What Is A CCVM Still? (And How Do They Work?)

There are many different reflux still topologies, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

One of the designs that has gained popularity is the condenser-controlled vapor management still (CCVM). 

A CCVM is a type of still where the distiller controls the liquid entering collecting jars by using a copper coil inserted on top of a column. Depending on the position of the coil, you can collect a high amount of liquid, or let the liquid fall back into the column. Once you’ve gotten the hang of controlling the reflux ratio, you’ll find it’s one of the easiest distillation equipment to use.

If you’ve wanted to own a versatile and easy-to-use still, carry on reading about the CCVM still. 

What Is A CCVM Still?

A condenser-controlled vapor management (CCVM) still allows you to control the vapor of your distillate through the use of a reflux condenser. It works similarly to vapor management still in that you can control the liquid exiting your condenser, but instead of opening and closing a valve, you change the position of a copper coil inserted on top of the column. 

How Does A CCVM Still Work?

A CCVM works by letting vapors travel to different parts of the still. Depending on how you’ve positioned the copper coil, the steam can either move into the lyne arm or to a reflux condenser at the top of the column. If you move the coil to the middle of the column, half of the vapors travel into the lyne arm and into the product condenser, while the rest moves to the top, condenses, and falls down the column. 

How Does A CCVm Still Differ From A Vapor Management Still?

Here’s a table summarizing the differences between vapor management and CCVM still. 

Condenser Controlled Vapor Management Still Vapor Management
It can be run in pot and reflux still mode so it can produce an aroma-filled (whiskey) or neutral spirit (vodka or gin). Designed to produce high percentage alcohol (neutral spirit) like vodka and gin.
The reflux ratio is controlled by adjusting the position of a copper coil. The reflux ratio is controlled by opening and closing a valve.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of A CCVM Still.

Similar to most stills, the still does have its drawbacks and benefits. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of a CCVM.

Advantages 

  • Provides easy control of how much liquid you want to collect in your jars.
  • Simple to run and beginner-friendly- no multiple valves, which makes for a steep learning curve.
  • It can be run in pot and reflux still mode by simply removing or connecting different components. 

Disadvantages 

  • For the beginner, getting the reflux ratio correct can be challenging. 
  • It can be pricey for a new distiller dipping their toes in the hobby.

Components Of A CCVM Management Still

  • Copper mash: Copper scrub inserted in the column to increase the surface area for vapors to travel if you decide to run it as a reflux still.
  • Liebig/shotgun condenser: To cool vapors as they move toward the sprout leading to the collection jars.
  • Reflux condenser (copper coil): To create reflux.
  • Flat cap: Cap used to cover the “T” section when running the still in pot still mode.
  • Thermowell: A section to insert the thermometer.
  • “T” section: Section dividing the reflux condenser portion from the lyne arm. 
  • Lyne arm: Copper tube where the rising vapors travel through before heading to the Liebig condenser.

Different CCVM Still Topologies And Designs 

CCVM modular still 

This CCVM still is designed in a way that allows you to distill in pot or reflux still mode. The top of the “T” section has an opening that you cover when you want to produce spirits like whiskey or rum. 

Conversely, you can take off the cap and insert a copper/stainless steel tube to extend the column. The extended column means you’ll have an increased surface area to run you still in reflux mode to extract purer alcohol to make vodka or gin. 

CCVM pot still 

This design is similar to a regular pot still in that you can make whiskey, rum, and brandy. It doesn’t have a tall column because an enlarged surface area isn’t required to produce a high percentage of alcohol. 

What Is A CCVM Still Good For?

The still is flexible in that you can make various spirits. If you decide to use the modular still, you can run it in reflux or pot mode. If you want to make vodka, gin, or a neutral spirit, you can combine another tube on top of the “T” section to increase the surface area, allowing you to run in reflux mode. If your brew day calls for whiskey, you can cover the section and run it in pot still mode. 

Conclusion 

A CCVM is the go-to still for most home distillers – and for good reason. It has the convenience of running as reflux and pot still, so you can make a high-percentage neutral spirit (vodka), or produce whiskey and rum. With easy-to-remove and join pieces, you’ll be glad you invested in one.

Plus, if you feel you just need to build one yourself, most of the parts are available at your local hardware store. 

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