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Electrical service size for new still?


GoldCreek

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Hello Everyone,

This is my first post on here but I have been reading the forums for quite some time.

I’m just in the beginning process of finding out if my dream of having a distillery is possible, but there are a few things that I’m not sure about. This seems like a supportive community on here and I’m hoping those of you with some experience could give some advice.

 

In my situation, as a farm based distillery in bc Canada it’s looking like an electric still is the best way to start.

With my 200amp electrical service, is it reasonable to run an electric 500-1000 litre still? 

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Depending on your heating elements, your AHJ, and how long you are willing to wait for heat up of the equipment, it could be a little too much for that size service.

That being said there are a lot of different manufacturers out there who might be able to build something to suit your needs.

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As Kindred Spirits mentioned an electric still, such as a Bain-Marie style, that size may have an unsatisfactory heat up time. If natural gas or propane isn't an option for you, an electric boiler is an alternative to consider. You'll get the benefit of greater heat transfer from steam which will improve your heat up and run times. You may still be limited by your electrical service. For a 500-1000 Litre still and a 1 hr heat up time you'll need approximately 45-85 KW of power. Feel free to send us a PM if you have any other questions.

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Started with electric and moved to steam.  It's been years so my memory isn't clear, but we had a ~120 gallon still powered by 80 amps and the heatup time was 2 hours, so running twice in a day was 4 hours of heatup--lots of wasted time.

Do everything in your power to be steam right off the bat. The boiler will be expensive, but the equipment will be much easier to source, typically cheaper, and cheaper to install. 


Steam: (assuming your boiler is oversized)  Want to upgrade your still?  Disconnect the old one and install a bigger one.  Want to add another still? Plumb it in.  Want to add a mash tun? Plumb it in.

Electric:  Want to upgrade your still? The panel probably needs upgrading too.  Want to add another still? You'll need to wire it, possibly get another panel or service run.  Want to add a mash tun? You'll need another panel/wiring/service for that.  Plus there's the cost of running electric vs natural gas, that saved me about $600-700 per month alone.

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What are your goals in starting a distillery? Are you looking to start small and then expand? Or just something you enjoy and want to share with the world?

There are a lot of ways of making your dream a reality, sometimes you just have to take a slightly different path than the one you imagined.

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I can understand maybe not having access to natural gas in a rural area, but why not just burn fuel oil in a steam boiler?  Got to imagine in BC farm country there is plenty of untaxed diesel (heating oil or off-road diesel), and I bet it's a whole lot cheaper than electric or even propane to run a distillery on.  There really isn't any cost difference between a good electric bain-marie and steam jacketed still, and the payback on steam is probably less than 2 years.

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Parrot the wisdom shared steam is the way. Steam is a tool you will learn to use it in many ways or your life will not be as easy as it could be. Investing any money in electric if there’s any possibility you would switch to steam later is a massive waste of money for grain, which is going to be the only thing that matters six years from now when you gotta pay some bills! (Tangent Big ferments cost big money!!! Make them count!!! Also not in the hills so be intentional with your yeast and use enzymes. Clean your shit.) if regulations on a boiler are the concern itself I know a guy on this forum named Paul Hall who will sell you a vacuum still that can run off of a hydronic boiler so basically a hot water heater. Very low start up time. Very safe lower temp. Vacuum has other maintenance and upfront costs though to be fair. He can get you in game for good price though 

 

@Southernhighlander What do ya think Papi?

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13 hours ago, SlickFloss said:

Parrot the wisdom shared steam is the way. Steam is a tool you will learn to use it in many ways or your life will not be as easy as it could be. Investing any money in electric if there’s any possibility you would switch to steam later is a massive waste of money for grain, which is going to be the only thing that matters six years from now when you gotta pay some bills! (Tangent Big ferments cost big money!!! Make them count!!! Also not in the hills so be intentional with your yeast and use enzymes. Clean your shit.) if regulations on a boiler are the concern itself I know a guy on this forum named Paul Hall who will sell you a vacuum still that can run off of a hydronic boiler so basically a hot water heater. Very low start up time. Very safe lower temp. Vacuum has other maintenance and upfront costs though to be fair. He can get you in game for good price though 

 

@Southernhighlander What do ya think Papi?

Gold Creek, A natural gas, propane or fuel oil boiler producing steam is a much better way to go, than electric baine marie.  I can build you an electric baine marie still in the size that you want but it will have a 1.5 to 2 hr heat up time.  200 amps would be fine as long as you are talking 3 phase 240v or better yet 3 phase 480v. We are not able to build 600v electic heating systems and I believe that is the industrial voltage in Canada. Our 150 gallon Standard Series baine marie still will draw 137.5 amps on 240v single phase and you would need a 175 to 200 amp breaker or fused disconnect for the still.  Our 105 gallon standard series will draw 92 amps on 240v 3phase.

The only advantage to electric is that if you will be running a 100 gallon still and installing a high end boiler such as a Rite boiler and burning natural gas, it would take 15 years for the boiler to pay for itself (including installation) verses the electric still, if your electrical costs 10 cents US per KW hour.  At 10cents per KW you would be using $2.20 worth of electricity per hr for the first 2 hours then around $1.75 per hr for each hour after that.  If it were a 150 gallon still the boiler would pay for itself in around 10 years.  Almost everyone is paying more than 10cents a KW hour these days.

As Slickfoss pointed out I have vacuum stills that pull enough vacuum to distill at 150 degrees F.  These vacuum stills can be heated with hot water and have a very fast heat up time.  You can use a commercial hot water heater that is fired by natural gas or propane or you can use a wood fired hot water boiler.  The draw back is that these vacuum stills are closed systems so you can't make cuts.  They are really good stripping stills and they make great gin stills but not spirit stills.  

If you would like some quotes, please email me paul@distillery-equipment.com

 

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@GoldCreek For such size still and given your location, the only still that I would recommend is an IStill.  For example, a 500L still,  requires only 18KW.  It's unbelievable efficient, you can pre-heat in early hours of the day and further is fully automated with numerous built in recipes so you are ready to go from day 1.

20746108_1402277579888170_6083065265261995838_o.jpg

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Hi @GoldCreek,

What everyone has written is 100% true.  However, we have 2 - 500 liter electric stills from Genio that have served us very well.  You are fortunate to be in Canada where a person who is very knowledgeable about electric stills resides.  He can really discuss in depth what you need.  I would recommend that you contact :

Adam Szymkow

 POLONĒE DISTILLERY

289.700.2334

www.polonee.ca

www.kannuk.ca

CANADIAN DISTILLERY WITH POLISH ROOTS

Adam is the factory rep for Genio in Canada.  It is my understanding that Genio was the first iStill before the owners of each company had a falling out.  Support from both the Genio factory as well as Adam has been terrific.

Cheers,

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Gold Creek,

When looking for a still there are several questions you should ask.

Is the still versatile?  If the still is direct fire electric, you are limited to liquid washes.  You cannot do traditional Bourbons or other traditional grain in whiskey mashes in that type of still without scorching the mash and burning out the immersion heaters.  Also you cannot do grappa in a direct electric still.   Also you cannot cook grain in mashes in a direct fired electric still.  If you want the versatility to do all of these things you need either a baine marie electric or steam fired still.

How long is the stills run time from start to finish?  If they tell you that you can run the still without being at the distillery with the still unattended, you should be very wary as that creates a very dangerous situation.  A still should never be left completely unattended.

Is the still easy to operate?

Is the still nice to look at.  If your customers are going to see your still you need a beautiful still.

Can the still be converted to steam if you decide to upgrade to a steam boiler?  Direct fire electric stills cannot be upgraded to steam.

Does the still's electrical system meet Canadian electrical code requirements?  European CE listed electrical systems are not acceptable in the US and Canada.  In the US and Canada we use UL which is much more stringent that CE.  If the still's heating system, agitator motor and controls do not meet the electrical requirements of the Class 1 Division 2 hazardous environment around the still you will fail the fire, safety and electrical inspections and you will not be allowed to use the still.

Does the vendor list their prices on their web site and if not why don't they?

Does the vendor offer a complete reference list with contact info for their customers?  If not why don't they?

Our Standard series baine marie stills are baine marie electric.   They are in hundreds of distilleries in the US and Canada. The electric heating systems and control panels meet all of the safety and electrical code requirements.  Our electrical heating systems and control panels are built in the USA. 

Our agitator motors are Canadian UL listed explosion proof with the highest rating for explosive environments.  Our safety valves are American made Apollo valves and they are ASME rated.  Non ASME rated safety valves are not acceptable.

Our 150 gallon standard series baine marie stills have indirect electric heat.  We can build them so that they can be used as both mash cookers and stills without any drawbacks or increase in price. 

The heating systems are set point temp control and very easy to use.

We can automate the coolant control with an inexpensive thermostatic valve that will control dephlegmator and final condenser coolant flow without any electrical components on or around the column and final condenser..

Our run times are very fast for baine marie stills.

The stainless on our stills is mirror polished and the copper is highly polished.  Our stills are curvy, very beautiful and they look the way you expect a still to look.

We list the prices for all of our equipment on our web site.  The 150 gallon Standard series costs around $18,000.00 with the agitator, heating system and 4 plate column.  For steam without the heating system the price is around $14,000.00 These stills can be converted from electric heat to steam fairly easily.

You can run any mash in these stills, without the worry of scorching.

With the addition of our OSPM module our baine marie stills will produce their own steam in an open pressurized jacket.  Water column is used to create pressure in the open system.

Call Paul at 417-778-6100 between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM central time Monday through Thursday for a free equipment consultation and quote.   We also supply a huge reference lists with hundreds of contacts. 

 I'm not just here to sell you equipment.  I'm here to help make you successful by selling you the best equipment for your needs.

For a purchase of over $10,000.00 you currently get a 3 day hands on distilling workshop at a distillery that has been running our equipment for 10 years.  You can bring as many as 3 other people to the workshop.  Your party will be the only students at the workshop.  You will be using ADE equipment at the workshop. 

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As I am not selling anything I am not responding to Paul's hard sell other than to correct an inaccuracy regarding direct heating elements, well certainly mine.

 

 They work perfectly for grain in mashes with no scorching whatsoever.  My 6KW stainless steel elements has a watt density of 3.4W/cm2.  Added to this is that I am able to achieve the tasty Maillard reaction which you can't achieve with bainnmaries.

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1 hour ago, richard1 said:

  My 6KW stainless steel elements has a watt density of 3.4W/cm2.  Added to this is that I am able to achieve the tasty Maillard reaction which you can't achieve with bainnmaries.

Happy Holidays Richard!

How are you?  How's the weather down your way?  I hear Omicron has passed it's peak in South Africa. A friend of mine immigrated from South Africa to here in the 1990s.  He used to sell mining equipment there.  

I certainly never meant to give the impression that I was a hard sell.  

Maybe I should have said: I have never seen a direct fired electric mash tun or still that could be used to cook or distill a grain in Bourbon mash and as far as I can tell none of my competitors sell direct fire electric stills or direct fired electric mash tuns that can do a 2 lb per gallon grain in bourbon mash without scorching.

  It sounds like you are doing something that I didn't think was possible.  That's really cool.

At 3.4 watts per square centimeter your immersion heater probes have over 1,764 square cm of surface area.  That would be slightly over 694 square inches of surface area.  That's a lot of surface area.

I'm a Chromalox dealer and I sell immersion heaters with Watt densities that low but they are not meant for the direct heating of thick grain in mash and they are huge, hard to clean and really expensive.  I'm not sure how long they would last in a grain in mash and they would be expensive to replace plus they cost more than the mark up for a still pot jacket, by a large margin.  For all of those reasons I've never used them in my designs, direct fire or otherwise.

I keep an open mind and I'm always interested in learning new things and you've peaked my curiosity so I have some questions.  Of course if you don't want to answer them, I understand.

How many watts per immersion heater on your 6,000 Watt directly fired electric still or is it just one 6000 Watt heater?

Who is the manufacturer of the immersion heaters and the still?

Are the elements UL listed, CE listed or do you have something different in South Africa

What is the wet face temperature?

Do you get a smoky flavor when you run grain out single malts?

Have you ran a 2 lb per gallon corn mash in the still with those elements? 

Have you cooked  2lb per gallon corn mashes in it with those elements?

Thank you for any answers you might give.

 

 

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694 square inches is about 33 feet of 1/2” tubing per each 6kw element.

You can probably get similar watt densities by running huge 480v bundle elements at 120v (dividing the watt densities by 16).  The elements alone would cost as much as a steam boiler for a reasonably sized still.

 

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Hi Paul @Southernhighlander.  Thanks and best wishes to all for the season.  Nice thing about SA is the weather, 9 months summer.

 

Each element assembly is 6KW, 230 / 400 VAC.  I currently run one element assembly per phase.  I designed the basic element requirements and had them manufactured by a local SA element manufacturer.  The bosses I manufactured and free issued them.   Don't know about their listed CE or UL status, but the company is ISO certified.  It's not that pricey even though they do cost.  Tried to contact the manufacturer today regarding temps, but they are still on Christmas shutdown.

 

I do a mash (barley malt) at a ratio of 4L/Kg, grain in and charge the still with 150 Kg barley malt.  Haven't yet done a corn mash.  No, no smells nor off flavours.  The important thing is to run an agitator whilst heating so you lift the malt off the elements.  As my still is completely automated, I have programmed and run the agitator for a period before the elements come on.  Further I also purposely don't run the elements beyond 80% power whilst mashing (recipe controlled).

 

IMAG0312b.jpg

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19 hours ago, richard1 said:

Hi Paul @Southernhighlander.  Thanks and best wishes to all for the season.  Nice thing about SA is the weather, 9 months summer.

 

Each element assembly is 6KW, 230 / 400 VAC.  I currently run one element assembly per phase.  I designed the basic element requirements and had them manufactured by a local SA element manufacturer.  The bosses I manufactured and free issued them.   Don't know about their listed CE or UL status, but the company is ISO certified.  It's not that pricey even though they do cost.  Tried to contact the manufacturer today regarding temps, but they are still on Christmas shutdown.

 

I do a mash (barley malt) at a ratio of 4L/Kg, grain in and charge the still with 150 Kg barley malt.  Haven't yet done a corn mash.  No, no smells nor off flavours.  The important thing is to run an agitator whilst heating so you lift the malt off the elements.  As my still is completely automated, I have programmed and run the agitator for a period before the elements come on.  Further I also purposely don't run the elements beyond 80% power whilst mashing (recipe controlled

Richard,

9 months of summer would be nice.  It was around 20 degrees F here in Southern Missouri this morning.  

Hey, if it works that's great.  I can no longer say that grain in mashes can't be done using a direct electric heating system.   If you ever do a Bourbon mash let us know how it turns out.

Thanks

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On 1/4/2022 at 1:34 AM, richard1 said:

Hi Paul @Southernhighlander.  Thanks and best wishes to all for the season.  Nice thing about SA is the weather, 9 months summer.

Each element assembly is 6KW, 230 / 400 VAC.  I currently run one element assembly per phase. 

I find it a very bad idea to use such direct heaters.
If you have a very pure mixture, consisting only of sugar, water and yeast, no impurities, you still run the risk of dead yeast sticking to the surface of the tubes.
Several tubes of the heater together (in your photo) will create a zone of overheated water. Convection will work, but it will not prevent the yeast from burning (caramelizing) on the surface of the heaters.
In Ukraine I have seen many attempts to do "direct heating" in this way, it only works for very pure sugar mixtures.
This does not work well for mixtures with grains.
From the point of view of Physics, it is possible to make a straight heating better if the distance between the heater tubes is increased. Convection will be better in this case, but the grains will still stick to the walls of the heater.
I have seen a solution for dirty mixtures (with grains) that used single coil heaters with a copper surface. Copper self-cleans in an acidic environment and the owners of such a plant reported that "there is no grains sticking or charring." This solution (copper heater) adds impurities (aromas) from copper (catalyst).

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@Alex_Sor, I have not yet encountered any problems especially considering my watt density of 3.4W/cm2.  There are surely other construction of elements that can be used but all that I am saying is that so far, no problems encountered.

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