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Malt Advocate Article

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  • beerguy84
    Hello to all. I would like to answer a few of the responses to my post regarding the Autocad drawing of the copper low wines still. I don t have a
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 4 11:08 PM
      Hello to all. I would like to answer a few of the responses to my
      post regarding the Autocad drawing of the copper low wines still.

      I don't have a subscription to Malt Advocate, yet anyway, I pick mine
      up at a local retailer who carries it and The Wine Spectator.

      I don't want to get into any copyright infringement or plagurize
      anyone, but I will paraphrase what the article states.

      The article is by Lew Bryson and it appears in the Volume 13, number
      3 edition of Malt Advocate. The title of the article is Gleaming
      Guardian: Copper Stills aren't just a pretty face. Mr. Bryson
      interviewed several people for this article. Among them were Dr.
      Bill Lumsden from Glenmorangie, Chris Morris and Lincoln Henderson
      from Brown and Foreman, Barry Walsh from Irish Distillers, and Jim
      Murray author of Jim Murray's Whiskey Bible. All these guys must
      know what they are talking about since it is a fundemental part of
      their job.

      Anyway, to preface the article and to acknowlege some of the
      speculation regarding my last post, the culprit of the corrosion and
      subsequent destruction of copper stills is sulfur. According to the
      article the sulfur comes from the grain itself, but it can also come
      from bacterial infection of the must prior to distillation.

      As the must is distilled the sulphur compounds wind up in the
      spirit. The copper in the still causes the sulfur to combine with
      the copper and form copper sulfate. Aside from the copper sulfate
      there are other oils and fats from the grains and these combine with
      the copper sulfate as well to form a black compound. According to
      Lincoln Henderson, this black compound forms on the spout of the
      spirit safe and he reports at the Woodford Reserve Distillery it is
      quite heavy. The reason why Woodford Reserve has such a thick, heavy
      greasy black deposit is because they distill bourbon and not
      whiskey. As you know Bourbon has substantial amounts of corn, and
      with corn comes corn oil. Chris Morris refers to it as Grunge and it
      smells heavily of copper. It is also difficult to remove from your
      skin. According to Chris Morris the grunge starts at the top of the
      gooseneck, the lyne arm and all the way through the condensation
      structure. The tail end of the Grunge eventually comes to the
      spirits safe. Barry Walsh notes that this effect works the other way
      in copper mining, in this case fats and oils are introduced into a
      solution heavy in copper to extract the copper from the base solution.

      According to Morris the Grunge is actually a polymer called ethyl
      carbonate and according to him when distillers refer to EC levels in
      their process it is ethyl carbonate that they are discussing, the
      copper essentually cleans this out of the spirit.

      Morris reports that to clean the grunge out they run a caustic wash
      through the still, what results is a waste water product that is high
      in zinc and copper, which cannot be processed by their local
      wastewater utility. Morris reports that this caustic wash is mixedw
      with spent mash and sold to farmers, where the addition of zinc and
      copper is a benefit to dairy cattle.

      Bill Lumsden states that the best place to utilize copper is where it
      is where the hot vapors are condensing. He makes reference to shell
      and tube condensors which consist of a copper column with 250 narrow
      copper tubes inside. There is much more copper surface area in a
      shell and tube condensor versus a worm type condensor. In his
      experience he states that a spirit distilled using a worm type
      condensor is much more meaty and sulfury in character than that using
      a shell and tube condensor.

      Column Stills are discussed in the article. Post repeal when the
      distillery business was starting over from scratch a lot of
      distilleries started to utilize stainless steel stills. When this
      occured they noticed the immediately the difference between copper
      and stainless steel stills. According to the article Seagrams did
      extensive research to figure out what was going on. Essentially,
      Morris states that at Jack Daniels 100% copper column stills are
      used, while at Old Forrester a hybrid stainless and copper still is
      used. In the hybrid still all the internal infrastructure of the
      still is copper. Mr. Henderson also interjects that they also throw
      a lot of copper pieces into the top of the still, basically just a
      bunch of short sections of copper tubing, which lasts until it
      essentually disintegrates. The scrap tubing that they put into the
      still at Brown and Foreman last about 3 years and when it is
      eventully removed it is very brittle, about the thickness of paper
      and will crumble in your hands.

      Mr. Lumsden states that the life of a still varies according to the
      distillation schedule, basically saying the more you distill the more
      copper dissolves. From his experience he states a 10 year lifespan
      for the neck and lyne arm, For the spirits still, the main body goes
      first and that is usually in 8 to 10 years.


      The article closes with a few observations. In one, Mr. Lumsden
      states that the still gives itself up to the whiskey. Mr. Murray puts
      it more plainly and states that copper is self sacrificial and that
      every time a copper still boils away it is giving part of its life to
      the whiskey. Barry Walsh had the most important comment to make, he
      states that modern distillers could get away with a small presence of
      copper in their stills, but there is a thing of beauty associated
      with large polished copper pot stills.


      My observations from the article are as follows.

      First these are huge stills with very thick sections of metal. The
      corrosion that they are experiencing is pretty dramatic considering
      the volume of product they put out and the size of the still. I
      can't imagine the capital cost involve in replacing a commercial
      sized still every 10 years or so.

      Second, copper is only important in those areas of the still that are
      exposed to vapor, that way the copper can do it's thing and the end
      product will still be as good or close to what is produced in a all
      copper pot still.

      For a small 'hobbyist still' and the amount of mash distilled per
      year, the whole problem with corrosion is insignificant. I do expect
      that those who use copper in the column packing will probably have to
      replace their packing every few runs or so.

      My concerns were for this big monster still that everyone wanted
      autocad drawings of. The cost associated to build that monster just
      to have it eaten up is crazy. My opinion would be to use a stainless
      steel tank and attach a copper still head to that, you'd be way ahead
      of yourself. In the states a small 300 to 500 gallon stainless tank
      s about $1 to $2 per gallon. I personnaly purchased a 500 gallon
      horizontal jacketed milk tank from a defunct dairy farm for $225.00.
      If I ever get the $$$$ to go micro-commercial I will probably use
      this as either a storage tank or a maceration vessel for schnapps.



      Cheers.
    • beerguy84
      Hello to all, Earlier this year I paraphrased the Malt Advocate Article titled Gleaming Guardians in which the importance of copper in still construction was
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 16, 2004
        Hello to all,

        Earlier this year I paraphrased the Malt Advocate Article titled
        Gleaming Guardians in which the importance of copper in still
        construction was outlined and also how copper stills eventually
        disintegrate due to a chemical process during distillation.

        I recently viewed the Malt Advocate website and that article as well
        as an article on the process used to make Jack Daniels and George
        Dickell whiskeys are made.

        The Gleaming Guardian article can be viewed here:

        http://www.maltadvocate.com/html/am_cop.html

        There are other articles that can be accessed as well.
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