My New Small Scale Combo Still

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My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Mon Oct 27, 2008 1:54 pm

Well, the cold weather is upon us here in the NE US so it's time to hunker down for the winter season... I'll be spending a lot more time here at home, in my apartment, where I also work from... I wanted to be able to do some experimental recipe runs using a small scale still and the photos below show what I built... It still needs some work and a good spit-shine, but I've been happy with the initial results... I don't have any exact figures because the bulk of my equipment is stored elsewhere...

One reason behind this design stems from finding some scrap copper in a barrel at the back of a friends auto body shop... I told him how easy it would be to whip together into a still and he was somewhat skeptical... Now he's waiting for me to perfect this one so I can build one for him... I am currently looking for another 8-10 quart stock pot that will accept the stainless mixing bowl so I can use my 1500W element and controller... Test runs have all been done on an electric range with a metal plate for more consistent heat transfer...

When run in Pot Still/Stripper mode I fill the bottom of the column with marbles... It actually puts out almost the same high ABV in this mode as it does when using the stainless scrubber packed 18 inch reflux extension with a little tuning...

I've been very happy with the overall performance given the relatively small size... It provides me with more neutral spirit than I drink these days so it may end up being my primary still...

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More Details:

The column consists of 1.25 inch and .75 inch copper... The reflux extension measures 18 inches...

The condenser section measures approximately 9 inches...

I used 1.25 inch couplers to mate components, partly because the local Big Box stores only carry 1.25 X .75 reducers rather than couplers...

The stainless bowl measures approximately 9.5 inches and has a stainless steel sink drain attached... It might look like the rubber gasket is an issue but flour paste between the mating surfaces keeps any ethanol from causing leaching...

When running in reflux mode the upper reducer is calibrated to hold only one ounce of condensate before overflowing back into the column... I use a loose slant plate to deflect condensate from going directly back down the column which allows easy cleaning...

I will be replacing the needle valve and also plan on incorporating a small secondary condenser using either .5 or .75 inch copper because the final product comes off far too warm for my liking...

The primary condenser coil measures in the 7.5 inch range and was fashioned from just under 5 feet of .25 inch copper tubing... Approximately one quart of water per minute is more than enough to knock down all vapor and exits at 82F...
Last edited by rad14701 on Sun Nov 02, 2008 7:45 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby minime » Mon Oct 27, 2008 2:39 pm

WoW, Nicely done :D
Is that 2 inch copper or 1.5?

I had the same idea of a small scale still to try and understand pot stilling a little better. I went for a 25 quart brazier pot 'cause they're only 6 inches high but 18 inches across. My sister just dropped off 4 gallons of white wine she bought and didn't like so I'll be trying that out soon. Got lots of ideas for inside work this winter but all small scale stuff.
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:02 pm

Small at only 1.25 inch... I was adding more info while you were posting...
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby new_moonshiner » Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:41 pm

never mind I misread the part about the amount of water through the condenser .. I was gonna say condense 1qt. per minute I need one of those ... nice work Rad by the way ..
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby Ayay » Tue Oct 28, 2008 2:34 am

Your still is a jewel with a nice patina, thanks for sharing.
cornflakes...stripped and refluxed
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Tue Oct 28, 2008 5:23 am

Ayay wrote:Your still is a jewel with a nice patina, thanks for sharing.

Thanks everyone...

Actually, truth be known, what you are seeing is a second generation patina as I had to remove the original in order to get a good solder bond... Not my best attempt at sweating copper but I didn't build this in the shop and didn't have a convenient way to orient the pieces or secure them from moving about... I'd like to go over a few joints just to clean them up when I get a chance... All joints have full penetration clear through to the inside which is more important than looks...

If anyone has been following the thread about inverting sugar I have mentioned there that I will be mixing three small test batches of sugar wash in the very near future... That'll give me something to run through the still until I fetch my old water bed heater to put under or around my 5 gallon fermenter...

One more thing, there is a thermometer port in the reflux extension but I don't bother with the thermometer when the extension isn't in use... I simply watch for signs of vapor escaping and feel to determine when to begin water flow through the condenser... Most of what escapes before the head is up to temp is heads anyway, or so I'm assuming based on smell...
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:42 pm

I have more wash ready to go as soon as I make the secondary liebig condenser... The final product comes off far to hot and steamy for my liking, much like that of a Bokakob column...
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby Socrates » Thu Nov 20, 2008 3:52 am

Have you ever run this with an unpacked reflux tube (this was how bokakob ran his slant plate unit to operate as a pot still).

What I'm getting at is the idea that the short pot version you designed may not have been necessary. What's your experience?
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby ZAXBYC » Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:46 am

This is Awesome!

Looks like the one I've almost completed! -which is reassuring :)

Nice one, let us know how it goes! :wink:
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I operate a 20ltr, 2m LM Reflux Still, based on the Bokmini Photos http://s391.photobucket.com/albums/oo358/ZAXBYC/
I use the head part of this unit for stripping and as a Pot Still- produces LOTS of flavour :D
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Thu Nov 20, 2008 6:01 am

Socrates wrote:Have you ever run this with an unpacked reflux tube (this was how bokakob ran his slant plate unit to operate as a pot still).

What I'm getting at is the idea that the short pot version you designed may not have been necessary. What's your experience?

Yes... I've run with the column extension packed and unpacked... I usually run it in stripping mode without the column extension in place, however, because it almost reaches the ceiling with the extension in place and it bothers my neck to be looking up for such a long time... I've done so both with and without marbles in the lower section, between the sink strainer and head... Works great in any configuration and can produce a pencil lead sized stream without any problem whatsoever...
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:26 pm

Well, after reading recent posts about member experiences with winding a copper condenser coil I decided to wind a new condenser for the still described here... The original condenser works fine for knocking down the vapors created by the still but have been wondering if I could make a more efficient one without much trouble... This afternoon I just couldn't resist blowing off some work stress with some tinkering... I've mentioned before that I work out of my apartment and I get Spring Fever as soon as the first snow flakes arrive...

Anyway, thinking about the experiences that other have had, both good and bad, while attempting to wind copper tubing I decided to try a method I have pondered for a while now... I started out by grabbing a spare length of 1/4" OD copper tubing I had stashed in my office closet and went to work... First I attempted heating one side of the tubing and wrapping it around a piece of 3/4" copper pipe... I wasn't impressed with that method and scrapped it in short order... Too much work for the results... Never been keen on that method and definitely reaffirmed my opinion...

What to do next... I decided to simply use a pair of Vise-Grip pliers to hold the 1/4" tubing in place on the 3/4" copper pipe... Next, I very carefully and slowly started winding the tubing around the pipe, making sure I went slowly enough, and applying pressure in the right place, to avoid kinking or flattening of the 1/4" tubing...

Once I was almost a full winding around the 3/4" pipe I pulled out a piece of insulated 12 gauge copper wire that I've had kicking around and wound it around the 3/4" pipe as a spacer... True, some folks feel that no air space is required between coils but I don't totally agree... Not only does the air gap allow more turbulence but it also allows the coils more room to curve without flattening...

Now is probably a good time to mention that I have been kicking around several ideas for winding jigs and even full fledged tubing benders... I have several concepts kicking around in the old gray matter, some based on existing designs and others of my own thinking, but most are overkill for someone only needing one or two condenser coils...

Back to winding the coil... Using the insulated copper wire to evenly regulate the air gap between winds, as well as slow and prudent pressure applied to the 1/4" tubing, I was able to wind a nice condenser coil with very little effort and without salt, sand, or anything else in the tubing... When I got down to the very end of the tubing I used a phillips screwdriver inserted about a 1/4" into the end of the tubing to help with the last bit of the coil, pressing the coil down on a hard surface to make the last half coil...

So, how did it turn out...??? Great...!!! Now, I've made more than my share of coils over the years but very few this small... Again, this was 1/4" tubing wrapped around 3/4" copper pipe... This is quite a bit smaller than what a standard column would use unless multiple helix coils are used... Truth be told, the original condenser for this still was made by winding 1/4" tubing around a 5/8" mandrel, but there was a small amount of flattening due to the tight coils - one of the reasons I wanted to build another coil...

And how does the condenser coil fit into the 1 1/4" column...??? Tight...!!! Yes, it fits with some persuasion, but it'll need some work... I'll probably shrink it down a bit by sliding the 5/8" tube inside it and coaxing the coil smaller by twisting it... I may even wind some thin foam sheeting around the 5/8" tube to help avoid kinking... We'll see how that goes tomorrow... If I had to, I could live with a tight fitting condenser, but it might not be as efficient as I had intended... The goal is to insert a 1/2" copper pipe cold-finger down the center...

Okay, without further ado, here is are a few pictures of what this whole affair wound up being...

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Image

This just goes to show that it really is possible to wind a condenser without filling the tubing... Granted, if this was 1/4" ID tubing I probably couldn't wind this small without some additional help...

Hope someone find this helpful...
Last edited by rad14701 on Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby Hawke » Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:47 pm

A big factor in winding that small is the wall thickness of the tubing.
I made a couple of small coils without salting, then bought some tubing from a different source. The thinner walled tubing flattened and kinked just looking at it.
It is the very things that we think we know, that keep us from learning what we should know.
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby HookLine » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:17 pm

This just goes to show that it really is possible to wind a condenser without filling the tubing...


I've never used filling.
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:30 pm

HookLine wrote:
This just goes to show that it really is possible to wind a condenser without filling the tubing...


I've never used filling.

Neither have I, which has always made me wonder why people have so many problems... Brute force just causes a mess... :evil: You have to "be at one with the copper"... :lol:
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby HookLine » Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:48 pm

You have to "be at one with the copper"...


Yep, you gotta have your chakra centred and all your internodes harmonically aligned with the cosmic crystal vibrations of the great universal life force, otherwise there will be kinking and tears!

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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby billy_bob_95 » Wed Dec 03, 2008 7:01 pm

Made this condenser with 1/4 inch copper wrapped around a 2 ss pipe. No salt was used in the tubing. Was also able to wrap a fairly nice looking one with 3/8 without salt and no kinking. The 3/8 did tend to flatten out on the backside of the widings around the 2 inch pipe. The 1/4 wasn't hard to wind but the 3/8 was a pickle. Slow and easy

http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/25 ... 8918OhyhPl
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Wed Dec 03, 2008 7:44 pm

billy_bob_95 wrote:Made this condenser with 1/4 inch copper wrapped around a 2 ss pipe. No salt was used in the tubing. Was also able to wrap a fairly nice looking one with 3/8 without salt and no kinking. The 3/8 did tend to flatten out on the backside of the widings around the 2 inch pipe. The 1/4 wasn't hard to wind but the 3/8 was a pickle. Slow and easy

Yep... The larger the radius the easier it gets, but not overly easy until the coils are massive... Nice work... :wink:
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby Adverse Effects » Thu Dec 04, 2008 2:28 am

billy_bob_95 wrote:Made this condenser with 1/4 inch copper wrapped around a 2 ss pipe. No salt was used in the tubing. Was also able to wrap a fairly nice looking one with 3/8 without salt and no kinking. The 3/8 did tend to flatten out on the backside of the widings around the 2 inch pipe. The 1/4 wasn't hard to wind but the 3/8 was a pickle. Slow and easy

http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/25 ... 8918OhyhPl



now lets see you do 1/2 inch pipe wrapped small enough to fit inside a 2 inch pipe

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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby jaidormi » Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:45 am

Hi Rad. Hi everyone. I'm new to the forum, though I have been reading at least an hour a day for many months now. I'm building my second still (first was a stovetop pot still), and I'd like to base it on this one though using a keg boiler and 2" pipe. My question is this: does the two reducer design work because the condensate is occurring towards the perimeter of the head? That is, the two reducer design appears to only redirect condensate that falls into a ring around the wall of the column and not in the center, which I guess would make sense since the condenser coil above it is also situated in this way? I am just trying to understand whether there would be unintentional reflux in pot-still mode with this design. Hopefully I have been clear with my question.

Thank you all so much.

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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:58 pm

jaidormi wrote:Hi Rad. Hi everyone. I'm new to the forum, though I have been reading at least an hour a day for many months now. I'm building my second still (first was a stovetop pot still), and I'd like to base it on this one though using a keg boiler and 2" pipe. My question is this: does the two reducer design work because the condensate is occurring towards the perimeter of the head? That is, the two reducer design appears to only redirect condensate that falls into a ring around the wall of the column and not in the center, which I guess would make sense since the condenser coil above it is also situated in this way? I am just trying to understand whether there would be unintentional reflux in pot-still mode with this design. Hopefully I have been clear with my question.

Thank you all so much.

- j'ai dormi

A 2" version of this design should work great... I'm hoping to build one this Spring if copper is reasonably priced... I run mine in pot-still mode for stripping runs and can eliminate reflux by opening the needle valve wide open...

For a 2" version you might need either a ball valve or a gate valve to handle the output, however... There is a plate that I use to keep condensate from falling back down into the boiler... Similar designs use a trimmed down T as a deflector...

I'd suggest either 2" x 3/4" or 2" x 1" reducers... If built properly you can use the head for either pot-still or reflux column operation...

Hope this helped answer your questions...
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby jaidormi » Fri Jan 16, 2009 3:37 pm

rad14701 wrote:A 2" version of this design should work great... I'm hoping to build one this Spring if copper is reasonably priced... I run mine in pot-still mode for stripping runs and can eliminate reflux by opening the needle valve wide open...

For a 2" version you might need either a ball valve or a gate valve to handle the output, however... There is a plate that I use to keep condensate from falling back down into the boiler... Similar designs use a trimmed down T as a deflector...

I'd suggest either 2" x 3/4" or 2" x 1" reducers... If built properly you can use the head for either pot-still or reflux column operation...

Hope this helped answer your questions...


This helps, yes.

Some questions:

Why do you suggest such small reducers? I was thinking of using 2" x 1 1/2" reducing couplers, to minimize the vapor path bottleneck. Is something wrong with this? Finally, what do you recommend for a condenser using the two inch pipe? I have been having an awful time winding copper tubing, from 1/4" OD on up to 3/8" nominal. The easiest to work with by far has been the 1/4" OD. Do you think I could make one similar to this one and have it be effective for fast stripping, assuming it was long enough? Any other advice for condensers would be appreciated. I use the search function a lot for this but phpBB appears to have fairly weak search faculties for string parsing and this has made it difficult to find good condenser conversations.

Thanks again. You sure appear to be online a lot! ;)
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby jaidormi » Fri Jan 16, 2009 4:13 pm

Sorry, I did end up finding some really good condenser discourse. A suggestion as to length would still be appreciated however.

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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Fri Jan 16, 2009 4:24 pm

jaidormi wrote:This helps, yes.

Some questions:

Why do you suggest such small reducers? I was thinking of using 2" x 1 1/2" reducing couplers, to minimize the vapor path bottleneck. Is something wrong with this? Finally, what do you recommend for a condenser using the two inch pipe? I have been having an awful time winding copper tubing, from 1/4" OD on up to 3/8" nominal. The easiest to work with by far has been the 1/4" OD. Do you think I could make one similar to this one and have it be effective for fast stripping, assuming it was long enough? Any other advice for condensers would be appreciated. I use the search function a lot for this but phpBB appears to have fairly weak search faculties for string parsing and this has made it difficult to find good condenser conversations.

Thanks again. You sure appear to be online a lot! ;)


Don't worry about bottle-necking... The worst that can happen is a momentary acceleration of distillate vapor... That's not a bad thing because when it reaches the condenser section it will expand and add turbulence which will actually enhance condenser efficiency...

As for the condenser, a double helix coil should work fine... A single coil around a cold finger would be another choice although perhaps not quite as efficient for fast stripping... Either 1/4 or 3/8 OD will work because with 1/4 you have more coils per linear inch... Winding coils has been covered in-depth in several threads... I'd suggest between 8 - 12 inches for the condenser section/coil length, and closer to 8 inches...

Here's a hint for better searches... Use Google to search the site... Simple enter something like winding a coil site:homedistiller.org/forum/ as your search term... Notice the site:<site_name> clause... This also allows you to use any of the other advanced Google search features as well...

One more item worth noting... You will probably want a small liebig condenser on your output tube as the condensate is quite warm coming out the take off tube through the needle valve...
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby jaidormi » Sun Jan 18, 2009 3:27 pm

rad14701 wrote:Don't worry about bottle-necking... The worst that can happen is a momentary acceleration of distillate vapor... That's not a bad thing because when it reaches the condenser section it will expand and add turbulence which will actually enhance condenser efficiency...


Thanks for the suggestions viz. coiling condensers, search, and the leibig. But I'm curious with regards to the above; doesn't this pressurize the column which would change the vapor pressure? Also, if rate of production is tied principally to column diameter and wattage, doesn't this effectively reduce your column diameter and thus your potential output? Maybe I am missing something in the theory, maybe it doesn't matter.

Regardless, you must have a particular reason for you suggestion of the diameters that pertains to your design goals. Could you share this information?

Thanks for your patience.
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Sun Jan 18, 2009 4:04 pm

jaidormi wrote:
rad14701 wrote:Don't worry about bottle-necking... The worst that can happen is a momentary acceleration of distillate vapor... That's not a bad thing because when it reaches the condenser section it will expand and add turbulence which will actually enhance condenser efficiency...


Thanks for the suggestions viz. coiling condensers, search, and the leibig. But I'm curious with regards to the above; doesn't this pressurize the column which would change the vapor pressure? Also, if rate of production is tied principally to column diameter and wattage, doesn't this effectively reduce your column diameter and thus your potential output? Maybe I am missing something in the theory, maybe it doesn't matter.

Regardless, you must have a particular reason for you suggestion of the diameters that pertains to your design goals. Could you share this information?

Thanks for your patience.

There really is no perceptible increase in pressure, just vapor speed which offsets any potential pressure... The packing in the column would cause far more pressure differential than the smaller column size between sections... Don't over-think the processes here...

A good part of choice in sizes has to do with materials onhand and the price of materials purchased... I had all of the copper pipe and purchased reducers based on what I had... If I end up scaling the design up I will only want to purchase as little copper as possible and in the cheapest sizes possible... I can get 1/2. 3/4, and 1 inch in small lengths but 1.5 and 2 inch are only available in 10 foot lengths for the most part...

If you want to know more, like vapor speed increases, you can do simple area calculations based on the various copper diameters... For example:

Dia. Sq. In.
0.50 = 0.20
0.75 = 0.44
1.00 = 0.79
1.25 = 1.23
1.50 = 1.77
2.00 = 3.14

From there you can calculate vapor speed increases and decreases... More speed increase to decrease will result in greater turbulence which should in turn result in condenser efficiency because the apor will work its way into more nooks and crannies - to a point...

Now, to be honest, I'd go with 2 x 1 reducers for 2 inch copper... This gives a theoretical 4:1 vapor speed increase and decrease...

You also have to remember that "theoretically" it is best to have reflux returned closer to the center of the column packing... I find that to be a somewhat debatable theory, however...

And, lastly, as far as the wattage issue, we are attempting to reach an optimal temperature and ethanol vapor concentration at the top of our packed column... Whatever happens above that point is just reflux and collection... We just want to be able to keep the state of the vapor at the top of the packing as stable as possible...

Again, hope this helps... Feel free to continue asking questions... That's part of what keeps this craft progressing...
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby jaidormi » Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:34 pm

Here's my copy in 2" with a keg boiler. Finally getting together. I haven't sectioned the column yet for pot still runs (cutting 2" copper with a hack saw is no fun), and there's no valve on the take-off yet (yes I will shorten the take-off considerably; leaving it that long made it easier to handle while soldering with propane). And I need to finish the connections on my condenser. I'm going to run a 3/8" nom. copper pipe down the middle with a 90 degree capped elbow at the end, and mate the 1/4" coils with the end of the elbow for the return flow. And I will create some manner of union for the input and solder on some fittings as I see "fit." Also I won't forget to put some kind of reflux deflector in the head too.

Thanks for your help, Rad! I shall let you all know how she runs probably this weekend when I've wrapped her up and cleaned with boiling vinegar water, and when my Wino's sugar wash is done clearing. I plan on making Arakin potstill mode as my first beverage, which is an Anise-flavored beverage consumed in Lebanon, typically made from white grape wash.

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Keg boiler mated to column.
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Keg union close-up.
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Annealed tube with press-fit butt-weld ferrule.
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Rad-style column head.
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Not beautiful solders, but functional.
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby jaidormi » Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:40 pm

Here she is all assembled. Big girl ;)

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89" from head to the ground. Yowzer! It's my methanol recovery device for my biodiesel processor, honest!
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Unfinished condenser.
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Last edited by jaidormi on Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby rad14701 » Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:43 pm

Wow, jaidormi...!!! Looking mighty fine so far... Keep the pictures coming... Now, I'm jealous...

Just remember that you'll almost certainly need some type of condenser in the take off path... Either a liebig or a Graham condenser would work fine...
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby jaidormi » Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:57 pm

Thanks for the heads up on the take-off condenser. I may just try running a big worm in a pot of cold water at first. I am feeling lazy at this point and have spent a goddamn mint on copper and fittings! And hole saws... Etc etc. But I probably have enough scrap now to make a decent liebig or Graham... Maybe I will wait and see what the next morning and strong cup of coffee does to my motivation ;)

reflux-1.jpg
Scrap heap. Maybe I can make a Graham condenser with the 1 1/4" pipe and some 3/8" nom. soft tube.
reflux-1.jpg (173.57 KiB) Viewed 21754 times
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Re: My New Small Scale Combo Still

Postby HookLine » Thu Jan 22, 2009 11:02 pm

Looking good, jaidormi. Though your reflux condenser is overkill, only needs to be 6" long.
Be safe.
Be discreet.
And have fun.
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