Tell us about your mistakes.

This hobby is fun & enjoyable, but it is not tiddlywinks. Be safe!

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shadylane
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Tell us about your mistakes.

Post by shadylane » Thu Nov 15, 2007 8:33 am

My worst one was having too small of a copper pipe for a condenser and it got plugged with grain from the mash I didn't strain. Thank heavens I did have a homemade pop off valve. Made out of my thermometer just setting in the hole. Never did find that thermometer.

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Post by firefly » Thu Nov 15, 2007 8:44 am

My father-in-law and his friend introduce me to distilling.....they used a modified pressure cooker.....I was impressed.....So the fire the thing up and they collected everything that came out!!!! From beginning till end....(we italians dont waste anything) and we've been drinking this stuff for quite some time now... :D

I guess they are not aware of heads and tails.....and they didn't worry about the temperature being too high or low :D

Who knows what we are drinking......tastes fine.....but I guess it could be a lot better...... :D


love the in-laws :lol:



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Post by Husker » Thu Nov 15, 2007 9:17 am

Had 4 gallons (4 4L glass jugs) of backset stored in the beer fridge (each had 3lb of sugar and about a pound of cracked corn).

Shot 3 deer Saturday morning (last year). Cut the deer up, but did not have time to process everything. So I shoved the cut up deer into the beer fridge. There was not enough room, so I had to take out a couple jugs.

Well, things got busy at work, that I was not able to put up the deer for a few days. Well, on Wednesday, I was walking up the stairs, and heard an explosion, and breaking glass. It was enough of a "thump" that I actually felt it.

Well, needless to say, there was something working within that backset. It blew up a thick walled 4L glass jug. There was sticky sugar water, backset, corn, and broken glass everywhere. What a mess. I am certainly glad no one was in the room at the time. There were actually large glass shards (about 1 sq inch), embedded into the drywall, up high (at the top of the wall.

Stupid screwup. If I had simply cracked the lid just a tiny bit, when I took the jug out, there would have been no problem.

H.

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Post by shadylane » Thu Nov 15, 2007 9:29 am

A friend of mine was running shine then it started to rain so he shut off the burner and tuck off a running. When he can back latter he had found that since he had the end of the condenser all the way down in the jar, all the shine was sucked back into the still by the vacuum that formed as the still cooled off.

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Post by punkin » Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:19 am

I used rainwater from my new tank in the backyard for fermenting and cutting spirits. I figured it'd be the cleanest, purest water i had access to.

About two months into my rum ageing i noticed strands of algae coming off a bottle i was about to give a friend, so i went and checked the aging flagons with oak sticks in em, and sure enough, two inch long strands of seaweed. :shock: :oops:

We'd been drinking it for over a month.....

I still use the tank water for my ferments, but never cut with anything but boiled town water anymore. I never woulda thought that green algae could grow in 65% alchohol, but there ya go...tougher than you think.



The upside is that my rum wasn't much good, too much mandarin taste and possibly poor cuts, once i put it back in and redistilled it all, did my cuts, aged it for a few weeks, it's turned out a far superior product.
I had put rum on the backburner for a while because of the quality, but now i'll putting some down as soon as i have a spare fermenter, and double distilling. :wink:

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Post by HookLine » Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:50 am

shadylane wrote:A friend of mine was running shine then it started to rain so he shut off the burner and tuck off a running. When he can back latter he had found that since he had the end of the condenser all the way down in the jar, all the shine was sucked back into the still by the vacuum that formed as the still cooled off.
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
Be safe.
Be discreet.
And have fun.

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Post by firefly » Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:55 am

seaweed alcohol... :shock:

I guess the taste was not so bad after all.... :lol:

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Post by BW Redneck » Thu Nov 15, 2007 12:36 pm

On Husker's backset explosion, my mother has had had similar things go wrong when she made dandelion wine. The age old recipe said to ferment in the bottles. Well, they did not specify whether to crack the caps a bit, so we sealed them in old lemon juice bottles.
Needless to say, they exploded. One of the caps shot off so hard that it smashed the light fixture and still destroyed the light bulb inside.
So, we cracked the caps and the problem was solved the next year, only one bottle went off. But one year, they were really explosive. Only half a dozen out of maybe thirty of them survived, but they were all comparable to some of the best champagnes we've ever tasted. (Doesn't say much, we aren't grape wine drinkers in my region of the state.)

After that, we learned to keep the bottles in a cooler until they settled down a bit
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Post by modul8 » Thu Nov 15, 2007 2:13 pm

My mate and I share most of our products and help each other out when it comes to fermenting and distilling.
About 3 months ago we were around his place doing a 50l stripping run of UJSM. The fermenter it was done in was about 70l total capacity filled to about the 60l mark by the time you had the corn.
After we finished the run it was late, so we put the backset to oneside to cool overnight. My mate was out of town from the following morning, so i went around the next afternoon to put the backset in and keep the ferment going.
Added sugar and backset, knocked the tap on the fermenter slightly, shut the door and went on my way.
Mate's girlfriend came home 3 days later to the biggest ant farm you have ever seen.

Biggest problem was the worn grout in the tiles. It got under the tiles. I dont know what his girlfriend was upset about, she got a new floor out of the deal.

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Post by stoker » Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:01 pm

I've already put my screw ups in other topics,
a small one: last summer, I thought 6*9= 36 :oops:
and that should have been the amount of sugar for the second fermentation in the beer bottles. so the beer had very little CO2
funny 'cause I studied math the entire year :)
-I have too much blood in my alcohol system-

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Post by blanikdog » Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:05 pm

I've had too many to mention, but the one I most appreciate was when the bubbler in some fermenting pear wine got blocked and the ceiling and walls of the kitchen got splattered. It was my ex wifes doing so I really enjoyed the whole thing and remember it fondly.

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In support of the anti plastice war:

Post by mikeac » Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:08 pm

On my first run I was using the plastic hydrometer testing cylinder and my alcometer to make cuts. It was really neat to watch the high proof alcohol eat the plastic...Makes the plastic go cloudy and leaves plastic floaty junks in my vodka...

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Post by Ricky » Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:54 pm

when i was about 14 i made some blackberry wine. i sealed up a pint bottle and it exploded. i wouldnt let my little brother try any of my wine so i thought he broke it. i wound up wupping his but for nothin. another time i converted a pickle jar into a boiler for a double boiler rig. i was going to distill the wash with the cornmeal in it. should of used a slope jar. had cornmeal in my distilate. and this stuff was supposed to be a gift for some boys from iowa. thats when i went to the internet and found this sight. sure helped an awful lot.
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Post by Tater Patch Kid » Thu Nov 15, 2007 4:18 pm

It was X-mas Day a couple of years ago. Filled a Pint bottle of 101 proof snapps and had it in the frezzer for a couple of days to bring to the family dinner (inlaws) . Frezin cold booze without any expansion space. Well we had just got there and called to prayer so we set everything down in the den. Coats and gifts on a couch, Bottle on a glass desktop, Well during the prayer here is an explosion with the sound of glass. Went into den and figured out what had happened, Luckily did not break the desk, nobody had any booze after thar. :oops:

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Post by Bohunk » Fri Nov 16, 2007 12:33 pm

I made a 10 gallon batch of bourbon, stood there for hours stirring, and watching the temperature, put it in the fermenter with the grain, and about a week later racked it off into a 15 gallon glass carboy. Couple days later it smelled up the whole house, I think you could smell it a block away, after the airlock quit bubbling I was going to throw it away, but decided to run 5 gallons of it. Whew what a terrible smell, I threw the other half down the stool. You guessed it, that turned out to be the best bourbon I have ever made.

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Post by mtnwalker2 » Fri Nov 16, 2007 2:36 pm

Bohunk, Showing my age a bit, but that reminds me of old time medicine.
The worse it smelled, the worse it tasted, the worse it felt going in (horse sized needles) the quicker you would feel good.

Fortunately, thats for our still pot, and not our final feel good. Let the poor yeasts take the brunt. Our new way of takeing all that medicine is much better.




w
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>habit" Aristotle

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Post by shadylane » Sat Nov 17, 2007 6:00 am

I left the cooling water in my liebig condenser and the weather was freezing cold when I went to use it the next time the ice had crushed the copper pipe inside of it flat.

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Post by goose eye » Sat Nov 17, 2007 3:16 pm

most dangerous they blowed a couple caps set a ketle of low wines afire
brakes went out about poped by lightnin.
thems still alive was laughin bout it not long back
so im tole

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Post by voorhuid » Mon Nov 19, 2007 2:49 am

nice topic, let's make this one sticky.

For my last slivovitz run, I collected the shine in dark-brown 300ml glass containers. After letting it breathe for the night, I put the hearts in a large ss kettle in order to cut back to app. 42% and mixed some tails back in for taste.
Only to find that the shine turned cloudy!
I didn't see the cloudiness of the tails beacuse of the brown glass of the containers.
I am still not sure what to do with my shine. It seems to clear up a bit after some time, and I don't want to carbon filter it or redistill it, because I will lose a lot of aroma. So I'm just gonna let it sit for a while.

from now on I will only be collecting in clear glass containers.
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Post by Skymeat » Sun Nov 25, 2007 11:48 am

Exploding Carboy. I poured hot wort in there for years with no problem. When I put a DWWG wash in there the sucker broke. Here is the full account:
http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5298

The only thing I can think of is that the wash had much more sugar that most of the beers I make, so the wash was most likely hotter. Looking at the carboy along the fracture the glass was very thing compared to the bottom, and other parts of the sides. Perhaps the variation in thickness played a part as well, expanding or contracting at differing rates.

I'm switching to a trash can rig now. Might not be as pretty, but I can make more in a go:)


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Post by Butch50 » Sun Nov 25, 2007 2:48 pm

I made some beer several decades ago, and had run out of good bottles. I had a couple of dozen 7-Up screw top bottles. These were the non-refundable thin glass bottles, before plastic bottles came out. I was living in an apartment and had stored the capped bottles on top of the kitchen cabinets (they did not go all the way up to the ceiling).

One night "BOOM" comes from kitchen, sounded just like a 12 gauge shot gun. One of the 7 up bottles had exploded and as I was peeking in the kitchen another one went off throwing broken glass shrapnel so hard that some of it stuck into the ceiling plaster.

So I waited until they quit blowing up, which took "awhile". Then gingerly opened what was left and dumped them down the sink. My wife (ex now) was a wee bit perturbed that her kicthen was covered in a wet stinking sticky foam with broken glass bits in it and declined to help me clean it up.

So I never repeated that mistake; as my second wife would be more than happy to clean it up for me :P
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Post by shadylane » Sun Nov 25, 2007 6:33 pm

I once made the mistake of turning on the propane and then digging in my pocket for the lighter. Things probably would have been worst if I didn't have on my reading glasses, but then I wouldn't have had my nose so close to the burner either. Needless to say my beard and eye brows grew back, but at least I didn't have to worry about nose hairs for awhile.

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Post by AfricaUnite » Sun Nov 25, 2007 6:45 pm

Didnt turn on the cooling water in time so vapour started comming out and because I use propane she caught fire. If I wasnt in the room it would have been a disaster.

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Post by Usge » Sun Nov 25, 2007 8:37 pm

My first run in my shiny copper alembic.... I was doing my shakedown/cleaning run...with water and rye flour (as recommended by the company that made my still). Got everything hooked up, sealed with rye putty. For water supply, a large bucket in my galley kitchen..filled with water and a submersible pump. We have water flow. Now I'm feeling like J. Cousteau.
Filled the pot with water and a dose of ryeflour mixed.


fire on high..nothing. 70c..nada. 80c...nope. 90c!!..nothing. Now ...I'm wondering when this thing is going to start....SPPPUUUUURRRRRRTTT.
100c...water and rye flour shot out the end of the condensor all over the adjacent wall...and my still looks like it's ejaculating gruel (rye flour) all over the floor. SPURT, SPURT...so..in a panic I reach for the stove, get tangled up in the water hoses..and out comes the hose. Now, I've got water going all over the everything. I shut everything.

By this time, my wife is standing in the doorway of the kitchen. ...with this look on her face that only a husband knows. Uggg.

Anyway..I've improved a bit since then. I'm still learning all the time. I also had a hard time getting my first fermentation started. Took the good folks here to talk me down out of a tree on that one. But, I must say...that's the one part that's gone pretty well. Must be Uncle Jessies magic recepie...cause i'm on my 11th fermentation using the same start. Stuff looks like mud now...smells like very tart/tangy apple butter/beer.

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Post by pintoshine » Sun Nov 25, 2007 9:05 pm

I posted before that I am kinda a stickler for never allowing air to mix with my spirits and now I remember why. I have actually had a bad accident with this extremely flammable stuff and if it hadn't been for a quick response with a big bag of flour I would have burned down an apartment complex.
Man did I have a mess to clean up. It melted my cooling fan before I could salvage it. And I only looked away for a moment.
When this stuff hits the proper proportion of air to fuel it goes off like smokeless powder and burns so fast and clean it sounds like a shot. The resulting flames couldn't be seen on the stove or the counter top but it was burning and melting stuff suspended more than a foot above it such as measuring cups, plastic bowls, and funnels.

Luckily I only have a very small scar and an ear that buzzes when sounds get too loud from the accident. That nearly invisible blue flame will almost burn in your hand without burning your hand but.. It will remove skin as fast as a cutting torch if your are on the receiving side of it. I did end up with first and second degree burns over about 75% of my arms and all my face from the initial flash but I still have a hole in my ear drum from the residual infection and a small scar on my wrist to remind me.

That was 1983. I haven't used gas for distilling until recently and there is always a fire extinguisher around and I mean close. But I don't think it would help in the case of an incendiary flash like I experienced.

The source of ignition was a natural gas stove burner. The kitchen was small and poorly ventilated.
I had just built this latest and greatest version of a new coil because I was trying to reduce some back pressure and increase output. I had just turned 21 and had building these things for 5 years and I guess I felt like superman.
I was doing a doubling run so the stuff was probably near 90% ABV.
There was a small leak in the connection between the pot and the coil which allowed spirits to be vented in the air. There was a large surface area, thin walled, straight sided vase collecting spirits.

As soon as the vapor ran around the pot and got to the flame it went off. That is where I got the initial burns because of the flame front. The vapor doesn't have that much smell.

The open container ignited immediately and within a second destroyed itself and liquid spirits went flaming everywhere. I got the worst burn getting to the gas shutoff. I was more concerned about getting the gas off than my own safety. The liquid spirits heat and burn very fast. Once I got the gas off I grabbed the closest powdered substance I could find knowing that water would only spread the spirits. I always keep my flour and sugar in the fridge and I grabbed the flour and proceeded to throw flour on anything burning. Luckily I had a large bag. The flour smothers burning alcohol well enough.

I never considered myself injured bad enough to go to the doctor but after about three days The blisters on my face and head started peeling and I looked pretty bad. After two weeks I was healed up enough but I ended up with a bad ear infection that resulted in a fever and I had to go to the Dr. for that.

So in a nut shell it was improper testing of my apparatus, bad practice of using bad containers to collect in, and lack of safe conditions.
Three strikes.
My solution to almost all these conditions was alleviated in a short time afterwards. And now everything gets pressure checked for leaks. I don't even allow the smallest pin hole to escape repair.
I only collect in heavy, narrow mouthed containers.
There is always a dry powder extinguisher near at hand just in case.
And most of all there is always a lot of ventilation and moving air to prevent the accumulation of vapor in any one area.

I hope my precautions can be a guide for other.

This may end up the basis of a good safety and precaution guide.

It is a mistake on my part to think others would know the proper safety procedures. I know that most of the people I deal with from day to day are trained as part of their jobs. But up until my accident I had no training and did not understand the risks.

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Post by BW Redneck » Mon Nov 26, 2007 1:09 pm

Nice story there. Make me think twice before building the next one, and powering it with gas. :)

I find safety often overlooked in this craft. Back when I worked at the fertilizer plant, I handled hazardous materials daily. Even used nitroglycerin based dynamite to blow caked fertilizer out of the bins.

Never dared to use it on the ammonium nitrate though! :shock: Imagine the shockwave that would create! And the insurance claim!
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"Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see"

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Yes

Post by Uncle Jesse » Mon Nov 26, 2007 1:16 pm

I try to bitch and moan about safety a lot here. I'm very concerned that people won't take the necessary precautions or will cut corners thinking "those guys are overly cautious."

Pintoshine's story is a good one and a valuable lesson.
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Post by HookLine » Mon Nov 26, 2007 3:04 pm

With ya all the way there, UJ. I've said it before, safety is the first and main rule in this hobby. Everything else comes second. Can't be too safe.

Apart from our personal well-being, nothing will bring the law down on us faster then people being half-arsed about this hobby and getting seriously hurt.

And credit to Pinto for being honest and sharing his story. A good warning to all of us. Particularly the bit about the ethanol flames being hard to see. That is especially true in daylight.
Be safe.
Be discreet.
And have fun.

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Post by Usge » Mon Nov 26, 2007 3:39 pm

Dang Pinto. Scary stuff. I've got a few of those things on my checklist too....galley kitchen, gas range, etc.,

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Post by Ricky » Mon Nov 26, 2007 5:04 pm

my cuz races dirt track cars and runs methonal for fuel. doesnt make a visible flame at all. very dangerous. we poured some on an ant bed. couldnt see the flame but the grass was burning. this point should be made into a sticky. it can burn but not be seen. very dangerous and can get you before you know it. safety first. safety first. safety first. and once more safety first.
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