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pot still with packing

pot still with packing

Postby Finespirits » Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:51 am

Hi, we are starting up in Ottawa Canada and we are using still dragon and hillbilly columns for now. As we wait for our permits, we want to build a still head and was hoping for a bit of help. Vendome is currently building these stills for another craft distillery and we would like to build something similar. Our 100gal boilers have 8" openings. So I was hoping to build a cone reducing from 8" to 3" that would be roughly 4-5 feet high. Now i contacted the distillery that is having these stills made and they said the top part is all packing. Any negative or positives about adding packing to a pot still head. We will use this still for stripping and spirit runs for our whisky.
Initially i just wanted to build an 8" column with no plates but with a dephlagmator. Any thoughts would be appreciated. My uncle is a master welder and we are very fortunate to have him on board.


oops posted in wrong area. wanted to post this in pot stills.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Zombie » Thu Jan 23, 2014 4:08 pm

Miiii Precccioussssss!

I may need to be "put down" soon.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby DAD » Wed Jan 29, 2014 8:29 am

You didn't get a lot of feedback.

I don't know why you'd put a delphag on top of a pot still.

There are a lot of debates about packing in a pot still column, but there shouldn't be.

Vendome (from the factory) packs the top hat in the pics you posted.

There is sufficient documentation and anecdotal evidence that even a a simple 2" packed column on a pot still can add as much as a "Plate" for every 10" of packed column without induced reflux. The key is low vapor speed. That's not what people are usually after with a pot still.

Negative...to get the effect of the packing you will have to run slower than without it. If you overpower it and get a puke, it will be hard to clean!
Trying to get all the ethanol and say you cut off first run at 40% abv total collected. You now need additional run(s).

Positive...if you can stand to run slower, you will get a higher ABV from a single run. I would estimate 2 additional plates and an increase in abv from 40% to ~ 60%

So, you'd have to compute the costs associated with slower run vs multiple runs to up ABV...

There are people and examples here that can set you straight on the economics.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby the Doctor » Wed Jan 29, 2014 9:36 am

With packing this is no longer a pot still. if it is to be used as a stripper i fail to see any advantage. I am a commercial distiller and use my pot still for stripping quickly, and put the effort and time into polishing the wash in the spirits still. To eac their own, but I do not see any reason for complicating and slowing a very simple part of the process.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Aussiedownunder » Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:16 pm

Hi Doc would love to see a photo of your pot still
If its free pick it up
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Finespirits » Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:45 pm

Thanks for the replies. I thought as well that it would slow down the distillation by having the packing but i assume that having x% higher abv is probably worth the extra couple of hours of work...?
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Zombie » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:28 am

There are two ways to look at that. Yes you will get slightly higher ABV BUT...
You most likely cut or temper your hootch so you will be adding pure water, and more of it. Your flavor will be cut just that much more. To me the whole idea of pot stilling is getting all the flavor you can from the mash/wash. Math is my weak point but I believe in the end you wind up with the same amount of finished product.
One with more flavor or one with less. :confusion-shrug:

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Re: pot still with packing

Postby crow » Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:55 pm

you will get a slightly different product with a packed column on a pot still through passive reflux. I ran my pot still both ways many times and personally preferred it with some (say 12") of packing, I didn't run it slower and the product was slightly cleaner and a slightly elevated ABV :handgestures-thumbupright:
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Finespirits » Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:06 pm

Thanks.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby myles » Fri Mar 21, 2014 7:03 pm

I have run a smaller version of this before.

With induced reflux and a short packed section above a pot still there are effectively two ways to run this rig.

1. You can use the dephlegmator selectively during the run. For example to aid heads compression at the start, and then switch it off for the hearts phase. At pot still power levels the packing very rapidly heats up when there is no induced reflux. Once hot it behaves as if it were not there.

2. You can use minimal induced reflux throughout the run, to slightly modify the performance of the pot still. In effect you can simulate the natural reflux that you would achieve with a bigger conical vapour path.

Neither method gives you the control that could be achieved with a short plated column, but perhaps you can get sufficient control for what you wish to do.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby RandyMarshCT » Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:44 pm

Sure it's still a pot still, providing there's no condenser. If the packing is copper, it makes plenty of sense. The added passive reflux in a system like that will give you at least 5% higher abv without having the loss of flavor you'd get with a reflux condenser. For me, with my pot still, I get 10% higher abv with about 85% of my normal input power (heat) using copper mesh for passive reflux. I wouldn't use it for a stripping run, but for the few spirit runs I do with a potstill, I always use it.

It's worth experimenting with and without it. Then decide if it does anything with your setup. If you have a decent amount of surface area on your stillhead (like the ones pictured above with a 4 to 5 foot reducer) I think you'll notice a difference.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Zombie » Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:04 pm

I've been reading an article that pretty well sums up what the others have said here. I'll paraphrase, and then link to the paper...

Packing of any sort works most efficiently at lower vapor speeds (0.8 - 2.4 feet per second)
It also has little or no use if there is no reflux in the column. The idea is to create interaction between vapor/liquid. No liquid = no interaction. No interaction = no purpose for packing.
With reflux packing is more efficient that any type of plate system simply because of the amount of surface area, and vapor liquid interaction.

Apparently these tray/plated distillation columns are a direct off shoot of the petro chemical industry, and are pretty cool. Trouble is everyone is still trying to adapt them to the best use in ethanol/spirit distillation.
In either case (trays/packing) the same result can be achieved... Both require Reflux to work.
Difference is slow vapor speed for packing / Fast speed for trays. Without reflux either one is pointless.
Exzmple: a large low powered boiler can make a predictable product w/ a packed column
A small high powered boiler will do the same w/ a plated column but you cannot swap columns, and get either result
Bottom line you have to design from either end... boiler up or column down. the SYSTEM has to balance to be efficient/cost effective/predictable.

I'm loving this stuff guys! Here's the link http://www.chemeng.queensu.ca/courses/C ... CE1968.pdf

I may need to be "put down" soon.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby myles » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:38 pm

Not a bad summary Zombie.

However with the short plated columns (less than 5 plates) what some folks are doing is to use the dephlegmator to fill the plates - and then switch off the coolant.

The plates stay charged for the duration of the run when used in pot still mode. Also some of the short plated columns in copper, seem to have enough naturally induced reflux to function as a pot still. Probably because the copper column can shed a lot more heat than a stainless one.

I don't for 1 minute suggest trying to run in reflux mode without induced reflux - it would be much to slow and probably unstable. However, as a fancy pot still they are quite versatile.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Zombie » Tue Mar 25, 2014 6:58 pm

That brings up a very good point.
On Paper... distillation has specific rules, and results. In the real world many of those rules are "bent" almost beyond what is possible.
Say for instance a fella gets XYZ results 1,000 times, and switches to a new method that gives XYZ +1. It is often the case that neither method was run correctly or according to the rules but the results are repeatable enough to classify as "working".

I only say this to make the point that for newcomers like myself, it is SOOOO hard to determine what is actually working within design parameters, and what is working on the edge of stability or way out of its designed range.

I can only assume that for gentlemen like FineSpirits/Doc, and other professional distillers it must take years to tune both their equipment, and palette to create exactly what they want. Kudos for all the hard work! :handgestures-thumbupright:

My apology to Mr. FineSpirits for sidetracking... I'm full of piss, and vinegar. Just hope some of my thoughts help.

Kind of like kids w/ cars...
You used to cut off the pipes, throw on a bigger carb, and kick a_ _. (pot still)
Today you need a degree in computer science to make a street rod. (distillation column)

I may need to be "put down" soon.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Zymurgy Bob » Wed Mar 26, 2014 3:24 am

I would have to disagree, depending on what you admire, and what kind of a hurry you're in. If you want speed, ease of distillation, production rate, reproducibility, low man-hours, and lowered cost, you're probably right, but the best liquors out there (in my humble opinion) are not produced in column stills, and those are the liquors I try to make.

I've got a potstill, and I have some time, and I don't think making truly fine liquor is a speed contest.

[quote="Zombie"
Kind of like kids w/ cars...
You used to cut off the pipes, throw on a bigger carb, and kick a_ _. (pot still)
Today you need a degree in computer science to make a street rod. (distillation column)[/quote]
Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller http://www.kelleybarts.com/zymurgy-bob-books/making-fine-spirits/

You can make whisky in a reflux still, you can make vodka in a potstill,
and you can eat chicken noodle soup with a crescent wrench. But..
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby DAD » Thu Mar 27, 2014 9:21 am

Zombie...just remember that people have been distilling for thousands of years with what they had on hand and minimal understanding of why it worked. We are so far ahead of the game it's astonishing!

Then again, the need is to create something you like to drink, with what you have available...nothing else.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Zombie » Mon Mar 31, 2014 8:21 am

I couldn't agree w/ both of you more.

I was reaching for the pinnacle of distillation in those statements, and sidetracking from the intent of the thread.
I love pot stills but am fascinated by column distillation. Sorry for burning rubber in a speed bump zone. ;-)

I may need to be "put down" soon.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby FAROM » Tue Feb 17, 2015 12:22 am

Congratulations Zombie for your preparation and your way of arguing. ;-)
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Zombie » Tue Feb 17, 2015 4:51 am

LOL... I've fallen down the slope some since then.

I was reading distillation everything for 12 -14 hours a day.

Today??? I forgot I read that stuff. You brought it all flooding back in for me tho.
Thanks! :handgestures-thumbupright:

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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Zombie Killer » Tue Feb 17, 2015 6:16 am

I have been reading like crazy all that i can get about different methods of Distillation ( mostly form the design aspect of a still at this point ) and have found the process of distillation confusing as it is simple.
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Re: pot still with packing

Postby Zombie » Tue Feb 17, 2015 12:26 pm

It's a BITCH bro! I started at the rock bottom, and scratched my way up.
Learned fuel columns, all sorts of plated, packings, combos, and why. Vapor speeds, densities, mole fractions.

I bootlegged thousands of dollars worth of software, and got throw off 3'-4 forums in no time.

This place drove me MADDDDDD! Either that or it was the 44 pots of coffee, and 12 packs of smokes per day but I'm blaming on this place!

I'm much better now. I stopped putting sugar in the coffee maker.

I may need to be "put down" soon.
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