Filtering with activated carbon?

Treatment and handling of your distillate.

Moderator: Site Moderator

brewnovice
Novice
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Dec 22, 2010 10:06 pm

Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by brewnovice » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:44 am

After producing a neutral spirit, I have a filtering system which is a 5L plastic bottle which gets filled with activated carbon and spirit, with a clear tube coming off, which runs in to a black plastic tube which gets fitted with a filter paper disk and some granule form activated carbon. after 24 hours you open the tap to let the liquid run through the "finishing carbon" in the tube and out in to my mouth :wink:

When I bought this filter from the home brew shop many years ago, I used a powdered carbon in the 5L bottle which was a tinby bit messy, but cheap as anything. Now they only sell pouches of the same powder mixed with water, gums and preservatives. Now not only is it a real pain in the butt to use, but it is real expensive too. I also get a lecture every time I buy supplies for it, because it is so old, antique, historical blah blah blah blah. They would rather I bought their new system which runs the alcohol through an even more expensive carbon block.

I am not in to spending MORE money, I want to spend LESS money (just the kind of guy I am), so I am wondering if there is a cheaper supply source for powered carbon, or if there is a better system for filtering altogether. I have read that you cannot use fish tank carbon because it causes flavoring to the spirit, so does anyone have a better source or a better system?

Cheers
Kev

myles
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2451
Joined: Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:34 am
Location: UK, in the heather

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by myles » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:59 am

Kev,

Most folks on here will tell you that carbon filtering is not neccesary at all. IMO the system was introduced to cater for those that wanted to use really bad stills where you HAVE to filter to get rid of the nasties. Any good still, of any design, is capable of rendering your carbon obsolete. :)

brewnovice
Novice
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Dec 22, 2010 10:06 pm

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by brewnovice » Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:58 am

myles wrote:Kev,

Most folks on here will tell you that carbon filtering is not neccesary at all. IMO the system was introduced to cater for those that wanted to use really bad stills where you HAVE to filter to get rid of the nasties. Any good still, of any design, is capable of rendering your carbon obsolete. :)
Ummm, that is not good news for me then. I have never drunk the alcohol my pot still produces immediately, I have always filtered it, however I actually filter mine twice as I find that it makes for a much much smoother neutral spirit. I feel like I can taste the diference, but perhaps I am kidding myself?
My still is pretty basic - an 8L aluminium pot with a dome lid and a stainless steel condenser pipe running off it. I bought it a long time ago and it has served me well. I know that many people (including the home brew store) would say throw it out and get a refulx still, but mine works fine and I just dont want to spend a fortune on a new still when I have one that serves my needs. I would guess that mine would be considered a "bad still" by todays standards, so I suppose I would need to filter.

Cheers
Kev

myles
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2451
Joined: Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:34 am
Location: UK, in the heather

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by myles » Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:55 pm

brewnovice wrote:
1. I feel like I can taste the diference, but perhaps I am kidding myself?

2. My still is pretty basic - an 8L aluminium pot with a dome lid and a stainless steel condenser pipe running off it.

3. I would guess that mine would be considered a "bad still" by todays standards, so I suppose I would need to filter.

Cheers
Kev
OK just for a laugh I will answer this:

Point 1 - I have no doubt that you can taste the difference. Carbon will strip the flavour and undesireables out of booze. There are alternatives methods though.

Point 2 - Some will roast you for using aluminium. Stainless or copper are much better. You are describing a simple pot still - no problem with that.

Point 3 - RUBBISH - In principle the still is fine. Substitute your boiler for stainless or copper and upgrade to a 20 litre boiler, and life gets a lot easier. I promise you will never need carbon again. Tripple pot distilled vodka is fine in my book. Good cuts, hydroseparation etc etc and you are laughing.

Save the money that you are not going to spend on carbon, and use it to upgrade to a better still.

I am sure they do want you to buy a reflux column - and they do work just fine - but there is more than 1 way of producing good neutral spirit.

Bagasso
Distiller
Posts: 1344
Joined: Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:09 pm

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by Bagasso » Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:53 pm

You should try to find a local water filter shop. They usually have activated carbon.

Here is a link to an online place that sells in bulk:
http://www.waterfiltersonline.com/carbon-gac-bulk.asp

8.5 lbs for $35 comes out to about $0.26 per ounce. Compare that to what they want at the brew shop.

aqua vitae
Swill Maker
Posts: 223
Joined: Fri Jan 22, 2010 3:29 pm
Location: Thou Ancient, Thou Free

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by aqua vitae » Mon Jan 31, 2011 2:10 pm

You can't get neutral ethanol unless you get 95,6%.
If you run a pot still and want neutral active carbon can get you closer to that (but it still leave some taste) if you do proper cuts and filter the hearts. You can of course make fine likker with a pot still, just not neutral.

Got no tips for an source for carbon overseas though.. :(

rtalbigr
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2200
Joined: Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:25 am
Location: Tennessee

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by rtalbigr » Mon Jan 31, 2011 2:36 pm

I'm purty much in line with what Myles has told ya, I would just add that part of your problems is cuz you ain't got no copper in your system. If your happy with your aluminum pot that fine, but ya need to get ride of the SS and replace it with copper. You'll be surprised at the difference in the flavor. Knew a guy at work who bought one of the 100% SS relux stills. H*** a lot of the guys at work grew up around stills and many drink "shine" a lot. They said his stuff tasted horrible. Copper, ya got have copper.

Big R
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." William Pitt

airhill
Swill Maker
Posts: 287
Joined: Fri Jun 05, 2009 7:42 pm
Location: Fourecks

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by airhill » Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:05 pm

It can be reactivated I just can't find the link at the moment. Think it involved passing steam through and then reheating.

I have often wondered about the stories told about aquarium grade activated carbon, fish are far more sensitive to most things than humans.

Edit

Its on the main site under Distilling

Popcorn Fan
Swill Maker
Posts: 221
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:46 am
Location: Australian

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by Popcorn Fan » Tue Feb 01, 2011 12:32 am

Don't use the aquarium carbon...........

Ayay
Distiller
Posts: 1656
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:25 am
Location: Planet Erf...near the bottom.

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by Ayay » Tue Feb 01, 2011 12:53 am

Get the best you can before filterin. Only filter if the previous is a failure. Better to rise above the failure than to remedy it.

I speak from many failures! Activated carbon has saved me more than I like to admit :( Now I'm using aquarium carbon and it works very well. It's coal carbon but 'activated' makes it pretty much the same as any other 'activated'. It will suck out all nasties.
cornflakes...stripped and refluxed

RumRocker
Novice
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:02 am

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by RumRocker » Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:43 am

Can anyone plz explain to me why aquarium carbon should not be used?? Thx

Bagasso
Distiller
Posts: 1344
Joined: Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:09 pm

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by Bagasso » Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:29 am

Aquarium carbon is supposed to leave an off taste. If I remember correctly it has to do with a chemical that they use to soak the stock material before making it charcoal that opens up more/finer pores. Might help to boil in clean water a couple times.

RumRocker
Novice
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:02 am

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by RumRocker » Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:22 am

So it doesnt have anything in it harmful to ones health right? Its just about the flavor it might give? Thx!

junkyard dawg
Master Distiller
Posts: 3080
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2006 11:40 am
Location: Texas

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by junkyard dawg » Mon Mar 28, 2011 1:31 pm

I don't think you should read that into his response. The problem with aquarium carbons are the source materials can be anything. Carbons that are made for filtering edible products are made from known safe materials like coconut husks and many other types...

It is assumed that aquarium carbons can come from nearly anything, old pallets... railroad ties... that old pile of treated lumber that someone took to the wood recycler...

I've never used aquarium carbon, but if it has a bad rap from some who have tried, thats good enough for me. I'll stick to the things that we know work well and are safe. Who knows what that funky flavor that comes off your aquarium carbon is? How and why would you assume its still safe to drink?

Play safe kids :wink:

edited to add, Rumrocker, I hope your not using it to filter rum! You would really be missing the point...
this is the internet

RumRocker
Novice
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:02 am

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by RumRocker » Mon Mar 28, 2011 1:36 pm

Rgr that. Id better not use mine then. Thx

RumRocker
Novice
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:02 am

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by RumRocker » Mon Mar 28, 2011 1:49 pm

Oh btw, yeah dawg. When i get to the tails with my rum is tends to get cloudy.
It also doesnt taste and smell As good if i dont carbon filter it. I was using coconut carbon
Bit im alsmost out and i had some new aquarium carbon i wanted to use but
I wanted to be sure if carbon was carbon, bit evidently it is not. Im running a 2 gallon stainless
Pot still with copper tubing. Do u know why it would get cloudy when im nearing the end of my run?

Bagasso
Distiller
Posts: 1344
Joined: Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:09 pm

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by Bagasso » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:17 pm

Sorry that I didn't mention the chemical but I just couldn't think of it. I have seen a diy method that involves sulfuric acid (battery acid). Probably not that bad as long as it doesn't actually come from a battery (lead). If you could identify the manufacturer and find an MSDS for their product you could find out if it poses any danger.

airhill
Swill Maker
Posts: 287
Joined: Fri Jun 05, 2009 7:42 pm
Location: Fourecks

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by airhill » Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:49 pm

Aside from Bagasso this thread has been uninformed and speculative. Unless someone can come up with for example a pore size differential for capturing congeners I see no difference in brew shop AC and aquarium AC. There is a process you go through with both to remove entrained manufacturing chemicals. If you think that people who keep fish would tolerate AC that is of an unacceptable standard you are very much mistaken. :) Copper kills fish,chlorine kills fish, pesticides that are supposedly safe for humans kill fish and the list goes on.
As far as flavour goes I suspect that was either an urban myth or just a lets stick this in without correct cleaning. AC removes things it does not add.

My rant for the day :)

Ayay
Distiller
Posts: 1656
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:25 am
Location: Planet Erf...near the bottom.

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by Ayay » Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:18 am

My experience of aquarium activated carbon is adding 1 to 3 tablespoons per litre in a glass container and letting it stand for a week. It's a little slower than the brewshop AC because the fishtank pellets are bigger. The amount of dust is the same and I don't worry about the dust because it's all AC; shit I may try grinding the pellets to get a faster action. Dust is removed by settlin and racking/siphoning.

Fish are like canaries. Delicate lil $1000 foofoo's will die in a blink if the carbon is tainted.

Dripping the spirits through a filter apparatus filled up with AC is a different process. Here you may flush something out of the carbon because the ratio of carbon to the spirits is so much higher.
cornflakes...stripped and refluxed

junkyard dawg
Master Distiller
Posts: 3080
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2006 11:40 am
Location: Texas

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by junkyard dawg » Tue Mar 29, 2011 5:01 pm

speculative?

I know, thats why I said it like this...
It is assumed that aquarium carbons can
So, to clarify some assumptions...

There are clearly many different types of AC. I choose to use the ones that are made for filtering drinking water or ethanol.

I don't do this anymore, but thats the AC I would choose...

I think the info on the parent site about aquarium carbon is pretty speculative... As far as I know, thats the only source of the rumor about its unsuitability. I haven't looked deeply at this question tho.

Isn't the question of fish kind of a non issue? I mean, have you seen some of the waters that fish thrive in?

I don't agree that advocating the use of the proper tool for the job is 'uninformed' however. Its a no brainer... You want to filter a beverage. Would you first choose the product made for filtering fish poo or would you rather have the product made for filtering beverage? When you need to turn a screw do you reach for the chisel first? :lol:
this is the internet

junkyard dawg
Master Distiller
Posts: 3080
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2006 11:40 am
Location: Texas

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by junkyard dawg » Tue Mar 29, 2011 5:04 pm

RumRocker, you are probably just seeing tails causing that cloudiness. You may want to look at the ingredients you are using? Not all molasses is created equally. Some could create more fusels and stinky tails than others... Good luck with it!
this is the internet

airhill
Swill Maker
Posts: 287
Joined: Fri Jun 05, 2009 7:42 pm
Location: Fourecks

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by airhill » Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:55 pm

junkyard dawg wrote:speculative?

I know, thats why I said it like this...
It is assumed that aquarium carbons can
So, to clarify some assumptions...

There are clearly many different types of AC. I choose to use the ones that are made for filtering drinking water or ethanol.

I don't do this anymore, but thats the AC I would choose...

I think the info on the parent site about aquarium carbon is pretty speculative... As far as I know, thats the only source of the rumor about its unsuitability. I haven't looked deeply at this question tho.

Isn't the question of fish kind of a non issue? I mean, have you seen some of the waters that fish thrive in?

Try keeping fish in an aquarium (alive that is) lots harder than distilling :) Yes some fish will tolerate bacterial and algae conditions that you would think would kill them (tilapia are a good example and you will find them in your supermarkets) what they will not tolerate are usually levels of chemicals from industrial products, that are regarded as food safe by some organisation that the world apparently looks up to. Frogs die first, so look at them as the canary world of liquids.


I don't agree that advocating the use of the proper tool for the job is 'uninformed' however. Its a no brainer... You want to filter a beverage. Would you first choose the product made for filtering fish poo or would you rather have the product made for filtering beverage? When you need to turn a screw do you reach for the chisel first? :lol:

Usually ends up as an impact driver in which case your best tool is a hammer :lol:

Look all I was saying was that properly treated AC just removes things, what I don't know is in regard to aquarium AC v Water purifying AC, its certainly not going to put anything in; and some fish would die (quite unpleasantly) from the tap water we drink.

junkyard dawg
Master Distiller
Posts: 3080
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2006 11:40 am
Location: Texas

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by junkyard dawg » Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:16 am

All these posts about Activated Carbon got me curious... so off to wikipedia I went...

highly recommended reading if you have time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activated_carbon


Airhill I tried keeping fish when I was much younger. I agree, its harder than distilling... :shock:
this is the internet

vance71975
Bootlegger
Posts: 124
Joined: Sat Jul 14, 2012 1:45 pm

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by vance71975 » Sat Jul 21, 2012 5:48 am

junkyard dawg wrote:I don't think you should read that into his response. The problem with aquarium carbons are the source materials can be anything. Carbons that are made for filtering edible products are made from known safe materials like coconut husks and many other types...

It is assumed that aquarium carbons can come from nearly anything, old pallets... railroad ties... that old pile of treated lumber that someone took to the wood recycler...

I've never used aquarium carbon, but if it has a bad rap from some who have tried, thats good enough for me. I'll stick to the things that we know work well and are safe. Who knows what that funky flavor that comes off your aquarium carbon is? How and why would you assume its still safe to drink?

Play safe kids :wink:

edited to add, Rumrocker, I hope your not using it to filter rum! You would really be missing the point...

This is prolly an old thread but i have to correct you on this one, as an avid fish keeper who has kept both saltwater and freshwater fish and has done extensive research on the items used, i can safely say with a fair amount of certainty that the carbon made in the USA for use in fish tanks is NOT made from " old pallets... railroad ties... that old pile of treated lumber that someone took to the wood recyclers", if it was it would kill any and all fish within 24 hours or less. Most of it is made from either Coconut Shells,wood or Bamboo, Now that being said, if your Carbon comes from China or some other nation with more lax standards than the USA then yes your right it could be made from anything, and i have lost fish due to using cheap off brand carbon. If you go to a Quality Pet store and Ask for the Highest Grade carbon they have there is a 98% chance it will NOT be made from whatever is laying around. Or you could just Google Activated Bamboo Charcoal or Food Grade Activated Charcoal and KNOW it is safe, which is what i used in my fish tanks and i never lost a fish when i changed out carbon after switching to Activated Bamboo Charcoal, it even saved me a couple times when water quality went south on a saltwater tank. That being said, i cant say "it should be used in distilling" just that it doesn't kill fish, and as someone above pointed out, fish are far more sensitive to any chemical in their water than humans are.

vance71975
Bootlegger
Posts: 124
Joined: Sat Jul 14, 2012 1:45 pm

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by vance71975 » Sat Jul 21, 2012 6:00 am

junkyard dawg wrote:
Isn't the question of fish kind of a non issue? I mean, have you seen some of the waters that fish thrive in?

Okay, as a fish keeper i feel the need to explain something to you. There are three types of Filtration that can be used with a fish tank, there is Mechanical which is your activated carbon, there is Biological, which is bacteria that are harmless to fish but convert the ammonia to Nitrate then Nitrite which is less harmful, the third is Chemical, there are various Chemical Bonding Agents on the market designed to be used with a fish tank in emergency situations. On top of that you are, if your doing it right anyway, topping off the tank with fresh water and doing water changes.

Now that i have explained that, to answer the "I mean, have you seen some of the waters that fish thrive in" question, Yes to the naked eye the water may appear brown and nasty, etc, but in reality, as far as toxins to fish go, there are normally far less in these natural environments, there is a HUGE biological filter at work 24/7 and when it rains or water evaporates, it takes the harm things out or dilutes them which is why fish thrive in these environments that appear horrible.

heartcut
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 2781
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:31 am
Location: Houston, Texas

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by heartcut » Tue Jul 24, 2012 3:32 pm

I'm not for or against carbon filtering spirits- did it more than once and it worked to remove tastes, but unfiltered stuff made carefully tastes better to me. Norit makes over 100 different types of activated carbon- here's a link for their vodka variety:
http://www.norit-ac.com/english/products.asp" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
heartcut

We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don't know.

W. H. Auden

Ayay
Distiller
Posts: 1656
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:25 am
Location: Planet Erf...near the bottom.

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by Ayay » Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:08 am

I retract what I said previously about using activated carbon designed for fish tanks.

Soaking high proof alc in fishtank carbon works up to a point, it removes off tastes quite well, but soaking a bit longer leaches some bad stuff out of the carbon into the alc. I think it might be coal tar that is solubile in alc but not soluble in water; that is the carbon is safe when filtering water for fish but no good for filtering alcohol. I now use carbon supplied by the brewshop which does not leach out anything.

Why do I treat my alc? Long ago I read a comment from a Nordic brother who prefers an all-stainless still over a still that contains copper for the production of pure vodka. He said copper is more of a ploblem than the sulphides that the copper removes. My still is all copper and I have a constant problem with a slight metallic taste in my product. Soaking my product in activated carbon (1 tablespoon/liter for 1 week) completely removes that taste.
cornflakes...stripped and refluxed

dis-still-in
Novice
Posts: 48
Joined: Tue Nov 24, 2009 3:39 pm

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by dis-still-in » Thu Aug 09, 2012 1:59 pm

Afternoon, All,

I have read this thread and it seems there is very little consensus on much about the topic of filtering neutrals with activated carbon. My still is a SS keg with 4' of 2"diameter copper column. I have noticed that dropping in activated carbon at a diluted 60%ABV does seem anecdotaly at least to 'clean' up the neutral some, even though I achieve around 95%ABV off the still.

Because I am starting production in larger quantities, I am looking for some firmer data on using activated carbon. I saw the 1Tb/Liter ratio but what proof is that at? I am ?guessing? that it should be diluted to pull some of the dissolved impurities out of the alcohol? Second, I am thinking about making some sort of device to automate the process rather than use the soak and agitate frequently method. I have a rainwater collection system that uses an in line activated carbon filter. I certainly don't relish introducing plastic into the process, but am wondering if something like this would be effective at cleaning the neutral.

Thanks,

dis-still-in

beowoulfe
Novice
Posts: 97
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2011 6:17 am
Location: It's sunny here

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by beowoulfe » Fri Aug 10, 2012 2:29 am

brewnovice wrote:After producing a neutral spirit, I have a filtering system which is a 5L plastic bottle which gets filled with activated carbon and spirit, with a clear tube coming off, which runs in to a black plastic tube which gets fitted with a filter paper disk and some granule form activated carbon. after 24 hours you open the tap to let the liquid run through the "finishing carbon" in the tube and out in to my mouth
Cheers
Kev
Am I reading that correctly?
"Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it."
--Mark Twain

Richard7
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 1858
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:13 pm
Location: Central Alabama, Heart of Dixie!

Re: Filtering with activated carbon?

Post by Richard7 » Fri Aug 10, 2012 6:47 am

beowoulfe wrote:
brewnovice wrote:After producing a neutral spirit, I have a filtering system which is a 5L plastic bottle which gets filled with activated carbon and spirit, with a clear tube coming off, which runs in to a black plastic tube which gets fitted with a filter paper disk and some granule form activated carbon. after 24 hours you open the tap to let the liquid run through the "finishing carbon" in the tube and out in to my mouth
Cheers
Kev
Am I reading that correctly?
My thought as well, I would not touch that stuff!
"yeah? yeah? the maple flavored kind?" A dog on you tube.

Post Reply