Silk City Distillers

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Everything posted by Silk City Distillers

  1. If you can build something like this, eBay and industrial surplus are your friends. For example, the PID I list, you can find on eBay for $100. From Omega directly? It's like $350-400. At $100 it's a better deal than a standard off-the-shelf PID for $50. Same goes for valves, decent proportional control models are relatively easy to find on the surplus market. Sure, theres some risk involved, but like I said, this endeavor requires a certain amount of technical and mechanical skill, if you have those, you should be pretty comfortable spec'ing the right parts, sizing valves, pumps, plumbing, etc. Do solenoids work too? Yeah, totally, plenty of ways to skin this cat. On a municipal or well water based system, solenoids are really the only way to go. @indyspirits mentioned software, so I thought I'd share the details around the Omega, since it's a pretty cost effective way to put a PID in place that has the ability to be connected. Omega has some very good documentation online for how to interface over Ethernet, and there are plenty of options in place if you are interested in hacking around. You can data log to Excel, build simple VB programs with their ActiveX control. They've got some dashboard software too.
  2. Omega CNI16D53-EI Proportional control PID (With Ethernet for remote control/logging), RTD in the dephlegmator itself (through the wall). Using a Johnson 4-20ma proportional actuator with a 3 way ball valve to provide dephlegmator flow control. We use a reservoir, and the dephlegmator is on it's own loop, so the water either passes through the deplegmator or bypasses back to the tank (easier than dealing with pump control or pressure bypass). We are using a Grundfos Alpha circulator valve - it uses a ridiculously small amount of power, about 5 or 6 watts. The dephleg loop only runs about 4-5 gallons a minute. Nice thing is the PID compensates for the reservoir temperature as it heats up through the run. We can adjust the dephleg to any temp we need on demand, and I think that the run-to-run repeatability is solid. Makes it very easy to do things like run heads compression, slowly back off to take off fores/heads, adjust the hearts proof, and then compress tails if necessary. The only upgrade pending is to swap to a much faster acting proportional valve. Went with PID as it was easier to control on the fly than something like a PLC - especially considering the cost of an HMI. To go through all that trouble and the PLC would really just be "simulating" a PID? We use the same exact setup for product condenser temp control.
  3. No but we used NSF sinks to be sure that they wouldn't have an issue.
  4. 2 pound of grain per gallon total volume is a reasonable estimate.
  5. In the distillery proper. Local municipal code has a number of health department mandated sanitary codes that apply to any food handling establishment, including manufacturing. There were a number of other requirements I didn't list. Separate handwash sink (in the manufacturing area) and a mop sink as well. The 3 basin would have been a real problem, as it's required to be air gapped into a floor sink - but we were already tearing up the concrete to lay down trench drains anyhow. Really thought, would be hard to imagine how to operate without them. FDA would certainly have something to say if they walked into a facility without these things. I thought the grease trap was excessive, not the sink, god knows I spend half the day cleaning.
  6. We see a significant cost differential between local unmalted rye and buying malted rye from a supplier, unmalted is near 3x less expensive per bushel. If you are adding it to the cereal mash - I don't think it makes sense to use malted, given the higher price. Also, I don't see how you gain any productivity benefit if you are using any other malt (wheat, barley) on the way down. Also worth noting, if you aren't using enzymes, adding rye to corn on the way up makes it even more difficult to work with.
  7. A 500 gallon still for a gin distillery running gns? Maybe 2? I'm not sure that's small batch, that's cornering the entire North American gin market.
  8. 3 Basin Sink with Grease Trap. We got them to concede on the grease trap, but we still installed the 3 basin sink.
  9. Not sure how you would do this mechanically, as something like a Danfoss AVTA would open the supply, but then you would flood your glycol system with water. We have a surface mount RTD temp sensor on our parrot to measure distillate temp, connected to a Watlow limit controller. The limit controller just screams and blinks today, but originally we were going to wire it into our steam control to cut steam to the boiler. You could use it to switch two solenoids to switch the PC to muni water feed, and then drain down to your flood drains, etc. We figured it was easiest to just shut down the still on a distillate high-temp (vapor) situation.
  10. Local authorities are going to have more to say than us, but.. When talking to my electrical contractor about classified environments and being "explosion proof" - he made a point to me that made so much sense, I was embarassed to not have thought of it. Easiest way to manage electrical classification in an area? Remove all the electric, deal with only essentials, not optionals. A window or skylight is cheaper than approved lighting. Pneumatics will be cheaper than electrics. The floor drain might represent a problem, since if you have major spillage, it may feed into the sanitary sewer. It might be a liability and not a benefit.
  11. The little RODI has a separate set of carbon block filters, but we've got a 2 cubic foot carbon tank with a hot swap spare.
  12. Your prices are really good, btw.
  13. Yeah our local water commission stores finished water in open air reservoirs, so its ozonated and chlorinated/chloraminated a second time on exit. As a result, the level will swing throughout the year, and swing based on if they are drawing from a reservoir and which one. Problem is, you really never know.
  14. We run UV plus the Carbon to try to eliminate chloramines as much as possible without having to use meta. We run a tight sediment filter - 5 micron - before the UV just to ensure maximum effectiveness. As soon as we see any change on the test strip, we change carbon tanks. We are on muni - but we do pick up some sediment and particulate. We are in a pretty urbanized area outside of NYC - so VOC and other contaminant is always on our mind. Chalk it up to being obsessive more than anything else.
  15. What I really want to see is a cost effective nanofiltration system for mashing water. Something that removes all of the nasties but keeps the salt and ion concentrations relatively similar to source water. And something that can do it without me using 1500 gallons of water to make 500. Today, mash water is just sediment, big uv and big carbon.
  16. I'm not sure I understand the difference between a low-end and a high-end system, as either system is only going to be as good as the cartridges and membranes you run. A high-end system that hasn't seen a filter change in 14 months is going to be significantly worse than a cheap eBay system. Likewise, re-filter that high end unit with cheap filters and membranes, and it's exactly the same thing. Maybe the finish on the cartridge housings is a little bit nicer, but really, the unit is nothing but a housing for filter cartridges. I use a small 5 stage - basically a hot rodded residential system with a few more stages. A prefilter, two carbons, RO, and then a mixed bed DI stage. I use a Dow Filmtec 75gpd membrane. My water has never tested over 0 TDS, despite my source water being as high as 300 or so during the winter (when they are dumping salt everywhere). As I understand it, many of these very high GPD commercial units actually see lower rejection rates, and lower product water quality than what you might get from a high quality residential setup. Realistically, adding a tank like @Mulderbri uses gives you plenty of RO water, on tap. So even with lower GPD numbers, you can still pull off the gallons you need when you need them. If you need 300 gallons of product dilution water every day, you probably aren't worrying about the cost of a RO setup anyway, so it's moot.
  17. I think so, yes. With a lautered wash and conicals, you can even be selective about the amount of yeast you are letting into distillation. If you aren't including yeast today, try easing into it (because you have the luxury of being able to). We're on the same page with underpitching yielding greater ester formation, but temperature is a big factor too, especially when you start pushing outside normal beer ranges. For example, I love Nottingham or US-04 pushed into the low 80s, big big esters. I've run batches with 500g and 1000g, and haven't noticed much of any difference, other than maybe another day of fermentation. However, ferment it at 72 vs 82, and it's night and day. At 72, it's nice, but boring. At 82, big floral and fruit esters (and a bigger heads cut too).
  18. I think the bigger concern is going to be a change in the character. If you and your customers are liking what you are making - going to something like EC-1118 fermented in the low 70s is going to be very different from an Ale yeast in the mid 80s. Given you've already got the yeast from the brewing, I think you are on the right path, try dropping the ferment temps with the ale yeast. Also, if you are fermenting in your conicals. Try cold crashing for a day before distillation to get all that yeast to floc and fall out. That'll give you a slightly cleaner distillate (fewer volatile esters).
  19. Agree. Funny story. I've got a little lab setup with a number of different alcohols, esters, aldehydes, and other chemicals, and often times run two-component distillations to understand the esterification that takes place during distillation (Fischer esterification takes place in spades during refluxed distillation, even with no inorganic acids present). So anyway, I spilled a tiny bit of butyric acid on my pants, no more than a few drops. It smelled awful, but after an hour or two, I didn't notice it anymore. When I got home, I just threw the pants in the wash. The laundry room smelled like vomit for a month. My wife was not impressed. Interesting anecdote about butyric acid - if you've ever watched the show Whale Wars - it's what the anti-whaling protesters throw onto the decks of foreign whaling ships. I can't imagine how awful an entire glass vial of that, smashed onto a deck, would smell.
  20. Most books on distilled spirits are worthless, except for the technical references, which tend to be heavily theoretical textbook or journal articles. Some of the best stuff has bubbled up from the hobby community. Crozdog's gin manual is a good start if you are interested in vapor distilling - Odin's post and video from the other day was very good as well. I'd wager a guess that both of these are better technical guides than any published book. Although I really do like The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart (this is a lay book).
  21. I gotta say though, kudos on your very novel approach. I had to read the thread 3 times before I finally understood it. It seems like it would be an interesting way to make a vodka while still carrying through a considerable amount of character.
  22. Just a comment from the peanut gallery. Concur on the fermentation temperature and yeast suggestions, but I will suspect that it will manifest itself as a slightly wider hearts cut on the 3 plate distillation. So yes, an increased batch yield, but I don't think it is going to significantly improve the ability to recycle the heads and extract additional ethanol using the 20 plate column. The concept of being able to 'recycle', I think, has it's roots in pot still distillation, where the heads/tails/feints are at a higher alcohol:congener ratio. By the time the heads cut is being made in this example, they've already going through the equivalent of 5 "distillations" worth of compression. How many plates are required to further fractionate that already tight fraction? Clearly the 20 being used in this example isn't enough. We're talking about congeners that have a odor and flavor detection thresholds that are absolutely tiny. If we were talking about redistilling the heads from a single pass pot still distillation, I think the discussion would be very different. Based on @fa20driver original post, if 20 plates couldn't clean the heads up before, I don't think it's going to do it after a cooler ferment with a cleaner yeast either. Realistically, if increasing the product yield is the goal, the better approach is to perhaps take a wider/dirty hearts cut on the 3 plate, and use more passes on the smaller 20 plate (with cuts) to yield the finished vodka. Yes, it's more work, but if you were running an additional "head cleaner" distillation, why not run another product distillation instead? I think @JustAndy suggestion of further dilution might be a good approach, but if that means having to make 2 or 3 more "heads cleaning" passes on that small 20 plate, I'd still argue that you are better off making additional product passes on the little still, and just dumping the heads.
  23. If you have hydrometers with third-party calibrations - keep them locked up in the office. Write an SOP that has you calibrating your on-the-floor production hydrometers against your standards when received, and recalibrate annually, or any time it may have been roughly handled or if physical damage is visible or suspected. Keep records of testing and calibration. Buy calibration stickers and put them on the hydrometer cases when you test/retest. If you have single-point calibrations, test at the single point and record the offsets. If you have two-point, it'll take a bit more time. I can see using an externally calibrated hydrometer for final proofing, but for all other purposes, why wouldn't you use your house-calibrated units? Breaking a $40 hydrometer vs breaking a $200+ hydrometer? If you have the lab skills to gauge and proof to TTB standards, you have the skills to verify a hydrometer against a reference hydrometer. Calibrating a hydrometer against a reference hydrometer takes absolutely no more time than gauging and proofing a batch for bottling. I think it also demonstrates a significantly higher sense of laboratory rigor. Your externally calibrated hydrometers should be good for a decade (or more) if only used as calibration references. Then, it becomes relatively trivial and inexpensive to keep full sets of stems on hand. Break one? No sweat. Hell, I tipped over an empty graduated cylinder the other day, and it fell onto a closed hydrometer case. Nothing broke, didn't suspect anything, opened the case to find the stem cracked. I swear someone else broke it and put it back in the case. It's known that hydrometers in heavy rotation can lose mass just due to wear, wearing down from wiping, and especially when roughly handled and dropped into cylinders (and hit the bottom) - as they are known to lose mass through chipping. Likewise, I don't particularly have much faith in that little slip of paper staying in the same place forever either. So even if you are adamant on using third-party calibrated hydros on the production floor, are you using a third-party to validate them every year? Or, if it's too complicated, just buy two full sets of calibrated stems every year. But, how do you know that it wasn't damaged in shipping? Or that the lab messed up? Or that the tech was hungover and his dog died the night before? Or that he wasn't rushing because he was late for a date with this really cute girl Tina from Milpitas. Or the one-point calibration just so happened to be dead-on, but the rest of the range is significantly off? UPS driver saw "Glass Fragile" on the box and punted it to the back of the truck.
  24. Big difference between propane and natural gas. At $5 an MCF and $0.64 per liter of propane, the cost to run on propane is about 6x higher. So that $450 month on nat gas would be $2,700 on propane (at the prices above). Maybe my math is wrong.
  25. Why aren't you calibrating in-house against a calibrated standard?