Insulation and stuff

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Insulation and stuff

Postby phoenix » Sat Oct 04, 2008 8:30 am

Hi All,
I just found a used 58ltr, 15.5 US gal keg, my stillhead is finished, other than needle valves and I have a couple of ideas how I'm going to put it all together. I think I'm going to use a copper mixing bowl instead of SS as it should be easier to solder the copper fittings to. Is that a good or bad idea and why? I am going to use a propane burner to heat the boiler and I'm wondering about what type of insulation to get for the boiler and reflux column. Will that "reflectix" stuff stand up to the heat spillover from the propane burner if I use it on the boiler itself or will it just melt? What are other people using? I can find lots of references to using it with electric heat but none on using it with propane. I'm up here in the cold white north and want to run the still in the garage with the overhead door cracked open for ventilation but I do have a covered area outside I could use and be able to use a slightly higher, about 8" more, 36" vs 44",column. Either way I think some insulation would help speed up the process.
Thanks,
Kim
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby junkyard dawg » Sat Oct 04, 2008 9:57 am

first, I would not cut the keg. There is just no good reason... you can clamp directly to the keg or weld on a threaded fitting. I use kaowool to insulate.
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby minime » Sat Oct 04, 2008 10:12 am

Insulation isn't easy to keep intact on a propane heated boiler. I used the same closed cell stuff you mentioned and the bottom third of it is in pretty poor shape. It certainly makes a difference on heat up time and energy consumption though. Far as column length is concerned you should go as long a you possibly can. Every inch of quality packing helps in both purity and speed of production.

A BIG energy saver I just uncovered is in this thread viewtopic.php?f=2&t=8213

I'm fairly certain I've saved about 25% in fuel. I used to do two strips and a spirit run on one 20 LB bottle. I just finished two strips and a spirit run and I'm fairly certain there's at least another strip in the bottle maybe more.

phoenix wrote:I think I'm going to use a copper mixing bowl instead of SS as it should be easier to solder the copper fittings to. Is that a good or bad idea and why?


Copper is ALWAYS a good idea
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby phoenix » Sat Oct 04, 2008 10:31 am

junkyard dawg wrote:first, I would not cut the keg. There is just no good reason... you can clamp directly to the keg or weld on a threaded fitting. I use kaowool to insulate.

jd,
If I just weld in a tri-clamp or whatever, how do you clean out the keg? I was also thinking I could boil grain and corn etc for mashes in it with the larger opening. Is that realistic? I'm just learning :D
Kim
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby Dnderhead » Sat Oct 04, 2008 10:37 am

if you are going to use it for grain you will want the larger opening.
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby junkyard dawg » Sat Oct 04, 2008 11:53 am

If you are going to run sugar washes or cleared mashes or cleared fruit then I would not cut it. You are going to do all you can not to scorch the bottom with an opened keg or one that is intact... If you want to run with grain or fruit in the boiler then I would put the time and money into making a simple double boiler rather than cut the keg and have to deal with all the fabrication and sealing work. Cleaning is not an issue with a 2" opening in the boiler... just use the same techniques the beer guys use. A product called ultimate brewery cleaner will absolve all but the most heinous distilling sins...

I use and recommend a female 2" npt half coupling welded onto the top of the keg and a 2" male on the column. It is totally bombproof. NO LEAKS! Totally solid. Will last for generations... no gaskets... no flour paste...no cork...no clamps...no problems...

The only difference is that you can't reach in and scrub the boiler with your hands, but you have to think, do you really want to be doing that in the first place?

edited to add. I have used uncut kegs to mash and ferment in. I had this idea that you could mash ferment and distill in the same keg. not such a great idea....making a big mashing pot out of a keg is a great idea. But a boiler is best optimized as a boiler, and a mash tun is best optimized to be a mash tun. Just like a chisel is best used as a chisel and a screwdriver is best as a screwdriver... yeah, you can turn a screw with a chisel and you can chip wood with a screwdriver, but its just not the best tool for the job.
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby Dutchmancreek » Sat Oct 04, 2008 1:20 pm

It just so happens that I just insulated my boiler for the first time. I used the "Reflectix" insulation, but I only covered the top two thirds of the keg sides and the top. I did a stripping run on my pot still and the insulation held up perfectly. That far up the keg, it handled the heat with no problem. It also reduced my heat up time considerably. So far I'm sold on it!

The insulation is wrapped around the boiler and taped with aluminum tape so I can remove it when I take everything down at the end of the run for clean up.

I use the same insulation on the column of my column still.
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby phoenix » Sat Oct 04, 2008 2:48 pm

Jeez jd, now you got me really thinking :( . Do you use SS fittings or SS on the keg and copper on the column? If I don't go with the bowl attachment I then have 2 holes to contend with. If I cut the top 1 hole is gone and I can get inside the keg to fix the other from the inside. I just got a call from a friend that thinks he has another keg for me for nothing. The problem is he lives about 14 hrs drive from me :( I think I'll cut this one and use it till I get to see the other one and if it is in good shape I will do the 2" NPT fittings on it and turn this one into a dedicated mash tun. I do like the idea of the double boiler, I saw a post here somewhere :wink:
Dutchmancreek,
Do you use a propane burner on your rig? I was going to use it on my column also.
Kim
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby Hawke » Sat Oct 04, 2008 3:03 pm

I bought a cut keg from Sabco, did a ss bowl for my 2". Then I put together a 3" Boka and used a copper gold pan for a lid. Haven't taken the lid off since, the 3" opening is more than enough for filling and cleaning. Built another reducer to go from the 3" to 2".
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby eternalfrost » Sat Oct 04, 2008 4:03 pm

phoenix wrote:Do you use SS fittings or SS on the keg and copper on the column?


i used a quick-connect X male SS from brewhaus and a female X solder-on copper from Mcmaster Carr

works perfect for me
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby junkyard dawg » Sat Oct 04, 2008 4:43 pm

The problem is he lives about 14 hrs drive from me


yeah, so much for free...

I used a stainless fitting on the keg and copper on the column. Either way you build it, good luck.
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby punkin » Sun Oct 05, 2008 11:37 am

I've missed a bit here...

Why do you want to do grain mashes if you're running a column?

Unless you're getting grain for free, it's a bloody expensive and time consuming way to make vodka at home.
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby junkyard dawg » Sun Oct 05, 2008 2:58 pm

My column can be run without packing and no reflux and it behaves just like a potstill. There is really no problem getting all the flavor you want from an offset head type of still. Especially true if you are distilling on the grain...
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby punkin » Sun Oct 05, 2008 4:06 pm

junkyard dawg wrote:My column can be run without packing and no reflux and it behaves just like a potstill. There is really no problem getting all the flavor you want from an offset head type of still. Especially true if you are distilling on the grain...


But what is the benefit of using a column to distill grain mashes?
Why would you build one for that?
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby junkyard dawg » Sun Oct 05, 2008 4:38 pm

Well, I guess the reason one would build this design first is that it is the design most folks see first. Who knows...? After I moved up from a rudimentary potstill, the first thing I came across that seemed to be well designed and thoughtful was the offset head reflux still. And thats what I made. There are lots of points that can be argued about the offset head design, but one thing that is beyond debate is that it works great and can be both a potstill and a high purity reflux still with no extra parts or changes. Not a bad choice for a newbie...

Do we even know what he built? He mentioned a column and valves and I assumed...

You can use a valved reflux still to concentrate the heads on a grain run... then turn off the reflux and run like a potstill... Maybe phoenix can step in here and describe what he built and what he wants then we can offer some better advice on what to do?
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby Tomfooleryxxx » Sun Oct 05, 2008 6:52 pm

My column can be run without packing and no reflux and it behaves just like a potstill. There is really no problem getting all the flavor you want from an offset head type of still.
I agree one still CAN do it all ! My column can be a lowly 3" Boka LM slant plate with 5' of packing or 1' without packing. Punkin you could do the same with your new VM setup, by detuning the column, taking out the reflux coil, capping the top and opening the VM valve all the way. It don't matter how we get there as long as we get there. :lol:
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby punkin » Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:32 pm

Punkin you could do the same with your new VM setup, by detuning the column, taking out the reflux coil, capping the top and opening the VM valve all the way. It don't matter how we get there as long as we get there.


I'll stick with my potstill, i think.

Tooo much fuckin round to use the Skanky Hoe for simple flavours and broad spirits.
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby HookLine » Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:37 pm

Wot Sir Punkin sed.

So much easier to have a separate pot still head. Use the right tool for the job.
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby punkin » Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:46 pm

HookLine wrote:Wot Sir Punkin sed.




That's enough of your cheek, i got your yeast packaged up and sitting on my bench for postage tommorrow.....






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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby Tomfooleryxxx » Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:04 pm

Some of us don't have a mad scientist lab, the way you have 2 stills setup is is great :( ( shed envy ) Boka and off setheads are vertical no liebeg needing extra support thus making the transformation a bit easier.
Use the right tool for the job.
explain to me hookline why a shortened detuned Boka is not the RIGHT tool for the job :?:
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby punkin » Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:15 pm

Tomfooleryxxx wrote:Some of us don't have a mad scientist lab, the way you have 2 stills setup is is great :( ( shed envy ) Boka and off setheads are vertical no liebeg needing extra support thus making the transformation a bit easier.
Use the right tool for the job.
explain to me hookline why a shortened detuned Boka is not the RIGHT tool for the job :?:



I in no way wanted to start an unwinnable argument here. I mereley asked if i was missing something or getting confused as to why someone would be building an electric element column still for doing grain mashes.

If pheonix comes on and says he mostly wants to do neutral but doesn't want to cut himself off from trying ujsm or something in the future, i'll understand that's what was meant. I just didn't get that at first. :?

No-ones said that you're doing things wrong or you're a poor relation cause you only have one still and can't justify the visible means of support for a damn leibig (something i solved with a piece of threaded rod worth 58 cents and two $2 standoff brackets from the plumbing shop in a nice purple colour :wink: ).

Please don't put me in the middle of an unnessercary shitfight.
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby Tomfooleryxxx » Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:53 pm

But what is the benefit of using a column to distill grain mashes?
I was merely trying to explain my benifits by answering your question. Argument :?: shitfight :?: My apologies for mistaking this for a discussion board.
No-ones said that you're doing things wrong or you're a poor relation cause you only have one still and can't justify the visible means of support for a damn leibig (something i solved with a piece of threaded rod worth 58 cents and two $2 standoff brackets from the plumbing shop in a nice purple colour :wink: ).
Condescending maybe a little.
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby HookLine » Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:13 pm

Tomfooleryxxx wrote:Some of us don't have a mad scientist lab, the way you have 2 stills setup is is great :( ( shed envy ) Boka and off setheads are vertical no liebeg needing extra support thus making the transformation a bit easier.
Use the right tool for the job.
explain to me hookline why a shortened detuned Boka is not the RIGHT tool for the job :?:


"shortened"

You have kinda answered your own question. The original question was about detuning a tall reflux column, not a short one. If you have a detachable head on your reflux column, that will work fine as a pot still. And I don't doubt that removing all the packing from a tall reflux column will also give a good result. But taking out packing and putting it back in can be a real pain in the rear for a tall column, especially if, like me, you are using stainless mesh, which has a mind of its own and is not easy to put in the column to start with. So much easier to have dedicated short pot column (or detachable reflux head) with no packing in it.
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby HookLine » Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:26 pm

punkin wrote:
HookLine wrote:Wot Sir Punkin sed.


That's enough of your cheek, i got your yeast packaged up and sitting on my bench for postage tommorrow.....

IfYourNotCheekyPunkin


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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby punkin » Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:29 pm

HookLine wrote:
punkin wrote:
HookLine wrote:Wot Sir Punkin sed.


That's enough of your cheek, i got your yeast packaged up and sitting on my bench for postage tommorrow.....

IfYourNotCheekyPunkin


Where's a kowtow icon when you need one?

LowlyUngratefulSnarkyPeasantScumHook

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:mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby phoenix » Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:47 pm

Hi All,
Sorry to be away for so long but I see you were all getting along without me quite well, lol. MMA night last night and a very long golf game today is just letting me get some replys in here. I am building a propane fired offset head valved reflux. 15.5 gal keg, 2" column to be packed with copper packing. The column will be removeable and I will build a short one to use the head as a pot still. I think I am also going to build a small liebig to cool the distilate some. My main purpose is neutral spirits but I would like a chance to do some UJSM or the like if I want to. I also want to play with potato vodka thus my desire to use the keg as a boiler also. After some studying I felt the valved reflux did the neutrals really well and didn't do to bad on the other stuff either so that is the route I took. I will post some pics of where I am at in the morning and will eagerly await the inflow your combined wisdom and knowledge :D
Kim
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby punkin » Sun Oct 05, 2008 10:01 pm

phoenix wrote:Hi All,
Sorry to be away for so long but I see you were all getting along without me quite well, lol. MMA night last night and a very long golf game today is just letting me get some replys in here. I am building a propane fired offset head valved reflux. 15.5 gal keg, 2" column to be packed with copper packing. The column will be removeable and I will build a short one to use the head as a pot still. I think I am also going to build a small liebig to cool the distilate some. My main purpose is neutral spirits but I would like a chance to do some UJSM or the like if I want to. I also want to play with potato vodka thus my desire to use the keg as a boiler also. After some studying I felt the valved reflux did the neutrals really well and didn't do to bad on the other stuff either so that is the route I took. I will post some pics of where I am at in the morning and will eagerly await the inflow your combined wisdom and knowledge :D
Kim


Good on ya Kim. I kinda figured that's the go when JD pointed it out.

You haven't filled in the where in the world you are bit, if we know what country we can advise a little better.

If you are in Australia there is a common plumbing fitting called a Copamate flange . It solders direct to your copper column and bolts to studs welded in your boiler. Four inch cutout allows you to get your hand in ( i haven't needed to in over a hundred potstill runs) and attachment is simple as doing the nuts up.
I believe they might be harder to get in some countries.

Image

Image

The way i've done my Column still was a direct copy of Hooklines attachment with a 40-50mm stainless reducer welded direct to the keg top. By far the simplest, cheapest connection, and it's simply screwed in for a leakproof connection.

Image
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby phoenix » Sun Oct 05, 2008 10:25 pm

Punkin,
That is some sweet stuff there. I'm in the great white north, Canada, in British Columbia. I have never seen a fitting like in the first pic but it looks really easy to use. I ordered a 9" heavy copper mixing bowl off ebay yesterday. I'm going to attach it using 12 studs and some angle iron clamps that should just about cover the whole lip of the bowl so I should avoid blown gaskets or flour paste seals, I hope. I like the idea of the SS fittings as per your last pic but I do want to use this as a boiler and a mash/potato cooker till I get another keg to use as the boiler alone.
Kim
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby junkyard dawg » Mon Oct 06, 2008 3:00 pm

Gee, ya'll have been busy... :D

Not to drag this out, but just for the sake of contemplation...

My column is about 38 inches. Its 2" all the way... add a couple more inches for the offset part and then there is a condenser. Without packing and reflux how is this different than any other potstill? How does that vapor path compare to how punkins is built with the copamate flange? I'd dare to guess that its a shorter vapor path to the condenser than an onion headed alembic... Not too far from a long lyne arm short column style... Insulate the column and I bet it works the same. If you want to talk numbers...(I hate numbers... :roll: ) When I run as a potstill, I get potstill numbers for temp, abv etc. If I add some reflux I can easily go to 90% or maybe more... (I rarely have seen the need to go higher... only for the novelty of it.) Personally, packing has never been an issue. I made this nifty cedar handle and epoxyed in a stainless filler rod for tig welding. It's about 36"... on the end I made a little corkscrew... makes putting stainless scrubbies in or out a breeze. just twist it up and it holds them tight, to take it out just twist the other way...

I do prefer to run my other one tho... the short column with a coil in a keg...
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Re: Insulation and stuff

Postby phoenix » Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:32 am

HI All,
So here's where I am at this point. I am waiting for my packing, thermometer, copper mixing bowl and my SS needle valves to arrive. Come on Canada Post :D. The liebig is 3/8" inside a 1/2"x 18" long water jacket. It is just to further cool the distilate but I still hope I made it big enough. I had to lower the burner in its stand as it just blew itself out when I turned it up when it was at its original height but seems to work well now. I think I will get the studs welded on to the keg before I cut out the top so it won't warp, I hope.
Kim
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