The purification of a crude "beer" by distillation is a 2-stage process. In the preceding pages we have described a system which uses two boilers — a large one with a high-wattage heating element for the first stage of beer-stripping and a smaller one for the smaller volume of liquid involved in the second stage of fractional distillation. At the sacrifice of a little time and convenience it is possible to carry out both stages with just one boiler, thereby saving the cost of a second boiler and the space which it occupies.
We recommend the following: a boiler of about 40 litres (10 US gallons) and a 750 to 1,000 watt heating element. The first stage of beer stripping will be slow, but many readers have found that the slower, less vigorous boiling is quite convenient. If they wished, North American readers would be able to employ a 240 volt 3,000 watt element, using the full wattage on 240 v. for the first stage of beer-stripping and then switching to 120 v. for the second stage in order to reduce the power to 750 watts for fractional distillation.
The procedures involved in using this single boiler system are described in the chapter entitled DISTILLATION.
The Flavouring Still
The flavours used for gin-making are contained in a number of herbs and berries, collectively known as "botanicals". One simple method of extracting the flavours without the use of any special equipment is to boil the botanicals in 50% alcohol for several minutes, cool, and let stand for 24 hours. Then filter the extract through a coffee filter-paper folded into a cone.
The method we shall describe here involves the use of steam distillation. In this method the flavours are extracted from the botanicals with steam and added to the alcohol afterwards. One advantage of this is that no colour is extracted from the plant material.
Steam distillation requires the use of a simple pot still such as that shown in Figures 8 and 9. The botanicals and water are placed in the flask and the water brought to the boil. The steam which is generated releases the flavouring constituents from the herbs and carries them over into the condenser in the form of oily drops suspended in water. In Figure 8 an all-glass apparatus is shown, but this is expensive and only through your glassblower.
Because steam distillation is such a simple process it is possible to make do with a less elegant but still effective apparatus as follows and as sketched in Figure 9. The condenser is made from a short length of 3/4 inch copper tubing acting as a cold water jacket around an internal 1/2 inch copper tube. Adapters for connecting1/2 inch to 3/4 inch tubing are standard items and are used for sealing the jacket to the inside tube. Cold water inlet and outlet tubes are soldered to the jacket as shown.
The boiler is a glass coffee pot. A large cork, obtainable from any winemakers' supply store, has a hole drilled in the centre to take the 1/2 inch copper tubing. In operation there is very little pressure in the apparatus and no problems with steam leakage.
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