Build recommendations

Simple pot still distillation and construction with or without a thumper.

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Steve3730
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Build recommendations

Post by Steve3730 » Fri Nov 18, 2016 6:45 am

So after a year with our 4 gallon clawhammer still we're hook and know we need something bigger. We'd like to take time and do it right so I'm looking for recommendations. I have a plumber and engineer helping with constructing it and I work for a plumbing company so I have access to some great resources. We do mainly Whiskey and would like to do some Rums so thinking potstill is where we want to be.

For a boiler I'd like to use an old SS keg I have (15.5 gallons) and thinking I'd install a heating element and go that route so I can ditch the complete outdoor burner set up and be in my garage. I seen a set up with a drain at the bottom for ease of draining and recharge without breaking down for stripping runs so thinking of including that.

But column and head design i really don't know where to go. I've looked at the designs thread but I guess I don't know enough about them to make a decision on which is a better choice.

Thanks for the help!

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by bluefish_dist » Fri Nov 18, 2016 8:24 am

Keg with 5500 watt element works well. More than enough power to run a 4" column. Add legs so you can drain from the bottom, also add a fill port. If you can install a larger opening in the top, 4" or 6". Makes cleaning easier.
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Re: Build recommendations

Post by TxBrewing » Fri Nov 18, 2016 4:13 pm

I am putting a 4 inch on the top, a 1.5 TC for the element and coupler for a drain valve

Need to think the drain through

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by rgreen2002 » Fri Nov 18, 2016 4:34 pm

bluefish_dist wrote:Keg with 5500 watt element works well. More than enough power to run a 4" column. Add legs so you can drain from the bottom, also add a fill port. If you can install a larger opening in the top, 4" or 6". Makes cleaning easier.
+++1

I wish I had flipped my keg over for a drain! The drain is easy. Legs like bluefish recommended, a 2" ferrule into the preexisting sanke port (if ya got one) and then an adapter with tubing from the sanke to the edge of the keg. See the last pic in the first post here: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=312685" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow

I would never go back after installing a fill port. Have a 4" opening for cleaning/fill and a 4" for the still...


Go modular... use tri-clamps to make it more versatile/mobile

When it comes to type of still...I still( :D ) think a flute is the most versatile design out there! Make your whiskeys and rums in one pass then add a packed column for your vodka and neutrals.
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Re: Build recommendations

Post by FreeMountainHermit » Fri Nov 18, 2016 5:07 pm

rgreen2002 wrote:
I would never go back after installing a fill port. Have a 4" opening for cleaning/fill and a 4" for the still...
To the OP: I have a pair of 15.5 kegs with fill openings 4 inch and a 6. Now that I have both sizes I've found the 6 to be more versatile than the 4 in that it goes beyond just being able to clean the inside.

Trust me on this. More initial $$$ up front but worth it on the home stretch.

Drain with legs on a flipped over keg is almost a must as well.

Hope you guys can profit from some of our mistakes here.

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Steve3730 » Fri Nov 18, 2016 5:35 pm

Where do you put the opening? that isn't the column is it? Sorry having trouble picturing it.

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by FreeMountainHermit » Fri Nov 18, 2016 6:36 pm

Flip the keg over and use the "top" as a drain. The original bottom will nowbe your top. Cut and opening for a 4 or 6 inch ferrule and install. Another 2 inch opening next to the can be used as a fill port.
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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Steve3730 » Fri Nov 18, 2016 6:45 pm

I see i got ya, So then i come off the ferrule with copper into the column do I reduce it right away or keep it at 6"?

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by FreeMountainHermit » Fri Nov 18, 2016 6:51 pm

I have a 3 inch column so this is what I use coming off the 6 inch ferrule.

https://www.brewershardware.com/Tri-Clo ... ducer.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
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Re: Build recommendations

Post by FreeMountainHermit » Fri Nov 18, 2016 6:57 pm

Right off the keg. Fill port is behind the column. Sorry it can't be seen in the pic.
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Re: Build recommendations

Post by rgreen2002 » Sat Nov 19, 2016 5:00 am

the new girl 3.jpg
the new girl 4.jpg
This is how mine is set up. I think FMH has a similar setup as well but with 6" instead of 4.

In the second pic you can see my drain... I put it very low but I would rather have flipped the keg and drained from the sanke. The real reason I could not was that I tried to do the cut myself on the top (to remove the old 2" ferrule there) and it didn't come out right. So I went to a welder who gave me some help!
2" copper ferrule inside the original sanke access
2" copper ferrule inside the original sanke access
The star pattern on top of the keg was the downfall. I thought I could snug fit and solder past it but no such luck. TIG welding did that job nicely though.

That's another reason to flip the keg... no raised star on the bottom. Just be sure you get everything LEVEL!!
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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Steve3730 » Sat Nov 19, 2016 6:41 am

Wow those are some cool looking set ups. What type of column is that Free? Couldn't I make different colums depending on what I'm running?

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Danespirit » Sat Nov 19, 2016 2:26 pm

My advice would be to build with ferrules and tri-clamps.
As you are looking for a good pot still at first, may I suggest looking at Samohons plans?
He has made a very nice plan for a pot still. Of course, there are other easy options, too.
If you have access to a TIG welder, you can build a very cheap one in stainless steel. Here is how I made my pot still head: http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 9#p7318039
Whatever you choose to build, a pot still is always a good choice, as it can be used for stripping ferments, too.

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Steve3730 » Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:23 am

Samohons pot still head looks pretty simple and similar to what we use now. So think I'll go with that for the original build and can always add differenty columns as I go.
So from the tips I've gathred from all your post the still should have the following
-6" hole cut in the bottom
-6 " ferrule reduced down to 2" triclamped to connect copper column
- drain coming out what use to be the sankey
-fill port in top of keg
-5500w element

Am I missing anything?

What type of controller does everyone recommend for the element?

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Swedish Pride » Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:32 am

i just used a Jimbo style controller, works a treat
good advice given here by FMH and others
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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Danespirit » Tue Nov 22, 2016 11:03 am

A drain port is definitely what you want, it's no fun to handle scalding hot stillage.
A fill port is optional and if you have the option for such, I'd recommend installing it.
You would be able to fill the boiler without removing the still head (comes handy with a larger reflux column).
A simple SCR, is cheap on E-bay...see my super simple one here: http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... 85&t=58011
The picture below shows similar to what I currently use. It handles a maximum of 5KW and was almost thrown at me with free shipping, costs 10 $.
Of course, you can get other types too..but you would likely have to build a case for it, the one below is "usable as is".Installing it is easy and requires just one wire to be cut and connected to the terminals..that's it.
Edit: Different types of meters, can be added if you want, but ain't required. I run my still without, relying on my senses instead (a few marks with a marker pen, tells me roughly where to turn the knob to).
s-l500.jpg

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Steve3730 » Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:32 am

So I been compiling everything for this build when the question arised about using a doubler or thumper. I figured I'd just post on this thread instead of starting a new one.

So do you guys recommend it? Does it elimnate having to do a stripping run and then a spirit run? Pros Cons

Thanks

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Danespirit » Fri Dec 02, 2016 1:42 am

What you get with a thumper, can somewhat be compared to a second distillation.
Your rig will get a bigger footprint unless you build an inline thumper like Larry did: http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... er+concept
It will raise the ABV of your product and also smoothen it.
Of course it depends a lot on what you're putting in (wash, low wines or plain water).
Some run just a single run with a thumper on (for example Whisky), some do an additional run.
It's up to what product you want to produce and your personal preference.

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Steve3730 » Fri Dec 02, 2016 5:16 am

Danespirit wrote:What you get with a thumper, can somewhat be compared to a second distillation.
Your rig will get a bigger footprint unless you build an inline thumper like Larry did: http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopi ... er+concept
It will raise the ABV of your product and also smoothen it.
Of course it depends a lot on what you're putting in (wash, low wines or plain water).
Some run just a single run with a thumper on (for example Whisky), some do an additional run.
It's up to what product you want to produce and your personal preference.
Right now we been running wash in the 7-9% abv range, we do a stripping run and collect low wines that combine in the 35-40% abv range. and than we do our spirit run and do our cuts. Would a thumper replace our stripping run and give us the same quality product or would we lose quality compared to what we been making?

I know there are no short cuts for quality but right now with our 4 gallon still we are doing 5 mash sessions 5 stripping runs to produce 4-5 gallons of low wines to spirit run and cut. So trying to make our process more efficent without quality suffering

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Danespirit » Fri Dec 02, 2016 12:36 pm

I wouldn't say it replaces a stripping run, but yes..you can get a great product in a single run.
Besides that, a thumper can enhance the flavor of your product, depending on what you charge it with.
Some distillers fill heads and tails from a previous run in it, to get a more complex flavor profile.
I once made a great whiskey using a thumper charged with feints from a previous run.
A 4 gallon still is relatively small. However, I don't see the point in you're doing 5 mash sessions...a bigger fermenter would be preferable.
Rack it over in another vessel, so you always have a ready to run ferment. As long as the is nothing that could spoil it, it can be stored for quite some time.
Your upgrade will definitely produce a lot more, so you could use that small still for small batches of Gin or another flavored product. :idea:
Experimental ferments would also be obvious to run in it...

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by rgreen2002 » Fri Dec 02, 2016 1:34 pm

Danespirit wrote: A 4 gallon still is relatively small. However, I don't see the point in you're doing 5 mash sessions...a bigger fermenter would be preferable.


+1 and +1

Bigger boiler and bigger (or multiple) fermenter will increase productivity (efficiency is a different story).
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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Steve3730 » Sat Dec 03, 2016 5:54 am

sorry I didn't mention I addressed the mash session issue. Joined the local homebrew club, they have a brewhouse I can use and with their equipment doing a 20+ gallon mash at once is no issue.

So over all a thumper could improve my product rather I'm running single runs or running low wines through it.

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Danespirit » Sat Dec 03, 2016 7:29 am

Yes, that's correct.
With low wines, you'll get an even better improvement....provided you take the foreshots on a stripping run (I do, as there is no reason why they should be in there for further processing).
I see, that's definitely a good move.... 20+ gallons should keep you going for a while.

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Steve3730 » Fri Jan 13, 2017 6:34 am

So we are beginning to piece everything together for this build and had a question. colum diameter size 2" vs 3" and what is the recommended rise for a potstill?

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by still_stirrin » Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:09 am

Steve3730 wrote:So we are beginning to piece everything together for this build and had a question. colum diameter size 2" vs 3" and what is the recommended rise for a potstill?
A 3" column can pass more vapor at a slower vapor speed than a 2" pipe. Vapor speed is governed by heat input. So, a 3" line will allow more product throughput per unit time. Advantage...diameter.

The "riser height" for a potstill is a geometrical determination, that is, you ONLY need a riser high enough to allow you to physically collect at the product outlet. A tall riser (on a potstill) does nothing for you in terms of purity (or proof). It is a different story for a reflux column...but you'll have to go "back to school" and read about the theory for my statement.

Steve, you and your brother are quite energetic towards this hobby. But you're both seriously short on doing your mandatory reading. You really need to read more than just the answers to the questions you ask. Seek out the theory and fundamentals here in the forum(s) AND on the parent site. It'll help you with answers to questions you haven't even thought of (yet).
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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Danespirit » Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:24 am

The diameter of the riser, ain't that important.....the height even less.
It's obviously not recommended to use a way too small tube for this, as it stands to reason a tiny tube will cause high vapor speeds and eventually excessive pressure in the boiler.
If you have a piece of 2" leftover tube and a ferrule, make a riser out of that...it will work fine.
When you decide to build a reflux column, there is a simple rule of thumb to bear in mind: Height= purity....diameter= speed.
If you don't mind throwing a few more $$ on the table, I'd say go for a 3". When your column is just for a few bottles of neutral now and then, a 2" will do the job...
Have a look at the different option for a reflux column, before you put solder to the metal.
You need to do a lot of reading before you decide to build.

Edit: Was typing simultaneously with Ss..

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by rad14701 » Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:44 am

I concur with the advice given by Danespirit on the pot riser... The smallest diameter point in the vapor path is what is critical and that is usually near the product condenser... You could just as easily run 1/2" or 3/4" all the way from the boiler to the take off point... All the larger diameter vapor path does is allow for a small amount of passive reflux, which doesn't accomplish much at all other than extend run times due to the lack of reboiling within structured packing, and provides a small amount of volume to help reduce puking should there be some foaming in the boiler...

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Steve3730 » Fri Jan 13, 2017 8:41 am

still_stirrin wrote:
Steve3730 wrote:So we are beginning to piece everything together for this build and had a question. colum diameter size 2" vs 3" and what is the recommended rise for a potstill?
A 3" column can pass more vapor at a slower vapor speed than a 2" pipe. Vapor speed is governed by heat input. So, a 3" line will allow more product throughput per unit time. Advantage...diameter.

The "riser height" for a potstill is a geometrical determination, that is, you ONLY need a riser high enough to allow you to physically collect at the product outlet. A tall riser (on a potstill) does nothing for you in terms of purity (or proof). It is a different story for a reflux column...but you'll have to go "back to school" and read about the theory for my statement.

Steve, you and your brother are quite energetic towards this hobby. But you're both seriously short on doing your mandatory reading. You really need to read more than just the answers to the questions you ask. Seek out the theory and fundamentals here in the forum(s) AND on the parent site. It'll help you with answers to questions you haven't even thought of (yet).
ss

you're right I haven't read that portion. I've spent most my reading on mashing and running the still not the designs of the still and what makes it work. I'll do some reading on that end

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Re: Build recommendations

Post by rgreen2002 » Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:29 pm

Take a look at other still styles... you might find that you are looking for a different style and would have wasted time, money and labor on a pot (I still think everyone should have a pot still head...so useful). You may consider making it modular as well so you could just change the parts to the still and go from pot to reflux with a couple of triclamps. This sounds like a good stopping point for you guys to hit the books.

Also.... if you don't put legs on the boiler think about casters.... I have some heavy duty casters and now push the boiler all over the basement to where I want it!
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Re: Build recommendations

Post by Steve3730 » Tue Jan 17, 2017 4:23 pm

rgreen2002 wrote:Take a look at other still styles... you might find that you are looking for a different style and would have wasted time, money and labor on a pot (I still think everyone should have a pot still head...so useful). You may consider making it modular as well so you could just change the parts to the still and go from pot to reflux with a couple of triclamps. This sounds like a good stopping point for you guys to hit the books.

Also.... if you don't put legs on the boiler think about casters.... I have some heavy duty casters and now push the boiler all over the basement to where I want it!
making the still modular is definitely a priority. I plan on using Tri-clamps and Unions so that we can change the column. Pot still will be the first set up we go with since it is what we know and are use to running and down the road we can start messing with different set ups. I'm going to do some more research and when I put pen to paper and come up with an idea I'll post back to get some constructive criticism on it

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