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Offline Steamkid  
#1 Posted : Monday, June 24, 2013 1:16:25 PM(UTC)

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"I've been a plumber for the last twenty years, so when my cousin approached me about building a still, I was interested in testing my skills on a reflux column after a bit of research.
I made a 36"" tower out of 2"" copper.
At the top of the column is a 10"" long coil made from 1/4"" roll out tubing.
I didn't like the very common design of these copper tubes that pass through the column and continue out to jacket cool the outlet pipe.
I did however still jacket cool the outlet pipe.
Knowing what I know now, I probably would have built a Nixon still, but I have been getting pretty good results.
I couldn't get copper scrubbers, but I found copper screen roll at an art supply used for sculpture molds. I rolled it tight and stuffed it in the column.
I also lined the 20 gal pot with copper.
So, with that, I've reached 87% abv on my third run, and that was mash that was only about 13%.
My goal is to hit 95%abv. Maybe I could with a more potent mash but I won't know until my next run.
Is there anything inherently wrong with my design?
I've attached a crude drawing.

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Offline John Barleycorn  
#2 Posted : Monday, June 24, 2013 4:26:02 PM(UTC)
John Barleycorn

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"Hi Steamkid,

Welcome to the forum!

The drawing you posted shows a cooling management (CM) design.

There are three things that affect the efficiency of you column: its length, the type of packing material, and the reflux ratio. Once your length and packing material have been chosen, you're left with only the reflux ratio. Unless you have some way to control your cooling water temperature (which isn't practical), there are only two things you can use to indirectly control the reflux ratio: power and the volumetric flow rate through the reflux condenser. Most of us aren't equipped to measure the true power level, but we have a power controller that at gives us some type of scale to use (a knob with a scale), so we can at least record the settings that work for us. The water flow is another beast that is difficult to measure in a meaniful way, so from a practical perspective, we're left with simply measuring the drip rate (so many drips per second), or the collection rate (so many mL per hour) -- basically how much vapor we're removing from the system (and condensing for product). The trick is trying to find the sweet spot for the particular rig you're using. So learning how to drive your rig is like everything else -- it just takes some practice, and trial and error. In the end, you're simply adjusting power or cooling water to get an appropriate reflux ratio.

So there are a few things that can help you zero in on your sweet spot. The first thing to recognize is that if you collect too fast (you allow too much vapor to leave the column), your reflux ratio may be too low to achieve your target abv (the volume of liquid moving down the column is too low compared to the volume of vapor moving up the column). So try to collect very slowly at first to see what you can get (perhaps a few drops per second).

The second thing to recognize is that if your power is too low, you wont have enough vapor moving up the column. In this case, you would have to reduce your collection rate to an unmanageably slow rate in order to maintain an acceptable reflux ratio (to keep enough liquid volume moving back down the column). However, the solution is not to simply crank up the power and pound the hell out of your column since that will lead to smearing (you won't get good separation between the fractions ... your product will likely taste bad).

One of the things you can try is to get your power adjusted without any flow through your reflux condenser so you have a ""string of drops"" or a very thin stream leaving your product condenser. Then cut in your cooling water so nothing is being collected and let it sit for at least 30 - 45 minutes. After it sits, slowly reduce your cooling water until you get 2 - 3 drops per second ... and collect at that rate for the remainder of the run. As the run continues, you will have to bump up your power from time to time to maintain your collection rate.

Just be patient. If you use the proper amount of power and collect very slowly during your first several runs, you'll have a good idea of what your rig is capable of. Once you get a feel for things you can play around with increasing your collection rate (and power) once you're in hearts.

Also, you can indeed strip a few washes and use the low wines for a single spirit run. When you strip, don't bother with any packing or reflux cooling water, and run it as hard and fast as you can ... you're just trying to reduce the volume. Low wines don't taste or smell very good, but that's ok ... you'll get everything cleaned up when you do your spirit run ... and you may find that things are easier to drive when you start with low wines.

Offline kane  
#3 Posted : Tuesday, June 25, 2013 1:17:19 AM(UTC)

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thanks john
thats how i learned to drive my rig was just trial and error"
Offline Gravelier  
#4 Posted : Thursday, July 11, 2013 5:23:36 PM(UTC)

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Hi All:

I have an idea for a reflux still that I would like other people's thoughts. Hopefully, not everyone will say I'm crazy. I already know that. Since the title of this thread is Highbred stills, I hope no one is offened because I am using this for my question.

My present stil ,is a 2 x 36 reflux with SS scrubber packing. My condenser is a section of 1" with an internal spiral, and the rest of the piece of 2" as a jacket, or about 24". The reflux has 2 passes of 1/2" copper. The discharge from the condenser section. One pass at the top of the column and one at the bottom of the column. The system really operates very well. The discharge water from the condenser provides cooling in the reflux column. The discharge from the system will be 200 F or a little above, but because of the size of the condenser and the spiral, internal, the lower condenser jacket is cold. Basically well water temp, or about 60 F.

Ok, so here is my question, I am thinking of building another 2" column as a mirror image of the condenser. That is a 2" column with a 1" internal condenser. I am thinking that I would spiral wrap the internal and external of the 1" with copper, within the 2" column.. The 1" internal would control my reflux ratio. I don't seem to have any trouble with having enough heat source to drive the system. And I have plenty of 55 to 60 F well water to cool the system.

Does anyone see any major errors in my thinking? The problem lies in that if it doesn't work as anticipated, I've got about $10 worth of scrap copper that I paid $100 for.

Thanks for your thoughts.

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