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rickthenewb

At what point is a pot still too big?

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rickthenewb    0

This question just popped in my head and made me curious, I have seen some really big pot stills but is there a limit?  At what point does a continuous still make a more sense?  Is it 500 gallons, 1000 gallons etc... Just something i was wondering.

 

 

rick

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Interesting question. It probably has to do with the amount of energy and time to warm everything up.  Once the energy input is really high a continuous still makes more sense.   I would guess it is between 500 and 1000 gallons.   

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Continuous stills only make sense if you are going to strip in them and then run the low wines in a pot still, in my opinion.  Even Vendome's continuous stills do not remove the heads very well.  Which is why Jim Beam and some others feed all of the output from their continuous stills into really big pot stills.

Personally, I think that pot stills make sense up to 2,700 gallons for some applications, including removing the heads from the beverage ethanol produced in really big continuous column stills. 

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Tom Lenerz    12

The smallest Vendome continuous still will run 3 to 5 gallons per minute. This means, when strictly talking about speed, it will do at least 1000 gallons in 6 hours, which would be faster than a 1000 gallon pot. In addition, the continuous stills, at least last I checked, are actually more affordable than their larger pot stills (750, 1000, etc). 

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captnKB    20

id disagree with the notion that a continuous column still can not make a good heads cut. I run a forsyth continuous column that takes 6 gpm of 8% abv wash and produces some fantastic whiskey with a complete heads cut in a single pass. We have even done a GC analysis on the spirit produced to ensure that there are no heads in the finished spirit. 

To answer ricks question, in my opinion anything over 500 gallons is too big

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Stumpy's    7
46 minutes ago, captnKB said:

id disagree with the notion that a continuous column still can not make a good heads cut. I run a forsyth continuous column that takes 6 gpm of 8% abv wash and produces some fantastic whiskey with a complete heads cut in a single pass. We have even done a GC analysis on the spirit produced to ensure that there are no heads in the finished spirit. 

To answer ricks question, in my opinion anything over 500 gallons is too big

I'd agree with captnKB. We are currently running a 500 gallon pot and looking at adding a continuous column to run most of our whiskies on and strip a few of our products. After a few late nights with a spreadsheet and a few pours of bourbon, the only conclusion I could come to was that a big pot CAN (NOT WILL) run you broke. We are on our farm and have to burn propane instead of Nat Gas and have to run a fairly large water chiller. Our elec and propane costs are adding up quickly running this 500 gal pot. The quicker processing rate of the column (with almost no warm-up time) and the ability to use your beer as cooling fluid are pushing us in that direction.

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jeffw    6

With you Indy and Stumpy, I run a 2000L pot and wish it was a continuous system.  Really a question of which company to go with for the continuous column, not whether it is a good idea.

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kkbodine    8

Jameson has some pretty huge pot stills; Wikipedia says they are 75000 L. My family and I toured the working Midleton distillery in early 2011 but I can't remember how big they said they were. I do have a picture though which won't upload for some reason. Of course they are a massive company...

Picture here (maybe)

https://ibb.co/hCRpda

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JustAndy    12

For some products like single malt whiskey and irish pot still whiskey, continuous stills are not an option for legal,traditional, and flavor reasons. Thus the giant Midleton pot stills, which are obviously not as efficient or cost effective as a continuous system would be. 

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JustAndy wrote,

"For some products like single malt whiskey and irish pot still whiskey, continuous stills are not an option for legal,traditional, and flavor reasons."

 

This is not just true for Barley spirits it's true for Corn whiskeys, Rye Whiskeys and Brandies as well. Jim Beam and many others use continuous column stills for the stripping runs but they do the spirit runs in pot stills.     

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jeffw    6
Quote

Jim Beam and many others use continuous column stills for the stripping runs but they do the spirit runs in pot stills.     

I don't think this is a fair way to state how they are distilling as I understand it.  They use either a doubler or a thumper and run it continuously.  They are not doing this as a stripping run and then a batch pot still run.  My understanding is they use a flame arrestor on the doublers to vent off the heads.  What size pot still would Jim Beam need to do it in a true batch fashion?  Not sure, but it would be a monster.

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 I spent some time at Jim Beam.  I don't know about the flame arrestor, as I did not see that. They have a large continues column still of at least 36" in diameter x 65' tall  that they feed corn mash into, to do a strip.  Everything that I saw suggested that their spirits were being made in 2 distillations and it states that on their web site.  The low wines from their first distillation are ran into a very large pot still (doubler) for the 2nd distillation,   I remember watching the screen in the control room and it showed the pot still being filled on the computer screen, it seems like there was a large holding tank before the pot still on the screen, but it has been a while so I can't remember for sure. 

They also have a smaller batch pot still (not really what we would consider small)  that they run certain spirits through that are not ran through the continues stripping still.   I had a chance to take a really good close look at that still and it gave me a couple of design ideas years ago.

Driftless Glen Distillery in Wisconsin runs something similar to Jim Beam only smaller.  Driftless Glen runs a Vendome continuous column stripping still in conjunction with a large Vendome copper pot still.  They strip with the continuous still and then do batch runs in the Pot still.  That way they can get the flavor profile that they need.

Concerning some spirits needing to be ran through pot stills,  I was agreeing with you except that what you say for Scotch and Irish Barley spirits goes for traditional  Bourban and Corn Whiskeys as well, in my opinion.  

One of the former lead designers for Vendome helped me with my continuous column still design.  It's a little different than Vendome's.  After he left Vendome this guy worked for Jim Beam for a while and then he worked for Dickel.  He also helped Driftless Glen to get their continuous still to work properly.  

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indyspirits    32
2 hours ago, Southernhighlander said:

This is not just true for Barley spirits

Do you know of a single malt scotch or irish whisky producer that uses a continuous column?

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I don't know any, but that's not to say that there aren't some.

Talking about tradition. I always thought that all Scotch was distilled off of the grain, then a couple of years ago I had the son of a master distiller tell me that one of the distilleries that his father worked at in Scotland actually distilled on the grain.

 My grandfather distilled on the grain from Malted Barley and Malted Corn and his spirits tasted great.  There was not a hint of bitterness nor were there any bad flavors from dead yeast.  It was really good.

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Tom Lenerz    12
1 hour ago, indyspirits said:

Do you know of a single malt scotch or irish whisky producer that uses a continuous column?

Not Scottish, but Japanese, Nikka does one http://www.nikka.com/eng/products/grain/coffeymalt.html.

The SWA might have rules requiring pots for single malt, but I'm not sure. 

2 hours ago, Southernhighlander said:

 I spent some time at Jim Beam.  I don't know about the flame arrestor, as I did not see that. They have a large continues column still of at least 36" in diameter x 65' tall  that they feed corn mash into, to do a strip.  Everything that I saw suggested that their spirits were being made in 2 distillations and it states that on their web site.  The low wines from their first distillation are ran into a very large pot still (doubler) for the 2nd distillation,   I remember watching the screen in the control room and it showed the pot still being filled on the computer screen, it seems like there was a large holding tank before the pot still on the screen, but it has been a while so I can't remember for sure. 

They also have a smaller batch pot still (not really what we would consider small)  that they run certain spirits through that are not ran through the continues stripping still.   I had a chance to take a really good close look at that still and it gave me a couple of design ideas years ago.

Kentucky producers consider a doubler a 'second distillation' because it is condensed and re-distilled in the doubler or 'pot still' but this is also done in a continuous manner, not batch. 

 

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Tom Linerze wrote,

Kentucky producers consider a doubler a 'second distillation' because it is condensed and re-distilled in the doubler or 'pot still' but this is also done in a continuous manner, not batch. 

 

Yes, I know, as I have been designing stills for years and I  have them in over 230 distilleries.     When I was at Jim Beam I watched the pot still  appear to be filled before it was ran.      Of course the main purpose of the 2nd distillation is to remove the heads, that the continuous column still is not capable of completely removing.  The simplest way to do that is to fill the pot still (doubler) with the low wines from the continuous column and pull the heads off when the distillate comes off of the pot still.  Of course you do not have to worry about tails during the 2nd distillation as they were removed by the continues column still. To do this in the most expedient manner you would need a holding tank in between the continuous still and pot still (doubler) with the holding tank in place and the pot still sized appropriately there is no reason why the pot still cannot keep up.

It could be that my memory is faulty, but I swear I remember seeing the pot still empty and then refill completely, but it has been a few years, so I could be wrong and they could be removing the heads in the manner that Jeff mentioned.  Also, they have the smaller system there that I mentioned earlier.  Now that I have thought about it more, I remember that the smaller pot still at Jim Beam, has a smaller continuous column still feeding it as well.  It is a beautiful still and has a large bubble plate column.

 Driftless Glen runs the output from their stripping still into the pot still and then they run the pot still as a batch still.  Again their reason for doing this is to remove the heads that their continuous still is not capable of removing.  If they ran the pot still as a continuous still they would not be able to remove the heads and so there would be no purpose for having the pot still to begin with.

I will call my friend that worked at Jim Beam and ask him.  I will let you guys know either way.  If I am wrong and their pot still is ran in a continuas manner, then I apologize.  The great thing about distilling is, no matter what you think you know there is always more to learn ;o)

 

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Okay guys I apologize.  I have spent years designing and building batch stills of all types.  I have a good continuous column still, design but as far as continuous column stills with doublers, I really did not know much about them before a few minutes ago, when I did a little research and called a friend of mine and got a Vendome design schematic of a continuous column still with doubler.  I understand now how they work and how the doublers can function in a continuous fashion   I apologize for opening my mouth before making sure that I knew what I was talking about.    I am going to incorporate the doubler and other components in the  schematic into my little continuous column still prototype.   That's going to be fun to play with.  

Thanks for teaching me a little humility and about column stills with doublers.

Paul Hall

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I've seen similar Vendome continuous schematics with the doubler.

For anyone with deep batch distillation experience, it's incredibly confusing, because at first glance, your impression should be that it couldn't work at all.  I too saw these and thought to myself that they had to be running the doubler as a batch still.

There's actually one schematic that's floated around a while, from Michters.  It can't possibly be running the doubler as continuous, as there would be absolutely no mechanism for a cut to be drawn.

6a00e553b3da20883401910498634f970c-2.thumb.jpg.d02a718a1ce1b7885271bcfa0fdaed27.jpg

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And in the photographs (from Distillery Trail), you can clearly see the steam gear on the left side here - steam feed, trap, etc.  So given a liquid feed, and active heating, while you might think it works like a thumper, it doesn't.  (The comments in the article about the doubler being 500g are incorrect, it appears to be 250 gallons or so, and the prints confirm that).

5-Michters-Distillery-500-Gallon-Copper-

 

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jeffw    6

Beyond aesthetics, I never understood why one would use a doubler instead of a second column to make your heads cut. The Headframe  system makes more sense to me.

 

On a side note, the beer heater on the Vendome looks like a small shell and tube condenser, makes me wonder why people say you need a tube in tube for cooling mash instead of a shell and tube.

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On 9/8/2017 at 10:34 PM, jeffw said:

You building continuous systems Paul? Just stripper?

 

We are actually working on a complete continuous still design and a continuous stripping still design right now.

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jeffw    6

Awesome Paul!  Can't wait to see what you come up with. What is your timeframe?

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