Packed column Vs plates

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Packed column Vs plates

Postby ulster_beef1 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 8:39 am

Hi folks,

I may not be the biggest poster on here but I certainly read a lot.

Before getting into potential new still design, I have a question(s).

I have a number of various boiler sizes. For example, a beer keg, 25l and a 5l. I use these sizes as I use a 25l mash tun to create my wash. Once striped, I get 5l of 40% to make into vodka.

As explained, I use my 5l boiler to make vodka using a 1.3m packed column. 1m column with 300mm condenser. I can create 96.7% jungle juice. However, it's slow. 1 drop a second roughly. If that's what it takes, I'm OK with that.

However, I can source plates and bubble caps.

My question therefore is... Is there any benefit with my small scale in creating a new still using bubble caps. Will it be faster? Purer? Etc etc. Of course I get itchy feet and want to get making for a new hobby.

Anyway, if so, obviously I can create a new post with the ideas I have in mind

Thanks for your help in advance.
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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby ulster_beef1 » Fri Mar 15, 2019 1:32 pm

I have another question that I mean to ask (it may need moved) but I'm just saying this here as a note to myself for when I get a reply.

Thanks
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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby bluefish_dist » Fri Mar 15, 2019 2:21 pm

I have not found plates to run any faster than packing. I did find that sieve plates could take more power than bubble caps. At some point the limiting factor is the vapor speed, which is proportional to heat and column diameter. If you want faster go bigger and taller. Taller helps as you can get a more pure product without as much reflux. Larger diameter is faster as the area more than doubles from 2” to 4”. This means you can throw a lot more power to get the same vapor speed. I ran 2” at 1600-1800w and the 4” at 5000-6500w. About three times the takeoff.
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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby OtisT » Fri Mar 15, 2019 2:30 pm

Now, you are gonna start a war here. Plates vs packed. :ewink:

I don’t use bubble caps but I do know it is more expensive and complex to build a platted column versus a simple packed column. You will need a handful of plates to come near the fractioning potential of 1 meter of mesh. (See calcs page)

In my opinion, either type can make clean spirits and either type can be designed to produce spirits faster. The key is learning to drive what you have.

So, if it were me I would build a platted column if I wanted a plated column. There is definately a cool factor having plates to watch bubble. If limited money/time to build were a driving factor, I would just build a bigger packed column, assuming column size is your bottleneck. If you are looking at a 4” column diameter of greater, go with plates. Either plates or packed will get you to your end result.

If you goal is simply to produce faster, share some pics and details on your rig and maybe we can help. Type of column (VM/LM/CCVM, Boka, etc), column diameter, max heat/power, condenser details (type, size, fresh/recirc, etc)

There is always a bottleneck that limits production speed of a fractioning column. In most cases I have seen, the limiting factor is column diameter. The larger the diameter, the more power you can apply and still maintain a manageable vapor speed for proper fractioning.

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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby Yummyrum » Fri Mar 15, 2019 2:36 pm

If making a nuetral is your desire then you are better off sticking with your packed column .
Plated stills are used for flavoured spirits like Rum or Whiskey. Normally uou would use about 4 plates . To make a nuetral requires close to 20 plates .

Also your boiler @5 liters is really small . It would be hopeless on a 4” plated column . I use often 50 liter wash charge in an 80 liter keg on my 4” plated still and I still find it works better if I add about 10 liters of stripped wash to it as well .

When I did smaller 25 liter washes in my 50liter keg it just didn’t produce a long hearts cut .So on 5liters of stripped wash it would be pointless to try . Also concider that each plate is holding around 100-250mls depending on bath depth on it so theres possibly a liter held up on the plates .

So what about using a smaller plated column like a 2” ? Well its been tried a few times over the years but I don’t recall anyone saying it worked well .

In sumary , you are better off sticking with a packed column unless you wish to up production .
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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby Setsumi » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:22 pm

First get a bigger boiler or run 3 to 4 strips in your 25l boiler. For vodka and speed get a 3" diameter ccvm rig. Plates are very nice, doubt I will run else soon, BUT good product needs time and flavourless vodka needs much reflux wich means slow
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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby ulster_beef1 » Sat Mar 16, 2019 2:40 am

Thanks for your help.

I wasn't expecting as many replies. As explained, I've several still boilers that are interchangeable, so I'm not limited to just 5L. It was a size that suits me for making gin just.

This is my other question and it may need moved to the correct thread by an administrator if needed.

I can buy just about any still part and have people I can weld parts up for me. My only restriction is money haha. So, if I was to buy a plated column for vodka purposes. How many plates would I need and now the hard part for me... Obviously I'm used to a LM reflux column. Its simple to run... Close off take off valve, collect 78oC etc etc. When looking at plated builds, they look completely different. Does anyone have a link to how they run? Is there a take off valve in the same way as my column etc etc.? When looking, I can't seem to see anything other than plates, and leading into a U bend where the condenser is.

I will more than likely take on another build, that's why I'm curious.
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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby Yummyrum » Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:00 am

If you just read my post only two back you would see I said you would need about 20 plates for a nuetral
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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby Saltbush Bill » Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:24 am

You don't seem to be listening to the advice given. A plated column is NOT what you want as a vodka still......stick to a proper reflux still.
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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby bluefish_dist » Sat Mar 16, 2019 8:00 am

Stick with packed for a vodka still. On the hobby level sizes, it’s much cheaper to build a tall packed column than a plated one. You need a minimum of 15 plates to make azeo and 20-30 are better, with 40 being the most needed. The hetp of ss scrubbies is about 4”. Thus 4”x20=80” of packing. Also the more you can get above 15 plates the faster it will run.
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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby emptyglass » Wed Apr 10, 2019 7:52 am

A combination of both works well.

Plates dont work well till you get to 4" dia. or thereabouts.

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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby Bushman » Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:55 am

I like emptyglasses idea of a combination. I never mentioned this but when building my 4” packed column I took it down to Mash Rookies to finish it with his help. After the cleaning run we split a large amount of feints that I had and ran both his 3” plated with my packed column side by side. We both agreed that the product from my still came out better. I always thought the plated flute style column has the cool effect and I am not saying one is better than the other but agree with others when talking about cost vs outcome.
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Re: Packed column Vs plates

Postby emptyglass » Sun Apr 14, 2019 7:33 am

I should clarify what I meant. A combination works well when the target is neutral or vodka or other white spirit.

I've found packing is helpful for white spirits but not much good for brown spirits. Plates alone seem better at that job.

I've found this to be pretty true above 4" diameter. Under that plates will still work to a degree but dont do as well. Under 4" diameter and packing can be made to work very well. Really depends on your target product.

There is no one "right" way
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