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Steam management - recommendations for controlling steam into still


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Hello!  I have a brewery with direct fire brewhouse and HLT.  This steam stuff is new to me.

I've been reading these pages quite a bit and appreciate everyone's knowledgable commentary.  I tried to upload a drawing I did but I cannot upload the image for some reason. 

The still has a 1.5" steam input line, and I'll have a 3" header and a 2" drop.  I am thinking that having a reducer to 1.5" just before a 1.5" T.   The T would be 1.5" straight through with a 3/4" out the side.  The 1.5" straight through will go to a 1.5" globe valve for "macro" control -- to bring the still up to temp.  The 3/4" will go to a 3/4" globe valve then rejoin the 1.5" line below the 1.5" globe valve. This is my "micro" control for once I'm at temp and want to throttle down the steam.


So my questions: 

- Is 3/4" a good size for the "micro" globe valve?

- What is a good manufacturer for the globe valves?  What material should these valves be made of?  Any recommended models? 

- Should I be reducing the steam like just before the globe valve?

- I assume I don't need a trap below these valves, because it's going right into the still after the valves, and the still is sort of a giant trap. 

- what else should I be asking?

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Do you have plans for increasing the size of your equipment in the future? 25hp is a lot for a single 1500L still.

If your inlet is 1.5" I would use 1.5" pipe to get to it, the restriction at the T/inlet reduces any benefit from running a larger size beforehand.

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You’re gonna want a condensate return pump with a trap off the still itself but you shouldn’t need one between the valve and the still unless everything’s all fucked up… probably two actually I can send you a picture of ours when I’m stateside again if you remind me. Don’t neck down your steam coming in because you’ll want a fuck ton more therms to start your run than you’ll need to end it and necking down always comes to bite people in the ass later, especially in colder climates or people with ring mains running multiple pieces of equipment (like a still and a cooker at the same time). I’m sponsored by spirax Sarco love me some blue valves can’t contractually recommend any other brand, wouldn’t if I could ; )


lmk bro! We do a lot of consulting!

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Kindred Spirits, yes 25HP is oversized for the 1500L, by design.  We will eventually add a mash cooker and maybe a vodka still at one point so wanted to make sure I didn't undersize it immediately.  The boiler has a really good turndown. I am working with a boiler installation firm but we are going to have our (certified) welder do the steam piping. 


Just want to make sure the heating side is properly controlled.  I know on the pilot still (50 gal Bain Marie w/elements), being able to control the energy input in very small increments makes a huge difference in overall control.  I *think* the 1.5" ball for getting up to temp and then the 3/4" for finer control will do the trick but wanted some feedback/validation.  Do people put a pressure gauge just prior to the still (after the globe valves?)... I've been to a number of distilleries but don't recall seeing one -- how do you know exactly where you're at from a steam input level?


SlickFloss, we have specd out a condensate return pump that will have all traps gravity flowing to it (to a 2" return line which will gravity into the return).  So a trap right at the steam out/condensate line?

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Thats how we have our big pot yeah, like I said I can zip you some pics of underneath on Monday when I'm back on the floor. We have two traps right off the bottom of the jackets. It's nice because we can use the traps to bleed condensate pre start up to cut down on hammer (mechanical wear). 

We run high pressure mains with reductions for each individual piece of equipment, we have a gauge before the ball valves for pressure with a bleed off of it. We will bleed the main before start up until the pressure stops hopping before proceeding with firing the still. You're also going to want a pressure gauge on the prv of the jacket itself if its in your budget and not already on there. You can watch that as you run to tell you how hard you can push at beginning of run. Pressure will still be low as long as still is receptive to energy, as it build resistance to steam pressure will slowly raise as the still starts to stall pre boiling point. When the pressure begins to drop back down (still becomes more receptive to steam again) its indicative of you boiling and heat energy passing through as vapor.

If you're looking for absolutely the most precise control on the steam a needle valve works super well but is overkill for most operations. We're really happy with our big and little globes. 

I'll send you a video of our whole set up on both our pots on Monday not just the traps underneath. Hit me in the PMS with your phone number its easier for me to text a video than come on here if you're okay with that. 



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  • 2 months later...

@jocko do you mind sharing which boiler manufacturer you went with? 

We're just getting started on boiler research for a greenfield distillery, and our scaling strategy would benefit from a boiler with excellent turndown (many that I've found so far aren't great, requiring multiple boilers spun up in stages as load increases).

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I think Miuras clip 3:1 across the board except the lx250 and lx300 I think are 4:1


we run four miuras on a patterned turn down and we are still tuning and adjusting to make sure we have performance we need..... big KY often plumbs major pieces with their own boilers (columns get their own, sparged cookers get their own, etc) instead of mains with multiple drops off of it. Given all of our tuning im starting to learn why!

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remember turndown is a ratio of total capacity and the other variable to get better control when working with multiple boilers in a single system is to vary the size of boiler as well. I.E., have a couple larger boilers to run steady load and smaller ones to trim.


Spirax sarco is always a good choice for components and I personally really like their Hook ups book:


great steam tables and recommended setups for traps and condensate returns for different types of loads.

the Miura is technically more of a steam generator vs boiler. there are many types to research. look up firetube vs water tube vs steam generator. all have pluses and minuses. I have worked with cleaver brooks (firetube), miura (steam generator), vapor power( water tube), and a couple others with good results. 

from an engineering standpoint the vapor power watertube is interesting because all the steam creation happens in a expansion tank after the watertube making all your watertube last a really long time and all your blowdown needed collects in that one expansion tank.

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