Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

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Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Nosferatu » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:30 pm

I'm trying to redistill some store-bought vodka (80 proof). The still gets going, and then the lid starts lifting up and leaking vapor. Any ideas why this would be happening? I even removed some vodka and added water to bring down the ABV in the still.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Nosferatu » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:34 pm

Additionally, I should note that I did this last night but noticed no such issue, nor have I when running water and vinegar through the still. Right now I have less than 2L in there, and it seems to have stopped happening so much, but is this normal?

*Edit* I checked the gasket around the head. I'm not sure if that was the issue, or if I should just try running less volume in the still at higher proofs.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Coaster » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:40 pm

@ Nosferatu,

Don’t know nothing about an Airstill but why are you attempting to redistill some store-bought vodka (80 proof)?

Regards,
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Nosferatu » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:42 pm

I want to make some absinthe, and I need a higher-proof spirit to macerate the herbs.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Fourway » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:56 pm

Nosferatu wrote:I'm trying to redistill some store-bought vodka (80 proof). The still gets going, and then the lid starts lifting up and leaking vapor. Any ideas why this would be happening? I even removed some vodka and added water to bring down the ABV in the still.


I dunno, maybe it's because the airstill is an overpriced toy?
Or maybe it's because... oh wait... I just realized... you paid some rip off artist hundreds of dollars for that thing didn't you?
Maybe you should ask them why it doesn't work.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Bayou-Ruler » Mon Jan 02, 2012 5:04 pm

Nosferatu wrote:I want to make some absinthe, and I need a higher-proof spirit to macerate the herbs.



pick up some Everclear @ the lickker store its 95%ABV 190 proof! Usually cost 12 to 14 bucks.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Nosferatu » Mon Jan 02, 2012 5:06 pm

Fourway wrote:
Nosferatu wrote:I'm trying to redistill some store-bought vodka (80 proof). The still gets going, and then the lid starts lifting up and leaking vapor. Any ideas why this would be happening? I even removed some vodka and added water to bring down the ABV in the still.


I dunno, maybe it's because the airstill is an overpriced toy?
Or maybe it's because... oh wait... I just realized... you paid some rip off artist hundreds of dollars for that thing didn't you?
Maybe you should ask them why it doesn't work.

I understand that airstills are not very highly regarded by most of you, but I paid a reasonable price for it. I'm just interested to know if other people have experienced this type of thing happening because I want to be as safe as I possibly can while using it.

Bayou-Ruler wrote:
Nosferatu wrote:I want to make some absinthe, and I need a higher-proof spirit to macerate the herbs.



pick up some Everclear @ the lickker store its 95%ABV 190 proof! Usually cost 12 to 14 bucks.

That's what I wanted to do but it's not available here.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Nosferatu » Mon Jan 02, 2012 5:26 pm

Ian Jay wrote:http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=9125&start=0

http://www.liquorcraft.com.au/wa.asp?id ... etails=153

Thanks. I had read that thread on this site before, but wasn't sure it applied here because I wasn't using a wash that hadn't finished fermenting. I suppose that some copper pieces couldn't hurt. Will anything made of copper suffice? For example, could I just stop by the plumbing department in Home Depot and just get a few copper fittings or whatever?

*Edit-- Google helped me answer my own question. I'll get some copper tomorrow afternoon.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby rad14701 » Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:31 pm

You won't get to where you want to be using an air still which is only a simple pot still... How do you think you can push 40% alcohol as high as you want to go while still controlling the process...??? You aren't using the proper tool for the job - a reflux column... :idea:
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Ian Jay » Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:45 pm

I have to go with Rad, trying to distil ethanol above, say, 40% ABV in an Airstill is a very risky operation. Its a bit like boiling petrol or diesel in the deep fat fryer! Experiment as you wish, but keep safety at the top of the list.

Enjoy!
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Nosferatu » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:07 pm

Thanks for the input. Safety is obviously my top concern, which is why I asked. I had read this post by odin and thought one could safely produce a high proof spirit in an airstill as long as the input ethanol wasn't above 40% when you turned the still on. I did do a lot of reading before trying this, so I hope I haven't invested in something I can't use safely.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby rad14701 » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:29 pm

I ran some numbers for a reality check... Let's say you run some 40% through an air still... What you will end up with "might" be ~65% or 130 proof... I wouldn't expect anything higher and more likely slightly lower... So, what next...??? Dilute to 40% and rerun and you'll get . . . . you guessed it, ~65% or 130 proof... So while you might possibly be able to bump 40% to 65% you can't get any higher... So you have to ask yourself if it's really worth the effort to try bumping store bought using an air still...
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Nosferatu » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:41 pm

rad14701 wrote:I ran some numbers for a reality check... Let's say you run some 40% through an air still... What you will end up with "might" be ~65% or 130 proof... I wouldn't expect anything higher and more likely slightly lower... So, what next...??? Dilute to 40% and rerun and you'll get . . . . you guessed it, ~65% or 130 proof... So while you might possibly be able to bump 40% to 65% you can't get any higher... So you have to ask yourself if it's really worth the effort to try bumping store bought using an air still...

I got about 500 ml at ~72%, but I shut the thing down at that point (shortly after my third post). I wasn't expecting super-high volume at a high proof. I was hoping to get a 750ml or a liter if I was lucky at between 70 and 75%

All that being said, I suppose I can just use the still for some faux whiskey if that's all I can do safely. UJSSM looks pretty interesting.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Nosferatu » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:29 pm

Anyway, much thanks to all of you for your input.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby astronomical » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:30 pm

I own an airstill. It burps from the wash getting into the cooling coil and choking it.

I solved this problem by individually powering the top and bottom and more importantly putting the bottom on a router controller to control the boil. I also put raschig rings in the boiler to break the boil some.

I too make absinthe and I'd recommend building an additional still. The airstill puts out an inferior product that isnt so clean. I now use mine to redistill mascerations. I mascertae every herb seperately then I redistill them. I then make a final blend by mixing portions of all the mascerations into a wormwood/neutral base. I really like this method because I can tweak my blends and make a slightly different absinthe every time.

For a long time I was purchasing storebought like you're suggesting and I was redistilling it. The product I make now is much cleaner and better tasting and I have a lot more fun doing it. Cases of everclear and E&J brandy aren't so classy or delicious :P

Also, fresh herbs are wayyy better than the dried ones i've used. If you can, try growing some of the herbs. I have abnormally large 7' wormwood plants :P
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Nosferatu » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:51 pm

astronomical wrote:I own an airstill. It burps from the wash getting into the cooling coil and choking it.

I solved this problem by individually powering the top and bottom and more importantly putting the bottom on a router controller to control the boil. I also put raschig rings in the boiler to break the boil some.

I too make absinthe and I'd recommend building an additional still. The airstill puts out an inferior product that isnt so clean. I now use mine to redistill mascerations. I mascertae every herb seperately then I redistill them. I then make a final blend by mixing portions of all the mascerations into a wormwood/neutral base. I really like this method because I can tweak my blends and make a slightly different absinthe every time.

For a long time I was purchasing storebought like you're suggesting and I was redistilling it. The product I make now is much cleaner and better tasting and I have a lot more fun doing it. Cases of everclear and E&J brandy aren't so classy or delicious :P

Also, fresh herbs are wayyy better than the dried ones i've used. If you can, try growing some of the herbs. I have abnormally large 7' wormwood plants :P

That is a very helpful post that gives me more than one thing to think about. Thank you. That sounds like an interesting way to make absinthe. Today, I picked up some small quantities of wormwood, anise, fennel, coriander, and lemon balm at the health food store. I have more herbs on order, but had been told these herbs were of good quality and wanted to see how the two sources compare. I do intend to use something to break the boil on everything I distill in the future, and I'll look into powering the head and base separately as well. Would a vegetable steamer work to help break the boil? I thought about using one with a coffee filter inside to keep the herbs off the bottom of the still.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Fourway » Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:14 pm

Airstill has plastic in the vapor path.
It is not safe by definition and violates the basic safety guidelines set out over and over and over and over and over again everywhere in this forum.
Go ahead and use one to make plasticizer laced swill for your personal consumption if you like. hell... drink sterno strained through bread and fiberglass insulation if it makes you happy... but to use a still that contains plastics and give the output to other people is grotesquely irresponsible.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Odin » Tue Jan 03, 2012 3:22 am

What your problem is, is actually "super heating" and as a result of that looks like "surge boiling". The inside of your boiler is RVS and very, very smooth. Vodka is very smooth too. Contrary to wine or beer: no miniscule solid particles there.

Now, when you heat the vodka, it gets warmer (no news there), but when you continue heating it, the following normally happens. The liquid reaches its boiling temperature (say 88 degrees or something). Temp will not rise higher. Energy input will result in a heavier boil and more gasses being produced.

But boiling is the result of the smallest bubbles forming in the lower parts of your boiler, steadily rising and combining with other bubbles into larger ones. To effectively come to a boil, the development of those first micro bubbles is essential. And micro bubbles need less than perfectly smooth likker and/or boilers to start developing. The smoothness of both boiler & likker hinders the development of micro bubbles. More heat is applied every second, but there is no way the liquid in your boiler can get rid of it. This energy build up reaches a certain level and than it is freed in one big gulp. So much energy comes free at once (instead of continuously in small bits, when cooking), that the head is lifted of your still.


What you should do is simple: add some cooking stones to the mash to give the micro bubbles a place to develop. That will help you out in 99 out of a 100 cases. Distilling a bit slower, a bit more head space might help as well.

First: take of the head and blow thru the nossle to see if there isn't some obstruction inside the stills head. Because if that is the case, than none of the suggested solutions will help.

Odin.

Edit: blow thru the nossle: only when your rig is cool, cold and not working, off course!
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Nosferatu » Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:29 am

@Odin, that's a very easy-to-understand explanation. That sounds like exactly what was happening last night.

@astronomical, if I understand correctly, you're saying I could plug the fan directly into the wall and plug the main power cable into the router controller? One of those controllers is affordable enough if it'll give me a little more control over the temperature.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby astronomical » Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:37 am

Yes, that is exactly what I do. Router controllers are about $30
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Nosferatu » Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:55 am

Nice. I wasn't sure if there was something in the base to step down the power to the fan.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby astronomical » Tue Jan 03, 2012 6:41 am

Nosferatu wrote:Nice. I wasn't sure if there was something in the base to step down the power to the fan.


i think there is.. i just run the fan full blast... its no longer regulated
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Odin » Tue Jan 03, 2012 6:53 am

I have an airstill I can manage. There is a switch on the boiler to turn up or down the wattage you put in. Also the fan will slow down or cool harder. In general, when distilling slower, reflux increases, even though the fan goes slower too.

Now if you don't have an airstill you can manage like mine, a controller would help manage your power input. Also if you can let the fan work at full speed, you might up the reflux even a bit more. Not much though, I expect.

Personally, I do not consider an airstill an inferior product. It is just a product with limitations. But as a simple and safe means to learn about distilling it is great. If you can spare the money. And after that: using it for hot compounding like in gin or akvavit making it is also a big help.

How big are your airstills? And what wattage do you normally put in? Mine can hold up to 4 liters (bit over a gallon) and has a wattage that can be managed from 0 to 300. The fan takes another 25 watts to operate.

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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Tater » Tue Jan 03, 2012 6:56 am

Odin wrote:
Personally, I do not consider an airstill an inferior product. It is just a product with limitations. But as a simple and safe means to learn about distilling it is great. If you can spare the money. And after that: using it for hot compounding like in gin or akvavit making it is also a big help.


Odin.
A still with un proven plastic parts is a inferior product.And like fourway anyone who would give product from it to anyone else in my view is passing out poison
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Odin » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:41 am

Hi Tater,

"unproven" that's off course the magic word here! ;)

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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Coaster » Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:59 am

Fourway and Tater are right on the mark.

The Airstill was NOT designed to distill alcohol. If it had been designed to distill alcohol it would not have been manufactured using plastic components.

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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Odin » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:36 am

Unless, off course, you have an airstill that is especially made to run alcohol in.
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Tater » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:43 am

Odin wrote:Unless, off course, you have an airstill that is especially made to run alcohol in.

Is this what you have ? If so what type plastic are the plastic parts made from? By your post it seems that you are suggesting that there is one out there that is safe . So post what info you have .
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Re: Airstill top lifts up while distilling.

Postby Fourway » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:51 pm

Odin wrote:Unless, off course, you have an airstill that is especially made to run alcohol in.


AFAIK there are airstills that are *marketed* specifically for alcohol... but really they are all the exact same generic chinese countertop water purifier with different oem tags.

If you want to be in the business selling EZ-Stills or AirStills or whatever you're going to call yours, all you have to do is search on alibaba.com for a chinese factory that's done the tooling for them in the past, put in an order for a few hundred and pay a few bux extra to have them stencil your company name on them... why look... here's one now: http://baistramed.en.alibaba.com/produc ... nside.html

Really... seriously... this is garbage.
The only responsible advice anyone can give about using these for making alcohol is "Dont!".
The only appropriate stance a community like this one can afford to take on gimcrackery like this is "We do not condone the use of this product and urge you to steer clear of it."
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