Eager to learn

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Eager to learn

Postby Thirsty Bob » Wed Dec 03, 2008 11:11 pm

Hello All:

Fantastic site! I have read almost all of it (really), some of it three times and I have learned a lot. Thanks for all your answers, even though I wasn't the one asking. I'm ready to start soldering now but I'm biding my time to make sure I don't go off half cocked. I'm putting together a design for a LM reflux design with a 50mm or 75mm column. I'm putting in some extra bits that allow me to easily experiment with different packing designs and densities, as well as stripping or pot runs. My target is a still that is compact, but produces top quality (and looks good, I love the mystique).

I would like to eventually make a single malt but for now I will go for a sugar wash and produce vodka. As for the whiskey, I'm not sure I have that many good years left, both for the learning and the aging ;-).

All that said, I am still a raw newbie so some things are very obscure to me. Rather than pepper the forum with a bunch of questions, I'll just bung them in here, if that's ok.

Fermentation Aeration: I have seen an aquarium stone recommended for aeration, but I've also seen bubblers mentioned. Doesn't aeration defeat the purpose of bubblers to excluding airborne nasties from invading the wort?

Deflection Plates: I like the idea of a rim around the circumference of the column. using a reducer and a length of pipe, to collect all condensate, (best for calculating reflux ratios) but I have seen a post saying that a deflection plate stops condensate from dripping directly onto the packing. Why would that be a bad thing? It would seem to me that that would be better than condensate going down the walls of the column.

Thermometer Position: Seems to me that placement is critical, and should be be as close to the collection point as possible, to know what fraction is being condensed and collected. On the other hand, by placing it high up, I also see a problem with condensate or downdraft from the condensor messing up the readings. Any thoughts? On that note, in the Bokakob design (under Designs & Plans), the thermometer is put deep into the packing of the column, which can't represent the temperature of what is being condensed and the temperature differential must be learned by trial and error. Why, is a mystery to me.

Mashing: Although this is down the road, I have a BIG pressure cooker (21 l). Has anyone made mash using a pressure cooker? Also, it is aluminum, would this preclude me from using it as a boiler?

Boiler: I have seen examples of using a small HW Heater as a boiler. Apart from the obvious problems of cleaning, a HW Heater is not designed to boil. I like the idea of an off the shelf (scrap) solution, but is it a good idea?

So this is my first bunch of dumb questions. More likely to follow.

Regards,

Bob
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby Adverse Effects » Thu Dec 04, 2008 12:20 am

ok i'll help with what i can with my limited knowledge

Thirsty Bob wrote: As for the whiskey, I'm not sure I have that many good years left, both for the learning and the aging ;-).


your only as old as the girl your feeling

Fermentation Aeration: I have seen an aquarium stone recommended for aeration, but I've also seen bubblers mentioned. Doesn't aeration defeat the purpose of bubblers to excluding airborne nasties from invading the wort?


you want good aeration at the start to help the yeast grow but soon after you want that nice blanket of CO2 to protect it


Mashing: Although this is down the road, I have a BIG pressure cooker (21 l). Has anyone made mash using a pressure cooker? Also, it is aluminum, would this preclude me from using it as a boiler?


i would not use it as a boiler as i can only guess most others here would do the same

Boiler: I have seen examples of using a small HW Heater as a boiler. Apart from the obvious problems of cleaning, a HW Heater is not designed to boil. I like the idea of an off the shelf (scrap) solution, but is it a good idea?


at the moment i have a 25Lt keg as a boiler but as soon as my mate remembers to bring around the 2 hot water systems (1 copper internals and 1 SS internals) i will be looking in to converting them in to boilers with a hatch type arrangement on the side of the top for easy access for cleaning

the SS 1 i am thinking of making in to a dedicated continuous stripping still where the boiling water heats a 1 inch tube loosely coiled down and through the tank top to bottom and a simple float system to keep the boiler full of water

[edit]spelling
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25Lt old school SS keg as a pot with a prototype Ponu still head
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby Hawke » Thu Dec 04, 2008 4:40 am

Thermo placement:
The Bokakob mini has gone through several revises. On mine it is placed between the plates where the top plate protects it from direct contact with liquid. (3" dia. x 58" packing height. 1" spacing between plates) Gives me rock solid readings throughout the run. A 0.3*C rise in temp means I'm into the tails.

A standard 15.5 gallon (1/2 barrel) keg makes a great boiler.
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby seravitae » Thu Dec 04, 2008 4:52 am

I wouldnt use the pressure cooker for making mash. However, it might totally kick ass for gelatinisation of corn. May speed things up a *LOT*. pressure cookers are good for cooking things hard n fast (and also tasty). Otherwise, mash at stanard pressure (no lid) so you might as well juts get a $10 cooking pot
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby junkyard dawg » Thu Dec 04, 2008 6:27 am

good thoughtful questions...

Yes, aerating the wash is a potential source of infection, but in practice this is no problem. An overwhelming dose of yeast takes care of any competing bugs in most cases. St pats sells sterile inline airfilters if you are really determined to use a bubbler. Usually just a vigorous stirring is enough to aerate.

I think you are right about the deflector plate and the thermometer... Place the therm close to the takeoff. Its only a tool to help you drive the still. Its exact reading is not so important, but the changes you observe are. There are many sensory guides to running the still, the temp is just one of them.

I would not use the aluminum pressure cooker as a boiler. I like the stainless beer keg. They come in all sizes...

Good luck
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby rad14701 » Thu Dec 04, 2008 2:14 pm

Welcome to the forums, officially now that you've registered, Thirsty Bob... Your concise questions definitely show that you've been doing your reading and the targeted answers to those questions are proof...

Now, if you've got a few designs in mind it might be worth posting links to them here for review and critique before putting solder to copper... Or, on the other hand, if you have your own design drawn up I'm sure we'd all be willing to give it a once-over as well...

Good luck...
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby Thirsty Bob » Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:12 am

rad14701 wrote:Welcome to the forums, officially now that you've registered, Thirsty Bob... Your concise questions definitely show that you've been doing your reading and the targeted answers to those questions are proof...

Now, if you've got a few designs in mind it might be worth posting links to them here for review and critique before putting solder to copper... Or, on the other hand, if you have your own design drawn up I'm sure we'd all be willing to give it a once-over as well...

Good luck...


Thanks rad, and I'm flattered that you used your 1000th post to welcome me. Congrats!

Thanks to all that replied, and encouraged me. It tells me there is much to learn and it is at least as much feel as it is tech.

One thing that wasn't answered was using a HW Heater as a boiler, 'cos they aren't really designed to boil. Good idea or bad idea?

As for my designs, I think I will learn more before subjecting them to all your kind? critiques, but will definitely do so before I cut metal. I think a modified (improved?) Bokakob is the way to go for me. I might even do some automation, but not before I know how to drive the thing manually.

I might start with a cute little parrot beak before I move to the still. Small steps....

There is some irony here. I have spent hundreds of hours working on instrumentation in distilleries around North America and I never learned the basic process.

Oh, what I could share with you guys if I had only asked.

Regards,

Bob
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby Thirsty Bob » Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:34 am

Adverse:

Thanks for the help. I'll ponder more.

Adverse Effects wrote:your only as old as the girl your feeling


So true. I've also learned to not sweat the petty things, but it can be fun to pet the sweaty things.


Adverse Effects wrote:the SS 1 i am thinking of making in to a dedicated continuous stripping still where the boiling water heats a 1 inch tube loosely coiled down and through the tank top to bottom and a simple float system to keep the boiler full of water


This idea is intriguing. The wort will always have a boiling point less than the water, so vapour will be driven off, but how would you pipe it to allow the vapour to be collected and condensed? It sounds to me like it could me made into a continuous still. Cleaning sounds ugly. Tell me more.

Bob
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby Thirsty Bob » Fri Dec 05, 2008 1:44 am

Hawke: Thanks for the feedback.

Hawke wrote:(3" dia. x 58" packing height. 1" spacing between plates) Gives me rock solid readings throughout the run. A 0.3*C rise in temp means I'm into the tails.


You mention packing and you mention plates. You may have scooped me on my theory about both. How is your column packed? A description would be good, a picture even better. In my limited learning, a 58" column is pretty substantial. What are you using for packing? 58" seems tall for even high purity (not that short columns will give us world peace) :lol: Perhaps my quest for a smaller column is a bridge too far.

Also, a .3 deg C rise seems small unless you are talking hearts to tails and even then it seems small, but I have probably missed something.

Like my post title, I am eager to learn.

*edit* Anybody else, feel free to add in with candor. I can take it, I think.

Bob
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby minime » Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:37 am

Thirsty Bob wrote:Hawke: Thanks for the feedback.

Hawke wrote:(3" dia. x 58" packing height. 1" spacing between plates) Gives me rock solid readings throughout the run. A 0.3*C rise in temp means I'm into the tails.

You mention packing and you mention plates. You may have scooped me on my theory about both. How is your column packed? A description would be good, a picture even better. In my limited learning, a 58" column is pretty substantial. What are you using for packing? 58" seems tall for even high purity (not that short columns will give us world peace) :lol: Perhaps my quest for a smaller column is a bridge too far.
Also, a .3 deg C rise seems small unless you are talking hearts to tails and even then it seems small, but I have probably missed something.
Like my post title, I am eager to learn.
*edit* Anybody else, feel free to add in with candor. I can take it, I think.
Bob

Bob, Hawke isn't shittin' ya. My long column (60 inches packed) only allows 2/10C increase during hearts collection and the run is over. The quality is the same at the end as it was in the beginning.
Most of use stainless scrubbers but the guys with stainless columns use copper mesh. Long columns allow higher purity or faster takeoff or a compromise between the two. The point is, it gives you options you don't have if your column is too short.
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby Hawke » Fri Dec 05, 2008 5:17 am

My packing is right around 4 pounds of structured copper. (rolled into 10 segments, then made into a sausage by using a sleeve of the copper mesh)
When I scaled up the Boka mini to the 3" pipe, I chose to expand the gap between the top and bottom plates to 1". I tend to run it slower than needed, so when I get to the end of the hearts, the temp will rise 3/10 of a degree and the alco-meter just about jumps out of the parrot. (Goes from 96% down to 40% within about 400ml.)
Here's the link to my build viewtopic.php?f=17&t=6849
It is the very things that we think we know, that keep us from learning what we should know.
Valved Reflux, 3"x54" Bok 'mini', 2 liebig based pots and the 'Blockhead' 60K btu propane heat
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby Adverse Effects » Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:44 am

Adverse Effects wrote:the SS 1 i am thinking of making in to a dedicated continuous stripping still where the boiling water heats a 1 inch tube loosely coiled down and through the tank top to bottom and a simple float system to keep the boiler full of water


This idea is intriguing. The wort will always have a boiling point less than the water, so vapour will be driven off, but how would you pipe it to allow the vapour to be collected and condensed? It sounds to me like it could me made into a continuous still. Cleaning sounds ugly. Tell me more.

Bob[/quote]

disclaimer
"now kids dont try any of this at home it could be dangerous"


ok well the cleaning will be no trouble at all

you simply remove the still column and head then you insert a normal dish scrubber (the green non metal ones) and hook it up to my work shop compressor and fire away :twisted: scrubber and any gunk comes out at high speed wash and repeat if needed

i have to say be for you run out and try this "it is an experiment" i dont know if any one else has done any thing like this but i an crazy and will try 20 different things just to see if they work i have all ready built one of the strangest stills here that i dont think no one else on this board has built build thred here
i am guessing an angel of about 10 deg decent maby more out of a 1 inch tube i may even go a bit bigger to 1.5 inch its all fun and mad scientist toys ;-)

something like this
Image

if your getting any measurable % of alcohol coming out the bottom you simply slow the rate you are feeding it in
Last edited by Adverse Effects on Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
Some people say its "FREE" but i say "there ant no free lunch" you get what you pay/work for
help those that help them self first
25Lt old school SS keg as a pot with a prototype Ponu still head
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby rad14701 » Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:52 am

Not many people are using hot water tanks for boilers these days, mainly due to shoddy construction - at least here in the US... They aren't built to last so the manufacturers have cut corners with both materials and craftsmanship... While some of the water heaters are glass lined they still use cheap attachment fittings which will not hold up to high ABV ethanol... By the time you mess around getting one working you could have just made one from a beer keg, stock pot, or whatever else you can lay your hands on...
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Re: Eager to learn

Postby Thirsty Bob » Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:32 pm

Guys,

I thought I had addressed all the replies, but I guess I got overloaded with info. My bad!

Rad, re: boilers; I guess I need to go hunting in scrap yards. I would kill to find a copper boiler like Ayay's viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8775.

As for Hawke, mimime & adverse:

The narrow temp thing has really thrown me for a loop, but rather than ask stupid questions, I am going to study more and then hopefully ask less stupid questions.

One thing seems clear, a reflux column requires skill, but a pot requires art. I'm glad that moving from a column to a pot keeps most of the work put into a column.

Thanks to all.

I'll be back.

Bob
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