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Nubie needs much advice...

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  • J. Ganble
    Ok...I got interested in distilling my own spirits when a friend ,who has been making beer and wine for years,made himself a still...only problem is,he
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 2, 2002
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      Ok...I got interested in distilling my own spirits when a friend ,who has been making beer and wine for years,made himself a still...only problem is,he obviously didnt read enough and was NOT even interested in any constructive criticism  so he isnt much help...anyway...I  constructed the reflux still with the thru column cooling tubes and the condenser within the cooling jacket design....I couldnt find a suitable boiler for a while and finally,while browsing the local antique district,spotted an item marked 'still'...a 5 gal/25 liter ,obviously home-made,copper bucket with a funnel shaped top and an appx 1.75 inch hole in the top.Anyway I bought it,cleaned it up some...cooked my first batch of appx 2.5-3 gal of wine WITHOUT any column packing(forgot to buy it)...got appx 9.5 eight ounce jars collecting at temps from appx 170-180 degrees.......got some copper scrubbers the next day...boiled them for appx 30 minutes(no residue in water)...rinsed...placed 3 in top and 3 in bottom of column....added the 2nd thru 8th jars of spirits from first run to appx 3.5 gal of water and cooked again.....have one thermometer just above the coolant input tube(lower) and another where the condencer 'tees' off the column....due to inefficient heat source,the top thermometer never would come up to temp....due to removing top scrubs etc(in a futile attempt to get the temp up at the top of the column),the flour and water paste seal betheen the boiler and the cap broke basiclly letting all the spirit escape into the atmosphere.....no biggie,as I hadnt planned to drink any of that batch  :>)  ........anyway,I cleaned the still,went out and bought a 170,000 BTU propane cooker ,placed a weak batch of wine in the boiler,appx 4 gal,cooked and gathered appx 6 eight ounce jars between 170 and 180 deg....strong,sweet smell to the distillant,came out of condenser cool,unlike previous batch which came out warm with lots of steam escaping from drip tube,burned good(in a spoon) with little water left....let the still cool down and while rinsing the copper  boiler,noticed the inside surface,from where the wine level was to the bottom,was as shiny as a new penny......the collected spirit is crystal clear and,when I rinsed the scrubbs,there was a definate coppery color to the water...is it safe to drink the distillant?...is this normal...thanks for any comments or suggestions.....oh yes...almost forgot...the temp at the bottom of the column was a steady 10 deg COOLER than the temp at the top throughout the process....I thought it would be the reverse...swapped thermometers to check and got same result,when the temp started to rise toward the end,both thermometers began to rise in sync..quit collecting when TOP temp reached appx 180...bottom temp was still appx 10 deg cooler....Joel 
    • BillyWeeble@cs.com
      Hi Joel, You wrote...
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 3, 2002
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        Hi Joel, You wrote...

        << I constructed the reflux still with the thru column cooling tubes and the
        condenser within the cooling jacket design. >>
        << went out and bought a 170,000 BTU propane cooker >>

        I believe we have the same set-up. To save everyone's time I'll be brief.

        Pack the column with unraveled copper scrubbers from the very bottom up to
        the vapor turn at the T on top. Remove all shrapnel attached to the
        scrubbers. Use Ekco or Choreboy. Boiling is good. With this type of column
        pack the center first, alternate from the top then bottom then top etc.
        overlapping each layer. Breathe thru it to verify free flow of vapor.

        << have one thermometer just above the coolant input tube(lower) and another
        where the condencer 'tees' off the column >>
        << the temp at the bottom of the column was a steady 10 deg COOLER than the
        temp at the top throughout the process....I thought it would be the
        reverse...swapped thermometers to check and got same result >>

        I am baffled. I have pages of notes from every run and have never experienced
        this. How close is the lower temp gauge to the lower reflux tube bisecting
        the column? What I've experienced is both temps will remain the same until
        towards the end of the run. The top temp, at the very top of the head, is 78C
        or so while the temp from the lower center is 168-170F (because that's the
        type thermometers I have - doesn't matter cuz movement is what I watch). As
        the ethanol vapors come to an end, the other alcohols, oils and stuff come up
        the column to raise the temp (and booger up your scrubbers) on the lower
        gauge before the head gauge moves up. When the head temp rises past 78-79C
        it's time to shut down. You don't want or need anything but ethanol unless
        you seek flavors for your spirit. I haven't gotten that far yet, I'm still
        new at this, so I'll yield to the more knowledgeable members of this forum on
        that point.

        << when the temp started to rise toward the end,both thermometers began to
        rise in sync. >>

        I'll bet your boiler is making chugging and bumping noises also. Too much
        heat. Got alot of coolant going thru the system also, huh? My last 2 runs
        have used 1 L (qt) or less per min water flow and the gas burner won't light
        my cigarette. The barrels in the way. But seriously, I can barely hear it
        run. Amaze your friends. All you need is the ethanol, not distilled water.
        It's got to the point where that design needs modification. I'll show ya
        later the improvements. But don't hold yer breath, it's Summer here and I'm
        now busy with other stuff. Six months on and six months off.

        << letting all the spirit escape into the atmosphere.....no biggie,as I hadnt
        planned to drink any of that batch :>) >>

        #:>( ALCOHOL ABUSE! Do not cast your pearls before swine! Distill
        again if you don't like the flavor. Add clean water to the ick and run with
        it. City folk need to let the chlorine evaporate from their water for a day
        or two. Cover with cloth.

        << while rinsing the copper boiler,noticed the inside surface,from where the
        wine level was to the bottom,was as shiny as a new penny >>

        Low ph acid cleans copper, silver, etc. so use vinegar or a citric acid
        solution to clean your column. Rinse with a baking soda/water mix to really
        foam out the crud.

        << when I rinsed the scrubbs,there was a definate coppery color to the
        water...is it safe to drink the distillant?...is this normal. >>

        Yes and yes. Don't drink the water. Especially in Phoenix Arizona.

        When I started this hobby I started with nothing. It was the good folks on
        this forum who helped me. You can thank them for any help I give
        you...........bob...........
      • J. Ganble
        Thanks Billy....I figured out the cleaning of the copper after thinking abt it for a while...I then made a paste of flour,vinegar and salt...applied it to
        Message 3 of 3 , Jun 3, 2002
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          Thanks Billy....I figured out the cleaning of the copper after thinking abt it for a while...I then made a paste of flour,vinegar and salt...applied it to every external surface of the still and rinsed into a bucket,then poured the liquid thru the inside and rinsed well...unbelieveable the difference!!!
          Ran the distillate thru (mixed with water)again last nite...used 2 copper scrubs in the bottom and appx 1 ft of glass marbles...got more consistent temps this time and the bottom temp did rise first etc......instead of a consistent flow,I got intermittant 'squirts' ,usually preceded by a 'wigglin' motion from the still...must have had the heat too high like you mentioned...anyway,the distillate last mnite amounted to appx 4-eight oz jars which left me with 3 after tossing the first and last 4 oz....dont have any activated carbon so I didnt filter it....took appx 3 oz,added 4 oz distilled water and one Ice cube....mmmmm,it was delicious...got one heck of a buz off this amount....I am interested in your modification as I am sure my still needs something to make it more easily controlled....thanks.
           
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