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The beginning - Lessons Learned

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The beginning - Lessons Learned

Postby Blackstrap » Sat Jan 27, 2018 9:05 am

OK first off I'm not by any means a teacher, or one that knows a lot... but my background in engineering and machining/fabricating, and the love of distilling has rewards as well as trials. Lets begin with how it all started and why. (sorry If it's long winded)

A fouled batch of wine and wondering what could I do with this, not wanting to toss it away…I began reading…and so this hobby began…with a 5 gallon stainless pot and some copper and lots of reading, and more reading. (My first still was a 5 gallon stainless pot still simple crude, but put out some smooth Brandy.)

Of course I now have the bug and it's growing, next step… Buy a decommissioned keg off the local distributor, I’m practicing my solder and welding skills, first time soldering in a plumbing type environment… You’ll never learn if you don’t try, Right? (my keg has a couple scares of patch work, but that's progress and practice) Everything that would come in contact with either liquid or vapor on this rig is either Stainless, Copper, or Glass...

Starting with the keg it’s a ½ barrel stainless, with a keg to column Tri clamp adapter from Mile Hi distilling, soldering the 1 ½ stainless FPT to the keg I was able to add the ULWD 5500W heating element. (screws right in) also adding 2, ½ stainless FPT ports 1) for a drain, the other because...This turned out to be awesome I added a temp gauge and made my own site gauge out of 1/2 copper tubing a tubing, (I remove this when distilling though) but works great as a HLT.

The column is a 42in. long x 2in. dia. Adding ½ copper tubing the runs into then out of the column to give some sort of reflux, I added a 1in dia. tubing between the inlet and outlet of 90 degrees offset to allow airflow, and to break up the vapor path, I’ve not added any packing to the column as of yet, I use pure copper netting as resistance in the reflux part of the column. In full reflux mode, on the first run (you all call it stripping run) at the output of the parrots beak it's reads 170 proof (save that for later)

The vapor is then passed off to the Thumper through ½ tubing. I had a custom stainless plate made to accommodate the ½ dia. tubing inlet and outlet and a 3/8 dia. valved back to the column should his Thumper become full (this prevents puke over from having a small Thumper, and provides additional reflux) From time to time I will pre-charge the thumper for that extra flavor, a couple cinnamon sticks, or a cpl tablespoon of Vanilla or Almond extract. (when charging the thumper this way a lot goes along way for flavoring

I miss my worm, but decided on a Liebig design using 1in dia. 32 in long over a “crimped” ½ dia. 46in long total…(for added turbulence, I added solid copper wire into the “crimped” 1/2 dia. tubing.) this maybe a slight over kill, but I wanted to make sure I’m getting 100% vapor condensed back to liquid.

My goal in running this type of rig is I wanted the option to run my homemade blackberry and apple wines, along with running an all Malted all grain (100% malted grain bill) though… but without completely stripping the flavor… I’m running in full reflux on a UJSSM a 170 proof of hearts on the outflow of the parrot.

Almost forgot details on the control box, This was a hard lesson learned for me, 1) did not understand that I wanted to control the amount of heat applied to the keg, not maintain temperature when distilling… a PID controller would normally be used for creating your mash for ferment, and allowing the starches to be converted to sugar by holding a steady temperature for a period of time… So I wired up my control box with a 240v PID using an SSR and K type thermo probe, this is run off its own 30amp breaker, the pump is run off 110v along with the cooling fan built into the control box, In order to run a still I added to the existing PID control a SSVR and Honeywell pot dial… When running the 50/50 vinegar cleaning run, it went from 52 degrees to collection on the other end of the parrot, in less than an hour. (water valve was off to the column in this situation)

I’m fortunate enough to live with a supportive wife (who would rather drink my wine, but I can’t fault her for that, it’s all good) and I have access to great spring water and no chemicals added, I also have seasoned Red, American White Oak available for aging… And I'm working on roasting Black Walnuts and using them for aging and flavor

My advice to those new to picking up this hobby, READ, Investigate, learn from those that have sound advice, and take notes!
If anyone wants to ask about details, because that's where the :twisted: devil is....Questions are always free it's the answers that will cost ya... seriously though, ask.

Now would you all like to hear about some failed or some not so good attempts? :idea: (i.e. like when I built a baine marie style boiler, Mash,ferment,and distill all from the same vessel?) :wink:
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"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."—Oscar Wilde
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Location: NW Pennsylvania
Equipment type: 15 gallon 3 vessel 2 tier HERMs Brew System

15 gallon Keggle Pot Type still with 3 foot partial column added thumper and 1inch over 1/2 inch liebig condenser 40" long. 70 gallon cooler reservoir, aquarium pump plumbed with 1/2 inch cooling lines.

Re: The beginning - Lessons Learned

Postby Pikey » Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:31 pm

Blackstrap wrote:
Almost forgot details on the control box, This was a hard lesson learned for me, 1) did not understand that I wanted to control the amount of heat applied to the keg, not maintain temperature when distilling… a PID controller..............

Yup - Me too ! I did several runs gradually creeping the head temp up to around 88 C or so until I started comparing the abv x volume of teh product withn that of the wash and went looking for ..... "the rest" of the alcohol :doh:
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