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Re: Copper versus stainless steel

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  • Larry
    ... Pretty much ANY reflux still will give you 90% or better output if you start out with enough alcohol in your fermented wash. That s no trick at all. Copper
    Message 1 of 24 , Jul 2, 2007
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      At 05:50 AM 07/02/2007, you wrote:

      Thanks for the responses. I'm now feeling more reassured that Copper
      in stills doesn't pose any real health risks and is indeed effective
      in removing bad tastes/aromas.

      Any recommendations for some of the best commercially available
      reflux stills? If not, opinions on the "best" reflux still design to
      build (or have built) that can achieve an average 90 to 95% alcohol
      purity from typical wash?


      Pretty much ANY reflux still will give you 90% or better output if you start out with enough alcohol in your fermented wash. That's no trick at all.

      Copper is great, for boilers and columns, though it's un-necessarily expensive and can be a health hazard if it's not assembled with lead-free solder.

      It's fairly common to find antique stills with copper boilers, and these are the prime candidates for health hazards, as a lot of them were assembled with common solder, or even pure lead. If you get one of those (probably pretty cheap) you need to disassemble it, and put it back together using silver solder. 

      Or, there are a couple of places selling new copper stills, but they cost a fortune and copper packing in a stainless-steel still will give you the same benefits.

      You would do well to look at www.brewhaus.com, and check out their two-piece columns. 

      These can be used as either a reflux still or as a pot still, and you can attach them to stainless-steel a beer keg pretty readily, or buy their kettle.   You still need to use a little copper packing in the vapor path on them, though.  There is no substitute for copper, taste-wise.

      Reflux stills are great for making cheap alcohol.  They give you the most bang for your heating buck. 

      Neither Propane nor Electricity is free, and a reflux still will use a lot less of either, since it's final product comes out from a single run.  With a pot still, you must do multiple runs, and each one takes a heat-source equal to what a single reflux still run would need. 

      However, reflux columns remove all beneficial flavors in the process, and chances are pretty good that you'll want to make something other than neutral spirits at some point.

      You CAN simply omit the packing (or most of it) and column-condenser cooling, from a reflux column to run it as a pot still, but generally reflux columns are also too tall to make a good pot still.

      The two-piece column, from Brewhaus AND other distilling sites (google "distiller")  allows you to make corn whiskey, rum, or what-have-you, running it as a pot still or you can run it as a reflux still other times to make lots of cheaper neutral spirit output (or fuel alcohol).

      You can make nothing but neutral spirits, then buy "essences" to flavor them as rum, bourbon, scotch, etc. but the essences are expensive compared to just actually making real rum, bourbon, etc. and my own experience is that they don't hit the mark taste-wise, either.  So you get Less Quality For More Money with essences.

      Basically, you can buy cheap liquors at a liquor store for the same price or less than for what it costs you to make and bottle your own stuff.

      But if you do it right, your own output will be of a higher quality, (much smoother), and you have the satisfaction of having created it yourself.




    • sn_cur
      ... When you disassemble it you need to completely remove ALL the old solder from the joins, before using new solder or braze to reassemble it. It can be a
      Message 2 of 24 , Jul 2, 2007
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        --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, Larry <larry@...> wrote:

        >
        > It's fairly common to find antique stills with copper boilers, and these
        > are the prime candidates for health hazards, as a lot of them were
        > assembled with common solder, or even pure lead. If you get one of those
        > (probably pretty cheap) you need to disassemble it, and put it back
        > together using silver solder.
        >

        When you disassemble it you need to completely remove ALL the old solder from the joins,
        before using new solder or braze to reassemble it. It can be a lot of work, but fortunately
        the lead based solders are soft and come off fairly easily with sandpaper.

        The new solder or braze must be free of lead, cadmium, and antimony.

        Cheers
        sn
      • dakini_painter
        All the discussion centers on copper in the boiler, packing and/or column. What about copper in the product condenser, in the coil itself? Wouldn t all or
        Message 3 of 24 , Dec 5, 2007
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          All the discussion centers on copper in the boiler, packing and/or column.

          What about copper in the product condenser, in the coil itself? Wouldn't all or nearly all the
          reactions with the copper have occurred previously? Since there's no free sulfur in the
          alcoholic vapor that's being brought over, are there any reactions that might occur with
          copper?

          The reason I ask is that the professional stills from Christian CARL or Holstein all have SS
          condensers.
        • Trid
          ... Depends on your setup. Because the CC and Holstein stills are bubble plate stills with copper vessels and columns, there s a lot of surface area through
          Message 4 of 24 , Dec 6, 2007
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            --- dakini_painter <cheryllins@...> wrote:

            > All the discussion centers on copper in the boiler, packing and/or column.
            >
            > What about copper in the product condenser, in the coil itself? Wouldn't all
            > or nearly all the
            > reactions with the copper have occurred previously? Since there's no free
            > sulfur in the
            > alcoholic vapor that's being brought over, are there any reactions that might
            > occur with
            > copper?
            >
            > The reason I ask is that the professional stills from Christian CARL or
            > Holstein all have SS
            > condensers.

            Depends on your setup. Because the CC and Holstein stills are bubble plate
            stills with copper vessels and columns, there's a lot of surface area through
            which the vapor passes. I would strongly suspect that this has sufficient
            catalytic action to render a clean product irrespective of a stainless
            condenser. I would also be inclined to believe that there is indeed free
            sulfur in the vapors as evidenced in the sacrificial copper in commercial
            columns as well as spending plenty of (my own) time cleaning the black gunk out
            of my column and condenser. Whether it's other oils, sulfur, or whatnot, the
            mere presence tells me that it's not pure ethanol/water sticking to the walls,
            so there's something present. If that something is at least partially composed
            of sulfur, then I'm happy knowing that my entire vapor path (particularly the
            condenser, where the surface area is greatest) is copper.

            It would stand to reason (as I have understood the workings) that if you have a
            stainless boiler, you need a copper column/condenser. If you have a copper
            boiler, or at least a copper column with plenty of copper in the vapor path,
            then at least *somewhere* there is the sulfur removing characteristic and
            therefore, a stainless condenser is less of an issue.

            Trid
            -tell me I'm not the only one who eyes *anything* made of copper with an
            ulterior motive
          • sn_cur
            Copper conducts heat much better than stainless. This means a copper condensing surface is more efficient, and so can be smaller than a stainless one for the
            Message 5 of 24 , Dec 6, 2007
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              Copper conducts heat much better than stainless. This means a copper condensing
              surface is more efficient, and so can be smaller than a stainless one for the same amount
              of heat exchange.
            • dakini_painter
              Not all have bubble plate columns. CC also has variants with a cognac style helmet that goes straight to a SS condenser.
              Message 6 of 24 , Dec 7, 2007
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                Not all have bubble plate columns. CC also has variants with a cognac style helmet that
                goes straight to a SS condenser.



                --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, Trid <triddlywinks@...> wrote:
                > Because the CC and Holstein stills are bubble plate
                > stills with copper vessels and columns, there's a lot of surface area through
                > which the vapor passes.
              • dakini_painter
                But that wasn t my question. :) If it was only a matter of heat exchange, sure, but then why aren t these condensers made of Cu? ... amount
                Message 7 of 24 , Dec 7, 2007
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                  But that wasn't my question. :)

                  If it was only a matter of heat exchange, sure, but then why aren't these condensers made
                  of Cu?

                  --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "sn_cur" <sn_cur@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Copper conducts heat much better than stainless. This means a copper condensing
                  > surface is more efficient, and so can be smaller than a stainless one for the same
                  amount
                  > of heat exchange.
                  >
                • Harry
                  ... aren t these condensers made ... Cost reduction, mainly. Copper is needed in the distilling path to remove sulfides and produce a better, cleaner product.
                  Message 8 of 24 , Dec 7, 2007
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                    --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "dakini_painter" <cheryllins@...>
                    wrote:
                    >
                    > But that wasn't my question. :)
                    >
                    > If it was only a matter of heat exchange, sure, but then why
                    aren't these condensers made
                    > of Cu?


                    Cost reduction, mainly. Copper is needed in the distilling path to
                    remove sulfides and produce a better, cleaner product. This is
                    already achieved before the vapours get to the condenser. Stainless
                    steel is a lot cheaper than copper, and requires less maintenance
                    (cleaning). All of which makes it a sensible choice for a condenser
                    in this type of still. Remember, the people who buy and operate
                    these stills need to save money everywhere they can, or the
                    operation will go broke. There's not much profit margin in
                    commercial distilling. Govt. gets the lions share.

                    Slainte!
                    regards Harry
                  • scannerfan
                    Don t know about that Harry some of the riches people in my country (Canada), are the beer and liquor producers. Empires have been built on both. Sam
                    Message 9 of 24 , Dec 7, 2007
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                      Don't know about that Harry some of the riches people in my country
                      (Canada), are the beer and liquor producers. Empires have been built on
                      both.

                      Sam

                      > There's not much profit margin in
                      > commercial distilling. Govt. gets the lions share.
                      >
                      > Slainte!
                      > regards Harry
                      >
                    • scannerfan
                      Of course I never considered volume, low profit margin + high volume = EMPIRE Sam
                      Message 10 of 24 , Dec 7, 2007
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                        Of course I never considered volume, low profit margin + high volume =
                        EMPIRE

                        Sam


                        > Don't know about that Harry some of the riches people in my country
                        > (Canada), are the beer and liquor producers. Empires have been built on
                        > both.
                        >
                        > Sam
                        >
                        >> There's not much profit margin in
                        >> commercial distilling. Govt. gets the lions share.
                        >>
                        >> Slainte!
                        >> regards Harry
                        >>
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > Distillers list archives :
                        > http://infoarchive.net/sgroup/distillers/
                        >
                        > FAQ, Howto distil etc. :
                        > http://homedistiller.org
                        > Yahoo! Groups Links
                        >
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                        >
                        >
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                      • Harry
                        ... built on ... Yes, but they don t use little 50-150 litre boutique Holsteins or Christian Carl Eau-de-Vie stills either. The moguls you speak of, their
                        Message 11 of 24 , Dec 7, 2007
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                          --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "scannerfan" <scannerfan@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > Don't know about that Harry some of the riches people in my country
                          > (Canada), are the beer and liquor producers. Empires have been
                          built on
                          > both.



                          Yes, but they don't use little 50-150 litre boutique Holsteins or
                          Christian Carl Eau-de-Vie stills either. The moguls you speak of,
                          their product output is measured by the trainload per month!


                          Slainte!
                          regards Harry
                        • Trid
                          ... I would speculate that the outer water jacket is stainless, but the heat exchange surfaces inside might very well be copper. Having never cracked one open
                          Message 12 of 24 , Dec 7, 2007
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                            --- dakini_painter <cheryllins@...> wrote:

                            > Not all have bubble plate columns. CC also has variants with a cognac style
                            > helmet that
                            > goes straight to a SS condenser.

                            I would speculate that the outer water jacket is stainless, but the heat
                            exchange surfaces inside might very well be copper. Having never cracked one
                            open to see, it's just speculation, though.
                            I do know that some are made with a copper spiral in the cap to function as a
                            "catalytic converter" regardless of plates. Then again, with just the cap on
                            top, such as the cognac style, perhaps that's sufficient copper exposure. At
                            this point it's pretty much a SWAG[1] on my part.

                            Trid
                            [1] Scientific Wild Ass Guess
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