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4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

These are boilers with half columns, bubble, sieve or any other plates. These stills may make a particular type of spirits. Please feel free to discuss the benefits and features of these beautiful machines and their inventive builders.

Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby Swede » Thu May 03, 2012 5:42 pm

I recently added another element port to my keg and installed a second 4500w element. I expect this will reduce my warm up time significantly. In addition to this, I've rewired my controller panel to incorporate a second element control and tidied up the interior quite a bit.

While I was rewiring it, I included automated end-of-run shutdown via the PID high temp alarm output. I gave this a trial run last night, and it worked GREAT!!!!! I had to add another thermo port to get a vapor temp probe in the column...... you can see it here on the back opposite the dial type thermo on the front. It will be getting a better probe that I have on order now. Currently it's got a k-type thermocouple, this will be replaced with a pt-100 rtd type sensor soon.

PID temp port.jpg
PID temp port.jpg (84.24 KiB) Viewed 2520 times


To aid in flushing the plates after a run, I welded a 3/4" street elbow to the side of the column and screwed on a ball valve. I put a camlock fitting on it so it matches all my other brew room fluid transfer plumbing. I just attach a jumper hose to my sink tap and over to the column, turn on the water and open the taps. It works great, and will make tray flushing really easy.

Here's a few pics of it, first a closeup, and a look at the side so you can see where it is. I wasn't too worried about flushing the dephleg, I just wanted any residual liquid or foam up flushed off the plates.

CIP valve.jpg
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CIP valve on column.jpg
CIP valve on column.jpg (94.72 KiB) Viewed 2515 times
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby zedzedtop » Thu May 03, 2012 5:50 pm

Excellent, thanks for posting this info. Yours is probably the closest set-up to what I'm building (almost done, but the holdups never end!), although mine will have only 3 plates. That maid-o-mist is only 5 bucks or so... think I'll snag one. I have a thermometer on the dephlegm water outlet. We'll see what that helps. It's nice that you are able to run straight washes successfully.

When you say, "adjust dephleg cooling water flow to about 50/50," you mean that half of the flow through the pc goes to the dephlegm, and half doesn't?

Cheers, lookin good!
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby Swede » Thu May 03, 2012 5:58 pm

zedzedtop wrote:
When you say, "adjust dephleg cooling water flow to about 50/50," you mean that half of the flow through the pc goes to the dephlegm, and half doesn't?

Cheers, lookin good!


If I understand you correctly then yes....... In mine, half of the water goes through the pc AND the dephleg, the rest just bypasses the dephleg after the pc straight to the return in the 50/50 scenario I was referring to ........

I wish I had used a three way valve, but I didn't have one at the time. One of these days I'll likely redo the water plumbing with a three way ball instead of two gates, I use them like that anyway, its just more fiddling.
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby zedzedtop » Tue Jun 05, 2012 12:51 pm

Swede, do you find flushing with water to be sufficient? Do you ever take the whole thing apart for cleaning? Anything different for the copper bits compared to the stainless? Citric acid?
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby Swede » Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:57 pm

Flushing from that location is more than enough, I just hook it up to a hose that's attached to the tap, open it up for a few minutes (2-4gallons water est.) and it's fine after that. I've never disassembled my column for cleaning, infact the trays haven't been out since I built it. If I need to clean the trays I'll pop out the sight glasses and work from there.

There's no need to use citric or any caustics in the column to clean it, it stays clean all by itself, or if I get a puke or want to flush the tails then I use the "CIP" system I made.

The only thing I take out and clean periodically is my "catalyzer" copper scrubbie in some vinegar to give a clean copper surface to allow maximum catalytic action with any sulphur compounds that make it up in the column.
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby Swede » Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:28 am

I finally got around to installing a proper RTD temp probe in my column. I had to upgrade the PID controller in my panel because the cheap eBay one I used originally only reads a thermocouple.

An Auber instruments PID and a high quality RTD allows me to read temp with 0.1C accuracy. I'm really liking it. I've configured my controller to give me automated end of run shutdown via the alarm output of the PID. When the column temp reaches a preset max that I've programmed, (usually between 97-98 C) the alarm output is activated. This trips the latching circuitry in my controller and kills the panel.

This allows me to crank up the heat and just let it run the tails out and have the panel shut the still down at the end of the run with no operator input.

The temp probe replaces the little one in the previous picture, it's the same RTD probe that I use on my pro-grade controller panels.

100_1480.JPG
100_1480.JPG (71.34 KiB) Viewed 2243 times


Here it is mounted to the column. I'm thinking I should have put it above the dephleg, but it works fine here too.

temp probe mounted on column.jpg
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby zedzedtop » Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:10 pm

Looks slick! I just moved an RTD from the coolant output to now measure the vapour temp above the dephlegm. Really odd thing is that I'm getting a higher abv than the RTD predicts. Reads correctly in ice water and boiling, plus it's within 0.2degF of my other probes at room/beer temp. Hydrometer reads 40% with store bought vodka.... really confusing. If anything the readings should be flipped. Off by about 2-3%abv. Maybe this is from additional rectification in the u-bend at the top of the column. Wouldn't have guessed that it would be that great.

What's the purpose of the housing on the ell? Waterproofing a connection?
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby Swede » Fri Jul 13, 2012 3:35 pm

zedzedtop wrote:Looks slick! I just moved an RTD from the coolant output to now measure the vapour temp above the dephlegm. Really odd thing is that I'm getting a higher abv than the RTD predicts. Reads correctly in ice water and boiling, plus it's within 0.2degF of my other probes at room/beer temp. Hydrometer reads 40% with store bought vodka.... really confusing. If anything the readings should be flipped. Off by about 2-3%abv. Maybe this is from additional rectification in the u-bend at the top of the column. Wouldn't have guessed that it would be that great.

What's the purpose of the housing on the ell? Waterproofing a connection?


The housing is a waterproof connection point for the cables. It adds a really nice finished look to the connection as opposed to the typical probe style ones.

I've been measuring below my dephleg, so I can't speak to the avb/temp differences.

Just out of curiousity, what made you decide to change from measuring water outlet temp to measuring the vapor temp?

I've got ports to measure either spot on my column, but never got around to setting it up on the dephleg. I'm not sure if there's any point on trying to regulate reflux based on outlet temp if a guy is using a recirculating tank anyway. The reservoir temp rises during the course of the run, so I don't think that you'd have consistent results just based on the exit temp. A colder input and a warm output would give more reflux that a warm input and a warm output (I could be wrong, but experience tells me otherwise)
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby zedzedtop » Fri Jul 13, 2012 3:54 pm

Nothing in particular made me switch, just thought I'd try it out. It was either pint or harry who were trying to get across that the 'magic' output for whiskey was 81-83degC, so incorporated the probe in the initial design... at that point I hardly even knew what a dephlegmater was. In any case, I was seeing quite a bit below this temp, running at 85% of 4500w, and collecting about 4L/hr at the start. Abv was coming in in the high 80s. Now I run at 77% power and collect just a smidge more slowly at the get-go, and abv seems to start at 91-92. With my feints mixed in, the boiler strength is about 15%. 3 plates vs. your 4.

I'd have to run more boiler power (not likely) or collect a lot faster to get the dephlegm water output temp up to 81degC. The strength would certainly be much lower. Perhaps this is to get the output under the legal limit for bourbon. Would probably be much more like a double run on a pot. It's not impossible that this is an established number that maximizes the flavour in the heart. So far that doesn't seem to be the case with my rig. Might try to speed the output someday, but for the time being, I have other experiments I'd like to try first. Thus far I've only run 100% malt. Getting kind of expensive!
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby Redrum » Tue Aug 21, 2012 3:05 am

Well I just spent the last 3 hour of my life reading this entire thread. Brother I must say Epic build. Nice job man! and the result is a beautiful piece you cant show off to friends...LOL.. Whats clean up like? do you take it apart or CIP?

RR
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby Swede » Tue Aug 21, 2012 8:38 am

Redrum wrote:Well I just spent the last 3 hour of my life reading this entire thread. Brother I must say Epic build. Nice job man! and the result is a beautiful piece you cant show off to friends...LOL.. Whats clean up like? do you take it apart or CIP?

RR


I use the flush port at the top of the column to CIP. It just floods the trays from the top down with fresh tap water after a run. If I want to take the boiler to the sink, I'll detach the column and rinse out the boiler separately.

I rarely disassemble the column, and I've never pulled the plates (no need to). I do pull the 180 to reactivate my "copper catalyzer" from time to time. The copper scrubbie will develop a patina making it ineffective as a sulfur catalyst, I can taste the difference when it needs doing. This is usually every 3-4 runs or so.
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby Swede » Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:21 pm

Well, Santa came early this year.

Thanks to a good friend, I've been lucky enough to upgrade the boiler that my column sits on. This is a 30gallon jacketed boiler and I'm planning on taking full advantage of that for both mashing and distilling. It's a limited edition that is not available for public sale as far as I know, so unfortunately you cant buy one even if you wanted to :( (at this point anyway).

The first thing I want to do in it, time permitting, is an all grain single vessel mash/ferment/distill.

I don't have all the fittings yet, but I'm going to set up the jacket to run on water with a 5psi limit. This will let me mash/distill with a max jacket temp of around 110 Celsius (I hope this is enough deltaT for thermal transfer). The benefit of using water as opposed to other HEX fluids is that after mashing, I can dump the hot water, and use my cooling reservoir/pump system to flood the jacket with cold water to crash cool the wort. I'll see how well this works and report back here.

I've also constructed a new control panel that is capable of controlling the boiler/still as either a single vessel jacket temp controlled mash tun or a semi-automated still with integrated auto-reflux control.

So, without further ado, here's the BEST looking still I've seen outside of a commercial distillery (and better than some of those too!!!)

A HUGE thank you to the guy that supplied me with this boiler, you know who you are.... :) :beer:

New boiler 1.jpg


New boiler 2.jpg
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby sammybear » Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:48 pm

damn nice setup man :D
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby zedzedtop » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:53 am

Sweet! (jacks off into dirty sock....)

Tell us more about the pressure... using water, not steam? Not following...
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Re: 4" stainless 4 tray bubble column design

Postby Swede » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:04 am

ZZT, as you pressurize water, the BP increases...

At 5psi the BP of water is around 110 Celsius. I sourced a relief valve/vac break combo valve that will allow me to keep this psi or less for safety purposes.

I'll use my jacket temp limiting/monitoring system to keep the jacket temp below this safety limit. Temp and PSI are proportional, so if I keep the temp at the right limit, I'll keep the pressure at a safe level too. If it exceeds the safe level, the valve opens....
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