When Should I Stop Running A Still? (Answered!)

When you’re new to the hobby of distilling there’s a lot of decisions to make and not much information out there that’s easy to find.

I know for myself, that even this decision of when to stop running my still was baffling and I second guessed myself a lot.

In this article we’re going to take a look at some suggestions on how to know when it’s a good time to stop running you’re still depending on what you’re trying to make.

How do you know when you’re done distilling?

If you’re performing a stripping run we recommend you keep running your still until the output product drops too about 20% ABV or lower. If you’re making neutral decide when you are no longer collecting hearts ends run off the tails again until about 20% ABV.

For flavored spirits, the decision is much more nuanced. We typically stop collecting gin once column temperature hits 95 degrees Celsius. for whiskey rum and Brandy you’ll want to taste the product but we stop usually when the output tips below 35% ABV.

Product Recommendation
Stripping run Stop when product drops below 20% ABV
Whiskey, Rum and Brandy Stop when product drops below 35% ABV
Gin Stop when column temperature exceeds 95degrees Celsius
Neutral Sprits and Vodka When stabilized column temperature increased by ~0.5 degrees Celsius.

When to stop on a stripping run?

Winter stop distilling during a stripping run is completely up to you. Like most people, we don’t make any cuts on a stripping run. The entire purpose is to get and approximately 10% wash up to 40 to 50% for redistillation

There’s also an economical consideration here. running a still cost money, and when the alcohol product percentage drops too low you’re putting a lot of money in to get not much alcohol out

When to stop when making neutral?

This one’s easier in my opinion. A column still operates in a stable equilibrium where the temperature does not fluctuate as it’s a direct representation of the composition of Asia tropes in the vapor stream.

What does this mean?

My cooling management still runs at 77.8 degrees for the entire duration of the hearts. now, the exact temperature doesn’t matter and yours may very well be different but the point is that it’s stabilized at a particular temperature. as my hearts is coming to an end and the tales start mixing in the temperature will creep up it’s 78.5 degrees I know it’s time to stop taking hearts and then moving to the tales collection phase if I want to do so.

So when should you stop distilling when making vodka or neutral spirits?

Look for the temperature your still stabilizer at once you’re making good clean hearts. if you’re still is running properly and in equilibrium it should stay there for a good long time while all the hearts are drawn off.

then, look for a subtle temperature increase, then collect and trial jars (I use old pickle jars) to figure out what your cut point is.

Tip: mark on each collection jar the column temperature win the collection was taken that way you’ll know where your cut pointers for the next time around.

When to stop when making gin?

OK, so gin is an interesting one. we are going to assume you’re making gin from a good clean neutral spirit. this means there’s going to be no temperature fluctuations due to the different compounds in the still and what you’re getting a true reflection of how much alcohol is left.

we know from how alcohol distillation curves that’s I’ll still temperature will start at around 80 degrees and run all the way up to 100 as there is no alcohol left in the boiler and where only extracting water.

I typically stop distilling gin win the column temperature reaches 95 degrees. some gins I may go higher or lower but let’s say 95 degrees to put a number on things.

gin is all about flavor. And different flavors come through(let’s say are extracted) bitter at different temperatures. For example citrus oils are very volatile and it will be some of the first flavors to come through when you’re distilling.

If product starts coming off at 80 degrees that’s going to be mainly the citrus elements. as the temperature increases we’re going to get more of the spice elements for example cinnamon in clove.

personally I find the enjoyable spice taste finishes in this 90 to 95 degree window and outside of this you get a lot more of a wet dog or cardboard smell end the taste is very unpleasant.

When to stop when making flavored spirits like whiskey, rum, tequila and brandy?

This is the million dollar question!

There is no right or wrong answer here, and unfortunately you’ll just need to figure out for yourself based on your recipe and your palette.

As a starting point, I would suggest stopping when the ABV of the product drops below 35% alcohol.

Why?

Firstly these spirits are all made with a pot still, so we know we’re only achieving 1 distillation and the output ABV is directly linked to the input ABV.

At 35% on the output our input ABV would be only around 5%. I.e. we’re over 80% through the run.

Secondly, taste. At these lower output ABVs and higher input temperatures we start to notice a lot of unpleasant flavor congeners coming through. Think wet dog, damp cardboard, rotten fruit etc.

Of course, a little bit of this taste may be desirable, and remember when blended back in to a larger volume of spirit it may not be at all noticeable, so the choice is completely up to you.

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