How Does A Gin Basket Work (Distiller’s Guide)

Infused and cold compound gin can get monotonous over time. Yes, they introduce fantastic flavor to your spirit. But there comes a time when you yearn for smooth and light alcohol. Luckily, you can achieve that with a gin basket.

A gin basket extracts botanical flavors through a vapor infusion method. It’s placed in the vapor path of your still. As the vapors move to the condenser, they come in contact with the botanicals and extract the flavors.

It’s a favored instrument amongst seasoned distillers because of its efficacy in producing a fruity, smooth, and light spirit.

If you’ve been trying to understand how to use the device, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll discuss how a gin basket works and how you can start playing around with it to produce your ideal drink.

Let’s dive in. 

What Is A Gin Basket, And What Does It Do?

A gin basket is a vessel placed in the vapor path of a still. It holds the botanicals so vapors can extract the flavors as they move to the condenser. Though it’s mainly used to make gin, it’s not limited to that. You can also use it to make fruit-based spirits.

Regardless of the spirit you’re trying to produce, you can always expect to get light and smooth alcohol. The technique of distilling with a gin basket is referred to as vapor infusion.

What Commercial Gins Are Made With A Gin Basket?

Though a few gin brands produce their spirit using a gin basket, some still find its use practical. Most of these companies use a Carter head still – a type of still with a gin basket attached to the side of the still. Here are some brands that still use the vessel. 

  • Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • Hendrick’s Gin

Types of Gin Baskets

There are two main types of gin baskets on the market: inline and offset. Here’s an explanation of these. 

Inline gin basket 

An inline gin basket is placed directly above the boiler. It’s a standard design used by most home distillers. The downside to using the gin basket is the reflux, and heavy oils tend to drop into the boiler, creating an unpleasant mess.

The image below shows a typical design of the basket.

Illustration of an inline gin basket design

Source: Still dragon

Offset Head Gin Basket 

The offset gin basket is placed on the side of the column. It has a valve at the bottom that allows oils to drain into a jar. This design is preferred because none of the distillate drains back to the boiler.

The illustration below depicts a typical layout of the basket.

Illustration of an offset gin basket design

How Does A Gin Basket Work?

Here’s an overview of how the basket works. 

  1. The distiller fills the basket with their preferred botanicals.
  2. They place the basket above the boiler.
  3. Heat is applied to the boiler as per a normal distillation run.
  4. Vapors move up the boiler, and as they make their way to the condenser, they interact with the botanicals. During this interaction, they extract the botanical flavors.
  5. When the distillation run is finished and the still has cooled, the basket can be disassembled, emptied and cleaned.

Gin Basket Vs. Soxhlet Extractor 

A soxhlet condenser and gin basket are both effective ways to extract flavors from a botanical. But there are some nuances to how they pull the substances – affecting the color and taste of the spirit. 

Gin Basket:

A gin basket only extracts the soluble and volatile properties of the botanicals. The result is often a clear, smooth, and light spirit. 

Soxhlet Extractor: 

A soxhlet effectively extracts volatile, non-volatile, soluble, and insoluble substances. Because of the efficient extraction, the final product not only contains the flavor but also the color of the botanical.

Read More: About what a soxhlet extractor is in this article.

What Can You Put In A Gin Basket?

You can put the following botanicals in your gun basket:

  • Seeds 
  • Spice sticks 
  • Oak chips 
  • Herbs

Avoid adding powdered botanicals to the basket because it can clump and prevent vapors from passing through the mesh. 

Read More: Here’s our complete glossary to gin botanicals

How Much Should You Fill A Gin Basket?

For every 10 liters (3 gallons) of spirit, you should use 80-120g of botanicals.

We wary of overfilling a gin basket. If filled to tightly the vapors will struggle to penetrate the mass and lead to an inefficient extraction.

In the offset head style design it’s possible to open the gin basket mid run. You may wish to replenish your botanical load midway through distillation if you can’t fit enough in the basket.

How To  Use A Gin Basket

Below is a suggested recipe to start utilizing your gin basket. 

Example Recipe

You’ll need:

  • 20 liters neutral spirit
  • 360-400g juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 90g coriander seeds, crushed
  • 40-50g angelica root
  • 40g cassia or cinnamon sticks
  • 40g licorice root
  • Glass Jars

Set up the still 

  1. Add the botanicals to the basket.
  2. Place the gin basket on the neck of the still.

Run the still 

  1. Turn on your heat source and let you still run.
  2. Collect the first 100ml of the distillate and set it aside. 
  3. Collect the rest of the distillate into glass jars.
  4. Let the still cool completely.

Cut & Bottle

  1. Dilute the spirit to 40% ABV.
  2. Transfer into bottling jars and store.

Gin Basket FAQ:

Q1. What’s the difference between a gin basket and a thumper?

A thumper and a gin basket are very similar because they infuse flavor into the neutral spirit.  

A thumper acts as a second distillation. When the vapors from the still condense in the keg, the thumper reheats, and the liquid vaporizes. As vapors move to the condenser, they extract the flavor of the botanicals. 

A gin basket uses a vapor extraction technique. The vapors pass through the botanicals, temporarily infuse (and draw out flavors) with botanicals, and move into the condenser. 

Conclusion 

Grasping how a gin basket works comes with experience. A pressing issue amongst new distillers isn’t so much about what the device does but one suited for their needs. 

If you don’t mind cleaning up after distilling, an inline basket works best. But if you want to prevent heavy oils from dropping into the boiler and interacting with the remainder of your spirit, an offset suits you best. 

Regardless of your chosen design, utilizing one is an ideal way to add flavor to your spirits.

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