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  • nepperhanman
    Hi all. I just got into distilling after being a brewer for more than 5 years. I have the fermentation end of this down pat but am still learning the
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 4, 2006
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      Hi all. I just got into distilling after being a brewer for more than 5 years.  I have the fermentation end of this down pat but am still learning the distilling.  And thus my question - what exactly is reluxing?  I know its really simple and I suppose I should be able to find it in the various web sites but I am not sure I get it!

      I get that the alcohol steam condenses on a scrubber/plate etc and then is made into steam again by the heat present in the still, but I suppose that I don't get the ability to concentrate the alcohol to a greater degree.  I have also read about operating the still without the output valve being open so that additional reflux happens - that seounds like a disaster waiting to happen!

      Count me in as a member of the pack since I did whomp together a very small pot still out of a beer mini-keg, some 3/8 inch tubing, some corks, compression unions and homemade "play dough".  And HOT DAMN it worked!

      Thanks for the info when it come! 

    • surya9375
      Hi let me try explaining this. You have the Pot still and the Reflux still. In the Pot still:- When the mash is heated vapours come up (dugh!!!). And this
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 4, 2006
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        Hi
        let me try explaining this. You have the Pot still and the Reflux still.

        In the Pot still:-
        When the mash is heated vapours come up (dugh!!!). And this vapour
        would contain more of the alcohol(ethnol to be precise, after the
        heads and tails are thrown out) with a good proportion of the
        flavours. This steam is collected and becomes the drink. From a pot
        still you always get a flavour of what the mash was made with. So if
        the mash (say 20 liters) had 10% of alcohol then by theory you would
        get 2 liter of drink (practically you wouldnt get this much, loosing
        something like .5-1 liter to heads or tails). This condensed steam
        that was collected would have 20% (just a figure for citing an
        example) alcohol. However, at times the flavour becomes too strong and
        people put the collected batch through the pot still again.

        Now. Ethnol (which is the alcohol we are after) has a lower boiling
        point than water. So when the batch is heated the ethnol would be the
        first to escape as steam than water. So when the batch is put through
        the potstill again it would let of more ethnol again leaving more
        water in the pot still.
        BUT having said this, when water and ethnol are mixed both do not boil
        at their boiling temperatures. Instead they reach an equilibrium
        temperature where boith water and ethnol turn into steam together. Its
        just that the steam would contain MORE ethnol than water as not all
        water molucules bond to ethnol molecules (too little of ethnol present
        in the mash)
        So when the collected batch is run through the pot still again, cause
        of distillation and water remaining in the still the condensed steam
        collected would have a higher percentage of ethnol than the previous.
        say, 50%.

        Now about the reflux still:-
        A reflux still does a couple of pot still distillations at one go. The
        reflux still has a column at a particular height(say 100cm). The
        reason with the column being this tall is that. Each vapour that goes
        up into the column comes to a point where it condenses back into its
        liquid state (as the vapour dosent have enough ethnol in it). This
        liquid falls back down the column. As it does fall back down the hot
        fresh vapour that is coming up hits the condensed steam falling down
        and THIS causes the seperation of water from ethnol (not totally
        though). Now when more water is seperated from the condensed steam
        that was falling down the remaining ethnol is turned back into steam
        as we just caused its boiling temp to go lower by removing the water.
        So the ethnol goes back up as vapour

        and it condenses again and comes down and is intercepted again by
        steam coming up and more water is seperated. ...... and and and...
        . Finally when the steam is pure enough as to reach the top of the
        column without condensing, its collected. This whole process is called
        REFLUX :-)

        The scurbers help in holding the condensed steam that comes down so
        that the steam going up can hit it. The vapour that condenses and
        comes down is no good if it goes back into the boiler.

        In short, reflux makes it possible to run an equvalent of several
        repeated potstills distillation. And you would be looking at reflux
        only if you want more % of ethnol (Vodka). If your looking for
        something with flavour (wiskey, rum) then pot still is the way to go.


        Now about this q:-
        > I have also read about operating the still without the output
        > valve being open so that additional reflux happens - that seounds
        > like a
        > disaster waiting to happen!

        The vapour that goes all the way to the top goes through the condenser
        and is condensed into liquid and collected. Instead of collecting this
        in full People collect a small part of this and let the rest of this
        pure liquid to go back into the column. Then additional reflux happens
        on this liquid and its bought out purer than it went in.
        So the statement you stated was about not collecting anything and just
        letting everything collected go back into the column (mind you not the
        boiler, only the column)

        I guess I answered your Q's.

        Hey guys Harry,abbababbaccc,Larry, Tim correct me if I'm wrong. I
        think I got it right.

        Regards
        Surya.
        PS. A disaster would be exposing the product to the flames :-)

        --- In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, "nepperhanman"
        <nepperhanman@...> wrote:
        >
        >
        > Hi all. I just got into distilling after being a brewer for more than 5
        > years. I have the fermentation end of this down pat but am still
        > learning the distilling. And thus my question - what exactly is
        > reluxing? I know its really simple and I suppose I should be able to
        > find it in the various web sites but I am not sure I get it!
        >
        > I get that the alcohol steam condenses on a scrubber/plate etc and then
        > is made into steam again by the heat present in the still, but I suppose
        > that I don't get the ability to concentrate the alcohol to a greater
        > degree. I have also read about operating the still without the output
        > valve being open so that additional reflux happens - that seounds like a
        > disaster waiting to happen!
        >
        > Count me in as a member of the pack since I did whomp together a very
        > small pot still out of a beer mini-keg, some 3/8 inch tubing, some
        > corks, compression unions and homemade "play dough". And HOT DAMN it
        > worked!
        >
        > Thanks for the info when it come!
        >
      • Larry
        ... Essentially, yes. Ethanol will begin boiling before the water does, but there are several kinds of alcohol other than ethanol in the wash, and thankfully
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 5, 2006
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          At 01:17 AM 12/05/2006, you wrote:
          >Now. Ethanol (which is the alcohol we are after) has a lower boiling
          >point than water. So when the batch is heated the ethnol would be the
          >first to escape as steam than water.

          Essentially, yes. Ethanol will begin boiling before the water does, but
          there are several kinds of alcohol other than ethanol in the wash, and
          thankfully THEY have lower boiling points than Ethanol.

          That makes THEIR steam the first thing out, and that's why you throw away
          the first 50ml to 100ml. Those are the "Foreshots" and "Heads". They smell
          bad, taste bad, and cause hangovers/worse hangovers.

          Running a wash through a pot still once, then running it through a second
          time is a pretty standard practice for most people. The first run generally
          comes out at about 40%, and not tasting as good.

          When you see cartoons of Hillbillies hefting a gallon stoneware jug, with
          two or three "X" marks across the bottom, that is based in fact.

          Back around the turn of the century (20th) stoneware jugs and demijohns
          were favored for storage of moonshine, mostly the cheaper stoneware jugs.

          The "X" marks denoted quality of the contents. A marking of "XXX" meant
          that the whiskey was triple-distilled. (in a pot still).
        • Tony T
          That s a very nice simple explanation Surya, good job. I do have one thing to add though.When he asked about closing the valve and it maybe being disaster
          Message 4 of 6 , Dec 5, 2006
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            That's a very nice simple explanation Surya, good job.
            I do have one thing to add though.When he asked about
            closing the valve and it maybe being disaster waiting
            to happen. I think he is under the impression that the
            still "system" is allowed to come under pressure, thus
            being an explosion hazard. Reflux (and I guess all)
            stills are open to the atmosphere and not "closed
            systems" so pressure is not allowed to build up
            (except a little vapor pressure, but I'm going for
            simple). In the reflux still the condenser is sized
            big enough to condense and return all the rising vapor
            before it can leave the "vented" column. By closing
            the take-off valve you are returning all the condensed
            vapor down the column and helping it to concentrate
            the alcohol vapors at the still head. By allowing it
            to remain in total reflux after equilibrium for
            several minutes the alcohol percentage is much
            higher.

            Over on www.homedistiller.org they have several really
            nice pictures of reflux stills. A close look will let
            you see how they are "open" to the atmosphere.

            Good luck and welcome aboard.

            Tony T





            ____________________________________________________________________________________
            Any questions? Get answers on any topic at www.Answers.yahoo.com. Try it now.
          • Josh
            That s a pretty cool story. I was always curious about the XXX on the jugs. ... away ... They smell ... second ... generally ... with ... jugs.
            Message 5 of 6 , Dec 5, 2006
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              That's a pretty cool story. I was always curious about the "XXX" on
              the jugs.

              --- In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, Larry <larry@...> wrote:
              >
              > At 01:17 AM 12/05/2006, you wrote:
              > >Now. Ethanol (which is the alcohol we are after) has a lower boiling
              > >point than water. So when the batch is heated the ethnol would be the
              > >first to escape as steam than water.
              >
              > Essentially, yes. Ethanol will begin boiling before the water does, but
              > there are several kinds of alcohol other than ethanol in the wash, and
              > thankfully THEY have lower boiling points than Ethanol.
              >
              > That makes THEIR steam the first thing out, and that's why you throw
              away
              > the first 50ml to 100ml. Those are the "Foreshots" and "Heads".
              They smell
              > bad, taste bad, and cause hangovers/worse hangovers.
              >
              > Running a wash through a pot still once, then running it through a
              second
              > time is a pretty standard practice for most people. The first run
              generally
              > comes out at about 40%, and not tasting as good.
              >
              > When you see cartoons of Hillbillies hefting a gallon stoneware jug,
              with
              > two or three "X" marks across the bottom, that is based in fact.
              >
              > Back around the turn of the century (20th) stoneware jugs and demijohns
              > were favored for storage of moonshine, mostly the cheaper stoneware
              jugs.
              >
              > The "X" marks denoted quality of the contents. A marking of "XXX" meant
              > that the whiskey was triple-distilled. (in a pot still).
              >
            • surya9375
              Thanks Tony. Just doing my bit for the forum. You guys helped me big time when I came in :-) And Josh. This did confuse me as well when I was looking at still
              Message 6 of 6 , Dec 5, 2006
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                Thanks Tony.
                Just doing my bit for the forum. You guys helped me big time when I
                came in :-)

                And Josh.
                This did confuse me as well when I was looking at still pictures when
                I started out. Most pictures dont show it (a top view) but the top
                part of the condenser is "open". What is condensed trickles down to
                be collected, but the rest goes to the atmostphere.

                Regards
                Surya.

                --- In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, Tony T <tonkyman1979@...>
                wrote:
                >
                > That's a very nice simple explanation Surya, good job.
                > I do have one thing to add though.When he asked about
                > closing the valve and it maybe being disaster waiting
                > to happen. I think he is under the impression that the
                > still "system" is allowed to come under pressure, thus
                > being an explosion hazard. Reflux (and I guess all)
                > stills are open to the atmosphere and not "closed
                > systems" so pressure is not allowed to build up
                > (except a little vapor pressure, but I'm going for
                > simple). In the reflux still the condenser is sized
                > big enough to condense and return all the rising vapor
                > before it can leave the "vented" column. By closing
                > the take-off valve you are returning all the condensed
                > vapor down the column and helping it to concentrate
                > the alcohol vapors at the still head. By allowing it
                > to remain in total reflux after equilibrium for
                > several minutes the alcohol percentage is much
                > higher.
                >
                > Over on www.homedistiller.org they have several really
                > nice pictures of reflux stills. A close look will let
                > you see how they are "open" to the atmosphere.
                >
                > Good luck and welcome aboard.
                >
                > Tony T
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                ______________________________________________________________________
                ______________
                > Any questions? Get answers on any topic at www.Answers.yahoo.com.
                Try it now.
                >
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