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Euro stills and other improvements

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  • DAVID REID
    Tony, Thanks for the pictures of the Spirits Unlimited new Euro stills. While these are a step in the right direction and certainly an improvement on some of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2000
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      Tony,
              Thanks for the pictures of the Spirits Unlimited new Euro stills. While these are a step in the right direction and certainly an improvement on some of their Mickey Mouse designs they still dont go far enough and show that the designer still dosnt understand some of the basics involved with reflux still design. To call them reflux stills is a bit of a misnomer. While it is true they reflux by sending quite a high % of the reflux back down the column itself in no way could they be called a true reflux as everything that makes it to the top of the column is being condensed out along with all the volatiles and other contaminants. In reality these are glorified pot still with partial reflux.
      To spell it out so that everyone understands and so there is no misconception a point that everyone seems to have missed todate is that no small true reflux still has its condenser pointing down or at more than the horizontal position otherwise   you cannot have true reflux. True reflux stills condense all the vapour and the takeoff is only a small % of the returning condensate which makes it to the top returning the balance back down the column so that true reflux  occurs and only really pure alcohol makes it to the top. The more you get away from the ideal reflux ratio of approx 10% the more you get and include the azoetrope, impurities, and other contaminants in the final distillate.
      Unfortunately this is the problem when you get business men running companys who dont have  any particular design flair or real engineering experience or expertise, who cant be bothered researching the subject properly, or even reading a few decent books, and whose sole objective seems to be selling essences and making money.Todate I have refrained from saying this as I dont want to get involved in argument and personel recriminations but if this industry is to go forward it must be said. At this point the only one who seems to be putting any real effort and money into promoting this industry is Des Zein of Code Imports. Correct me if I am wrong.
      It is a waste of time putting good essences into poor alcohol created by poor distilling techniques and distillation equipment. I keep alluding to poor equipment and some of the requirements needed in the hope that some people will pick up on this and we will start to get some improvements which is happening but in my opinion not fast enough.
      I can no longer spend as much time as I have todate helping people and must get on with my own life and business. Last year I agreed to represent Gert Strand In NZ whom in my opinion makes the best essences available actively aimed at the home distillation market. Unfortunately because his essences are made from natural products rather than synthetic or artificial  ingredients they are a little more expensive. For that reason although I have imported an initial shipment I have not come to the market with them. At present I am still looking into how these can be put on the market at realistic cost and believe I may have found a way. Gert unlike a lot of others has tended to stick with what he knows and does best, namely making essences rather than getting too involved in distillation equipment. When I began to investigate distillation in greater depth last year and began to push him he quickly referred me to John Stone telling me he certainly  knew something about distillation, whose book I quickly got and which was the 2nd or 3rd book that made real sense to me. John has spent a number of years making pharmaceutical grade ethanol and on quickly scanning his book when I received it I could quickly see that he knew what he was talking about. Although fairly simply written and mostly applicable to the layman all the basic ideas are there. You just have to read what he says, think laterally, and the solution tends to suggest itself if you dont want to follow his instructions exactly.
      I recently made a crack : If you fornicate with monkeys you dont get Einsteins. for children which some of you saw as a racist slur or an attack on Gary Gluyvas over the proof figures we were discussing. Nothing could be further from the truth. I dont know Gary but see he is keen to help and add his 2 cents worth, and I also have a Japanese and a Phillipino sister-in-law both of whom are intelligent lovely ladies . Having spent 7 years of my life on the road travelling I have certainly seen enough racial prejudice to last a lifetime. The situation in Fiji is getting too close to home. The 2 lives already lost are 2 lives too many. Why is that the innocent and those doing their duty always have to pay for the stupidity of others. Sometimes I am very glad and believe I am very fortunate that I live in NZ but I am also aware that isolation causes certain ignorance. What I was trying to say with the above comment was the necessity to think and the necessity to think laterally. Very often it is this ability toi think laterally that provides the best solutions. I have been very fortunate to have some very good teachers in lateral thinking and my 7 years travel also stands me in good stead. In this respect I dont think it is always good to accept the status quo but that it is important for all of us to push for continual improvement. If you dont agree have a look at the new Honda Insight Hybrid that has recently come out in the States and can do up to 70 mpg (= 30 km per litre) and 110 kph. Makes you realise what dinosaurs in terms of fuel consumption we all drive. The new Toyota expected in June sometime may be an improvement on this . The same thinking applies to stills. I also suggest you note what I say about "sufficient to the need" in my email to Darryn
      Pot stills certainly have their place if you are going to use a traditional mash, traditional distilling techniques, and you want to convey some or a reasonable proportion of the congeners over. If you are going to use sugar as your carbohydrate source  the correct distillation tool is most definitely a reflux still. With a pot still and sugar as the wash source the only real congeners you are going to carry over are the condensible volatiles and the fusel alcohols most of which you dont want. To rely on activated carbon to clean up those products that should have not been carried over in the first place  in my opinion is nothing short of shoddy manufacturing and processing preactice, and indicates sloth and laziness. Dont get me wrong but as I see it the purpose of carbon is too cover for these aspects and contaminates that we inadvertently miss due to poor equipment, and mistakes and errors in fermentation and processing  some of which come about due to lack of experience and knowledge, not the whole process. If we persist in walking around with blinkers on  and only seeing what we want to see we risk putting ourselves in the position of the king in the story of the king with no cothes. The way forward is for all of us to learn and to improve our equipment and techniques. You dont see a modern army learning with and using bows and arrows. This is why I am so insistent on improving our equipment. You may not be aware  but there was a death up here in Northland last year in about November caused by home distilled spirits which was put down to over indulgence. I am not so sure and believe it may have been caused by both over indulgence and contaminants. Not something I would like to have on my conscience.
       
      Your latest e-mail on collecting impurities certainly makes a lot of sense and covers quite a range of aspects so lets hope we get some response.
      2 points:
      I suggest you look into fractionaters and how they work a bit more.
      After a little distilling practise and experience you quickly learn that not 100% of the particular product at that particular B.P.temperature is distilled. While most of it may come off at that particular temperature some comes off earlier and some later. The 2 main things that quickly influence this is the amount and the quality of the packing and the variations of temperature within the still itself.
      B.r.,  David
       
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