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Gas or electricity?

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Gas or electricity?

Postby Username » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:30 pm

So I've decided on a 4" SD Dash column. It'll be mounted on a 50 L Sanke.

I need to make a call on how I'm going to power the still now. I've a 9kw propane burner, also considering 2 x 2.4kw elements with a controller on one.

I already have the burner, but am leaning towards the electric elements as I reckon they may be easier to control the power and as a result the still.

Would love to hear people's thoughts on this, pros, cons, over or underpowered?
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Re: Gas or electricity?

Postby S-Cackalacky » Fri Nov 10, 2017 7:32 pm

I don't know where you live so I can't say much about the economy of one over the other. I use electric because I run my still indoors and that makes it safer and quieter. I suppose some would suggest that gas is easier - just hook it up and go. In some countries, gas may even be cheaper than electric. If you go electric, you will also need a controller. SD sells a kit that others say is fairly easy to assemble. Another downside to gas is that you have to transport and refill tanks.

You'll need to weigh the options and make the decission that best suits your circumstances. Good luck with it.
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Re: Gas or electricity?

Postby The Baker » Fri Nov 10, 2017 8:10 pm

Maybe I wrote this at the same time as S-Cackerlacky wrote his.....

Factors you haven't mentioned:

What is your access to gas?
If you can use piped natural gas that is almost certainly cheaper than bottled gas; if you use bottles they can run out, it is a pain to go and get another bottle, even the space taken up by the bottles can be a minor consideration.

Or it is possible you have a REALLY BIG gas bottle/ tank at your place of stilling; that can be a lot cheaper and more convenient than the bottles you have to go to the shop for.

Or, electricity;
in my case I have 3 kw of solar power that if I don't use it goes to the power company at a pitiful rate of compensation.
So if I have a 3 kw element it effectively costs me 6c a kw if I am using no other power in the house.

Another thing no-one seems to talk about;
You have a stainless Sanke boiler. If you use an internal electric element that is going to be much more efficient thermally than putting a fire underneath the Sanke (even though it is often done and works well....)
Stainless is not a good conductor of heat. That is why the very best stainless saucepans have a copper bottom.

As to control, with gas you have fully variable power control!

Have fun.

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Re: Gas or electricity?

Postby Saltbush Bill » Sat Nov 11, 2017 1:15 am

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Re: Gas or electricity?

Postby Saltbush Bill » Sat Nov 11, 2017 1:17 am

Username wrote:but am leaning towards the electric elements as I reckon they may be easier to control the power and as a result the still.

I really don't understand why people think this...but then Ive always used gas on all my stills and probably will continue to do so.
Working out if your putting enough heat into the still or not is all part of the art as far as I see it.......Its all part of learning how to drive your still.
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Re: Gas or electricity?

Postby The Baker » Sat Nov 11, 2017 4:31 am

Saltbush Bill wrote:
Username wrote:but am leaning towards the electric elements as I reckon they may be easier to control the power and as a result the still.

I really don't understand why people think this...but then Ive always used gas on all my stills and probably will continue to do so.
Working out if your putting enough heat into the still or not is all part of the art as far as I see it.......Its all part of learning how to drive your still.


I say again, gas heating is infinitely continuously variable!

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Re: Gas or electricity?

Postby Kareltje » Sat Nov 11, 2017 6:55 pm

One thing I have not seen mentioned here or elsewhere: when you use internal elements for electrical heating, you have to make very sure you do not run your boiler dry.
With external heating, be it gas or electricity, running dry is bad for your boiler, but not lethal.
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Re: Gas or electricity?

Postby Zymurgy Bob » Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:38 pm

Also, if you distill "full-bodied" washes like allgrain with lees, or grappa, as far as that goes, immersion elements are out. You can do bottom-heated electric, but it takes some doing for anything but a tiny boiler.
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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: Gas or electricity?

Postby S-Cackalacky » Sun Nov 12, 2017 11:57 am

Zymurgy Bob wrote:Also, if you distill "full-bodied" washes like allgrain with lees, or grappa, as far as that goes, immersion elements are out. You can do bottom-heated electric, but it takes some doing for anything but a tiny boiler.

Steam injection would be the logical solution. My next thumper will be a 15.5 gallon keg with a PRV on the input side.
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Re: Gas or electricity?

Postby Zymurgy Bob » Sun Nov 12, 2017 3:16 pm

I've been flirting with steam injection for years. Direct propane has been too easy, so far.
Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller http://www.kelleybarts.com/zymurgy-bob- ... e-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: Gas or electricity?

Postby S-Cackalacky » Sun Nov 12, 2017 8:27 pm

ZB, are you just heating up cautiously? Is there some point that you can run at normal takeoff levels? I've done some fairly dirty washes in my little pot still running an element at 120V. Not sure I would want to try it on 240V at even half power.
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Re: Gas or electricity?

Postby Azframer » Mon Nov 13, 2017 9:52 am

Saltbush Bill wrote:
Username wrote:but am leaning towards the electric elements as I reckon they may be easier to control the power and as a result the still.

I really don't understand why people think this...but then Ive always used gas on all my stills and probably will continue to do so.
Working out if your putting enough heat into the still or not is all part of the art as far as I see it.......Its all part of learning how to drive your still.

People have lean that way for years and always think in the ways they have learned to cook. Those who favor electric will always favor electric. I started cooking on gas and will use gas to run my still. It is not because I don't want to try electric. I just don't have the means for electric where I live. 240 is not readily available on off the grid solar.
Friends call me Rick
Drank all night and I am still thirsty!
But I don't feel like I got to much blood in my alcyhol.
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Re: Gas or electricity?

Postby Zymurgy Bob » Mon Nov 13, 2017 2:26 pm

S-Cackalacky wrote:ZB, are you just heating up cautiously? Is there some point that you can run at normal takeoff levels? I've done some fairly dirty washes in my little pot still running an element at 120V. Not sure I would want to try it on 240V at even half power.

I start off with the gas on pretty high, and then I start watching the still head temperature. Although it's not linear, when the head temp hits 140F (I set an alarm on my gyppo digital Polder oven thermometer), the vapor has started moving, and I turn the gas way low (eyeball calibration) and watch the head temperature rate of rise. By the time it hits 160F, I should have tuned the fire to where the still hits boiling very gently (to avoid puking, of course). With a keg boiler and a Cajun Classic burner, a very. very low flame gives me the ~1.5-2.0 mm stream, which is my normal collection rate. ~2mm for stripping, ~1.0-1.5 for spirit run.
Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller http://www.kelleybarts.com/zymurgy-bob- ... e-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...
User avatar
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Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 3:03 pm
Location: Upper-left US
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Re: Gas or electricity?

Postby Zymurgy Bob » Mon Nov 13, 2017 2:32 pm

Forgot to add: I use an electric immersion element, controlled by a Stilldragon kit, for out CCVM "vodka" still, but it never holds anything but crystal-clear low wines. It's a good solid setup. if a bit slow.
Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller http://www.kelleybarts.com/zymurgy-bob- ... e-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: Gas or electricity?

Postby S-Cackalacky » Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:58 am

:8) Coming from you, I'm sure that procedure is well practiced and proven to work. Thanks. What with the direct contact of an electric element, I'm not sure it would be so compliant.

I was thinking (yes, it hurt) - maybe a thick metal plate between the flame and the bottom of the boiler would also help to eliminate hot spots and the chance of scorching when running dirty washes.
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