The decision whether to use reflux stills or pot stills (also known as whiskey stills) when distilling your alcohol very much depends on the kind of product you intend to make.
Why use a pot still?
Using a pot still would allow you to produce whiskey or rum. Setting it up is easy. All you need is a boiler and a condenser. Pot stills usually have a doubler or thumper as it assists in the double distillation process. Some people also use a coiled copper tube when using a pot still.
Essentially, both stills are up to the task. Most people find pot stills as versatile since it could be utilized to flavor schnapps, whiskey and rum. It also decreases a finished wash’s volume and removes yeast cells.
Why use a reflux still?
A reflux still is effective in creating a flavorless and odorless product. If you want to create a potent neutral ethanol, using a reflux still is advisable. For producing fuel ethanol, a column reflux still is the best equipment to use.
Reflux stills are known to produce a pure product. By definition, reflux refers to vapor that rises up the column and is condensed and later on converted to liquid form. Old reflux still designs produce passive reflux. Therefore, no active or forced cooling is evident in the design. Most columns possess a forced reflux design. Such a design has active cooling present which then allows the reflux to travel back down through the column via a copper mesh packing.
The distilling process in a reflux still
A reflux still column works because of the returning distillate which combines with the plates or packing evident on a large-sized still which is able to condense material that comes up. This material is then redistilled by the vapor below. As the liquid returns and meets with the upward-moving vapor, the water present tends to condense. Water could then be separated from alcohol. After which, the water falls down to the boiler in liquid form while the alcohol rises as concentrated vapor. When cool liquid combines with hot vapor, the resulting product is pure distillate.
Height and diameter matters
The performance of a column very much depends on its height and diameter. Also relevant is how the reflux method is managed. The height of the packed column determines the purity of a distilled product.
Essentially, ‘packed column’ is how much packing a column height has. When a column has more packed height, it means there is a lot of opportunity for vapor and reflux to combine. Meanwhile, the diameter of a column determines the vapor and reflux that travels the column.
Stills are made of what?
Serious hobbyists have both reflux and pot stills in their possession. Stills should be made from materials that are safe and non-toxic. They must also be able to withstand harsh environments and produce a toxic-free batch. Do not forget that when copper tubings are connected, they must be done so using lead-free solder since lead could easily infiltrate the distillate and result to poisoning.