First Run Woes... (help)

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MegaSchwiller
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First Run Woes... (help)

Post by MegaSchwiller » Sat Apr 10, 2010 10:47 am

I'm in need of some advice or assurance or something...

I'm a couple hours into my first distilling effort and i'm not so sure things are going quite right. I'm running a 20" tall 2" diameter pot still tower clamped to a sanke keg. I packed the bottom half of the tower with copper stuff I'm using a propane burner for my head source. I'm in the mountains at 9,250, so I was thinking I'd be about right to try and hit a temp of around 165F.

Well, at 165F I'm not getting crap for run off. Maybe around 1 drop/second tops. I tried to slowly increase my temp until I got a steady drip and that didn't happen till around 88-90F! That seems way to hot, doesn't it? I'm reading the temp via. a thermometer stuck in a bung ontop of the column.

Is there something i'm doing wrong - or something i could be doing to fix this issue? Would insulating the column help?

I've read that the temp. isn't worth paying attention to... is that the case? Should I maybe disregard what the thermometer says and just run my heat at whatever it takes to get a steady pencil lead sized stream?

Thanks.

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Tater
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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by Tater » Sat Apr 10, 2010 10:52 am

yep disregard temp .try to get a small steady stream matchstick size or so.
I use a pot still.Sometimes with a thumper

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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by Bull Rider » Sat Apr 10, 2010 6:43 pm

On my pot still I control the output volume by adjusting the heat. The column temperature is determined by the amount of alcohol that's left in the mash that's in the boiler. As the alcohol is depleted, the vapor temperature increases. No surprise, it takes more energy to keep the outflow consist ant throughout the run.

On a stripping run, as long as there's no vapor from the condenser, I can run the still hard. On a spirit run, I back off on the heat to get a slower run, and better definition between the heads, hearts, and tails.

So there's a corresponding rise in column temperature along with a decline in ABV of the output during either the strip or the spirit run.

The temperatures will take care of themselves, set the heat to get the appropriate output.
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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by MegaSchwiller » Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:33 am

I based on the %alch. that came out in my collections - and taking into account the high temp or 80-90 that i was running (be it accurate or not), I'm thinking I did an unintentional stripping run. I'm planning on giving it another pass as a spirit run, but before I spend the time doing that... Does the resulting product of a stripping run usually smell nasty? After discarding the foreshots, every jar I collected had a offensive stank to it - diminishing into the later collections but still very present. I had some friends over and most who smelled it descried the smell as processed corn - one guy said it smelled like fish. It's got a definite sweet smell to it, which i expected from heads but not necessarily through the whole run.

This was the grain bill for my mash:

10.0 lb American 2-row
3.0 lb Rye Malt
0.5 lb Wheat Flaked
0.15 oz British Black Patent
0.5 lb Special B - Caramel malt
1.25 lb Munich TYPE II
2.0 lb Dark Brown Sugar

The OG: was 1.080 -- I didn't take an FG reading but the yeast seamed to chew through it pretty well so i'm guessing i started at around 8% ABV. Is there anything in that recipe or something process related in a stripping run that could be cause for such a smell?

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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by rubber duck » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:52 am

I don't see a problem with the recipe, although I've never used brown sugar in a grain batch so I don't know exactly what that would contribute. Sounds like your a pretty serious beer brewer so I suspect it's not a fermentation or water problem.

The three thing I see in your process are the rubber bung, that may or may not be giving you off flavors. Your copper packing may be a problem if it's not true copper, lots of scrubbers are plated copper. The third thing is your lvl of experience, the fact that you ran your rig and got something to come out is a success in and of itself. This takes time to get and it looks like yoour on the right track.

I also use a thermometer in my stills but I don't run my still by temp. I use the thermometer to take run notes, not to make cuts. You don't run a pot still by temp you run it by feel.

I double run most of my grain, run it through again and put it on a little oak, Ill bet it will clean up in a couple of months.

Next time try a strait 2 row. This will give you a base line and tell you if any of the specialty malt flavors are coming through, or if your just wasting you money.

RD
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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by Squint » Sun Apr 11, 2010 12:26 pm

I leave the packing out of my pot still on a stripping run,
get a good output flow

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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by Squint » Sun Apr 11, 2010 12:32 pm

couldn't edit last post,
meant to ask
How tight is ya packing ?

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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by olddog » Sun Apr 11, 2010 5:46 pm

Squint wrote:I leave the packing out of my pot still on a stripping run,
Do you really need packing in a potstill :?: :?: :?:
OLD DOG LEARNING NEW TRICKS ......

MegaSchwiller
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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by MegaSchwiller » Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:40 pm

Squint wrote:couldn't edit last post,
meant to ask
How tight is ya packing ?
You know, I think it was maybe a bit tighter than it should be. My initial thought was that the stuff was so porous that the packing density would not matter, but maybe that could have been an issue (?)

I used a big roll of copper that I got from milehidistilling, so i don't expect that there would be any quality issues with the copper itself. Also, i suppose the rubber bung could have been an issue as well, but i figured enough people are using the bung'ed setups from milehi that they are proven... maybe not though.

Is it logical to think that if the copper was packed to tightly a sufficient amount of the vapor wouldn't make it's way up though the column without a stupid amount of heat - which could have intern thrown the gnarly stink into things?

Rubberduck - I appreciate the encouragement in your assessment that getting anything to come out of this new rig for my first effort is a success. I gotta say, I did feel rather defeated when i had some friends sniff/sample some of what i thought might be the hearts, and they nearly buckled over in disgust. The only redemption I had last night were the 5 kegs of homebrew on tap that everyone seemed to be enjoying. Also, thanks for the tip on going straight 2 row for a baseline. I'm definitely going to try that.

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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by Squint » Mon Apr 12, 2010 2:43 am

Do you really need packing in a potstill
I didn't want to go Off Topic in answering your Question Olddog , but seems I am not allowed to post a new topic,
my pot still is all Stainless Steel, and as you need a little copper in there somewhere, I slip a small sheet of thin copper foil in the coloum on a spirit run,
folk with a copper pot still I would say is up to them if they want to put in a copper scrubber, but why,

myself I would not
cheers
Squint

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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by Whitedog » Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:42 am

Did you clean all the processing oils from the packing material? I have found that the copper packing material I received from the same supplier was pretty saturated with some type of oil. I soaked it in vinegar, put it in a small compartment on my dishwasher and ran it through the samitizing wash, and finally I run a liter of 80* cheap commercial vodka watered to get a goodly amount in my still without watering too much for a cleaning run. Thats just something I did, dont know if thats your trouble or not..... :)

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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by MegaSchwiller » Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:23 am

Whitedog wrote:Did you clean all the processing oils from the packing material? I have found that the copper packing material I received from the same supplier was pretty saturated with some type of oil. I soaked it in vinegar, put it in a small compartment on my dishwasher and ran it through the samitizing wash, and finally I run a liter of 80* cheap commercial vodka watered to get a goodly amount in my still without watering too much for a cleaning run. Thats just something I did, dont know if thats your trouble or not..... :)
I did not clean off the copper at all - nor did i put any thought into runny something anything through for an initial cleaning run. Drat. Both of those things sound like they would have been worth while and possibly impactfull in having neglecting them. Thanks for the input.

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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by rubber duck » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:03 am

MegaSchwiller wrote:
Whitedog wrote:Did you clean all the processing oils from the packing material? I have found that the copper packing material I received from the same supplier was pretty saturated with some type of oil. I soaked it in vinegar, put it in a small compartment on my dishwasher and ran it through the samitizing wash, and finally I run a liter of 80* cheap commercial vodka watered to get a goodly amount in my still without watering too much for a cleaning run. Thats just something I did, dont know if thats your trouble or not..... :)
I did not clean off the copper at all - nor did i put any thought into runny something anything through for an initial cleaning run. Drat. Both of those things sound like they would have been worth while and possibly impactfull in having neglecting them. Thanks for the input.
Whitedog just identified the problem. A cleaning run is a absolute prerequisite with any still whether it's purchased or home built. I don't know how that packing would have effected the cleaning run you just did but I would do one more cleaning run without the packing. Also make sure that copper packing is clean.

Through away your first run, the reason why it tastes like garbage is that there is a bunch of nasty flux and oil in it.

As squint said a little copper in the vapor path will go a long way. On a pot still that packing should be just tight enough to stay put.
Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. John Steinbeck

MegaSchwiller
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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by MegaSchwiller » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:11 am

rubber duck wrote:Whitedog just identified the problem. A cleaning run is a absolute prerequisite with any still whether it's purchased or home built. I don't know how that packing would have effected the cleaning run you just did but I would do one more cleaning run without the packing. Also make sure that copper packing is clean.

Through away your first run, the reason why it tastes like garbage is that there is a bunch of nasty flux and oil in it.

As squint said a little copper in the vapor path will go a long way. On a pot still that packing should be just tight enough to stay put.
Oh man! What a bummer. I was sorta hopping I'd be able to do a second run of that funk smelling stuff and end up with the goods. Oh well. It's not like I've never dumped 5 gallons of foul homebrew down the drain.

Thank you guys so much for trouble shooting this for me. I'm going to round up some crap vodka this afternoon and give that a run through before giving this whiskey thing another go.

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Re: First Run Woes... (help)

Post by toofless one » Mon Apr 12, 2010 3:12 pm

MegaSchwiller wrote: I'm in the mountains at 9,250, so I was thinking I'd be about right to try and hit a temp of around 165F.

Wow, you are up there! i thought i was up high at 5100ft. i found that my still hits temp at 164F. but mines a reflux. glad to see you got some answers!
"Learnin to still is alot like eating a dinosaur...ya gotta do it a bite at a time"

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