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500 Gallon Electric Still?


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For the past 4 years, we've been using a 500L Hoga with direct fire.  Now we are moving to a new building and I'm looking to get off direct fire and upgrade the size of my still.

We have a 2500L stainless tote that already has extra ports welded on top that would be good mounts for an agitator and product pipe.  My brother owns a machine shop and is very talented with stainless steel.  My idea is why not add ports for electrical elements?  I'm not entirely sure what we would need and I can't find a direct correlation in previous posts.

For those that would suggest an oil or steam jacket still, why?  We only make rum, so the possibility for scorching is almost zero.  I don't have a steam boiler and not sure it's in the cards, what would be the benefit to heating up oil instead of having the elements going straight into the still?

I'd appreciate any advice on this.  We aren't in a rush, but would like to get the build started.

 

Cheers,

James

 

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I went from an electric 150 gallon stripping/rum still and a 65 gallon vodka still  to a natural gas powered steam 300 gallon still and 100 gallon vodka still.

At about $0.135 per kw/h I'm saving about $800 per month on my energy bill.  I'm also heating up my 300 gallon still in about 1/3 of the time it took my electric still to heat up--basically I'm nearly halfway done with my 2x larger run before my old electric still produced it's first drop.

Since I had my steam line setup for expansion, when I switched out the vodka still the cost of having steam plumbed was about $1500 which was far cheaper than having an electrician run more heavy gauge wire, install a larger service panel, have another control panel built and certified...etc etc etc.

Basically electric is a cheap start, but *growing* with electric is terribly expensive and inefficient.

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Other issue with electric is that it's easy to top out on power, which is why you don't see many electric stills over 250/300g or so.

If you've got heavy power, 480v/3ph/200a - you'd be in business.  If you have typical single phase 240v, good luck, even if you consumed every single kilowatt (no lights, no computers, no anything else), you are still talking about 3 hours heat up time on a good day (48kw).  Stepping up to a 200a 3 phase system, maybe a couple more kw, but you could at least keep the lights on, run some pumps, a fridge, etc.  Moving to 480v gives you real headroom, as well as saves an significant amount of money on the wiring (half the amperage).  Unless you are an in an industrial area, it might be hard to get 480v service.  Hell, even pulling 480v in many places is a $20k job, maybe even more expensive than a boiler.

We're not talking water heater elements here either, you'd need to step up to industrial flange mount elements, and they aren't cheap.

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We have two electrics, one direct fire and one bain marie both 500 liter.  Heat up time is long.  On the flip side, we were already wired for 208 3 phase and our electric rates are around 5 cents per kwh.  If I had to do it all over I would still go with electric but I would have substituted our stripper which in the bain marie with a small continuous column.  On the other hand, our spirits still makes great Whiskey and Vodka and we wouldn't want to part with it.

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43 minutes ago, TuftedTurtle said:

Seems like a steam boiler is the way to go.  I'm worried as I don't think natural gas is available at my potential new location. 

 

Do you have access to propane? We use propane at our facility for the steam boiler. So far so good. 

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5 hours ago, 38° said:

 

Do you have access to propane? We use propane at our facility for the steam boiler. So far so good. 

It would be a new location, so still working out the details.  My hope is that would could get propane  at some point.  I didn't see any tanks on property. 

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An Oregon distiller I know runs direct fire stills off of propane that comes from a big tank on the property because he is out in farm land. He said that some of the up sides for propane were that it burns cleaner and hotter than natural gas.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We've built three 500 gallon electric stills.  They were all for customers who had large amounts of industrial 480vac 3 phase power and who had no access to natural gas.  We used Camco Ultra Low watt density elements that cost around $30.00 each.  All of these stills were bain maire stills.  Doing it with direct fire electric with elements in the wash is more efficient.  Of course you cannot run mash with solids with direct fire electric but it works great for rum and other washes that don't have solids.  The heat up time for the direct fire electric would be around 2 hrs.  These stills require 110,000 watts of power. 

   We can also do these stills with jackets for electric over steam.  No boiler is necissary with our electric over steam stills, as the steam is created in the jacket with electric elements.  This electric over steam design is an open system that uses water column to build 12 PSI of pressure.  No one else has anything like my open system electric over steam.  However, with all of that being said, if you have access to natural gas a low pressure steam boiler will save you a huge amount of money compared to electric.

Our stills are in over 460 distilleries in the US and many other distilleries around the world.  If you would like a quote email paul@distillery-equipment.com 

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