Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

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Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby birdwatcher » Sun Jul 15, 2007 5:21 am

I'm building a new inline reflux still, utilizing a 36" x 2" copper pipe for my column.

Page 26, John Stones book, Making Gin & Vodka states that stainless steel scrubbers are ideal for the distiller interested in making 95% ethanol only.

They are available in my local big box grocery store in three packs, and they are approximately 2" in diameter. Very tempting.

In my first still, also 36" x 1.5 " column, I used copper mesh with great success.

I know this subject has been debated in the past, but I am unable to find the discussion in the search feature.

I would appreciate some opinions.

Thanks.

G
My sugar wash for ethanol is under the Tried and true recipes forum.
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Postby junkyard dawg » Sun Jul 15, 2007 6:29 am

stainless works fine for me. copper might be more beneficial in removing some flavor. copper mesh has more surface area, stainless is easy to clean and long lasting. copper is way cooler 8) ...

streching out the stainless scrubber and packing the column loosely lets the column run pretty fast and still maintain high purity. packing tight with fine copper mesh and run slow for very high purity in one run.

I like one scrubber packed loose under the reflux return. just enough to give a small amount of reflux a place to spread out...
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Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby birdwatcher » Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:45 am

Thanks for your comments JD. I was thinking this might be an interesting item for a voting issue. I attempted to set it up without success. Perhaps someone could assist in this regard.

Re the stainless steel 2" balls I saw; they do appear tightly packed. If I were to use them it occurred to me after reading your post that I would stretch out alternately each pad. It would require about 18- to fill the column, starting with the top pad under the condenser.

G
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Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby birdwatcher » Sun Jul 15, 2007 1:18 pm

Checked another big box grocery store today. They had copper?, stainless steel and brass scouring pads. I bought a pack of three so called copper pads, applied a magnet to them when I got home and it stuck to them like glue. Made in China.

This was from No Frills; Canadian still makers take note and beware.

This leaves stainless steel and brass that I can acquire locally with no problem.

G
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Postby duds2u » Sun Jul 15, 2007 1:55 pm

I've got two columns, ons SS and the other copper.
Stainless scrubbers work fine in the copper column but I have to use at least one copper scrubber in the SS column to make clean spirits.
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Postby bourbonbob » Sun Jul 15, 2007 6:03 pm

Stay away from the brass scrubbers, they might contain lead.
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Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby birdwatcher » Mon Jul 16, 2007 5:07 am

Stainless steel it is then. Thanks for the reassurance guys.

Have a good day.

G
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Postby hoochinoo » Mon Jul 16, 2007 7:39 am

Don't fall for imitation. Make sure that they are pure copper or stainless.

I purchased several copper ones and they started to produce rust right away.

What brand of scrubbers are they?
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Postby copperhead » Mon Jul 16, 2007 9:11 am

i think that chore boy brand are all copper and i think they make ss to but im not sure about the ss being pure.
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Postby sailor al » Mon Jul 16, 2007 7:58 pm

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Postby bourbonbob » Mon Jul 16, 2007 8:22 pm

sailor al wrote:Has anyone tried this?
http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page.as ... 51555&ap=2
al


That would work fine but scrubbers are easier to pack, I use large ones, stretch them so they fit neatly in the tube then push them in with a broom handle. I use a length of wire with a hook bent on the end to pull them out.
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Postby hoochinoo » Tue Jul 17, 2007 11:50 am

Some one posted this brand of scrubbers and the label states the product is pure copper:

http://a1061.g.akamai.net/7/1061/5412/h ... 244137.jpg

I tried locally to get them and was not successful, however I did go with the option of ordering a role of copper mesh.
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Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby birdwatcher » Tue Jul 17, 2007 1:33 pm

sailor al wrote:Has anyone tried this?
http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page.as ... 51555&ap=2
al


Thanks for this lead Al; I will certainly explore this. I'm a regular shopper at Lee Valley Tools in Ottawa.

Cheers,

G
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Postby Still_Crazy » Tue Jul 17, 2007 5:00 pm

I use CHORE BOY and O'cedar. O'cedar is a tad smaller. I also toss 3 scrubbers in the stainless boiler as my 'boil chips'. They may not be needed but sure won't hurt none.


Soak scrubbers (copper that is) in vinegar and they come clean, rinse and rinse some more, maybe even a little baking soda rinsing. The same should apply for structured copper screening like the art, craft, and brew stores supply.
I had a bunch of :x cheap-a$$ scrubbers.... gave them away, had no use for em. I learned to keep a magnet with me when gettng supplies, or better yet find one in the store so ya don't have to carry one with ya.

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Postby wineo » Tue Jul 17, 2007 7:48 pm

I have used both but just use the stainless ones now,but it depends on if you have enough copper in the vapor path.If you have a copper column,and a copper condencer then you have plenty of copper in the vapor path,and probably dont need more.If you have a stainless setup,then you need some copper in the vapor path to clean things up a bit.The stainless ones are easier to clean,and last longer.I run a stretched out piece of stainless scrubber in my condencer.It makes it cool better.
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby fishshepherd » Mon Jul 13, 2015 7:32 pm

sailor al - thanks for the lee valley suggestion on copper mesh. its perfect! i am filling the column tomorrow so i will add back in here how much i use for a 48" col if i remember.

cheers
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby Hound Dog » Tue Jul 14, 2015 4:56 pm

Holy crap. A link from an 8 year old thread still works?!? Talk about a zombie apocalypse thread......... :shock:
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby bitter » Tue Jul 14, 2015 4:58 pm

LOL yeah... That is the same copper I used for my packing the copper blocker from lee valley.

Works well and its 100% copper
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby carbohydratesn » Wed Jul 15, 2015 7:17 am

One downside to stainless scrubbers - that stuff is like razor wire. They get tangled easily, but you really can't pull on the threads. They cut your fingers. Ask me how I know :P

A strong pair or scissors, or even better, some big clippers, can separate tangled stainless scrubbers.
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby bearriver » Wed Jul 15, 2015 8:14 am

Glad I saw this necro...

Copper scrubbers need maintenance. If you let then turn black with corrosion in a product condenser or reflux condenser you will start picking up a very unpleasant flavor in your drop. I'd still be wrestling with that funky off flavor if it wasn't for Usge bringing this to my attention.

The only use I see for copper scrubbers is as a topper in a still that has no copper otherwise.

Stainless scrubbers need no love. I rinse mine in place with water when switching recipes. Otherwise I just leave them alone to do their job. Fores on the next run cleans them up nicely, and tail oils coat them until the next run.
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby emptyglass » Sat Jul 18, 2015 7:15 am

bearriver wrote:Copper scrubbers need maintenance. If you let then turn black with corrosion in a product condenser or reflux condenser you will start picking up a very unpleasant flavor in your drop. I'd still be wrestling with that funky off flavor if it wasn't for Usge bringing this to my attention.


This is the copper doing its job.

bearriver wrote:Stainless scrubbers need no love. I rinse mine in place with water when switching recipes. Otherwise I just leave them alone to do their job. Fores on the next run cleans them up nicely, and tail oils coat them until the next run.


You should ask; if the fores on the next run are cleaning the stainless, why are they dirty? From the tail oils? Why should you have a deposit of tail oils still left there? Are they not cleaning the tails as they should?

A copper still with copper packing needs no stainless, but a stainless still with stainless packing still needs copper (topper?)

This leads to a logical conclusion that copper is necessary, stainless is not. A smart man can make logical conclusions from this.
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby bearriver » Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:54 am

emptyglass wrote:
bearriver wrote:Copper scrubbers need maintenance. If you let then turn black with corrosion in a product condenser or reflux condenser you will start picking up a very unpleasant flavor in your drop. I'd still be wrestling with that funky off flavor if it wasn't for Usge bringing this to my attention.


This is the copper doing its job.


Are you suggesting that copper scrubbers or mesh should not have the corrosion cleaned at a certain point? What of the off putting flavor that I and others like Usge have reported after letting them turn black?

I use an all copper reflux rig on a keg and am aware to not clean off the built up oxide. The only issues I've had are with the copper scrubbers themselves after they turn pitch black, imparting a very unpleasant off flavor to all my spirits. They were packed into my RC and the product cooler for over a year and would get rinsed in place with water between runs. Those black scrubbers ruined my neutrals, being it was the only thing I and others could taste... Since switching to SS they still look brand new and do the job with no off flavors. My neutrals are actually neutral again.

emptyglass wrote:You should ask; if the fores on the next run are cleaning the stainless, why are they dirty? From the tail oils? Why should you have a deposit of tail oils still left there? Are they not cleaning the tails as they should?

A copper still with copper packing needs no stainless, but a stainless still with stainless packing still needs copper (topper?)

This leads to a logical conclusion that copper is necessary, stainless is not. A smart man can make logical conclusions from this.


My fores "cleaning" the next run comment was to imply that no flavor from one run carries into the next run. At least none that I can detect.

I'm all for copper stills and don't want to get into a debate about something I don't care about. My still is all copper except the boiler and a few small fittings. Smart man or not, those are my real world experiences with both types of scrubbers. If I ever use copper mesh again then I will clean the off the black corrosion after it builds up.

I really respect your expertise EG. Thanks for taking exception to my post, which you certainly don't have to agree with. I may have misinterpreted my experiences. Thoughts?
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby emptyglass » Sat Jul 18, 2015 10:12 am

bearriver wrote:Are you suggesting that copper scrubbers or mesh should not have the corrosion cleaned at a certain point? What of the off putting flavor that I and others like Usge have reported after letting them turn black?


I'm not suggesting you dont clean them, simply asking why you think they might be getting dirty in the first place.

I'm also suggesting that if you use such a small amount of copper, its bound to get dirty as its the only catalitic element present in the set up you describe. Like washing a car, the car gets clean, the bucket of water gets dirty. a big bucket gets less dirty.

There are sulphides and other undesireable elements produced in any ferment. They taste bad (not to mention some are harmful). Stainless steel alone cannot remove them due to its unreactive inert nature. This point you have noted.

I have a customer that wishes to purchase a full copper still. He has 2 copper pot stills and a third stainless pot still. He invested substantial amounts to procure the stainless pot still, but he wont use it as the product it produces from the same wash is inferior. Enough so to buy a new still. He dosnt want his brand tarnished by a stainless still.
If you feel your neutral is untainted by the use of stainless packing I reckon you'd do well to re visit the prospect of using copper packing. I feel your product will be dramatically improved. You are the only one that needs be pleased by what you produce.

FWIW, cleaning the oxide off your copper head will improve the taste, but it only needs to be done when the build up of oxide is sufficient to hinder the effect of the copper. Again, this is the copper doing its job. It will still perform well untill the oxide film is too thick. You'll know when its too thick by the fact it stops functioning as well as it could, as in , your product will have taste it didnt have.

A simple vinegar run will render it functional again, no need to dismantle. It need not be the full blown cleaning run that you'd do on a new still.
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby bearriver » Sat Jul 18, 2015 10:48 am

Here is a pic of the still in question. The coil pic is old... 3" LM packed with lava rock. Seems like a decent amount of copper for a keg, but, maybe it can benefit from more...

I am assuming that copper scrubbers become chemically inert in our purposes when the oxide gets to a certain point. When I experienced a positive change from swapping out fully oxidized copper scrubbers for stainless ones that are also inert, that confuses me a bit. If both are inert then I should have experienced no change, or perhaps even a negative one if the copper was just barely still working.

The only reason I used them at all was to add a small amount of turbulence in both heat exchangers. We're talking two small tufts, which is why I didn't pay any attention to them after they became badly corroded. Two very small tufts shouln't have a large sulfide reduction impact on a still with that much copper, or so I would have thought... :think:
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby pulsetech » Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:32 pm

When copper turns dark it can impart a crap taste if it touches liquid. i had some it the top of my product condensor and it made a crap taste
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby emptyglass » Sun Jul 19, 2015 6:45 am

Bear, if your using the scrubbies to create turbulance or some other non purifing purpose, then they have to be looked at in their own right for that job.
I'm speaking of coppers benifits to purifing, not for other reasons.

You may have been able to achive a better turbulant action by packing with stainless, but you may have possibly achived the same result using copper. it may be down to how the coil was packed, not the material. The 2 "tufts" may have been installed differently, i dont know.

But copper can achieve things stainless cant on its own.

Pulse, if you think of the example i mentioned before about washing a car, copper mesh can become quickly saturated if theres not much other contact. Think of trying to was a car with a cup of water.
Its not beyond thinking that the copper is quickly becoming saturated in a stainless still, hence why it needs to be replaced/cleaned after very little use. When it becomes saturated and cant do its job, the stuff your tasting is not from contact with bad copper, but from no contact with any other copper.
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby carbohydratesn » Sun Jul 19, 2015 7:14 am

This leads to a logical conclusion that copper is necessary, stainless is not. A smart man can make logical conclusions from this.


One can indeed.

When aging, a container for the liquor is necessary. Oak is not. Are you going to follow the same "logical conclusion" and stop aging with oak?
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby emptyglass » Mon Jul 20, 2015 1:01 am

Sorry carbo, I must be missing something. Can you explain the leap of logic there?

Are you saying oak can be used as packing?
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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby yakattack » Mon Jul 20, 2015 4:38 am

carbohydratesn wrote:
This leads to a logical conclusion that copper is necessary, stainless is not. A smart man can make logical conclusions from this.


One can indeed.

When aging, a container for the liquor is necessary. Oak is not. Are you going to follow the same "logical conclusion" and stop aging with oak?


In fact oak is not necessary my friend. It is simply one type of aging that brings out different flavour profiles. This was a very poor example to use, and truthfully (and as respectfully as I can say this) shows your ignorance of this aspect of the hobby.

I'm not sure what point you were trying to make with this comment but you missed it by a mile.

Copper in the vapor path removes unwanted chemicals from our product. Yes they need to be cleaned once in a while. That's is up to you how often you do it. But it needs to be there. My column is copper and I find it removes more than enough but I also have some in my Rc that I switch out once in a while.

Oak is not necessary. Some (like me) use maple. I also age without wood. I find some blends don't need oak. Just time. As that is all aging is.

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Re: Stainless Steel vs Copper Mesh Scrubbers

Postby casper the Irish » Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:49 am

Are you guys down your rabbit hole again?

Copper I'd good to scrub reactive sulphides etc
You evidence tat in the bottom few inches if you care to look and clean the packing. But not beyond. Correct?

What is packing for?

Not cleaning, but refluxing.

1. Copper mesh "wilts" and collapses with use where ss mesh does not. So ss mesh works better longer as expanded surface area for reflux Is this wilt caused by acid cleaning?

2. Copper acts as a catalyst in the production of Ethyl Carbamate. Fine if it's returned to the bottom of your column as a ppt or saturated salt. Not good if concentrated then spurted out with product....
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