Jump to content


bannonjd

Recommended Posts

Does anyone have an opinion on the importance of the amount of copper in the still. We are looking at various designs/manufacturers. We would like a 250 gallon capacity and ideally all copper including the pot. I am a little confused on the importance of the pot being copper. I have been told by an academic at Michigan State that it's IMPERATIVE that the pot be ALL COPPER. It removes the sulfur that is produced in the fermentation process and makes the whiskey smoother. I have also been told that you can't have enough copper especially if your making whiskey, which we are. One of the still manufacturers went so far as to say they have s special. patented catalytic converter that increases the copper exposure even more. I know some guys are making SS pots and copper tops, condensers etc. and feel that there is enough copper without the pot being copper. The SS are so much cheaper but in the long run don't want to make a mistake and wish we spent a few more bucks and got all copper. Any ideas???Confused.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

this discussion has been going around and around for a very long time.

the benefit of copper will be seen more in the vapor path and the point of phase change.

we build our columns and potstill heads out of copper for this reason.

I know there are a number of award winning whiskeys made on all stainless stills, wit the inclusion of a catalyser, which is just a box filled with copper pieces.

I can direct you to some makers of very nice whiskey who are using our stills with stainless kettles.

but take this all with the knowledge of where its coming from, in the same way the big advocates of the all copper stills have a stake in the sale of said stills. Look at who sponsors the distilling school where this is taught.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why have all the distilleries in scotland and ireland been using copper forever and no plans on changing to SS? There must be a reason. Everybody would be using SS if they could but they don't they use copper which is much cheaper. Even the moonshiners use copper and I believe they would be considered frugal!! Still confused. I think it is fair to say that copper is better and gives a better product if you can afford it?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Until 2004, typical copper prices were about $.70 - $.75 / lb for cathode. Today, it's about $3.50. Stainless has increased in price over the last decade as well, but nowhere near what copper has done. Thus for most of distilling history, the premium for copper was considered to be worthwhile. In today's market, the premium is considerably larger which is forcing designers to really consider where copper is needed, and where stainless should be acceptable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

copper is the traditional material for stills because until the development of stainless steel (a fairly recent invention in the history of distilling) it was the only viable material.

Distilling is a craft steeped in tradition, the Scottish distillers doubly so. as you would expect they are rather slow to make use of new technologies.

if someone wants to purchase an all copper still, I wouldn't dream of trying to talking them out of it. there is more than one way to get the job done, and your still doesn't have to be 100% copper to make a quality whiskey.

Copper boilers are something we intend to add to our lineup in time, not because we feel stainless is inferior, but because copper is pretty, and sometimes you want your equipment to be pretty as well as functional.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They crazy thing about his industry is if you ask two people the same question you will get two different answers. Both of them could be the best in the industry. And in the end both of them could be correct. At a distilling class I took one of the owners made a statement “It might be better to get two consultants.” It took me a while to understand what he was saying. There are so many ways to do make an amazing product and one way might not necessarily the correct or only way. I also understand he meant more with his statements than just this like, are the consultants bias? Do they sell a current brand. Will they push that brand to make more money? But in the end it is how you want to put your finishing touch on your product. Do you like it? Does that affect have the flavor on it you like? In your case is the valve of pure cooper worth the cost? Do you have money to pay for the added costs? Could money be spent in other area’s such as building? Or a bigger still? Many of people have said its not the still but the product going into it that comes out an award winning product.

I also learned this same thing lesson early on when I started to home brew. I went into the home brewing store with a list of questions. The guy said these are all good questions but go home and figure them out yourself. He said you know the basics, try them out and see what you like. That was the best advice that guy could have told me. I won a home brewing competition with one of those beers that year in Colorado.

People have strong views in this industry. And most of them make it sound like the way they do it is the only way to do it. But in the end you have to listen, do your homework and you be the judge. That is why I love this forum you can bounce it off some many different people.

Regarding your question if you want my two cents. I have been lucky enough to be able to travel to maybe hundreds of distilleries and ask there opinions on this exact question. Trust me if they have a cooper still they will say it is the only way. If they do not they will say a full cooper still is a waste of money, and they are glad with the decision they made. I go back to the belief if you put an amazing product into the still that is what you will get out of it. And what has sold me is to see all the award winning products that are coming out from people that do not have a full cooper still.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

that is a very accurate overview of the industry. everyone has their motivations, so consider the motivations of the source of your information, but judge for yourself what you want and need, because in the end you alone have to own the cost of the decision.

that being said, it is clear I am a vendor of stainless equipment so my opinions are already skewed.

Steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As to the Scotch industry using copper, realize that the American bourbon industry doesn't share the philosophy of 100% pure copper. I believe Four Roses for instance has the beer stripping part of its column, the lower 16 plates, as all stainless, and the top rectifying part of the column is all copper along with their doubler. I have heard that the vapor path is the more important part in terms of changing the character of the spirit. If you are truly curious I suppose you could test it out with with small system. Try a small stainless steel pot and copper column system like Hillbilly Stills and an all copper one like Claw Hammer stills or one of Sherman Owens stills and do a GC analysis on the same wash and see what you get. My best guess is that you are better off getting a partial steel/copper still and if you don't like the character that you are getting, add a copper catalyzer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Copper has a historical precedent that for many old brands has created a specific flavor profile that has led to success. If it worked in the past, why change it? Just make it bigger, and more of them. That's why the old brands continue use to use them.. If it isn't broken, don't fix it.

Copper is a natural antibacterial that worked (and still works) great if there are problems with a fermentation, and or cleanliness . Copper is almost infinitely malleable which lent it self (and still does ) to the hand of a craftsman to make shapes that create reflux with Venturi type helmets, pre deflegs, plates, packing, et. al. Copper is a good heat transfer medium that is also non corrosive under the harsh reactions of distillation. And perhaps last but not least, it looks good.

But none of those issues are insurmountable by having a good mash, clean operation, proper heat and cooling control, good still and column/helmet design, with perhaps a little bit of copper to pull off excess sulfides / sulfites

There are good and bad spirits made in both copper and SS stills, and having either will not limit your chance to produce either as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Copper has a historical precedent that for many old brands has created a specific flavor profile that has led to success. If it worked in the past, why change it? Just make it bigger, and more of them. That's why the old brands continue use to use them.. If it isn't broken, don't fix it.

Copper is a natural antibacterial that worked (and still works) great if there are problems with a fermentation, and or cleanliness . Copper is almost infinitely malleable which lent it self (and still does ) to the hand of a craftsman to make shapes that create reflux with Venturi type helmets, pre deflegs, plates, packing, et. al. Copper is a good heat transfer medium that is also non corrosive under the harsh reactions of distillation. And perhaps last but not least, it looks good.

But none of those issues are insurmountable by having a good mash, clean operation, proper heat and cooling control, good still and column/helmet design, with perhaps a little bit of copper to pull off excess sulfides / sulfites

There are good and bad spirits made in both copper and SS stills, and having either will not limit your chance to produce either as well.

Roger,

Best summary of the issue I've ever seen. Nicely said.

Cheers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Copper has a historical precedent that for many old brands has created a specific flavor profile that has led to success. If it worked in the past, why change it? Just make it bigger, and more of them. That's why the old brands continue use to use them.. If it isn't broken, don't fix it.

Copper is a natural antibacterial that worked (and still works) great if there are problems with a fermentation, and or cleanliness . Copper is almost infinitely malleable which lent it self (and still does ) to the hand of a craftsman to make shapes that create reflux with Venturi type helmets, pre deflegs, plates, packing, et. al. Copper is a good heat transfer medium that is also non corrosive under the harsh reactions of distillation. And perhaps last but not least, it looks good.

But none of those issues are insurmountable by having a good mash, clean operation, proper heat and cooling control, good still and column/helmet design, with perhaps a little bit of copper to pull off excess sulfides / sulfites

There are good and bad spirits made in both copper and SS stills, and having either will not limit your chance to produce either as well.

Agreed. But I am biased!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Roger makes an excellent point about the heat transfer coefficients, SS vs. copper.

It will cost you over twice the HP (same time profile) to cool stainless.

This is why glycol chillers are used with colder temps for SS (like wineries).

Now this doesn't matter so much if you have your own chilled water source but converting to refrigeration it will eventually tell with the power bills.

The same is true on the heating side.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...