After leaving the pomace to ferment long enough for all the sugar to transform into alcohol - an operation described in an earlier post, on 18th September - the actual distillery process can start.
First of all, I must thoroughly clean the Kazani, which works best when it is piping hot.
I must be careful not to get burnt when I open the lid, as it really is hot, the Kazani being in copper. I only use a kitchen towel to hold it as I've never liked working with gloves, but it's always worked perfectly for me!
Then I must also beware of the heavy smoke that immediately comes out of the tank!
And then I can start cleaning it. I use a water pipe with a bit of pressure to wash it, as well as a long wooden paddle to scrape it.
This is a process I repeat many times every day as the Kazani must be clean of any potential residues from previous distilling every time I load it with new pomace.
Then I pour the pomace into the tank and carefully close it.
The system I use to heat up the tank is the traditional one, with a wood-fired hearth.
I must regularly check that there are enough wood logs burning.
If not, I go and get new logs from the stock I keep in my courtyard to feed the fire.
After about 10 minutes, the distilled Raki starts to run from the receiving end of the alembic.
With the heat from the hearth, the pomace alcohol in the tank evaporates up into the pipe and when it reaches the other part of the Kazani (the vertical column), where cold water circulates, it becomes liquid through condensation.
The alcohol vapours therefore turn into Raki.
The Kazani can take a maximum of 150 litres of pomace in one go. Depending on the grapes used and the level of alcohol, these can yield between 20 and 60 litres of Raki. The process typically takes one and a half hours, after which I need to clean the Kazani all over again before feeding it with new pomace.
I operate a first, rough filtering consisting of sieving the Raki through a thick cotton pad.
Then I use an electrical filtering machine so the Raki is clear and pure.
I supervise all this process alone, but I can always count on the assistance of friends and family, especially when it comes to emptying the metal tank where I collect the Raki from the Kazani, as it can get very heavy when it's full.
Here my friend Giorgos is helping.
And here, I am playing cards with my uncle Giorgos and my cousin Manolis between two 150-litre loads of pomace. It's always nice to have some company!
You can see a summary of the whole process in this short video