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Silk City Distillers

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  1. Sometimes it helps to alternate acid and caustic cleaners. Especially in the tun or still kettle, where it's easy to start getting build up deposits. Do you have a port for a spray ball and a pump to run it at high enough pressures?
  2. Sure, that's an option, there many commercial gin stills setup in that fashion. The reason for the Carter Head as a device are exactly as you state - ease of operation for vapor-extracted botanicals. Secondary to this, some feel that draining the Carter Head "tea" back to the alcohol in the boiler can cause off-flavors, bitterness, earthiness, astringency (based on the botanical type). Instead, the carter head allows for the draining of that condensate separately. Keep in mind, there is sometimes the need to change baskets multiple times during a run. The carter head facilitates the change out. In your model, it would be very difficult to juggle the hot column, condenser, parrot, etc to swap the basket. Make the basket big enough so that you don't need to change out, problem solved (just don't blow your self up). Suspension of a bag works, but is less efficient than an in-line basket - as vapor is forced through the basket, ensuring high contact, versus in suspension, where it's much more passive contact.
  3. High solids = sugar or sweetners? If so, invest in Alcodens LQ and take the time to do the work up-front, to ensure your final proof is on target. Trial and error proofing (why so many people do this, I don't know) would be an absolute disaster if you are proofing via distillation. Your final proofing should only be a confirmation of the proof you expected out of whatever processing operations you were doing.
  4. By the way, looking at the photos, I don't see what in that would be eligible for patent protection, looks like a fairly typical vacuum setup. There is a tremendous amount of prior art in this area. If you think you've come up with something brand new, the flavor and fragrance crew probably did it 50 years ago.
  5. Was really excited by vacuum distillation for a while. I still rotovap nearly everything when I get a free minute to do it. But, I think people put vacuum distillation up on some kind of pedestal as a pinnacle of distilling engineering, when it's really not the case. Vacuum distillation is just a tool, not necessarily better or worse than atmospheric distillation, just different. It's like the difference between SAE and Metric sockets, flat vs Phillips screwdrivers. They aren't so different, but why you might use one or the other certainly is different. Better to think of it as low pressure distillation, it's a continuum, from very low pressures to very high pressures. The pressure you would use in your low-pressure distillation would be based on what you are trying to accomplish by reducing the pressure. It becomes a little less magic when you realize it's still the exact same process, you are just varying the pressure of the process. The single biggest benefit for us, as beverage distillers, is the potential to reduce thermal decomposition of temperature sensitive compounds. It's the reason I still like using the rotovap to extract botanicals. Reduce the pressure, reduce the boiling point, reduce the vapor temperature, and reduce the impact of thermal decomposition - but only if what you are distilling is temperature sensitive. Also keep in mind that thermal decomposition isn't discriminate. It's just as probable that decomposition impacts bad flavors as well as good ones. So don't automatically jump to the assumption that by distilling in a vacuum, you get a better tasting product. Yes, for the most part, when distilling botanicals, you get a "Truer" extract. But it's not always the case, and it certainly isn't the case when distilling from a fermented wash (as opposed to running straight solvent extracts with neutral alcohol). Also keep in mind thermal decomposition is a factor of temperature and time. Which is the reason that most vacuum distillations are not carried out under periods of long reflux. Good example of this is the short-path distillation technique - the goal being the reduce the time under temperature as well. (Realize this means no columns, no plates). The other factor when it comes to temperature, is that higher temperatures aren't necessarily bad. Consider the fact that under the kinds of distillations we do, they are not straight/pure separations, but are reactive distillations. We are creating new compounds as part of the distillation process, and a major factor of that is heat. You can find lots of examples of products that utilize flame-heated stills in a very beneficial way, Maillard products, etc etc. Esterification of acids in a column or thumpers. Too much to dive in to here, just keep in mind that temperature isn't bad. Take those two factors together, and you can see how it's not necessarily a better/worse process anymore, but different. Now, also consider the fact that as your reduce pressure, vapor speed in the column begins to increase significantly. Column diameter needs to increase significantly to compensate for the high vapor speed. Plates begin to become less effective, because the higher differential pressures make it difficult for reflux to drain through the downcomers. Typically why you only see packed columns used for low-pressure distillations. I'll post the math once I have some time to show it, but you end up in a situation where the vapor speeds are so high that entrainment and flooding become major issues. You begin to require some fairly massively sized columns to reduce vapor speed. As you reduce pressure, control issues start to become big problems. Bumping, surging, stability of vacuum control, etc. The lower the pressure, the faster and easier it is to upset the system. For example, completely vaporizing all the held-up liquid in the column, puking up the boiler contents through the column in about 1 second time. As you reduce pressure, the equipment begins to get very expensive as the design pressures and material thicknesses increase. It's fairly easy to spend a small fortune building a system that has absolutely zero benefit over an atmospheric system. Love it for gin, I rotovap gin components all the time. You want a beautiful cucumber flavor? Vacuum distillation all the way. Sorry, but distilling cucumber at atmospheric, the end result is stewed sh!t in comparison. You want to emphasize light, delicate aromas? Flowers? Totally. Love big gin? Don't bother, heavy flavors act like a sledgehammer to your taste buds, you'll never taste the difference. Solvent extractions of botanicals are where low-pressure distillation really shines. Want to talk really low pressure distillation? I have the dry ice bath condenser for my Buchi. I can run acetone and dry ice in the condenser at about -70c. I've got a pretty wicked three stage lab pump that can pull single digit torr, and a really good vacuum controller than can hold it there without disaster. I've done botanical extractions as low as 10 torr. That's boiling at room temperature. No water bath at all, just heated by the air in the room. Just breathing on the boiling flask is enough to almost make it surge out. Super cool stuff, being able to extract the aroma of a flower at a temperature no greater than it would see on a warm spring day. I can distill even cooler, but it's a pain in the ass, since you need to cool the boiling flask, immerse it in cool water, and hope it doesn't warm up faster than you can finish the distillation. Sound awesome? Yeah, it makes great marketing, but really, the end result even distilled warmer is the same. Wah wah. As much as I love this stuff, I've played around with it to know that it's just a tool, not better, not worse, but can certainly yield a product better, or worse, depending on the situation. Can you rebuild a european motor using only SAE tools? Maybe, but it's going to suck.
  6. I feel like there is enough drift on the handheld Anton Paar units that you need to recalibrate with distilled water every day. Wondering if anyone else has had the same experience. We use the DMA35 for quick, intermediate measurements, and we use Alcodens for all proofing/dilution calculations. More than once I've gone through proofing (which may extend more than a day) with Alcodens only to realize the DMA35 was off by a few tenths. Alcodens calcs are always laser precise, the density meter, not so much. Nearly every time when the measured proof had a deviation from the calc, it's just that the meter was off. Glass rules. If you are working with sugar additions (honey), start honing your lab skills, a digital density meter is not going to save you any material amount of time.
  7. We find that from a flavor perspective, batch to batch consistency is improved by recycling heads and early tails. Single pass whiskey on plates. We don’t commingle distillate from numerous batch runs before barreling, but lay down barrels on a run-by-run basis. We did a number of barrels without prior run feints, and they tend to have a wider flavor variance and are generally less complex than the barrels that immediately follow, which do have feints. We are incredibly obsessive about following process, so there is typically very little other variation introduced. For a stretch, we did not recycle, the flavor profile of that finished product is significantly less complex. It’s good, makes a wonderful barrel strength, but proofed down, it’s pretty “basic”. But, Devil in the details, and there are lots of details for those devils to hide in.
  8. Sounds fun. Lavender oil is traditionally produced via steam distillation - where your outputs are lavender oil and lavender hydrosol. You will need the ability to pass steam through a large volume of lavender plants. The condense the vapor, and depart the oils fro the water (hydrosol). Lavender extracts can be produced by solvent extraction, but the process is very different.
  9. Rinnai has done a nice job partnering up to meet brewers needs. I'm not talking about big setups either, but the little guys. So you know it's cost effective. https://www.rinnai.us/sites/default/files/marketing_materials/R-CSWH-E-29.pdf
  10. On the straight malt side, meaning no cookers, I've seen a few guys do pretty well using the Rinnai on demand commercial gas heaters in parallel. I think they are 299k BTU per unit. Just add up as many as you need. Just need to run the sizing calcs to understand the maximum flow rates at the temperature you need. From an operating cost perspective, hard to beat. Footprint, tiny. Most plumbers know what to do with them, and most inspectors are pretty comfortable with them.
  11. Silk City Distillers

    Odin on Gin

    I don't understand why you care about column diameter or vapor speed. Your gin is made from neutral?
  12. Silk City Distillers

    Odin on Gin

    I would imagine the helmet to be far less effective than packing in a tube. Packing will have significantly more surface area and more vapor will be forced in closer contact.
  13. Silk City Distillers

    Odin on Gin

    Aren’t sulfur fungicides considered organic?
  14. Silk City Distillers

    Odin on Gin

    Correct, you can use it anywhere you don't want to add copper, or can't add copper. Glass lab still, stainless pilot still, rotovap, stainless vacuum still, etc. It's a wine fault technique, there is a lot of information online about how to do a "trial" to determine dosage. The risk of overdose and toxicity in wine is very high and very real. However, since it's non-volatile, the risk is lowered by using it in wash or spirits intended for redistillation. I believe this would also work to correct for botanicals that may have been treated with sulfur as a fungicide, which may very well be your issue (Odin hinted at that above).
  15. Silk City Distillers

    Odin on Gin

    Speaking of rotovap'ing high-sulfur botanicals, fruits, or vegetables. I'll share a hard won secret. Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate. Take a little while to work out dosage, but it works brilliantly. A very small amount goes a long way. There are many vegetables that are high enough in sulfur compounds to taint the end-distillate. Certain types of cucumber are notorious for this. What's really interesting is that certain parts of certain botanicals or vegetables can contain more sulfur than others (think flesh vs skin vs seed, etc).
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