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How To Calculator When To Cut The Heads In Moonshine? (Correct answer)

What do the cuts mean in moonshine making?

  • Cuts refer to the alcohol you keep and the alcohol you throw out or re-distill. There are three parts to making cuts. These are the Heads, Hearts, and Tails. The Heads are what comes out first. The Hearts are what comes out midway through the run. And the Tails are the last to come out. The Heart of the run is what you will want to keep.


How do you know when the heads are done?

The vapor temperature will be over 175°F (80°C) when the heads start coming, and it will continue up until the vapor temp reads about 196°F (91°C). Heads usually clock in at around 80% abv (160 proof) and above. They’re high in proof but aren’t quite as smooth as the hearts, which will come next.

How much head do you throw away when distilling?

Always discard the foreshots — they make up around 5% or less of the product collected during a run. Throw out the first 30 ml on a 1 gallon run, the first 150 ml on a 5 gallon run, or the first 300 ml on a 10 gallon run. Heads come off of the still directly after the foreshots. Simply put, they taste and smell bad.

How do you determine heads hearts and tails?

Heads: Spirits from the beginning of the run that contain a high percentage of low boiling point alcohols and other compounds such as aldehydes and ethyl acetate. Hearts: The desirable middle alcohols from your run. Tails: A distillate containing a high percentage of fusel oil and little alcohol at the end of the run.

How do you know when your moonshine is done distilling?

There are several ways that one can tell when heads end and tails begin. First, the flavor profile of the distillate will change significantly. The rich flavors present during the hearts will start to fade, as will the sweetness.

What temp do you run a moonshine still?

You will not make any cuts at the different temperatures like you would with a typical pot distillation. Collect until the temperature reaches about 207°F/208°F (97°C/98°C). Turn off your heat source, but continue to run the cooling water until there is no vapor left in the moonshine still.

How much should I discard when distilling?

Additionally, commercial distillers have determined that simply discarding a standard amount per batch, based on batch size, is enough to keep things safe. The rule of thumb is to discard 1/3 of a pint jar for every 5 gallons of wash being distilled.

How much moonshine do you get from 5 gallons of mash?

A 5 gallon run will yield 1-2 gallons of alcohol. A 8 gallon run will yield 1.5-3 gallons of alcohol. A 10 gallon run will yield 2-4 gallons of alcohol.

How much methanol do you use in distilling?

It takes about 140 milliliters of methanol to be fatal and this could only be produced by distilling 149 liters of liquid, something that would be far out of the capacity of home distillers.

How much methanol is produced during fermentation?

Depending upon the strain of yeast during fermentation, some 10% of all alcohol created can be methanol. Fermentation usually achieves 8%–10% ethanol in total. That means that about 1% of the total wash can be methanol. Most of the methanol is removed during distillation by reputable distilleries.

How do you measure a moonshine head?

There are several ways that one can tell when heads end and tails begin. First, the flavor profile of the distillate will change significantly. The rich flavors present during the hearts will start to fade, as will the sweetness.

How can you tell if moonshine is poisonous?

How to Test for Purity. Folklore tells us one way to test the purity of moonshine is to pour some in a metal spoon and set it on fire. 6 If it burns with a blue flame it is safe, but if it burns with a yellow or red flame, it contains lead, prompting the old saying, “Lead burns red and makes you dead.”

How do I make sure no methanol in moonshine?

Always use a collection pot made of glass, never of plastic and preferably of small mouth. And remember to place this vessel away from any fire or other form of heat. Always dispose of the first bit of moonshine, in order to avoid contamination with methanol (which has a lower boiling point than ethanol).

Should I stir my mash during fermentation?

You should not stir your homebrew during fermentation, in most cases, as it can contaminate the beer with outside bacteria, wild yeast, and oxygen which leads to off-flavors or spoilage.

How do you test homemade alcohol for methanol?

Add 25 drops of iodine solution to each alcohol. Add 10 drops of sodium hydroxide solution to each alcohol. Gently swirl the test tubes a few times. The dark colour of the iodine should start to fade.

What to do with heads distilling?

Once the distiller makes the first cut, the heads are generally either disposed of or redistilled in able to collect more alcohol from them. After the distiller has decided that the quality of the incoming distillate is good enough to keep for drinking purposes, they will cut to “hearts”.

Using a Pot Still: Where To Make Your Cuts

Because there is a Quick and Dirty Cheat Sheet at the bottom of this blog, if you need to get anything done quickly, just scroll down until you reach the bottom of this page. Just keep in mind that manufacturing moonshine with a pot still is a skill that will only improve with time and experience. The temperatures listed here are excellent guides, but the more you distill, the better you’ll be able to determine when to make your cuts depending on your own personal preferences in flavor and scent.

A cut is essentially the point at which you begin and end the process of collecting your distillate.

It is also beneficial to name and number each jar because this will assist you at the end of the procedure when you are combining the ingredients together.


The first substance to emerge from the still is the undesirable substance. Foreshots include methanol and other toxins that you do not want to be present in your finished goods. Not only do foreshots contain relatively little ethanol, but they’re also the source of the headache you experience when you’re hungover, as previously stated. In other words, this is what you want to collect—and then toss away. To collect the foreshots, you’ll need to wait until your vapor temperature hits around 175°F (80°C), and Rick suggests collecting at least 4oz each 5 gallon of distillate that you’re distilling.

Once again, this is the bare minimum that we propose for collection and disposal.


The heads are the next step, which you may keep for mixing or re-distilling at a later time. When the heads begin to appear, the vapor temperature will be more than 175°F (80°C), and this will continue until the vapor temperature is around 196°F (91°C). Heads are normally approximately 80 percent abv (160 proof) or higher in alcohol concentration. They contain a lot of evidence, but they’re not nearly as smooth as the hearts, which will be served next.


This is where the action is at its most effective. Hearts, also known as your Middle Run, start off at roughly 80 percent alcohol by volume (160 proof) before dropping to 60-65 percent alcohol by volume, or even 40 percent alcohol by volume if you want it stronger.

Hearts provide you with the fresh flavor you’re seeking for. You’ll begin collecting hearts when the vapor temperature is around 196°F (91°C) and end when the vapor temperature is approximately 203°F (95°C).


In distillation, tails are the last component of the distillate, consisting of everything that comes out after the temperature of the vapor rises to 203 degrees Fahrenheit (95 degrees Celsius) – 207 degrees Fahrenheit (98 degrees Celsius) The use of tails for blending is popular, although Rick does not suggest it for palatable alcohol owing to the combination of lower alcohol level and increased congener content in tails used “as-is.” It is possible, however, to combine the tails with the heads that aren’t being used and re-distill the mixture to produce neutral spirits.

Again, the temperatures indicated here are excellent guides for beginners, but the more you distill, the more you’ll be able to choose when to make your cuts depending on your own personal preferences in flavor and scent.

More Distilling Info For Beginners

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A How To Guide To Cuts and Fractions – Pot Still Run – Learn to Moonshine

This book will educate you about the many fractions that occur throughout the distillation process in a pot still, as well as how and when to make cuts, which will allow you to manage the final flavor and quality of your spirit.

What are cuts?

During a distillation run, cuts are planned moments at which a stiller will split the product flowing from the still into different containers. The ultimate result is a number of various jars of finished goods. Each with its own distinct flavor and alcohol content.

How to know where to make cuts during distillation run?

During a distillation run, cuts are planned moments at which a stiller will split the product exiting the still into different containers. There will be various distinct types of merchandise at the end. Its flavor and alcohol content are distinct from the others.

What are fractions?

In phase transition, fractions are the individual components of a mixture of compounds that may be split into smaller groups of compounds. It is possible in our instance to separate fractions throughout the distillation procedure. If you have a lot of expertise, you can recognize fractions by utilizing still head temperature, abv percent, or by tasting to differentiate them. However, if you understand how your still works, detecting fractions becomes a lot more predictable. Also bear in mind that when the temperature of the still increases and the alcohol content decreases, the two are intimately connected to one another and provide an indicator of what is coming out of your still.

This will give you an indication of the temperature at which specific alcohols begin to evaporate from the wash water.

  • Acetone is 56.5 degrees Celsius (134 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Methanol (wood alcohol) is 64 degrees Celsius (147 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Ethyl acetate is 77.1 degrees Celsius (171 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Ethanol is 78 degrees Celsius (172 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 2-Propanol (rubbing alcohol) is 82 degrees Celsius (180 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 1-Propanol is 97 degrees Celsius (207 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Water is 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahr
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Many times, while distilling with a pot still, it is desirable to perform numerous stripping runs before performing a final product run.

This saves time and makes mixing a lot more convenient. Interested in learning more about how to distill a stripping run? Check out Fundamentals of Distilling A Stripping Run for additional information.

What are the main Fractions that occur during the distillation of moonshine?

There are four primary fractions that must be granted, and these are as follows:

  • First shots– The first shots fraction is collected during the distillation process and includes a high concentration of acetone. It is the first fraction to be collected during the distillation process. Don’t even consider of consuming this noxious substance. Generally speaking, we’ll allow 150 mL per 25L of wash for our Foreshot Fraction during a pot still run to be used. This is disposed of in the garbage disposal. At 50 degrees Celsius, foreshots can begin to emerge from the still. It is composed of acetone, methanol, ethyl-acétate, and ethanol in varying proportions. You should expect the heads portion to have a somewhat pleasant scent with a sting similar to that of a solvent. Because they contain a significant amount of ethanol, it is normal practice to remove the heads and incorporate them into the following distillation process. A general rule of thumb is to take 750 mL for Heads Fraction after Foreshots to ensure enough concentration. Personal preference plays an important role in this selection
  • Nevertheless, you can take more or less personal preference. Hearts– The hearts fraction has the maximum concentration of ethanol and will have a very clean taste, without the sting that may be found in the heads fraction. It can be collected between 78 and 82 degrees Celsius, or if you like a higher alcohol content, between 80 and 50 percent, with low wines of 40 percent. When combining fractions to create the ultimate outcome, keep in mind that Your product’s foundation is comprised of Hearts
  • Tails– The Tails fraction includes high concentrations of fusel oils, which can impart undesirable tastes to the finished product. The unique scent of wet dog distinguishes the tails from the rest of the pack. Aside from the fusel oils, there is a significant quantity of ethanol and rich tastes in the tails, which are frequently desired for creating rum or whiskey. A feints run can be used to extract the tastes from the mixture. The feints run will result in a very flavored product that may be used in the mixing of the Hearts portion when it is finished. When still temperatures hit 94–95°C, or when the alcohol content of low-alcohol wines reaches 20 percent, the collection of tails can be stopped.

For beginner distillers who are just learning how to make cuts, I’d recommend doing the primary cuts between heads and hearts and hearts and tails first. Before you begin mixing, you need get familiar with the process of blending. If you’re confident in your ability to make these basic cuts, then check out the Blending Guide for Newbies for further information. It will guide you through the process of mixing whiskeys and rums for those who are new to the technique.

Heads Calculation – Home Distiller

Moderator:EvanwileyNovice, Site ModeratorevanwileyNovice Posts:15 I joined at 6:35 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.

Heads Calculation

For the past four years, I have been distilling little amounts of alcohol (25Litre). Now I’d want to take it a step farther. Currently, I am collecting the first 50-100mL and tossing it out; but, if I upgrade to a 100l distillation, will I be required to throw away four times as much as I am currently collecting? Donor Posts: 2478 on the Swedish Pride website. Date of joining: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 2:16 a.m. Emerald Isle is the location of this event.

Re: Heads Calculation

Published on September 4, 2016 at 11:54 a.m. by Swedish Pride Was this all you were cutting out of your collection? Is this all you were throwing away as foreshot (on a potstill)? Don’t be a jerk about it. Whiskey made by Hound DogMaster Distiller Posts:3002 Joined at 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Hounds Hollow, Virginia is the location of this event.

Re: Heads Calculation

Hound Dog has posted a new blog entry. Sunday, September 4, 2016 12:46 p.m. SP is correct in that that is a small head cut, however it is sliced to the size you believe tastes nice to you. Each wash is a little different, and it is not solely a function of volume. Hound Dogon made the last edit. On Sun Sep 04, 2016 12:56 pm, a single modification was made to the post. evanwileyNovice Posts:15 I joined at 6:35 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.

Re: Heads Calculation

Hound Dog has posted a new article. The time is 12:46 p.m on September 4, 2016. SP is correct in that that is a small head cut, however it is chopped to the size you think tastes nice to your palate. Because each wash is slightly different, it is not only a function of the amount of water used. Hound Dogon made the final cut. In all, there have been 1 edits since Sun Sep 04, 2016 12:56 pm. evanwileyNovice Posts:15 I joined at 6:35 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Re: Heads Calculation

PostbyHound Dog on September 4, 2016 at 1:04 p.m. Okay, so you’re talking about foreshots now. When I go for my reflux runs, I think I gather about a quart of fores. However, I don’t mind collecting extras since I use them for the BBQ grill and torch fuel, so I don’t mind collecting them. So it’s either that or conduct major heads cuts, which I do rather often.

For the time being, I’m not actually drinking it till I get to a clean hearth cut. For reflux runs, I use a 20-gallon boiler and charge it with low-alcohol wines. Site Donor who is bitter Posts:1751 Joined: Tuesday, February 3, 2015, 4:51 p.m. Location:Ontario

Re: Heads Calculation

By Bitter on September 4, 2016 at 1:07 p.m. Foreshot is something I do from my boka on a full keg charge. I usually chuck 300-500ml. If I threw a few fients into the mix, it would be a bit more. Following that, I make edits depending on my personal preference. BYummyrum Posts as a global moderator: 4648 I joined at 2:23 a.m. on Saturday, July 6, 2013. Australian Mid-North Coast (Mid-North Coast)

Re: Heads Calculation

PostbyYummyrum on September 4, 2016 at 1:18 p.m. Evan It appears that you are following the instructions that came with your Still when you got it from a home brew business. I used to behave in the same manner. and pass it through a charcoal filter in an attempt to remove the unusual flavors and odors from it. Eventually, I made the decision to explore with the heads-cutting technique. Yes, the heads are obviously out of place in that room. So now I still take out my 100mls of foreshore like you do, plus an additional 250-400mls of heads on a regular basis.

Donor Posts on the Site: 6048 Posted on: Friday, September 27, 2013, 3:18 p.m.

Re: Heads Calculation

On September 4, 2016, at 2:47 p.m., Cranky posted a blog entry. My cuts differ significantly depending on what I am doing and how I am doing it. I’ve been running a flute with a 12 gallon charge at 10 ish percent for the past few weeks. I normally start with a half pint or so of fores, but since I trim the heads depending on scent and flavor, I frequently end up adding a second or even third half pint to the fores jar after the first half pint. The fores cut has recently become more generous, and I’ve been taking a whole pint of it.

I don’t do much of anything based on some preconceived notion of exactly what should happen there; instead, I just collect in pints or half pints no matter how large the flow is and then let my nose and taste sensibilities decide on cuts after everything has been allowed to air out for a while.

Re: Heads Calculation

Published on September 4, 2016 at 2:54 p.m. by wtfdskin Every time I use my keg pot, which has a 12 gal charge, I take a full pint of fores to start it off. It may seem excessive, but I generally have at least a pint or two of heads that are thrown out as well. dodgebrownNovice Posts:28 Joined at 4:54 p.m. on March 31, 2016.

Re: Heads Calculation

»Monday, September 5, 2016 11:55 a.m. Postbydodgebrown According to what I’ve read (not on this site), professional distilleries discard 3-5 percent of the total alcohol in the boiler throughout the production process. If you have 25 gallons of wash at 8 percent, that’s 95 gallons at 8 percent = 7.6 gallons of pure alcohol, and 3-5 percent from that is 228 to 380 mL of foreshots. After removing the foreshots, and while I am still learning the craft of distilling, I normally separate around 20% of the gathered volume as ‘heads’ (going by smell and taste and playing it safe).

rad14701Master Distiller (RAD14701) Posts:20866 Joined: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 at 4:46 p.m. Location: New York, United States

Re: Heads Calculation

By Rad14701 on Monday, September 5, 2016 2:57 pm dodgebrown wrote: As I already stated, according to my reading (which was not found on this site), professional distilleries discard 3-5 percent of the entire alcohol in the boiler. If you have 25 gallons of wash at 8 percent, that’s 95 gallons at 8 percent = 7.6 gallons of pure alcohol, and 3-5 percent from that is 228 to 380 mL of foreshots. After removing the foreshots, and while I am still learning the craft of distilling, I normally separate around 20% of the gathered volume as ‘heads’ (going by smell and taste and playing it safe).

  1. When opposed to pot stilling, reflux columns compress all of the cuts, resulting in different volumes and percentages.
  2. It cannot be accomplished by the use of volume, percentages, or temperatures.
  3. Using the above example, when running my reflux columns, I know that collecting 4oz/120ml gets all of the Foreshots and some of the early Heads, so I always refer to the first jar as Foreshots, despite the fact that it contains some Heads.
  4. In terms of quantities, percentages, and temperatures, what you acquire will not necessarily be of any help to someone else who is looking for the same information.
  5. Moreover, we are unconcerned with what the commercial distilleries are doing since we try to do better than they do because we are not subject to the demands of the bean counters in the corporate headquarters.
  6. Location: New York, United States

Re: Heads Calculation

»Tuesday, September 6, 2016, 2:44 p.m. Postbyrad14701 “You contradict yourself there, rad,” dodgebrown commented, adding that “I won’t fight with someone that has 19K posts to their nick.” There is no conflict here. I just indicated that I always take more Foreshots than I need to, based on my very tiny boiler charges, and that I wind up having early Heads in that jar that ends up becoming alcohol stove fuel as a result of this practice. After nearly four decades in this field, I still don’t believe in cutting corners.

Those 4oz jars fill up quickly, and I’m not squandering any valuable Heads by filling them to the brim with liquid.

And, even after all these years, I have never, ever left my running unattended while I am out. Site DonorPosts:3230 at skow69 Joined: Tuesday, December 6, 2011, 3:03 a.m. Location:Cascadia

Re: Heads Calculation

Postbyskow69»Wednesday, September 7, 2016 5:53 a.m. evanwiley wrote: For the past four years, I have been distilling tiny batches (25Litre). Now I’d want to take it a step farther. Currently, I am collecting the first 50-100mL and tossing it out; but, if I upgrade to a 100l distillation, will I be required to throw away four times as much as I am currently collecting? Yes. Distilling at 110 degrees Fahrenheit and 75 torr. I’m not an absinthe connoisseur; rather, I’m known as The Absinthe Nazi.

How to “Cut” your Alcohol Distilling Run

Alcohol distillation is a centuries-old process that is both an art and a science, according to some scholars. It’s simple, but not as simple as simply turning on the computer and sitting back to watch it work. In order to produce the safest and finest tasting spirit possible, conscientious distillers understand that they must monitor temperature control when distilling, as well as the finished product – the distillate. When it comes to creating a high-quality result, one of the professionals’ secrets is their meticulous and accurate “cutting” during the still’s run.

It is necessary to “cut” the alcohol stream flowing from the condenser coil when moving between jars that contain distillate and those that are empty.

The Four Stages of Your Moonshine Run

Some old wives’ tales claim that moonshine would “make you go blind.” You may have heard something similar. Despite the fact that this is an exaggeration, it is true that moonshine that has not been properly prepared might make you sick. Read our guide on how to distill whiskey and moonshine to acquire a better understanding of the safety precautions you should take at every stage of the process. Keep an eye out for the different types of alcohols that are created during the various phases of your moonshine production so that you can avoid establishing a bad reputation for your moonshine by selling it to those who think it’s harmful.

Even if you need to use numerous containers for each stage of the run, this is OK.

The Foreshots

At each stage of the race, different types of alcohol are vaporized and sucked into a collection cup at the finish line. Fine, high-quality moonshine is made from ethanol, which boils at a temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit when heated to a boiling point. The boiling point of other chemicals and alcohols, such as methanol, is much lower, and the resulting condensed liquid will gather in your cup or jar after being condensed in the coil. These compounds are extremely toxic. The presence of these contaminants in your moonshine (or whatever alcohol you’re distilling) will not only degrade the flavor of your product, but they may also make people very unwell.

If you reach this temperature, the ethanol in the wash will begin to evaporate, and you may be confident that the distillate collected before this point includes the majority of the methanol and other hazardous chemicals.

In this initial container, you will find all of the distillate that has been gathered before your run reaches this certain temperature.

These are referred to as the “foreshots.” The foreshots should be around 10% of the total volume of your distillation run at the end of the process. Making the incision a bit later rather than early ensures that all of the potentially harmful substances are removed from the process.

The Heads

You will be distilling actual spirits as the temperature continues to rise. Even though the temperature in the still’s pot is rising to between 175 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit, the distillate will still contain significant amounts of non-ethanol chemicals that can be used to give your final product a bit more “bite” and flavor if used in conjunction with other ingredients such as spices. This may be great for a product such as whiskey or Scotch, because the complexity of those alcoholic beverages is derived from the mixing of several trace compounds.

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The temperature range for the second cut you will make in your run will be between 185 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make a note of the heads and save them away for future distillation, or blend the appropriate quantity with the final distillate to flavor the alcohol to your liking.

The optimal strategy is to make this cut a bit later rather than earlier, and to gather some of the hearts with your heads rather than the other way around.

The Hearts

The distillate with the highest concentration of ethanol is the most desirable section of the run. This phase of your run is referred to as the “hearts” section. Many professionals and long-time distillers agree that this is the section of the run that takes place between around 190 degrees Fahrenheit and approximately 200 or 205 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Without a doubt, it is dependent on the still. Despite the fact that ethanol has a boiling point of 175 degrees Fahrenheit, the mash in your still does not contain pure ethanol.

The hearts will most likely account for about 30 percent or so of the overall amount of your booze run’s ultimate tally.

In this case, it is preferable to combine some hearts with your tails rather than some tails with your hearts.

The Tails

When the temperature of the run hits around 205 degrees Fahrenheit, it is possible that more steam will enter your distillate. There may also be other compounds present in the distillate that burn at a higher temperature than ethanol, which might impart a flavor to this component of the distillate that isn’t precisely what you were looking for. This section of the run is referred to as the “tails,” and it can account for as much as 20-30 percent of your entire distance. Remove the tails and set them aside for further distillation.

It is safe to cut off the heat source for your still after the temperature in the pot of your still hits 212 degrees.

Continue to collect whatever distillate comes out of the condenser coil, but it is not worth it to boil the water in order to extract every drop of alcohol from the alcohol wash, since this would waste time and energy.

Allow your still to cool completely before disassembling, cleaning, and storing it in preparation for your next use. Mason jars have long been the preferred containers for moonshine distillation.

The “Feints”

Fients are the containers containing heads and tails that you have set aside for later use in the process. In this case, you may either add them to the wash with your next run or distill them separately from the rest of the brew. It is possible to distill the feints in a smaller-size still after each alcohol run if you do not want to combine different recipes or tastes from separate mashes. After collecting feints for several runs, some people perform an all-feints run in a bigger still; this is known as the “queen’s share” of feint collection.

  1. When it comes to learning the particular qualities of your still that will inform you when to cut your alcohol run, it may take some time and trial and error.
  2. This will help you repeat successful runs and figure out where you went wrong in a batch that wasn’t up to your standards the next time around.
  3. Follow the rules, practice safe distillation, and learn how to get the most hearts out of each batch, and you’ll be able to sip your moonshine with a grin on your face.
  4. Luann Snider Photography provided the image for this post.

How are Commercial Spirits Made?

It is possible to employ distillation equipment for a variety of various purposes. As an example, a still might be used to filter water, separate essential oils, or even distill gasoline alcohol. Nevertheless, in this post, we will go over the steps that a professional distiller would take in order to manufacture spirits. What is the process through which Jack Daniel’s makes whiskey? We’ll get back to you. What is the process through which Absolut makes Vodka? We’ll respond to your question as well.

We’ll get back to you on that as well.

Our distillation apparatus is intended solely for legal reasons, and the information contained in this paper is intended solely for educational purposes.

We encourage you to read our comprehensive legal statement for further information on the legality of distillation.

How Does A Still Work?

Distillation is a method of separating compounds that takes use of variations in boiling temperatures. Commercial distillers produce high proof alcohol by distilling water and then separating the resulting alcohol from the water. It is important to note that distillation does not result in the production of alcohol; rather, it concentrates the alcohol that already exists. It is essentially the last step in the process of producing extremely high proof alcohol, and it is called distillation.

Commercial distillers begin by creating a low-proof beer that will subsequently be distilled later in the procedure. So, how does a professional distiller like asOle Smoky create moonshine from start to finish? They go through the following procedures:

  1. Produce a mash by mashing grains (such as maize) or sugar together
  2. Yeast is added to the mash to cause fermentation. Make a distillation of the fermented wash.

How Does Distillation Work?

Ethyl alcohol is the exact sort of alcohol that commercial distillers are looking for in their products. Water and ethanol are separated by boiling at different temperatures, which allows ethanol to be removed more easily from the water (pure ethanol boils at 172 degrees Fahrenheit, while water does not boil until 212 degrees). In a nutshell, wash is heated in a still to a temperature more than 172 degrees Fahrenheit but less than 212 degrees Fahrenheit. After starting to boil, the ethanol converts into a vapor, which separates from the wash water.

  1. However, the fact that there are numerous distinct forms of alcohol (as well as a large number of other chemical components) that will be extracted throughout the distillation process makes the whole process a little more difficult than it has to be.
  2. These substances have varying boiling temperatures, much as ethanol and water do in different amounts.
  3. When manufacturing vodka, it is important to eliminate as many congers as possible because the spirit is meant to be extremely pure and flavorless.
  4. When manufacturing whiskey, congeners are desired since they enhance the flavor and complexity of the finished product.
  5. Whiskey, such as Jack Daniel’s, is aged for several years in order to smooth out the tasty, but rather harsh congeners that are present in the final product.

Phases of Distillation

Each distillation run is divided into four phases: the foreshots, the heads, the hearts, and the tails. This is due to the fact that the various alcohols and chemical compounds in a wash separate at different boiling temperatures. A professional distiller will observe that the flavor and fragrance of the finished product might fluctuate significantly depending on the phase of the run. In most cases, just the “hearts” component of the image is used for commercial distribution. In order to distill the tails again in the future, they are separated.

1- Foreshots

During the distillation process, the foreshots are the first vapors to boil off. These include the most volatile alcohols and should not be consumed due to the presence of methanol and other undesirables in their composition. Commercial distillers never use or eat the foreshots since they are always discarded. This part of the liquid collected during the distillation process accounts for around 5 percent or less of the total liquid collected. More information about foreshots may be found in this page on methanol blindness.

2- Heads

Acetone, acetaldehyde, and acetate are among the “lighter” chemicals found in the heads’ composition. Those who work in the commercial distilling industry may remark that these chemicals have an unpleasant taste and smell like solvent. Furthermore, they are claimed to be the principal perpetrators in the development of hangovers.

During this section of the run, there is little to no sweetness, and it is everything from smooth. The heads are not suitable for commercial distribution and should be removed from the collection. Heads make up around 20-30 percent of the liquid recovered during a distillation cycle, on average.

3- Hearts

The hearts are mostly composed of ethanol, and they are the most attractive element of the distillation process. It is possible for a professional distiller to recognize when a still is starting to produce hearts because the harshness of the heads has subsided and the scent is no longer pungent. This is referred to as the “sweet spot,” which is not only a metaphor. When this step is completed, the whiskey produced is extremely flavorful, but it is also quite smooth and, depending on the recipe, may be slightly sweet.

The ability of the commercial distiller to determine the beginning and conclusion of the hearts section of the run comes into play since they must distinguish between the two parts of the run.

4- Tails

Once all of the alcohols with lower boiling points have evaporated, the tails begin to form. Propanol, butanol, and amyl alcohols are present in this region of the run, which is composed of fusel oils. The tails have a bad taste and are largely made up of water, proteins, carbohydrates, and less volatile alcohols with higher boiling points than the rest of the mixture. There are a variety of techniques to detect when the heads have ended and the tails have begun. In the first place, the taste profile of the distillate will be drastically altered.

The spirits collected during this step will have a “thin” flavor to them.

It will also feel somewhat slick to the touch when you rub your index finger and middle finger together between your index finger and middle finger.

When the Distillation Process Ends

Commercial distillers who are well-versed in their craft will often operate their stills until the alcohol content of the wash has been lowered to around 10-20 proof. It is not worth the time and effort to distill the mixture further in order to separate the small amount of alcohol that remains from the water.

When Distillation Cuts Are Made

An skilled commercial distiller understands when to make a “cut” from the heads to the hearts and also when to make a “cut” from the hearts to the tails of the mash. The term “cut” refers to the process through which a commercial distiller transitions from collecting in one jar to collecting in another jar. This is a skill that is developed through time and takes a significant amount of practice. A small fraction of the heads and tails, as well as all of the hearts, are generally saved when the spirits are going to be matured and then put to the barrel.

Cuts have the potential to have a significant influence on the final result.

To continue in the same vein, it is preferable to have tails cut early and a little amount of hearts in the tails rather than vice versa.


Feints are tails that have been salvaged from a run and are being held back for future usage in the game. Commercial distillers may occasionally add them to the wash of the following distillation run, or they will gather enough to make an all-feints run, which is referred to as “the queens share” by certain distillation enthusiasts.


No person or entity should rely on the information, data, and references provided above as a legal basis for taking any action or making any decision. The information, data, and references provided above are provided solely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon by any person or entity as a legal basis for any action or decision. There is no intent in any of the material presented here to provide particular scientific or legal advice to any individual or organisation.

Distiller Cuts: Separating the Heads, the Heart, and the Tails

When compared to the mind-numbing craziness of our everyday micro-verse, the ancient skill of distillation is rather straightforward. It acts as our modern-day alchemy, and it is far more delectable than the process of converting lead into gold would be. Even yet, the practice of distilling remains a mystery to the majority of the population. A tour of your local distillery will almost certainly include explanations for a variety of obscure words. You could find yourself feeling a little disoriented towards the conclusion of the trip.

This phrase is sometimes used in conjunction with other terms such as “heads,” “hearts,” and “tails” in order to further obfuscate the situation.

They aren’t difficult to understand, but they do need some explanation.

A Distillation Refresher

During the distillation process, the liquid in the still is heated to the point of becoming vapor. The vapor is then pumped through the system to the condenser, where it is cooled and transformed back into a liquid. The distillate that is produced is higher in ethanol and some taste compounds than the liquid that was left behind in the still after the distillation process. During the course of the distillation process, as more alcohol is extracted from the liquid being distilled, the temperature of the still continues to climb.

Neil, Head Brewer at Waterford Distillery, decides when to make the cut / Photo courtesy of Waterford Distillery We refer to these lower boiling point compounds as “heads” since they are the first compounds to be released from the still as it begins to heat up.

The general odour of these substances has a solvent-like quality to it, which is not particularly pleasant.

Furthermore, excessive quantities of certain of these substances (looking at you, methanol) are hazardous to humans, so getting rid of as much of them as we possibly can is a good practice in and of itself.

Briefly stated, distiller cuts are nothing more than a judgement made by the distiller on the quality of incoming spirits. After that, the distiller transfers the flow of distillate from one container to the next.

Collecting the Heart

Once the first cut is made by the distiller, the heads are either discarded or redistilled in order to extract even more alcohol from the still. They will then cut to “hearts” if they have determined that the quality of the incoming distillate is sufficient for drinking purposes. In the end, it is the hearts that form the final outcome of a project. They contain the majority of the ethanol we desire, as well as tastes and fragrances that distinguish our spirit from the competition. Springbank Distillery’s spirit is poured out of the still / Photo courtesy of Springbank Distillery All wonderful things, however, must eventually come to an end.

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This is the point at which the distiller will make another cut and divert the distillate flow to another container for the remainder of the distillation process.

Additionally, because to the increasing number of fusel alcohols in the still, increased levels of unpleasant odors are released into the atmosphere.

The Art

The number of heads and tails that are permitted to flow into the heart is one of the ways in which a distiller determines the house character of the distillery. Some distillers base their judgments on characteristics such as time and alcohol by volume (ABV). Others prefer to make decisions based on their sense of taste and smell. The process is both an art and a science in its own right. It might take years for a distiller to perfect their method and become consistent. Furthermore, while we’ve covered the fundamental concept of distiller cuts here, various distilling traditions employ a somewhat different approach to the craft.

  • Several mezcal and scotch whiskey distilleries gather a significant number of tails because they believe it helps to enhance the smoky scents in their finished product.
  • The notion of distiller cuts is not difficult to grasp, but mastering the technique of making them correctly is likely more difficult.
  • You will always know what is in the bottle before spending a single dime thanks to Distiller.
  • Now is the time to visit Distiller or to download the app for iOS and Android devices.

How to make cuts in moonshine distillation

Nicola posted 4 hours ago:Hi all,I’m new to this site and I’m new to distillation, so first and foremost, I’d want to express my gratitude to everyone for their assistance, and my apologies for any (maybe) silly questions. After doing some research on the internet, I discovered a wealth of material on how to create cuts, but the subject is still unclear to me. Some people base their cuts on distillate ABV, while others base them on temperature, and still others base them on both. My question is: Can I base my cuts just on the temperatures of the vapors?

  1. Even in such case, it will be dependent on the still type and how you run it, as well as other factors.
  2. Should I do the incisions for the foreshots, heads, hearts, and tails at a certain temperature if I do decide to do so?
  3. Additionally, air pressure has an impact on the connection between abv and proof.
  4. Cuts are best done according to your preference.
  5. Then you can try them.
  6. When you get to the top of the mountain, it should be evident.
  7. On mine, it’s right at the end of the page.
  8. My proposal is as follows: – Discard everything with a temperature below 181°F (83°C) as foreshots.
  9. Gather everything between 190°F and 203°F (95°C) as heart in different jars and then decide whether to keep everything or discard something.

Is it possible that that is correct? I also have a question about whether it is necessary to create a double distillation or whether I may run only one distillation while making the cuts and then put my moonshine in the jars as the finished product. Once again, thank you for your assistance!

Heads, Hearts, and Tails

Distillers refer to the distillate generated during a spiritdistillation run as the “heads, hearts, and tails,” which are three typical phrases for the distillate. These three components constitute, in effect, the beginning (heads), the middle (hearts), and the end (tails) of batch distillation operations. These three stages of the run are defined as follows by a well-known distillation website:

  • A large percentage of low boiling point alcohols and other chemicals, such as aldehydes and ethyl acetate, are present in the spirits at the beginning of the run. Hearts: The most sought-after middle alcohols from your workout
  • Tails: A distillate with a high concentration of fusel oil and a low concentration of alcohol at the conclusion of the run

The distiller’s ultimate purpose is to render and collect as many hearts as possible throughout the distillation process. Ethanol is found at the greatest concentration in the hearts. Furthermore, ethanol is the most desirable sort of alcohol in the distillation kettle at the end of the day. A fermentable wash or wort, which is mostly composed of sugar and certain other nutrients, is used to make spirits alcohol at the start of the fermentation process. Yeast is added to this wash solution in order for it to consume the sugar.

yeast consumes the sugar and excretes the alcoholic beverage

Yep. Alcohol Is Yeast Poop

Furthermore, there are several different types of alcohol created inside this yeast faeces. Each of these alcohols has a somewhat different boiling point than the others. However, all of the alcohols that are created are completely miscible with water. Consequently, the distiller cannot simply heat the majority of the fermented wort (now known as beer) until it reaches the boiling point of ethanol. By the way, the boiling point of water is 173.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that because ethanol is 100 percent endlessly miscible with water, the actual boiling temperature of a kettle filled with beer will be somewhere between 173.1°F and 212°F (the boiling point of water) in order to produce ethanol in the process.

  1. As a result, the boiling point at which ethyl acetate may be extracted will be anywhere between 170.8°F and 212°F.
  2. In the case of alcohol, 10 percent total alcohol will have a lower boiling point than 7 percent total alcohol, for example.
  3. This occurs as a result of the fact that the alcohol concentration decreases incrementally with each measure of alcohol rendered.
  4. As a result, the ethanol level fluctuates throughout the distillation process, making the distiller’s job somewhat difficult.

Separating the Heads, Hearts, and Tails

Once operating temperatures have been reached, the distiller will normally provide a minimal to moderate amount of heat to the kettle in order to guarantee optimal separation between heads, hearts, and tails of the product. The heads compounds will be vaporized first, and the pressure within the distilling apparatus will force the vaporized heads compounds toward the distillation outlet, where they will be collected. No overstatement can be made about how important it is to perform this early portion of the distillation run with calm and methodical patience in order to limit any amount of hearts incursion into the heads portion of the run.

  1. It is possible to describe the fragrance of heads as smelling like rubbing alcohol, with a hint of a rotten sweet scent.
  2. Once the distiller has established that the heads portion of the run has been collected, he or she will divert the collecting stream into a separate collection vessel designated to the hearts portion of the flow.
  3. Hearts are distinguished by having the most neutral odor as compared to heads or tails, according to tradition.
  4. This is referred to as the “tails cut.”” Tails have a distinct fragrance that is similar to that of a wet dog.
  5. Alternatively, moist cardboard.
  6. Therefore, the distiller will need to pay great attention during the whole distillation process in order to identify whether the “heads cut” or the “tails cut” should be done, and when neither need be made.

Please see the StillDragon forum for further information on this or any other distillation issue you may be interested in. We may be reached at 561-845-8009 if you have any inquiries about distillation equipment or services.

State alcohol laws for Missouri

Not only is it allowed to own a still in the state of Missouri, but it is also permissible to create up to 200 gallons of moonshine per year per home for personal use, rather than for resale, in the state. The fundamental use of a still for distilling water, vinegar, and essential oils is now permitted as well, which means you may now make your own essential oils. I was unable to locate information on the transportation of distilled spirits for personal consumption, but because it is illegal to sell moonshine, it is possible that transporting moonshine will be considered an attempt to sell it.

  1. Section 311.055.1 of the Code of Civil Procedure A license to make intoxicating liquor, as defined in section 311.020, for personal or family use must not be required of any individual who is at least twenty-one years of age.
  2. Any intoxicating liquor produced in accordance with this provision may not be sold or offered for sale in any manner.
  3. The manufacturing of ethanol for use as fuel should be lawful due to the fact that there are no legal limits on possessing a still; nonetheless, the production of ethanol fuel still requires a government license for manufacture.
  4. The license, as well as a tax bond, are both $450 each year in total.
  5. The licenses listed below are solely for government agencies.
  6. You must submit the following information in order to get a license to make spirits: TTB 5110.41 is an abbreviation for Transportation Technology Board.
  7. This license solely permits you to manufacture alcoholic beverages.

You are permitted to legally produce your own spirits for personal consumption up to 200 gallons per year. Selling spirits, on the other hand, is punishable by steep fines, and simply transporting alcoholic beverages might be deemed an attempted sale.

  • The first infraction carries a $10,000 dollar fine and no prison term
  • The second offense carries a $25,000 dollar fine and no prison sentence
  • And the third offense carries a $50,000 dollar fine and no prison sentence.

Current federal laws grant residents the freedom to possess and run a still for the purpose of producing something other than alcohol. This indicates that you are legally permitted to:

Each state and even counties havetheir own lawsthat may supersede federal laws.

It is your obligation to be aware of the laws that apply in your jurisdiction.

Operate a reflux column still — Moonshine Stills & Distillery Equipment

Page 64 of THE COMPLEAT DISTILLER has an excerpt. See “RecipesInformation” for the full version of the photos that are related with the recipes. Distillation of Compounds Using a compound still, you can achieve the cleanest product possible through distillation, which is what you’re after in this case. The cost of achieving a much higher purity level is a little more difficult process as well as longer working cycles. An induced reflux system, which returns regulated amounts of condensed liquid back to the column, is all that is required for the compound still to function.

It is possible for the compound column to achieve substantially better separation to occur by repeatedly recycling the reflux in the top section of its column, until the constituents of the liquid/vapor mix in the column reach dynamic equilibrium.

When this condition is reached, the composition of the mixture remains constant in each zone of the column, despite the fact that molecules are continually entering and exiting that location.

This, however, will only be true if and when all of the vapor that reaches the top of the column is returned to the column as liquid reflux.

These concepts have already been discussed in earlier chapters, but it is worth reiterating them here because knowing them is critical to the proper operation of a compound still.

The column is then left alone for two hours, during which time it will approach equilibrium and all of the more volatile components will have had an opportunity to rise to the top of the column.

Fortunately, none of these concerns are justified.

Cool reflux is swiftly heated to boiling point in this situation, and both equilibrium as well as the total reflux ratio of the column are maintained.

Stage 2 of the process It has taken two hours at 100 percent reflux to get the system back into balance, and the top part has been completely filled with the foreshots.

The foreshots are in a limited number at this point, and it would be simple to disturb the little zone where they are located at the top of the column if you move with caution at this point.

Discard them until the vapor temperature has stabilized, and then begin collecting the heads, which may be used in the following batch of ethanol recovery to increase the yield.

An typical batch of heads will yield 100-150 mL of material.

DISTILLER 65 STAGE 3 – THE COMPLETE DISTILLER A very pure azeotropic mixture of ethanol and water will begin to flow through the system at this stage, and this mixture may be collected as the primary product.

We provide guidance in terms of drops per second, but the size of a drop is impacted by a variety of factors, including the composition of the drop, the temperature of the drop, and the size of the tube from which it drips.

750 Watts will create around 50 mL of 95 percent ethanol per minute; thus, you should be collecting between 4 and 5 mL per minute in order to achieve a reflux ratio of approximately 90 percent.

Continue to adjust the valve until it takes between two and two and a half minutes total.

Repeat this three or four times and take the mean of the results.

This correction can be completed in a short period of time.

However, you should do this measurement manually and calibrate your system in order to get the highest level of accuracy.

If you decreased the draw-off rate to 2 drops per second, you may get somewhat higher purity, but the run would take twice as long.

The good news is that all of the harmful substances and heads have been removed, making it totally safe to pause the run at any point and continue it at a later time.

Once equilibrium has been reached, you may begin collecting product right away.

It is recommended that you begin collecting in tiny bottles and testing them for taste and fragrance about an hour before the scheduled time.

When you notice tails in the product, you should transfer it to a tails container immediately.

You may put the tails you’ve collected in the boiler with the heads of the next batch to make a new batch.

The result from a compound still is frequently considerably purer than commercially manufactured vodka, and the majority of people are really pleased with it as soon as it is removed from the still.

If you are aiming to make perfumes, essences, or delicately flavored liqueurs, carbon treatment is highly recommended.

In most cases, it should not be essential unless you are making heavily flavored beverages or mixed cocktails. Although the final decision is ultimately yours, you should enjoy exploring with the various alternatives available to you. Allow your personal preferences and taste to serve as a guide.

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