Tabletop Distillation

Sepulchritude Forum: The Absinthe Forum Thru December 2001: Tabletop Distillation
By Don_Walsh on Friday, November 16, 2001 - 12:05 am: Edit

I have no idea. Freeze distillation is a lousy technique, so I'd be surprised if anyone does it commercially. Sounds like a gimmick rather than a process.

By Dr_Ordinaire on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 08:47 pm: Edit

Don, now that we have your attention: today I saw a vodka (Friz, I believe was the brand) whose label said "Freeze distilled".

Do you know what that means? I assume they are not talking the ol' college applejack technique here.

By Don_Walsh on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 06:31 pm: Edit

This isn't the first time that the toy 'still' has appeared on this forum, and I am amazed that so many of Kallisti's free electrons have been wasted in beating this dead horse yet again.

1. Putting wine in this thing won't get you 'cognac', it will get you lousy wine spirits. Cognac is distilled from a mixture of white wines mostly in a specific manner involving a complex double distillation. This toy won't get you 'brandy' in any sense that you would want to drink the product.

2. The open flame is a dead giveaway. DON'T.

3. Even a cursory study of old techniques will reveal that indirect steam heating or a water bath was employed. There's a reason for this. This toy uses direct heat. This is in no way an absinthe still. In other words replacing the dangerous open flame with an itsy bitsy heating mantle and its controller, will not get you out of the trap. This is a non-starter.

4. Heed Artemis' advice. Making whiskey, gin, rum or brandy, where one is distilling a low proof ferment to a modest proof of generally 80-100 (40-50% abv) is hazardous enough. STARTING with a mix that is already well above the point where ethanol is at the combustion sustaining concentration, and distilling to something like 150 proof before coloring and cutting back to 68-72 % abv -- is not merely LIKE boiling a high test fuel, it IS boiling a high test fuel. It is a LOT more dangerous than traditional moonshining, and that's a fact. The only time in conventional liquor distilling that alcohol concentrations like these are encountered is in the fractionation of vodka to 95% as part of the purification process, and this has mostly been replaced with charcoal filtration at <100 proof, which is far far safer.

By Mr_Carfax on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 04:54 pm: Edit

Thanks Ted

Just curious as under Australian regs for complementary/herbal medicines you could have a herbal extract which has undergone a distillation step in your medicine...there are various permutations of extraction methods/solvents-carriers permitted/forms of concentration-dilution to allow for technological development in herbal medicine preparation. - I am unaware at the moment under Australian regs whether medicinal producers also need licencing for stills, I haven't come across it previously....

By Tabreaux on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 04:15 pm: Edit

Going from recollection, distillation of potable ethanol (a taxable product) is regulated by ATF, and is illegal unless it is distilled in a still which is legally registered for the purpose (with proper record keeping et al). This is a long-standing law, and you'll occasionally see old stills used for pharmaceutical prep that have federal tags on them. About the only way one can distill ethanol legally in an unregulated manner is to denature it first, where it is purposely contaminated such that it is not drinkable. The guidelines of what can be used to legally denature it are fairly specific.

Herbal extracts and infusions are exactly that, and are not distilled products. Likewise, ethanol that appears in food and medicines (e.g. cough syrup, wine vinegar, etc.) is simply purchased and added to the product, so no distillation takes place aside from that employed in the manufacture of the ethanol.

Most ethanol purchased for lab use is denatured, although technically the distillation of absolute ethanol in a lab is technically illegal (as far as I know). I don't think the Feds are overly concerned however with distillation in a research lab, as the end result is not usually something intended for consumption.

By Mr_Carfax on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 03:45 pm: Edit

Zman

A question, relating to interpretation of "intent" under the US Law regarding distilling- I'm going back in a sense to Dr O's question.

I understand that it would be illegal for a US citizen to distill their own liquor- period.

But if one were a herbalist, and the intent to produce a distilled herbal infusion (purely for medicinal purposes) using ethanol as a solvent - would one have a theoretical argument for saying you were not subject to the ATF reg?

What I am getting at is that the term "liquor" could be argued as relating to a "food" - does the ATF regs also apply to drugs, medicines and dietary supplements? From a summary I read, the regs apply for "non-industrial use"- is the use of distillation experimentally for scientific purposes or for medicinal preparation constitute "industrial" process?

By Timk on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 03:21 pm: Edit

thats http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1662655330

By Timk on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 03:20 pm: Edit

That ebay linked still is made to the same plans I would use if i were to run up a reflux still, however that is what it is, a reflux still, you could turn the cooling off, and maybe remove the packing, but for absinthe distillation, your better off to use a bent u-shaped piece of copper tubing in its place - far simpler.
Infact, it would probably be quite simple, if one found a suitable vessel - though size may be a problem, to make a simple dual headed vessel with swappable heads for reflux and non reflux distillation.

By Artemis on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 03:11 pm: Edit

ALL stills create pressure. The question is whether it has somewhere to go or not. In the case of a plugged condenser (whether with ice or whatever), not.

A flame ANYWHERE in the room is dangerous, or even a potential source for a spark.

That little still is NOT safer than the theoretical still of Dr. O's friend, which I assume does not use open flame and therefore is automatically safer, if not necessarily safe.

Although you COULD use it to make absinthe, you don't want to. It's pretty to look at, and that's about it.

By Lint on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 03:02 pm: Edit

Dr, thanks so much for taking the time to post. I seriously had no real plans of doing this, it of course is much easier to just buy a bottle. My main reason for posting this was to let others see it and generate some discussion which I think it did nicely.

A question though, since this "still" isnt using pressure, im assuming itd be a lot safer than the close calls you had. The main worry with this little thing I would think would just be how close the flame is to the output.

-Todd

By Dr_Ordinaire on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 02:34 pm: Edit

"Can that thing be used to distill absinthe? Yes. But only a very little bit at a time and not safely. Distilling absinthe is not far short of boiling gasoline. You don't want to do it with an open flame."

My friend, Dr. O, think this is a good time for a (actually two) cautionary tales for people tempted to distill their own absinthe. In the beginning, he was using a cheap pressure cooker as a still. Said pressure cooker had a u-shaped rubber gasket that, unbeknownst to him, only sealed correctly under pressure. Since the still never developed pressure, alcohol fumes were escaping around the rim, something he realized the day he saw a blue flame surrounding it. This one was more spectacular than dangerous, since there was no oxygen inside the still to explode, but anyway...

The second one was more serious. Not one to waste water, the Dr. had solved the cooling problem by putting the "condenser" (a bucket with copper tubing) filled with water in the freezer for a couple of days. The ice would melt slowly and last long enough for a distillation session. An elegant solution, he thinks. The problem was that some water (blanquette) of a previous session had frozen solid inside the copper tubing, so the next time the pressure from the "still" had nowhere to go. What would have happened? The pressure in the still would have gone up until the rubber safety valve would have popped, the pressure inside would have dropped fast, the contents would have boiled instantly and the whole kitchen would have been filled with finely atomized ethanol, that would have been ignited by the open flame. BTW, this is the concept behind the "fuel-air" bomb, also called "the poor man's nuke". The Dr. almost enjoyed a homemade "Alamogordo".

So, Todd, don't do it. It's illegal, and besides, with that outfit (as beautiful as it is) it's (as Artemis says) dangerous and, besides, highly impractical.

By Artemis on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 02:07 pm: Edit

It was not I who stated that redistillation of already taxed alcohol is illegal, it was Ted Breaux, responding to a remark I made about that. Actually, I thought that had taken place privately, but maybe it was here. Part of the dicussion was here, for sure.

Can that thing be used to distill absinthe? Yes. But only a very little bit at a time and not safely. Distilling absinthe is not far short of boiling gasoline. You don't want to do it with an open flame.

By Tavarua on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 01:48 pm: Edit

That is a beauty. I think the original question was, and still is, can this be used as a crude absinthe distillation tool. Also, what would the timeframe be for producing 1.5 oz's.

By Head_Prosthesis on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 01:33 pm: Edit

Could be the PS6 that may have been added

By Dr_Ordinaire on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 01:24 pm: Edit

My, this is an advanced technology!

It not only distills absinthe, but it colors it simultaneously...

By Lint on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 01:17 pm: Edit

I think this would look good on my bookshelf! Ted, I read many old posts about you distilling your own, is this a possibility?

ab_distill

-Todd

By Zman7 on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 12:30 pm: Edit

According to the ATF reg, it is in the "Big No No" category to distill liqour, even if you already paid the tax. The wording is something like, " to distill or re-distill...." Now I'm not sure I think that this is particularly constitutional, but Uncle Sugar don't like the little guy taking a bite out of his pie.

By Bob_Chong on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 12:24 pm: Edit

I wonder if the stool comes with it?
http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1662655330

(I know, I know--wrong kind of still. Even so, I am surprised how open this guy is about his past activity.)

By Bob_Chong on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 12:21 pm: Edit

Artemis answered something to this effect fairly recently: redistillion of already taxed alcohol is also illegal.

By Dr_Ordinaire on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 12:01 pm: Edit

"I think once upon a time I read in the regs that it is legal to distill water and raw herbs to extract the oils."

Sorry to pester you, Zman, but the 64,000 dollars question is: Could a person use already taxed alcohol to extract oils from raw herbs?

By Lint on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 11:47 am: Edit

"Small herbal distillation oil extractors are often availble through scientific equipment warehouses"

Very true, even a simple "distillation" search on Ebay turns up several under $70, very identical to the one pictured, but of course not as artistic looking.

-Todd

By Zman7 on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 11:43 am: Edit

Good Doctor,
I think once upon a time I read in the regs that it is legal to distill water and raw herbs to extract the oils. I'll have to research it again. Small herbal distillation oil extractors are often availble through scientific equipment warehouses.

By Lint on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 11:43 am: Edit

"...or herbal extracts (with less than one gallon capacity)"

Like an Absinthe/wormwood infusion. I wonder what the time would be to get one of those shot glasses full. Wonder if it would taste decent.

-Todd

By Dr_Ordinaire on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 11:36 am: Edit

Zman, can you tell us more about the "herbal extracts" part?

By Zman7 on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 11:34 am: Edit

Americans cannot distill alcohol without a license period. If for anything, this unit probably could legally be used to distill water or herbal extracts (with less than one gallon capacity).

By Lint on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 11:32 am: Edit

Your right, it states "Note: Under the laws of the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, this still is exempt from regulations for setting up and registration of distilling provided that it is not used for distilling"

-todd

By Timk on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 11:24 am: Edit

I would think the brandy would be a bit rough tasting

Tim

By Dr_Ordinaire on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 11:03 am: Edit

I saw this beautiful thing in a catalog, and what called my attention was a footnote quoting Federal law. I don't have it verbatim (maybe Todd can help) but it said something like: "A still is legal as long as it is not intended for distillation" or something like that.

In the catalog they offered it to make cognac out of wine, implying that it was not illegal to distill alcohol from a wine. I guess the presumption is that the alcohol in the wine has already been taxed.

Any lawyer amongst us can clarify this?

By Lint on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 10:28 am: Edit

Hi I recently came across this wonderful piece of art and am wondering if it would work for distilling a glass of absinthe at a time? Has anyone tried this thing for absinthe?

still

-todd

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