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New startup question about setting up

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Hi folks,

I've been distilling as a hobby for quite some years and have decided to try my end at a bigger and more "legal' operation.  I want to make a grain based vodka and use it as well to make some gin. From what I've been researching I need to cook my mash, through a jacqueted mash tun so as to prevent scorching. I am looking at this item right now https://shop.distillery-equipment.com/collections/stills/products/200-gallon-mash-tun-stripping-still  and my question is, can I strip my mash and then transfer it to another still like this one to finish my vodka ? https://milehidistilling.com/product/53-gallon-copper-6-inch-diameter-mile-hi-flute-6-sections/  

Would it work, or am I missing something?

 

Thanks a bunch

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The idea of using the mash tun/stripper for stripping is fine. And if stripped, you can use a direct heat for the final distillation. But if you are going to try to finish the vodka from the stripped low-wines directly, you will need a much higher degree of rectification that you will get with a 6-section still. I would plan on using 20 plates. If you are going to use less than 20 plates, then plan to do a high-wine distillation before the final spirit run.

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Great thanks for the info, so this mean that either I run it through the smaller still more than once?

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Firefighter,

 

Since the spirit still is direct fire electric I would never put low wines in it over 30%.  If you put 85% low wines in the direct fire electric still the heating elements may ignite the low wines and you may die horribly in a distillery explosion.  I suggest either our 300 gallon mash tun/stripping/Ultra Pro Vodka Still (not listed on the site but it is the same price as the Ultra Pro Vodka still)

Our https://distillery-equipment.com/45 gallon Still.htm jacketed still with  6" 6 plate bubble plate column with our 6"x6' packed column section would be a much better option for your spirit still.  This hybrid column set up costs a great deal less than a 20 plate and it will do vodka, but the 20 plate bubble plate column would give you more neutrality.

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You can also run the batch more then once through the still to concentrate it further I believe. Can anyone chime in on this. I have seen some very nice gin made using less then 20 plates. After the first bunch of plates you can make the spirit more pure with additional plates but the difference with each plate is significantly less. For example (and im making these numbers up so please anyone chime in) you might be at 80% or better at 6 plates and it will take 12 more plates to get to 90%. I run a test still now thats only a pot still and I can get 85% after 2 runs with no plates at all. And I make gin.

just my much less experienced .02.

Scott

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5 minutes ago, Southernhighlander said:

Firefighter,

 

Since the spirit still is direct fire electric I would never put low wines in it over 30%.  If you put 85% low wines in the direct fire electric still the heating elements may ignite the low wines and you may die horribly in a distillery explosion.  I suggest either our 300 gallon mash tun/stripping/Ultra Pro Vodka Still (not listed on the site but it is the same price as the Ultra Pro Vodka still)

Our https://distillery-equipment.com/45 gallon Still.htm jacketed still with  6" 6 plate bubble plate column with our 6"x6' packed column section would be a much better option for your spirit still.  This hybrid column set up costs a great deal less than a 20 plate and it will do vodka, but the 20 plate bubble plate column would give you more neutrality.

What he said!

-Scott

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I do not know if this deserves the appropriate reply.

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18 hours ago, Southernhighlander said:

Firefighter,

Since the spirit still is direct fire electric I would never put low wines in it over 30%.  If you put 85% low wines in the direct fire electric still the heating elements may ignite the low wines and you may die horribly in a distillery explosion.  I suggest either our 300 gallon mash tun/stripping/Ultra Pro Vodka Still (not listed on the site but it is the same price as the Ultra Pro Vodka still)

Our https://distillery-equipment.com/45 gallon Still.htm jacketed still with  6" 6 plate bubble plate column with our 6"x6' packed column section would be a much better option for your spirit still.  This hybrid column set up costs a great deal less than a 20 plate and it will do vodka, but the 20 plate bubble plate column would give you more neutrality.

Hence the reason I suggested the 20 plate column. A packed column can work as well, although you might need something taller than 6' at 6" wide, depending on the packing material. We found it tough to get above 190 proof with an 8" x 8' packed column, for instance. And the throughput is generally slower. Beyond safety, another reason you won't want to keep redistilling is that each heat-up and cool-down costs you money in energy. You would likely make back again your investment in a higher-plate-count column with the time and energy saved in a reasonably short time.

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Packed column is a lot slower run and harder to clean when ya get tails at the top yer gonna have an awful time getting the smell out. with a 6 plate column even after two or three runs you are gunna end up with high proof whiskey not vodka. A company selling 6 or 8 or 10 or 12 plate stills and callin it a vodka still is just looking for a sucker. Might as well take an alembic and call that a vodka still too!! Buy the right setup and you are going to save yourself 20 to 40 hours of work each and every week. It will pay for itself.

I also dont think the safety concern of running high wines in a still is the combustion inside of the still. The oxygen will be pushed out by the alcohol vapor during warm up and you'll be out of combustion danger very shortly. The concern is what happens if theres an accident like a manway hatch or a cheap china weld that brakes and sprays 190 degree 190 proof across the distillery.

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MGL,

If my stills did not do what I say, I would not be in business.  I agree, anyone selling a 10 or 12 plate still and calling it a vodka column is being untruthful.  Our 6' tall packed vodka extension along with 6 plates produces 190 proof in a timely manner.  Our customers that are using them are doing so with great success.  However, I only offer  the packed extension options on smaller stills and when the customer has a tight budget because bubble plates are a lot more versatile  my opinion, but at the same time a packed column will certainly do the job.   Also my stills in this configuration will do any spirit from brandy to Vodka, as the column can be reconfigured in a matter of 4 or 5 minutes.  It can be ran as a pot still with no plates or as a 4 plate or as a 6 plate.  Of course our Pro series equipment is better but not everyone can afford it.

 There are very large distilleries all over the US that use packed Vodka columns with great success, which proves that you are incorrect.  Rock Town in Little Rock uses one.  Theirs is 12" in diameter and 18' tall.  It was built by Vendome and produces great Vodka in a timely manner.  There are some absolutely huge packed columns out there that produce industrial ethanol every day as well as many other chemicals.

So you are advising someone to run 85% alcohol in a  still pot using electric heating elements.  That advice will get someone killed.  If your advice gets someone killed you are responsible for their death and are completely liable. 

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I stand by my comment that 6' packed column might not be enough on its own, but in the configuration Paul (Southernhighlander) describes, combined with 6 plates, that should indeed work. We did the same thing for our 8' packed column, adding 4 plates, just got us over 190. But it was not optimal, and a bit harder to keep stabilized. In the end, we switched over to a 17 plate column of smaller diameter, using, by the way, full disclosure, a SS pot we purchased from Paul. Another advantage of plates, if you can observe them while running, is you can see how the column is stabilizing, and if it is being overdriven or underdriven. Also, if the structured packing is not of good design or packing, you can get non-uniform behavior. That said, a good structured-packing-filled column can make great vodka, and is usually far cheaper than the plated column.

A rough rule of thumb for packed columns is the height in feet should be roughly 1.5x the diameter in inches. That was our experience, and is similar to that described by Paul for the Vendome still at Rock Town. But the specific height required will be dependent on the kind of packing used.

I also agree with Paul that you don't want to be direct heating high-wines. In addition to the safety issues, the high proof alcohol is more corrosive, and will likely cause even stainless elements to quickly erode and potentially fail.

Cleaning wasn't hard for us for a packed column, we just back flushed by circulating hot PBW and back rinsed by circulating hot citric acid, and that will clean in place. You can also remove the column, seal an end, and fill for soak cleaning.

  • Thanks 1

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1 hour ago, Southernhighlander said:

So you are advising someone to run 85% alcohol in a  still pot using electric heating elements.  That advice will get someone killed.  If your advice gets someone killed you are responsible for their death and are completely liable. 

Aren't you the one selling stills with electric heating elements? If it is such a concern why would you take that risk that no customer of yours or anyone they might sell the still to or an unknown future employee might use the still in a way it wasn't designed for?

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Tom,

 

Yes, I most certainly sell stills with electric heating elements and so do many others.  However my safety manual plainly states that if you put high wines in the pot accidental injury or death may occur.   If they use the still in a way that it was not designed for then they are at fault.  There are many pieces of equipment that will kill you if operated in ways other than what they were designed for.  I have done dangerous jobs for most of my life and having a complete understanding of the equipment that I was using and my common sense allowed me to do those jobs without ever getting a scratch.  

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Glenlyon,

They are a bitch to clean after running gin because they do not have CIP.  We have many stills with CIP but of course they are more expensive however a couple of weeks ago we started offering a tri clamp connection on the parrot so that you can back flood the condenser and column for faster cleaning.  If you are interested please email me paul@distillery-equipment.com.  Also if you have the new 90 degree vent on the bottom of the condenser, you can connect to it for flooding the column.

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On 5/23/2018 at 4:30 PM, Southernhighlander said:

Since the spirit still is direct fire electric I would never put low wines in it over 30%.  If you put 85% low wines in the direct fire electric still the heating elements may ignite the low wines and you may die horribly in a distillery explosion. 

30% alcohol at 113 F is equally as flammable as 85% alcohol at 74 F.

Once you've gotten into heat-up, there is no difference in the flammability of the two liquids, one simply contains more fuel than the other.

Should a still lose it's contents at boiling temp, 30% or 85%, it will be equally as catastrophic, as the surface temperature of the now exposed element will easily ignite the vapor and liquid in either case.

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Never understood why direct element stills never used level sensors to cut the heaters should the liquid level fall below a certain level, preventing the elements from becoming a catastrophic ignition source.

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It's desperately easy to wire a basic system with interlocked level and heating.  I guess it's all about available money and or not knowing better.

 

In my new build for an automated 500L direct fired still, its all PLC controlled with interlocked level and pressure.

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4 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

30% alcohol at 113 F is equally as flammable as 85% alcohol at 74 F.

Once you've gotten into heat-up, there is no difference in the flammability of the two liquids, one simply contains more fuel than the other.

 

Interesting comment above.  Some still suppliers have a fast ageing process where a finished distilled product and depending on the product, may be re-heated up and maintained in the still to about 60 Deg C (140 F) and simultaneously fast agitated (95% - 100%) of agitator speed through a VSD for up to 6 days.

 

The intent of this 6 days fast agitation process is meant to leave the product in a more aerated and mellow condition and is further considered to be up to the equivalent of a two year ageing process when done in a barrel (obviously not wood flavours).

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Other than cost,  why on earth would anyone not go with steam, or at the very least bain marie?  I can think of no other benefit other than cost. Not one.  Someone help me understand.

 

 

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Silk City,

 

I originally wrote that and edited it out very soon after I wrote it, so I am not sure why you quoted it?   

You know as well as I do that you should not put 85% high wines in a still pot fired by direct fire electric elements.  Common sense should tell you that 30% low wines is a great deal less dangerous than 85% low wines in a direct fire electric pot.  If you put 85% in the pot you will most certainly expose the heating elements and they will burn out catastrophically before the first run is complete.  With 30% low wines that is never going to happen unless the still rupters.  All of the stills that we currently sell to distilleries have wall thickness that are good for at least 25 psi before they rupture (some of our inner pots are good for over 100PSI) and they have 5psi pressure relief valves on the pot and the latest models have them on the column as well so the likely hood of a rupture is millions to one.

For everyone out there reading this.  If anyone tells you that it is okay to put 85% high wines in a direct fire electric still do not listen to them, they are putting your life at risk.  If they tell you that putting 85% low wines in a still pot is no more dangerous than putting 30% percent low wines in a still pot, they are very mistaken.    

As a still manufacturer, I am a strong believer in safety.  I am currently working with ADI to produce  some safety videos which will be on their "Distillery Operations Safety" web site.

Though all of our stills are as safe as any out there and safer than many, we can always make things better.  Having a float switch may be a good idea for stills with electric heating elements in the wash.   We will start looking into implementation ASAP.  It looks like we will be the first manufacturer to do so.  It is easy to do the basic wiring etc but it must be safe so we must make sure that everything meets the electrical requirements for the class 1 division 2 hazardous environment around the still.  That is  a little harder, but certainly doable.

I would like to thank Silk for helping to make our direct fired electric stills the first with float switches.

 

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29 minutes ago, indyspirits said:

Other than cost,  why on earth would anyone not go with steam, or at the very least bain marie?  I can think of no other benefit other than cost. Not one.  Someone help me understand.

 

 

Mainly it is cost and the fact that they are not doing any grain in mashes.  Also some people are looking for the Maillard reaction for their Barley wash etc. We actually don't sell that many of them. but they are very good stills for what they do and the price is less than $8,500 for a 150 gallon with the heating system and a 4 plate.  

I always push steam first because it is better in almost every way, however it is just outside many peoples budget so I push baine marie if they cannot afford steam.  I only suggest the direct fire electric if the baine maries are outside of their budget or if the customer wants to get a smokey flavor in their single malt or Brandy etc.  The direct fire electric stills are safe stills as long as common sense is used.  Very soon ours will be even safer with the use of float switches for automatic shut down if the liquid level falls near the elements.  Of course the only way that could occur is if someone opens the drain while the still is running or if they take a spike hammer to it or run into it with something or if they do not fallow the safety manual and put high wines in the pot.  Of course all or those things are remotely possible.

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Richard,

 

Is your new build compliant with all of the rules for the class 1 division 2 hazardous environment?  One of the biggest mistakes that is made is having a control panel that has a cooling fan to pull air into the panel to cool the SSRs.  That is a huge mistake.  if there is an ethanol vapor leak the vapor can be sucked into the panel and ignite.  Our control panels and heating system enclosures are liquid proof, wash down and the are dust proof as well as vapor proof.  Due to the design, no cooling fans are needed in our panels.

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This is just a pet peeve of mine, nothing personal.

Just to be absolutely clear, I'm not saying 85% is "safe", I'm saying neither is "safe".  The 30% safe thing is quoted so often, it's gospel, even though it's really not really accurate, worse, there is the possibility of creating a misunderstanding in someone that doesn't quite have a good grasp of things.  Last thing we want is for  someone to misinterpret that and let their guard down, and operate in a way that's unsafe.

30% is not safer than 85%, neither is safe, at typical operating temperatures, they are equally flammable.

Here is the table I made to help better understand this:

897407540_ScreenShot2018-05-25at10_10_54AM.png.0f1107eab04d8a1bbc2c7834aa588796.png

 

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   Your statement defies common sense: "30% is not safer than 85%".    If we go with your logic than having a 10% wash in the pot  is no safer than having 85% high wines in the pot at 150 F, of course you are absolutely mistaken, 30% is safer than 85% because of all of the other variables involved.  After reading the below I''m sure that you will agree that having 10% or 30% ethonol in a still pot with electric heating elements is a great deal safer than 85%?

  If you put 85% in the pot you will most certainly expose the heating elements and they will burn out catastrophically before the first run is complete.  With 30% low wines that is never going to happen unless the still rupters.  All of the stills that we currently sell to distilleries have wall thickness that are good for at least 25 psi before they rupture (some of our inner pots are good for over 100PSI) and they have 5psi pressure relief valves on the pot and the latest models have them on the column as well so the likely hood of a rupture is millions to one.

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