 3 & 4. If you want to alter this reduce 3 & 4 to 10 minutes and increase 5 & 6 to 20 minutes or longer where required.
    7. Once virtually all the starch is liquified and broken down to simple sugars to halt the enzymatic process raise the temp to 176 F (80 C) (Mashing Out) and then drop it back as quickly as possible to between 140 F (60 C) and 122 F (50 C) so the sugars dont get scorched or burnt.
    8. Cool down further to 75 F (24 C), establish an SG of 1060 (min) to 1080 (max = ideal) and begin fermentation.
    If you muck around with the basic formula doing several batches, altering the temperature and times a small amount each time you will quickly get a feel for it and learn far more than you can learn initially out of books or I can spell out for you.

    I suggest you start with 3 or 4 kg of potatoes and 1/2 kg of barley each time so you have plenty of enzymes together with a very large pot so it dosnt boil over. Once you have got this basic process under control and gained a bit of experience I can help you further with advice and help with enzymes. Also once you have the experience and understand fully what you are doing with the right selection of enzymes you can reduce this 4 to 5 steps down to 2 or 3 steps and save a lot of energy and time producing virtually the same result.

    At first for the small amount produced it hardly seems worthwhile but you will be amazed at how quickly you have control of the process with a bit of experience. Learn this process properly now and it will save you a lot of time later.

    The most important enzymes are Alpha amylase, Gluco amylase and to minor extent Beta amylase. Beta has largely been replaced by Gluco. The other important factor is temperature with each of these working best (most active) at certain temperatures. Alpha works best at higher temperatures normally chopping the starch into smaller blocks whereas Gluco and Beta work from the ends. Temperatures required of the process are therefore dependant on makeup and complexity of the starch.

    As mentioned without knowing the exact composition of the potatoe starch I cannot advise exactly the necessary temps and times. The setup I have given you is basically for barley but should work quite satisfactory with potatoes because of the range of temperatures involved.

    What I am saying here applies to barley as well as individual enzymes. The heat of cooking the potatoes will start the process. For all I know it may help to throw a handful of barley in with the potatoes when you begin cooking. Keep good notes of amounts, times, and temps and if you have much better success compared to the last time or another batch you should be quickly able to repeat it. By doing this you will quickly get a good idea of what is required. Keep me up todate with how you get on.

    Be aware that enzymes are protein and bio-catalyst and like other proteins consist of long chains of amino acids held together by peptide chains. They are present in all living cells where they perform a vital function by controlling the metabolic processes and hence the breakdown of food into simpler compounds eg. Amylases break down starch into simple sugars. As bio-catalyst by their mere presence and without being consumed in the process they can speed up chemical processes that would otherwise run very slowly being released at the end of the process to begin it all again if required. In theory this can go on forever but in practice they have a limited stability and over a period of time they lose their activity because of variables particularly temperature changes and are not useable again. In practice therefore be very wary of quickly changing and wildly fluctuating temperatures.



      A "genuine" moonshine recipe, as still being used by Deb Brewer is ...
      • 5 gallon bucket all grain horse feed (we use MannaPro Hi Grain sweet feed)
      • one package of yeast (using bread yeast now--others will increase quality and ferment time)
      • 5 pounds sugar
      • water

        Put enough feed to cover bottom of 5 gallon bucket a good 4 inches deep Add 5 pounds of sugar. Fill 1/2 full with warm water--warm enough to melt sugar but not so hot as to kill yeast. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Add yeast and mix some more finish filling with warm water--again not so hot to kill the yeast. Cover with lid--our lid has a little cap that screws on, leave it loose to breathe.

        4-5 days later it's ready to run! This is an old-timer recipe and works quite well. Our liquor is always 170-190 proof. You can substitute corn meal for the grain (horse feed) but I don't recommend this for pot stills cuz you can't filter it well enough. The meal will settle and burn in the bottom of your still. The old-fashion way of making corn liquor--with real corn--just is not feasible time wise.

      I've always gone with my tried and true, except for brandies and split-brandies. LOVE making split-brandies!! Large batches of mash ferment the best! Like in 55 gal wooden or plastic (new of course) barrels.

      • Wheat Bran ~~~~> a five gal. bucketfull and then another half bucket.
      • Sugar ~~~~~~~~~> 50 lbs. (Sam's club is the deal!)
      • Fleishman's (Bakers)Yeast ~~~~> 3 packs
      • Filler up with water.

      That'll make anywhere from 6-8 gallons of fine liquor, uuhhh Fuel, yeah fuel...

      First batch in will ferment 5-7 days and then form a cap. If you "slop-back" that mash it will work off in 3 days after the yeast is growing up to around 6-7 times. Then it's time to start a fresh mash. When the cap falls, and the beers getting a bitter taste to it, she's ready to run. If it has any sweet taste at all it is too "green" and will not produce as much and will kick and buck and act wild in the still with a posibility of blowing the cap. Not a happy experience. It can ruin yor hole day. Never knew I could run so damn fast... I know a few good common sense tricks on what to do when as far as the mash goes. If is it not workin good or too good for that matter. You make all the alcohol in the barrel. If you don't do it right there, the prettiest still in the world won't do you any good at all. Still just separates the juice from the water. Hell, you all know all that by now, I'm sure of that.

      Wheat bran: when U go to the feed store where they mill 'th grain, specify unsalted wheat bran. If the feller looks at you twice or reaaal hard, mumble kinda under yor breath, "damn horse is so constipated..."
      Sugar: Go 't Sam's Club or anywhere thet they would sell you sum 50 pound saks 'O sugar and load a couple up on yor cart. Take 'em to 'th check out counter. Whistle a tune, soft and slow like. Don't forget to whistle... And if the checkout countr gurl looks at you funny like or says sumthin smart, you jess say, "Yep, the church is havin a bake sale t'morrow and they all put me in charge of buyin 'th sugars." This'll covr you fer buyin all them packs of Fleishman's Bakers yeast too.
      Werks for me...

      My notes on sloppin back, ya'll folks've caLLed it yeast recyclin. That's just fine (must be city folk) Ya'll alright. I luv ya jess 'th same.

      Ok, see... What I'm tryin to say hear see, is... After yor first run 'O mash, save about half 'O that slop thar in thet cooker 'O yors and put thet rite back in thet there barrel. OK, bucket for you short runnrs. Add half agin as much new fresh grain to hit. DON'T put n'more yeast inner. She's got enuff rite thar whare shes at. OK, put the usual amounts of sugar rite in thar as well. Watchr work up a STORM and make sum goooood likker my frens. Specially on the thrice batch like I told b'fore. Now do this up to 6-7 times.
      corn whisky : try 25 pounds cracked corn, 25 pounds sugar, 12.5 gals water. First wash your cracked corn really good to get most of the trash particles out-- put in in a large vessel-- (we use a food grade plastic drum with a snap on lid)--in a seperate container collect 6.25 gals hot water--add sugar to this and stir unitl it is all disolved--pour into the drum with the corn-- then add another 6.25 gals. cold water -- stir mixture till u get a thermometer reading of 78F to 80F deg (25C). then add 1.5 pkgs turbo yeast(if u use it) or 4 to 6 ozs. bakers yeast-- stir for a couple of minutes and let it sit -- it will begin to ferment in a couple of hours it the temp is around 80 to 90 deg.--when the wash has quit bubbling and the liquid is clear -siphon off and distill 
    moonshine recipes ...
      If you want to make your own recipe, keep in mind grain contains about 60% fermentable material. About 1 to 1.5 kg of grain is normally used / 4 L (1 US gal) as the mash is quite thick, the rest can be sugar. 1 kg grain/4 L water would be equivalent to 600 g sugar/4 L, so you could add an additional 200 g sugar/4 L to give a 10% alcohol yield which beer yeasts should handle. The crushed grain needs 10% crushed malted grain for malting. e.g. a generic moonshine mash for 20 l could be 5 kg crushed grain, 500 g crushed malted grain, and 1 kg sugar. Other combinations are possible.

      Kentucky Sweet Mash
      20 L water (5 gal)
      2 kg (4 and 1/2 lb) corn meal
      500 g (1 lb)
      50 g malted grain

      'Alcohol Fuel Manual' grain mash
      20 L water (5 gal)
      4 kg (9 lb) crushed grain
      400 g (1 lb) crushed malted grain

      Ian Smiley's Corn Whisky
      20 L water (5 gal)
      3.5 kg (8 lb) flaked maize
      750 g (1 and 1/2 lb) crushed malted grain

      Moonshine : 'Old John Barley'
      20 L water (5 gal)
      2 kg (4 and 1/2 lb) crushed corn
      700 g (1 and 1/2 lb) crushed barley
      300 g (3/4 lb) malt syrup
      1 kg (2 and 1/2 lb) molasses

      20 L water (5 gal)
      3 kg (7 lb)crushed grain
      4.5 kg (10 lb) sugar

      20 L water (5 gal)
      2 kg (4 and 1/2 lb) corn meal
      300 g (1 lb) malted corn
      2.5 kg (5 and 1/2) lb sugar

      20 L water (5 gal)
      6 kg corn meal (uncooked)
      0.6 L malted corn

      The Fine Art of Moonshining
      Fermenter - barrel (55 gals or 220 l)
      1/2 bushel (30 lb or 14 kg) Corn Meal
      3 & 1/2 lbs (1.5 kg) malted corn
      2 handfuls raw rye to form cap on fermenting mash
      Optional - sugar, 40 lbs (20 kg) in 2 lots - 10 lb (5 kg) then 30 lb (15 kg)
      Yeast not mentioned.
      1 bushel (60 kg) corn meal
      1 & 1/2 gal (6 l ) malted corn
      Yield -
      Pure Corn 1.5 gal (4-6 l)/bushel (28 lb or 13 kg)
      Corn & Sugar 6 gal (24 l)/bushel (28 lb or 13 kg)
      Green malt and rye bread kvas:
      • 1 kg green rye malt (barley & oats were also malted)
      • 1 kg sliced dried dark rye bread
      • 20 litres water
      For a reddish color, roast a small quantity of the malted grain) Crush malt lightly. Add green malt and bread to water (65C). Allow to stand for several hours. Add sour dough starter (or 30 g yeast) and allow to ferment for several days. Strain. Keep in cool place. Drink when still effervescent or bottle as for beer.

      Rye bread kvas:
      • 1 kg sliced dried rye bread (lightly toasted in oven)
      • 1 kg honey, molasses (or sugar)
      • 20 litres water
      Pour boiling water over bread, honey/molasses. Allow to cool (24C). Add sour dough starter (or 30 g yeast) and allow to ferment for several days. Strain. Keep in cool place. Drink when still effervescent or bottle as for beer.

      Crabapple and wild pear kvas:
      • 7.5 kg apples (cores removed)
      • 7.5 kg pears (cores removed)
      • 20 litres water
      Pour water over apples and pears. Cover and allow to ferment (traditionally by wild yeasts). Strain. Keep in cool place. Drink when still effervescent or bottle as for beer.

      Kvas is a folk beverage, and there are many variations depending on available material and personal taste. I have seen recipes using mint or horseradish root for flavoring.


      Quick Moonshine
      5 kg (10 lb) crushed grain (grits)
      2 and 1/2 kg (5 lb) sugar
      20 L (5 US gals) water
      2 tbsp acid (2 g acid/litre)- a pH 4-5 is required.
      2 tsp amylase enzymes (alpha-, beta-, gluco-) or 750 g (1 and 1/2 lb)
      crushed malted barley grain (15% by weight)
      Suitable ale yeast
      Yeast nutrient (D.A.P.)
      This should produce about 10-12%abv.
      No pre-soaking of the crushed grain is required as there is sufficient sugars for the yeast to begin the fermentation process while the grain soaks.


      Make sure you read the section ono.

      Wal summarises the various recipes ...

        The French have two categories of rum - one from the molasses by- product of milling and refining sugar (rhum industriel) and one directly from sugarcane juice (rhum agricole). The 'Household Cyclopedia' of 1881 has a method for making rum which scaled down is about 800 g of molasses/5 litres of water or about 1 l.5 lbs/1 US gal of water. This would give a wash of about 5%abv. To make the equivalent of sugarcane juice, we need 1 cup of white granular sugar, 1/3 cup molasses and 7 cups of water. This would give a sugar content of about 15% which is equivalent to sugarcane juice.

        1)Traditional ('Industrial') Rum (20 l or 5 US gals)
        (molasses used in proportion of 1 kg molasses/5 l water) 4 kg (9 lbs) molasses for 20 l (5 US gals) of water
        This is equivalent to 100 g sugar/ litre

        2) Traditional ('Industrial') Rum for the Homedistiller (high alcohol)
        4 kg molasses and 4 kg white sugar for 20 l water
        This is equivalent to 300 g sugar/litre

        3)'Agricultural' Rum (French rhum agricole, Brazilian cachaca)
        3 kg white sugar and 1 kg molasses for 20 l of water (17% sugar)
        This is equivalent to 175 g sugar/litre

        4)'Agricultural' Rum for the Homedistiller (high alcohol)
        5.5 kg white sugar and 1.5 kg molasses for 20 l water
        This is equivalent to 310 g sugar/litre

        Rum gets additional flavor from ex Bourbon barrels and caramelised (burnt) sugar. A suggested proportion would be 5-10 tsp/litre of rum which would give a sweetness of 2.5-5% which is in line with what is added to other liquors.


          I use a 7L pot still with thumper so I have to make 3 runs per batch (you just can't argue with free). It comes off at 75-80%. My wash is made from about 8kg cheap brown sugar and 50g yeast nutrient in 23L bucket, it finishes at about 15% alc using champagne yeast. I found that aging in toasted oak for at least a week, undiluted, made a product that would fool my friends. Noticed an even grater improvement when I got lazy and didn't discard my oak chips and just added more. Great taste when diluted to about 45%.

          The foreshots are easy. Even with a 7-8L batch I discard the first 50-60mL. I stop collecting when the temp. off the thumper reaches about 185 F (85C). I notice that at this point % alc. begins to fall as well and the smell changes.I still keep going till the temp off the still reaches about 195 F (90.5C)

          I have found a quick way to make charred oak chips. I wrap a tinfoil packet of oak chips about 3 layers and put them on my stove element at less than medium... Here's what keeps the fire out, a big old iron frying pan placed on top. In about 1/2 hr. good Smokey oak. I also sometimes add some caramelized brown sugar if the batch seems a bit harsh.
          Canadian Spiced Rum
          • 800 mL 80% rum (fermented from 6kg brown sugar, 25gm citric acid [to invert the sugar] , 25gm Supervit (Italian) yeast nutrient. 10gm Ec-1118 yeast from Lalvin (ferments HIGH ALCOHOL!!!) Run this stuff through a good reflux coloumn.
          • 1/4-tsp ground cloves
          • 1/4-tsp (generous) powdered cinnamon
          • 1/4-tsp (generous) powdered ginger
          • 1-tsp-Crosby's Cooking Molasses (Blackstrap will do !)
          • 1-Tbsp-Toasted White Oak Chips (Check your local wine shop as this is a popular addition to Red Wine !)
          • Now....after all this CRAP....let this stuff macerate in a 60 oz (1.7L) bottle (plastic or glass...your choice) for at least 7 (SEVEN) DAY'S (PLEASE!!!). SHAKE-THE-CRAP-OUTTA-THIS-BOTTLE-EVERY-DAY for the whole week (make's the flavours blend incredibly well). If you want an even fuller flavour...leave the bottle (or bottles ) to macerate (soak) for another week... (let's the spices and stuff impart an even stronger flavour). Play with it....see what you like!!
          • After must run your (YUMMY-STUFF) through a coffee filter 2 (TWO) times at least (more filtering...clearer product!!!).
          • After must top off the bottle (SORRY) to the top!!! This will give you about 38% alc/vol...which is perfect for this type of rum. I know that the Captain Morgan Rum is 3% less in alcohol...and it is much sweeter.
              • 6kg blackstrap molasses
              • 1 pkt yeast nutrient
              • 1 pkt lalvin EC1118
              • 3kg white sugar

              In a 25litre fermenter with air lock, disolve the molasses and nutrient in warm water to around 22 litres at 25degC, pitch the yeast and keep the temp around 25degC until all bubbling stops. Add the 3kgs of sugar giving a quick stir and let it go at 25degC and leave for a couple of days after bubbling finishes. Decant, leaving the sediment behind (save the sediment in a sterile jar for the next batch).

              When you distill, drop something in the boiler to aid bubbling when it boils (I use a couple of copper pipe offcuts (about 1"x1") to stop surging and give it just enough heat to do the job.

              Throw out the first 50mls and collect the rest to about 88 to 90degC. I pull it off at about 80%.

              Toast some american white oak in alfoil until smokin, let cool, then mix with the rum with about 2 tablespoons of golden syrup (cocky's joy, treacle) and 1 tablespoon of foodgrade molasses for every 2ltrs of rum for about 4 to 5 days. Filter through a coffee filter and water down to 40% (80 proof) and enjoy.

              Dont forget to shake the bottle every day while on oak.

           have a light rum/neutral spirit recipe that is working very well for me. I thought I would pass it on.

          15 lbs (6.8 kg) white sugar
          24 oz molasses
          5 tbsp yeast nutrient
          2 tsp yeast energizer
          yeast starter (see below)

          To make yeast starter: Dissolve 4 tbsp Red Star brand Distiller's Yeast in 3 cups water at 93-97 degrees F (34-36C). Add 1 tbsp molasses, and 2 tbsp white sugar. Stir or shake until disolved and cover. Let sit, shaking occasionally for 1/2 hour to 1 hour.

          Heat 1 gal (4L) water to almost boiling, pour into fermentor. Disolve 10 lbs sugar, molasses, yeast nutrient, and yeast energizer into hot water. Top up to 6 Gallons (23L) with cold water keeping temperature at 85- 89 degrees F (29-32C). Stir until well mixed. Pour yeast starter into fermentor and stir briskly. Put lid and air lock on fermentor.

          After a few minutes, the ailock should start bubbling briskly. Keep wort at 85 degrees F (29C) for the duration of fermentation.

          When you have a mixture of liquids, each with its own boiling point when pure, then the boiling point of the mix will lie somewhere in the middle, and this will depend on the relative concentrations of each liquid.  Pure water boils at 100 deg C, and pure ethanol boils at 78.5 deg C, but a mixture of water and ethanol will boil at some point in between.  The major point about distillation is that when a mixture like that boils, then the vapour given off is richer in the most volatile component, and when that vapour condenses then the resulting liquid has a lower boiling point than the mix it came from.  By repeating this boiling and recondensation process up a column, using packing to hold the condensed liquid at each stage, you can separate the components more and more.  

          So if you have a mixture of liquids each with a different boiling point, then you heat the mixture, it will heat up until the new intermediate boiling point is reached.  When you first start a distilling run, the packing in the column will be at room temperature, so vapour given off by the boiler condenses on the first cool packing it reaches.  In condensing, the vapour gives up a lot of heat, and this warms that packing until the liquid on it boils again.  However, this liquid is richer in volatiles than the mix in the boiler, so its boiling point is lower. When it does boil again, from the heat given off by more condensing vapour, what you get is even richer in those most volatile components.  This process of boiling and condensing continues up the column and, because the condensed liquid is always getting richer in volatiles, the temperature gradually falls the higher you go.  The temperature at any point is governed solely by the boiling point of that liquid mix, and any attempt to interfere with that process will disrupt the separation that Nature is carrying out automatically. 
          In contrast, the boiling point of the mix left in the boiler will very slowly start to rise as it is left with less and less of the most volatile components. 
          If you started with a mixture (fermented wash) that is mostly water & ethanol, with trace amounts of methanol, propanol, etc. then the net result will be that the most volatile components will tend to rise in greater quantity up the column than their less volatile cousins, and will be found in greatest concentration at the top.  This would mean that methanol, the most volatile of the lot, will win the race and you will able to collect it and set it aside.  This continues until you have collected all of the "heads" (components that are more volatile than ethanol), and you can then collect just ethanol with a trace of water.  You cannot get rid of that small amount of water, as once you reach a mix of 96.5% ethanol/water, with a boiling point of 78.2 deg C, then you have reached a stable mix that no amount of re-boiling and re-condensation can change (at normal atmospheric pressure).
          Once you have collected the main bulk of ethanol, then the components that are less volatile than ethanol, such as propanol and the bigger organic molecules, will start to reach the top, and you will have arrived at the stage called the "tails".  These "tails" may be recycled in the next batch you do, for they still contain a lot of ethanol, or a proportion may be retained as they contain many of the compounds that give a spirit a distinctive flavour, like whiskey or rum.

          Note that you are not changing any part of your original brew - you're not "making" the alcohol, or converting it to something else or nasty. All you are doing is concentrating off the original brew into its various parts. There is no more methanol after you finish than what you started with. What does happen though, is that because most of the methanol comes off at once (first up), it is highly concentrated, and can damage you. You definately don't want to be sampling the first portion of distillate that you collect. But once you have thrown away this part, you have guaranteed that the remaining distillate is safe enough to partake of.

          You can use the graph below (thanks to Grant D) to relate a liquid's % alcohol and its boiling point. It also shows the % alcoholge if you're interested in drawing it


          Tons of good stuff!

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