Need some ideas on new steam rig

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Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Sat Sep 24, 2016 5:49 pm

the outline:

6.98%abv AG beer.
steam jacketed kettle (well insulated)
4 plate (refectix foil)
lyne arm t-meter not calibrated and is the only one i have on the equipment.
2200ft above sea level
no agitator on the kettle (yet) :wink:

i washed down the plates with water at start up and they were full to the bath depth.
as the kettle warms up, i see little boils now and then on the bottom 2 plates
got all the deflag i have running full out.
lyne arm temp starts to climb and i see little boiils on all plates. a few drops start....lyne arm at about 100* and climbing... steam is now at about 8 lbs, and the boiler is purring along.
over about 10 minutes the temprature climbs to about 130 in the lyne and drips come faster...then at 130 the plates all dry up...the drips stop and there is nothing on the plates lyne temp drops to 100* and then until lyne starts heating again until 150* the lates load up and the still starts producing in earnest.
boiler chugging away at 8psi
i dial in the deflag to get a product output at 73%abv (my happy spot for whiskey on my potstill on a spirit run) 173* on the lyne arm
boiler pressure starts to climb
-still runs for a while and at about 20% or 25% into the run the boiler hi limits at 15psi.
-as the boiler pressure comes down to 11psi (the cut in temp) product output slows
-the boiler re-lights and there is a time delay, the product output comes back to "normal"

then the cycle begins again, faster and faster to limit, cool, limit, cool. product output cycles on a slight time delay but the product ABV stays rock solid.

two questions:

why did the plates dry out for like 10 minutes? i mean, it made for a real easy fores to heads cut...it was like automatic- the right volume, the right smells everything.

how can i mitigate the boiler cycling and stabilize the product output? will an agitator help to strip the heat from the kettle walls more readily?


this is only my second alcohol run on new four plate system... and i'm new to steam....so i'm a novice all over again. ideas and opinions anyone? my brain hurts already from trying to figger this.

OK one more question: why did the boiler chug along at 8PSI, my output stream remain constant and ABV solid for so long then ramp up and start cycling? ...if it produced at 8PSI for so long then it all but stops at 11 psi and starts at 11.5....in my mind i must have enough heat output because it limits out... :wtf: :econfused: :problem: :relaxed:
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby hellbilly007 » Sat Sep 24, 2016 9:05 pm

I don't have any experience with this but could the temperature be ramping up due to transitioning to tails? Perhaps in the boiler and not quite into the lyne arm yet?
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Sun Sep 25, 2016 6:18 am

don't think so, i was only about 25% into the run based on calculated alcohol volume. (that i should collect)

the thing i don't understand...calculating heat up times is almost exactly the same as an electric element, watt for watt...so the initial heat transfer is excellent.

everything starts out normal, but then when the mass of boiler charge get to a boil, the heat transfer from the steam jacket to the beer seems to suddenly slow down, or be reduced in some way...so the steam jacket goes up to 15psi, limits out and it takes 60 seconds or so for the beer to absorb the heat and drop the prssure back to cut in at 11psi.

the entire kettle is steam jacketed except for the top, so i can't reall add any more square inches of heat transfer space.

agitator is the only thing i can think of to help....is there anything i could add to the steam system to keep the heat moving?
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Sun Sep 25, 2016 6:25 am

ooo. just had an idea on why the plates dried out...being an AG, the fores cames off then the beer foamed up blocking further vaqpour escape until the foam broke and vapour started pouring through again...

anyone have any experience with that?

(i was only at about 50% capacity of the boiler so it never puked)???

i may have to put a sight glass on the kettle.
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby yakattack » Sun Sep 25, 2016 7:55 am

HDNB. Could you add a ss or copper coil to the inside of the kettle ( thereby increasing the heat transfer area). It ight be tricky depending on the opening of the kettle as it would require drilling and soldering or welding ( if I remember correctly you have a tig) just a thought.

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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby bitter » Sun Sep 25, 2016 8:03 am

+ Yak basically a herms setup and instead of steam, you can setup your boiler with a temperature controller and have a pump to circular the water through your coil. Say you want a 180F mash for gelatenization corn say, boom set it and let things go for as long as you want.. Can also easily do step mashing.. When the time comes to cool, use the coil as a chiller.

I would use this combined with steam. Steam and coil for initial heatup and then stop steam and just us the herms coil to maintain heat.

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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Sun Sep 25, 2016 8:41 am

a coil inside may be a PITA, from a cleaning perspective. gets a bit of baked on crud at the high water mark, since the sides are all totally jacketed.

good idea tho...i'm a look and see if i can come up with a quick detach system.
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby Swedish Pride » Sun Sep 25, 2016 11:20 pm

Only fellow canucks that help you out, what did you do to piss the folks off south of the border?
I've no idea, but i bet the steamheads to chime in soon.
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Mon Sep 26, 2016 7:51 pm

Swedish Pride wrote:Only fellow canucks that help you out, what did you do to piss the folks off south of the border?
I've no idea, but i bet the steamheads to chime in soon.


they prolly all figger i'm nuts for trying to make whiskey on a four plate column.

but...it seems to have worked. the feints collection is pretty big, i'm going to add it to the next run...but i got 26% of the run cut as hearts, and early indications are a really nice rye whiskey.
not thrilled with the 26%, but it's better than nothing on a maiden voyage.

i've decided that foam is the only explanation for the temperature drop and dry plates after fores. kind of interesting that it took such a temp drop and dried up for so long, but it sure made changing the jar easy. Once it cooled i got a look inside and the foam mark was about 6" higher than the high water mark. It was a lot of foam, but i had some issues with the ferment that made it not a great finisher so hopefully a better ferment will reduce foam in the future runs. (i had no acid for the GL enzyme so even though it converted well it finished at 1.007)

still stumped on how to mitigate the boiler cycling tho... I have yet to build an agitator. too much for a drill to spin that long so i think i need a motor with a fan in it and a small gear box to slow the rpm's down from 1750. I'm guessing 30 rpm would give a good mix without frothing up the mash too much.
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby Swedish Pride » Tue Sep 27, 2016 12:05 am

yeah I say getting a bit of movement in there will not be a bad thing.
http://www.artisan-distiller.net/phpBB3 ... f=1&t=2328

could be useful to look outside of HD :esurprised: if you are not getting the answers here, lots of forums where there are superb stillers
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Tue Sep 27, 2016 7:12 am

i think an agitator will help, but after reading a bit more it seems the wall i'm up against is thermal gradient.

i may have to resign myself to longer run times to get the back half of the stripper runs. a higher alcohol spirit run will boil cooler and will have a larger temperature differential, so may not be as much of a problem...i'll find out soon enough.

The whole purpose of this experiment was trying to mitigate scorch with the steam. That part seems to be a success, the AG i did was 100%rye with no problems at all. ANd i did get the strip all the way down to low 20's ABV output, the plates were all but dry...so i did get virtually all the booze. In fact, when i popped the lid to clean there was virtually no smell of ethanol and the mash was still steaming.

Like Flatwoods sez...the hardest thing to put in the bottle is patience.
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby Brutal » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:07 am

I have missed some cool stuff lately! I'm going to have to check out your build on this one.

As far as the problem you are having I can provide some speculation. I know steam but not plates. There is only so much thermal conductivity possible through your inner (stainless surely) boiler wall. That conductivity is easier to think of as insulation. The metal slows down the heat transfer though it. So if the steam jacket is at 212-235 f and the contents of the boiler (mash) is at 190-195 f then the difference is not very great. Less temp difference equals less heat conducted from one to the other after the temp on the mash is up. I'm sure someone here could calculate that for you but I can't help you with that. Just know you can only push a limited amount of heat to your mash, and it becomes less as the mash temp rises.
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Tue Sep 27, 2016 6:08 pm

Brutal, you have done lots with steam injection...does it suffer then same fate? i'm thinking not.

would a clean steam injector working in parallel with the steam jacket maybe be the answer to mitigate/eliminate hi temp cycling...?
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby Brutal » Wed Sep 28, 2016 3:20 am

I think it would help. If you fed that injector from the steam in the jacket it would only flow when needed. There's a guy on AD that has exactly that set up but I can't remember who right now. We still don't have internet at our new place so I'm not fresh on all the details, and there's some good pictures of it I haven't been able to find online in over a year. His is all ss with a full steam jacket, and at the top of the jacket on the inside of the pot the injector arm attaches and goes to the bottom. I believe he also set up a sweet propeller in it to keep it moving.

If you have a build thread could you pm me a link to it? Tapatalk search is malfunctioning.
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Wed Sep 28, 2016 6:50 am

no build thread yet, it's all so experimental, i don't want to show off any of my ill-conceived ideas for fear that someone may get the urge to engage in the same stupididty. If i blow myself up, y'all still have plausible deniability...(nah we didn't know that friggin' clown :shifty: )

i can't use the steam off the jackets, it's far too dirty. I've only done a total of four runs (3 cleaning one strip) and i've "blown down" the system everytime and there is so much shit that is coming out of that boiler, i doubt it will ever be clean. I'd have to hook up a separate clean steam source for injection.

i'm going to try a propeller next, as soon as i figger the vapour seal out. see where it goes from there.
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Sun Oct 16, 2016 9:18 am

Had an opportunity to do another stripping run. This time i filled the kettle to capacity, and everything ran smoothly for the entire run. In fact i had to throttle the steam into the jacket, the heat absorption was so good i flooded the column. (with deflag off)

so...conclusion at this point is that a half full kettle messes with the balance between steam jacket and mash temperature. easy solution: fill the kettle!

the fores came off in a more normal fashion, the (same) mash did not foam, the plates never dried up like with the half full boiler.

still working on the agitator so i'll let you know what happens with that.
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Sun Nov 06, 2016 7:47 pm

had a 15psi decomp on boiler today.

That was exciting! cooking a mash and it was getting too hot so i shut the steam valve off. the boiler normally shuts down before the overpressure valve lets go...this time, nosomuch.

I'm glad i was 15 feet away!
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby Brutal » Sun Nov 06, 2016 8:21 pm

Holy crap man I'm glad you are ok!! Was it a water heater valve? How long did it blow off before it stopped?
Steam injection rig http://tinyurl.com/kxmz8hy
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Sun Nov 06, 2016 8:37 pm

it's a 15 psi boiler safety, looks like the one on a hot water tank. it blows down into a pail of cold water, 15 feet from any where a person would be standing. blew a bit of water out of the pail and made a helluva cloud.

i was a step away from the strategically placed holyfuckswitch! and it steamed away for about 5 seconds or so after hitting the switch.

nice to know it works :shock: before anything really goes boom!
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby MichiganCornhusker » Mon Nov 07, 2016 5:16 am

HDNB wrote:...so i shut the steam valve off. the boiler normally shuts down before the overpressure valve lets go...

Might be a little glitch in your SOP, there HDNB? :econfused:
I'd say relying on the blow off to relieve pressure buildup makes it a part of your system, no longer a safety. Then you would need a safety for your safety.

I'd be concerned that steam mashing would mess with my malt enzymes, creating hot spots on heat-up and denaturing them.
Do you use the steam to cook up to a temp and then use liquid enzymes? Or is that what the agitator will be for?
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby still_stirrin » Mon Nov 07, 2016 7:56 am

MichiganCornhusker wrote:
HDNB wrote:...so i shut the steam valve off. the boiler normally shuts down before the overpressure valve lets go...

I'd say relying on the blow off to relieve pressure buildup makes it a part of your system, no longer a safety. Then you would need a safety for your safety.

It sounds like you need a whistle like an old steam locomotive to blow down the boiler pressure, with a control valve placed in the blowdown line instead of the steam injection line. That way you can't create a "closed system" by mistake.
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby hellbilly007 » Mon Nov 07, 2016 9:51 am

Glad to hear you or nobody else was hurt.
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby shadylane » Mon Nov 07, 2016 3:22 pm

Is your boiler electric?
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Re: Need some ideas on new steam rig

Postby HDNB » Mon Nov 07, 2016 7:43 pm

MichiganCornhusker wrote:
HDNB wrote:...so i shut the steam valve off. the boiler normally shuts down before the overpressure valve lets go...

Might be a little glitch in your SOP, there HDNB? :econfused:
I'd say relying on the blow off to relieve pressure buildup makes it a part of your system, no longer a safety. Then you would need a safety for your safety.

I'd be concerned that steam mashing would mess with my malt enzymes, creating hot spots on heat-up and denaturing them.
Do you use the steam to cook up to a temp and then use liquid enzymes? Or is that what the agitator will be for?


it's a gas boiler. there is a high limit switch...it cuts at 14psi, but everything was so hot and i closed the valve quickly, just as the boiler was reaching limit, the extra couple of seconds of fire was enough to push it past 15psi....i have been able to rely on the hi limit switch as the shut down, the PRV is a secondary and the holyfuckswitch! is the third. there is also rollout, flue blockage, low water, over water, make up water, thermostat and the main board that have to prove before anything works too. it's designed to be run closed and shut itself down...(or blow the PRV)

and yes, i shut down before adding liquid enzymes for exactly that reason...but i do burn alittle HTL on the way up to keep things stirrable.

actually now that i think about it, the boiler had shut down already...it shut down about 3 seconds after closing the valve...it was about 7-10 seconds later that the PRV went off.
i hit the panic button mostly out of reflex, i actually do drills (on the advice of TB). Still haven't forced myself awake at 3 am to load a gun yet though.

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