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OK, I'm a pot still guy so this question is for all of you with experience dealing with columns and plates.

We're going to start running vodka as an adjunct to our normal rice whiskey production. The plan is to set aside 50 gallons of our second distillation run distillate and run it for a third time in a 4-inch column. My question is as the distillate will be proof down to 60° or so, how many plates should I anticipate needing to produce 192° vodka.

We have twelve plates but I thinking we will only need about half of them. Is that correct?

Thank you in advance for the feedback.

Kris

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The general consensus seems to be you'll need 18-20 theoretical plates to achieve 190+. We have 18 theoretical (two side by side eight plate columns both topped with dephlegmators) and I can achieve 190+ but not for the whole run. I think you'll have trouble achieving 190+ with your setup without making up for your lack of plates with some packing.

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On 3/15/2021 at 9:05 AM, kleclerc77 said:

We have 18 theoretical (two side by side eight plate columns both topped with dephlegmators)

Out of curriosity, when running that set up, do you start by equalizing the first column, before sending vapor to the second column, and then also equalizing it at well, or do you do it another way?

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On 3/16/2021 at 6:32 PM, adamOVD said:

Out of curriosity, when running that set up, do you start by equalizing the first column, before sending vapor to the second column, and then also equalizing it at well, or do you do it another way?

Yes. I have the deph pretty much wide open on the first column, and when every plate is bubbling away happily I'll start to slowly dial back the deph until vapor can get by into the next column. I then do the same thing with the second column into the condenser. I think our biggest issue with maintaining 190 proof/equilibrium between columns is inconsistent steam pressure. It doesn't make too much of a difference with everything else, it's just touchy here and there, but with a process as finnicky as vodka distillation, the inconsistencies in steam pressure make it tough. Luckily, I mostly make a lot of double pot distilled whiskey! 

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20 hours ago, kleclerc77 said:

the inconsistencies in steam pressure make it tough

I've got electric elements directly submerged in low wines in my nuetral still. Not an ideal set up from a safety standpoint, but it sure is stable. Once it is set, it pretty much runs itself.

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4 hours ago, adamOVD said:

 

I've got electric elements directly submerged in low wines in my nuetral still. Not an ideal set up from a safety standpoint, but it sure is stable. Once it is set, it pretty much runs itself.

Like most things here, there's a safe and an unsafe way to run anything. I'm sure you're doing it safely. Back to OP @Golden Beaver Distillery's question - how many plates are you running on your setup to achieve 190+?

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3 minutes ago, kleclerc77 said:

Like most things here, there's a safe and an unsafe way to run anything. I'm sure you're doing it safely. Back to OP @Golden Beaver Distillery's question - how many plates are you running on your setup to achieve 190+?

On 3/15/2021 at 8:15 AM, Golden Beaver Distillery said:

 

We have twelve plates but I thinking we will only need about half of them.

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

We run 20 plates (4 + 16) setup. The 16 plate section has packing material on the trays to improve efficiency.

It gets the job done and we can finish a hearts cut above 191, but it's a painfully slow process.

We had a myriad of challenges to get the system to work correctly, but here's what I would say were critical:

1.) Stream temperature control valve or a way to specifically control kettle temp, manual valves did not work for us.

2.) Entry proof needs to be low to avoid alcohol smearing and get clean separation (we charge at 20%).

3.) Dephlegmator control system (we use a danfoss valve, but something that regulates temp of the cooling water).

4.) A correctly functioning condensate return line (if using a split column). We ended up designing a double S curve line to make sure that drainage worked, but that kettle vapor didn't bypass the first tower and blow up through the line into the tower, which completely imbalances the temperature of the tower.

The biggest lesson once we got the system working was that 190+ proof does not mean the alcohol will be flavorless or "neutral". We ended up doing a stripping run, two 180 proof reflux runs, and then one vodka distillation to get something that we can live with for classic vodka, but we are actively re-engineering the process as we speak because of residual vanilla character from the corn ferment is still too strong, and that's after four distillations and seven carbon passes. It still blows my mind to this day. And the fermentations were well managed, plenty of nutrient support, temp control, etc.

Good luck!

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/22/2021 at 5:42 PM, Josh said:

We run 20 plates (4 + 16) setup. The 16 plate section has packing material on the trays to improve efficiency.

It gets the job done and we can finish a hearts cut above 191, but it's a painfully slow process.

We had a myriad of challenges to get the system to work correctly, but here's what I would say were critical:

1.) Stream temperature control valve or a way to specifically control kettle temp, manual valves did not work for us.

2.) Entry proof needs to be low to avoid alcohol smearing and get clean separation (we charge at 20%).

3.) Dephlegmator control system (we use a danfoss valve, but something that regulates temp of the cooling water).

4.) A correctly functioning condensate return line (if using a split column). We ended up designing a double S curve line to make sure that drainage worked, but that kettle vapor didn't bypass the first tower and blow up through the line into the tower, which completely imbalances the temperature of the tower.

The biggest lesson once we got the system working was that 190+ proof does not mean the alcohol will be flavorless or "neutral". We ended up doing a stripping run, two 180 proof reflux runs, and then one vodka distillation to get something that we can live with for classic vodka, but we are actively re-engineering the process as we speak because of residual vanilla character from the corn ferment is still too strong, and that's after four distillations and seven carbon passes. It still blows my mind to this day. And the fermentations were well managed, plenty of nutrient support, temp control, etc.

Good luck!

What type of yeast are you using? You could find something that ferments less congeners

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On 4/22/2021 at 3:42 PM, Josh said:

The biggest lesson once we got the system working was that 190+ proof does not mean the alcohol will be flavorless or "neutral". We ended up doing a stripping run, two 180 proof reflux runs, and then one vodka distillation to get something that we can live with for classic vodka, but we are actively re-engineering the process as we speak because of residual vanilla character from the corn ferment is still too strong, and that's after four distillations and seven carbon passes. It still blows my mind to this day. And the fermentations were well managed, plenty of nutrient support, temp control, etc.

 

Consider using a mid-grain rice (Louisiana or California) instead of corn and FP-1 yeast from Ferm Solution. After the second run it's pretty neutral. We have to use a rice malt to retain some flavor characteristics in our whiskey or it will be fairly tasteless / one dimensional. Rice is also 1/2 the price or more of corn.

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@SlickFloss We used Fermentis GR2 supplemented with go-ferm, fermaid o, fermaid k. Temp control as well. We also bought a kason sifter as well to separate solids prior to stripping, but ultimately moved into a different direction altogether. Just part of the journey. 

@Golden Beaver Distillery Thanks for the suggestion. I know you have a good supplier on rice up north from talking with you before. I'm excited to try some of your rice whiskey next time you're down in Sonoma County, or I'm up north. 

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Another option (and much more affordable) would be to run a packed column.

I have a 60" 4" column packed with 15mm Siporax. I can pull 2 gals an hour @ 95.4% abv. from 40% abv low wines

I have two 5500 elements in a 26 gal boiler and am only using approx 32 amps.

My height is constrained by my ceiling but you would be able to increase abv and take off speed with another couple of feet from what I have.

I have talked to Odin and others that are getting up to 4 gals an hour of azeo (from 40%) using large format (10mm diameter x 15mm long) SPP.

I went with the Siporax as it was a good alternative to the very costly SPP

Hope this helps

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On 5/4/2021 at 11:29 PM, Josh said:

@SlickFloss We used Fermentis GR2 supplemented with go-ferm, fermaid o, fermaid k. Temp control as well. We also bought a kason sifter as well to separate solids prior to stripping, but ultimately moved into a different direction altogether. Just part of the journey. 

@Golden Beaver Distillery Thanks for the suggestion. I know you have a good supplier on rice up north from talking with you before. I'm excited to try some of your rice whiskey next time you're down in Sonoma County, or I'm up north. 

 

On 5/4/2021 at 5:18 PM, Golden Beaver Distillery said:

Consider using a mid-grain rice (Louisiana or California) instead of corn and FP-1 yeast from Ferm Solution. After the second run it's pretty neutral. We have to use a rice malt to retain some flavor characteristics in our whiskey or it will be fairly tasteless / one dimensional. Riceis also 1/2 the price or more of corn.

Just my .02 but super clean ferment using fp01 per golden beavers suggestion is one way to super neuty spirit. Dr Pat and the boys WILL HELP YOU too. Let them know what you're getting with what you're using, why its falling from your standards, maybe review some water chemistry with them and they'll let you know nutrient wise what they'd reccoemend with fp01

 

cheers!

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On 5/6/2021 at 11:35 AM, Windy City said:

Another option (and much more affordable) would be to run a packed column.

I have a 60" 4" column packed with 15mm Siporax. I can pull 2 gals an hour @ 95.4% abv. from 40% abv low wines

I have two 5500 elements in a 26 gal boiler and am only using approx 32 amps.

My height is constrained by my ceiling but you would be able to increase abv and take off speed with another couple of feet from what I have.

I have talked to Odin and others that are getting up to 4 gals an hour of azeo (from 40%) using large format (10mm diameter x 15mm long) SPP.

I went with the Siporax as it was a good alternative to the very costly SPP

Hope this helps

Where are they sourcing the SPP?

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I don't know where Odin gets his SPP, of if he makes it himself, but you can buy it from him at stillcontrol.nl

I don't understand why anyone on a "craft" level would want to make a truly "nuetral" vodka. Big brands can produce a "flavorless" spirit 100x cheaper than I can. I choose to interpret the recently altered standard of identity as anything rectified to 95% or over being ok, and aim for a "clean" or "smooth" spirit with a hint of vanilla and butterscotch still present.

 

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1 hour ago, adamOVD said:

I don't know where Odin gets his SPP, of if he makes it himself, but you can buy it from him at stillcontrol.nl

I don't understand why anyone on a "craft" level would want to make a truly "nuetral" vodka. Big brands can produce a "flavorless" spirit 100x cheaper than I can. I choose to interpret the recently altered standard of identity as anything rectified to 95% or over being ok, and aim for a "clean" or "smooth" spirit with a hint of vanilla and butterscotch still present.

 

I really don't want to make vodka but there is a call for gluten-free vodka that we can produce from our rice spirit in a third distillation with the column.  

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9 hours ago, Golden Beaver Distillery said:

I really don't want to make vodka but there is a call for gluten-free vodka that we can produce from our rice spirit in a third distillation with the column.  

I only started making it to have it for tasting room cocktails, but people liked it, and now we sell a lot of it.

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2 hours ago, Golden Beaver Distillery said:

You just adding the rings between the plates?

I stuff stainless or copper scrubbers/mesh into some empty sections of copper pipe. I may try buying some SPP at some point. I'm still playing around to try to speed things up.

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At the base of the column there is a "plate" with 3/8" holes consuming the majority of the plate.

It then has a fairly tight roll of stainless mesh for the first 2". The remainder of the column is filled with Siporax that was packed just by vibrating/shaking column while filling.

All plates with exception to the one at the base have been removed.

 

 

IMG_2776.jpg.3ff8daba797a3321b3d8641c1b791ace.jpg

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On 5/6/2021 at 1:35 PM, Windy City said:

Another option (and much more affordable) would be to run a packed column.

I have a 60" 4" column packed with 15mm Siporax. I can pull 2 gals an hour @ 95.4% abv. from 40% abv low wines

I have two 5500 elements in a 26 gal boiler and am only using approx 32 amps.

My height is constrained by my ceiling but you would be able to increase abv and take off speed with another couple of feet from what I have.

I have talked to Odin and others that are getting up to 4 gals an hour of azeo (from 40%) using large format (10mm diameter x 15mm long) SPP.

I went with the Siporax as it was a good alternative to the very costly SPP

Hope this helps

do you mean like sera siporax pro for an aquarium? https://www.amazon.com/Sera-Siporax-Professional-Aquarium-Accessories/dp/B000A215HK

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