A Basic Guide To Stripping Runs

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A Basic Guide To Stripping Runs

Postby SBB » Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:37 pm

I well remember being a Newbie to distilling and to a degree I still am compared to many of the folk involved in this hobby, In the beginning I suffered major information overload. Trying to deal with unfamiliar words, abbreviations, the different types of stills and what they did were just a few of the things that I had to come to grips with. Hopefully my ramblings here will make it easier for anyone new to distilling to understand the difference between a STRIPPING RUN and a SPIRIT RUN.


Below are a few dictionary definitions of Strip and Stripping that are relevant to this topic
(1) To remove all excess detail from; reduce to essentials.
(2) (Chemistry) to remove (the most volatile constituent) from (a mixture of liquids) by boiling, evaporation, or distillation
(3) To remove extraneous or superficial matter from.
(4) to separate (components) from a mixture or solution.

The purpose of a stripping run is to remove water and other impurities from the wash and in the process increase the ABV (Alcohol by Volume) of that wash. Whilst doing this we are also trying to retain as much flavour as possible from the wash. The end product of a stripping run is called Low Wines. Most but not all people do multiple stripping runs before doing a Spirit run.
By stripping a wash we are minimising its volume as a lot of the water and other impurities we don’t want have been removed, This means we can fit more wash (low wines) into our still boiler when we eventually do a sprit run. This in turn leads to cuts that are easier to distinguish and to a bigger Hearts cut (The drinkable product).

An average wash should have an approximate ABV of 8% to 12%, before being stripped. This does not include washes made using Turbo yeasts, which can be higher in ABV.
A stripped wash, or as they are called once stripped “Low Wines” usually has an average ABV of 40% -45%

Almost any still can be used to strip , the most commonly used is probably a Pot Still. Plated Column Stills and Reflux Stills can also be used to Strip. Most reflux stills will need to be “de-tuned” That is have their packing removed before being used as a stripper.
There is to the best of my knowledge at least one still that should not be used for stripping. This is the T500, it is a store bought or mass produced Reflux Still that was never designed for stripping.

A stripping run is achieved by running your still quite quickly.
This is done by using as much heat under the boiler as possible without overwhelming the product condenser or causing other safety issues.
A bit of common sense goes a long way here, use what you and your still are comfortable with regarding heat input.
At the beginning of a Stripping run the ABV of the low wines leaving the still can be quite high, possibly as high as 80% ABV. This will vary quite a bit depending on the type of still as well as from still to still.
As you strip the alcohol from the wash the ABV will slowly drop.
Most people stop stripping once the product leaving the still reads 25% on an Alcometer.
It is considered by most that at this point the cost of the energy (gas or electricity ) being used to extract the small amount of alcohol left in the wash outweighs any benefit.

Low wines should never be put back into a still boiler at more than 40% ABV This is considered by the majority of the distilling community as the maximum safe ABV of a still charge.
If your low wines ABV reading is higher than 40% use water or wash to dilute it to 40% or less before doing a spirit run.

Stripping runs are also great learning tools for anyone running a still for the first time. This is an excellent time to experiment with heat settings and coolant input to the condenser / condensers . You will learn a lot about your still and how it preforms from doing this. Any affect on your final product, if any, should not be to noticeable. This is also an excellent time to make some practice “cuts”.
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