Ryefarmer

What copper should I use for a 300 gal still?

14 posts in this topic

Hi all,

It looks as if we are going to be building a 300 gal all copper pot still for our up-and coming distillery. We have a good shop, welding equipment and welders. What we don't really know is what type and gauge of copper we need to use for this application. Any advise would be appreciated.

Thanks

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Not to quash your hopes and dreams, but you may want to check with your local fire inspector and possibly permitting office to ensure you can get your COA with a home-rolled still especially if you're going to be heating with steam (lp not direct injection).

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I am no expert in fabrication by any means, but this post reads to me something along the lines of 'I want to build a house, what kind of lumber should I use?'. 

Your question is a question of engineering not of fabrication. Beyond the quality and thickness of the copper, the construction of a safe and proper designed still is done after proper engineering is done on the drawing board. We do a lot of custom designed tanks here and while it is rough sketches I submit to the fabricator, they have an engineer trained in these things actually draft and engineer the things. They make sure that the quality and gauge is appropriate to the application and the physical stress of the situation. They also ensure proper venting and relief valves for the system. 

I'm sure some will disagree with this, and give examples of what you need to use, but I argue for your safety, the safety of your employees and customers that you hire a professional to design and build your still. I'm not saying it can't be built in house by qualified fabricators, but I am saying it should be engineered by someone who is qualified as well.

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9 hours ago, Ryefarmer said:

Hi all,

It looks as if we are going to be building a 300 gal all copper pot still for our up-and coming distillery. We have a good shop, welding equipment and welders. What we don't really know is what type and gauge of copper we need to use for this application. Any advise would be appreciated.

Thanks

I used mostly .093 copper plate on my build.  The steam kettle itself was stainless, but the dome walls, column and top condenser where all rolled copper pieces tig welded together.  The spun dome top was .125 thick.  It took a very large slip-roller to roll the .093 plate into a 4' long x 11" diameter tube that became the main column.  Using .125 plate would have been better but was not really practical for the machinery I had access to at the time.  If I recall I purchased "half hard" plate as well.

I am currently considering building a 300 gallon still myself and will probably try to go with .125 plate.  

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Hi Ryefarmer,

 

The best copper to use for a still is alloy 122, Also known as alloy C12200 deoxiginated high phosphorus.  Never use alloy C110 electrolytic tough pitch copper or Alloy 103 oxygen free copper.  There are several small still manufacturers that don't know any better and they use alloy C110 because it is the easiest to get.  If you would like someone to do the design work and engineering on your still, just let me know.  We can give you a really good price on that.  If you would like to know were to get the alloy C12200 copper let me know and I can help you with that as well.  paul@distillery-equipment.com http://distillery-equipment.comhttp://moonshine-still.co

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Hey Highlander,

Could you elaborate on why you dont suggest C110 or 101 or what benefit the 122 provides?  The only distinctions I have been able to find between them is in the hardness, psi rating and machinability.  Are there other distinctions as well?

Thanks!

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HedgeBird

C122 has been deoxidized with phosphorus.  This process leaves between .015% and .040% phosphorus in the metal, so this copper is still considered a commercially pure copper.   Because of this process copper alloy 122 is not susceptible to hydrogen embrittlement.  

 

Below is a list of the Characteristic of copper alloy 122.

forgeability rating = 65

machinability rating = 20

solderig = excellent

brazing = excellent

Tig welding excellent

cold working = excellent

hot forming = excellent

Butt welding = good

 

Common Uses for C122

Distillery/brewery tubes 

Plumbing pipe , plumbing tubing and plumbing fittigs are all made from C122

Chocolate Kettles, Still pots, Still columns and heat exchangers

Condenser tubes

Medical gas-oxygen lines

Gaskets

 

Also the heat transfer in C122 is superior to that of C110

 

Copper C110 (ETP) Electrolytic Tough Pitch Copper

C110 has not been deoxiginized with phosphorous.  It is considered a commercially pure copper.  This copper has a much better electrical conductivity than c122, and it is used much more than C122 copper.  Also it is great for roofing and other applications because of it's toughness and corrosion resistance.  Since it is used for roofing and architectural it is much easier to find in sheet form which is why distillery equipment manufacturers who don't know any better use it.

Below is a list of the characteristic of copper 110

forgeability rating = 65

machinability rating = 20

solderig = excellent

brazing = good

Tig welding= fair

cold working = excellent

hot forming = excellent

Butt welding = good

Common uses for C110

Electrical

Telecommunications

Architectural

Antimicrobial

 

It is not that you can't build a still from C110, you can, however it is not the best copper for the job.  Also it does not tig weld well at all and if you want the best still it should be tig welded with alloy 122 copper welding rod.  Brazing is the 2nd best method but c110 does not braze nearly as well as 122.

Tig welding copper is very hard, because if you do not weld it right the first time you may not get a 2nd chance.  You cook off most of the phosphorous when you weld it the first time and the heat changes the chemical nature of the copper, so that it may not weld well, or even at all if you have to make a 2nd pass and if you try to make a third pass you might as well forget it.

I had a mechanical engineer tell me once that copper and stainless could not be welded together.  We tig weld copper and stainless together with 308 stainless rod here almost every day with great results.  We have never had a copper to stainless weld fail, however we never do that weld where there is going to be vibration.  We can also tig  copper to brass, copper to aluminum, stainless to aluminum but those are not for distilling application.

 

There are several other forms of copper that also do not work well with distilling, but I will not go into those as they are not commonly made into sheet.

paul@distillery-equipment.com  http://distillery-equipment.com    http://moonshine-still.co

 

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Thanks for sharing this great info Paul.  I wish I had read this six years ago as it sounds like it may have made my life a little easier!!

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I also thank you Paul. You show great class. We will certainly put your company at the top of the list for our needs.

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You are welcome Ryefarmer, thank you for the compliment.

 

Navonjohnson please email me paul@distillery-equipment.com

 

Happy Holidays!

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Does anyone know a stocking supplier of this c122 tubing?  I've called around the Bay Area and everyone says it is not in stock and has to be milled at multiple unit cost.

 

 

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mendodistilling

 

That's strange.  All of the standard copper plumbing pipe and tubing that is used in the US is alloy c122.  You should be able to get it in sizes up to 2" or 3" at your local hardware store, however the salesmen at the store probably do not know that it is alloy c122.  They only know it as copper plumbing pipe and tube.  Alloy 110 is never used as plumbing pipe and tube for obvious reasons.

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