What is a Stripping Run (And How To Perform One)

You’ll hear a lot of terms thrown around by those in the home (and commercial) brewing industry. One of those common terms is a stripping run. When you’re new to the hobby, trying to understand these phrases can feel a bit overwhelming. If you’ve happened upon this term and want to know what a strip run is and how to effectively perform a run, carry on reading the article to find out more.

What is a Stripping Run?

A stripping run is a distillation process used to remove unwanted components from a wash. It’s a fast way of  running your still to extract alcohol until all you have left in the boiler is the water, yeast, and any sediments formed during the fermentation process.

Stripping runs work by stripping off the alcohol in your wash using high heat. The alcohol vapors are then collected through an air-cooled condenser and condensed into liquid form. The condensed alcohol (distillate) that you collect is called low wines. A pot still is usually used for the distillation process, and glass jars are used to store the distillate.

Why Are Stripping Runs Necessary?

Stripping runs are necessary because they help you remove unwanted compounds from your products. Another reason why we perform a stripping run is to:

  • Provide flavorful, smooth alcohol.
  • Reduce the distillation time for when you do a spirit run.
  • For beginners in the home brewing hobby, it allows them to test out their still and see how it performs.

What Will A Stripping Run Yield?

A stripping run yields 20% of the original mash volume. For example, if you have 5 gallons (22,7 liters) of wash, you can yield 1 gallon (4.5 liters) of low wine.

How To Perform A Stripping Run (Step By Step)

Performing a strip run is fairly simple. Once you know how to test your wash for fermentation (more on that below), how to read your pot (or reflux) still for the desired ABV, and the precautions to take when making a run, you’ll be well on your way to doing a stripping run without having to refer to any notes.

Precautions To Take When Doing A Stripping Run

  • Use glass containers to collect your distillate. Plastic containers can leach chemicals and contaminate your product.
  • Ensure your workspace is well ventilated. This allows for the expulsion of fumes and vapors so that you don’t inhale any of the toxic fumes.
  • Run alcohol that is 40% ABV. Anything higher than this can catch fire as the temperature reaches 76 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celcius).

How To Perform A Stripping Run

  1. Add your wash to your still.
  2. Heat your still to the highest power that your condenser can handle.
  3. Run cooling water to the condenser before any vapor is produced.
  4. When your still reaches its highest temperature and the vapor starts, start collecting your distillate.
  5. Collect the distillate until the temperature of your still reaches 207 degrees Fahrenheit (97 degrees Celcius).
  6. Turn off the heat source and allow it to cool until there’s no vapor left in the still.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you make cuts on a stripping run?

You don’t make cuts on a stripping run. The point of a stripping run is to quickly separate the alcohol from the sediments. Collecting cuts often requires you to slow down the speed at which the spirit comes out so that you make cuts at the right time. This is why cuts are often made during the spirit run to ensure you apply as much precision as possible.

Do you need a stripping run with a reflux still?

You don’t need a stripping run with a reflux still, primarily because a pot still does a better job at stripping compared to a reflux still. But if a reflux still is what you have, you’ll need to de-tune the still (remove its packaging before using it as a stripper). Set the still in pot still mode, run it as you would a pot still, and stop the stripping run at 30% ABV.

When should you do a strip run?

You can do a strip run when your wash has fermented. It takes approximately ten days for your wash to ferment. You can test for fermentation by observing the signs. These signs include a cloudy wash, bubbles, and yeast on top of the fermentation. But these signs are not always accurate ways to test for fermentation. To ensure that your wash is ready for a strip run, you should use a hydrometer to get a gravity reading.

A gravity reading measures the density of the alcohol in the water. So, when using a hydrometer to measure the gravity of a sugar wash, for example, you’ll get a reading of 1 or below 1. That’s when you know your wash is ready for a strip run!

When should I stop stripping running?

Most (commercial) distillers stop stripping running at 20% ABV. But, this depends on the alcohol content you want. The longer you strip, the lower the ABV. As you continue doing stripping runs, less and less alcohol will be left in your product. Ideally, stop at 20% ABV.

Can you drink a stripping run?

It’s not advisable to drink low wines (alcohol from a stripping run). That’s because you have not made any cuts at this stage. So you’re most likely to consume the heads, foreshots (if you didn’t toss any out), and tails. These are the substances you don’t want, and you can experience severe headaches. If you’re really impatient, do one slow spirit run for a cleaner and smoother finished product.

Do I need to do a stripping run?

You don’t need to do a stripping run. But if a clean and smooth product is what you’re after, then it’s necessary.

Conclusion

A stripping run is a necessary (and sometimes critical) process for distilling alcohol. It’s also one of the simplest to understand. Once you’ve gotten your bearings on the whole craft, you’ll churn out several low wines and share a shot or two of your finished product with your friends and family.

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