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What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:13 pm
by MadDigitalScience
Hi All,
Took a long break from the hobby due to family reasons. Just this week, I did my first batch of brandy in about 3 years using my homemade pot still. It came out pretty good, but MAN, I forgot how much work this is!

So, I'm thinking that I might like to build something new - something with a larger capacity that will require less babying.
I'm thinking column still of some sort with a coolant pump and a PID controller will at least allow me to do a stripping run on a Saturday while I do other chores, checking on it periodically.

Is there anything else I can do to save time?

What do y'all think?

---Edit---
Thanks guys. The safety advice is duly noted.
Forgot to mention, that this will be set up in my backyard in an area that is out of view of neighbors. Most of the time it will be within sight.
Might run inside for a few minute here and there, though.

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:26 pm
by acfixer69
We don't condone any "hand's off" design. What you do in your still room is up to you. Unattended still are a safety hazard and will only set back the likeliness of legal distillation. This type of discussion never end well but we will watch.

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:28 pm
by greggn
This thread should be locked.

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:40 pm
by acfixer69
greggn wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:28 pm
This thread should be locked.
We got it and will lock if necessary. I like to let the OP and membership have their say. Shutting down a single post not unless a rule breaker then I'll just move it is that alright with you.

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 4:13 pm
by NZChris
If you want to speed it up, build a Charentais style preheater.

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 4:17 pm
by The Baker
MadDigitalScience wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:13 pm
Hi All,
Took a long break from the hobby due to family reasons. Just this week, I did my first batch of brandy in about 3 years using my homemade pot still. It came out pretty good, but MAN, I forgot how much work this is!

So, I'm thinking that I might like to build something new - something with a larger capacity that will require less babying.
I'm thinking column still of some sort with a coolant pump and a PID controller will at least allow me to do a stripping run on a Saturday while I do other chores, checking on it periodically.

Is there anything else I can do to save time?

What do y'all think?
I think some took "hands-off" as meaning "unsupervised". (Certainly 'checking on it periodically' is a no-no).
But it has another meaning, literally, not much work with the hands.

I am soon moving from a stock pot sitting on the wok burner of my grill to a (similar to a) keg with an electric element. With a drain at the bottom.
And it will be comparatively hands-off.
At the moment I empty and re-fill the still much more often, and remove and re-do the bread dough seal around the lid each time; which involves removing then replacing the condenser (which fits in a hole in the lid) along with its water connexions.
It works fine but all that is a real pain.
Boy, am I looking forward to "hands-off"!
But, it will be supervised.
(And later I want a pre-heater.
And maybe a condenser that uses the beer as a coolant while it warms the beer; thanks, Manu.)

Geoff

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 6:13 pm
by Saltbush Bill
I read the original post as wandering away and doing other things coming back occasionally to check on things.
Not a good idea.....if something goes wrong...it will happen when your not there. Murphy's Law dictates that it will be so.
There are enough storys of still fires other accidents and close calls around the forums, we dont need more.

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 6:37 pm
by Expat
The best hands off design is your local liquor store or legal micro distiller. Completely work free and mostly safe lol

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 7:10 pm
by NZChris
If I dropped dead during a stripping run my still would cut the heat and turn the cooling water off when it was done without spilling a drop of likker.

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 10:38 pm
by Yummyrum
Doing big batches is the go . It’s all a out scale . A 5 liter pot still will take as long t do a run as a 50 liter one . The 50 liter still has 10x as much heat under it so the run takes the same amount of time .

But you get 10x as much product for your effort . ....or looking at it another way , you only need to be hands on for 1/10 of the time :thumbup:

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 10:49 pm
by The Baker
NZChris wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 7:10 pm
If I dropped dead during a stripping run my still would cut the heat and turn the cooling water off when it was done without spilling a drop of likker.
Way to go I guess.

Geoff

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 6:45 am
by Birrofilo
An open backyard seems to me to be fairly safe. I don't see any possible danger besides alerting the neighboorhood which, depending where you live, is no small problem.

A PID can probably be programmed in a complicated way, e.g. you could instruct it to cut the heat (supposing it's electric, or it's electrically managed) if certain conditions apply (e.g. if the water pump in the final condenser is broken, the final condenser gets hotter, and the PID cuts the energy to the still).
I have seen somewhere a pressure sensor connected to a PID. You could also put the pressure sensor in your still, and cut the heat if the pressure goes beyond a certain value.
I would also apply a safety valve for pressure anyway (my still has a safety valve on the lid of the kettle, and I don't plan to leave it unattended, but more safety is better safety).
If you really want a hands-off still, I would also apply a safety valve on top of it.

There is a channel on YouTube, "Open Source Distilling", and the person running it is doing some videos and he just "begun", but the program is to use the new technology and applying it to distilling. I suppose sooner or later he will come out with some sort of semi-automatic still. He is focusing on working in an apartment though, so he's not going to produce a "hands-off" still.

I would also suggest taking advantage of remote (Wi-Fi or bluetooth, better Wi-Fi in your case) thermometers. While you have the still "in sight", you can also have a remote display for temperatures in your house, so that you can check e.g. the temperature on the top of the column, on the condenser water, etc.
Those thermometers usually have an alarm so you can set a bell when the still starts producing etc.
Some stills have a pressure gauge on the kettle.
By the same token, I suggest you find for a "remote pressure gauge" or a "remote wireless pressure gauge", so that you can keep the pressure gauge in sight as if you were there also when you are inside your house. (Do place a safety valve in any case).

You will in any case have to go to the still to change collection jars, so it cannot be left unattended for long times unless you intend to strip.

Ultimately I think a "hands-off" still, if complicated, is safer than an "hands-on" one because the man operating it can fall asleep (that's human), or can have a sudden illness or a heartstroke... a still which is able to turn itself down by itself is safer, or which can sound an alarm or turn itself off if pressure builds up etc.

With a PID this is easy as you can program the PID to cut heat when the vapour temperature reaches a certain high threshold so the still will gracefully turn itself down even if you fall asleep, which can happen "in the best of families" as well, and can even turn off the heat in case of pressure.

IMHO the only danger in the open is that the still builds up pressure and ultimately explodes: leaks are not a danger when you are in the open air; pressure is always a danger (you distill a broth with solids, and they clog the column).

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 8:34 am
by Durhommer
If you want hands off likker sto is for you but if u have money to burn get yourself a genio still Google it George from YouTube's barley and hops has one its fuggin spaceage!! It also cost around 8thousand but damn if I were rich is be gettin one its basically set it and forget it

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:49 am
by LWTCS
Can intellectualize till the cows come home. Leaving the stilling area is just not going to be condoned here if I had to bet money.

Of course with enough process control most machinery/equipment can be made to run with out human intervention. Kind of like that automatic Uber car that killed that lady.....

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 3:51 pm
by NZChris
A PID would just be a PITA.

Any temperature switch that is accurate to 0.1 around boiling point will do, but put the probe in the charge, not in the vapor, so that it is reading the temperature, therefore the ABV, of the charge. Use a latching relay to switch the element or a solenoid if using gas.

A latched relay can be daisy chained to as many safety features as you wish, each switch cutting the heat to the still if triggered; timers, dead man switch, pressure, condensate temperature, cooling water temperatures, float switches, boiler temperature, whatever takes your fancy.

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 6:17 pm
by Sunshineer
If you want hands off go and buy from a store one thing this hobby most certainly is from start to finish is definitely HANDS ON. Stay Alert Stay Alive.

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:36 am
by manu de hanoi
continuous stills are the most hands off especially for larger runs

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:56 am
by LWTCS
manu de hanoi wrote:
Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:36 am
continuous stills are the most hands off especially for larger runs
Yep.
Running grain in solids however still means that an operator needs to be on hand,,,,so that he'll know when to run away :lolno:

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Thu Aug 29, 2019 10:53 am
by manu de hanoi
LWTCS wrote:
Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:56 am
manu de hanoi wrote:
Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:36 am
continuous stills are the most hands off especially for larger runs
Yep.
Running grain in solids however still means that an operator needs to be on hand,,,,so that he'll know when to run away :lolno:
Running grain in solids ? I dont understand. Anyways it's important that the wash be well filtered so that it enters the column free of grains, yeast, solids etc...

Re: What is the most "hands-off" design?

Posted: Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:16 am
by LWTCS
Hi Manu,

I'm talking about the bourbon stills that are set up as continuous feed.