New steam rig and manometer test

Steam powered cooking and distillation devices.

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Twisted Brick
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New steam rig and manometer test

Post by Twisted Brick » Sun Dec 27, 2020 12:16 pm

When I first joined HD I was intrigued with the versatility a steam rig/thumper could add to a pot still, but dismissed the idea of building one because of the perceived risks. But after learning that a steam rig could be the shortest viable route to rye step mashes and strips, I committed to learning enough to mitigate those risks. Since my current pot/CCVM still is modular, I figured it wouldn't require too many additional components.
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Version 1
Version 1
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So here is a synopsis of what my steam research revealed and what I was able to build. Since more and more guys are embracing steam, hopefully it helps the next ‘stiller answering some of the same questions I had.

The Vessels

From the beginning the plan was to use two half-barrel kegs. The intent is to step mash in my open-top keg and to strip fruit and mashes prone to scorching in the thumper. At one point I want to connect the boiler to one of my short quarter kegs to provide a more manageable reflux column height.

For my thump keg, I had a 6” ferrule welded to the top, and a 2” drain ferrule welded to the side near the bottom. This was so I could run the thumper downtube through my tee, which I already use on my CCVM and retain my vertical riser. And with reducers, I will be able to run either 2”, 3” or 4” columns/risers, plus it will be nice to be able to get my arm into the keg for cleaning.

Floating Tee.jpg
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Thumper Plumbing

I built the thumper downtube and steam wand modular so I would be able to mash/distill in different-sized vessels and try out different wand designs. This steam wand should be fine with cleared washes. I still need to test a braided/mesh stainless wand for thick mashes.
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IMG_7315.jpg
IMG_7290.JPG
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The Manometer

After reaching out to a number of senior HD members experienced with thumpers, it seemed the simplest, most effective PRV solution would be a manometer. The two requirements I had were that the device had to be able to safely dump the contents created by an over-pressure event and hopefully be able to indicate operational pressure throughout the course of a run.

I liked Yummy’s solution, but then, just by chance, I came across a manometer-like apparatus (acting more as an overpressure blow-off tube) that I learned is common in distilleries in Tasmania. They all look like these:

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Tasmanian PRV.JPG
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“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake.”

- W.C. Fields

My EZ Solder Shotgun
My Steam Rig and Manometer

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Twisted Brick
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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by Twisted Brick » Sun Dec 27, 2020 12:41 pm

I felt with a few tweaks, this design could be adapted to my boiler and if I could figure out a way to scale it correctly, it could also indicate a stable pressure inside the boiler. So I built one out of ¾” copper and matching ¾” thick-walled borosilicate glass (20") with an ID of 5/8”. I cut off a 3/4" x 1/2" copper reducer to use as a sleeve for the sightglass so the high temp epoxy would not come into contact with any vapor. Some machining was needed for the 1” ferrules, but it all assembles and breaks down quickly with tri-clamps. A friend who builds commercial shell and tube condensers bent the tubing for me.
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Manometer plumbing.jpg
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Sightglass parts.jpg
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From input from HD seniors, the blowoff from the manometer should either be directed into a pipe or hose directed away from the boiler, or submerged into a volume of water. I chose to start off with the latter since the chances of a blowoff are minimal as long as the indicating water level in the manometer remains in the ‘safety’ zone.

This exercise was mostly to test the viability of the design, and if the scale worked, apply it to a final stainless steel version. Also, depending on the outcome I could always build a proper manometer with two sightglasses.

This is what the first prototype looked like:
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Version 1
Version 1
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Before testing my manometer, I ran the steam wand in my open-top keg mash tun/fermenter. The steam ejector worked perfectly, clanging and banging before it calmed down and the mash water was steaming away nicely.
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Steam wand test
Steam wand test
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The first thumper test was done with 3 gal of water each in boiler and thumper. I could tell from the sound coming from inside the thumper when the thump charge was getting close to boiling. The pressure in the boiler caused the water in the manometer to rise from the middle of the 20” sight glass to above the top of the glass. No water came out, but I knew that if my thumper charge was larger or if it had thick slops in it, the resultant increase in pressure would certainly require more length (height?) in my manometer. For the next test I ended up adding 14” lengths of copper to both columns for a total height of 45”. Ideally, any rise in water level would remain visible mid-sightglass.
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Version 2
Version 2
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The second test I conducted with the added manometer height I charged the boiler with 10 gal (6 gal water / 4 gal of vinegar) since I would need to do a cleaning run anyway. Another 6 gal of water/vinegar went into the thumper. Once the thumper came online, the water in the sight glass rose approximately 9” and remained in the visible ‘safety zone’. I might ordinarily calculate this to be 18” of water column which would equate to .65PSI, but because of the difference of the copper ID and sightglass ID, I’m pretty sure this is incorrect. That, plus input from LWTCS and Myles, a boiler should generally run about .5PSI.
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Water column test
Water column test
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Not knowing what actual pressures I would be facing, I bought a pressure gauge. The thought was to hopefully have it read anywhere from .5psi to 3psi. (The 5psi gauges were prohibitively expensive). As it turned out, the needle never moved on either test and proved buying the gauge to be a useless exercise, that is unless something clogs one day and causes the pressure to spike and the gauge to display a timely warning.

At the end of both tests I enjoyed the simplicity of opening up the vacuum valve that I installed between the thumper and boiler. It is a quarter inch stainless ball valve that could be opened safely with an ungloved hand and worked nicely. On the second test, since it was just vinegar and water I couldn’t help entertaining myself and at the boiler’s highest pressure flipped the valve a few times, causing the water in the sightglass to raise and lower on demand.
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Conclusion

I feel comfortable with my choice of safety device for my thumper and confident it will handle an overpressure situation safely. I know far too little engineering to design an optimum device, but by interpolating the numbers I do know, I was able to scale a device that satisfies both of my original requirements. What I got out of the process was a chance to learn a few things and upgrade my keg while getting to build something new. And like Yummy says, “Can’t have enough manometer designs.”

Still needed is to insulate both vessels and interconnecting plumbing, design/build a steam injector for thick mashes and modify my stubby quarter keg for thumping, but one thing at a time.
“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake.”

- W.C. Fields

My EZ Solder Shotgun
My Steam Rig and Manometer

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Deplorable
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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by Deplorable » Sun Dec 27, 2020 1:18 pm

Copper porn! I'm gonna make a sammich and read this!
Use all your senses, and its not that hard. You just have to pay attention.

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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by Deplorable » Sun Dec 27, 2020 2:16 pm

Well done TB. I know you put some work into this write up, and your still porn is always a treat to the eye.
Use all your senses, and its not that hard. You just have to pay attention.

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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by shadylane » Sun Dec 27, 2020 2:49 pm

Nice build :thumbup:
What kinda braces have Ya got in mind to protect the glass.
Last edited by shadylane on Mon Dec 28, 2020 8:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

SaltyStaves
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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by SaltyStaves » Sun Dec 27, 2020 4:09 pm

Well done. I'll have to take some inspiration from you when I finally get around to building my thumper.

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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by Yummyrum » Sun Dec 27, 2020 4:16 pm

Fantastic build and writeup TB :clap:
Hope it works well for you .

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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by Dancing4dan » Sun Dec 27, 2020 5:11 pm

That’s a thing of beauty! Thank you for doing a write up and pics.
"What harms us is to persist in self deceit and ignorance"
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Twisted Brick
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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by Twisted Brick » Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:02 am

Thanks for the comments, gentlemen. It's because of you guys I went down this particular rabbit hole.
“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake.”

- W.C. Fields

My EZ Solder Shotgun
My Steam Rig and Manometer

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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by StillerBoy » Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:34 am

Congratulation TB..

Nice work, and a unit to enjoy the fruit of your labor..

Mars
" I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent. Curiosity, Obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas "

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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by WithOrWithoutU2 » Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:23 pm

Very nice, sir. Very nice. Looking forward to hearing more on how this goes for you.

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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by SassyFrass » Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:09 am

Very nice work and a great write up. You should be proud of both. Thank you.
SF
Simple Lil' Pot Still, no temp guage, no carbon, no scrubbers, nuthin' fancy. Sometimes use a thumper, sometimes don't.

Real good info for New Folks:

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Twisted Brick
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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by Twisted Brick » Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:59 am

shadylane wrote:
Sun Dec 27, 2020 2:49 pm
Nice build :thumbup:
What kinda braces have Ya got in mind to protect the glass.
Great question, Shady. I have some copper u-brackets that need to be bolted to a cross-piece of either copper or stainless I could use. I have also been on the lookout for a bracket like this one. Most likely, I will just extend a length of stainless rod from the keg skirt to the bottom of the manometer. The whole apparatus is surprisingly stable just by itself altho it vibrates when the thumper is a-thumpin'. The glass is thick enough that it can be banged up against stuff and it just bounces off. Don't ask me how I know! I have two replacement glasses just in case.
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Overpressure Manometer.JPG
“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake.”

- W.C. Fields

My EZ Solder Shotgun
My Steam Rig and Manometer

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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by LWTCS » Tue Dec 29, 2020 5:11 pm

Can you make a protective sleeve with a peice of copper tubing?
Using a grinder to cut a slot down the length of the tube to make a viewing window,,,,if you see my meaning?

Also, that's a nice looking outfit.
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Re: New steam rig and manometer test

Post by Twisted Brick » Wed Dec 30, 2020 9:42 am

LWTCS wrote:
Tue Dec 29, 2020 5:11 pm
Can you make a protective sleeve with a peice of copper tubing?
Using a grinder to cut a slot down the length of the tube to make a viewing window,,,,if you see my meaning?

Also, that's a nice looking outfit.
That’s a great idea, Larry. I’ll see what I can come up with.
“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake.”

- W.C. Fields

My EZ Solder Shotgun
My Steam Rig and Manometer

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