First Step Pot still

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First Step Pot still

Postby Midwest » Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:01 pm

Well have been reading and following the threads for some time now. I think I have enough knowledge to at least get a good start. I have just finished putting together my first pot still. I chose to go all stainless initially, and just use some copper packing. I have a batch of UJSSM in the fermenter. The SG reading was 1.02 as of this morning, so I'm heading in the correct direction there. I'm powering the still with a 220v/5500 Watt low density element. I did put a thermometer at the top of the head along with a sight glass section, if for no other purpose to give me something to look at. Have done the vinegar cleaning run and will do the sacrificial run this evening with a bottle of cheap vodka. I do have a couple of questions however.

1. does it matter if the sacrificial run is diluted down so the alcohol content is in the 5% range?
2. The union that I installed I may have backwards. The male end is attached to the Liebig and the bowl portion is attached to the still head. If this is backwards, will it make a significant difference or cause issues? I did have a small leak there during the Vinegar run and have addressed that with Teflon tape at the joint.
3. On initial power up to get to temperature do you put it at full power?
4. I'm going to use some copper packing to capture some of the sulfides during actual runs.. Should I have the packing in there for the sacrificial run?

Thanks, Reguards
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby yakattack » Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:09 pm

1. That will be fine.
2. Potential leak point but shouldn't be an issue. My pot still had one like that for 2 years. Never caused an issue.
3. Generally yes but that again is going to depend on what I'm running. Stripping run yes. Brandy I prefer slower heat up. Watch for foaming issues at high power with some washes.
4. Absolutly. You should have had it in there for the water and vinigar runs too. Beat bet is do a boil in water and then in vinigar and water before adding it to the still head for the sac run.
Seems like a tidy rig. Should serve you well. Congrats.
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby nuntius01 » Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:31 pm

nice rig, yaka has it covered. if you dont mind post your pic in my link below. thanks
I'm just the bank and the mule

post your still pics here
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=66917
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby Twisted Brick » Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:16 pm

Sweet rig, Midwest. Looks like a bit of welding has been done on yer keg. Is that a 15gal vessel?
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby Midwest » Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:05 pm

Thanks for the replays! Yes it's a 15.5 keg and a bit of welding. Fortunately I have a neighbor who is a professional welder. Yaka, will definitely boil the copper first thanks for the heads up
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby Kareltje » Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:17 am

Nice still!
I suppose you will support the condenser when running it.
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby Midwest » Wed Nov 22, 2017 6:35 am

I did not support it for the first Vinegar run. Suppose it wouldn't hurt to. Better to " have it and not need it" then "need it and not have it".
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby Playhard » Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:02 pm

Midwest wrote:Well have been reading and following the threads for some time now. I think I have enough knowledge to at least get a good start. I have just finished putting together my first pot still......


I have been asking around about the liebig condenser. Can you tell me how you built yours and how to you like it. I plan to build one in the next couple days. My question is about the copper tube nominal pipe sizes you used. Right now, I am looking at 1/2" ips (.625" od) inside and 3/4" ips (.875" od) on the outer shell. What sizes did you use. Also, how long was your actual cooling water condensing chamber?
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby MoonBreath » Tue Dec 12, 2017 7:02 pm

Hey here's your complete answers...
1. No
2. No
3. Yes
4. No
Packing is only to rid your drinkn spirits of sulfides and such.
No need to waste it imo.
Most folks use 1/2" id inside of 3/4" id..But I prefer 1/2" id inside of 1" I'd @ 36" total length, will prolly never have any issues.
Looks good tho.
Hopefully I caught ya in time.
Good luck.
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby zapata » Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:56 am

Unsupported liebig may be why that union leaked. The whole point of a union is that they shouldn't need teflon (though yes, I understand some are just made crappy and actually need it need it). Try supporting that liebig, and if you need to run a fine sandpaper over the mating surfaces of the union. Tighten it up with wrenches, but you shouldn't have to put too much stink on 'em to seal.
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby Midwest » Wed Dec 13, 2017 8:38 pm

My Liebig is 3/4 over 1/2” and its 36” long. I’m running a 5500 watt 220v element and it knocks down everything I throw at it. I did support the Liebig during the runs and haven’t had any issues with the Union leaking since. Have not done a final whiskey run on it yet, but have done three stripping runs. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to strip a 10 gallon wort, from start up to finish.


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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby zapata » Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:56 am

Sounds like you're on your way so a couple other things.
1. Insulating the sides of your boiler will speed up heatup time considerably, and probably speed up strip runs too. Good for strips for sure, some say a slow heatup for spirit runs is beneficial though and it at least makes sense chemically. I've used both cheap blue foam camping pads and the silver bubble wrap style insulation. Insulate sides, but I wouldnt insulate the top for the spirit run so you get some passive reflux on the top.

2. You didnt mention a controller, but I'd run at less than 5500 w for the spirit run. 3-4 kw seems a nice balance between speed and still under control to me.
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby Midwest » Sat Dec 23, 2017 9:01 pm

zapata wrote:Sounds like you're on your way so a couple other things.
1. Insulating the sides of your boiler will speed up heatup time considerably, and probably speed up strip runs too. Good for strips for sure, some say a slow heatup for spirit runs is beneficial though and it at least makes sense chemically. I've used both cheap blue foam camping pads and the silver bubble wrap style insulation. Insulate sides, but I wouldnt insulate the top for the spirit run so you get some passive reflux on the top.

2. You didnt mention a controller, but I'd run at less than 5500 w for the spirit run. 3-4 kw seems a nice balance between speed and still under control to me.


Just getting back to this thread. Zapata, I’m using a PID controller for the still, which I’m learning how to use with my setup. I have the boiler insulated and the 32” column also insulated. I did pack the column with copper for the distillation runs (three of them) but took it out for cleaning and did not put it back in for the final spirit run. In hind sight I should have done just the opposite, not packed for stripping and packed for final spirit run. Or not packed at all. I found that during a fast stripping run the packed 32” column wanted to flood at high heat and those nasty smells were left behind in the copper. I have removed them now and cleaned them well.

The thing that I am finding, it doesn’t matter how much reading you do, you have to do some runs to really figure this craft out. I learn something new every time I fire up the still. Now after doing my first final spirit run I look back and take stock in my mistakes and figure out how to do it better next time.

It’s the cuts that i’m figuring out now. I collected 200ml at a time in to pint jars and filled up 23 jars. At that point the ABV was at 73 and I figured I was getting into tails. I then collected another 3 liters pouring them all together. I now believe I made that decision to hastily. I think I was just getting to the transition of the hearts to tails and may have not collect some drinkable whiskey. Good thing is they’re still in there just have to add them in to the next spirit run so no real foul there. I also only collected down to 50% ABV and think I wasted some feints I could have reprocessed had I collected lower.

After all it’s the journey :) next time will be even better.


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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby NZChris » Sun Dec 24, 2017 1:12 am

What, exactly, are you controlling with the PID, and how?
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby zapata » Sun Dec 24, 2017 3:08 am

I wouldnt insulate the column, without a reflux condenser you arent trying to establish a temperature gradient at equilibrium. Just let it do what it does.

Sounds like you know what your learning which is great. Now about that PID...
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby Midwest » Sun Dec 24, 2017 7:48 am

NZ I’m really not controlling anything at this time. When I was looking to get a controller I was told, by the person who sold it to me, that I would need it. He said that after I learned my still I could use it to set up the cuts. My concern is that it pours on full power when first turned on until it reaches the first hold temperature, 170 degrees. I have concerns that if the wort is not completely clean, I could get some scorching. Right now after I reach the initial 170 I switch it over to manual mode and control it from there. I do like the fact that I can control the amperage one point at a time though.


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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby Midwest » Sun Dec 24, 2017 7:58 am

Zapata, my thought process with insulating the column is that with an insulated column I would get less passive reflux. Here is a question for you all though. When my boiler reaches 170 degrees should I be waiting until the top of the column reaches 170 also before adding more power. I’m thinking that if I did that I will get better separation of the foreshots. On my last whiskey run the head temperature rose to rapidly after I applied further power after reaching my initial 170 degrees. I noticed this in the initial flow out of my condenser was to fast and I had to greatly reduce the amperage to slow it down. I was worried that I did not get good compression of the foreshots. My head temperature was real low until I heated the pot enough to get the higher temp steam up there. Then it rose to rapidly.


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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby still_stirrin » Sun Dec 24, 2017 11:01 am

Midwest wrote:...my thought process with insulating the column is that with an insulated column I would get less passive reflux.

On a 3” (or is that a 4”) stainless steel riser that is only 24” tall, you won’t get much, if any “reflux”. What you have is a high speed vapor highway. The copper packing will help sulfur reduction, opportune for a corn mash, but it’s not going to create reflux.

Midwest wrote:I’m thinking that if I did that I will get better separation of the foreshots...I noticed this in the initial flow out of my condenser was to fast and I had to greatly reduce the amperage to slow it down....My head temperature was real low until I heated the pot enough to get the higher temp steam up there. Then it rose to rapidly.

The size of the riser (diameter) allows the vapor to rise quickly once you’ve reached saturation temperature. The mass flow is then forced into an increasingly smaller vapor path, which will cause the vapor speed to accelerate. It will essentially “choke” in the product condenser inlet, or the bend immediately before the condenser. This high speed vapor will cause your foreshots and heads to smear into the late heads/early hearts. The choked flow will make separation more difficult up front. A slow start will help you tho.
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby Midwest » Sun Dec 24, 2017 11:15 am

still_stirrin wrote:
Midwest wrote:...my thought process with insulating the column is that with an insulated column I would get less passive reflux.

On a 3” (or is that a 4”) stainless steel riser that is only 24” tall, you won’t get much, if any “reflux”. What you have is a high speed vapor highway. The copper packing will help sulfur reduction, opportune for a corn mash, but it’s not going to create reflux.

Midwest wrote:I’m thinking that if I did that I will get better separation of the foreshots...I noticed this in the initial flow out of my condenser was to fast and I had to greatly reduce the amperage to slow it down....My head temperature was real low until I heated the pot enough to get the higher temp steam up there. Then it rose to rapidly.

The size of the riser (diameter) allows the vapor to rise quickly once you’ve reached saturation temperature. The mass flow is then forced into an increasingly smaller vapor path, which will cause the vapor speed to accelerate. It will essentially “choke” in the product condenser inlet, or the bend immediately before the condenser. This high speed vapor will cause your foreshots and heads to smear into the late heads/early hearts. The choked flow will make separation more difficult up front. A slow start will help you tho.
ss

still_stirrin what modifications to the vapor path would you do to improve the fractions compression? It is a 3” column 32” long. Would a larger condenser help and larger diameter tubing on the reducer end?


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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby still_stirrin » Sun Dec 24, 2017 12:33 pm

Hey, please turn the Tapatalk ads off. We don’t need them here. It’s in the settings of your mobile device. Thx.

What I would do is try to reduce the vapor velocity. You could increase the diameter of your vapor tube, from the bell reducer all the way through the product condenser. Or, if building another condenser anyway, consider building a shotgun. And keep the vapor inlet to the shotgun at least 1” ID (or larger).

With the 3”, you’re capable of pushing a lot of vapor. One thing, if you reduce the heat input it will slow vapor production and that will help with the heads cut.
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Re: First Step Pot still

Postby boda getta » Sun Dec 24, 2017 1:23 pm

Great looking still; you are off to a great start. That is the exact setup I have ran for the last 6-7 years with good results. You were smart to start off electric, I ran with gas the first several years and consider going electric the last couple of years the best thing I've done. IMHO you do really need an controller with a 240/5500 setup, I don't think I could run mine without one. I also insulated my 15.5 boiler and it really improved the efficiently. Just take your time and enjoy the journey. Read and reread the safety sections. UJSSM and Sweet Feed sugar heads are a simple, low cost way to learn the basics and get to know your still. I suspect you will start looking into all grains after a while and That will a game changer.

Good luck
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