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My continuous still

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My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Mon Jul 06, 2015 3:13 pm

Well, a very interesting weeked. We had some wine to process into brandy and a group of us got together to work out a continuous still so that we could avoid the bother of doing multiple batches. I knocked up a drawing, got some copper and put a few bits together.
Here's the drawing:
Continuous still after 1st trial.jpg

The balls at the bottom of the injector module are glass marbles. The theory being that the heat held in these from the rising vapours will help to vaporise the alcohol in the downcoming wash.

We got together and started processing the wine. I burnt out an element due to acidentally turning off the valve that supplied the wash to the RIMS tube. After a bit of reconfiguring and resoldering we got it going. In the resoldering I managed to get a leak in the upper flange. As it was a slow weep I didn't worry. That can be fixed later.


There is an agricultural spray nozzle attached to a 3/8 BSP injector mount that pointed upward, making a lovely inverted cone that the alcohol flashed into vapour as it exhited the nozzle.
Continuous Injector Spray - reduced size.jpg


With playing around with RIMs heat, flow rate and pot heat, we managed to get 89% ABV. Tweaking some more it went down to 75% ABV and we couldn't get the 89 again. :crying-yellow:

To start up, fill the pot with water, bring it to the boil with steam going up the column. Turn on the wine feed and fire up the RIMS tube and set for 85-90C.
Once the temperatures stabilise the pot is at 90-94C, the RIMS at 88 and the resultant ABV is around 75 - 80%.
The limitation is the pump, it can only supply 40 litres of wine per hour. A high pressure pump is needed so the rig should do around 60 litres of wine per hour.
The beauty of this setup is that there are no tails in the product and there is still plenty of flavour. The final spirit run only has to remove the feints.
:handgestures-thumbupright:
The next stage is to add more bubble plates and turn it into a fractionating column with an ethanol takeoff one or to bubble plates from the top.
So far a huge success, 100 litres of strip at 75% done over the weekend. It's a bit hard to get a real production rate as there was quite a bit of development and experimenting going on that slowed things down.
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2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
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Re: My continuous still

Postby TheMechwarrior » Mon Jul 06, 2015 4:07 pm

Lovely work RefluxEd, how did you manage your pot ale/spent wash?
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Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Mon Jul 06, 2015 4:16 pm

Hi Mech,
at the moment it goes into the drain. It has no alcohol in it and is the tails and other stuff, it stinks like an old bar. The plan is to put it through a heat exchanger to preheat the wine before it goes through the RIMS tube. If we can extract enough heat, we may be able to turn off the element in the RIMS.
2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
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Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Mon Jul 06, 2015 4:51 pm

Here's a picture of the complete rig:
Continuous stripper - reduced size.jpg
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2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
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Re: My continuous still

Postby TheMechwarrior » Tue Jul 07, 2015 5:15 pm

Do you have a spent ale overflow from the base of your collection vessel/boiler?
Or do you just run for a specific volume?
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Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Tue Jul 07, 2015 5:37 pm

Hi Mech,
if you look at the drawing in my original post you'll see on the left side an angled 20mm pipe going into the vessel welded to a vertical pipe with an anti siphon extension above and the drain out below. This sets the level of wash inside the vessel and ensures that the waste won't be troubled by any foaming on the top of the wash. A hose clamp is connected to that and runs via a garden hose outside to go into a swale that runs above my fruit trees. Spent wash really gives apples a boost, but the acidity is no good for fig trees.
2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
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Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Wed Jul 08, 2015 12:25 pm

Here is the next drawing for the development of the continuous still. The idea is to separate the ethanol and flavour components while allowing the feints and foreshots to go over the top. The number of bubbleplates is variable, and wether there are one or two bubbleplates above the ethanol out module will be determined by experimentation.
The ethanol out module has 5 pass through tubes with one downcomer that sets the level of liquid in the module.
Continuous Still with Ethanol Out.jpg


Any thoughts or suggestions will be very much appreciated. :handgestures-thumbupright:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
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RefluxEd
 
Posts: 139
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Re: My continuous still

Postby TheMechwarrior » Wed Jul 08, 2015 2:09 pm

Based on the rate limiting step of your pump being 40L/h that equates to a power requirement of 3.9kW according to my spreadsheet thingymajig.
Based on 60L/h = 5.8kW
And based on your 7.2kW available power you could in theory be stripping at about 74L/h. So keep that in mind if you are sizing up a new pump :handgestures-thumbupright:

PS...your column diameter is theoretically good for up to 250L/h of stripping potential at up to a max 24kW. Lot's of scope still left for future developments.

Cheers,

Mech.
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Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Wed Jul 08, 2015 2:26 pm

:text-goodpost:
Wow! Thank you heaps Mech Warrior. That has made me a very happy fellow. :lol:
2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
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RefluxEd
 
Posts: 139
Joined: Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:10 pm

Re: My continuous still

Postby TheMechwarrior » Tue Jul 14, 2015 10:14 am

A few questions and comments if I can.

Q1.
I didn't fully grasp your ethanol out system, care to elaborate? The pass-through tubes threw me.
And from a control loop perspective, just the one or two?
Control loop one = RIMS heating loop, heating controlled by RIMS liquid output temp.
Control loop two = Feedstock flow rate controlled by??? (manual I suspect?)
Q2.
Are the two elements in the reboiler both fully on at all times?

Observation 1.
I note that you are running your RIMS at 85-90oC, good call. A 10%abv solution will boil at 93oC at atmospheric, so you want to stay below that point.
You mentioned the need for a high pressure feed pump.
I wonder if your liquid seal leg is tall enough, can you please test this by bringing the system to boil on water with the inlet to the RIMS tube removed?
Let me know if you are getting any steam/pressure coming out, we can fix that relatively easy enough.

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Cheers,

Mech.
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Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Tue Jul 14, 2015 11:31 am

TheMechwarrior wrote:A few questions and comments if I can.

Q1.
I didn't fully grasp your ethanol out system, care to elaborate? The pass-through tubes threw me.
And from a control loop perspective, just the one or two?
Control loop one = RIMS heating loop, heating controlled by RIMS liquid output temp.
Control loop two = Feedstock flow rate controlled by??? (manual I suspect?)
Q2.
Are the two elements in the reboiler both fully on at all times?

Observation 1.
I note that you are running your RIMS at 85-90oC, good call. A 10%abv solution will boil at 93oC at atmospheric, so you want to stay below that point.
You mentioned the need for a high pressure feed pump.
I wonder if your liquid seal leg is tall enough, can you please test this by bringing the system to boil on water with the inlet to the RIMS tube removed?
Let me know if you are getting any steam/pressure coming out, we can fix that relatively easy enough.

Together Each Achieve More.

Cheers,

Mech.

Hi Mech,
Q1/ The pass through tubes are 5 x 3/4" x 55mm long copper tubes soldered into a standard 6 hole bubble plate with a downcomer in the middle hole. That has been extended to 40mm high. This is so that the reflux from the RC gets caught here, raising the level until it can over flow out the output tube. As the liquid here spend some time in the pool and be hot, I am hoping that any feints left there will evaporate. This is a trial, if it works I'll be happy. Any other suggestions are welcome.

Q2/ The elements in the pot are each controlled by a StillDragon DIY controller. The pot seems to stay around 94C due to the waste wash continually going into it. I will be using the controllers to look after this for the moment. I'm building a another thermally controlled setup with using the same controller used for the RIMS tube. http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/220-240V-Temperature-Controller-Control-Temp-Thermostat-Switch-1-Relay-w-Sensor-/281280638271?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_15&hash=item417da1ed3f
One thing I have found is that the whole setup is one great big balancing act, so if you can reliably control as many variables as possible, success is more likely.

O1/ I don't know what you mean by the "liquid seal leg." There is no problem bringing the pot to the boil, however it is held below the boil by the 90C waste wash falling back into it.
Early on I had a meltdown due to inadvertantly stopping the wash flow through the RIMS tube. The pressure relief valve worked in an unintended way by falling off due to the solder holding it melting. :lol:
There is no steam leaving the system, the temperatures in the pot stays fairly constant, if the power to the pot is increased, the wash flow can be increased and the RIMS element notched up. Everything seams to hold constant if you stick to these moves.
2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
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RefluxEd
 
Posts: 139
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Re: My continuous still

Postby TheMechwarrior » Tue Jul 14, 2015 1:14 pm

Thanks mate,

In your drawing you have a dip in the feed line going into your column, this is called a liquid seal. It stops the vapour in the column pushing back and eventually coming out the feed line.
This seal is normally placed on the outside of the unit with a drain at the base.
If the seal is not high enough then when the boiler is running and if the seal leg is empty you'll get steam coming out your wash feed line.
If I get time tonight I'll draw it up for you.

Cheers,

Mech.
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Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Tue Jul 14, 2015 2:11 pm

Hi Mech,
The wash pump I will be using can deliver 17 litres per minute at 40 PSI, so there is no chance that the column pressure will overcome the feed pressure.
Here's a provisional drawing of how I plan to set up the circulation using the wash for cooling:

Wash Circulation.jpg
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
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RefluxEd
 
Posts: 139
Joined: Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:10 pm

Re: My continuous still

Postby JayD » Wed Jul 22, 2015 9:10 pm

How are you going with this build, RefluxEd ? very interested in your progress... :handgestures-thumbupright:
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Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Wed Jul 22, 2015 10:26 pm

Hi JayD,
Last weekend we had another go at it and found that the optimum temperature for the injector spray was 95C. The altitude where we were is about 1000 ft and the boiling point of water due to this and the current atmospheric pressure at the time was 97C.
At 95C you could see the spray cone disappearing around it's periphery as the alcohols flashed to vapour. The watery components would condense on the walls of the column and run downward.
Another came up with the great idea to collect the liquids from the column wall by using a stainless Fowlers Vacola preserving lid with 9 holes punched in it. With a little panel beating it made a tight fit above the marbles, allowing any alcohol in the liquids to vapourise again.

I started off trialling the full ethanol out version, but it became very obvious that there were so many variables at play that we'd stick to the strip only version until we got that absolutely sorted. Probably need more bubbleplates too.

Continuous Still stripper2 - reduced size.jpg


Some of the findings were:
1/ Insulate the column, air currents will vary the amount of reflux.
2/ Insulate the pot.
3/ Use recovered heat from the spent wash to preheat the wine before the RIMS tube. This means the controller won't hunt as much to keep the temp at 95.
4/ Use a smart fuzzy logic controller with a temperature probe at a thermal port not on the top of the RIMS tube but at several points selectable down the side. This also reduces the hunting.
5/ For the least amount of hunting use a controller that connects directly to the SSR for the RIMS element, not via a relay.

We found the ABV of the product could drop as low as 30% and as high as 89% and it took a while to figure out why.
The optimum temperature for the pot was 94C, the injector spray 95C and over the top just after the reflux condensor was between 80-82C.
If the pot was too hot then there'd be more water vapour going up, reducing the ABV. The purpose of the pot is manyfold, the two main reasons being to be the last point where any alcohol that gets there will vapourise again and as the main source of heat for the column.
If the injector spray went below 90C there'd be more cooling going on and the alcohol wouldn't flash to vapour as well so the ABV would drop.
Once this was sorted out I could reliably get 87%

87%.jpg


A different altitude will make the temperatures vary and mean that the sweet spot for the settings will need to searched for again.
Of course, just as I was about to shut down on Sunday afternoon I decided to get a cuppa. Murphy struck. Just as I returned I saw a lot of steam and rushed to see what was going on. Just as I was approaching the solder holding the pressure relief valve on the RIMS melted and blew the valve to the other side of the shed followed by a stream of wine. :-o Deja vu.
I quickly killed the power to stop everything. The jet had blocked, even though there was a filter on the wine line. This had cause a pocket of super heated steam to form in the top of the RIMS tube, hot enough to melt the solder.
Memo to self, do a proper adjustment of the pressure valve and add a RIMS over temperature alarm to kill the power.
We have a cyclonic filter around somewhere, that should help too.
So far its been great fun and we are making progress. I'll be back at the farm on Sunday week for the next installment. In the meantime I'm buiding some new controllers and a heat exchanger for the spent wash.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
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RefluxEd
 
Posts: 139
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Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Thu Jul 23, 2015 11:46 am

An update, I did a spirit run using 7 bubbleplates on 35 litres of the stripped spirit from the weekend. I diluted it but had put a little too much into the pot. The run was done with the "low" wines at 65% ABV.
Instead of taking 35 minutes to go into reflux, it only took 22 minutes, and that was on a very cold evening 2 nights ago. The spirit came out at 91% and I stopped the run when it dropped to a bit below 80%. After letting it sit for a day I made up a bottle at 40%.
All I can say is wow! :handgestures-thumbupright:
I haven't made a spirit from Colombard wine before, but I can now see why Armagnac is so highly prised as a brandy. It is beautifully smooth with a creamy mouth feel and a lovely grape flavour. I'll be putting some on oak dominoes tonight. American oak for at least 9 months and French oak for 3 months before sampling. :obscene-drinkingcheers:
I can hardly wait.
2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
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RefluxEd
 
Posts: 139
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Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Tue Aug 23, 2016 2:43 pm

Well after being on French oak for more than 6 months and then aged for another 6 months it has turned into the best brandy I have ever tasted. We don't even use a $95 bottle of French VSOP for cooking anymore, we use it as an example of how crappy a traditionally made brandy can be.
I entered it in a competition that used a $650 bottle of cognac for reference. It was set at 5 for nose and 5 for taste. Mine got 3 for nose and 3.5 for taste, nobody else had a score above 1. So it goes to show how easy it is to make a really good brandy if you pay attention to detail and use some modern techniques. :handgestures-thumbupright:
2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
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RefluxEd
 
Posts: 139
Joined: Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:10 pm

Re: My continuous still

Postby bigfoot » Sat Aug 27, 2016 3:16 am

This has been extremely interesting to watch and track the development - thanks.
It actually prompted me to become more efficient myself and whilst I haven't built a continuous still - I have managed to develop a system that allows preheating of the next wash to 65-70 degrees C and allows for a dump and wash exchange inside a few minutes which ensures that I can be back running very quickly...inside 20 mins for 50L.
Bf
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Re: My continuous still

Postby Yummyrum » Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:49 pm

Cool stuff Refluxed :handgestures-thumbupright:
Was wondering how much reflux do you need to keep things going ?
With a feed rate around 40 L / Hr I'm guessing you are taking strip at around 4L /Hr :think:
Would adding more marbles below the feed point help with stripping more tails/water from wash ?
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Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Wed Aug 31, 2016 4:36 pm

I've decided to try another method as we occasionally had blocked jets which caused a melt down of the RIMS tube.
To avoid this I reckon pumping the wash through a heat exchanger which is heated from the boiler drain and then just dumping it on a higher bubble plate so that it overflows the downcomer and falls to the next plate below and so on I reckon the alcohol component will be stripped out by the up going vapour bubbling through each liquid level. Hence no jets to block and no high pressure squirts at high temperature to try to avoid. I'll need to experiment with the number of plates for getting the desired result. Here's the basic layout:
Continuous Still Proposal2.jpg
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
User avatar
RefluxEd
 
Posts: 139
Joined: Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:10 pm

Re: My continuous still

Postby RefluxEd » Wed Aug 31, 2016 4:42 pm

Here's the liquid circulation:
Wash Circulation2.jpg
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
2 inch BOKA/LM/VM
Bubbler with 14 4x3x4 inch tees and 15 bubble plates under a 4 inch section under the dephlagmator (RC).
2 inch Pot still.
2 inch to 4 inch Gin head.
2x 1.2 mtre Leibig condensors.
2 inch x 800 mm shotgun condenser.
Love it!
User avatar
RefluxEd
 
Posts: 139
Joined: Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:10 pm


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