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Continuous Columns: Where do I start??

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We're again looking to increase our production capacity. Currently we have a 2500 liter pot still. Fairly certain a larger kettle is not the answer.  I'm started my list of producers thusly:

  • Vendome
  • Red Boot
  • Headframe

Others to whom I should send an RFI?

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Definitely have a look at iStill. 5000L fully automated still that does anything from a simple potstill up to 96% ABV in one go, excellent service and even better training. Highly recommended.

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52 minutes ago, indyspirits said:

We're again looking to increase our production capacity. Currently we have a 2500 liter pot still. Fairly certain a larger kettle is not the answer.  I'm started my list of producers thusly:

  • Vendome
  • Red Boot
  • Headframe

Others to whom I should send an RFI?

Check out StillDragon....they've got a beast coming out.

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3 hours ago, indyspirits said:

We're again looking to increase our production capacity. Currently we have a 2500 liter pot still. Fairly certain a larger kettle is not the answer.  I'm started my list of producers thusly:

  • Vendome
  • Red Boot
  • Headframe

Others to whom I should send an RFI?

I can process about 3 gpm of grain in (flour spec) whiskey mash / 3.5 gpm rum wash in my 12" D 28' H vendome stripping column. Taking the stripping burden off your batch still frees up a lot of spirit output.

Vendome does great work. Can't go wrong with them.

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If you need any add on chiller capacity, I can help out on that end.  At these sizes a heat recovery chiller may be able to preheat water and add on extra cooling capacity as well. 

By using a refrigerant-water desuperheater option, you can store potable hot water for mash batching and use the chilled water for the still cooling. Hot water will decrease the size of the additional boiler HP if you intend on using "clean" steam.

Chiller sections can be made in modular form as well.

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3 hours ago, paulNL said:

Definitely have a look at iStill. 5000L fully automated still that does anything from a simple potstill up to 96% ABV in one go, excellent service and even better training. Highly recommended.

Thing is I don't want to wait for 5,000 liters to heat up -- same boat Im in now. Talk about a long day!

 

 

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@indyspirits - it's computer controlled, so it starts heating up during the night and keeps a safe temperature (below boiling) if it took less time than anticipated. Ready to start distilling in the morning!

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Frankly, there should be zero tolerance here for unattended distillation, including unattended still pre-heating.

Sorry, but accidents impact all of us with additional regulatory burden, scrutiny, and avoidable overhead.

I'm all for automation that helps an operator focus on the more important tasks, but I feel I must speak out on the topic.

It's a bad idea, someone will get hurt, someone will die, and it will hurt all of us.  Anyone condoning this is being reckless.

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silk i agree totally , we jus went thru that here , one outfits lack of professionalism sparked a recall of product  that started the govt on a rampage on all the rest in the industry . running a still running a still , during heat up or production all the technology in the world doesn't replace a operator .   

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I am not 100% in agreement, and YES there is merit for being in attendance BUT for heat up after hours I see lots of Pros and almost zero Cons.

 

Provided that you have all of your automated safety interlocks in place as well as low level monitoring and together with a maximum pre-heat up temperature this can not be an issue.

 

I have heating interlocks which include low level monitoring, kettle temperature monitoring, monitoring of outlet coolant water temperature as well as excessive RC vapour temperature.  A manual kettle basically has almost none of the above.

 

I put it to all, ........... less chance will happen here with an automated kettle by comparison to that of a manual kettle.  In fact there is more danger with a manual operation than that of an automated system.

 

Sorry give me a correctly automated still any day over that of a manul one.

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The problem isn't when things fail in the way that we anticipate that they will fail, these scenarios are trivial and easy to manage.

It's when things fail in ways that we never expected them to fail.  This is where a human can recognize a problem and react accordingly, and this is exactly where a system will fail.  You don't think a primary and backup relay can fail?  You don't think a primary and backup solenoid can both stick open or closed?  You don't think tubing or metal can fatigue and break?

I never said that automation was bad, I made that very clear Richard.  In all the cases you mention, those additional safety mechanisms improve the overall safety of the system.  Great, I'm all for it.

However, they do not create an environment where the system is safe to run unattended, period.

This is not up for discussion, we don't run stills unattended, period.  Anyone who advocates for this, or builds systems that allow this, is wrong, period.  Is that enough periods?

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2 minutes ago, Silk City Distillers said:

This is not up for discussion, we don't run stills unattended, period.

Agree. And stop hijacking my thread!!  😉

 

 

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I think I am "period" out and @Silk City Distillers I am as potentially as with others, not in complete agreement with you.  So be it.  :huh:

 

But seriously, @indyspirits, I think you are at a cross road and will have to seriously consider production ideology whether you wish to go the continous route or stick with traditional kettle route because they are obviously fundamentally different with both having degrees of pro's and con's not to mention high capital costs.

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I would say that any safety interlocks need to have default contact to the owner and possibly a security outfit/fire department as well.

If you deal with large ammonia systems, when safeties go off- horns go off & everyone comes running.

 

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@indyspiritscheck out Forsyth. I installed and ran a 16" continuous column from them and it produced some fantastic spirits. 

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47 minutes ago, captnKB said:

check out Forsyth.

Shit I love their stuff. Big single malt scotch fan and they seem to have that market locked tight as a cats ass.

 

 

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id be happy to tell you all about Forsyth columns and get you connected with some folks from Forsyth.

Give me a call. Ill PM you my number 

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Headframe is awesome. Can turn off fourth column and do a low abv pot like strip to take burden off kettle like a beer stripper, kick fourth back and switch same run to barrel proof off same mash, switch to high proof mode go clean your kettle and come back in an hour and have 180+ that with a little tinkering will be azeotrope in no time. All off same batch. All same run. Don't get me started on options for gin.

 

Forsyth makes great stills, so does vendome. If you're just looking to clear up capacity so you can just finish on your pot  (I imagine you're running a hybrid of some type) one of them can make you a great continuously fed stripper for sure. I'd recommend Forsyth over vendor they're more honest people to do business with in my opinion. Regardless both could make you probably anything. But that headframe is unique. I know nothing of redboot.

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Thanks for everyone's input / suggestions. Have a lengthy list of phonecalls to make tmrw.

 

 

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I Build Continuous stills also. www.redbootstills.com  One of the things to think about when choosing the size of a unit is all the other parts. Like the size of the chiller, the size of the boiler, collection tank, collection piping, size of water lines, ect........

I just finished up a continuous still here in Iowa (just down the street). That is 30' tall, 18" column, insulated - OD=28', 6" sight port on every plate, massive confessor and pre-heater, simple digital controls, LED lights. This unit will input 8-17 gpm , that is its operating envelope. 

Everything is designed and run in a computer model before any stainless is cut.

Anyways, the unit must be sized for what you are doing and what you have, and your budget. Just because someone can make a unit that can process 20 gpm does not mean you need it, or can you afford a boiler and chiller upgrade??? The other thing is you will have to have enough mash to justify even turning it on. Some of the bigger units I build for people will not even be used unless they have 2000-3000 gallons of mash. The smaller units only need a couple hundred gallons. 

Another foundation of all of this is customer support, and training.

Also, on thing to beware of is controls and extras. I know for a fact one of the companys listed on here for whom I will not say, will sell you a continuous still, but the controls to run it are not included, you have to go somewhere outside of the company that made it to get the controls. I ran one of there units personally.

Long story short, Continuous stills are amazing. You can expand your capacity by adding one to your equipment. But you must choose the right size. Make sure you can get the right customer support. You must get the right training. Get the right controls. And over all feel good with the selection you make.

 

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I completely agree with @Dehner Distillery above. There is a huge amount of complexity and details that go into a continuous column still install that is completely different, than a batch still.

If you are going to jump into the continuous column game it is critical to have someone with experience to help guide you to ensure your still gets up and running quickly, safely and fully functional. 

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My $0.02 is continuous stills are great. If you own a pot still as it is, then the solution is to add fermentation capacity and a continuous still that will output enough low wines in one go to fill the 2500 liter still you have. This way you get the pot still flavor you are looking for in your final product.

 

As stated, that's my $0.02

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Dehner has a good bead on a potential logjam-  In order to run the still "continuously" you have to have a lot of mash ro be churned out, with a lot of extra cooling to do it.  

I have done proposals that got nowhere because what seemed good to the client was unaffordable when the components cooling load was tallied up and costed out.

Everything has to be matched up and down the line for it to work.

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At the risk of inviting a flaming, here is a suggestion from a newbie: modify your existing still to run continuously.

1) You will need a well-functioning column (either plates or packing). Tap into the column 1/3 of the way up for the beer input. Having a flow gauge on the dephegmator coolant is desirable.

2) You need a level control on the "pot" (now the reboiler). A simple overflow with "P-trap" and vent will do. If there is appropriate existing access, great. The reboiler level can be as low as about 15% of the pot capacity. It could be anything higher, so chose a level compatable with your heater. If you must make a siphon, remember you can't siphon a boiling liquid. The siphon tube needs a cooling jacket to prevent vapor lock. If you use incoming beer as the cooling liquid for the siphon, it serves as a pre-heater for the input. Otherwise, use reboiler discharge and a heat exchanger as a beer pre-heater.

3) Install lots of digital thermometers.You want to know reboiler temperature to 0.1C (since this will tell you how much ethanol you are losing in the discharge), input beer temperature, column temperature at the input level, below the dephlegmator, and at the head.

4) Turn down the kilowatts. The reboiler has a much smaller liquid volume than the pot did. It will flash up to operating temperature fast. Once stabilized in a run, it will require about the same power as when the the still was operating as a pot still.

5) The beer input feed needs a positive displacement pump (like a peristaltic pump) with a speed control and flow meter.

6) To operate, run the beer feed pump to bring the reboiler to operating level. Turn off the feed pump. Turn on the dephlegmator cooling flow. Turn on the reboiler power. Allow reflux to fill the plates. Turn down the 'phluger flow and juggle beer inflow rate + power level to maintain desired output ABV (I strip to 85% with my packed column). If reboiler temperature drops, turn down beer flow or turn up power. If output ABV drops, turn down beer flow.

A continuous still like this will not separate out the heads. This will need to be done on the spirit run.

Production rate will be about the same as when operating as a pot still. However, it heats up faster and this only needs to be done once. The longer you run it, the more the time savings adds up. If you need to take a beak, it will restart rapidly.

If the beer is pre-heated by the siphon cooling jacket, it will boil and make percolator noises as it burps its way up to the input. No worries.

Like any still, you can't turn your back on it while it is running. After lulling you to sleep with hours at the same settings, it will surprise you.

Avak

 

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