PDA

View Full Version : Building a still: Take 2



Toxxyc
23rd February 2021, 14:05
OK, so my first still I built was built using an old pressure cooker, some 22mm and 15mm copper pipe and a very thin piece of copper coil. I built it with NO prior knowledge and with no thought going into how it'll actually work and I've learned my lesson pretty well since. To boot, the pressure cooker's max volume of 10 litres isn't making my stripping runs easy. I am moving more toward 45l batches these days and considering the still can only be filled to the 7l-or-so mark on the stripping run to prevent puking, I usually spend two full days just stripping, and that's horrible, so I want to go bigger (around double).

So now I want to build a new still. I have a ton of ideas, first one being a larger volume boiler. If I can just double up the volume I means I can relax quite a bit on the stripping runs, which will make my life a lot easier. Second idea is to go for a larger column, as the 22mm one I'm using right now is fine, but I think the low volume in the column is contributing to the problem of the still puking easily.

Ideally I'd like to move away from the gas-driven still and turn it into an electric still, but that's just a "nice to have", I really wouldn't mind running it on the gas as well, as it controls well with the temp and all that. Anyway, that's why I've been thinking I could convert (another) urn into a still. Problem is though that urns tend to have REALLY shitty lids, and those lids don't seal well. That's the issue I had when I tried to convert my 20l urn into a still and I just couldn't get the lid to seal, no matter what I tried.

As a result, what I can think of is two things, first being a stainless steel urn with a lid that seals well, and the other being a pot or something like an old keg. However, I don't know how to convert the keg, how would you clean it, etc. etc.

I want to build a pot still, mostly, but I wouldn't mind having the option of cooling on the column so I can run it as a bit of a reflux if I want to. I'd love to get some input on the matter.

groenspookasem
23rd February 2021, 15:33
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎

Toxxyc
23rd February 2021, 15:46
So in that case, I'd really just not go reflux at all. I'm not too keen on upgrading the breakers, although it's probably not a bad idea to up that to a 32A one for the garage and to boost the cable thickness anyway. I often run 2 x 2500W elements in there and then I can just as well do it properly, I guess?

groenspookasem
23rd February 2021, 15:57
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎

groenspookasem
23rd February 2021, 16:03
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎

RudiC
23rd February 2021, 16:48
The simplest way imo would be a 50L keg with gas. You have plenty control with gas. You could also fit your 2" column with a 2" ferrule with food grade silicone gasket/washer. Simple and it works well from what I've seen and heard.

Plenty of guy doing it that way with success. But if you want to go with an element, you could just plan your days for times when there is no loadshedding

groenspookasem
23rd February 2021, 16:59
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎

RudiC
23rd February 2021, 17:33
would you not be married to your still for the duration of the run and having that open flame in fairly close proximity to ethanol vapor doesn't concern?

Many ways to do it I imagine. No need to have your outlet as close to the flame, maybe 45deg angled away from the kettle. No need to have the outlet open, you could easily use silicone and have it go into a bottle or whatever you use. Which ideally wouldn't be in close proximity to the flame.


that vs the loadshedding is pita reason is not quite 1:1 in my opinion.

Distilling has risks, even with electricity. Same thing with a motor where the fuel line is close to the spark plug I guess. If you want to look at all the possibilities, you will find weakness in everything. There is a lot of people that use gas, from what I've read for the last year or so, I'd go as far as saying the electricity is probably the least popular of all the methods (just a guess, don't quote me). My point is, if you go about this the wrong way it is dangerous, if you think about the risks and ways to prevent things from happening, you should be good.

You have a right to your opinion on this, but just because a flame shouldn't be close to alcohol vapor also doesn't make gas a no no. As I said, there are ways to do it. One shouldn't be far from the kettle when distilling alcohol anyway imo, using gas or electricity

groenspookasem
24th February 2021, 08:45
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎

Toxxyc
24th February 2021, 09:12
I'm not worried about the gas flame under the still, to be honest. The ethanol vapour coming off is VERY low. In fact, the ethanol that comes out of my still currently is so cold it creates droplets on the side of the jars it falls in. So minimal vapour.

A leaking still or column - now that's a different story...

Langchop
24th February 2021, 09:17
I think the advantage with gas is the fine and instant power control, and the loadsheddingproofiness.

In my mind, this is equivalent to SCR power control with electricity, to eliminate on-off thermostat control that is far from ideal for distilling.

One suggestion... go with a jacketed counterflow cooler (fancy name eludes me), and you can do something similar on the goey-uppey column to give you some reflux option when you want.

PS. I stand to be corrected, but I would say actual puking would have more to do with overloading your pot than diameter of your column, unless you increase it to seriously big.

Good luck on take 2

RudiC
24th February 2021, 09:22
I use gas in other applications and you can control the flame from barely visible to flamethrower if you have the right regulator I imagine.

From what I gathered on a few distilling forums and groups I enjoy reading, both local and international, most seem to use gas. That is my opinion from what I gathered, but I could be wrong. Maybe I just read more topics where people used gas more?

I'm not trying to convince you of anything, my point was just that you can't say gas is a no no because you work with alcohol vapour.

groenspookasem
24th February 2021, 10:57
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎

RudiC
24th February 2021, 11:38
I prefer beer, but had the idea to move away from store bought alcohol in the first lock down.

The plan is to get a solid home brewery that can give me a decent beer supply (almost there)8. Then when I have that up and running, I'll focus on getting the distillation part going and produce what I enjoy.

The spirits I enjoy needs to be aged, so I'm glad I started with beer first. Would hate to have nothing to drink while watching my spirit ageing in barrels

Toxxyc
24th February 2021, 12:10
Alright, I found a 50l keg. Apparently a 2" tri-clamp fits the head of a keg perfectly. Now to find or build a column. Advice, help, hints, tips?

RudiC
24th February 2021, 12:14
Alright, I found a 50l keg. Apparently a 2" tri-clamp fits the head of a keg perfectly. Now to find or build a column. Advice, help, hints, tips?Yes they fit well, have similar thing going.

Are you going coper or stainless with the column?

Toxxyc
24th February 2021, 12:44
I'd love to go stainless, but the price is a pain in the neck. I see Distillique sells 2" copper piping for around R600 per meter, so I'm thinking of getting me a length of that and using that as the column, sommer in one piece. To get that down to smaller size with a thermometer and everything in there, I dunno though. I want to go for a much thinner lyne arm, preferably 22mm, but how do I get that 2" down to 22mm?

RudiC
25th February 2021, 02:21
I'd love to go stainless, but the price is a pain in the neck. I see Distillique sells 2" copper piping for around R600 per meter, so I'm thinking of getting me a length of that and using that as the column, sommer in one piece. To get that down to smaller size with a thermometer and everything in there, I dunno though. I want to go for a much thinner lyne arm, preferably 22mm, but how do I get that 2" down to 22mm?Easy to get reducers to get you from 2" to 22mm, might not be one, but you'll find a solution. You'll find it in your area at either LJR Plumbing or Plumblink. They also sell tubing per meter.

Langchop
25th February 2021, 06:50
Ask these guys for a quote. They seem to stock a lot of the bigger sizes and their prices were good. For the fittings.

https://plumbstation.co.za/

Toxxyc
25th February 2021, 07:21
OK so I got a place that said they'll build me a reducing unit from 2" down to 28mm, and then from 28mm down to 22mm, all for less than R100. That's REALLY cheap, so I'm busy building a parts list so they can quote me on it all in one shot. If all goes to plan, it'll be REALLY cheap to build and perhaps I can then build stills on the side as well. Kegs are DIRT cheap for what they are (really, holy crap!) so if the copper parts can come in cheap-ish, it'll be a winner!

Toxxyc
25th February 2021, 08:09
OK so the next question: Gas vs electric. Obviously electric would be best, and I'd love to go that route, but it means more cutting on the keg, installing elements, etc. I'm currently brewing beer and whatnot in an urn with a 2,500W element and it takes while to get going, but it's also not too bad. However, I'd love to go a bit larger, perhaps up to 4kW on the element. That'll still allow me to run if off a regular home plug, which is great, and it'll speed up the heating phase.

I can go with gas with the keg as-is, but I'll have to buy a gas burner for that, either mounted to a table-style stand, or I'll have to build one. I'll also need a gas regulator and pipe, and the lot of that will cost around R700 on it's own (yes, I checked). So it's not like it's free either. I currently run my small still on a 2-plate gas stove, but it's not going to hold the weight of a 50l still when full. Not at all. That thing will break. So electric makes more sense here now as well.

However, that means I'll have to get temperature control. With the gas I can turn it down and run the still nice and slow during the spirit run, but electric is harder. That has me thinking - PID or voltage controller? I see some controllers being sold with thermocouplers and stuff that can handle up to 40A apparently, but I have NO IDEA how these thing work, at all. So I'd like some guidance. My hands aren't round so if I can just get someone to point me in the right direction I can build something, but I don't even know what to buy...

EDIT: Can I just buy something like this: https://www.bidorbuy.co.za/item/502208686/10000W_SCR_Voltage_Regulator_Speed_Controller_Dimm er_Thermostat_AC_220V.html
Or even better, one like this, in local stock: https://www.bidorbuy.co.za/item/503030388/Voltage_Regulator_SCR_Motor_Speed_Controller_4000W _Display_LOCAL_STOCK.html

Langchop
25th February 2021, 10:30
4kw is a bit high for a typical 16 A plugpoint. It will probably hold out a while and then trip.

groenspookasem
25th February 2021, 12:07
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎

FaanP
25th February 2021, 12:25
OK so the next question: Gas vs electric. Obviously electric would be best, and I'd love to go that route, but it means more cutting on the keg, installing elements, etc. I'm currently brewing beer and whatnot in an urn with a 2,500W element and it takes while to get going, but it's also not too bad. However, I'd love to go a bit larger, perhaps up to 4kW on the element. That'll still allow me to run if off a regular home plug, which is great, and it'll speed up the heating phase.

I can go with gas with the keg as-is, but I'll have to buy a gas burner for that, either mounted to a table-style stand, or I'll have to build one. I'll also need a gas regulator and pipe, and the lot of that will cost around R700 on it's own (yes, I checked). So it's not like it's free either. I currently run my small still on a 2-plate gas stove, but it's not going to hold the weight of a 50l still when full. Not at all. That thing will break. So electric makes more sense here now as well.

However, that means I'll have to get temperature control. With the gas I can turn it down and run the still nice and slow during the spirit run, but electric is harder. That has me thinking - PID or voltage controller? I see some controllers being sold with thermocouplers and stuff that can handle up to 40A apparently, but I have NO IDEA how these thing work, at all. So I'd like some guidance. My hands aren't round so if I can just get someone to point me in the right direction I can build something, but I don't even know what to buy...

EDIT: Can I just buy something like this: https://www.bidorbuy.co.za/item/502208686/10000W_SCR_Voltage_Regulator_Speed_Controller_Dimm er_Thermostat_AC_220V.html
Or even better, one like this, in local stock: https://www.bidorbuy.co.za/item/503030388/Voltage_Regulator_SCR_Motor_Speed_Controller_4000W _Display_LOCAL_STOCK.htmlGo gas. In the end the electricity version will be more expensive with the PID etc.

Sent from my SM-G988B using Tapatalk

Toxxyc
25th February 2021, 12:53
OK so I have almost completely set my mind on electricity, but now I have to go do the maths.

Electric:
Element Ferrule: R300
2" Ferrule to weld to the keg: R95
Cutting and welding (quote from local place): R450
Bottom drain nipple, 1/2" SS: R33
Bottom drain ball valve, 1/2" SS: R135
Geyser element: ~R300, depending on size and where and whatnot
Temperature controller: R500 seems to be a good bet
Total: R1,813

Gas:
Bottom drain nipple, 1/2" SS: R33
Bottom drain ball valve, 1/2" SS: R135
Cutting and welding (quote from local place): R200
Gas burner table: R429
Bullnose regulator and 2m hose: R199
Total: R996

Wow, that's almost half the price. I can always go electric in the future, so yeah I'm going to stick with the gas for now.

RudiC
25th February 2021, 13:29
How are you going to cool the vapor? Liebig cooler, copper coil or what?

Toxxyc
25th February 2021, 13:32
I've already got a coil, built for my by a forum member. 5.5m 15mm copper pipe bent into a coil. I can't wait to get to use it, actually.

Toxxyc
25th February 2021, 13:51
Oh great, and now I got hold of a guy who can do the element installation for even cheaper for me. GREAT.

Thing is, with the element in there I can still use gas if I need to.

RudiC
25th February 2021, 15:54
Did Jonathan help you with the info you needed?

groenspookasem
25th February 2021, 21:46
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎

Toxxyc
26th February 2021, 07:17
He doesn't do small builds, but he's helping me with my build anyway. He's pointing me to all the right places. Thanks RudiC for the advice!

JIGSAW
26th February 2021, 08:22
***********************

RudiC
26th February 2021, 09:12
He doesn't do small builds, but he's helping me with my build anyway. He's pointing me to all the right places. Thanks RudiC for the advice!Jonathan built my grain basket, so I just assumed he would help. My mistake, and I know one should never ASSUME

Glad you came right though and hope you get exactly what you're after [emoji106]

Toxxyc
26th February 2021, 12:06
Yeah he's a great guy. Spoke to him for a while on the phone last night, we exchanged a ton of ideas and I can't wait to pop by his place soon.

FaanP
1st March 2021, 05:45
Just an idea .....

3131

Toxxyc
1st March 2021, 07:23
Similar to what I'm building - probably just cheaper.

groenspookasem
1st March 2021, 08:35
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎

Toxxyc
1st March 2021, 10:22
3132
..........
I feel almost just as hillbilly as this, TBH :D

groenspookasem
1st March 2021, 10:57
‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎

Toxxyc
1st March 2021, 11:59
I've got some copper scrubbies yeah, will stuff them in there.

RudiC
1st March 2021, 13:24
I've got some copper scrubbies yeah, will stuff them in there.

When you say "copper scrubbies" are you referring to the pot scrub things?

Toxxyc
1st March 2021, 13:47
When you say "copper scrubbies" are you referring to the pot scrub things?
Yebo. I got pure copper ones.

Regarding the build - I decided to up the drain valve to 3/4", and made it a 3-piece ball valve.

BCG Stainless is awesome.

RudiC
1st March 2021, 14:27
Yebo. I got pure copper ones.

I could very well be wrong here, but I've not seen anyone use those long term. They're apparently copper coated and the coatings come off relatively fast. Like I say, I could be wrong.

This is the right stuff that is pure copper - https://www.cactuscraft.co.za/product/copper-mesh-500g/

Toxxyc
1st March 2021, 14:34
Yeah I'm in two minds about that. Will use the scrubby for now, but will probably replace it with something else down the line.

Langchop
1st March 2021, 17:19
You can just check if it's magnetic. Magnetic copper is not the best. If it's proper copper Scrubbies, please share the source

Toxxyc
12th March 2021, 13:07
OK, so some progress has been made. Storytime!

It all started with a pressure cooker still I built when I had a batch of beer turn out "iffy" and I felt sorry to just dump it. The pressure cooker ran overtime until I decided to stop playing around, it's time to go bigger (I like this hobby). The tons of people asking for more booze also helped this decision along, and 95% of them said they're willing to pay for the stuff (not making money) so I can just keep making. Because it took my a whole day to strip and do a spirit run on 20l's worth of wash, producing only around 3l of useable spirit, I decided to scale up. Way up. So here goes...

It started with this pressure cooker still. It is now sold:
https://i.imgur.com/LyXy0fll.jpg

Drew a rough idea, and got to planning:
https://i.imgur.com/DnPRULMl.png

The above pic was sent to the guys are LiveCopper and the guys there sorted me out with a 2" T-piece, a 54mmx28mm reducer, 28mm copper pipe, end caps and some other bits and bobs. Next up was finding a kettle. I had plans for urns and stuff but in the end a decomissioned beer keg was found. Picked up a 50l for a steal:
https://i.imgur.com/dkijdLhl.jpg

Next up was finding fittings and stuff. I checked out sites like Distillique and Ketelkraal and quickly learned that this build was going to cost me THOUSANDS if I don't slow down - quickly. So I spoke to some guys and RudiC on here told me to get in touch with Jonathan Waters, from StillFab. Jonathan pointed me in the right direction and for a few hundred bucks I got what I needed from BCG Stainless:
https://i.imgur.com/d2zPZEMl.jpg

Next up was the welding. I arranged a time and all that with Jonathan and he gave me access to his workshop's guys. He also arranged some electronics for me to be able to control the still in the end:
https://i.imgur.com/B5KoN2Dl.jpg

I handed in the keg and some of the fittings, and they did their magic. Picked up the keg, with these changes. First up, the bottom keg ring was cut off and legs welded in its place:
https://i.imgur.com/8YoWdFYl.jpg

Then a 3/4" SS barrel nipple, to connect to the 3/4" 3-piece ball valve:
https://i.imgur.com/OzjZFMQl.jpg

After that, the element's fitting. I initially wanted to weld in a regular 2" SS ferrule, but that would have meant I'd had to buy the geyser ferrule and then fix it to the kettle with a tri-clamp each time. Instead, I opted to weld the geyser ferrule directly to the kettle. No additional stuff, no additional cost. This is a standard 1 1/4" geyser element fitting, fitting a slimline element perfectly:
https://i.imgur.com/SNzgUX0l.jpg

And the 3kW element screwed in place. Easy as that:
https://i.imgur.com/PvhPhC0l.jpg

At the top of the keg I opted to cut off the keg's ferrule and instead welded in the 2" SS ferrule I purchased, but didn't end up using for the element. I did that because the keg's fitting is thicker, and the tri-clamp was having issues clamping down on it properly.

Next up was the column build. Using all the bits and bobs from LiveCopper, I still had to find 2" copper pipe for the column/riser. This was easier said than done. LiveCopper didn't have. Chamberlains didn't have. Builders didn't have. Distillique had, but man, what a price... So I drove out to Plumblink and as luck would have it, they were sold out. The guy at the counter though put my name on a list and eventually ended up cutting off a 1m length for me at one of their other branches, selling me a 1m length. Luckily, because a length costs like R2.4k.

Because few places have copper ferrules, I looked for a while before I found one. New brew shop in Pretoria, Yeah Brew, had them in stock, and for a decent price. I drove out there and picked up a ferrule as well as some copper mesh to stuff the column with. Queue soldering. I'm no pro, but I've done it before, albeit on MUCH smaller jobs. The 2" soldering was a mission, but finally I got the ferrule soldered to the pipe with no leaks. And here it is, fitting PERFECTLY on the gasket on the kettle:
https://i.imgur.com/qDUpCral.jpg

When that was done, next up was the top of the column. Because I've grown used to an electronic thermometer at the top of the column on my pressure cooker still, I decided to copy that design EXACTLY. So that's what I did. At the top, a T-piece. The guys at LiveCopper didn't have one that went from 54mm down to 2 x 28mm, so I had to use the reducer there. The end cap way at the top gets a 4mm hole drilled in it, through which the probe fits, and is sealed with flour paste with each run. The 28mm to the side goes to a small section of pipe, moving into a compression fitting so I can control the lyne arm's angle. But PICS:
https://i.imgur.com/GSefq3bl.jpg

And then some pics of my soldering. Like I said, not the best soldering, but it doesn't leak, at least:
https://i.imgur.com/krduMm2l.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/J3djpInl.jpg

https://i.imgur.com/v3CkdRkl.jpg

Now, to the lyne arm. The lyne arm is whatever was left over from the 1m piece of 28mm pipe I bought, and fixed to the compression fitting. The fitting was lined with PTFE tape inside and out, so it SHOULD not leak:
https://i.imgur.com/mJ3e9SHl.jpg

And waaaay at the end of the lyne arm, I soldered a 28mm x 15mm reducer. This goes to a piece of 15mm pipe on a compression fitting, purely so I can remove the condenser from the whole shebang, making storage easier:
https://i.imgur.com/jTFhx0ll.jpg

And that's all I have for now. I'll solder in the rest probably on Sunday or so. Then I have to assemble the control box and it should be ready to run next week sometime. I can't wait!

EDIT: Oh yes, I measured the still's height. The top of the end cap stands 1.75m from the ground. A pic for some idea on how big it's turning out to be:
https://i.imgur.com/EZSc16Il.jpg

JIGSAW
13th March 2021, 09:18
nice update :thumbsup:

Toxxyc
15th March 2021, 07:35
Thanks. I'll probably finish it up this week sometime. It's just fitting the coil to the bucket, sealing it, and then connecting the coil to the lyne arm. I'm going to start another sugar wash tomorrow morning probably so I have around 40l of wash to run through the still in one go. Hopefully do the vinegar run before the weekend, just need to get some cable that I can use to build the control box first.

RudiC
15th March 2021, 15:31
Well done, nice progress Toxxyc :thumbsup:

I like the bottom mods to the keg, looks great.

Now that you're almost ready, the load shedding thing is with us again.