ABV – abbreviation for "alcohol by volume".  The percentage of liquid that is alcohol in a solution. To measure during distillation, you use a proof & tralle hydrometer.

To measure ABV following fermentation, you will need to use a specific gravity hydrometer. You will first take an original gravity reading (pre-fermentation) and a final gravity reading (post-fermentation), and calculate the difference.

Acetaldehydes – a congener that is identified by a strong fruit odor and green apple peel flavor.  It’s produced during fermentation, but can also show up when ethanol is oxidized.

Activated Carbon – typically what spirit is filtered through during polishing to remove unwanted congeners that may create off-flavors and aromas.  Though less effective, it can also be added to the fermentation for the same purpose.

500 grams of activated carbon is typically used to polish from 8 to 19 liters (2-5 gallons) of spirit at a time. To manage and control the rate of spirit through the activated carbon as a filtration substrate, a spirit a filter housing like the Filter Pro is used.

Alcoholmetersee Proof & Tralle Hydrometer

Alcometersee Proof & Tralle Hydrometer

Adsorption – in spirit polishing, when congener molecules attract and stick inside the porous surface of activated carbon, effectively being removed from the collected spirit.

Alpha-Amylase Enzyme (AA) – a key enzyme that breaks down starch into more simple sugars during mashing.

Typically purchased and sold in a dry powder form, like Still Spirits Distiller's Alpha Amylase.

Agave – typically in reference to the sugary syrup used in distilling that comes from the Blue agave plant.

Agave can be difficult to source for homebrewing in the quantities neccesary for a wash, but is often available in bulk, like our 100% Premium Agave Syrup.

Alembic (Still or Dome) – refers to a rounded copper pot style stills or a bulbous copper top to a still, often with a lyne arm to a flake stand for condensing.

The Grainfather G30 with a Still Spirits Alembic Dome is an example of a modern alembic still.

All-Grain – used in homebrewing and home distilling to define the process of brewing primarily with grains and not relying on malt extract or other sugars as the main ingredient for beer or a wash.

All-Grain recipes and kits allow the home distiller a traditional and true-to-style method of making grain-based spirits like whiskey at home.

Angel’s Share – the evaporated spirit lost during aging, particularly barrel aging.  

Backset – the low ABV wash left in your boiler post-distillation. Sometimes referred to as dunder or stillage depending on the type of spirit and region.

Bacteria – a small organism that ‘infects’ your fermentation, eating sugars and creating numerous byproducts.  It’s primary to dunder and can be intentionally used to create unique flavors in whiskies and rums.

Baijiu – typically a clear, light spirit made from rice, and fermented with a mix of mold, yeast, and bacteria called Qu.

Barrel Proof – the higher proof at which most spirit is aged, typically 100 proof or greater.

Beta-amylase Enzyme – a key enzyme in mashing that breaks down maltose (two attached glucose molecules) into separate glucose molecules, a more fermentable sugar.

Blue Agave Spirit – generally refers to tequila or other spirit made form agave outside of Mexico.

Typically, blue agave is purchased as blue agave syrup by distillers.

Boil Chips– or boil enhancers, are used to even out the heat at the bottom of a still’s boiler, disrupting potential surge boiling.

Ceramic boil enhancers are a commonly used type of boil chip by home distillers.

Boiler – the part of a still prior to the dome or column of a still that houses the wash and is heated. This may be an electric kettle, stainless steel pot, or rounded copper vessel built for purpose. 

Modern boilers are often electric as they provide valuable and necessary control of the heat, energy efficiency, and the ability to distill indoors safely. A boiler like the Grainfather G30 offers voltage control as well as temperature (thermostatic) control.

Botanicals – any part of a plant that is used to flavor a spirit, typically gin.

Juniper berries are one of the most common botanicals used in distilling, especially gin.

Bourbon – a whiskey made in the United States, that must be a minimum of 51% corn.

Bourbon is typically made with raw grain which needs to be cereal mashed with enzymes, making it one of the more challenging spirits to make as a home distiller unless corn sugar and/or malt extract is used.

Brandy – could be any spirit where fruit is the primary source of sugar.

Brew-in-a-Bag (BIAB) – A simple method of mashing that may only require one vessel and a nylon or cotton bag.

Brown Spiritssee Dark Spirits

Cachaça – spirit typically made from sugar can juice.  Often a light spirit, but it can be aged.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – Gas created by yeast during the absorption of sugar, it’s formed along with alcohol during fermentation.

Carbon Filter – Any filter used for polishing spirit with activated carbon.

Casksee Barrel

Cask Strengthsee Barrel Strength

Cerealssee grain

Cereal Mashing – a mashing technique to convert raw or unmalted grain.

Char – refers to a burnt, blackened surface in a barrel.  There are three traditional levels of char.

Cleaner – any detergent used to clean, polish, and remove debris from a surface.

Cold Sparge – a method of sparging that requires less energy than traditional sparging with hot water but may result in rinsing slightly less sugar from your mash.

Collection Vessel – any vessel used to collect spirit during distilling or polishing.  This is typically a glass jug or jar.

Column Still – a still designed to provide additional reflux, most often used for light (white) spirits.

Column – a part of the still typically following the boil that provides packing

Condenser – Typically at the end of the still to cool vapor and turn it into spirit for collection.

Congener – additional alcohols and acids that are often considered off flavors in clear spirits, but are necessary for flavor development and complexity in aged spirits.

Cooperage – a company that makes barrels, where a cooper, a barrel maker works.

Corn Whiskey – a whiskey made from 80% corn that doesn’t need to be aged.=

Cuts – also known as fractions, typically refers to the separate portions of spirit taken as they come off the still.

Cut Spirit – spirit that has been diluted.

Dark Spirits – spirit that has been aged, typically on charred or toasted oak, providing the spirit some color.

Dextrose –sugar.

Dextrin – a carbohydrate that is part of starch that contains glucose sugar and must be broken down to smaller glucose units during mashing (sacchrification) to be fermentable.

Diammonium Phosphate – a source of nitrogen for yeast during fermentation, critical to yeast health.

Diastatic Power (DP) – a way to measure enzymatic activity potential of malt.  High DP is needed in malt to help convert the starches contained inside and in other grains during the mash.

Distiller’s Parrot – a device that collects distillate as it leaves the still and provides a tube that fills and empties where a proof and tralle hydrometer can float and measure the proof of the alcohol inside.

Distilling – a process of separation and purification of liquids through evaporation and condensation.

Dunder – also known as stillage in whiskey making, it’s stored in a dunder pit and added during or after fermentation to the fermenter prior to fermentation.  When used for whiskey this is referred to as a sour mash.

Enzyme – proteins that create chemical reactions, often during the mash to break starch down into sugar.

Esterification – the change to congeners and complex molecules in the barrel when they come into contact with things like wood and oxygen.

Ethanol – or ethyl alcohol, is the most important part of any spirit, the colorless alcohol we attempt to measure and collect during distillation.

Exogenous Enzyme – external enzymes, typically a powder, that can be added when enzymes from malted grain are not sufficient.

False Bottom – any sort of screen that helps separate wort from grain, typically in the bottom of a mash tun.

Feints – also referred to as the tails, or the third and final part of the run, it may also refer to a mix of the heads (the first part of the run) and tails.

Fermentation (Fermenting) – the process during which yeast convert sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Fermentation Vessel - a fermentation vessel can be anything that holds your wort, soon to be wash, and in most cases, closes to form an air-tight seal.

Filteringsee Polishing

Final Gravity – Your second specific gravity reading taken during fermentation and is used to determine your ABV and if your fermentation is complete.

Flake Stand – a type of still condenser that’s made up of a vessel that holds a coil (known as the worm) that carries spirit vapor though it.  The vessel has cold water recirculated through it that condenses the spirit.

Flour Paste – typically made from rye flour and water to seal a still with loosely joined parts.

Flute – a type of column still.

Foreshots – the first 25-200mls of alcohol collected off a still, potentially containing large amounts of methanol.  This portion of the run is usually discarded.

Fractionssee cuts

Free Amino Nitrogen (FAN) – one of the most critical nutrients for yeast, typically provided in malt or yeast nutrient blends.

Fructose – fruit sugar.

Fuselsee congener

Gelatinization – the first step in cereal mashing used to break down raw grains through heat and hydration.

Gin – a spirit containing juniper and other botanicals for flavor and aroma.

Glencairnsee Nosing Glass

Glucoamylase Enzyme – a critical enzyme in the breakdown of starch in grain during mashing.

Glucose – the most basic form of sugar.

Grain – a seed from any number of grasses or plants that produce edible seeds that contain starch and can be mashed.  The plants that produce grains are often referred to as a cereal.

Gravitysee specific gravity

Heads – the first part of the run containing congeners with a lower boiling point than ethanol.

Hearts – the middle or second part of the run in which the majority of ethanol is collected.

Helmet – often a round dome or cylinder shaped piece of copper or stainless that attaches to the boiler of a pot still and empties into the condenser.

Hot Liquor Tank (HLT)see Sparge Water Heater

Hydrometer – a tool used to measure density. Depending on the type of hydrometer it may be used to measure alcohol in your fermenter’s wash (a triple scale hydrometer, or specific gravity hydrometer) or the spirit being collected off of your still (a proof and tralle hydrometer, alcometer or alcoholmeter.)

Impuritiessee congener

Infusion – typically refers to a vapor infusion of botanicals for gin during distillation, but could also be another material like wood, grains or fruit.  Infusion may also refer to the steeping of botanicals, fruit or other material in spirit.

Juniper Berry – a small berry required in traditional gin making.

Light Spirit – any spirit that hasn’t been aged.

Liquorsee Spirits

Liquefaction – the second step of cereal mashing, the liquification of starch so it can be made into simple sugar through the process of sacchrification.

Liqueur – a sweetened and flavored spirit, often below 30% ABV.

Lyne Arm – the tube leaving the top of a still.

Maceration – a mixture of spirit and other material to add flavor such as fruit or botanicals.  Macerated wash or spirit can be sent through a still, or maceration can be done post-distillation.

Maizesee Corn

Malt – Grain that has been malted during the malting process which takes raw grain and hydrates, grows, and dries it.  This process increases storage time, creates flavor, and allows the distiller easy access to enzymes and starches inside.

Malt Extract – liquid malt extract (LME) or Dry Malt Extract (DME) is typically barley malt that has been mashed for you for ease of use.  Some malt extract may contain wheat, rye, sugar, or hops.  Malt extract is most often used to make whiskey.

Maltose – a fermentable sugar made up of two units of glucose attached together. The most common sugar in wort.

Maltotriose – typically fermentable, but depends on the yeast.  It’s made up of three glucose molecules and makes up a small portion of the sugar found in wort.

Mash – grains in water for the purpose of converting their starches into sugar.

Mashing – the process of converting starch into sugar.

Mash Tun – a vessel used to hold grains and water which typically contains a false bottom, or a way to separate liquid wort from grain.

Maturationsee Aging

Mezcal – any alcoholic drink made from agave.

Methanol (Methyl Alcohol) – Toxic alcohol typically collected at the start of a distillation run (referred to as the foreshots) due to its low boiling point, and discarded.

Milled – crushed, grinded, or opened grain.

Molasses – a byproduct of the sugar refining process typically used to make rum.

Moonshine – a clear spirit, sometimes high proof, typically made from corn and/or corn sugar.

Muslin Cloth – a cotton cloth used to hold botanicals during distillation, or to mash grain using the brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) method.

Neutral Spirit – usually spirit made with a reflux column, meant to be close to pure ethanol and neutral in flavor.

No Sparge – a method of mashing that doesn’t require a sparge water heater to rinse the grain but instead mashes with all of the water needed for the mashing process.

Oak – the most common would used for barrels and aging spirits on.  Typically toasted or charred.

Onionsee helmet

Original Gravity – the first specific gravity reading you take to determine the density of your fermentation, which will later aid in determining your wash’s alcohol by volume (ABV.)

Packing – any material used in a reflux column to help create reflux.  Often copper or stainless mesh, or Pall or Raschig rings, copper, stainless, and ceramic rings and shapes meant to create reflux in the column.

Parrotsee Distiller’s Parrot

Peated Malt – malted grain, typically barley, that has been smoked using peat, creating a unique, strong, and distinctive smokey character.

pH – yeast prefer a range of 3.4 to 5.5 during fermentation.

Pitch – too add yeast to a fermenter.

Polishing – the process of filtering spirit through activated carbon.

Pot Still – a still meant to retain some of the character and flavor of the wash by minimizing reflux of the spirit during distillation.  Typically used for dark spirits, and spirits where the flavor of the wash is essential to the spirit.

Proof – a measure of alcohol.  Proof is double the alcohol by volume ABV of a spirit (ex. 80 proof spirit, is 40% ABV.)

Proof & Tralle Hydrometer  - sometimes referred to as an alcometer, oh alcoholmeter, this hydrometer is calibrated to measure the density of spirit, measuring alcohol by volume.

Racking Cane – a rigid tube that tubing is often attached to, used as a siphon to aid in the transfer of liquids, typically from a fermenter to a still.

Raw Grain – unmalted grain, often flaked, cracked, or dried in some way.

Recirculating Infusion Mash System (RIMS) – a common mashing system that uses a pump to recirculate mash water across a heater and through the mash grains to help maintain temperature.

Reflux – the process by which vapor rises in the boiler, a portion recondenses and falls back into the boiler to be vaporized again.  This occurs continuously and accelerates and enhances the separation process of alcohol and water in the still.

Rum – a spirit typically required to be made from sugar cane or molasses.

Runsee Stripping Run and Spirit Run

Rye Whiskey – a whiskey made from at least 51% rye.

Sacchrification – the core process of mashing, the conversion of starch into sugar.

Sanitizer – used to ensure clean surfaces are free from bacteria.

Schnapps – a clear brandy or infused neutral spirit, often sweetened.

Scotch – whisky made in Scotland.

Sparge – the process of rinsing the grains after mashing (sacchrification) is complete.

Sparge Water Heater (SWH) – also referred to as a hot liquor tank.  The vessel used to heat and hold sparge water to be used to rinse the grains after mashing (sacchrification) is complete.

Specific Gravity - a measurement of the density of a substance.  Used to measure the amount of sugar in a wash.

Spirit – a collection of alcoholic beverages made through distillation.  Brandy, gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey are osme of the best known.

Spirit Run – the second run of a distillation, usually following a stripping run.

Starch – the complex form of sugar that’s inside grain and is converted into simple sugars during mashing.

Stillagesee Dunder

Stopper – a rubber bung, often with a hole in it to accommodate an airlock.  Along with an airlock, it’s used to create an air tight seal in your fermenter.

Strike Water – the water you heat and add your grains to during mashing.

Stripping Run – the first run in a series of runs, typically used to only coarsely separate alcohol and water.

Submersible Pump – a pump used to draw water from a reservoir that recirculates cold water through your condenser arm.

Sucrose – sugar sourced from sugar cane or sugar beet.  Often sold as table sugar, granulated sugar, or caster sugar.

Surge Boil – when the boil becomes too vigorous and material such as foam and fluid is sent through the still.

Swan Neck – the curved top of a still that delivers vapor from the column or helmet o the still into the condenser.

Tails – sometimes referred to as the feints, the third and final part of the run.  The tails are heavy in congeners and lower in alcohol than the heads and the hearts.

Tasting Glasssee Nosing Glass

Tequila – a type of mezcal made only in Mexico from blue agave.

Test Jar (Test Cylinder) – a glass or plastic cylinder with a flat base used to take hydrometer readings during nearly every part of the distillation process.

Thumper – a vessel or jar typically filled with wash and connected between the boiler body and condenser meant to create a small second distillation before collection.

Toast – a barrel burnt (but not charred) or heated by fire to help produce and develop flavor and aromas in aged spirits.

Tomato Paste Wash (TPW) – a popular variety of recipes online that call for tomato paste in the recipe of the wash.

Tri-Clamp – a common fitting that consists of an adjustable clamp and silicone ring meant to join parts of a still together.

Triple Scale Hydrometersee hydrometer

Trub – the leftover solids on the bottom of a fermenter.

Turbo Yeast – a blend of yeast and yeast nutrient, which may also contain enzymes.  Turbo yeast was designed for fast and efficient fermentation and can be used for any spirit, but it’s best for a wash where the source of sugar provides little to no nutrition (corn sugar, table sugar, honey, etc…)

Unmalted Grainsee raw grain

Vanillin – Common in American Oak, it creates strong vanilla and toffee notes in a whiskey.

Vapor – the gaseous form of spirit in the boiler and column, prior to reaching the condenser and becoming liquid again.

Vapor Pressure – the reason a still works. A measure of how much pressure molecules that have escaped from being a liquid can exert on their environment before escaping or moving on.

Vodka – typically a colorless spirit distilled with a reflux column that may present little aroma or flavor.

Volatile Compounds – or volatiles, are aromas and flavors that can easily escape spirit when exposed to air.

Wash – Your fermented alcohol that you’ll add to your still.  Sometimes referred to as wort pre-fermentation, as well as beer, or wine.

Whiskey – or ‘whisky’ is an aged spirit typically made from grain, most commonly some quantity of barley.

White Spiritssee Light Spirits

Wine Thief (Barrel Thief) – a device much like an oversized straw, that allows samples to be pulled from vessels such as fermenters and barrels.

Wort – sugar, pre-fermented wash, typically made from grain.

Yeast – a fungus that’s responsible for fermentation.

Yeast Nutrient – a blend of nutrients designed to promote yeast health during fermentation.