Making Craft Vodka with the Turbo 500 Condenser and Grainfather
For those already familiar with brewing beer using the Grainfather, the Grainfather can also be used in conjunction with hardware from the Still Spirits range to craft some high-quality spirits.
For those interested in dark spirits such as Whisk(e)y and Rum the Alembic dome and condenser converts the Grainfather into a pot still.
Lesser known, perhaps, is the ability to make some very fine Vodka and Gin - this is the recipe we will be discussing below.
To make this neutral spirit you can utilise the Still Spirits Turbo 500 condenser along with the lid for the Turbo 500 or Mangrove Jack’s Beer Boiler to secure it onto your Grainfather.
Turbo 500 Condenser The Grainfather
- 6kg Dextrose
- 20g Distiller’s Yeast – Vodka
- 150g Distiller’s Nutrient – Light Spirits
- Still Spirit Turbo Clear
Step 1. The Wash
One of the main differences between beer and spirits is that the liquid you make up to ferment for brewing beer is called wort, whereas when you are distilling spirits it is called a wash.
A quick and basic Vodka recipe using ingredients from the Still Spirits Distillers Yeast Range is as follows:
Preparing the wash
1. Clean and sanitise your fermenter and any associated equipment needed.
2. Dissolve the dextrose in hot water and then top up the fermenter to 25L with cooler water.
3. Once the temperature is under 30°c then shake the nutrients and add the required amount.
4. Add the yeast and leave to ferment within the temperature range of 20°c to 30°c.
5. Once fermentation has completed leave at least a few days to settle out. Temperature will assist greatly here if you can bring it down to near 0°c – another option is using Still Spirits Turbo Clear.
6. Once the wash has cleared siphon it into the Grainfather (remove filter from the Grainfather first as it’s not needed) ensuring you leave all sediment behind in the fermenter.
Now it’s time to do the first run.
Step 2. Stripping Run
While it’s strictly not necessary, many people choose to do a stripping run on all spirit-making as it offers a few benefits. One of which is allowing you to strip a few batches, then do one longer spirit run with all of them to end up with more spirit. Another is for better quality and another is to keep your reflux condenser (ie. the Turbo 500) cleaner as you are stripping the original wash and cleaning it up prior to putting it through the Turbo 500.
If you do wish though, you can cut this step out and go straight to Step 3 (Spirit Run).
1. If you would like to do this step, then throw a handful of ceramic boil enhancers and a few capfuls of distilling conditioner (these come with the purchase of the Turbo 500 condenser) into the boiler and then attach your Alembic setup to the top of the Grainfather (as a pot still is used for stripping runs).
2. Set the Grainfather to full power boil and once the vapour temp reaches about 50°c start the cooling water on the alembic condenser.
3. Collect everything that comes off the still (including foreshots) into a glass container and once the run is complete shut it down – you will know the run is complete by either checking the ABV with your alcometer (not hydrometer) and stopping when it gets under 10% or simply stopping when the alcohol out starts to become a very slow drip.
4. Once it is complete, water the alcohol you have collected down to at least 40% abv prior to going to the next step.
Step 3. Spirit Run
In this next step we will be using the Still Spirits Turbo 500 reflux condenser and lid for the boiler, attach it to the Grainfather and produce our neutral spirit – in this case, Vodka.
1. Empty the spirit into the clean Grainfather and add the ceramic boil enhancers then secure the Turbo 500 condenser to the Grainfather.
(If you have skipped the last step, then add the cleared wash, distilling conditioner and boil enhancers into the Grainfather.)
2. Set the Grainfather to 100% heat
(Later on in the boil you may want to adjust the power going to the Grainfather and so you can enter boil control power mode by holding the ‘Heat’ button down for about 7 seconds and then using the up and down buttons to adjust the percentage of power going to the element.)
3. After about 30-40 minutes of heating (you can check by the heat of the column) start the cooling water on the condenser and stay nearby to adjust if needed.
4. The temperature of the water out liquid will start to rise quickly once it gets to the boil and ideally, keep this in the low 50s - production will be slower, but better quality.
5. Collect the first 150ml and discard this or keep for lighter or cleaning fluid
(Although you can collect everything now into one vessel, I highly recommend collecting the output in many jars, which is calling your cuts. This will allow you to produce the cleanest and best quality spirit you can.)
6. To go down this route, have about 20-30 500 ml jars and collect about 250-300 ml into each jar, ensuring you number them.
7. Once you have collected all your jars, and numbered them, cover them with a tea-towel or something like that to allow them to breath, but not allow insects or anything else in and set aside for 24 hours – this is called the angels share where some of the more volatile aromas can evaporate leaving you with cleaner spirit.
Step 4: Choosing your cuts
This next step is where you get to choose what ‘makes the cut’ into your final Vodka.
1. Grab all your jars and have them lined up from first to last. A spirit run will create foreshots (what we discarded) heads, hearts and tails.
(We want the best of the hearts cut which is in the middle of the run, if you smell one of the middle jars, and then both the first, and last jar you will notice different aromas.)
2. You can now select which jars make the cut by smelling and also tasting if you like, if tasting – use a glass eyedropper and drop a drop onto a spoon with a few drops of water so it is lower ABV and select which jars you like the best.
(Don’t be concerned at this point if you think there are many jars (and so a bit of product) that you think is not good enough to make it as it will not be wasted.)
3. Set these jars aside, and then mix the jars that have made the cut up together and dilute down with good quality filtered drinking water to 43% abv.
4. You can now choose to filter this Vodka to clean it up further, or you can use it as is. It is often advised at this point to allow it to sit a week or so to settle up.
Your Vodka is now ready to consume – you can enjoy it as is, or you can create a large amount of other spirits and liqueurs using the Still Spirits flavouring products.
What about those other jars?
So if you decided to do your cuts, you will most likely have a bunch of jars left over that seem to be a waste – the good news here is that they can be thrown into the next spirit run you do to clean them up more, so you will continue to get some of the better quality spirit out of those that have mixed in with some of the more undesired tasting and smelling fusel alcohols.