Keg still tower design questions

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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:04 pm

zapata wrote:I think huffing is a red herring myself. At that its caused and cured by HOW you run a liebig, not so much the design. As long as the condenser is counterflow by design, which it should be. Too high flow of too cold water causes huffing. Simply turn down your flow till the water exits warm-hot and huffing goes away.

I'm an unrepentant huffer and will huff all day under a few particular configurations. I think I posted on this sometime in the last month if you want to read the specifics, but I think it's a nonissue, and a piece of cake to solve, which I cant be bothered to do.
G'night :)


I believe I was reading your huffing posts as you were typing this. Think I understand what causes it, how to avoid it, and the different opinions on how important it is to avoid.

Also, I believe those same posts of yours referred to Liebigs being 'barely long enough' so it sounds like I should be planning for a 3'-4' liebig.

And your right, from your other posts, I see that you are an 'unrepentant huffer' :).
Last edited by fafrd on Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:11 pm

zapata wrote:This is what i meant by solid condenser...
fafrd wrote:The 'using plastics' thing is still befuddling to me.

First, I am not considering to 'use pastic' anywhere in the product path, only for the outer jacket of the Liebig.

Second, I'm not considering a plastic outer jacket as an 'improvement', but merely because it is much less costly and more importantly far asier to assemble (no soldering).

I'm wide-open to abandoning the idea, but I need a better reason that 'thermal expansion can cause some leaking'.

Among other things, I've built several copper condensers with plastic outer jackets to cool boiling wort - this design will be far easier for me to build than soldering together an outer jacket made of copper.

Again, I'll treat it a bit like the cork, why bother when metal will do? Soldering copper is easy peasy. You're gonna do it at some point if you're stilling, so why dodge it? It's also fun. Cost difference is probably moderate. Amortized over gallons of booze, it's pennies.

It's not that plastic is a terrible idea. It is one many have had, and only a few have been happy with. Interestingly enough the guy that invented CCVM designs, dad300 had a plastic outer liebig he was happy with. Dad is/was a big fan of being as cheap as possible about some things.
I have seen others try and eventually upgrade due to leaks, so it is just more fussy.
My main personal opposition to it is leaks, and is 2 fold.
1. Leaks of vapor or high proof alcohol are the only thing that really worry me. I keep a constant eye on the still, all seals and joints, and the floor around the still. If I spot a drop of liquid my heart misses a beat. I dont want any false alarms, or any known water leaks to make spirit leaks harder to notice.
2. Water SPRAYING worries me. I'm electric so still inside the house (well a finished outbuilding usually). I'm not in a dirt floored barn. I dont need the hassle of water leaks. To put it in perspective my ice maker is plumbed with a copper line because I've seen many a plastic ice maker line fail and flood the house. If code approved plastic plumbing is above my risk tolerance, than sketchy still plumbing is too. Especially because electricity. Now my elements are gfci, but the 120 outlets nearby are not. How much of a risk is this? I dont know, but the LAST way I want my family to find me dead is by me killing myself with a still. And the LAST way I want to get busted is by not killing myself but causing some sort of emergency that involves authorities. I go out of my way to be safer stilling than I am with power tools. If I shock myself with a bad extension cord using a saw in the rain, and someone calls 911 for me, ok, I'm an idiot. I do that during a run and the consequences could be different.

Once you know what you're doing with a still, these are the things I think about while running. How could I do this better, safer. What could go wrong. What would I do if it did.

You'll probably run across dads plastic condenser doing your CCVM research. Pretty sure he eventually replaced it. An all copper liebig will outlive you. Of course it's your choice.


I got around to reading the 'ground rules' section, so I now understand the rules against even talking about plastics. Don't want to get into trouble and don't want my posts banned, so I'm going to forego any further posts on the subject.

I appreciate the additional details about why any leaks of any kind when distilling are to be taken as much more serious than one would otherwise think.

If my soldering experience when assemblng the stack is as 'easy-peazy' as your suggesting, I'll be ready to consider soldering a copper outer jacket...
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:19 pm

zapata wrote:The possibility of making a CCVM is a benefit no doubt, probably the only one to me.

In light of you just like the design, cool, make the pot still version of a CCVM, plenty of others like them too. But do it right just use a TC end cap and a solid condenser design.


I found the thread on CCVM and so I think I understand that the only benefit of CCVM over a simpke pot still tower is when you want to add (and control) reflux to make purer distillates such as Vodka.

That's really not a priority for me now and I'm starting to understand the attraction of beginning with a basic reducer-cap design. It's simple and should be low-cost enough that if I ever do get interested in purer spirits, making a second reflux column (CCVM or whatever) would be a straightforward way to take that second step (when I understand more).

So I've kind of come full-circle and am now reconsidering the basic design I started with (as you suggested, and with your suggested mods).

Your Liebig length of 3.5' makes sense to me, and I will probably make mine 4' long with a ~3.5' long outer jacket.

Between 1/2" inner jacket and 3/4" inner jacket, cost differential is modest, complexity is identical, so any advice on which would be 'better' would be appreciated (as well as any reason the larger surface area could be inferior).

For the column height, I understand the 20:1 ratio recommended for reflux stills, but tower height seems to be less critical for pot stills. 12" of 2" copper pipe seems to be the minimum available, so I plan to go with that length unless there is a reason even shorter would be better.

And so the last design decision is 2" elbow followed by 2" to 3/4" (or 1/2") reducer versus 2" to 3/4" (or 1/2") reducer followed by 3/4" (or 1/2") elbow..

The latter is obviously less expensive and your first post indicated that the entire idea surrounding the benefit of gradual restriction is debatable. So especially if I want to make this first pot still column as inexpensive / basic as possible to learn from and gain experience with (to be complemented / replaced if/when I'm ready to go deeper into the rabbit hole ;)), I see the attraction of KISS and starting with a design very close to the one I was first considering before joining the board.

I'm always happier spending more money on upgrades when I clearly understand the benefit those upgrades will bring (though I'm also a fan of future-proofing and prefer to avoid obvious buyer's remorse when possible ;)).

So thanks again for that early advice - with a bit more reading and understanding I've come to appreciate how valuable it was...

zapata wrote:
fafrd wrote:The cost differential is modest, so if you were designing a longer condenser for safety to be used with a propane burner, how far away would you like to be or how long of a condenser woukd you recommend?

20 feet! I do not remember my propane days fondly and feel much safer with electric. Seriously 3-4 feet is probably fine, but I have seen people that did run like 8 foot condensers just to collect far from the gas though though they were almost comical.


Yeah, a 4-foot inner jacket with a ~3.5-foot outer jacket seems like a good plan.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby zapata » Fri Jun 08, 2018 11:40 pm

Lol, well now that you're doing research, and clearly thinking it through I feel like pushing the rabbit hole a bit deeper with a few thoughts.
You never actually said brandy, I did because that's what I think of when I think of wine. You said fortified wines. And maybe you know more than me, but my understanding is that they are not always fortified with brandy, but sometimes more neutral spirits even if those spirits are made from grapes. Again, you may know more than I do about exactly what kind of spirit is used in the industry to make fortified wines, or what would be best for your wines.

But what I do know is that reflux still are not just " to add (and control) reflux to make purer distillates such as Vodka." Reflux stills are used to make every kind of spirit from whiskey to brandy as well, both with hobiests and professionally. Yes they make and control reflux and reach higher purities than pot stills, but pot stills are almost always run twice, where a reflux still can easily do single runs of flavored spirits to whatever level of purity you desire. Aside from that, lots of things are different in ways that are kinda hard to summarize even having done lots of flavored runs on a reflux still. But in general it is a very reasonable thing to make brandy in a reflux still, and certainly a more refined grape spirit. Many people start with reflux stills, though pot stills are operationally simpler and easier to get closer faster to good flavors spirits.

Specifically I cant say much more. My brandy experience is limited to a single run of welches! And I've never even used a CCVM, though I have many runs on more traditional VM's which are operationally similar.
But basically just wanted to clear up the logic of ruling out the CCVM style pot just because you wont want vodka soon/ever. It's a sticky web, eh?

A 12" riser would be fine for any pot still. I sometimes run a 12", but often run a 3' riser, for subtle reasons not worth worrying over, I wouldn't see any benefit to <12". And in a CCVM style starting with a 12" riser in pot mode, to add a column (depending on how you build the lyne arm), you would be able to remove the top triclamp cap, and flip the whole thing over onto a longer column. Now the 12" riser would be where the reflux condenses goes, and the packing in the longer new column. It is an efficient solution.

BUT if you just have 20 gallons of wine to run, make a couple gallons of brandy and then you're more or less set for a few years and stop stilling, all these options are lost on you. Build whatever pot still seems cheaper/easier/faster/cooler.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:27 am

zapata wrote:Lol, well now that you're doing research, and clearly thinking it through I feel like pushing the rabbit hole a bit deeper with a few thoughts.
You never actually said brandy, I did because that's what I think of when I think of wine. You said fortified wines. And maybe you know more than me, but my understanding is that they are not always fortified with brandy, but sometimes more neutral spirits even if those spirits are made from grapes. Again, you may know more than I do about exactly what kind of spirit is used in the industry to make fortified wines, or what would be best for your wines.

But what I do know is that reflux still are not just " to add (and control) reflux to make purer distillates such as Vodka." Reflux stills are used to make every kind of spirit from whiskey to brandy as well, both with hobiests and professionally. Yes they make and control reflux and reach higher purities than pot stills, but pot stills are almost always run twice, where a reflux still can easily do single runs of flavored spirits to whatever level of purity you desire. Aside from that, lots of things are different in ways that are kinda hard to summarize even having done lots of flavored runs on a reflux still. But in general it is a very reasonable thing to make brandy in a reflux still, and certainly a more refined grape spirit. Many people start with reflux stills, though pot stills are operationally simpler and easier to get closer faster to good flavors spirits.


That's good to know. I'm not interested to run pot stills twice, so if I ever decide I need brandy purer / stronger than results from a single run, I'd probably want to head down the reflux still rather than make 2 runs...

zapata wrote:Specifically I cant say much more. My brandy experience is limited to a single run of welches! And I've never even used a CCVM, though I have many runs on more traditional VM's which are operationally similar.
But basically just wanted to clear up the logic of ruling out the CCVM style pot just because you wont want vodka soon/ever. It's a sticky web, eh?

A 12" riser would be fine for any pot still. I sometimes run a 12", but often run a 3' riser, for subtle reasons not worth worrying over, I wouldn't see any benefit to <12". And in a CCVM style starting with a 12" riser in pot mode, to add a column (depending on how you build the lyne arm), you would be able to remove the top triclamp cap, and flip the whole thing over onto a longer column. Now the 12" riser would be where the reflux condenses goes, and the packing in the longer new column. It is an efficient solution.


Yeah, this is making me value the optionality of the top port design again. Appreciate the advice on the 12" riser and will settle on that. I'll price out the cost difference of having a top port and decide if I'm happier investing a bit more in that possible future-proofing.

A few more questions for you:

T-Size You've convinced me I shouldn't get hung up on investing in a nore gradual constriction, but what about the T fitting for a column usable for CCCM - any reason it would be better to go with a 2" T and reduce from 2" to 1/2" (or 3/4") after the bend? Or will a 2" to 1/2" (or 3/4") reducing T work just about as well in CCVM mode?

Flange(s) I've seen the threads on easy flanges (including the instructables design I first stumbled into. An easy flange is great from a cost-savings point of view, but I can get a copper triclover flange for under $20 and I'm wondering if the easy-flange is a false economy. Any advise as to whether making an easy flange is easy enough that a newbie should consider it appreciated.

Copper versus stainless I understand that copper is better than stainless for removing sulfur but have also seen that dad300's CCVM design used stainless tubing with copper scrubbers, so I'd like to understand a bit more clearly which sections of a pot still are most important to make out of copper, the tower or the Liebig (or both)? Between the tower and the Liebig, which tube is most important to construct out of copper for a pot still?

zapata wrote:BUT if you just have 20 gallons of wine to run, make a couple gallons of brandy and then you're more or less set for a few years and stop stilling, all these options are lost on you. Build whatever pot still seems cheaper/easier/faster/cooler.


Yeah, I only have 20-gallons, but will likely have at least that quantity each and every season. A simple pot-still like the instructables design is cheaper and also easier and faster to assemble, but if I ever decide I need to do 2 runs, it may not be easier / faster to operate. Being 'cooler' (and cosmetics) are not a concern (but ease of assembly and ease of getting started are).

The reversible T column with top port is attractive. The entire column can even be made out of stainless TC fittings (if a stainless column with copper Liebig is effective in pot mode). It's probably not cheaper but assembly would be much easier.

Thanks again for your help and advice.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby jon1163 » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:49 am

fafrd,
Zapata has given you an amazing advice and I would just say that I can't add much to what he had said. One thing is evident and that is you need to read a whole lot more about other people's builds. As I said before checkout bad motivators pot still boiler build . There are tons of an out there that you can look at and read up on.

The only one thing I would say is that whatever you make try to make it versatile. I have two 15 gallon keg boilers and an 8 gallon keg Thumper. I also have an 8 gallon milk can boiler. All can be used interchangeably as any other piece.

eg.

1. I can use my 15 gallon keg boiler and hook it up to the other 15 gallon keg as a thumper for large stripping Run's

2. I can use my 15 gallon keg boiler and my 8 gallon Thumper for my normal whiskey runs.

3. If I have a smaller batch going I can use my milk can for a boiler and my 8 gallon keg for a thumper.

4. I can also run each and every one as a simple pot still.

5. Further, I can hook my reflux column up to each one of my boilers.

Making things interchangeable and versatile will save you tons of money and frustration in the long run.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby The Baker » Sat Jun 09, 2018 8:22 am

fafrd said, 'That's good to know. I'm not interested to run pot stills twice, so if I ever decide I need brandy purer / stronger than results from a single run, I'd probably want to head down the reflux still rather than make 2 runs...'

If you are making say brandy with a pot still you do not 'make two runs'.
It is common to make several (for the sake of the argument, say four) stripping runs so that you have enough for one spirit run.
That works out to one and a quarter runs for each stripping run you started with.
Not nearly as much.

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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Sat Jun 09, 2018 8:30 am

jon1163 wrote:fafrd,
Zapata has given you an amazing advice and I would just say that I can't add much to what he had said. One thing is evident and that is you need to read a whole lot more about other people's builds. As I said before checkout bad motivators pot still boiler build . There are tons of an out there that you can look at and read up on.


I've run a quick search and checked your earlier posts to me in other threads but was unable to find badmotivator's build (or yours). Is there a link you could share with me?

jon1163 wrote:The only one thing I would say is that whatever you make try to make it versatile. I have two 15 gallon keg boilers and an 8 gallon keg Thumper. I also have an 8 gallon milk can boiler. All can be used interchangeably as any other piece.

eg.

1. I can use my 15 gallon keg boiler and hook it up to the other 15 gallon keg as a thumper for large stripping Run's

2. I can use my 15 gallon keg boiler and my 8 gallon Thumper for my normal whiskey runs.

3. If I have a smaller batch going I can use my milk can for a boiler and my 8 gallon keg for a thumper.

4. I can also run each and every one as a simple pot still.

5. Further, I can hook my reflux column up to each one of my boilers.

Making things interchangeable and versatile will save you tons of money and frustration in the long run.


Appreciate the advice but thinking about more than one still is beyond my current horizon. By going with a keg-still and triclover fitting to tower, I've probably achieved what makes sense for now as far as 'standardization' / versatility.

More immediate concerns are:

Easy-flange is this really worth screwing around with or should I just purchase copper TC flanges?

Copper versus stainless I've read the metals thread and understand how important copper is to removibg sulfides, etc... I also understand that with a reflux still, copper scrubbers can be used in the tower, allowing stainless tower construction. What I'm not understanding is whether copper scrubbers can also be used in a pot still and if so, whether this would allow stainless to be used for the tower...

Cork versus Teflon gaskets I've also seen some recommendations to using cork gaskets for TC clamps, rather than the alternative (teflon?). This can obviously be addressed / corrected later, do it is less of a priority, but I'm still confused about which type if TC gasket is the best to use.

One design option I'm considering is to build my tower with a CCVM-compatible T followed by a short extension with a soldered 2" cap. This should add very little cost for now and would allow me the option to cut off the cap and solder on a TC flange whenever I decide to explore reflux/CCVM.

Is there any place I can read about whether copper scrubbers in a pit-still tower are OK or will cause a problem? Any pointers appreciated.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Sat Jun 09, 2018 8:37 am

The Baker wrote:fafrd said, 'That's good to know. I'm not interested to run pot stills twice, so if I ever decide I need brandy purer / stronger than results from a single run, I'd probably want to head down the reflux still rather than make 2 runs...'

If you are making say brandy with a pot still you do not 'make two runs'.
It is common to make several (for the sake of the argument, say four) stripping runs so that you have enough for one spirit run.
That works out to one and a quarter runs for each stripping run you started with.
Not nearly as much.

Geoff


Gothcha - thanks. So in my case, that might mean 2 stripping runs of 10 gallons each followed by a single spirits run, right? Are stripping runs much faster than spirits runs because you essentially collect everything and don't worry about heads, hearts, tails? Is there a place I can read more about typically brandy distillation with pot-stills and stripping runs?

What degree of concentration is typical of a stripping run? (is the proper term a 'low wine'?) So 20-gallons of ~14% wine will typically result in what volume of low wine to be further distilled in a spirits run?

And thanks again for your contributions.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby jon1163 » Sat Jun 09, 2018 11:50 am

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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Sat Jun 09, 2018 12:29 pm

jon1163 wrote:https://r.tapatalk.com/shareLink?url=https%3A%2F%2Fhomedistiller%2Eorg%2Fforum%2Fviewtopic%2Ephp%3Ft%3D68775&share_tid=68775&share_fid=55174&share_type=t

That's a beautiful rig! If I had access to a plasma cutter and a welder, I might consider something more ambitious, but as it is I'm planning to use my 15-gallon keg without modification (save removal of the tubes). A couple quick questions for you:

-I'm planning to only have the top 2" TC port (propane burner). That means I'll have to flip, siphon, or pump to empty and my access for cleaning will be very limited. In your experience, are there any showstoppers to starting off with that design?

-I see you elected to 'make the turn" with a full 2" elbow before reducing - in your experience is there any problem using a pot still with 2" to 3/4" (or 1/2") reducer and 'making the turn' with a 3/4" (or 1/2") elbow?

I'm actually considering going with a 2" T rather than an elbow to have the option of a top port, but the same question applies - I can use a full 2" T followed by a reducer or use a reducing T...
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby jon1163 » Sat Jun 09, 2018 4:50 pm

fafrd wrote:
jon1163 wrote:https://r.tapatalk.com/shareLink?url=https%3A%2F%2Fhomedistiller%2Eorg%2Fforum%2Fviewtopic%2Ephp%3Ft%3D68775&share_tid=68775&share_fid=55174&share_type=t

That's a beautiful rig! If I had access to a plasma cutter and a welder, I might consider something more ambitious, but as it is I'm planning to use my 15-gallon keg without modification (save removal of the tubes). A couple quick questions for you:

-I'm planning to only have the top 2" TC port (propane burner). That means I'll have to flip, siphon, or pump to empty and my access for cleaning will be very limited. In your experience, are there any showstoppers to starting off with that design?

-I see you elected to 'make the turn" with a full 2" elbow before reducing - in your experience is there any problem using a pot still with 2" to 3/4" (or 1/2") reducer and 'making the turn' with a 3/4" (or 1/2") elbow?

I'm actually considering going with a 2" T rather than an elbow to have the option of a top port, but the same question applies - I can use a full 2" T followed by a reducer or use a reducing T...
The only problem with using a keg with just the top 2" TC fitting is dumping it after your run. it'll be really hot and heavy. other than that it'll be fine. as for the reducer I don't see any difference between the reduction occurring before our after the turn or a T fitting.

personally I wouldn't put a T fitting on my boiler outtake because I wouldn't /don't use a thermometer on my pot still. trust me,a thermometer will do you very little good on a pot still. it'll require yet another opening for cleaning and sealing and won't tell you anything that placing your hands on the pipes can't tell you. you can't run a pot still by temperature.

I hold my hand on the pipe and can feel the steam level rise. when I can't hold my hand on the pipe about a hand width below the elbow for at least 5 seconds in about to start seeing liquor.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Sat Jun 09, 2018 10:19 pm

jon1163 wrote:The only problem with using a keg with just the top 2" TC fitting is dumping it after your run. it'll be really hot and heavy. other than that it'll be fine.


That's what I was hoping you'd say.

I'll be able to siphon out through the TC port, so at least as I'm starting, it'll be easier to leave the keg unmodified.


jon1163 wrote:as for the reducer I don't see any difference between the reduction occurring before our after the turn or a T fitting.


Good to know, thanks.

jon1163 wrote:personally I wouldn't put a T fitting on my boiler outtake because I wouldn't /don't use a thermometer on my pot still. trust me,a thermometer will do you very little good on a pot still. it'll require yet another opening for cleaning and sealing and won't tell you anything that placing your hands on the pipes can't tell you. you can't run a pot still by temperature.

I hold my hand on the pipe and can feel the steam level rise. when I can't hold my hand on the pipe about a hand width below the elbow for at least 5 seconds in about to start seeing liquor.


Yeah, I've understood that thermometers quickly become unnecessary and that's not the reason I'm thinking about including a top port.

Who knows if I'll ever get interested in reflux distilling, but if the incremental cost is small, I like the flexibility of the CCVM design. For the incremental cost of a T (which can be reducing) versus the cost of a reducer + an elbow, itvseems like an easy entry-point to start learning about reflux distilling. I may even just cap the pipe with a soldered cap that can be cut off if/when I decide to 'activate' the top port...
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby DuckofDeath » Sun Jun 10, 2018 3:55 am

Having a thermometer in your pot has one good use. When you get to temperature you can calculate the amount of ethanol in your boiler. That's about all it is good for.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby OtisT » Sun Jun 10, 2018 11:18 am

Afford, In a previous post you asked if adding some copper mesh to a pot column is a good idea......

Adding copper scrubbies or a roll of copper mesh to the short riser of a pot still for your spirit run can be done and is one way to get copper into an otherwise SS still. I would NOT do it W/O some form of pressure relief valve in the pot. The reason is that if your wash foams/pukes/floods it could force the mesh up to the reducer and clog your outtake. Boom! Way less risky on a spirit run where you know your wash will not foam/puke/etc.

If you go with the Tee at the top, a very loose cap on top could be your pressure relief mechanism. (It must come off or lift with slight and heavy pressure.) I often operate my open top column like pot by simply removing my reflux condenser and placing a flat plate on the open top. I have used a copper plate in the past but I switched to a small piece of food/heat safe cutting board with a little weight on top. Just enough weight to hold the plate in place and force vapor to the PC, yet any significant increase in pressure will simply list the plate and release pressure. No issues with vapor leaking for me. A few drips here and there, but nothing to worry over. Cheap and simple.

Just a heads up..... Cleaning you keg through that small top opening will be a challenge. You’ll need some form on high pressure spray nozzle that can be inserted and/or some good, firm, long, scrub brushes in conjunction with some good cleaning agents. After cleaning up after a few AG batches you’ll be looking for a friend with a TIG welder who can add a cleaning port for you. ;-).

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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Sun Jun 10, 2018 12:11 pm

OtisT wrote:Afford, In a previous post you asked if adding some copper mesh to a pot column is a good idea......

Adding copper scrubbies or a roll of copper mesh to the short riser of a pot still for your spirit run can be done and is one way to get copper into an otherwise SS still. I would NOT do it W/O some form of pressure relief valve in the pot. The reason is that if your wash foams/pukes/floods it could force the mesh up to the reducer and clog your outtake. Boom! Way less risky on a spirit run where you know your wash will not foam/puke/etc.

If you go with the Tee at the top, a very loose cap on top could be your pressure relief mechanism. (It must come off or lift with slight and heavy pressure.) I often operate my open top column like pot by simply removing my reflux condenser and placing a flat plate on the open top. I have used a copper plate in the past but I switched to a small piece of food/heat safe cutting board with a little weight on top. Just enough weight to hold the plate in place and force vapor to the PC, yet any significant increase in pressure will simply list the plate and release pressure. No issues with vapor leaking for me. A few drips here and there, but nothing to worry over. Cheap and simple.


Sounds like anoth reason a top-port 'T' design is more flexible than an elbow design, thanks.

I was thinking about soldering a copper cap onto my column until I get ready to activate the top port, but using it for a weight-based pressure relief valve may be a better interim use in pot still mode...

OtisT wrote:Just a heads up..... Cleaning you keg through that small top opening will be a challenge. You’ll need some form on high pressure spray nozzle that can be inserted and/or some good, firm, long, scrub brushes in conjunction with some good cleaning agents. After cleaning up after a few AG batches you’ll be looking for a friend with a TIG welder who can add a cleaning port for you. ;-).

Otis


I had hoped cleanout woukd be pretty easy, like a carboy.

If not, investing in a clean-in-place nozzle seems easier than adding a lrage port just for easier cleaning...
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:56 pm

I've posted this wuestion in the 'Soldering for Beginner's' thread but thought I woukd repost it here in case anyone can help.

I've decided to go with SS Ferrules and have purchased 2 - 1 for botton and one for top.

I'm leaning towards copper 2" pipe but first want to assure that I'll be able to manage to solder the SS ferrules to the copper pipe.

I have:

Radnor Stay-Brite 3.4-3.8% Ag / balance Sn solder
Radnor Stay-Clean liquid flux
MAPP Torch
Weller 175W soldering iron

Is there a way to successfully make this SS-Cu soldering joint with these materials and tools?

Any advice and/or pointers appreciated...
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby zapata » Tue Jun 12, 2018 8:54 pm

Make sure you get type M copper, the other types have thicker walls and thus smaller ID to make getting the ferrules in very difficult / impossible.

Wont need the iron. Flux, solder and torch are good. There's a couple folks having trouble soldering with active threads right now, though for the life of me I cant figure out their problem, might be educational to follow along though.

Personally I found it to be one of the easiest DIY things I've done even though I probably haven't soldered half a dozen things in my life aside from still building.

You'll also need some kind of abrasive like Emery cloth, a clean evaporating solvent like acetone, some flux brushes (always use a new one), a pocket knife or deburring tool if your pipe was cut by a pipe cutter and probably a BFH and a sturdy block of wood.

Watch lots of YouTube vids of you haven't soldered much before and you should be good.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Tue Jun 12, 2018 9:10 pm

zapata wrote:Make sure you get type M copper, the other types have thicker walls and thus smaller ID to make getting the ferrules in very difficult / impossible.

Wont need the iron. Flux, solder and torch are good. There's a couple folks having trouble soldering with active threads right now, though for the life of me I cant figure out their problem, might be educational to follow along though.

Personally I found it to be one of the easiest DIY things I've done even though I probably haven't soldered half a dozen things in my life aside from still building.

You'll also need some kind of abrasive like Emery cloth, a clean evaporating solvent like acetone, some flux brushes (always use a new one), a pocket knife or deburring tool if your pipe was cut by a pipe cutter and probably a BFH and a sturdy block of wood.

Watch lots of YouTube vids of you haven't soldered much before and you should be good.



That's encouraging, thanks. I've soldered my fair share of copper-on-copper fittings, but only a single brass-on-stainless fitting (which came out so-so).

Did you pre-tin the fittings and then solder together or solder them the same way as if they'd been copper-on-copper?
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Wed Jun 13, 2018 6:15 pm

So I've read through the CCVM thread end-to-end and I think building a pot still with the flexibility to be upgraded to CCVM is the way I am going to go.

I'm planning to go with a 2" column but woukd appreciate to understand what this may mean when I get to trying CCVM mode - I undestand that 3" will be more efficient/powerful/faster, but what is that likely to translate to in terms of a 20-gallon spirit run?

And the only other thing I am not quite clear on is the impact of product port size (ratio to column size).

If product port is 2" and column size is 2", I understand that once the reflux condenser is raised, the reflux-to-product condensation ratio will be ~1:1 while with a 1" port it will be more like 4:1, but what will this mean on a practical level?

Also, if I use a 2" port but then use a 2"-1" reducer, will this behave any differently than a 1" port?

I'm considering a starting column of 10-12" (copper) either soldered to a 2" copper T or clamped to a 2" stainless T (port size TBD as above) followed by a 2" cap and clamp for pot-still mode.

I was thinking about making a Liebig, but now that I've understood the advantages and cost-competetiveness of corrugated stainless steel, I'm considering using my leftover keg spear to make a 1" Dimroth condenser with 1/2" or 3/8" corrugated Stainless Tubimg...

Any feedback appreciated...
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby zapata » Wed Jun 13, 2018 11:19 pm

fafrd wrote:So I've read through the CCVM thread end-to-end

Attaboy.
I'm planning to go with a 2" column but woukd appreciate to understand what this may mean when I get to trying CCVM mode - I undestand that 3" will be more efficient/powerful/faster, but what is that likely to translate to in terms of a 20-gallon spirit run?

In pot still mode, no difference. In reflux mode, at least 2.25x faster, maybe as much as 4x (I don't have a 3" but the numbers justify 2.25x, some reports are 3-4x). In this case it is the area of the pipe, thanks to that r^2 a 3"D pipe is 2.25x bigger than 2". But you will have to feed it that much more power, everything else being equal. In real volumes, for a good neutral expect 1 liter an hour from about 1800 watts as a good beginner goal from 2" and scale up from there. Depending on what you mean by 20 gallon run, prepare for clock shock, reflux runs take time. There are calculators on the parent site to model both pot and reflux runs that would be good to play with, hit "calcs" on the links across the top and you'll find em.
If product port is 2" and column size is 2", I understand that once the reflux condenser is raised, the reflux-to-product condensation ratio will be ~1:1 while with a 1" port it will be more like 4:1, but what will this mean on a practical level?

Hmmm, well if using it for neutral, not much, you'll rarely want/need less than 4:1 reflux ratio. Makes a bit of difference at the end if you want to collect tails. I dont collect tails for neutral, but I do for say rums made with reflux. Brandy I assume you would want the tails. A minimum 4:1 ratio will just take forever to run the tails out, because volume of product is already dropping. Maybe not a very big deal?

Also, occasionally with VM stills, things just dont go the way our understanding says they should. I would look and see if anybody has made a 2" CCVM with a 1" take off. It SHOULD work, but if it's new ground cant ever be 100% sure.
Also, if I use a 2" port but then use a 2"-1" reducer, will this behave any differently than a 1" port?

Yes/maybe. If the reduction is after the downturn, it practically isnt there. Especially if there is a small length of 2" going down. This is due to the fact that alcohol vapors are heavy, and as soon as they are out of the energy stream of the column they fall via gravity and are less affected by pipe diameter.

If the reduction is horizontal and right at the port....maybe, to my understanding there is some question to this. Maybe others have sorted it, but I've seen some varying reports that make it less than clear in my mind. I would expect some effect, though less than if you just had 1" coming straight off the 2" column.

Not a recommendation, but think of a still with an equal VM port, and going horizontal for some distance before reducing. At some point the vapor is cooling and shrinking enough to offset the slight backoressure of the reduction.

Side note, most discussions of VM theory dont address the fact that some tiny backoressure is caused by the space occupied by the reflux condenser, which would have the effect of splitting more vapor to the vm port. Especially if you have your RC stuffed with mesh to make it more efficient, you are increasing this effect. So there are a lot variables at balance, some trivial in some cases and significant in others.

1 last thought. Over the years I have upgraded almost everything. Boilers, power, controls, fermenters, pot stills, reflux stills (taller, various designs) etc. But I'm still using 2" diameter reflux stills. Would I like 3"? Hell yeah, every year when I do a big neutral run I swear this is the year. But in 20 hours I make so much damn neutral that I forget about it....until I'm out again! So, take that either way, you can get by fine with 2" OR you may well one day regret not having 3". Do you ever see yourself making 5 gallons of azeo at a time? Often enough that you dont want it to be a marathon? Go 3". Perfectly happy making azeo a gallon or 2 at a time? 2" is fine. Hell, when I started 2" was a big column, lots of people were still using 1.25 or 1.5", as many Russians are today. I thought 2" was future proof!
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:35 pm

Truly appreciate this post - thanks for taking the time. More comments/questions below:

zapata wrote:
fafrd wrote:So I've read through the CCVM thread end-to-end

Attaboy.
I'm planning to go with a 2" column but woukd appreciate to understand what this may mean when I get to trying CCVM mode - I undestand that 3" will be more efficient/powerful/faster, but what is that likely to translate to in terms of a 20-gallon spirit run?

In pot still mode, no difference. In reflux mode, at least 2.25x faster, maybe as much as 4x (I don't have a 3" but the numbers justify 2.25x, some reports are 3-4x). In this case it is the area of the pipe, thanks to that r^2 a 3"D pipe is 2.25x bigger than 2". But you will have to feed it that much more power, everything else being equal. In real volumes, for a good neutral expect 1 liter an hour from about 1800 watts as a good beginner goal from 2" and scale up from there. Depending on what you mean by 20 gallon run, prepare for clock shock, reflux runs take time. There are calculators on the parent site to model both pot and reflux runs that would be good to play with, hit "calcs" on the links across the top and you'll find em.
If product port is 2" and column size is 2", I understand that once the reflux condenser is raised, the reflux-to-product condensation ratio will be ~1:1 while with a 1" port it will be more like 4:1, but what will this mean on a practical level?

Hmmm, well if using it for neutral, not much, you'll rarely want/need less than 4:1 reflux ratio. Makes a bit of difference at the end if you want to collect tails. I dont collect tails for neutral, but I do for say rums made with reflux. Brandy I assume you would want the tails. A minimum 4:1 ratio will just take forever to run the tails out, because volume of product is already dropping. Maybe not a very big deal?

Also, occasionally with VM stills, things just dont go the way our understanding says they should. I would look and see if anybody has made a 2" CCVM with a 1" take off. It SHOULD work, but if it's new ground cant ever be 100% sure.


This is exactly the input I was looking for. If the 'tried and true' ground for VM stills including CCVM is matched-port, I p'm going to go that way... And as far as 3" versus 2", your comments below have convinced me that 2" is the way to start.

zapata wrote:
fafrd wrote:Also, if I use a 2" port but then use a 2"-1" reducer, will this behave any differently than a 1" port?



Yes/maybe. If the reduction is after the downturn, it practically isnt there. Especially if there is a small length of 2" going down. This is due to the fact that alcohol vapors are heavy, and as soon as they are out of the energy stream of the column they fall via gravity and are less affected by pipe diameter.

If the reduction is horizontal and right at the port....maybe, to my understanding there is some question to this. Maybe others have sorted it, but I've seen some varying reports that make it less than clear in my mind. I would expect some effect, though less than if you just had 1" coming straight off the 2" column.

Not a recommendation, but think of a still with an equal VM port, and going horizontal for some distance before reducing. At some point the vapor is cooling and shrinking enough to offset the slight backoressure of the reduction.

Yes, I think I understand this. Sounds as though for a 2" column, a 2" T followed by a 2" elbow followed by a reducer to whatever size is used for the product condenser is the way to go...

zapata wrote:Side note, most discussions of VM theory dont address the fact that some tiny backoressure is caused by the space occupied by the reflux condenser, which would have the effect of splitting more vapor to the vm port. Especially if you have your RC stuffed with mesh to make it more efficient, you are increasing this effect. So there are a lot variables at balance, some trivial in some cases and significant in others.

All of this is on the fronteir of my current understanding, so let me see if I understand:

-since the 'free cross-section" is reduced by the reflux condenser, this will increase preference for vapor to take the path of product (vm) port (meaning 2" to 2" T might actually be less than 1:1 and a 2" to 1" T might actually be less than 4:1

-mesh surrounding the RC increases this effect (both from the cross-section occupied by the mesh and also by the crosssection occupied by any condensed liquid), resulting in even greater 'amplification' of the effective product (vm) port size.

One quick question, I thought scrubbers/mesh were generaly positioned in the column below the port and below the RC - are they needed in both locations?

But overall, my main takeaway is that 1:1 effectively results in less than 1:1 (meaning over 50% of vapor into the product (vm) port once is is fully opened / exposed) and that this design is the most 'tried and true' when it comes to CCVM builds.

zapata wrote:1 last thought. Over the years I have upgraded almost everything. Boilers, power, controls, fermenters, pot stills, reflux stills (taller, various designs) etc. But I'm still using 2" diameter reflux stills. Would I like 3"? Hell yeah, every year when I do a big neutral run I swear this is the year. But in 20 hours I make so much damn neutral that I forget about it....until I'm out again! So, take that either way, you can get by fine with 2" OR you may well one day regret not having 3". Do you ever see yourself making 5 gallons of azeo at a time?

No, never.

sapata wrote:Often enough that you dont want it to be a marathon? Go 3". Perfectly happy making azeo a gallon or 2 at a time? 2" is fine. Hell, when I started 2" was a big column, lots of people were still using 1.25 or 1.5", as many Russians are today. I thought 2" was future proof!


Yes. If I can run a total of ~20 gallons of 14-15% ABV wine through two stripping runs in one day and then a product run to get ~3 gallons of product in a second day, I'll be exceedingly happy with the performance of my first still.

Sounds like 2" is the right column for me.

There are some other questions I have, but I will put them in a follow-on post (since your response has closed all of these questions for me - thanks again).
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:28 pm

From everyone's help and especially zapata's, I just wanted to express my thanks for all the valuable feedback and advice. I'm focusing in on my design so I wanted to provide an update as to what I've settled on and to summarize rhe open points I am still struggling with.

I'm going to start with an unmodified keg, gas heating, and a 2" column still (I understand the challanges with emptying and emptying and believevI can deal with them).

Column Design:
-8-12" of 2" copper pipe soldered to a 2" SS TC ferrule at the bottom.
-2" T will either be copper soldered to column pipe or stainless connected to column pipe via another 2" TC ferrule (still debating and pricing)
-column will be capped with 2" TC cap (T will will have ~1" of 2" pipe soldered to 2" TC ferrule if made out of copper)
2" elbow connected to output port with TC clamp (another 1" of pipe soldered to 2" ferrule if T is copper)
-2" to 1" reducer connected to elbow (probably stainless but may be copper)
-1" stainless or copper Dimroth condenser made with 1/2" corrugated stainless tubing

In short, it's a pretty classic CCVM design that I plan to first operate in pot-still mode.

Here is the set of issues I am still struggling with:

Dead-space in T Operating in pot-still mode, if the port was an elbow instead of a T (like a classic pot-still), all of the bapor would be directed into the product port and there woukd be no 'dead space'. With the T, the 1-2" above the port will be dead and will trap vapor. Is this a problem? Wil these bapors be the lightest type meaning nasty vapors that belong in foreshots? Is this a non-issue or would it be better to run in pit-still mode with a 2" elbow rather than a capped 2" T?

Copper versus stainless I've settled on a copper column and am currently planning on making decisions of copper versus stainless for the rest of the fittings based on cost and/or ease of assembly (depends on how well the soldering of the stainless ferrule onto the bottom of the copper column goes ;)). Are there any other considerations for port, product elbow and reducer that I should be taking into account before deciding? (Same question for Dimroth condenser but that has it's own question below).

Dimroth Condenser
-Is there any impact of condenser length for a dimroth condenser? If the optimal Liebig would be ~40" long, should the Dimroth condenser be the same length?
-copper in condenser: since the coolant will be in corrugated stainless, if I choose stainless tubing for the outer walls of the condenser, there will be no copper in the condenser. Is this a problem? Should I include some copper wire wound around the corrugated stainless to insert some copper into the body of the condenser (or alternatively stick to copper for the outer tubing)?

With clarity on these last issues, I believe I'm nearing the point of being ready to place some orders and begin my build...

Thanks again to all who have contributed to my journey thus far.

-fafrd
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Fri Jun 15, 2018 3:45 pm

fafrd wrote:Dimroth Condenser
-Is there any impact of condenser length for a dimroth condenser? If the optimal Liebig would be ~40" long, should the Dimroth condenser be the same length?
-copper in condenser: since the coolant will be in corrugated stainless, if I choose stainless tubing for the outer walls of the condenser, there will be no copper in the condenser. Is this a problem? Should I include some copper wire wound around the corrugated stainless to insert some copper into the body of the condenser (or alternatively stick to copper for the outer tubing)?


Well, I visited my local salvage outfit and they had a 48" long piece of ~5/8" (OD; ID=1/2") Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) for $3 so I jumped on it and I suppose that means I've formally started my build!

I have some questions about building RC and PC Dimroth condensers from CSST which I have put in a new thread here: viewtopic.php?f=87&t=71139 in case anyone who has been contriburing to this thread has any experience building Dimroth condensers from CSST...
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby kimbodious » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:01 pm

fafrd, I use a SD Big Baby shotgun condenser for my product condenser. I bought it when I needed a RC for a VM still. Th Big Baby is about 10” long and has 3x3/8” vapour tubes.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Sun Jun 17, 2018 7:57 pm

kimbodious wrote:fafrd, I use a SD Big Baby shotgun condenser for my product condenser. I bought it when I needed a RC for a VM still. Th Big Baby is about 10” long and has 3x3/8” vapour tubes.


So after the Big Baby, all of that copper is just air-cooled / passive?

The design I'm planning is basically identical to yours up to the output port (not sure if I will insulate or not - probably only in reflux mode and not in pot-still mode).

But I'm considering to use another CSST-based Dimroth condenser for my PC.

So my question for you, given your experience with both CSST-based Dimroth condensors and more conventional PCs such as your Big Boy, do you think a second 2" CSST Dimroth could function as well for a PC as your Big Boy or is there a reason that would be a bad idea?
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby greggn » Mon Jun 18, 2018 3:31 am

> With the T, the 1-2" above the port will be dead and will trap vapor. Is this a problem?


No vapor will be "trapped" ... like electricity it follows the path of least resistance and that will be out the T to the product condenser.
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby kimbodious » Mon Jun 18, 2018 3:43 am

fafrd wrote:
kimbodious wrote:fafrd, I use a SD Big Baby shotgun condenser for my product condenser. I bought it when I needed a RC for a VM still. Th Big Baby is about 10” long and has 3x3/8” vapour tubes.


So after the Big Baby, all of that copper is just air-cooled / passive?

The design I'm planning is basically identical to yours up to the output port (not sure if I will insulate or not - probably only in reflux mode and not in pot-still mode).

But I'm considering to use another CSST-based Dimroth condenser for my PC.

So my question for you, given your experience with both CSST-based Dimroth condensors and more conventional PCs such as your Big Boy, do you think a second 2" CSST Dimroth could function as well for a PC as your Big Boy or is there a reason that would be a bad idea?


The copper pipe is used just for looks as a spout. That being said their is considerable heat loss along the length of it.

You are strongly recommended to insulate the column on any packed column reflux still.

I think CSST as a dimroth PC is a cool idea, go for it!
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby fafrd » Mon Jun 18, 2018 6:06 am

kimbodious wrote:
fafrd wrote:
kimbodious wrote:fafrd, I use a SD Big Baby shotgun condenser for my product condenser. I bought it when I needed a RC for a VM still. Th Big Baby is about 10” long and has 3x3/8” vapour tubes.


So after the Big Baby, all of that copper is just air-cooled / passive?

The design I'm planning is basically identical to yours up to the output port (not sure if I will insulate or not - probably only in reflux mode and not in pot-still mode).

But I'm considering to use another CSST-based Dimroth condenser for my PC.

So my question for you, given your experience with both CSST-based Dimroth condensors and more conventional PCs such as your Big Boy, do you think a second 2" CSST Dimroth could function as well for a PC as your Big Boy or is there a reason that would be a bad idea?


The copper pipe is used just for looks as a spout. That being said their is considerable heat loss along the length of it.


Thanks for the clarification - I have a crazy idea to exploit that "passive heat loss" that I'd like your feedback on (below)

kimbodious wrote:You are strongly recommended to insulate the column on any packed column reflux still.


Yes, I can see why you'd want insulation for a reflux column and I'm even thinking that insulation of the column on a pot-still could be useful to minimize the amount of passive reglux before reaching the product port / elbow...

Kimbodious wrote:
I think CSST as a dimroth PC is a cool idea, go for it!


Appreciate the encouragement.

Here's my crazy plan (for which I would appreciate feedback):

I'm going to have a column much like your pot-still (2" copper into 2" TC T).

I'm eventually going to build a CCVM column also similar to yours but will start learning to distill in pot-still mode.

So my crazy idea is to use a very long ~9' piece of 2" pipe as a passive condensor with a CSST-Dimroth condensor in the end (kind of the opposite of your PC, which is active cooling first followed by passive cooling - this PC would be passive cooling first followed by active cooling).

I can get 2" copper pipe pretty inexpensively if I purchase a full 10' length, so tuat is one of the factors driving this design.

I'm thinking to first cut off a ~12" legth of 2" pipe to form the pot-still column and eventually the CCVM-still column-extension. That's going to leave me a ~9' length of 2" copper pipe so I'm thinking I'll just solder a 2" ferrule onto the end and experiment with using it as a PC. The Dimroth-condenser end inserted up into the final ~18" will be the 'last-gasp' condensor for the vapor that makes it down that far.

When I get ready to build the CCVM-column, I'll cut off a ~40" length, reducing my passive + Dimroth PC to 'only' ~68".

This design will be about the easiest CCVM+pot-still ever to assemble:

12" piece of 2" copper pipe with 2 ferrules soldered on for pot-still column or CCVM column-extension
1 2" ferrule soldered onto remaibder of 2"copper pipe for PC (108" eventually reduced to 68").
40" piece of 2" copper pipe with 2 ferrules soldered on for CCVM-column
2" TC T
2" TC elbow
2" TC cap
5 2" TC clamps

Would appreciate any feedback on whether you see any problems with this design.

Would also appreciate any insight into what length of column-extension to plan for the CCVM-column. I'm currently planning for a 12" length versus my 48" CSST Dimroth twisted coil which is ~18" long (shorter than yours).

I figure with Dimroth coil inserted into the column as much as possible, the bottom of the 'U' should extend just down to the top of the lower copper section of the CCVM column (triclamp from column to TC T), ~2" below the product port.

Does this sound like a length that should work or am I better off making the column extension slightly longer or shorter?
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Re: Keg still tower design questions

Postby zapata » Mon Jun 18, 2018 9:54 am

That long ass shell condenser seems completely pointless. I doubt it will be sufficient to not need the dimroth, and if you have a dimroth there is absolutely no need for a long shell. Make the shell whatever length makes for convenient collection, preferably on a nearby table.

Never insulate the lid or riser in a pot still.
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