Air-cooling the Condenser

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Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby Teetotaler » Thu Oct 01, 2009 2:55 am

Hi Everybody,

I am new to the membership, new to this hobby too.

But I have been studying this site for the past four months or so with quite enthusiasm. Yet did nothing beyond the PC screen, as I was told "distilling liquor" is highly illegal in the country I live. But upon realizing later that breaching the law once in a way is not that illegal, I have decided to give it a hand when time permits.

The grounds covered so far is, I have modified an Electric SS boiler (about 12L) to hold a 30 X 1 7/8 inch Copper column, Condenser with 12 X 2 1/8 inch pipe to house three layers of ¼ tube coils to be fed by a 5/8 water line. Also the fittings to hold the parts together etc (By the way, I am following Bob Lennon's Valved Reflux design). It took me longer than it would, coz I chose to hand-beat /solder/grind my own pipe fittings from pieces of pipes itself. Simply, because the intended use of the produce is for my own consumption and the absurd prices of Copper fittings here can let me drink 8 days a week for the rest of my life!

My question is, is there any alternative design available to implement an Air-cooled Condenser instead of the standard water-cooled version? I am prepared to abandon the above water-cooled condenser completely, if necessary.

Your advice or hints on this is highly appreciated please,

Cheers!
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Re: Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby plonker » Thu Oct 01, 2009 8:03 am

Hi TT, I have seen a design for an aircooled reflux condensor somewhere around the site but cant find it at the moment. there is a pot still with a aircooled condensor here http://homedistiller.org/equip/designs/pot_plan

You will need to be able to transfer to the air all the heat your burners are producing, to produce full reflux... I haven't done it myself, Im working towards something similar though, however aircooled is not that easy to do in a reflux design...

The design that Bob Lennon recommends is quite an old one. there are much better designs around now. Just ask the guys..
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Re: Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby myles » Thu Oct 01, 2009 11:55 am

You can use air cooled condensers BUT and it is a big but, you must be able to transfer the heat.

I have run air cooled Liebig condensers in the past, using sub-zero air from outside in mid winter, but even then the air flow rate needed was surprisingly high.

Air cooling is so inneficient compared to water cooled. To be honest a properly sized worm in bucket is all you need, and this is from someone that habitually uses liebigs.

I am about to put in a forced air cooled radiator to augment the liebig on my strip boiler, but this is so I can strip large amounts with a relatively small water store volume.

If you have access to a large volume of cold air, loft, external cupboard etc I would still recommend water cooling but use the air as a big heat sink for the water and not directly for the product.

Unless you are planning for example a 100 foot of copper tube coiled into a 2 foot diameter worm hanging from the eaves?? might not be very convenient though :lol: :lol:
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Re: Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby rad14701 » Thu Oct 01, 2009 2:33 pm

Welcome to the forums, Teetotaler... Glad you decided to join...

I agree with the others regarding the aged valved reflux design... They do work, however...

Air cooling is a relative term... There is passive air cooling and then there is forced air cooling via fan... Forced air cooling takes far less surface area to condense the same amount of vapor... You still need to keep ahead of the amount of heat produced in order to be efficient, however...

Recirculating water is much easier and more efficient, overall...

Good luck...
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Re: Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby Teetotaler » Thu Oct 01, 2009 7:04 pm

Many thanks for your much valued inputs.

I had three reasons to think of air cooling. One is the messiness of drawing water inlets and outlets to the production location. Second is the wastage of water, which will be more precious than alcohol in the days to come. Third is the worst; I have developed this phobia where the moment I take a Copper worm to my hand, I see from the corner of my eye, a guy in uniforms hovering over my shoulder :shock: (In the case of any eventuality, once dismantled, any piece of Copper tubing in the household could pass unnoticed, but not a Copper worm !!)

So it looks like I have to settle for Rad's suggestion to re-circulate water. At least it will solve the first two problems. Hopefully, the produce will cure the third, once consumed.

By the way, I chose Valved reflux design just going by Bob Lennon’s presentation aspect. After all, I didn't have much wisdom to go by, other than the comprehensiveness of the reading material.

Could you please enlighten me on more efficient or modern designs available, in your opinion?

I am still not familiar with the short-names/ nicknames for various apparatus and techniques in the trade, so any URLs or links are highly appreciated please.

Thank you once again for your support.
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Re: Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby plonker » Thu Oct 01, 2009 7:49 pm

Yes, the plumbing part of it is a pain. If you dont have access to taps and sinks, you can buy a large rubbish bin and an aquarium pump and recirculate the waterThe size of the bin and the strength of the pump are very important. ESPECIALLY if you are using a coiled condensor..

And you dont have to use a coiled condensor, although they are easier to make and work really well. You can use a cold finger or shotgun or crossflow condensor, although some of these are hard to make. Do a seach for designs

As for your reflux still design, most people here use a Vapor Management still or a Bokakob slant plate still. Do some searches for these designs. The HD Google search at the top right is very useful... here is a link to a combined Vapor Management and slant plate design.. viewtopic.php?f=32&t=11189
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Re: Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby myles » Thu Oct 01, 2009 9:09 pm

Don't worry too much about the worm. There is a perfectly legitimate use for it if you are making beer. It is a wort cooler. Check out the homebrewing forums also - look at all grain brewing. :)
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Re: Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby Teetotaler » Thu Oct 01, 2009 10:27 pm

Many thanks for the advice and the Key words, plonker !!
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Re: Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby Teetotaler » Fri Oct 02, 2009 12:19 am

plonker wrote:The design that Bob Lennon recommends is quite an old one. there are much better designs around now. Just ask the guys..


One more clarification. When you say much better, is it the ease of construction or the efficiency you are referring to?
Ease of construction is not that important now since I have gone through most of the work, but is the efficiency poor on the Valved design?
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Re: Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby plonker » Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:16 am

I have never used the valved reflux myself, although my in-laws have one. My understanding is that they are hard to run.

They are cooling management units, so you control the reflux (which gives you purity) with the flow of cooling water. However if your water pressure OR water temperature changes then your reflux changes. Not so bad if you know what you are doing, but hard for a beginner.

The Liquid Managment boka slant plate controls reflux by returning liquid distillate back down the column. I found it a bit fiddly to control the reflux as you need very fine adjustments to keep the output sweet, but its probably the easiest to make.

Vapor Management controls reflux by returning distillate back down the column, but taking off distillate as alcohol vapor. This I find really easy to run, and its the one I use. Getting the setting right is easy, and you can pretty much well leave the valve alone.

If it was me I would convert your unit to VM just get a stainless steel gate or ball valve and a reflux condensor and you are pretty well there...


PS> Spot on myles, you are exactly right!! I actually have a wort chiller here and never associated the two.. :ebiggrin:
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Re: Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby guillermo » Fri Oct 02, 2009 3:19 am

You can find some info on air cooled condensers at this link:
http://distillers.tastylime.net/library/Listings2.htm#Books
Once you are there, scroll down and click on the book, 'Simple Low Cost Stills' by Riku, then go to page 12.
Riku also wrote a book, sold by the Amphora Society, called, 'Designing & Building Automatic Stills' that shows how to make an air cooled condenser.
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Re: Air-cooling the Condenser

Postby Teetotaler » Sun Oct 04, 2009 8:37 pm

Thank you for the useful link, guillermo.

The same page also has a link to a e-book called "Build a Spiral Still" by Riku, which has a detailed description on building an Air-cooled condenser, but looks like he operates it under very cold atmospheric conditions.

There is also a picture of "Victors Aircooled Still" at the bottom of page http://homedistiller.org/equip/photos-reflux but no description given.
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