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500 Gallon Electric Still?


TuftedTurtle

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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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  • 1 month later...
On 11/20/2020 at 11:45 PM, Skaalvenn said:

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.

I'm a local, and have read a bit about you.  Any chance I can come by and spend some time with you two?

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3 hours ago, LuckyGuy said:

I'm a local, and have read a bit about you.  Any chance I can come by and spend some time with you two?

Absolutely. This week is pretty hectic, next week should be better. Give me a shout -Tyson

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22 hours ago, davdear said:

Hey Skaalvenn sounds like you have the perfect set-up to me! What boiler did you get to run those stills? Make, model, size? I imagine it was a pretty big investment.

Thanks,

David

Off the top of my head I'm not sure. It's a Rite boiler, I think around 750k BTU.

There is no perfect setup for someone on a budget. Right now we're running them more often than not, and that takes labor which could otherwise be spent making money. 

Just remember this.  Mashing, fermenting, distilling, bottling, cleaning and all that other manufacturing stuff doesn't make you a single dime, it only gives you the ability to make a dime.

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We are currently finishing up four 500 gallon electric baine marie stills for a customer.  These stills will be set up in a steak house that is part of a large national restaurant chain.  At first I tried very hard to convince the customer that a propane fired (no natural gas available) low pressure steam boiler was a better option, but in the end because of multiple factors that are specific to his set up and operation he convinced me to build them as electric stills.  This is a very unique electrical set up.  Each of the immersion heaters is on a VFD drive and everything is PLC controlled including the VFD drives and the condenser cooling system.  The stills will sit in the center of the restaurant surrounded by glass walls so that they are visible to the diners.

Below is one of our 3d drawings of the stills.  The parrots will be set up differently than in the 3d drawing.  Please see the 2d drawing below the 3d drawing.

 

 

4 stills.jpg

 

Mike Brookshire confirm.jpg

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My math must be off because my estimated electric costs are not matching up with some of the calculations I'm seeing here:

I have a 100 gallon baine marie stripping still with 2- 15,000 watt (15kW) elements which take it from room temp to boil in 1 hour= 30 kW h + 2 hours holding temp with only 1 element= 30 kW h so total for 3 hour run= 60 kW h

60 kW h x $0.12 kW h (electric rate) = $7.20 for a stripping run with electric heaters. Does that look right because it seems reasonable?

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36 minutes ago, davdear said:

My math must be off because my estimated electric costs are not matching up with some of the calculations I'm seeing here:

I have a 100 gallon baine marie stripping still with 2- 15,000 watt (15kW) elements which take it from room temp to boil in 1 hour= 30 kW h + 2 hours holding temp with only 1 element= 30 kW h so total for 3 hour run= 60 kW h

60 kW h x $0.12 kW h (electric rate) = $7.20 for a stripping run with electric heaters. Does that look right because it seems reasonable?

Your calculations are exactly right.  For our 100 gallon pro series and 105 gallon standard series electric stills, the electric cost per run is between $6.00 and $12.00  Because of the large up front costs for a steam boiler and installation, it generally takes 8 to 20 years for a gas fired low pressure steam boiler to pay for itself (depending on the boiler and location) when compared to electricity.  Also many customers who start out with small stills come back within a couple of years wanting a  300 gallon or larger still and you only want to put in a steam boiler once.

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I would look at current cost figures for Propane and Fuel oil and have the boiler set up to run both. This is easily done.

" There is no certainty with respect to cost differences between propane, natural gas, and fuel oil because fossil fuel prices fluctuate minute to minute, day to day, year to year, and decade to decade. But, over the course of history, fuel oil has been — and continues to be — the less expensive of the three choices." And this is just one article on the subject of many:

https://rentar.com/natural-gas-vs-fuel-oil-vs-propane-furnace-boiler-heating-debate/. 

You can install a good qaulity Scotch Marine Fire Tube Boiler set up to run both fuels and have your choice right on hand which give you redundancy and flexibility. The fuel oil pump drive is disconnected at the drive coupling when you are firing on propane. You still need propane or NG to run the pilot burner when fueling on oil with the old style setups I have run, and they work well.

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Regarding supply and delivery yeah includes both. Around here they split it so independents can come in and offer you a lower price for supply but then jack it up 3 months later when you stopped looking at your bill!

$6-$12 is less than I was expecting for electric. The control panel, elements, etc. are costly but so is a boiler, which I don't have pricing on yet.

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On 1/18/2021 at 7:48 PM, Skaalvenn said:

Absolutely. This week is pretty hectic, next week should be better. Give me a shout -Tyson

naturally, I forgot to check notifications.   If you have time again in coming weeks, let me know, and I'll swing over.

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2 hours ago, LuckyGuy said:

naturally, I forgot to check notifications.   If you have time again in coming weeks, let me know, and I'll swing over.

No worries. It's hit or miss. Thurs/Fri/Sat are generally not good. I generally work with about knowing my life only 24-48 hours in the future, so just ping me close to whatever day you're thinking might work.  Thanks

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23 minutes ago, Skaalvenn said:

No worries. It's hit or miss. Thurs/Fri/Sat are generally not good. I generally work with about knowing my life only 24-48 hours in the future, so just ping me close to whatever day you're thinking might work.  Thanks

ha.  Yeah, my next 5 months will be wild and woolly with the upcoming buildout and move to Hudson.

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On 1/27/2021 at 12:58 PM, davdear said:

Regarding supply and delivery yeah includes both. Around here they split it so independents can come in and offer you a lower price for supply but then jack it up 3 months later when you stopped looking at your bill!

$6-$12 is less than I was expecting for electric. The control panel, elements, etc. are costly but so is a boiler, which I don't have pricing on yet.

Here (WV) there are a bunch of other associated kWH fees regarding line right of way clearance and maintenance ect.. and your supply charge is based on your max 1/2 hr consumption rate for the past year. I'd look closely at the local tariff schedules and make sure there is not anything hidden in there.  I had a friend that created a company in Maryland that he basically had a spreadsheet that had all the different rates and fees for commercial electric schedules figured (he used to work for sate utility) and he would put their bills in and if he could save them money by switching to a different schedule and he would collect a percentage of the savings.  The point of that story is the electric rates aren't always as straightforward as they seem depending on the state.

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