Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

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Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby fsdowie » Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:36 pm

Hello experts!

Still trying to recover from the disappointment and probably a close called to a worse disaster of my first, and obviously unsuccessful first spirit run.

Just a 10 minutes after I plugged in my water heater element I heard a loud bang followed by some smoke. My 8-gal reflux was filled with 1.5 liters @ 66 ABV and water was running throughout the still condenser.

What do you think it went wrong?

Thanks!

Fede.
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby Swedish Pride » Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:46 pm

hard to know without seeing your setup, but i doubt 1.5 l covers the element properly.
they don't like not being covered
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby Antler24 » Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:52 pm

Yeah. I'm guessing 1.5 liters won't cover much of the element in an 8 gallon boiler, so I'd say you fried your element.

Also, you know you shouldn't be putting anything over 40% ABV in your boiler right? I think you need to do more research before attempting another run. Have you don't your cleaning runs?
Swedish Pride wrote:
get a brix reading on said ball bearings and then you can find out how much fermentables are in there
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby fsdowie » Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:26 pm

Thanks guys. I guess the combination of not fully covering the heating element and the 66% ABV is enough to explain what went wrong... sigh.
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby Saltbush Bill » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:44 pm

I don,t ever tell people they need to read .........but man o man you need to!
Putting 66% abv in a boiler is a no no to begin with. :(
I presume it was 66% and not 66 proof ?
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby aircarbonarc » Mon Jun 04, 2018 4:09 pm

Go below 40%, it's not flammable and gives you more insurance. You probably should do a few stripping runs till you have 4 to 7 gal of under 40% then dedicate a good part of the day of running it low and slow
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby HDNB » Mon Jun 04, 2018 5:30 pm

even at 40% on an electric element you will get some flash boiling if the power is real high, making some pretty scary thumps.

did the element fail causing the smoke? or what exactly smoked?
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby Antler24 » Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:02 pm

HDNB wrote:even at 40% on an electric element you will get some flash boiling if the power is real high, making some pretty scary thumps.

did the element fail causing the smoke? or what exactly smoked?


What's this flash boiling? I've heated low wines at 5500w with no issues.
Swedish Pride wrote:
get a brix reading on said ball bearings and then you can find out how much fermentables are in there
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby zapata » Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:11 pm

Wow man, that was boneheaded!
Not to kick a man when he's down, but that is a very, very basic thing to overlook!
1. Dont take it too hard, it's good you shared, maybe someone will learn from reading this. Just realize if you missed this fundamental detail, there is no telling what else you could have missed. Take the opportunity to learn, well, everything.

2. Do not be afraid to run pretty much anything by us BEFORE you do it. Yes. We harp on people doing their research. But a "safety check, this is what I'm about to do, am I cool" should always be encouraged. Yes we want you to do your homework so you dont put yourself in these situations, but I think any of us would have welcomed the opportunity to stop you before you almost blew up!
Last edited by zapata on Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby zapata » Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:17 pm

Antler24 wrote:
HDNB wrote:even at 40% on an electric element you will get some flash boiling if the power is real high, making some pretty scary thumps.

did the element fail causing the smoke? or what exactly smoked?


What's this flash boiling? I've heated low wines at 5500w with no issues.

I think this is the snaps, bonks and clangs you get from an element while it is heating up. Especially at the beginning before a thermo current is established in the wash. It is very localized boiling at the element surface, way before the rest of the wash is up to temp. Just like a thumper thumps loudest in the beginning when the incoming vapor collapses quickly in the cool thump charge, the same thing happens at the element surface and it makes a racket. A tiny spot "flash boils" and immediately collapses in the surrounding cool wash. It's not really a problem in and of itself, happens to me everytime I heatup a wash/spirit run.
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby HDNB » Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:23 pm

Antler24 wrote:
HDNB wrote:even at 40% on an electric element you will get some flash boiling if the power is real high, making some pretty scary thumps.

did the element fail causing the smoke? or what exactly smoked?


What's this flash boiling? I've heated low wines at 5500w with no issues.


so much heat that the liquid touching the heat source instantly flashing to steam. the phase shift is so abrupt and the boil so violent that the steam bubble pushes the liquid far from the heat source...allowing it time to get even hotter...when the liquid collapses back on the heat source the cycle repeats.
makes a thumping, hammering sound in a 15 gallon still. loud enough to make you do this: :shock:

posting with ^^^^...so yeah, that...... when you add hi proof booze, it boils easier so the little pops become big whoomps!
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby Saltbush Bill » Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:34 pm

HDNB wrote:you will get some flash boiling if the power is real high, making some pretty scary thumps.

+1 :thumbup:
Antler24 wrote:
HDNB wrote:even at 40% on an electric element you will get some flash boiling if the power is real high, making some pretty scary thumps.

did the element fail causing the smoke? or what exactly smoked?


What's this flash boiling? I've heated low wines at 5500w with no issues.

You will know when you hear it , thudding noises coming from the boiler. It doesn't happen to me because I use Gas, but Ive heard it happening when people I know are heating up a boiler full of 40% on full power. Its a little disconcerting the first time you hear it. :(
Edit , written and posted while others were, sorry bout that.
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby bilgriss » Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:19 am

fsdowie,

Trying to be kind, but this is potentially one of the more dangerous mistakes I've seen example of in some time, and it shows that you have not done the recommended reading. Please go back through the new distiller reading lounge materials very carefully, all of it. Then go to the Novice section and find Cranky's spoonfeeding thread. Read it and all the links contained until it all makes sense. Make sure you follow the prescribed cleaning procedures before distilling something to consume. Make sure you measure how much water it takes to fully submerge your element, and then figure out how much wash you would need to start with to have that much as a leftover, when done distilling. At this point, you'll know what questions to ask before starting down this path again.

We wish you success, luck, fun, and most of all, be safe.
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby Antler24 » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:35 am

Saltbush Bill wrote:
HDNB wrote:you will get some flash boiling if the power is real high, making some pretty scary thumps.

+1 :thumbup:
Antler24 wrote:
HDNB wrote:even at 40% on an electric element you will get some flash boiling if the power is real high, making some pretty scary thumps.

did the element fail causing the smoke? or what exactly smoked?


What's this flash boiling? I've heated low wines at 5500w with no issues.

You will know when you hear it , thudding noises coming from the boiler. It doesn't happen to me because I use Gas, but Ive heard it happening when people I know are heating up a boiler full of 40% on full power. Its a little disconcerting the first time you hear it. :(
Edit , written and posted while others were, sorry bout that.


Yes I've heard it many times, I thought you guys were talking about something different, my bad!


To the OP, just so you know why this was dangerous. 66% ABV is very flammable, moreso when heated and vapors as well. When you heated up the element likely shorted out and your lucky that ABV didn't catch fire. In a restricted boiler your lucky your around to talk about it in my opinion.
Swedish Pride wrote:
get a brix reading on said ball bearings and then you can find out how much fermentables are in there
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Re: Literally blew my first spirit run on my new 8gal reflux

Postby Pikey » Sat Jun 09, 2018 2:30 pm

Hi fsdowie,

I'm a little confused.

You say you have an 8 gallon reflux still and were doing your first spirit run of 1.5 litres ?

How did you manage to get only 1.5 litres of product from an 8 gallon still ?

66% seems a little low for a reflux still and too high for a pot - so how did you produce it ?

My still has the elements underneath the bottom of the still and bonded to it, but we're all assuming your element is actually sitting in the body of the still like a kettle element - can you please confirm ?

We're all assuming the element blew because it was partly exposed. Can you confirm that the element did blow and say whether the element was actually touching the liquid at all when you opened it up please ?

Ok well you must have learned a lot here and I would just encourage you to THINK about what we are doing. 1.5 litres at 66% in a reflux would produce over 1 litre at 90% (that's whet we mean by "Alcohol by Volume - ABV" ) and some of the water would be travelling up and down your reflux column doing "it's thing" (refluxing), so your still body towards the end will be EMPTY ! ie this problem is entirely foreseeable. (another good reson for diluting down below 40% abv)

First thing to do perhaps is to prime your still with water, to see what the MINIMUM amount of residue you need to have at the end of the run (pour in 1 litre jugs of water until the element is comfortably covered, the add a couple of litres maybe ? )

You have had a nasty experience ok - well I guess the costs and bother of mending the apparatus will concentrate the mind to avoid this particular problem in the future. Did you make it yourself - or is it a "bought one" ? Picture would be nice !

All the best

P
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