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Electric Boiler - Is It Worth It To Me

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I'm at a crossroads. We're an established gin distillery, using NGS as our base and I run one 500 L bain marie pot still to make it. I'm not going to lie, it's easy as far as logistics and heat management go and our equipment footprint is small.

We're finally at the funding stage to start our grain-to-glass whiskey endeavors as we took over the lease on the small warehouse space directly next door to us. 

Here's the kicker: There is no gas to our building, nor is there to buildings on either side of us. There is likely a line on the street (as there are residential neighborhoods across), but as I wait for a quote I'm guessing the cost to bring it in will be enormous, not to mention the property owners likely denying it due to the scope and headache. The new space isn't huge, having an electric boiler would avoid a fire room as well. 

We've got good 3 phase electricity, but of course those energy costs are higher than gas. We estimate we may grow out of our space in 5-6 years, so the offset of paying more for electricity is probably a wash and we can get started sooner. 

One of the problems is that our electric cost goes up quite a bit if we exceed 100 KW (I'm still waiting to hear if that is for both spaces combined or not, we're on separate meters but the same bill so I'm guessing it will be for both...). We're at $0.09 per kwh and if we exceed 100 KW, just once in a one year period, we're also charged over $5 per KW every month. 

If we're running a mash tun, HLT, and either one or two stills for the whiskey (thinking 150-250 Gallon system), it makes sense to have steam. BUT, if my 130 Gallon gin still only uses 30 KW with it's 6 heating elements in the oil bath, does it make sense to dance around our energy billing limits with a 200k BTU electric boiler just to achieve heat up time in 1 hour vs 2? Not to mention the extra expense. 

Should I just be looking at another bain marie and an HLT powered with elements as well to handle mashing? 

I wish we had gas :(

I've been so focused on gin the last 4 years that I'm re-entering this side of equipment planning and feeling a little overwhelmed, thought I'd ask you fine folks who may have started this way and have some advice on the equipment side. Thanks in advance!

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I think our electric price is right around $0.14 to $0.15 per kilowatt hour.  With a 125 gallon capacity stripping still and a 65 gallon finishing still our electric bill was hitting $1,000 per month without running the air conditioner or a lot of other expensive machinery.

We are just upgrading to steam, and I'm expecting our electrical savings to be around $600 to $700 per month (not to mention labor!).  So, running gas lines and installing a boiler might be expensive, but how much of that would be offset by reducing your electric bill?

The added bonus of steam is that I had the system plumbed so that adding a second still or mash tun is going to be a ridiculously easy install compared to adding another electric still.

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Using GNS, direct immersion heaters are far more efficient than using the same electric to produce steam to then heat the kettle.

Unless you have some reason to require a steam-heated kettle, grain mash, etc - why bother?  If you want to go grain to glass, keep your gin configuration exactly as-is, and add the capacity to make your neutral separately.  Is it going to be expensive with only electric?  Heck yes.  But, you should be able to find a used Sussman or Chromalox for relatively cheap.  We burn dinosaurs in our boiler, heating oil, because we  have it, and it's still cheap.  Same reason as you, the building has gas, but pulling a  4" gas line for hundreds of feet is incredibly expensive.

On another note.

We are currently designing and prototyping a continuous carter-head gin still that is incredibly energy efficient.  It is fed by GNS and RO water, and vaporizes the input feeds to create a consistent ABV vapor stream.  The only thing you need to do is turn it on, and change botanical baskets at set intervals.  Runs as carter-head vapor infusion only.   Energy recovery on product condenser to preheat the input feed.  Believe it's the first of it's kind, I've never heard of anyone doing this, or seen anything similar.

The premise is simple, for vapor infused gins - the most important part of the process is passing the vapor through the botanicals.  What sense does it make to boil giant pot of liquid to create the vapor stream, when you can generate vapor on demand, at any ABV that you would like?  The benefit of the process is you can then recover a sizable amount of energy via the product condensers.  There is near-zero bottoms product waste, the entire feed stream is vaporized.

I'm playing with it, because I'm interested in knowing how well it might work.  But it's the kind of still that will make people really angry.  Hook the feed hoses up to a tote of GNS, and your RO water supply, turn it on, and make 3000 bottles of gin, or, just run it for and hour or two, and make a few cases.  Footprint is smaller than a skid, doesn't even need much space.

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2 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

On another note.

We are currently designing and prototyping a continuous carter-head gin still that is incredibly energy efficient.  It is fed by GNS and RO water, and vaporizes the input feeds to create a consistent ABV vapor stream.  The only thing you need to do is turn it on, and change botanical baskets at set intervals.  Runs as carter-head vapor infusion only.   Energy recovery on product condenser to preheat the input feed.  Believe it's the first of it's kind, I've never heard of anyone doing this, or seen anything similar.

 

I think what you are describing is similar to the machine built by Detroit Still Works, http://detroitstillworks.com/ , I'm not positive of anyone that installed one but I vaguely remember hearing that Graton Distilling had one. 

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Didn't realize that had gin baskets.

Vendome also makes a GNS redistillation rig.  Not many people know of it though.  It doesn't do much, but allow you to change the label statement...

It works slightly differently though, as it does take a bottoms product.  

I've tried to run the continuous gin still with straight 95% neutral input - it doesn't work well - extractions are very very different.  Lower-proof vapor streams extract more full flavored distillate.  Continuous rigs setup for neutral spirit redistillation/distillation - likely won't work well for vapor extraction in gin distillation.  The proof curve of batch distillation - starting at high proof, transitioning to low proof, is key. 

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3 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

Using GNS, direct immersion heaters are far more efficient than using the same electric to produce steam to then heat the kettle.

Unless you have some reason to require a steam-heated kettle, grain mash, etc - why bother?  If you want to go grain to glass, keep your gin configuration exactly as-is, and add the capacity to make your neutral separately.  Is it going to be expensive with only electric?  Heck yes.  But, you should be able to find a used Sussman or Chromalox for relatively cheap.  We burn dinosaurs in our boiler, heating oil, because we  have it, and it's still cheap.  Same reason as you, the building has gas, but pulling a  4" gas line for hundreds of feet is incredibly expensive.

Yeah, we aren't changing anything on the gin side. This dilemma is purely around whiskey production which would bring in a mash tun etc. If I just needed another still I'd run another bain marie in a heartbeat, I love mine, really soft on whole botanicals in the kettle. For me gin flavor = botanicals, and whiskey = grain (and oak), so GNS for gin and grains for whiskey. If we're staying with electric I'm sure my cost to make GNS would be much higher than bringing it in as we currently do. 

My main headache is figuring out heating for the 'brewing' equipment. Does anyone run one of Paul's combo mash tun/stripping still? That could be an options with one more electric controller, but would of course not allow me to mash and strip at the same time... I estimate our gin still draws 33 KW on heatup, so if I ran two more six-element stills, we'd be at 99 KW, just 1 KW under the 100 KW cutoff that would tack on $700+/month. I'd have to alternate them anyway.

Or run an electric element HLT with an insulated mash tun, but I like the control of being able to heat up or maintain during mashing that steam offers.

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