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Jun 08, 2022 View:

Proof too high or tails smeared in cant find the middle ground

Hello, My Name is Keith.  I'm a newbie to commercial distilling.    I have distilled on small pot stills quite a bit, and I do understand cuts by flavor and aroma.  That is where my knowledge ends though.

My new still is a 400L Bain Marie oil jacket, 10" column with six plates (non-removable), a dephleg (cooled by well water via hose bib), a well oversized condenser, the still is powered by 3 heating elements. 

My Issue is one of proof.  No matter what I do I can't get my distillate to come out under 80% and taste good.     If I run it in pot mode (No plates engaged and no dephleg), the proof is low enough but I can taste tails in the entire run, even when I only run it on 1 element, which is as slow as I can go.    If I run it with all plates open but the dephleg on the lowest trickle possible, I hit 86% ABV avg through the hearts.    If I load any number of plates the same issue only gets worse.  All six plates loaded brings me through the hearts around   88%.   Even with all three elements on trying to push through faster the ABV is too high.  

This issue is happening running my mash, which is only at 7% ,  and some feints added from the prior run but we are talking about starting ABV of less than 10%.  I have had the same issue on a 7% run.

I love the flavor I am getting running the dephleg, but I want to make Bourbon so the proof has to come down.   

Any suggestions?


My Remaining ideas:   

1.  Warm the Dephleg water with a valve off the product condenser , maybe the well water is just too cold and Rejecting too much even though it is leaving hot?   My input is into the bottom with well water, out the top.   Flow controlled on the input side.

2.  Take some of the oil out of the jacket, hopefully lowering the temp of what one element is, but of course that will probably cost me heat up time (which is already 2 hours).


I'm stumped, and appreciate you taking the time to read this.





How about running it two times?  Strip of a couple ferments first, put those together, and run them as spirit run.  It should be a lot cleaner that second time, and without the plates engaged and dephleg off you can probably stay below 80%.


In pot mode you definitely need to run it twice as mentioned above. A single pot run will always taste like tails. 



Thanks Guys,

It looks like that is the option.   I had a long talk with Paul at A D E , and he had the same thing to say about what I should do.   He also suggested that I do go from product condenser to dephlag with my warmer water to dephlag, but that to get what I really want I need to strip and rerun.  I'll report back when I have the spirit run done, which for my little distillery will be in two weeks sadly.  

Here I thought by getting the hybrid still I could knock it out in one run   Never dreamed too high of proof was going to be an issue

I appreciate the help!





I've found that 4 plates is pretty much the top end for single pass whiskey.  If you strip first, 2-3 is tops, and depending on your low wines proof, even that could be too many.

Keep in mind that even with the dephleg off,  passive reflux will still present a problem.  It also sounds like your plate bypasses are only marginally effective, which is somewhat odd.  Do you still have some action on the plates with the bypasses open?

Does your dephlegmator water feed have some sort of bypass that allows water flow even with the dephleg temp set high or off?  In cold temps, even a trickle through the dephleg will cause enough reflux.




That seems like a really high ABV for pure pot w/ low dephleg interaction. What type of hydrometer are you using to check your proof and are you temp correcting? Sorry for the basic questions but those seem like crazy numbers. If you're using a calibrated hydrometer and temp correcting, you've got once heck of a pot on your hands!!!


Keith actually purchased his still from another vendor.  That particular vendor seems to know very little about still design.  The still that he sold to Keith was actually dangerous.  It was a Baine Marie running oil and the jacket was closed to atmosphere.  There was a Chines pressure relief valve of the type that looks like a stainless cylinder and is ported all of the way around.  If Keith had ran the still as it was delivered, the pressure relief valve would have popped at 7.5 psi and hot oil would have sprayed out of the relief valve ports 360 degrees and anyone standing near that still would have been very badly burned.  I sold Keith some vents for his jacket to solve that issue.  Also the vendor could not tell Keith how to wire the agitator so I had my electrical department head help Keith with that.  Also the agitator paddles on this still were way to small to get the job done so I sold Keith some larger better designed agitator paddles.   Keith is a really nice guy and should not have been done this way by this vendor.

I am not sure about the column design as I have not seen it first hand but I think that Keith will be able to do what he wants with it once he does a few runs and figures it out.  The biggest problem Keith has with this vendor is that the vendor will not give him support.  I think that the vendor is not giving support because the vendor simply does not have a clue.  The vendor let the Chinese factory design the still and the people at the factory don't have a clue either.  This vendor is going to get someone hurt or killed if they are not careful.  This vendor is not Corson.  This Vendor is in the Great Northwest and he has sold home distilling equipment for the last few years.  He just started selling larger equipment a little over 1 year ago.  His prices are really low.  Only a few people have purchased his equipment so far.  I talked with this vendor a couple of times on the phone.  I originally called him because he was using my pics on his website.  He did not know that they were my pics and he promptly removed them.  He seemed like a nice guy. 

This is to the aforementioned vendor.  If you are on here and you see this, I really hope that you understand that you are putting people in danger.  If you do not know what you are doing you should not be selling this equipment.  You are going to get someone hurt or killed and you are going to have to live with that.  If another person contacts me for help with one of your stills and the still is dangerous, I will help them and I will tell everyone who you are.  You have been warned.


10" column on 100 gal still is large or no? I'm running 6" on 200 gal.


Silk, thanks for the response, yes the plates have a small amount of action.  Generally empty but there are some small bubbles coming through when the plates are bypassed, on liquid maybe 1 mm thick or less.   I think the 10" column has so much area the vapor wants to go through, vs the 1" bypass it just puts too much through the bubbler area regardless of it all being open.   The dephlag I had completely off, it was direct plumbed, easy to shut off.  No trickle   I have now changed it to come off of the product condenser as Paul instructed me to do.    Can't wait to see if that helps.    But for sure, passive reflux is happening.


Stumpy, I am using precision IRS hydrometers from nova tech, and I am temp correcting with an expensive certified thermometer.     I know its nuts, I can't believe it either.   Makes me want to try and run it slow to see if I can get it to make vodka.

Paul, I'm glad you have the class to warn the vendor, but since I haven't heard back from him on any of my questions, concerns, and issues since I installed it, ill just go ahead and say I bought the still from Olympic distillers out of Washington.  To be fair I have received advice from the factory in china, but to be candid the language barrier makes things too difficult.   And its always a three day delay or so to get an answer.  That doesn't help when your electrician is standing there wondering what to do, getting paid by the hour.


Still Holler, I think It might be big.   To be honest I don't know.     When I ran  a 15 gallon pot I had  2 " column, so the jump made sense to me moving to a 100 gallon pot, but maybe I am mistaken.     


Does anyone think given the problems I am having keeping the ABV down that vodka is a possibility with this pot?    Run all six plates, run it three times to clean the flavor.  Pot Charge of 30-35% for final run?  I never thought I could do vodka on this still, but from mash I'm hitting 92% on the fores,   87 through the hearts.


Thanks Guys!





You probably can't get over 190 to legally be vodka.  Those last few proof are hard to get.  From a respected still builder you need 15 plates or equivalent plates to hit 191.   I did testing of my own and I think that is a pretty good number   

1" bypass for a 10" column is way too small.  Vapor speed will be super high.  Try running it slower and I bet it will work better.  

For comparison I run 3 plates with 6" plates which has 530 1.7 mm holes at 12000w and can be under 160 if I run reflux low enough.  I usually run 2 plates to be about 140 proof.   


Bluefish,  From what I can see Keith does not have a bypass.  He has plate drain valves with 1" plumbing.  When he opens the drain valves and turns off the dephlegmator it makes it so that the plates cannot build a fluid level so the vapor just comes up through the risers from plate to plate with very little re condensing at the plates.  Since the column is 10" in diameter the risers in the plates should have plenty of throughput and a low vapor velocity which will allow him to do a fast stripping run and then a slower spirit run with all plate drain valves open and the dephlegmator off he should be able to get 120 to 130 proof as an average for the spirit run.  The spirit run should be stretched out to 4 hrs or more so that the cuts do not get smeared in with each other.   

Keith,  I think that you should put a bypass in your cooling plumbing so that you can bypass the dephlegmator when you need to.  If you need a design for that, let me know and I will email you one.   Bluefish is correct, this still will not produce Vodka from scratch.  You can produce Vodka with 15 plates, however it is best to have 20 plates for vodka.  I may incur some wrath here from some people on the forum but I will tell you that you can produce Vodka from GNS with your still, no problem.  You can buy the GNS for around $3.00 per proof gallon. If you dilute it to 35% then your still will produce like a 350 gallon still.  When it comes into your distillery the GNS meets the identity of Vodka so you do not have to redistill it at 190 proof.  Since the GNS comes off of continues column stills, you do need to redistill it to remove the heads.  It does not matter that the gns was originally distilled by someone else.  If you redistill it you can put that it was distilled by your distillery on the bottle.  Some distillers really look down on people who make Vodka this way.  I am neutral when it comes to this.  I am neither for it or against it, however I do believe that if Vodka is made this way it should not be labeled as craft.  Tito sold over $90,000,000 in Vodka last year and he made Vodka from GNS for many years, however I recently had someone tell me that Tito's has grown so much that now it is more cost effective to make his Vodka from scratch and that he is doing that now, but I don't know for sure if that is true.

Also that column size is fine for your still, you will need to run it a little different than a 6" column but it will work.


Hi guys,

  Makes sense bluefish.   I always hear about those last few points which is why I didn't think I could get there.   Had to ask though :}   So when you are running two plates, for my edification, do you have a bypass that brings the vapor straight to the top two plates without going through the bottom plates at all, or are the other plates below simply drain valve open with no liquid build up?

   Paul, Yessssss, duh.  Its a plate drain not a bypass.  Thanks for pointing that out.   No wonder the plates still get a thin layer of fluid on them!  This still is only the third or fourth column I have seen in person, so I end up calling things by the wrong name sometimes.   Thanks for the offer on the plumbing bypass plan, I definitely plan to put one in.   For now I can get by switching the triclamp fittings.   But I plan to change that next week.  I'll give you a shout if I end up scratching my head for too long.


On the vodka, I am a farm distillery in NY so I have to use NY products to distill with.  GNS out of Indiana would definitely be a no go, and I'm small enough I can probably do better at the farmers markets with the whiskey from the corn I grow, and brandy from peaches I grow anyway.  Just always wanted to give vodka a  shot.


I can't wait to distill Monday and Tuesday to see if I can control the dephleg better.    Walking in this morning to check on my ferments was amazing.   A 480 sq foot building   with 200 gallons of bubbling corn and barley, sure gives a nice smell to the place.   


My still can be configured with different plate numbers.  When I run two plates, I assemble it with two.  No bypasses.  When I run whites I change to 3 plates.   I run a vm style head, so I always have some reflux unlike a deflag.  



   To run 2 plates on your still,  you simply open the drain valves on the plates that you are not running.  It is much easier than columns that must have plates removed. However,  if you strip at 50 to 60 proof you will probably not need any plates during the spirit run to get to 120 to 130 proof for the barrel.  Whiskeys that are sold unaged are typically ran at higher proofs,  140s to 150s and you will need to run some plates for that.  Run the upper most plates.


got it Bluefish thanks for explaining that.


Paul, that is good to hear because that's how I was "skipping" plates.   With all plates off and the dephleg on a trickle it was about 170 proof with  the cold input.   Hoping the warm dephleg input helps lower that.      We will find out Monday!




I'm going to have Susan send you some bubble plate column operating instructions tomorrow.  The instructions should really help you.


Got em!  Thanks so much Paul

Reply:On 1/11/2018 at 9:47 AM, Southernhighlander said:



can you you post a picture of the  “Open to atmosphere” valves you’re referring to ?


Thanks -




There are no open to atmosphere valves.  I use 2 vents on the jackets of my baine marie stills for safety redundancy.  I also put an apollo Pressure relief valve on one of the vents for even more safety redundancy.  I also aim the vents downward so that if anything comes out it is aimed at the floor.  It also states in my safety manual that the pressure relief valve should be plumbed with a pipe that goes to within 3" of the floor so that if the valve pops no one will get sprayed.  It is illegal to run a self contained heating system with a closed pressurized jacket without an ASME listing and a UL rating for the complete unit.  Also, when you have liquid in a pressurized jacket and a pressure relief valve pops more often than not the liqued will spray out first.  That is what happened at twister distillery when the top blew off of the still from overpressure, the liquid came out first.  If you purchase a jacketed baine marie still that has a fully enclosed jacket that gets pressurized and the vessel is not ASME listed and does not even have an ASME pressure relief valve on the jacket you are asking for trouble.  Most likely your safety inspector or fire marshal will not allow you to run it, but if they do you are using a time bomb.  Evidently some vendors just don't care.