My "Still Tutorial" CM

Vapor, Liquid or Cooling Management. Flutes, plates, etc.

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My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Mon Mar 10, 2014 9:44 am

I know there are a few of these still heads out there and I wanted to share what I've done with mine to make it work much better. Granted, CMs aren't the greatest and they are a bit fiddly but I like fiddly (gives me something to do besides watch grass grow) and this style actually can be pretty versatile if you overlook its shortcomings and make a mod or two to it. Here are a couple stock pics of the still head being discussed:
still tutorial 10.jpg
still tutorial 11.jpg
I've been running this CM pretty much as a pot still with a copper scrubber-packed tower until recently. I had tried using the reflux coil with mixed results on the run before this last one then had an epiphany about the heat transfer from the reflux coil to the tower. I got out the mapp torch, heated up the reflux coil, hit it with some flux and soldered the coils to the tower. Much better. After incorporating Prairiepiss's mods (http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 17&t=25732) and reading Kiwistiller's thread about modding/operation of the Brew Shop CM (http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 17&t=11265) I took a crack at actually running the reflux coil to jack up the ABV.

Up until this time my highest acquired ABV was 72% with a fast heatup (propane, btw) and then back off to a slow broken stream. On this last run, once I started getting fores output I slowly opened the needle valve on the reflux coil and watched in amazement as the output from the parrot drain valve completely stopped. Remembering an earlier thread on equilibrium (http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 15&t=44263) I left it like that for fifteen minutes or so, closed the needle valve and took off about 200ml of fores then closed the parrot valve. The parrot filled and the alcometer hit 83%...a new best! (head slap :idea: ) Ok. Now I understand how this works. I'm sure on this next run I can do even better now that I've run this rig as it was intended. Next goal is clearing 90% on a BW wash. I can hardly wait! :thumbup:
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by Hound Dog » Mon Mar 10, 2014 3:19 pm

Man, I love that boiler! I think it is shaped just right. Anyway, the setup is pretty cool. Can you get full reflux with that external coil at a high heat input?

I am trying to get my head around how a cm operates as I have been seeing more of them lately. I see the thermometer is above the reflux coils. If you are at 100% reflux no vapor would hit your thermometer. Do you have it there to monitor the vapor temp going past your coils? What if it were below the coils like a LM setup?
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by heartcut » Mon Mar 10, 2014 3:27 pm

That's a good looking build. Might want to consider a flowmeter for your dephlegmater coil, it makes them easier to control. You set it to a certain flow instead of trying a setting and then seeing what it does, with a little driving time it makes it less fiddly. A cheap rotameter of 0-40 SCFH air would get you about 0-9 GPH, which should be in the ballpark for your setup.
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by White_Lightning_Rod » Mon Mar 10, 2014 3:58 pm

I had a couple of these from an old air compressor set up. I added a short piece of pipe on both sides maybe 1 1/2"long , cut my water hose and slid the hose on each side, add a couple of pipe clamps and it works perfectly for me to easily make fine adjustments to my condeser water flow.
http://www.amazon.com/Amico-Pneumatic-S ... trol+valve" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
Last edited by White_Lightning_Rod on Mon Mar 10, 2014 9:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by googe » Mon Mar 10, 2014 4:42 pm

Nice job mate, I've seen a few of this design modified now and they all seem to be working alot better!. I've found cm's the best to operate, bad designs are what have given cm's a bad name. When you first ever run one, it is fiddly and can be frustrating not knowing what your doing, but with study and playing with it it's pretty easy. I can now set mine and leave it and it will stay constant till tails comes on. It's always good to have separate flows to PC and rc, just to take away any inconsistencies with water heat up from PC to rc. the first few times i used quote, I had trouble getting the same run every time. But some.good.advice from.emptyglass fixed that. now I have coolant flow at max, take the heat up to it till the lymearm is to hot to touch just before the PC, back the heat down to a steady boil, just keep checking the heat on the lyme arm till fores start dropping out slowly, take fires then back the heat off till the drops stop. Let it sit of 5~10 mins then start closing the rc coolant valve till you get heads dropping slow, open it a but more to get a tinny stream then take.heads, when heads are done close the valve a touch more for a.steady stream then sit back.and take.hearts till the alc meter does a spaz and output goes erratic!. Take couple hundred ml s of tails. I don't use a thermo, never have, problem never will now lol.
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Mon Mar 10, 2014 9:51 pm

Man, I love that boiler! I think it is shaped just right. Anyway, the setup is pretty cool.
The boiler is the bottom end of an ancient water heater liner that I found at a friend's ranch. Cut it up with a Sawzall, bought an angle grinder and spent a considerable time and effort descaling the thing. The lid is a piece of the tank reverse rolled flat and cut to fit. Let me tell you this stuff is tough. The bottom skirt that gives the boiler a solid base to sit on is another piece of the liner cut and brazed to the bottom.
Can you get full reflux with that external coil at a high heat input?
Haven't gotten that far yet but it shouldn't be an issue. Running with moderate heat I can get full reflex with minimum flow through the reflux coil. This is where soldering the coil to the tower to maximize heat transfer will be the ticket.
I see the thermometer is above the reflux coils. If you are at 100% reflux no vapor would hit your thermometer. Do you have it there to monitor the vapor temp going past your coils?
Yes.
What if it were below the coils like a LM setup?
I'd be reading the temp of the reflux which I would imagine would be constantly changing and not tell me much, if anything. I think vapor temps tell you much more since they're directly tied to the ABV of the output.
Might want to consider a flowmeter for your dephlegmater coil, it makes them easier to control. You set it to a certain flow instead of trying a setting and then seeing what it does, with a little driving time it makes it less fiddly. A cheap rotameter of 0-40 SCFH air would get you about 0-9 GPH, which should be in the ballpark for your setup.
Sounds like a good idea. I was using a garden hose for the drain line but changed to a clear plastic so I can see the output flow from where I sit vs. going outside to look at what was coming out. That was a pain. Fixed now. Actually putting a number to the reflux coil flow would be good for repeatability.

googe: I appreciate your input here. You gave me some great insights if not an outright shortcut in learning how to run this rig.

Thanks for the good words, guys. I've noticed that there isn't the knowledge base for CMs as there is for pots, LM and VMs. Hopefully this thread will serve to help others with this type of still understand how to run them to their potential.

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Tue Mar 18, 2014 6:09 pm

Ok. This hobby officially rocks! Image

I finally go to run a Birdwatcher's that has been in the fermenter for 3 weeks.
I've been waiting on this one so I could put the modded reflux system to its first real test.
Fired up the propane, insulated the column and cracked open the product condenser. By the way...I'm going to lose the 1/2" ball valve on the product condenser and replace it with a needle valve. I've found that the product condenser works well enough with very little flow that it will be much easier to manage the cooling with this change.
Once the column started heating up good I cracked the needle valve on the reflux coil just a bit and waited while the column equalized. I took off 200ml of fores, adjusted the takeoff to a broken stream, closed the dump valve to the parrot and waited for it to fill. When it finally started crawling out, the attachment shows where it settled. Not too shabby for a first try with an "inferior design". :ewink:
hot stuff
hot stuff
I collected the run in 250ml increments, shut down the reflux at 88% when the tails came through and finished collecting at 25%.
What a learning experience thanks to the regulars here at HD and those that "suggest" that we read "read until our eyes bleed". It becomes very apparent that the practical experience goes so much better when we do out due research and homework BEFORE committing to a stilling run. Great day! :thumbup:

tp

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by Hound Dog » Tue Mar 18, 2014 6:21 pm

Glad it turned out good!!
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Tue Mar 18, 2014 6:56 pm

Good thing I like "fiddly" things. It made the run go quickly not doing a "set and forget" kinda thing.
I'll get the hang of this rig real quick though and the fiddly will get pretty minimized. Fun!

tp

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by googe » Tue Mar 18, 2014 11:59 pm

Good stuff mate, gota be happy with that :thumbup: . Whats the product like?. I love how you have to drive these stills at the start too :-).
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by Bushman » Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:34 am

I agree totally with googe's first comments. CM stills got a justifiable bad rap with their first designs but for versatility it is probably the best compound still at our level. I have written several changes on our take on the design in both the Novice Reading Lounge and a recent one in the Reflux still section. And although mine is not modular with these new designs it is even more flexible.

+1 on your boiler, very nice!

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Wed Mar 19, 2014 7:50 am

googe wrote:Whats the product like?. I love how you have to drive these stills at the start too :-).
Clean as a whistle with a hint of delicious!

Thing is, I have a batch of apple juice going into the fermenter today.
Once it's done, I simply run it without the reflux and wind up with a very efficient pot still. WIN!

tp

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by Janitor47 » Thu Mar 27, 2014 6:05 pm

I'm so sorry that I'm late to the party! Some best friend I'm turning out to be, eh T-Pee?

I like your design, and the results speak for themselves! Good job!
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Thu Mar 27, 2014 6:25 pm

Thanks.
When I built this thing I didn't realize that it was in fact what I wanted/needed for my incursion into this hobby. With lots of "encouragement" from The Elders to "read until my eyes bleed" I soon found the modification to really make this rig sing and so much more. I agree with the way the membership requires that new members understand what they're doing before doing it. This whole hobby can be dangerous on many levels if you don't.

"Proof's in the pudding", so to speak.

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by S-Cackalacky » Fri Apr 11, 2014 4:47 am

Congratulations on your success with this still. You've added a great deal of good information for anyone researching the ins and outs of building and running a CM still. You're a good example of the success that can be achieved with a good approach to learning the things you need to know along with some determination. Good job and very inspirational thread.
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:47 am

Thanks, boss. :)

I think I found the sweet spot on this still where I do the "set and ferget". I ran up the heat until the reflux coil couldn't establish complete equilibrium then backed it off a touch. To collect, I turned the heat up until I got a broken stream and then left it alone. I suppose I could have effected the same by turning down the reflux valve instead of upping the heat but I thought more heat would run more re-distillations in the column. Was that a correct assumption?

Regardless, it ran at 94% and 163 degrees from the time I got it settled in after the fores until I turned the reflux off to finish off the tails just before midnight. I ran 3 gallons of feints in 9 gallons of a BW wash for nine hours collecting thirty 250ml units.

Considering my goal for this still was to be able to occasionally hit 90%, I'm very pleased. It ain't azeo but I wasn't honestly expecting it either.

*edit*
After 48 hours of airing I did my cuts and blended to 100 proof using distilled water for >2-1/2 gallons of the most beautiful and clean-tasting vodka I've ever tried. Now to make some Kahlua for the wife and a peach infusion for my niece. :thumbup:

tp

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by White_Lightning_Rod » Sat May 10, 2014 6:36 pm

Hey TP, havent seen where you mentioned any mesurments on this head. Im currently running a 2" potstill. Im contemplating ordering some parts and pieces to add about 40" of column and a 2"x 6" dephleg between my pot head and boiler, making a modular CM of sorts. What size diameter is your column and how long is the packed section?
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Sat May 10, 2014 9:05 pm

I pretty much followed the plans from the Still Tutorial site then modded it with info via Mr. Piss's link to separate the condensers.
The column is 42" of 1-1/2" copper. Kinda small compared to the majority of builds on this site but I can hit and hold 94% at a decent rate so hey. It works.

Eventually though I'd love to build a 3" modular flute for the boiler I already have.

tp

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by woodshed » Sat May 10, 2014 9:16 pm

Great contribution T-Pee. What a feeling when you make her sing.
Love the boiler as well.

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Sat May 10, 2014 9:26 pm

Thanks, woodshed!

It's been a helluva trip, believe me. I fly high performance radio-controlled aircraft, have shot IPSC-style pistol competition at high levels, won and placed in my share of fishing derbys, earned the love and trust of a mustang mare and raised three high-spirited daughters that still like the old man. Nothing has had the learning curve of this hobby except maybe the daughters.

Thank goodness for HD! :esmile:

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Fri Jun 20, 2014 1:23 pm

New personal best at 95% takeoff.

Ok. It's the heads after fores takeoff but the hearts are now coming off at 94% at 250ml every 8 minutes.
It's cool to see this steam punk contraption can do it if I do my job well.

Running a 9 gallon BW wash with 2 gallons of additional feints tossed in for good measure. Should be a nice harvest! :esmile:

tp

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by googe » Sat Jun 21, 2014 3:40 am

That's impressive mate, I don't even get that from 4"x 3 plates!. Good stuff :thumbup:
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Mon Jun 23, 2014 11:30 am

Thanks, googe!

Here's the "take" from the run:
IMG_20140623_122700_515.jpg
6.75 liters in all. Been airing for three days.

Looking vertically, the two bottom right are heads and the top right three and top left two are tails. Everything in between is clean as a whistle neutral and 93%-94%.
Time to blend, dilute to 43% and store!

I'm pleased! :)

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by Shine NOLA » Fri Dec 19, 2014 2:05 am

googe wrote:Nice job mate, I've seen a few of this design modified now and they all seem to be working alot better!. I've found cm's the best to operate, bad designs are what have given cm's a bad name. When you first ever run one, it is fiddly and can be frustrating not knowing what your doing, but with study and playing with it it's pretty easy. I can now set mine and leave it and it will stay constant till tails comes on. It's always good to have separate flows to PC and rc, just to take away any inconsistencies with water heat up from PC to rc. the first few times i used quote, I had trouble getting the same run every time. But some.good.advice from.emptyglass fixed that. now I have coolant flow at max, take the heat up to it till the lymearm is to hot to touch just before the PC, back the heat down to a steady boil, just keep checking the heat on the lyme arm till fores start dropping out slowly, take fires then back the heat off till the drops stop. Let it sit of 5~10 mins then start closing the rc coolant valve till you get heads dropping slow, open it a but more to get a tinny stream then take.heads, when heads are done close the valve a touch more for a.steady stream then sit back.and take.hearts till the alc meter does a spaz and output goes erratic!. Take couple hundred ml s of tails. I don't use a thermo, never have, problem never will now lol.
googe,
sounds like just the info i was looking for.
thanks for that
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by sungazer » Fri Dec 11, 2015 1:03 am

Wow that's a really nice boiler and the rest of the still is beautiful as well such a lot of intricate work. I understand people like to try different things and different methods but for me the simplicity of the offset head column was so easy to make and give such good results at making neutral spirit I could never justify to myself making such a piece of equipment. It is a work of art.

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Fri Dec 11, 2015 7:45 am

Thank you, sir! It isn't the most up-to-date design but it's been treating me well.

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by S-Cackalacky » Fri Dec 11, 2015 12:13 pm

Hey T-Pee, I was thinking of wrapping the top of my pot still head like that. When I use my thumper, the pot still head (riser) is moved to the thumper output. I was figuring I could reflux everything back to the thumper until the heat is stabilized and then shut off the cooling water to allow the vapor to go to the PC. I've been charging the thumper with larger dirtier washes and was a little concerned about it getting evenly heated before it starts producing. Your CM mod looks like it would work well for this purpose as well.

I like the mods you did on your CM - simple, but some fine looking metal work.
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Fri Dec 11, 2015 12:24 pm

Not being a believer in "leaving well-enough alone", here's what it looks like today with a sight glass and coldfinger installed. :thumbup:
Sight glass 02r.jpg
A reflux mod on a thumper? Sounds like it might just work as you intend, Cack. It would give you more versatility, that's for sure.
Remember, a packed column without reflux is just a pot still. You can pack the column, leave the reflux valve closed and run it as you're used to. Hmmm.

tp

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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by S-Cackalacky » Fri Dec 11, 2015 1:36 pm

Not under any delusions that it's anything other than a pot still. The only purpose it will serve is a way to delay the vapor from going to the PC long enough to assure that the thumper is up to heat. It's all about trying to avoid as much smearing as possible. You might say it's a way of extending passive reflux a little longer.

I see the tubes going into the top for the cold finger, but where is the cold finger inside the column in relation to the vapor takeoff? I was always under the impression that the cooling in a CM took place below the vapor takeoff. The sight glass is a nice touch. Have you run it with these new changes yet?
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Re: My "Still Tutorial" CM

Post by T-Pee » Fri Dec 11, 2015 2:50 pm

The coldfinger is between the top of the sight glass and below the takeoff. It's 6" long x 1" in diameter. The column itself is 1.5".

Indeed I have run it with these changes and they definitely improved the way the still runs and the way I run the still. The sight glass allows me to see the level the distillate is in the column. If I keep it boiling in the sight glass itself, I know I'm running at optimum and not boiling over into the takeoff or running low giving me less purity than I could be getting. The coldfinger backs up the external reflux coil which isn't really that efficient and allows me to knock down that much more power.
Improvements that ultimately turned an originally poor design into a still that is efficient and fun to run.

I kept forgetting to show the final mods in this thread. Thanks for the push.

tp

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