Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Distillation methods and improvements.

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Barney Fife
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Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Barney Fife » Sun Nov 22, 2009 11:00 pm

In a "thumper" thread a few months ago, where the OP(original poster) wanted to try adding a thumper or two in-line, directly above his boiler, I questioned if this wouldn't turn out to be a glorified and/or complex plate column. I suggested that I'd try playing around with the idea of a small scale plate column this winter.

Well, winter's not here, but I have already played around with the idea, and while I have a lot more playing around to do, I saw in the "mentor" section where dnder replied to someone asking about 2" plate column designs, that he wouldn't find any under 4". Well, I'm here to say we can indeed make a simple and effective 2" plate column! Like I said, there's more to be learned, but what the hell, I'll put this out so other tinkerers can work alongside of me if they wish.

My pot still is a 15" or so 2", vertical column/lyne arm to goes into a vertical(downward) liebig(1" inside 1-1/2"). On strip runs, it consistently puts out 50-55% ABV, with a lot of flavor, but always requires a second and more often than not, 3rd run to yield a great final product, in the 75-78% ABV(hearts) range. What I did was cut into the 2" column and soldered-in a pair of slant plates, staggered ala bokabob, but each one oriented -upward- to CAPTURE distillate(where the bok design has the upper plate angled downward, feeding the bottom slant plate. This effectively gave me 2 plates that hold approximately 25ml each. The first run showed I'd gained roughly 5% ABV throughout the strip run! Not huge, but definitely showed potential. I added a 3rd plate before the next run, and gained another 2-3%. I now was now well into the low 60% ABV range at stripping speed. Not bad at all, for the minimal effort required to add the plates.

Here's where it gets interesting: wanting to do a spirit run right after the last strip, I decided to see if packing would be effective now, so I wadded up some copper mesh, maybe a 3" long wad that is wadded up tightly, and set back and watched. Nothing changed when pushing full power, but she responded nicely when I backed off a bit, as expected. About 1/4 way through the spirit run, I had an idea, grabbed a 12" fan, and set it up to blow directly on the column. Bingo! I immediately noticed a huge drop in distillate coming off the condenser! Sure enough, the ABV jumped to over 85%. I pushed more power, and got the condenser to give me a nice stream again, yet the distillate remained at well over 80%! Flavors came through very nicely, and I'll go out on a limb and say I got more flavor AND higher ABV than with my usual 3rd run. The ABV doesn't drop gradually as it did before during a run, but instead, the output slows, while the ABV holds pretty steady, until the ABV drops suddenly when at the end of the tails.

I've since done one strip run with the packing above the plates, and with the fan running, and was able to pull the strip at 80% in the hearts, though she dropped to the mid 70's in the early tails, then dropped like a rock to 20% or so at the end. Interesting to note that my tails are nearly as clear as my hearts; barely any oily appearance at all, where my tails were always easy to spot. The hearts here were as good as any 2nd run product I've ever done, and quite likely as good as most of the 3rd runs; very tempting to keep them as-is.

What next? I want to remove the packing now, and add more plates; my thinking is that these simple plates are working indeed as plates should work, and that is holding and re-distilling product, and because they do hold product, they retain a lot of flavor VS a non-plate, packed column.

More to come, later....

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by kingearwig » Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:12 am

only downfall I see to this plan so far is that it sounds like a nightmare to clean.

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Barney Fife » Mon Nov 23, 2009 10:38 am

There's no need to ever clean a still head; there's nothing there to clean, and the hot vapors will clean anything that would be in there perfectly, anyhow.

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by LWTCS » Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:15 pm

That sounds damned exciting Barney.

Do you have the capability to post an illustration?

For heavens sake, did you cut up your daily distiller for this experiment?


Wow, just realized this topic has been stickied wam bam 2 posts and it wuz stuck.

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by LWTCS » Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:23 pm

Do you recon an air cooled column would be preferable to a coiled condenser setup in some way?
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by LWTCS » Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:54 pm

Barney Fife wrote: I pushed more power, and got the condenser to give me a nice stream again, yet the distillate remained at well over 80%! Flavors came through very nicely, and I'll go out on a limb and say I got more flavor AND higher ABV than with my usual 3rd run. The ABV doesn't drop gradually as it did before during a run, but instead, the output slows, while the ABV holds pretty steady, until the ABV drops suddenly when at the end of the tails.
Can we talk more about this?
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Hawke » Mon Nov 23, 2009 5:08 pm

This looks interesting. Might be something in store for my 3" Bok. :twisted:
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by olddog » Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:01 am

I have tried a similar experiment, but not the same. I stuffed two scrubbers into the frankenstill, and the results were similar, good spirit production with an immediate drop off to tails.
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Barney Fife » Tue Nov 24, 2009 7:18 am

Olddog, did you notice if the flavor had come through as well with the scrubbers? I've tried them before, but didn't see the big ABV jump I got with the plates.

LW, yeah, I dove-in and hacked into my still <lol> Not the first time! At worse, this'll cost me a short length of 2" copper, and I'll likely make a new column when I'm done, anyhow, as this one is a bit rough and crude. Might be a taller column, too, if for no other reason than the fact I can't use a parrot right now as my condenser is too close to the floor already :? An air still is do-able, but this isn't one, and it's not my goal to make one.

On the idea of an air still, you have me thinking that I shouldn't have trimmed off the excess from the plates! They would act as cooling fins; hmmmmmm..... Would that be a good thing, or bad? It appears right now that we want a bit of cooling -above- the plates, to force some distillate to drip back into the plates.

Nobody asked, but I didn't add the little drip tab on any of the plates, so any overflow will run down the sides of the column and not drip down the center; not sure how much reflux we want here so I'm trying to keep it at a minimum. The goal is to have a few secondary distillations, right?

I'm open to more ideas and suggestions, comments, critiques. No photos; I haven't yet found a way to completely and anonymously post a photo; if I find a way that I'm comfortable with, I will.

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by rad14701 » Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:21 pm

Barney Fife, you can post pictures from right within the topic post panel now so you don't need to worry about not being anonymous enough... I don't think phpBB logs the IP address where an image upload originated from and direct uploads means there is no third party source... I think it's been close to a year since direct image uploads have been possible, or close to it...

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Barney Fife » Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:14 pm

Rad, there's a TON of embedded information within a jpg, and they're easily traced back as far as even the camera, if someone wishes to; of all the things we can put on the internet, few match photos for ease in finding the source of origin. I'll work on it...

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by kiwistiller » Tue Nov 24, 2009 2:05 pm

you can edit out metadata using Irfanview. as far as the digital fingerprint of a camera (The tiny imperfections and noise that can be shown to be from a specific digi cam), well to do that they need the camera, so you'd probably be alright. you can use a proxy for ip address.

Ontopic, I've been following this with interest. what would be the effect of placing a scrubber or mesh in between each plate? would that all of a sudden jump into the 'too much reflux' category? I know you couldn't take them out, so SS would be the material you'd want, and then you be limited to flushing it with acid or what have you for cleaning, but worth a thought?
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by rad14701 » Tue Nov 24, 2009 3:07 pm

Barney Fife wrote:Rad, there's a TON of embedded information within a jpg, and they're easily traced back as far as even the camera, if someone wishes to; of all the things we can put on the internet, few match photos for ease in finding the source of origin. I'll work on it...
Fully aware, but not paranoid... As kiwistiller noted, easily editable... I do it all the time using several different softwares for customers - who are paranoid... :econfused:

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Barney Fife » Tue Nov 24, 2009 3:51 pm

Just because everyone's pointing at me doesn't mean I'm paranoid... <lol> But there's no need for photos at this point anyhow; my plates are angled and sized like a Bok plate, and spaced roughly the same. They're 3/4" couplings cut open and hammered flat. But they all point upward, for to capture and hold the distillate.

Kiwi, the whole idea is to have something solid, simple, and repeatable. My goal is to not have any scrubbers in there at some point. If I can find a direct correlation of ABV gained per plate, we'd then have a simple formula for building our still heads.

The idea here is to have multiple small "pools" of distillate in the column, being re distilled by the vapor, with the higher volatiles carrying further up, and eventually out to the condenser, and the lower volatiles falling back into the pools to be re distilled continuously. Quite different than a packed column where the lower volatiles eventually fall right back to the boiler, thus stripping the flavor. At least, that's what I'm thinking at this point.

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by olddog » Tue Nov 24, 2009 6:49 pm

Barney, I did not notice any lack of flavour, probably because I charge the thumper with wash anyway, but I did notice the ABV at a higher level for a longer time, then dropping rapidly when I got into tails.
Just when I have got the Frankenstill to a degree where I am happy you come along with another development. I am now considering installing the two plates you describe and winding a 1/2" coil around part of the column, this would be fed with the exit cooling water from my leibig, removing the need to use a fan to cool the column. I am just wondering how far this development will go.
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by LWTCS » Tue Nov 24, 2009 7:11 pm

Ditto to much of what you said olddog.

Screw'd me all up now. :mrgreen:
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by olddog » Tue Nov 24, 2009 7:19 pm

I need a bit more convincing before I get the tools out again, putting a couple of scrubbers in is an easy experiment compared to major surgery. :roll:
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by goose eye » Wed Nov 25, 2009 4:09 am

barney have you thought bout a way of shootin it while it cookin. kinda of like a gravety feed external drip line that feeds the top plate. gonna need to be preheated but that aint no problem. this is just for carryin flavers - lite purees - if yall worryed bout them

so im tole

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by LWTCS » Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:03 am

Good question goose eye.

But if barney is using a fan to cool (part or all?) the column to promote pooling on the plates, would it be nessesary to pre-heat the gravity fed injection? Could an un-heated injection replace the need for the fan or any other kind of condensing system?

Maybe to far off topic, but related to gooses question:
Would a fine misted spray injection into the column,,,,,,,,,,work?

Just staring at my spare compresser and thinking out loud.
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Barney Fife » Fri Nov 27, 2009 9:10 pm

Goose, I had to think about it a few minutes because I had thought about it before, so I ran it through my mind again to be sure my thinking was right. What you're suggesting would make the still into a continuous still, where, what I'm trying to do is to create a bunch of little "thumpers".

Some guys charge their thumpers with wash, others charge them with feints, yet others simply charge them with water, right? With a bit of cooling right at the top of the column, I force some distillate to pool up in the plates, where the upcoming hot vapors re-distill them , much like little thumpers charged with feints, in my mind.

A continuous still feeds wash into the column, where the higher volatiles are heated to boiling before reaching the main boiler and turned into vapor, with the lower volatiles falling to the boiler. I'm not sure that we could keep the flavors as well this way, as I think these stills are designed to make neutrals only?

I have a corn and malted barley wash ready to run, and I hope to add two new plates tomorrow. By the way, I picked up some 2" test caps and tried hammering one fot ehm flat, thinking it may be an easy and cheap way to make plates, but wow, way too thin! So I'll cut open a couple more 3/4" couplings, which are a snap to solder in place, as my hacksaw blade is exactly the right kerf for these.

Anyone have an opinion on adding a small, perhaps 1/16" or smaller, "drain" hole to each plate? Seems that a continuous and slow draining of the pool would be beneficial?

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by olddog » Sat Nov 28, 2009 12:07 am

Barney you say you are going to install two plates tomorow, does that mean you are going to end up with 4 plates :?:
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Old Duffer » Sat Nov 28, 2009 4:39 am

Barney - Congratulations! I think that you have invented a whole new class of stills. As the inventor, please name your creation. We´ll be talking about this for a long time and a name will ease the conversation.

You´ll get a lot of comments fron packed column users, people who condense a lot of vapor to pour a lot of liquid down the packing. I think your still is a special case and you may want to conserve the heat. The parent site quotes Mike Nixon with "One sticking point is that many think that a vapor only condenses when it encounters a surface that is cooler than the boiling point, but this is not so. Condensation occurs when there is a path for the latent heat of vaporization/condensation to be removed from the vapor, and the resulting liquid will remain at the boiling point if no further heat is removed."

If Mike Nixon is right then we want to provide such a path. I suggest something - for lack of a better word - I´ll call a vapor antenna. It would start with a glass bead (as a heat insulator) on the end of a wire in contact with the condensed liquid. The wire would lead through the vapor rich area to exit the top of the still through a cork insulator to a heat sink. Plates at the top of the still would have several such antennas, lower plates fewer. The lowest plates would be filled by liquid running down the walls as higher plates overflowed.

I, and I´m sure many others, wait with kid-at-christmas impatience as this story develops!

OD

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Fester » Sat Nov 28, 2009 10:02 am

This Slant Plate Still idea is an inspiration. Simple to the point of saying, "Why didn't I think of that?!!" Traditional plate stills with bubblers and downcommers looked too difficult for me to want to attempt to fabricate. It will be interesting to see this evolve. On a 2" copper column there will surely be an optimum height and number of slant plates for an all purpose (strip and spirit) still .

Barney, did you stagger the location of the plates around the column or keep them inline with each other?

I like the idea of the fins instead of forced water to cool the head since I've made the change to worm in a bucket.

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by squidd » Sat Nov 28, 2009 5:49 pm

Old Duffer wrote:Barney - Congratulations! I think that you have invented a whole new class of stills. As the inventor, please name your creation. We´ll be talking about this for a long time and a name will ease the conversation.


OD
If Barney is too modest to suggest a name, may I respectfully submit "Barney Column".

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by HookLine » Sat Nov 28, 2009 6:01 pm

Interesting stuff, Barney.
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Barney Fife » Sat Nov 28, 2009 10:15 pm

The "Barney Column" works for me. Paint it purple and the kids will love it, too <lol>

I had 3 plates, added two more this evening, and still have three! Wha? I decided to hack up my trusty, but largely unused, Bok, and sat it onto the two new plates, giving me 3 plates, but I had to cut out the three earlier ones for now the column would have been too long and no longer fit under the ceiling. I did this to gain more column for to add more plates for testing, as my short column/lyne arm was maxed out for plates. I also gain the thermometer and a drain(the former product output line) from the Bok. I've now sat my pot column on top of the hacked up Bok which sits on top of the new plates. This puts me back where I was, in plate numbers, but I'll run it(didn't have a chance to run my wash through today) like this to see what effect the taller column has, if any. No packing, except for right at the top as before. I also carefully measure what each plate holds, and they come in at exactly 1/2 ounce each.

Here's a shot of where the old Bok meets the new plates; note how the plates are oriented/staggered/spaced to each other, and to the lower one on the Bok. It's a 2 inch column, so use that for size reference; the dark part to the right is some of the condenser showing, so don't measure that. The Bok's upper plate now does nothing but direct any reflux to the first plate. All future plates will be added in the same staggered orientation, above and below these, as space permits. Y'all should be able to follow from here forth without further photos, so don't ask for more; it's very simple.
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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Barney Fife » Sun Nov 29, 2009 11:02 pm

Finally ran my strip, with a few liters of feints added, as usual. I decided to go without packing; just the tall column and 3 plates. First 2 liters were each at 74%, next one was 71%, then slowly tapered to 45-50% at 6 liters. 7th liter was a bit cloudy/oily, but it cleared completely on the 8th, telling me I was done, and sure 'nuff, it was below 20%. This is very different and higher than my pot still ever ran at, without packing, and without the fan.

Interesting notes: I took samples off the old Bok output at 5-10 minutes intervals, now a drain, and all were well below 20% ABV, and all were very oily and tasted like late tails. So oily my hands felt greasy.. Yet, if I left the valve open, the ABV was much higher(didn't collect enough to measure, but by taste, it was well above 40%) and clear. There is no question in my mind that the little plates are re-distilling, to the point that they end up with nothing but late tails in them. Drainage is now my next task, and i think what I'll do is run 1/4'" lines from each plate to a common valve, and have a controlled "bleed off' from there, where I can collect the late tails from the plate pools, letting the pools do their thing.

Looking good! More plates to come!

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Hack » Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:57 am

I just read through this for the first time. Good stuff, Barney!

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by Barney Fife » Sat Dec 12, 2009 1:31 pm

Thanks; I haven't done a run in a couple weeks, and I'm getting antsy <lol> . Have another generation of the same corn and barley wash ready to run, hopefully followed by a rye experiment, so I'm now thinking of what my next changes will be. Two more plates, for sure, but I'm considering tapping off each one with 1/4" line to a common valve, so i can do some controlled testing of drain rates. My last run showed that the plates' contents end up at very low ABV and very oily, suggesting that plates are in fact stripping out the tails -during- the run; I'd like to drain the plates and collect the stuff externally.

Thoughts, anyone?

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Re: Simple, yet effective 2" plate column

Post by pumpman » Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:24 pm

Man I got to pay more attention in class. Great stuff, I may now ditch my inline thumper design as prety as it would have been. Please keep the R&D going and let us know how the flavor is affected with each change.
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